Summary: Christmastime in the French court brings news and the present of freedom from the threats of England to Mary as well as Francis's desire to set a wedding date. So why is she still not happy? A Mash fic.

A/N: This is my first Reign fic and like the vast majority of my other stories will be an epic. Mary and Bash have a chemistry to me that I just can't ignore but I still love Francis, so there shouldn't be any character bashing here. Reviews are much appreciated!

As always, I own none of these characters. Just taking them for a spin.

Her friends were all eager and aglow in their revelry. It was Christmastime and their Queen's days of having to run from the constant threat overhead came to end with the simple sentence uttered by King Henry when she was pulled away from the dancing to the hall with Francis, Bash and her ladies in tow. "Your cousin Elizabeth has been found guilty of treason for planning an uprising against her sister, the Catholic Queen Mary. She was executed the morning before last."

Mary hadn't a reaction for that. None at all. She'd been expecting a warning about yet another plot against her own life, an order to run and protect herself. Perhaps even some news on the English envoy who seemed oddly absent from court at the moment. But most certainly not this.

Francis spoke for her immediately, and she didn't mind it as she couldn't find the words herself. "Mary is the next in line for the English crown then." It was a statement and a question all at once.

"Yes." His father confirmed and turned to Mary. "You are."

"But," she found her voice as Bash came into her peripheral vision, his gaze so intense on her that she immediately tried to cover up how shaken she felt. "why would she plan an uprising when her sister was already sick and dieing? It doesn't make sense for her not to simply wait it out."

Henry nodded in agreement, as did Catherine who, oddly, continued to remain silent during this exchange. "The two are one in the same. Elizabeth's plot was to slowly poison her sister, slowly as to avoid detection by the tasters, and force her sister's death prematurely while you were still yet unmarried and in a less powerful position to take the crown from her on the account of her assumed illegitimacy."

"And she was found out? By whom?" Francis interjected when it became apparent to him that Mary was far too overwhelmed at the moment to reply. He's become accustomed to covering for her social anxieties in these types of situations because, as his half-brother so often reminded him, she's lived her entire life with a knife suspended above her head. That certainly creates a sense of constant fear in the heart of any monarch. He would not blame her if she were wondering on the possibility of yet another plot against her life, now that one was nearly successful against another.

Catherine finally found her voice. "One of her servants confessed to sneaking the poison into the Queen's food, at the request of Elizabeth, on her own death bed. An investigation was launched and two days ago Elizabeth was found guilty and executed immediately to cull her before Christmastime and to prevent further attempts on her behalf."

Mary nodded but made no reply for a moment. She stood there, stunned and staring into the eyes of Queen Catherine. As much as neither could consider the other a friend, far from it, both knew only the other woman was thinking the same thing in the room. This came to no relief for either, even if it should. "Thank you. Truly." It was all she could muster to say, thankful that Francis encouraged his parents back to the festivities and instructed her ladies in waiting to spend a few moments alone with her in the hall, allowing the queen privacy to adjust to her news and show her true feelings on the matter.

"This is such fabulous news!" She honestly couldn't be sure which of her ladies in waiting that came from since they were all spouting similar exclamations and she far too introverted by the stunning shift in events that she was not privy to just fifteen minutes prior.

"Mary." Kenna waved her hand in front of her queen's eyes hoping to and successfully getting her attention. If she weren't so positively lit alive by the Christmastime festivities and this incredible change of events she would find the time to be concerned about her Queen's lack of exuberance at the moment. "You're free!"

Mary, still stunned, looked around the room at her handmaidens, her friends. She saw their smiling faces, their excitement and so she responded as she was expected. "I will never have a meal that isn't tasted by another first, or have relief in fearing for my country, but yes. You are right, I suppose. England will be mine, Scotland is all mine."

"And Francis!" Greer swooned, encouraged by the smile spreading on her queen's face. "He will most certainly marry you now."

Mary's head snapped up and to her faster than she should have allowed. "What do you mean?" she paused, the thought already having been on the tip of her tongue. "Because now he has two countries' armies to gain?"

Mary knew it was the truth. She knew that Francis was now entirely free to marry her seeing as their alliance, now that she was to inherit the crown of England as well, would most certainly be the best alliance for his country.

"Isn't that what you want?" Lola hedged. "Together you would have the strongest force. And of course, you love him."

Mary smiled gently, and took each of her friends in a hug. "This is such happy news I hardly know what to do with it." Sensing her friends were picking up on the lack of exuberance they all shared in her statement she deflected with the command. "Now," she clapped her hands together, a smile still on her face and her tone turning playful. "I order you as your Queen all to the festivities. You are women of the Scottish and English courts now."

Mary exhaled as the last of her friends entered the dancing yet again, distracted and unable to see her sneak off and out of the Castle to wander the grounds. She was happy, she was. The English threats and those here at the French court had been so taxing upon her she felt twice her age, and yet still unmarried.

