And here we are, at the last chapter. I'm sorry it took an extra week to update, but I was working on a Homestuck cosplay all last week and didn't really have time.
But yes. The last chapter. I'm actually kind of sad to end this... but I hope you guys are satisfied with how it turns out.
The new King and his lover became common knowledge soon enough, though everyone kept silent about it. Arthur was aware of this, too; he knew that his knights, and perhaps even Peter, had been spreading the rumors (however true they were, they were still rumors) in the village. He knew that many people must have looked upon him and thought that he did not deserve to be King, or they thought that he was a disgusting sinner. But no one had called him out publicly yet, for he was the bloody King of England and no one man, especially not a peasant, could do anything.
And really, no one was going to try to oust him from his throne simply for having a male lover. It wasn't going to affect the way he ruled, even if it was truly a sin.
Except Arthur did know that his love for Francis was, in fact, going to change one thing:
"While I rule, it'll be a relatively good life for other men like us," he told Francis softly, when the man had asked him what he wanted to change. "I won't allow them to hang. I don't care what the Church has to say."
"Women, too," added Francis, and Arthur looked to him. "Zair are women like us, too, you know."
"Of course I know that," Arthur snapped, frowning and trying to hide the slight stutter from his guilt at neglecting to mention that.
"Sometimes, I tsink you forget zat women exist entirely," Francis chuckled, leaning over and putting his arm around Arthur's shoulders. "Just because you are not attracted to zem, it does not mean you 'ave to 'ate zem…."
"Frankly, I hate just about everyone," he said dryly, ignoring the Francis draped over his shoulder and leering at him.
Francis smirked and pulled Arthur's face closer for a kiss.
Even after a full month of Francis having been back, not a single person even approached Arthur about him. The Frenchman continued to sit directly to the left of the King at every meal, and the two of them always shared a bed while Gwenllian had her room to herself.
They had a feeling she was upset about her husband having a lover and not even being very discreet about it, despite the fact that she probably wasn't all that interested in him, either. And they were right, though she gradually got used to it and came to terms with her position of merely standing off to the side and practically not existing.
She watched them, and she knew everything. She saw the way that Arthur would look at Francis when he thought that he was paying attention to his dinner and not looking, and she saw how he would blush when Francis looked back at him, like he simply couldn't help it. She noticed that they did everything together—even if Arthur was dealing with important royal matters, Francis was there, by his side.
Soon, she started to care less and less that Francis was a man. Those two were by far closer than any man and his wife could ever be, and yet they did nothing that a man and a woman didn't do.
Once, Gwenllian had done something she shouldn't have and hid so that she could watch her husband and his lover in the corridors, just to see if she could understand. She caught Francis kissing Arthur on the nose, and his mouth had stretched into the biggest smile. Over a nose kiss. A nose kiss! It seemed so small and peculiar, but such a thing somehow made Arthur so happy as to smile in a way that she had never seen him before.
She realized she should stop spying on them and just leave them be. She should have been happy with where she was—even if she was not the one sharing King Arthur's bed every night, she was still his Queen, and still holding the peace between Wales and England. That was her purpose, she supposed. And she would have to deal with that because she was lucky to have been born into a royal family in the first place.
Although, she viewed Francis's constant presence as a free invitation to go and find a lover for herself—perhaps in one of the knights, or maybe even a servant. It wouldn't matter to Arthur or anyone else, as it could never be as bad (in everyone else's eyes) as the King being with a man.
She rarely even talked to Arthur. Oftentimes Gwenllian felt like she didn't even exist to him, or that they were simply strangers to each other. They had their own separate lives, and at this point, they might as well not even have been married but for formality. Instead, she sometimes found company in Arthur's mother, who enjoyed talking to her, and occasionally also knights who tried to flirt with her.
There was one, in fact, who took a chance to walk with her to her chambers one night and remain outside, talking with her, for the longest time.
Yeah, that could work.
