Danielle goes to tell Henry the truth at the Ruins of Amboise, where he has asked her to meet him, but things don't go as planned.
A/N: I own nothing, except the plot change. First time writing for this pairing. Got the movie from my Fairy Godmother for my birthday and it quickly became one of my favorites. Any criticism is welcomed. Also: I may or may not continue this, depends on a ton of random stuff (including but not limited to- response, time, how fast I can finish the other big fic I'm currently working on). So, yep! There you have it!
Another A/N: Here y'all go! I finally got to edit it! I'm hoping to maybe add a few chapters in the future! I've loved all the encouraging reviews, and I was astonished over how many favorites/follows/alerts this has received so far! Thank you all so very much!
Danielle walked into the ruins where the front gate of the former residence would have been. Across the ruined hall, in one on the ancient window ledges sat Henry, reading the very book she had picked out the day before and accidentally left when the carriage had broken down. It had taken her much longer to get here than she had originally planned, the gown of her mothers that Louise had saved was much too large for her, and it chaffed painfully against the lacerations on her back. The shoes she had were also too large for her feet causing her to trip constantly, never mind the rough terrain of the French country side.
She turned once, admiring the beauty of the old carved marble and stone ruins that had once been a beautiful castle, and then faced Henry.
"Hello," He said, smiling and setting the book aside.
"Hello," she replied sheepishly as he jumped off the sill he had been sitting on and made his way towards her.
"Are you well?" He asked her, noticing her red-rimmed eyes.
"I fear that I am not myself today," Danielle replied with a shaky breath trying to avoid eye contact with the man she loved.
"I feel as though my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once," Henry
commiserated with her.
"There is something I must tell you," Danielle wanted more than anything to get this over with before it turned even worse.
"And I you," He said pausing to look at the book in his hands, "Oh, here, your book. You left it in the carriage yesterday." The sight of the book only served to reminded Danielle of the book that Marguerite had thrown into the flames the day before. The sooner she did this, the better it would be for both of them.
"Henry," he corrected her.
Shaking her head, she continued, "I cannot stay long, but I had to see you. There is much to say." She was now obviously trying really hard not to break into tears as she had multiple times on her long and painful walk to the ruins.
"Come..." Henry held his hand out to her, hoping to console the beautiful young woman who he could see was on the verge of tears, "I want to show you something." He led her into the next ruined room of the castle, another room that was now opened to the clean, fresh country air, and also become overcome by forest flora and most likely fauna too.. "I used to play here as a boy. It was my father's most cherished retreat before the war."
Danielle followed him, momentarily forgetting her pain to admire the courtyard she had been led into, "It's beautiful."
"I've measured my life by these trees," Henry continued, letting go of Danielle's hand to walk around the room as if he was revisiting a memory that he had stored there, "Starting here," he paused to indicate the bottom of a young sapling, "to all the way up there," he pointed to the top of the courtyard which was now graced with the leaves of the young trees. "And still they grow, so much life to live..." He paused once again to look at Danielle who now had silent tears running down her eyes. "But now, I no longer imagine it alone."
"You're not making this easy," Danielle muttered loud enough for Henry to hear her, but soft enough for him to not hear the tremble of her voice.
"I have not slept for fear to wake and find all this a dream," Henry took her hands. "Oh, last night, I had a revelation." He turned away from her to scan the over grown courtyard once again, not seeing her reach up to wipe away the tears that had run own her face already. "I used to think that if I cared about anything, I'd have to care about everything, and I'd go stark raving mad. But, now, I've found my purpose. It's a project actually inspired by you." He approached her again. "And, I feel the most wonderful," he leaned his forehead against hers, "freedom."
"It wasn't me," Danielle shuttered, lowering her face from his, though still holding his hands.
"Nicole..." Henry chuckled, using the false name she had given him, "You are unlike any courtier I have ever met." He reached up to caress her cheek. "Tomorrow at the Masque... I shall make it known to the world."
"Why did you have to be so wonderful?" Danielle asked him, breaking down into actual tears this time.
"Now then," he said, smiling at her, "What is it that you wanted to tell me?"
Danielle broke down and sobbed. "Simply that..." She trailed off, not knowing what to say, "Last night was the happiest night of my life." She turned to leave, but Henry firmly held her hand.
Henry placed his hands on her shoulders and kissed her tenderly. A few moments in, he wrapped his arms around her and tried to hold her closer, but instead, Danielle cried out in pain.
"I'm sorry!" Henry quickly said, retracting his hands. Danielle stumbled away from him and leaning against one of the thicker saplings that now inhabited the abandoned ruins, the pain of the momentary pressure on the lacerations too much for her to handle.
"Are you all right?" Henry reached for her, only then noticing the blood stains on his hands from where he had encircled his arms around her.
"Christ have mercy! Are you're bleeding?" He spun her around to see the back of her gown drenched in blood from the lacerations that he didn't know lay underneath.
Danielle did nothing but sob into her hands as she stood there.
