This is a shorter chapter, but I didn't want you guys to wait any longer! I just wanted to thank you for the reviews for the last chapter. It seriously gave me the motivation and inspiration to keep going with this story. Your comments make my day and let me know where I can improve. There is one anonymous reviewer in particular who I would like to thank. You made my day. I am so happy that you left me a review, especially that it's a rare thing for you, and that I got you interested in the show. I hope that you enjoy this chapter! There is an emotional scene in this chapter and there are many more to come and I can't wait to hear what you think :).
"No, please… Stop! It's me you want! Let him go!" Queen Mary screamed as she tossed and turned in her bedroll.
Walsingham woke up and groggily made his way over to her. Gently, he tried waking her from her nightmare. This was becoming a nightly occurrence since he had found Queen Mary after she had disappeared in the castle. He had ordered his men to take the injured and unconscious King Consort of Scotland and Dauphin of France back to London where he could properly get treated for his injuries. Speed was of the essence and Queen Mary wasn't in the proper state to ride hard. Looking back, even the initial ride to Bristow Castle had been too much for the Queen.
Walsingham made the decision to stay behind with Mary as they made a slower progression back to London. The Queen needed to heal or at least stop aggravating her wounds. He had wanted to keep some men with them to ensure her safety, but she had refused saying that King Consort needed protection more than she did. Knowing her stubbornness as Queen Elizabeth shared that quality, he knew better than to argue.
Her injuries had been minor. Her throat was bruised from the late King Philip's attack, but that had been all that had occurred at Bristow Castle. She still had her injuries from when she was captive, but he knew that they were slowly healing. Her injuries ran deeper than her skin.
He had witnessed this change after her return to London after being captured by the Spaniards. There was a coldness in her eyes that had never been there before. When he looked at her now, she was worse than he could have ever imagined. The Queen hadn't told anyone what had happened after she disappeared, but he had pieced enough of it together. She had killed someone and he knew from personal experience that the first kill changed a person. It brought out a side of that person that society frowned upon and punished. That person's innocence disappears leaving them with a harsh sense of reality.
Part of him hoped that it would be different with her. Queen Mary had radiated light, innocence, love, and compassion before the abduction. The world had been black and white to her. She had been beautiful, strong, and resilient. A breath of fresh air in the council meetings and Walsingham didn't want to see that change. It was refreshing to have someone around him that wasn't as cynical as he was, that believed that the world could change for the better.
That was why he stayed by her side during the night so that she didn't face her nightmares alone. His darkness recognized the darkness in her and he would do everything in his power to eradicate it from her. After gently moving her hair out of her face, he saw that she was now sleeping peacefully. With a sigh, he returned to his own bedroll and hoped that they would arrive in London soon.
Mary was thankful for the silence. The last thing she wanted to do was talk and she knew that if she had been with someone other than Walsingham, they would have tried to get what had really happened between her and Philip out of her. That was the last thing she wanted to think about. She did try, sometimes, to think about what she had done. Yet the anguish and despair she felt would overwhelm her and so she would wall off those memories so she didn't have to feel it anymore. Even thinking about Francis triggered that reaction, the guilt and shame was too much to bear. So instead she let her thoughts go to her cousin. How had Elizabeth fared against the Spanish Armada? Walsingham asked the locals for news when they passed through a village, but they hadn't heard of any news recently.
She knew that they would be arriving in London soon and the thought of returning made her sick to her stomach. Mary wasn't ready. She didn't want to know if they lost the war, if Francis hadn't made it, and the questions that would be asked. Taking a deep breath, she redirected her thoughts. Her eyes rested on Walsingham and she felt relief take hold of her.
Mary felt safe around him. Maybe it was the intimidating demeanor he had, his strength, or maybe it was because he was older. Walsingham had seen and done terrible things and never once did she see judgment in his green eyes when he looked at her. She knew that he was the one who calmed her during her nightmares, yet he never once mentioned it to her. Mary saw him in a new light and she knew how wrong it was to think about him as often as she did on their journey back to London. But how could she not? She couldn't think about the war, Philip, or Francis. It was too painful.
"Let's rest here tonight," Walsingham said as he slowed his horse.
Mary looked up at him in surprised, "I thought we were riding until we reached London."
"You are wounded, your Highness. It would not be wise to push yourself in this state," he said as he inspected the area for any threats.
