Author's Note: While not necessary, I recommend first reading "This One Moment," which was designed as a preamble of sorts to this larger, multi-chapter story. That part lays the groundwork for tying the story into the initial canon before it jumps into an alternate reality here. This is definitely AU from here on out, though I will do my best to keep characters in line with their characterizations up through 1x04, which is where this story diverges from the show. As I've planned it, it should include 11-12 chapters in total. Please review - it is wonderful to hear from you!

Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own "Reign" or any of its characters. I just play with them. The storyline is mine because, well, thus far it hasn't lined up with the show and it came independently from my own imagination.

ONE: Walks in the Evening

The day had reached its close, the light fading more quickly into night as the seasons changed. Francis and Mary ambled slowly across the grounds, a guard following at a careful but respectful distance. Mary adjusted her shawl against the crisp autumn air before tucking her arm once more into the crook formed by Francis' elbow. He took care to rub her hand with his own, attempting to keep it warm against the night's chill.

It had been a week of quiet moments, of walks in the evening. Many hours had been spent discussing Mary's years at the convent and Francis' friendship with Bash, Mary's desire to return to Scotland and Francis' fondness for philosophy. They somehow managed to cover the years missed while Mary was kept safe in hiding.

The guard had been appointed to act as chaperone for the young dauphin and queen, and it had taken Francis everything within himself not to dismiss the man from his post. He desired a chance to take greater liberties with the beautiful young woman with whom he walked every day before the evening meal, but he resigned himself to the man's presence, knowing it was best to protect Mary's reputation in the hope that, someday soon, she might be his bride.

As the light disappeared, they wound their way back to the castle and to the meal where, on this particular night, King Henry had chosen to greet them upon their arrival.

"Ah, here you are, then! I would like to request the presence of you both in my chambers following the meal. There is something important that needs to be discussed. You may rejoin the evening's entertainments afterward."

"Of course, father," responded Francis, looking quickly to Mary for confirmation. "You will have our undivided attention after we eat."

Finding their seats, Mary stated softly, "I wonder what that was all about." Her face held a coy smile that went unnoticed by Francis as he turned to face her and reply. She had managed to keep at least one secret not yet discussed on their evening rambles.

"I suppose we will find out after supper. Let's eat, shall we?"

As the meal came to a close, Francis extracted himself from a conversation with one of the viscounts concerning Plato's understanding of fathers and their sons. He and Mary made their way to join his father in his chambers, as the king had requested.

The page announced their arrival and the door opened to reveal King Henry sitting with Mary's uncle, Claude de Guise. The fire glowed brightly in the fireplace, bathing the whole room in a warm light.

"Please, sit down, both of you," said the king from his chair. They each took seats on the couch, awaiting further instruction. Mary smiled, fairly certain of the reason they had been asked to join King Henry.

"As you are well-aware," King Henry spoke slowly and firmly, "we have finished re-negotiating the marriage treaty between our two nations." He looked at Mary's uncle, who nodded in acknowledgement.

"What you might not be so aware of, my son," he continued, looking in Francis' direction, "is that this treaty takes imminent effect now that you and Mary both are of age. This was not the case with the original treaty and it was therefore put off as you both grew."

The king shifted a bit as he announced this piece of information, which Francis understood to be the result of lingering uneasiness when it came to the Scottish alliance.

"What does that mean, father?" Francis questioned.

"It means," the king began, "that you and Mary will be wed on her sixteenth birthday, on December the eighth."

Francis' face registered some of the shock he felt inside. His father had finally set a date for the alliance to be finalized – a day in mere months! Still, he managed to maintain some composure, replying to his father with an affirmation of the arrangement while trying to keep his father from noticing his excitement.

"Of course, father. Will that be all? We would rather like to return to the festivities."

"Yes, Francis, that will be all. We will discuss this further in the morning. Enjoy the evening." The king nodded his head to acknowledge them as they each rose to leave, "Francis." Pause, nod. "Queen Mary."

Escaping the king's chambers, Francis and Mary nearly ran down the hall, peering around corners to see who was about. They weren't eager to return to the supper hall just yet. Francis pulled Mary into a small alcove, which provided an ideal spot for the two to talk without anyone being able to see them.

"You knew about this, didn't you?" Francis asked. Mary's smile widened as they stood facing each other.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" she teased, swatting him with one of her hands. "Although I do remember something being discussed by my uncle at one point or another … "

For the first time since she was freed from her engagement to Tomás, Francis pulled her to himself. He crushed his lips onto hers, losing himself for just a moment before pulling back enough to rest his forehead against hers.

"I don't care how good the news is! You cannot keep such things to yourself anymore, Mary." He paused, grasping the reality of what was to come. "You are going to be my wife! You cannot keep secrets from me if there is to be a chance for us to be more than our parents."

Pulling his head back further and smiling to make sure she knew he was only serious to a point, he wrapped his arms around her tiny waist and held her tightly.

"I understand completely," her voice whispered back. "No more secrets. But please know, Francis, we are already more than our parents."

They never returned to the festivities that night. Out of sight in the alcove, they enjoyed each other's company away from their usual chaperone. For the first time, they allowed their conversation to shift from what had already happened to what might await them in the future.

Before the hour grew too late, when others might have become frantic at their absence, Francis walked Mary to her rooms and bade her a good night's sleep, placing one last gentle kiss upon her forehead. He suspected neither of them would sleep much.

As they retired, Catherine sought for her husband, eventually finding him in his chambers with Claude de Guise and discussing the arrival of Mary's mother for the approaching wedding. Turning to the guest, she addressed him courteously:

"Claude! I did not realize you and Henry would be speaking together at such a late hour. I would love to have a moment with my husband before I retire to my own rooms. Do you mind?"

Claude rose to his feet, providing a swift bow. "Not at all, Queen Catherine. I shall see you both tomorrow."

He quickly exited the room, leaving the queen and king alone. Catherine turned toward Henry, sitting down demurely on the edge of the sofa Francis and Mary had shared earlier in the evening.

"Now, what is this I hear about a wedding?"