Recovering Steps

It was a few more weeks before Arthur finally returned to London. His mate was in tow. There was no ceremony to celebrate their arrival this time. No one came to see the Omega and cheer for his presence. No one cared to. They had all turned their back to their once beloved Alfred; the one they once had hoped for for the future.

Alfred was baffled as to their sudden change, but remembered the words Franҫoise had once told him. These people will make an enemy out of anyone if they hear a malicious story of them, and then turn them into a martyr if the tide suddenly changes. If things don't work in their favor, they want to hang the Alpha or Omega up by their genitals. Be wary, young one. If they see fit to find fault in you, they will. Even those that have such affection for you, you cannot believe the love and gratitude they show you.

Upon Arthur and Alfred's arrival, Franҫoise summoned the Omega to her chambers. Alfred knew he had to go, but at the same time he feared what would be waiting for him. The Dowager Queen was dismissed rather curtly when she came to see Alfred's recovery from his miscarriage. Queens, especially mothers to a king, weren't told to leave, especially by Omegas that were lower in status than them.

"I'd advise against it," Arthur said, squeezing Alfred's hand. "But…she is the King's mother. She cannot be ignored. Just be quick about it. The girls are eager to see their mother again."

While Amelia and Rose had been taken to the Sussex home in hopes of easing Alfred's pain, they too had been sent away. Alfred could not lay eyes on children that were still alive without thinking about the one he had just recently lost. However, upon his return to London, he ached to hold them in his arms and remember that not all life was lost.

Alfred entered the Queen's chambers, balling his fists in anticipation. The Omegas of Court stared at him with narrowed, judging eyes. They sneered at him. No one could believe he had the audacity to demand anything of his Alpha- a prince Alpha no less. Omegas wished to do such a thing, but to actually do it was near blasphemous. An Omegas duty was to be a faithful and loyal and patient mate to their Alpha. The Alphas decided everything, dismissed Omegas (even Queens), and they were the ruler. It was never to be the other way around.

For Alfred to have done so was against the rules of society and religion.

The Omegas turned to their queen, expecting her to yell and spew her resentment at the young Omega, but Franҫoise rose from her seat quickly. Alfred bowed, keeping his head low. Then, he heard the rustling of a dress and warm arms around his shoulders.

"I have lost many children," Franҫoise whispered. "I understand a mother's pain. I do not blame you."

Alfred shuddered a cry, relaxing in her arms. "Thank you, Your Majesty…"

"Think nothing of it." Franҫoise released Alfred and smiled. There were tears on the edges of her eyes. "Come and sit with me. Let's talk. I have missed you so."

Alfred felt his strength regaining as he was lead past the men and women of Court and seated next to the queen.

"Alfred," Franҫoise started suddenly. She placed a hand on Alfred's. "I have news regarding my son, the king. He is to be mated."

Alfred started at this. "Wha-to whom, Your Majesty?"

"To the Omega prince of Spain!" Franҫoise beamed at the news. She looked at her Omegas who only nodded their enthusiastic approval. "Peace with France is now assured with my son and my brother being related. Now, I plan to have peace with Spain as well."

"Has Spain made it seem they are to be taken as enemies?" Alfred asked, curious. He knew next to nothing of the southern kingdom, only that it was quite powerful at sea and quite relentless with religion.

Franҫoise brushed a strand of her fair hair behind her ear. Alfred noticed wisps of grey intermingled in the strands underneath her hood. "They could be. Their forces are intimidating. France and Spain have had a long history of skirmishes. I'd hate to have to deal with such a thing."

Alfred frowned at this. "But…if we're allies to both and one of them gets in a feud, we'll be expected to intercede or pick a side."

"Nonsense." Franҫoise waved him off. "My brother and my son would never do such things."

Alfred bit his lip. He had been granted a miracle once today already when the queen accepted him back into her circle of friends so easily. He doubted it could continue should he say anything out against her.

Arthur was with the King when Alfred returned from Franҫoise. Alfred hadn't seen King Charles in some time and was amazed at his progress. He was four by now, a young king indeed, but he was stronger. While he had often been bedridden as most children do through childhood, he was now full of life in his eyes and cheeks. The red of his hair was really starting to brighten into a true ginger, and he was even starting to stand like a proper prince.

After giving a deep bow, Alfred approached his Alpha and his king. "Your Majesty, it is wonderful to see you again."

"We missed you," Charles said, using the formal royal "we". "You won't leave us again, will you?"

"I hope not." Alfred's eyes flittered to Arthur. The Alpha nodded. "No, I don't think I'll be leaving again."

The king smiled a toothy grin. For all his attempts to be a strong leader of a kingdom, he was still a four year old boy. "We are happy to hear that. We would so very much like to see you again."

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Alfred smiled as he bowed.