Mary got off her horse and fed him. She hadn't noticed the burn of her cuts and the soreness of her throat until he mentioned it. Seeing that he was trying to start a fire, Mary went behind a tree and pulled up her shirt so that she could have a better look at the dressing on her upper body. The entire episode at Bristow Castle had aggravated her previous wounds to the point that some had started to bleed again. A soldier with little medical training had treated her wounds to prevent infection from taking hold. Satisfied that her dressings were still on properly, Mary started unpacking the horse.
"Let me unpack the horses. Sit down and rest," Walsingham commanded as soon as the wood caught fire.
"No thank you. I am perfectly fine helping with the chores," she replied annoyed.
"Your highness," he said in his gruff voice, "You need to rest. You cannot add anymore stress to your body or you might fall ill."
"I appreciate your concern, but I am not going to sit and do nothing. I need to stay occupied," Mary answered as she grabbed the bedrolls and started setting them near the fire.
Walsingham walked up to her and grabbed the bedrolls, "You cannot keep pretending that nothing is wrong. You cannot keep distracting yourself. You need to deal with what has happened before we get back."
Mary's head snapped up at his words. Suddenly a fury she had never known she felt was bubbling to the surface. How dare he bring this up in conversation? She thought that he understood that this was the last thing she wanted to talk about, that this was going to do more harm than good. And who was he to bring this up? He was an advisor. Nothing more, nothing less. Mary couldn't believe his nerve.
She glared at him, "Why? Why do I need to deal with it? Going through it once was already more than enough for me. I don't want to think about it. It happened. Life moves on."
"Do you think that ignoring it is going to work forever? Your dreams will only get worse. Your anger will build until it consumes you. You need to deal with what happened, because you're a ruler. Your people deserve your full attention and they have just gone through a battle. They will look up to you for guidance in this time of chaos and change. You do not have the luxury of being selfish," Walsingham answered before turning away from her.
He was walking towards the horses like nothing was wrong, like he hadn't just awakened the emotions she had been trying to control since they had left the castle. Mary had been dealing with the situation in the only way that she knew how and how dare he walk away from her in that manner? Walsingham was calmly taking out their dinner, unaware of the hurricane of emotions he had just unleashed. Mary walked up to him and put herself between him and the horse. If he was going to bring it up, he was going to see this conversation through until the very end.
"You do not get to walk away from me after saying that. This conversation is over when I say it's over," Mary said angrily as she stood between him and the horse, "I have been through hell and back. I don't need to deal with this! I can't think about what happened, because otherwise I will break down and I don't think I'll ever get back up. You're right; my people do need me. Francis and Elizabeth need me and I need to be strong from them. I don't even know if my husband will wake up or if I will recognize him when he does. I can't think about what I've been through, because it hurts too much. I killed a man, Walsingham, I killed a man and there's no coming back from it."
"You had no choice. I don't know the details on what happened down there, but I know you would never take a man's life lightly. You did it to protect yourself, the King Consort, and your people. There was no other way," he said as he grabbed her arms to stop her hands from clenching, "You need to deal with it before the guilt and anger consumes you. Don't hold it in. This is the only time and place where you can show weakness."
Mary was surprised by his touch. His hands were bigger than she had expected they would be, but they were just as rough as she had imagine. For the first time in a long time, she felt anchored this present moment. She wasn't trying to avoid the past or the future, she was just here. Just like he had earlier, her emotions finally broke the surface and the tentative control she had over them was lost.
"I don't want to be weak! I'm supposed to be a queen. You said it yourself; I'm a ruler. Who thought it would be a good idea for me to be a queen? I have done a terrible job of it! I'm not strong enough. I made an enemy out of an old friend and he took it out on my country! I can't even begin to express my guilt over what happened to Francis. If it weren't for me, if he hadn't tried to win me back, he wouldn't look like a shell of himself right now. He wouldn't be missing a finger. He would be happy and whole back in France instead of resenting me for what Alvaro did to him," she said unable to hold back her emotions anymore, "Oh god. What have I done? What have I done?"