The former King's chambers had gone untouched by anyone but Sophia, Arthur's mother, since his death. Even months later, Arthur refused to go in there. Partly because he wanted to let his mother keep her room, and partly because he didn't want what was once his father's. It was enough that he was basically obligated to wear a crown that had spent so many years atop that man's head, as well as more extravagant and layered tunics than before. At least Francis enjoyed being able to pull all of those off of him.
So Arthur just continued to use his own chambers. He was already so used to it, so he had no problem staying there. Any and all of his kingly business was done on his desk, as well as the French lessons that still continued.
He was quickly learning all the real responsibilities of a King. Though his father had routinely informed him of all of this when he was alive, it was still a bit overwhelming to have to deal with all the affairs of the entire kingdom. He was now constantly worried something complicated was going to happen that he wouldn't be able to handle, or that some sort of war would be waged on them… despite the fact that there weren't even any signs of it.
In four months, Arthur had already signed a revised treaty between England and Wales to secure the peace, discussed trading issues with representatives from Scotland, and sentenced two men who had been brought before him in the court.
Sentencing people was something that he soon learned he was probably the best at. He had no emotions for those people and no pity, so he was never wishy-washy with the law. Those men had stolen animals, anyway. They deserved the floggings.
Still, however, it was a great deal of stress on him. Now that his duties were more extensive, his free time to go to his spot in the forest and speak with the faeries was rather limited. Especially considering that there wasn't much room for him to leave the castle terribly often. At least he had a mother and a Queen to look after everything when he left.
Every other day, Arthur would take Francis with him to go visit Lilley, Cherami, and Tinker again. They were all very excited to suddenly see him again, and they automatically bombarded him with questions of where he had been for all this time.
He really hadn't wanted to tell them, but they could sense his regret and the hurt in his memories anyway, so he'd had to. Lilley had looked like she was about to cry after he explained, and the other two clung to his and Francis's faces, as though they were hugging them. It was all in all rather awkward.
But after that, the visits had become regular again, and things actually seemed to be returning to normal. Aside from him being King, anyway.
Arthur still arranged weekly sword practice, but now with Francis. They had a bit of trouble staying focused on the task a lot of the time, as they did with everything once they began arguing over petty things and getting into small, harmless fights. After they'd been back at the castle for no more than a few weeks, their relationship had already started going back to that and entirely becoming what it used to be. They still loved it like that. It was actually even useful for keeping Arthur from becoming so stressed.
Headaches still came, though. So did nightmares. Arthur had had too much trauma in the past year to have a clear mind, and he'd expected this. His head would begin throbbing at the most inappropriate of times, and it wasn't rare for him to wake up and involuntarily jolt out of Francis's arms because of a terrible dream. Often, they had to do with either or both of them being hanged or killed or tortured in some other way.
And always, Francis held him and rubbed soothing circles on his back while he was still in a cold sweat, and kissed his head until the pain was gone.
"I'm not sure if I like being King," Arthur muttered one morning while Francis held him around his chest, keeping the blanket up. His eyes were mostly closed, and his voice held the signs of pain and irritability. Surprised at the sudden statement, Francis pulled back to look at him. "I obviously don't want to lose you, but—I just…. Sometimes, I think Allistor would be doing a much better job."
Francis understood. There was really no need to explain himself—he knew Arthur didn't mean he didn't want what came with being King. But he'd known for a while now how paranoid that man could be. As for the last part, though, he frowned slightly.
"You've mentioned 'im before… but I don't tsink you ever really told me about your older brozzer. What 'appened?" He'd been afraid to ask before, but he felt he had every right to ask, now. They were close enough.
Arthur sighed, but relented. No one outside of the family knew the whole story, but he supposed that was about to change. Francis was more than family to him, now.
