I had planned to wait for a few days before publishing this next chapter, but I realized that Chapter 13 was so sad that we needed a little light!
I promise more romance in these last few chapters! I hope you all have enjoyed reading the story as much as I have loved writing it. All of your reviews have been so wonderfully helpful with developing the background and letting me know that my efforts are worthwhile :)
And now I present to you, Chapter 14!
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Reign or the historical figures involved.
It had been four days since Mary had been brought home. Four days since he had carried her out of the raging sea of violence and laid her in the soft feather bed and a fire warmed room. She had woken once or twice, muttering unintelligible sentences in a fearful voice. Francis worried for her, and he spent every moment he had available near her.
His time was not necessarily his anymore, now that his father was gone. The funeral had been held the day before, a huge banquet and service full of pomp and circumstance, exactly his father's style. He had been glad when it was over.
Sebastian had held a private ceremony for his mother, a quiet event with few people in attendance. He had been very stoic, saying little. Francis had seen his brother's misery in the red lines and dark circles that were difficult to hide. The man had lost both of his parents on the same day. It would be hard for him to keep the tide of feeling at bay.
As a newly appointed King, Francis had found it difficult to spend as much time at Mary's side as he desired. So many things needed attending to. Questions without answers and uprisings that needed quelling. He had tried to create the best solutions available, but his mind was never on his duties. Thankfully his mother was in charge of his coronation, or everyone would be eating apples and sitting on the floor like peasants.
He noticed that Sebastian had spent most every moment with Mary, only leaving when Francis took a turn at her bedside. Once, on a late night when he had been attending to a political situation with Cardinal Fredrick, he had entered her chambers to find his elder brother asleep in the chair beside her, slumped over onto the bed. His head was nestled in his arms, and one outstretched hand rested on hers as if he were afraid she would disappear in the night.
Francis had stood, studying the scene. He knew at that moment how much his brother really did care for her. It wasn't about stealing her away, it was true and genuine affection. An uncontrollable feeling that rested deep in his heart.
He had spent quite a bit of his available time since then pacing that ugly blue and gold tapestry in his room and thinking through his own feelings. They had become all the more complicated with his impending coronation, as he could not think only of himself anymore. Now he had an entire country to carry on his shoulders.
He shifted in his chair as Sebastian entered the room. Nodding to his brother while he slid in the second bedside chair, he sighed in exhaustion.
"You seem a bit tired brother. I can stay and watch over her if you need to take a moment for yourself." Sebastian mentioned quietly. Francis shook his head, stifling a yawn.
"I do not want to leave her anymore than I need to. I feel as though I have been neglecting my shifts."
His brother shrugged.
"You have much to worry about anymore. Being King is not an easy job, but you will not be any good to Mary when she finally wakes if you make yourself ill on so little sleep."
"I will try my best, brother." Francis produced a sardonic smile for his brother and Sebastian made a noise in his throat in acceptance.
A sigh from the bed captured both of their attentions. Francis watched her, worried that she was deep in her nightmares again but relaxed when her eyelids fluttered open.
"Mary! You're awake!" He almost shouted in joy. She focused on him slowly, taking in his face and smiled softly.
"Francis you look exhausted, why aren't you sleeping?" she asked and he laughed happily clasping her hand.
"You have scared a great many people with your refusal to wake Mary."
She stared at him confused and her gaze shifted to Sebastian.
"Bash?" She breathed questioningly. His brother's smile caused the darkness in his eyes to dissipate, relief flooding his features.
"Mary I am so glad to see you alert." He stood, shifting his gaze from Francis to Mary and back. "I will let you spend time with your fiance. We can talk after the both of you have had your time."
Francis opened his mouth to rebut his brother's offer but found him already leaving the room. Mary cleared her throat, sitting up in the bed.
"What happened Francis? How did you rescue me?"
"Well, really it is Bash you should be asking. He almost gave his life for you."
Mary's eyes widened and Francis proceeded to tell her the story of how Sebastian had planned the rescue mission into the wood, how Leith, Greer and Aylee had forced their way into the adventure, and how Sebastian had planned on giving himself to create a distraction so she could be saved. Finally he explained that Diane had saved them all in the end by giving her own life. Tears pooled in his fiance's eyes as he told her of the rage Sebastian had gone into when his mother had died.
"He lost his mother because of me. How does one even repay a sacrifice such as that?"
Francis shook his head.
"I don't believe you are meant to. He has spent every moment by your side, waiting for you to wake. That gift in and of itself is enough I think, judging by the smile on his face a moment ago."
She blushed slightly and he squeezed her hand with his.
"Mary there are things we need to speak about with regard to our marriage" he started. "I know you have just woken from a very long and tumultuous nightmare, but much has happened since you have been gone." She nodded and he continued. "My father is dead. He was injured in the joust at the tournament and returned to the castle the night before we rescued you. I am to be crowned officially next week."
"Francis I am truly sorry. So much has happened in such a short time, and my situation did not help your anguish any." She frowned. "I know that this is not the best of times to be discussing this, but are we to wait on our marriage then? At least until you are settled?"
Francis breathed deeply before plunging into the speech he had been preparing, one that had been cemented by current events.
"Mary," He began slowly "Nostradamus has had a vision of our future. He has said that our marriage shall be the cause of my death." He sighed and squeezed her hand. "There is no way for me to know if it will prove true or not, but I do know that if we wed I believe it will be the death of you as well."
Her eyes widened.
"Francis, what do you mean?"
He looked down at their joined hands, as his thumb traced a pattern across her skin.
"I have tried to deny it for a long time, but I see the effect Bash has on you. You are more alive. Burning so brightly that I am afraid to touch you." He looked at her with a weak smile. "I had hoped in time we should have that, we would build to a relationship of that caliber, but I know now, he is the only reason for it."
He watched her eyes turn sad.
"Francis I am so very sorry. I do love you, with all my heart, but it is not the love of a woman for a man. It is that of close friendship and trust."
"I know Mary, and that is why we need to call off this engagement. For both of us, so we may truly live our lives to the fullest."
"But what of the alliance? What of our kingdoms?" She asked, watching him with a questioning look.
"The bond between our countries will stand, that is if you still wish it to." she nodded and he continued. "There is no reason for that to change as well. Sebastian is a Prince of France, regardless if he approves of the title or not." He breathed deeply. "If you plan to choose him, as I think you do, he will be a perfect substitute for myself."
Her eyes lit up at the idea, moving back and forth rapidly as she stared at the blanket covering her legs, processing the information. When her gaze finally met his, he knew he had come to the right conclusion. She did not even need to speak, for the bliss was written across her features so dramatically that he felt like smiling in spite of himself.
"You need to recover, and I know that there is much for you to attend to. We can renegotiate the treaty when you are well." He stated, patting her hand and standing. Mary called out to him when he reached the door.
"Francis?" She asked, and he turned toward her smiling face. "You really will be a great and noble King."
He flashed her with, what he hoped was, his most self satisfied grin.
"I know." He said, and took his leave.