"Nicole! What the Lord's good name happened to you? Who did this to you?"
"Please, Sire. Don't call me Nicole." She had to get this over with. She couldn't live like this anymore.
"Why in heaven's name not?"
"I am not Nicole. Nicole was my mother. She was the Comptesse."
Henry was shocked. "Then who are you?"
"I am Danielle, daughter of the late Baron de Barbarac." It took Henry a few moments to figure out what exactly to do now that the women he had come to love had unveiled herself as a completely different person.
"Still, my question stands: Who did this to you?"
"My step mother."
"But... Who is your stepmother then?"
"Rodmilla de Ghent."
"Baroness de Ghent is your stepmother?"
"Yes, I'll suffer for telling you this, but she whipped me after she found out that I was out of the house yesterday and that I was pretending to be a courtier under my mother's name, the Comptesse du Lancre, instead of doing the work that she assigned me."
"I can't believe this..." Henry paused in exasperation, "Well, who you are matters not. We need to get this cleaned up. Do you..." He paused looking at her again, "Do you trust me?"
"I have no reason not to trust you, your highness, you are not the one who has lied about his station."
"Alright then... You will need to remove the gown, it's dirty, and continuing to wear it may risk infection of the cuts." He laid the cloak he had thrown over one of the tree branches on a clearer section of the marble floor. "Lay down on here on your stomach, I'll have to unlace the back of your gown, as improper as it is, but it is necessary."
Danielle gently laid down on the floor, being careful not to flex her back and reopen any more wounds. She felt him undo the laces that held her mother's gown in place.
"I always wondered why you never wanted to tell me about yourself." He winced as he pulled away the fabric that was beginning to stick to her back as the blood congealed.
"I am sorry..." Danielle flinched as the fabric was removed.
"Another question, if you are the daughter of the Comptesse and the Baron, then why were you never at court? Surely you should have inherited the title once your father passed away..." Danielle turned her hear towards him as he tore a sleeve off his clean white linen shirt and used it to blot away the blood on her back with a little water he had poured out of his leather canteen.
"My stepmother kept the title. She told me that the only way I could remain in the house now that I was an orphan was to join the serving staff. They were always there for me when I was younger and my father was away on business trips, so it was not hard for me to join them. They were my second family. Since I never even met my mother, they were the ones who took care of me." She drew in a quick breath as Henry blotted at an especially deep wound. "It was not as though I was not used to working with them already. My father brought me up, not to be a lady, per se, but instead knowing how to run a strong household."
"That's not right. She should not have done that." He poured a little more water on the young woman's back, and patted it dry. "I am afraid I have done all that I could do for your back without the proper tools. I'm going to use the rest of my shirt to bind the lacerations so that they do not get reinfected by your soiled gown." He pulled what remained of his shirt over his head. "If we wrap it around your torso, and then tie you gown over it, it will suffice until we return to the palace, Danielle."
"But, You Highness, the palace?"
"Well, given the fact that it is highly unlikely that you will receive the proper medical treatment from your so called family, I am taking you back to the palace with me. If it is all right with you, I would like you to remain there until the Masque." He handed her the shirt and turned around so that she could decently wrap it around herself.
"But, You Majesty, why? I have lied to you. I did not think you would still listen to me after I told you. I did not think you would even... be here still."
"The other day, in fact, when we ran into you by the river, a wise man told me that I can not leave everything to fate, and that sometimes I must give her a hand."
"Speaking of hands, could you possibly give me a hand? I am not... practiced in tying up gowns such as this, and usually Paulette helps me." Henry turned around to the young, half dressed woman.
"I still think you are beautiful, Danielle. My offer to come to the Masque still stands."
"But why, Your Highness?"
"Danielle... It's Henry. If I can now know your true name, you can still use mine." He reached around her to lace up the back of her gown carefully so to not hurt her even more. "As to why, because you are still the same intriguing young woman who can perfectly quote Utopia and vies for the life of a common servant man. You are still the beautiful, smart young woman who rescued my sorry arse from what could have only been a very painful death at the hands of a gypsy band. You are also the passionate young woman who was beaten for coming out with me and spending the night at a gypsy camp playing foolish hand games and drinking rather bad ale. Danielle..." He walked around her until he was facing her, "You are not the same person I met those last few times we met. Now, you are better, because you make more sense. Also, I now know that you have a certain proclivity for throwing things at me... quotes... apples... chickens..."
"About that..." She blushed a deep shade of crimson.
"Think nothing of it, you are the first person who has ever dared to throw something at me, and let me just say, being around people trained to fight my whole life, I find your accuracy rather frightening..." He trailed off, gazing into her eyes.
"Danielle, I understand that you had to lie so that you could get back what really mattered to you. In the process, you just got completely wrapped up in something else." He took her hands in his. "It's best we get back to the palace so that the doctors can care for your back. I need to find those who did this to you. They will pay for it." With that, he kissed her chastely on the lips, and gently led her out of the ruins to the place where Laurent was waiting with horses by the road.