"Well, he just… left. You know that much. He and my father were on a hunting trip, and Allistor rode off sometime during it. Everyone thought he had just seen something and gone after it alone, but he never came back. My father sent men to search for him, but no one ever found him, dead or alive. After a year, we just finally assumed he was dead and that his body was mutilated somewhere. I thought he might have just run away, though. To get away from kingly responsibilities, you know."
Oh. Francis couldn't help but be sad. Even if he'd never known the man, he knew how bad it was to lose a family member. Even if Arthur himself didn't seem like he cared all that much. Because he was probably just hiding it, anyway.
"…What was 'e like?" Francis wondered, shifting his hold on Arthur a bit.
"Mean," he said immediately, frowning. "He was a bully. When I was very little, I brought a rabbit back to the castle once, as a pet, and he killed it. Not in front of me, mind you, but he just thought it would be funny. But to Father, he was still somehow the favorite child…. Which I still think was weird, because I'm fairly sure my mother must have had an affair to conceive him. His hair was too reddish to be my father's."
"You shouldn't speak ill of ze dead," Francis told him after a second, still finding that sad. A dead family member was one thing, but to hold a grudge against the dead? Arthur's father, he could understand. That man had put them both through torture. But Allistor hadn't really done anything worth deserving death.
"I'm not speaking ill of him; I'm describing him. That's just what he was like. I like to think he'd have matured, though."
That was better, at least. Francis didn't like it when Arthur was so cynical, however much he loved him.
"Well," Francis started softly, moving his face closer to Arthur's again, "I tsink you'll be a fine King in ze years to come. After a while, I'm sure ze nightmares will stop…."
"Yes, I do hope so."
As they detached themselves from each other and began to dress, Francis once again neglected to tell him that he had nightmares, too.
In the following month, Arthur began to notice his mother more and more. Since her husband's death, she had never really seemed as sad as she should have been, though she had cried at the funeral. For a while, he'd just figured it was her shock keeping her from expressing much, but as he started to observe her more closely, well… her behavior did seem kind of odd.
At times, she would mention Edward seemingly on accident and then look sad—but after a while, Arthur noticed that it looked more than sad. It looked almost… guilty. He never asked her about it.
And then there was Francis. She didn't seem to mind talking to him at all—she never threw a weird look his way, and she'd even joked with him, once, about Arthur needing to cut his hair and which one of them should do it (neither of them had cut it so far, though). It all made him gradually more suspicious. He never shared those suspicions with Francis, but they were getting stronger. Especially considering that his father's murder was still unsolved.
One day, Arthur finally forced himself to ask. He knew it could potentially make his mother very angry or very sad, but he simply needed to know. He'd been waiting for someone to come up front and admit it for too long. So in the evening of that day, he took his mother to the side when she was leaving the dining table and looked her straight in the eye, trying not to hesitate.
"…Mother," he started, allowing himself a pause because making a question like this casual would have been uncomfortable, "was it you who poisoned Father?"
She looked him dead on with widened eyes for several seconds, and Arthur was about to apologize for such a accusation when she looked down, sighed, and nodded.
"I knew what he was doing to you, and I didn't wish to see you so miserable. You're my son, and I love you more than anything—even my husband. I want you to be happy, Arthur."
Looking sadly up at him, she gave a slight smile, guilt still in her expression. Arthur stared back in mixed awe and shock—he would never had expected her to do something like that. And at the same time, he was extremely grateful. Though of course he didn't want to say anything along the lines of "Thank you for killing him."
"So… you approve of Francis?" he forced out as a follow-up question, having had this in mind to ask for a while. "You don't think what I do with him is wrong."
She smiled sadly again and glanced at the floor for a second. "I was in love with a woman once, Arthur," she admitted in a breath, as though she was scared to say such a thing. "I know how this is."
With that, she wordlessly pulled him in for a hug, which Arthur reciprocated in a sudden burst of affection for his mother, and then pulled back and held his face in her hands, squishing his cheeks together like he was a young child. Arthur frowned, about to protest that he wasn't a child anymore, but—
"You're going to make a fine King, Arthur, I know it."