For the first time since the attack, Mary had no choice but to deal with the events of that night. Walsingham had broken down the walls she had placed around herself and there was no going back. It seemed surreal. Kenna was dead. Her childhood friend that had caused her so much grief, whose thirst for power had led to her death. What would Greer, Lola, and Aylee say when they found out? Would they blame her? If Mary hadn't shut her out, hadn't forced Kenna to pick between her and Henry…
And Philip. Who would have… What had… Just his name made her lose the fragile control she had over her tears and before she knew it she was sobbing in Walsingham's arms without a care to what he thought. Philip had been there when she thought she had lost Francis forever. He had been one of her confidants, one of her dearest friends. If she had never met Francis, Mary would have been happy with Philip. Or that's what she would have liked to believe. Who knew that their ending would be so gruesome? Who could have predicted that they would turn out this way? Philip consumed with an obsession with her and Mary turning away her friends and killing them? Her and Francis tortured for the choices they had made, the choices she had made.
Mary grieved for herself. She used to be a young, naïve girl who thought that the world was full of honorable and loyal men. She believed that Francis would fall head over heels with her, they would get married, and live happily ever after. She used to think that ruling a country was a good thing, that she could make the world a better place.
Now, she didn't know what she believed in anymore. Mary felt as if she had aged decades in the past few months. Where was she supposed to go from here? Mary knew that rulers had to make difficult decision. They had to kill people that threatened the safety of their people. They had to act in the interests of their people. She knew this, yet she had never expected to have to do it. Already, her mother had paid the price for her treachery. Now Mary had killed a man, a friend, a person who had feelings for her. Philip was never coming back. She would never see him again. Mary couldn't comprehend it. How could she have done such a thing, such a permanent thing?
She was so mad at Philip, mad because he left her with no other choice. Her neck was still raw from that night and sometimes, she could feel his fingers closing around her throat… He had taken Kenna's life. He had ordered her abduction, tortured Francis, and cut off his finger. Philip had turned into a monster before her very eyes.
Going back and forth between her anger and her grief, both loving and hating Philip, she felt Walsingham hold her tightly in an embrace and his presence comforted her, gave her strength. Being a ruler wasn't easy, but it was her duty to bear. If she let this war taint her, Philip and Alvaro would win. Perhaps she could move on. Not right away, but she could heal. Walsingham was right. Her people needed her. Elizabeth, Francis, her friends, they needed her. They had all been through terrible ordeals and they would need someone to guide them through it. Mary could be that person. She would be that person. She had grown stronger during this past year and she could handle it. Mary had no other choice. She was all that Scotland had and she couldn't leave innocents to tyrants like her mother.
Stepping back once her anger and grief had turned into acceptance, Mary's eyes met his green ones, "I'm ready to become the ruler I was always meant to be. I had to do an awful thing, but my people were threatened and my life at risk. You were right. I don't have the luxury of selfishness. This war with Spain created wounds for us all, but I will heal. I will not let Philip and Alvaro win."
"That sounded a little bit too rehearsed, but it is a step in the right direction. I am glad to hear it, your Highness," Walsingham replied with the smallest of smiles, "I knew you had it in you. We will find out what happened in London and we will deal with it."
"Thank you," Mary replied.
Instead of answering, Walsingham continued to unpack while Mary sat by the fire and contemplated her next move. The next few days would be extremely difficult, but if she was able to control her emotions it would help enormously. This was no longer about her, but her family and her people. She needed to put them first now. Mary weighed the pros and the cons of each decision she would have to make and thought about every eventuality of the Spanish Armada and Philip's death. She would have to be prepared.
In the physician chambers in London, Francis' eyes flew open as he gasped for air. Looking around with wild eyes, he tried to get up so he had a better view of where he was. A man reached out to touch his forehead, but Francis flinched and almost fell off the bed in fear.
"Your highness. Francis. You're safe. You're in London. You're safe," Elizabeth's physician said as he tried to calm the Dauphin of France.
Francis' body relaxed at his words. Before the physician could get his assessment in, Francis was falling asleep once more, the stress of his awakening too much for his fragile state.
Before he fell asleep, Francis made a strange noise. The physician replayed the sound in his head over and over again until he finally realized what Francis had said. Mary.
I keep promising a Francis/Mary reunion don't I? I don't have a plan for this story, so I go wherever it takes me and so far it's keeping them apart. Don't worry, I have started writing the next chapter and there is definitely a Francis/Mary scene. It's going to be interesting.. How can you see the Francis and Mary first face to face encounter in months playing out?
Let me know what you think!