The Door We Never Opened

Summary: One-shot – Agnes knows she will never be completely free of Martin.

Author's Notes: Based on the 1985 film Flesh and Blood. First part of the Circle Trilogy.

Disclaimer: I do not own any familiar characters/settings/plots featured in this story.

The Door We Never Opened

"Footfalls echo in the memory down the passage which we did not take towards the door we never opened into the rose-garden." – T. S. Eliot

She named her son Rocco after the Saint.

To her family and friends, it seems a fitting title. Saint Rocco offers protection from the Plague, and it was the Plague that both condemned and saved Agnes and Steven in that castle so many years ago. Her father-in-law, Arnolfini, even goes so far as to boast that it is to remind their enemies that their family is to be feared and respected for was it not his very own son who tricked and killed those heathen mercenaries with the Plague?

The truth is actually quite simpler.

She named her son after a Saint because his father was named after a Saint.

They never speak of it out loud, but Agnes knows that Steven is quite aware that Rocco is not his son. If the timing did not tip him off then the face certainly did. Rocco was just as fair haired and light eyed as her, but the shape of his nose and the arch of his cheekbones were all Martin. There was no trace of Steven in her boy no matter how hard she looked.

She still could not decide if this broke her heart or not.

Steven never shows any hint that he is aware of his son's true roots. He treats Rocco as if he were his own flesh and blood. He sits and helps him with his letters, takes him hunting on horseback, and even allows Rocco to sit with him in his workshop; patiently explaining each invention to the child. At night, after their meal, he kisses the boy's blond head and always tells Rocco that he is Steven's greatest creation.

Agnes doesn't pretend to understand why her husband is this way because it is enough to make her heart swell with love all the same. Steven is a good man. She saw glimpses of this when he came for her again and again, and knew it was certain the day he lied and said she was a virgin on their wedding night. She thinks that it is this goodness, this nobility of his, which makes her love him as much as she does.

Steven is everything that Martin would never be.

Sometimes, late at night, when she lays awake in bed with her husband wrapped around her, she allows herself to remember. The smell of sweat and burning candles. Rough and hot hands on her skin. The look of a predator, the feeling of being the prey of such a beast. The rush, the thrill, the freedom, the lust, the joy…

Sometimes she even allows herself to remember what she could have done.

Agnes is wise enough now to recognize that she was not truly in love Martin. She cared for him, oh yes, but she understands that it was the life he represented that she was truly in love with. He was the handsome soldier who lived by no rules but his own; the free man who was not bound by social expectations as she was. It was that fairy tale that she was taken it by most of all.

She thinks that perhaps Martin was taken in by the same delusion. The soft and delicate noble girl that he could never really have. Something beautiful and pure and untouched by the world that he could protect and treasure. She had certainly felt more like a possession to him in the end than a person.

She wonders is he would love Rocco the same way.

Would he have looked upon their son and seen another prized possession to be hoarded away? Or would he had loved and guided him the way Steven did? Would he had even cared that he had a son? That he created another human being within her? Would he have tried to been a better person for his son? For her?

If given the chance, could they had ever been a real family…?

You ask questions that will never be answered, she acknowledged, watching her son play with the wooden sword her husband had made for him. He is mess of circles and tumbles that follow no logic but there is a certain fluid grace to him. Another reminder of his true patronage that slaps her across the face again and again.

Agnes knows that Rocco is both her salvation and punishment for the time she spent with Martin. Her son is the greatest joy she has ever known in life; the one man besides her Lord that she loves with all her heart and soul. Yet he is also her greatest shame, her secret torture, her never ending guilt. He is the undeniable proof of what she shared with Martin and never with Steven.

He is her last and unbreakable tie to Martin, and Agnes knows she will never be able to completely sever it.