A/N: The title of this one-shot and a line of the last part were borrowed to the song "Black Swan Song" by Athlete. I dedicate this to the girls who hang out on the Francis/Mary thread over at fanforum, even though it's kind of pretentious to dedicated things. Also, please note that English isn't my first language and I apologize for the grammar and spelling mistakes you're bound to find in this text.
I. "Will you miss me when I'm gone?"
The question was childish and Mary should have felt ashamed to even ask, for her role was above such considerations. The question was childish and as a Queen, she should not have been asking it. The question was childish, but she was a child as much as she was a Queen so, for once, she decided to grant herself the luxury of asking.
Francis shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "I've never seen anyone leave, before."
Mary's life had never been written in anything but people leaving. There had been her father, long ago, so long ago, when she had only been a new born with no idea of the weight that would one day sit on her shoulders. He had died when she was six days old, making her a Queen before she could even realise she was a human being. And then her mother had decided to send her away. "To protect you," she'd said. "To protect you from the English. They want your throne, they want your head." Threatened of death before she even had had the luxury of knowing life – that was Mary's destiny.
In the end, it had turned out for the best. She loved being at French court. It had been days, weeks, months of playing hide and seek and running in the castle and eating too much raspberry jam, Francis always by her side.
"I don't think I will," he said. "I won't have time to miss you."
Mary and her six years of age took affront in that. Francis was her best friend, here. They did everything together, from playing in the kitchen even after being told not to to hiding under a blanket when a big storm would rage outside the castle, from making faces at Francis' father behind his back to learning the long and complicated History of their two countries. They would be married, one day, and they would have children together, and they would rule France and Scotland as a team. Surely that had to mean something for him too?
But Mary and her crown knew better than anyone what he meant by that. For Francis was as much a Future King as she was a Queen, and their lives didn't belong to them. Never had, never would. She would miss him, in the beginning, but then it would be time to move on. Pining wasn't a feeling rulers were allowed to bear. They simply could not afford it.
"Well," Mary said. "I guess this is goodbye for now."
Francis nodded and Mary bowed out.
When she sees him again, ten years later, it hits her in the gut, how much she missed him.
II. Love is irrelevant for people like us. Francis' words turning over and over again in her mind, Mary willed her feet to carry her where she had to be. It was not where she wanted to be, it was not even where she needed to be, but Francis was right – love was irrelevant and she had to marry Tomas. For Scotland. For destiny. For God.
Not for herself, but she had learnt to live with it; thus was the burden of royals. A life of decadent parties where their empty hearts were handed to them on golden plates, where their forbidden tears were served to them in crystal glasses. Mary was in love with Francis, but Mary was a Queen, first and foremost. Marrying Tomas wasn't something her heart wanted, but it was something her head commanded. She would wed him (a man she barely knew), she would live in Portugal (a country she had never even set foot in), and Scotland would be defended, safe from the English threat, at least for a while.
Her happiness didn't matter – her happiness had never mattered. And who knew? Maybe, one day, she would find herself falling in love with Tomas. She hadn't wanted to wed Francis either, and yet there she was – pining for him, for the love they shared, for the story they could have been. Maybe that would happen with Tomas, too. And if it didn't... well, they would always have the lake. The lake and the memory of Francis's lips against hers, of his mouth on her collarbone, of his hand grazing her breasts, of his hips moving into her. Their body had been separated by their clothes and the knowledge that they could never belong to each other, but Mary had felt his love for her in the way his fingertips burnt against her neck and his lips danced across her skin.
Francis hadn't said the word, but Mary had known he felt them all the same. And as far as goodbyes went, those were the best she had ever received.
When Francis and his brother come back from the woods with a scared Miguel and a dead Tomas, the wave of relief that submerges her is nearly enough to knock her unconscious.
III. She had lost him. Oh, of course, they would be married one day, and he would be there with her, but never by her side. He would walk ahead of her and she would follow, because that is where her place would be: running for the crumbs he would be willing to throw her. Running for the crumbs from a loaf of bread fed to another woman.
If I was acting like my father, I would take Olivia as my mistress. Which is certainly an option.
She had lost him for the third time, and it might have been the cruellest of all. As a child, she had known she would see him again someday, and when she thought she was going to marry Tomas, the only memories she had of Francis were happy and loving.