"Mummy!" Amelia raced across the nursery to her mother, flinging herself into Alfred's arms. "Mummy! Mummy! I missed you!"

Alfred shook as he held his daughter, reveling in how warm she was, how tall she was getting, how alive she was. He kissed Amelia's head, pressing his face into her blonde curls and crying. Looking over her shoulder he saw little Rose wobble over to her. The little girl was a little over a year now and already taking her first hesitant steps.

Arthur scooped Rose up into his arms and fell to his knees, hugging his mate and his firstborn. The family held one another, united at last after their horrible ordeal. Finally, the world was at peace and all was right. Alfred sought out Arthur where he buried his face underneath his Alpha's chin. Arthur pressed a kiss to the top of Alfred's head.

In the months that followed, Alfred tried to readjust to Court life. He was still greatly shunned by the people of London and the court Omegas. Nevertheless, Alfred did his best to combat the depression that had tried to steal him away after his miscarriage. Religion and being with his children helped ease the pain and bring him back.

If he wasn't in the nursery with his children, he was often on his knees at church in prayer. It did redeem his reputation with some people in town. They liked a pious Omega as that meant they kept their eyes on to the acceptable rules: Omegas second to their Alpha mates. But Alfred was mainly praying to his lost child and begging God to somehow save the innocent babe from eternal damnation having not yet been baptized due to its sudden departure from the world.

After his return, King Charles asked for Alfred more and more. He enjoyed being in Alfred's presence. Arthur was thrilled by this turn of events, preferring Alfred be close to the king rather than his mother. He often encouraged Alfred to just arrive in the king's chambers without being invited knowing full well the young boy wouldn't turn him away. The Omega's constant company with the king was a blessing to the family, amazingly.

The more Alfred was there, the more Arthur could be away.

Indeed, Arthur was enjoying more and more freedom to do as he wished in Court. Charles was none the wiser, as a four year old never understood much political events. He and Alfred were on quite the same level in that sense. But Charles never made Alfred feel he was inferior or stupid for not understanding things.

Then again, neither did Arthur. He just didn't let Alfred in on any of his dealings unless it was common knowledge, such as the alliance between Spain and England that Franҫoise had talked about.

"I don't want it," Arthur snarled. He paced his chambers as Alfred sat on his bed, watching. "You are right. If France and Spain were to fight, then we'd be forced on one side. And with the king, I know exactly which side we'd have to pick."

"Do you wish we were in an alliance with Spain more than France?" Alfred asked knowing full well Arthur did. His mate abhorred France. Arthur constantly complained that he wished it was different and that he didn't have to "put up" with working together with the kingdom across the sea.

"Of course I do!" Arthur sighed, running his hands through his hair. "Spain is a much more powerful ally. I don't like their rulers as I think King Antonio and his Omega are too Catholic, but their navy is not to be reckoned with."

Arthur wasn't someone others thought was especially pious. Alfred was more so than Arthur, but that was to be expected of an Omega. However, if there was one thing that Arthur was, it was an advocate for religious reform. He, along with most of England, saw the emerging Protestant religion as a stronger and more truthful faith. Alfred, though, was raised a devout Catholic. While the couple never bickered about their own religion, they did pick at each other when it came up to be about their children. And now, with Arthur as Lord Protector and King Charles becoming a strong point in their lives, religion was starting to rear its head in their life once more.

Whoever controlled the King and his religion controlled the kingdom.

With a sigh, Alfred looked at his mate tiredly. "I wish we didn't have to think of our different faiths. I am content as a Catholic, but I wouldn't push it onto you. You are happy as a Protestant."

Arthur smiled, finally approaching Alfred. "No one is 'content' to be a Catholic."

Alfred laughed loudly once. Arthur took a seat beside him. They smiled at one another, looking in each other's eyes, before Alfred lay back on the bed and reached for his Alpha. Arthur was only too happy to press his body on top of Alfred.

Since the miscarriage, Alfred was fearful of intimacy. But the more Arthur tended to him and helped him heal, and allowed himself to heal along with him, the more Alfred felt himself welcoming his mate's tender embraces and chaste kisses. It started with a kiss on the forehead, and then to the cheek, followed by a peck on the neck. When Arthur's lips grazed Alfred's, the Omega began to cry and begged to be held. He had no idea that his body was deprived of touch, nor had he had known the ache that claimed his entire being.

Shortly afterwards, Alfred asked for Arthur to take him. It wasn't passionate, but slow and tender and Alfred cried. At one point, he thought he heard Arthur cry too.

Their relationship mended quickly after that. Arthur promised he would never send Alfred away.

"I just don't understand…," Alfred whispered. He traced a finger along Arthur's collarbone, watching the way the sunlight radiated off of him. "Why did you think pushing me away would help…?"

Arthur remained silent a moment longer, and then breathed a deep sigh. "Do you…remember what happened shortly after Rose's birth?"