Arthur made sure to be there when Gwenllian was giving birth. He and Francis stood to the side while Arthur's mother held her hand so she could grip it tight in her pain, and another helped bring out the newborn infant. It was rather disgusting, but at the same time fascinating, to watch. Francis was more on the fascinated side than he was, though.
As expected, it was crying when it took its first breath of air. One of the women declared it a boy and handed him to Gwenllian, and all seemed to be over until she convulsed and screamed in pain again and handed the baby back to the servant.
"It's another one," the servant woman said, looking under Gwenllian's skirt. Everyone's eyes widened.
"A-another one?" Arthur sputtered, looking back and forth between them. Twins weren't unheard of, but it wasn't common, and for it to happen in a royal family was bad. In order to decide which of them would end up taking the throne, one would have to end up proving himself more than the other through a series of tasks—or worse, one might just end up killing the other. He didn't want that to happen.
Well, unless the second one turned out to be a girl. But after another scream-filled five minutes, the second one proved to also be a boy, and Arthur's heart sunk. Not that he didn't immediately love them both, but he didn't want the chaos that would inevitably happen. Many men would have said that the logical thing to do was smother one of them now—but he couldn't do that either. There was no way he could do that.
Soon, Gwenllian was calm and holding both of the new twins. Next to Arthur, Francis was tearing up a bit.
"The devil are you crying for, they're not even your children!" he asked him with an annoyed tone, hitting his arm with the back of his hand.
"Childbirth is a beautiful tsing, Arthur," Francis said seriously, looking at the babies and smiling. "Two new lives were created, just now! 'Ow are you not amazed?"
Well, it was partially because he'd helped create them, and he hadn't wanted to, so all this was reminding him of that. But he wasn't going to say that in front of everyone.
"I am… sort of," he huffed, curling his lip for a moment before walking over to the head of the bed Gwenllian was in, and reaching out to take one of the babies. Once in Arthur's arms, he actually stopped crying for the most part and looked up at him with the brightest little blue eyes. He thought they looked a lot like Francis's.
"I like the name Alfred," he said, more to the baby than anyone else. "Like Alfred the Great. Yes, that'll fit you nicely…. And, it's only fair that you name the other one," he told Gwenllian, looking to her.
She looked at the gradually calming baby in her arms for a few seconds in pensive silence, and then said, "Oh, I'm horrible with coming up with names. And any Welsh names of significance to me wouldn't fit—he's going to live in England, after all. Why doesn't Francis name him?"
At once, Francis looked over to her in awe, and walked slowly toward her on the other side of the bed.
"Wha—I… really?" he breathed, unable to believe that she was really allowing him to do this. She handed him the other baby, and he cradled him in his arms, looking at the precious thing like it was made of gold. "But 'e is your baby—"
"It's fine," she insisted, though almost sounding like she regretted it. You're probably going to end up being a second father to him, anyway, she thought resignedly.
After several seconds of silence and Francis's awed smile, he looked up at the both of them and said, "Matthieu. It 'as no real significance… but it means 'gift from God.' I tsink it'll fit 'im."
Arthur couldn't help but smile, though he quickly hid it by saying, "Well, at least you chose a name that's not entirely French."
He chuckled at that and went back to grinning at Matthieu. "'E's probably going to end up being a lot like me."
Before Arthur could say anything, his mother butted in from the other side of the bed, chuckling as well.
"Better like you than grumpy and rude like Arthur…."
Five Years Later
"Do you suppose we might still get married some day?"
The King jerked his eyes away from the parchment in front of him and over to the man leaning on the wall and staring out the window, and narrowed his eyes.
"Hm? What are you on about, you lunatic?"
Arthur really didn't know why he was bringing it up all of a sudden. It had been years since they last spoke about this—he was now growing in a bit of a goatee, and the twins were five. Why wait so long to bring it up again—and something like this, at that? Marriage between two men was still impossible.