Gone were the moments near the lake. Mary and Francis were entering a marriage of lies and deception, of contempt and hatred. She would live the terrible life of the Queen, but where Catherine had forgotten the alternative, Mary doubted she would.
She had always been too passionate. When she loved, she loved truly, wholly. And she loved Francis, oh God, she did. She had never said the words out loud, but she knew her heart, and she knew it belonged to him – only to him.
Her heart belonged to him, and he had shattered it. And he would stomp on the pieces of it until it turned into sand, sand that would run through her fingers as she would try to piece it back together. She would be a Queen without a heart, she would be what had always been expected of her, but it would hurt, because she knew what it was like to be a Queen with a heart. She had tasted paradise and Francis had snatched it away from her as quickly as he had brought it to her lips.
When she finds Bash by the lake that had seen Francis kiss her so passionately, Mary figures that he's better than nothing. And as she kisses him, she realises she doesn't want Better Than Nothing – she wants Everything.
IV. "Someone needs to take control of things between us. I can do it. I can keep my distance. Even if it means releasing you to another. Anyone. But not my brother."
The words fell between them, heavy as the weight on her chest. Mary wanted to fight, Mary wanted to scream, Mary wanted to plead. But she didn't. Because he was right. She knew he was.
Bash was not even the problem – he was merely its personification. She had been jealous of Olivia and had acted impulsively. Francis had gotten jealous of Bash and had acted impulsively. They had both led their hearts rule their heads, and the consequences had been disastrous – a kiss in the open air for all the world to see and the pagans had chosen her as a victim, a kiss in the open air for her fiancé to see and he had wished his brother to die, even if only fleetingly.
They had let their hearts rule their heads, and it was something they simply could not afford.
Because she was not Just Mary, and he was not Just Francis. She was Mary, Queen of Scots, and he was Francis de Valois, Dauphin of the French Crown. They were rulers, two countries and their people depended on them, on their judgement. And without a clear head, judgements could not be properly made. Without a clear head, lives were at stake.
Love was a weird, unpredictable beast – that was what Mary had gathered from all her readings. How many fictional kings and queens had found themselves overtaken by the throes of passion, only to have it accelerating their demise? Mary had read all about Helen, and Phaedra, and Hermione, and Andromache. She knew what happened when rulers allowed their heart to rule them. She knew what had almost happened because she and Francis had foolishly thought they could be wise enough to be both rulers and in love.
Mary was losing him again, and she wasn't even surprised. She was bitter, sad, angry. At him, at herself, at the weight that had been placed on their shoulders from the moment they had been born because the blood running through their veins was royal.
When he falls into her and peppers her with kisses and his voice rasps that "It's pretty obvious now, that for us to stay sane, we need to be together," there's this feeling in Mary's gut that giving in to the passion is a terrible idea. But she also finds that she doesn't care. She's just gone through hell, nearly lost her virtue, her innocence, her sanity, probably even her life. Francis is here and he's real and he's warmth and he's comfort and he's love, so when he gives her a way out, she whispers "Never."
V. "Love is irrelevant to people like us."
And God, God, it was not. Irrelevant. Love was not irrelevant. Love was the reason behind her words. Love was the impulse that prompter her decision.
"A privilege we do not share."
Mary closed her eyes, for two seconds, to give herself the strength to get the words out. That was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do because, dear Lord, did she not believe a single one of them. Francis and she had love. They had so much love she knew she would never be able to stop loving him. Even if she tried, even she had to choose between her own life and loving him.
She had so much love for him that she was giving up the alliance with France to save him.
That she was choosing Francis over Scotland.
"I'll remember it all. Every word, every moment. For the rest of my life."
And she would, oh she would. She had no idea what was going to happen of her. She was running far away without a plan, without any preparation, and it was crazy, she knew that, but wherever she went, whatever happened to her, she would have Francis's love. He was seared onto her heart and his scent still lingered on her skin. She would never forget any of it, she would wear those memories like a talisman. And she would need it, because she would miss him so, so very much.
"I love you. But I won't let other people die for me."
And that was exactly what she was doing, even though not in the way he imagined. Because in that moment, she was selfish and didn't care much about other people. She had given up on the alliance, after all, and it was a heavy decision that would not be good for her people, she knew that. But she was in love and selfish and as long as the man she loved lived, she didn't care. She would prove Nostradamus wrong, she would save Francis, she would not let him die for her. She would save his life, even if it meant letting her own heart bleed.