"When the King was Natured?" Arthur nodded. "You sent me away the first time."

"Before that."

Alfred pondered for a moment. He preferred not to think of that time. Aside from Rose's arrival to the world, those days were rather dreary. But then he recalled how he had been confined in his own chambers for days with no word from the outside world, until his brother arrived.

"Yes. You locked me up. Why?"

Again, Arthur hesitated. Alfred frowned at this. Then, "The Queen withheld naming me Regent… because of you."

"M-me?!" Alfred sat up alarmed. "What did I do?"

"You were popular." Alfred winced at the past tense Arthur used, but knew it was true. He was no longer in the favor with the people. "That woman has never been popular, and having you there challenged her."

"I thought Franҫoise was my friend…" Alfred looked down, hurt. He thought back to when the Queen had welcomed him back. Her comforting words strengthened the scared Omega and relieved him of his fears.

"I highly doubt she has any real affection for you. Even now. She is vindictive. She has never liked me and would love to use you against me, of that I am certain." Arthur pulled Alfred to lie back beside him. "That aside, I locked you away for fear that someone might hurt you. During that time I called for a check on my nephew to ensure he was not a Changeling from birth. The Queen was furious and we had quite a row. I wanted to protect you from that."

"Why now would you think the king was a babe switched at birth?"

"Everyone thinks that at Naturing, more so than at birth," Arthur explained with an air of familiarity. Alfred recalled how Arthur's own Naturing had been suspicious and highly controversial. He have even been re-Natured. "I was prepared for her to physically attack you or even verbally do so…but not emotionally."

"Emotionally? She hasn't, though."

"Yes, she has… but not by her." Arthur stared at Alfred sternly. "Why do you think your brother was brought to court so suddenly, and so soon after I enlisted his help to watch Amelia when my brother was dying?"

Alfred sat up again. This time, he looked across the room in shock. "What does…my brother have to do with this…?"

"He, like you, is a pawn…"

"H-how…?" But Alfred knew. He recalled how Matthew had looked when he told Alfred of Robert Downe. His brother was torn between saying what he had been instructed to say, and what was right. And, in the aftermath, he tried desperately to garner Alfred's forgiveness.

"The Queen and your brother have been entangled for some time, I fear," Arthur replied.

Alfred reeled, as if he had physically been hit. He had not known of such a thing; he hadn't even heard a whisper of a rumor. Was he truly that kept out of the realm of everything? Such a thought enraged him, but then he was saddened. Arthur hadn't told him either, not until this very moment.

"For how long?" Alfred asked, gulping back any sign of emotional distress.

"It's hard to say. I just know…"

"I haven't heard a thing about it…"

"That's my doing." Alfred narrowed his eyes accusingly at Arthur. The Alpha laid his hands on Alfred's. "Listen to me, my pet. Everything I did, I did for you. I did it with the best intentions. Had I known separation between you and I would result in your depression and illness those first few months, or that the stress would…"

Alfred looked away at the sudden thought of his dead baby.

"Alfred, please. You must believe me. As long as you stay at court, you are in danger."

"Do you think I am incapable of protecting myself?" Alfred murmured after a time. He refused to look at Arthur. His eyes were focused on the far window. "Do you think I am stupid and cannot keep up in this world of politics? I may know nothing and may be ignorant and just an Omega, but I can learn, Arthur. If there's one thing I've learned while in my confinement it's that I am strong."

The Omega rose suddenly, standing at the side of the bed and staring down Arthur. The Alpha was startled, watching as his own mate towered over him.

"I am not someone to be pushed aside. You left me alone to do nothing but grow stronger and want more from life." Alfred waved his hand at the window; at the outside world. "They can think that I should be some meek Omega all they want, but if you think that I am someone to just brush off, then…!"

"Then what?" Now Arthur stood, his eyes wide and mouth agape.

"Then…" Alfred clenched his fist. "Then I will find a way to know everything I possibly can. You're free to make all the decisions for the kingdom, but I'm not free to choose my own choices! I refuse to let that keep happening. No more, Arthur. No more."

Hoshiko2's cents: Major apologies for the lack of updates. Offline…reasons. Yes, we'll keep it at that.

Also, I have been reading up on a lot more history during this time (specifically the start of the Tudor reign with Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth, and Henry VIII's sister Margaret (grandmother to Margaret Queen of Scots). I realize that I have been placing "Your Majesty" and "Your Highness" too interchangeably and mainly in the wrong places. I don't have the time to go back and fix them all, so from here on out "Your Majesty" is reserved for the King and Queen only, while "Your Highness" would be for Arthur. Even Alfred (who is not of royal blood) or their children are to have the title attached to their name, and they really won't have anything until they are given any land (of which Arthur must give after requesting it from his nephew the King).