"I was just tsinking—"
"And it's taken you nearly six years, apparently."
"Shut up," he said, turning around and smirking wryly. "I know you're obviously already married, and ze Church would by no means allow us to be recognized… but what if we just did it ourselves? Alone. We say ze vows and exchange ze rings and consider ourselves married."
There were a couple seconds of silence, and then Arthur left his work and stood up from the desk, walking over to Francis and frowning.
"Why did you wait so long to mention it again?—Or did you just forget?"
Laughing slightly, he pushed his hair out of his face and took small steps toward Arthur as well, until they were chest to chest and Arthur's face gained a shade of red.
"I didn't forget, mon amour…. I just didn't tsink of zis idea until now. Do you want to do it?"
The softly questioning tone, along with the small smile and Francis's hand brushing the side of his face, made his chest grow warm like he was once again seventeen and inexperienced. His face flushed a bit more, and he sputtered when he spoke.
"I—well—I've already got your ring, and—just, well—what's the bloody purpose of it?" he said in attempted annoyance, his voice growing more and more high-pitched as he went, as well as his eyes continuing to avert Francis's. "You're my lover, and you're never going to be taken away again, so what do we need to be married for? If it's just between us, what's it going to matter?"
"It'll matter to us," he pressed, leaning closer. "I want it official. At least to us."
"But it won't even be official—"
"It won't be recognized by ze Church, but zat doesn't mean—"
"This is ridiculous! We're both men, who's ever heard of—?"
"You're not fooling me, Arthur," Francis cut him off firmly, yet somehow still with his usual charm. "I know you want zis, 'owever stupid it seems to you…. Let's be stupid togezzer, forever."
For several seconds, Arthur just stared at the dumb grin on Francis's face before he kissed it. They weren't yet parted when Francis managed to work the ring off his finger, and when they could look in each other's eyes once more, Arthur stepped away momentarily to find a ring—any ring would do, and he had plenty—and then bring it back to him.
"So… you really want to marry me?" Francis said breathlessly, just to make sure.
"Of-bloody-course I do—you just said I did yourself, you git," Arthur said in frustration, holding the collar of Francis's tunic in one hand and gripping the ring tight in the other. His brow furrowed, and his mouth gaped for a second while he was at a loss for what to say. "…I love you."
That brought a smile that reached Francis's eyes before it reached his lips. "Je t'aime aussi. Let's promise to spend ze rest of our lives togezzer…."
"I've already promised you that. Can I announce us married now?"
"We need to put ze rings on first…," Francis sighed, amused by Arthur's impatience but hurrying to put the ring back on his finger and then waiting impatiently himself as Arthur did the same for him afterward. "Okay. Now you can say it."
His throat was suddenly too swollen for him to speak properly at once, and he didn't know why. It wasn't even an official marriage, dammit….
"I now pronounce us man and… husband?" Huh. He hadn't thought much of how he would say that.
And Francis's lips were already on his before he could say "You may now kiss the King."
I hope that wraps everything up! Once again, I'm sad to see this story's end, but at the same time I'm proud of myself. I kind of want to just print out this whole fic and make it into a little mini-book, just for myself.
Don't fear, though! This doesn't mean the LMBaS universe is completely over. I'll still probably make fanart for it sometimes, and I'll likely end up doing oneshot side-fics because I still have all these ideas for stuff that happens later on - ergo, when Francis and Arthur are older, when the twins grow up, when the Hundred Years' War starts, etc.
If any of you have tumblrs and haven't done so yet, you should follow me so you know when I make new stuff. The link to my blog is in my profile.
And now that the main story is over, I'd love it if you all left just one last review to tell me what you thought of this overall. It's been an awesome several months with you guys, and I hope that some of you go on to read my other/future stories. Thank you so much to everyone who's left feedback on and/or followed this story, too!