Francis stood in his chamber, the fire crackling before him. There was a warmth that radiated throughout the room, into his heart, round his veins. He knew what caused it, but just as quickly he cast it away.
The future king turned his back to the fireplace and tried desperately to let the anger inside him simmer. He was so foolish. Sending men to their death just because he wanted to make Mary happy. He would've given anything to take that sorrow from the Queen of Scotland. Anything.
The easy part was done. Tomas of Portugal would still be a guest at French Court for a little less than a fortnight. Pushing Mary away was just the beginning. He was doing this for her, in a twisted way that played desperately on his sanity. She would be safe. Far from his mother's rash disapproval, from his father's fickle decisions, and away from Bash's lingering gaze. But more importantly, putting separation between them would allow Francis to open his eyes and see things clearly.
Francis had conveyed, with conviction to Mary that first week into her stay at the castle; love was irrelevant, trivial, blind. The blond braced his body, holding on tightly to his bed pillars. He squeezed his eyes and relived the fleeting kiss he and Mary shared. Francis may have led Mary to the conclusion that love had no place, but he couldn't stop himself from believing they could be an exception.
He walked towards the window, staring out at the cold sea and gray sky. He saw the Portuguese ship in the distance, nearly covered by fog. He noticed Tomas and Mary standing at the bank, her wishes already granted. Francis ground his teeth as Tomas collected her hand, not even an offer, a possessive edge that had Francis feeling restless and empty.
Mary was his, and he hers. It had been that way since they were six, and instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Francis' heart was longing to turn back time. Undo the past night, the past few weeks. Mary had shown up and over night, he was a changed man. He no longer craved the affection from the women about the castle, and Francis feared he never would again. Not after Mary.
Mary let go first. There was a deep-seeded sanctification in knowing that Mary didn't want Tomas, but his army. It made letting her go that much easier, knowing it wasn't what either of them wanted, but knowing it was the right thing. The pair headed back to the castle and Francis dashed from his perch at the window.
He flew, with all the grace a jealous man could muster and gasped for breath against a pillar near the castle entrance. He inspected his calloused fingers, having no desire to work on his knives as of late. He heard the echo of heels, growing accustom to the sound of Mary's strong walk.
Tomas left her at the door, stalking off to his bedchamber with an adviser. Francis only dared a look once he could no longer hear the Portuguese speaking. Her toffee colored eyes were solely for him. He gave her a small smile and she welcomed the invitation. Mary made her way to him and left barely enough room to breathe.
"Those companies on their way?" Francis asked with an air of hope.
Mary nodded hard and moved closer. "Yes. Tomas expects them on Scottish soil in two days time."
"I'm happy to hear that." But Francis' tone implied something different.
"Francis." Mary breathed, closing her eyes.
"It is for the best, Mary. I promise you."
He let his rough fingers skim across her flushed cheek and dipped down to steal a last kiss. She sighed deeply, a hand tight on his forearm and her body bracing for the goodbye. This wasn't fair. It was as if he had finally found her, finally accepted what he was told since childhood. He didn't need anything else but his country and this raven-haired queen. He promised to protect her, and she promised to save him. This wasn't how a love story ended, and Francis knew enough of love to know that they were headed straight into the sunset.
And yet, he was sending her away, to find a new dream, a new destiny. She could learn to love Tomas, and Francis would align with a new country, and a new queen. It was what had to be done. Things were so much larger than just the two of them, and whatever it was that seemed to be brewing, like the storm looming upon the castle, Francis feared it would drown them if they weren't careful.
Mary pulled away, rubbing her lips and looking to the stone ground. Francis rested his forehead against hers, wishing things were different. She stepped away first, taking her warmth with her.
"Goodnight, Francis." She whispered.
"The sweetest dreams, your Grace." He smirked, attempting to relieve the tension but yearning for her instead.
Francis listened as her footfall drifted to other parts of the castle. He made his way to the chamber Nostradamus was keeping Bash in to rest. He would spend far too long talking to his unconscious brother of all the ways he had screwed up, and let his father be satisfied that Francis would amount to something cold as stone. No need to think with his heart, when its owner would be off to Portugal soon enough.