She turned to towards the castle and sighed, both at the beauty of the light emanating from within the stone walls and almost dismally at the thought I won't be unmarried for long now.

"Your Grace." The respectful greeting held all the cheekiness of tone usual of Bash so she had no reason to turn and confirm the identity of the man that sidled up beside her at that moment. "You're awfully close to the woods yet again."

"Are you ever going to tell me what is in those woods to fear or are you going to deflect the question, yet again?" Out of the corner of her eye she could see Bash glance at her just the same even though they both remained focused on the Castle's glow.

"Your Grace is well enough acquainted with me to know how I am likely to respond." He couldn't help but smile lightly as her lips tugged onto her cheeks as well.

"Deflection then." She sighed derisively yet amuse. "Very well."

They stood there for several minutes, side by side as music filtered past them from the Castle walls into the otherwise silent night.

"May I—" he started but stopped. There were some things not even he was brave enough to ask. A bastard born son of a king does not ask virtuous queens to dance, alone, at night, outside the castle.

"May you what?" she turned to him, entirely taken aback by what she saw in his eyes. Fear. Not the I-am-in-danger sort, but genuine, I-have-something-to-lose fear. "Sebastian?" she prodded.

He turned quickly at the concern in her voice, directed at him and only him. Never did he think she would be so concerned for his welfare alone. But the hope that thought brought to him was crushed inside as his mother's words resounded in his mind. Be careful my son, or you will bleed for a girl who will never be yours. Never yours. Those words were haunting. "It is nothing your Grace."

"Mary." She corrected, once again turning towards the Castle, which while not so interesting as for them to both be staring at for so prolonged a period of time, was most certainly the safest thing to focus on. "You may call me Mary."

"Very well, Mary." He turned to her and bowed before approaching a bit closer. "You play your part quite well you know."

A slight hint of anger played in her tone. And she knew it was only there because of all the people at the French court only Bash seemed to understand her every feeling, feelings she works so hard to hide. "What do you mean?"

"I mean nothing by it your—Mary." He corrected himself. "I simply mean to put your mind at rest that your friends, my father, and my brother all seem quite convinced that you are simply being polite in not showing your joy that your cousin's death means your freedom from English threats."

She eyed him suspiciously. "And why would they think that?"

"I may have made an observation or two."

They remained silent for a moment as she thought that over. "Sebastian," she started but was interrupted.

"Bash." He insisted and took a chance. "Those close to me call me Bash."

She found the need to inhale deeply for a moment. "Bash." The familiar version of his name felt so good on her lips. "Thank you."

"Always of service your grace, Mary."

She started to pace forward and turn west towards the woods, not intending to enter them and not at all surprised that Bash was there along her side. When she stopped and took a seat on the log she often claimed as her own she gestured for him to join her. And he took his seat gently.

"Mary, may I ask why I had to make these observations to the court?"

She wished that just for once he wasn't so curious about her. But he did save her from a considerable amount of scrutiny in her response to all of this. While outright joy was not to be expected, a sense of relief and gratefulness was and his claiming politeness on her part relieved much of the anxiety she was beginning to feel at how subdued she'd seemed inside the castle hall. "You are so observant of me and my needs I would have thought you knew already."

He hadn't expected that. A protest that his concerns were not truly needed, perhaps. A claim that she was simply adjusting to her new role, likely. But he did not expect an admission that there was indeed something there to see. Nor did he expect an observation that she knows he is similarly watchful of her state. "While I must admit that I am aware you hold reluctance in your heart at the news. I cannot claim to know as to why."

For a moment she gave up the pretense that there was nothing wrong. He was the only one here she could speak with. Other than Clarissa, he was the only one she trusted. And of course she and Clarissa can't exactly have heart-to-heat conversations. "Have you ever wanted something? Needed something? And then an event occurs that renders that something unnecessary?" she didn't bother to pause for his response. "I find myself unsure if that something in question is what I have truly wanted or if I only wanted it for the very reason that it was what I needed."

"Your engagement to Francis." Bash stated and internally winced. She may be more open with him at the moment but that does not mean he should make accusations.

She was far too wary to care at the accusation he posited in her direction or at the inappropriateness of the same. "Yes."

His heart began to thud within his chest. He knew that her possibly not marrying his half-brother did not mean he could have her. There were a myriad of issues in the way, his being a bastard topping the list. But to hear her almost admit that her feelings might not be truly genuine for Francis, he thought he finally felt true elation. "If it truly is not what you want, is there something else that you may want its place?"

She gathered her breath, wondering what to say to that. "I would very much like to dance."

His smile grew steadily as he stood, bowed to the beautiful queen and offered his hand. When she took it and a moment later he found himself leading her steps to the music filtered from the castle, in the light from the same , he also found he didn't care anything about the danger lurking nearby in the woods. He held no care about being found in this predicament, save that concern over her reputation. He hid nothing that due to his mother's warning he had been sure to bury behind his cheeky façade. He cared only for the young woman brave enough to spend these precious moments in his arms.