"I'll wait for you."
But she did not. She did not and as she rode away with Bash of all people, Francis's voice pierced through her ears and into her heart.
And his voice was nearly enough. It was nearly enough for her to turn around and run to him, to kiss him and hold him and adore him.
It was nearly enough, until it wasn't, because running back to him meant that soon, there would be no Francis to kiss, no Francis to hold, no Francis to adore.
Just a Francis to mourn.
And Mary would rather mourn the life they could have had together than the man she loved.
Mary and Bash are caught by the King's army less than three weeks later. It's a messy affair, all of it. They're accused of treason, she's said to be a cheater, Bash's pagan origins are discovered and the only reason they don't sit through a trial that would lead to their execution is Nostradamus.
When Francis frees her from her cell himself, he tells her that the seer came forward. That he spoke of the prophecy. And Francis is angry, oh, he is.
"You're throwing everything away for superstition!" he says, and Mary is not surprised, because Catherine told her he would never believe a prophecy, because she knows Francis better than she knows herself and she knew he would never believe a prophecy.
"You're throwing everything away for superstition!" he says, and what strikes Mary is the choise of his words. It's not "you threw everything away;" it's "you're throwing everything away."
"You haven't given up on me."
It's a statement, not a question. And Mary hates herself for feeling her heart beat faster at the idea that Francis is going to fight for her, Mary hates herself for giving in to her love for him, Mary hates herself for wanting to kiss him here and now.
"Even if Nostradamus is right and I die next year, I'd rather live a short life with you by my side than walk through the years with the memories of the times we had together."
He is not going to change his mind, he would die trying to get her back, so Mary decides to make the most of it.
His voice was weak, so weak, and she felt her heart drop even lower in her chest when he grabbed her hand and hold onto it as if she was his lifeline.
This is it.
"Mary," he repeated, and she brought the hand he wasn't holding to his forehead wiping pushing his hair out of his eyes. He was burning, and she wanted to get up and get a cold clothe for him, but it was pointless. Instead, she forced herself to smile as if the love of her life wasn't dying, and she whispered "I'm here," her voice choking on the emotion bubbling inside of her.
"I love you, Mary," he gasped, and Mary felt a tear run down her cheek. "I love you so much."
"I love you too," she answered, because she did, oh God, how she did. They hadn't even been married for two years, but they had been the happiest of her life. The beginning of their union hadn't been an easy one, but it made what they had built together just that much stronger, more beautiful, more precious.
"Stay with me, Mary. Stay with me."
"I'm not going anywhere."
He smiled, and Mary felt her own lips turn upward. Even in sickness, even that close to death, his smile was centre of her universe, the Sun around which she revolved.
"Will you miss me when I'm gone?"
Mary knew it was only the imminence of the sealing of his fate that prompted this question, and she shook her head, barely repressing a nervous chuckle.
"Oh Francis, I won't have time to miss you at all. Because I will never stop thinking about you."
She scooted closer to him on his bed, her vision blurred by her grief, and she kissed his hot lips.
"I will see you in the meadow where you proposed to me. I will see you by the lake where we used to have our rendez-vous. I will see you in the sun that rises every morning. I will feel you in the air I breathe. I will taste you in the berries I eat. I will drink you in the wine I am offered. You will be everywhere, Francis. You will never leave me."
And it was not fair, because she would still miss him so, so much. He didn't need to know – he was dying, she didn't want to add this weight on his shoulders. But it was not fair that the grass of the meadow would keep growing, that the waters of the lake would keep flowing, that the Sun would keep rising when Francis would be gone. It was not fair because he was her Sun and he deserved so much more than dying from an ear infection. And she deserved better than burying the love of her life after only a year and a half of happiness.
"Good," he chokes and then coughs. "I will... I will wait for you, Mary. On the other side. I promise. Take... take your time."
One cough, two coughs, three coughs, and then he's gone.
As she lays her head on the block, Mary feels strangely relieved. Happiness has been eluding her ever since she left France, nearly thirty years ago. And she knows the love of her life will be the first one to welcome her when she climbs into eternity.
A/N: Thanks for reading. Please don't hesitate to let me know what you thought in a review or a PM!