A/N: It's the end! Sorry for the wait! Took me the longest to write, but I think it was worth it...yes I'm actually proud this time, not so insecure! ;) I think my writing has improved as I've been writing this (More lyrical flowing language? More comfortable with romance now than in the first few chapters? So, choppy & inconsistent fic, great. :P Update: Revised first 2 chapters!) This has been a learning experience, whatcanIsay? :) I can say a *lot*, in my self-indulgent author's notes & thank-yous, after the fic. Disclaimer in chapter 1! (Some Reign lines referenced/semi-quoted.) Thank you again for reading, reviewing, favoriting & following! If anyone wants to un-favorite, feel free. I always thought you should wait and see if you liked the end anyway ;)
A New Dream Chosen - by: Bashful Masher - Part 6: Choosing
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He couldn't let her leave. Had to stop her. Didn't want the night...everything...to end this way.
Bash moved quickly to block her exit. He tensed as Mary softly collided into him. She stumbled backwards and he reached out his hand to steady her, catching hold of her arm. He tried to let go...but couldn't help savoring her closeness.
They might never be so close again.
Bash felt his heart clench at the thought of Mary begging her fiancé...his brother...for forgiveness. Hadn't she come to him tonight, in a beautiful fury, raging against Francis? Entirely justified in her anger, although he might be slightly biased.
Mary was an angel. She had forgiven Francis. Despite everything, she loved Francis. Had been crying over Francis.
He closed his eyes. Why had he stopped her? There was something he wanted to say, but he couldn't remember. But he had to remember that this indescribable connection between them, was not her choice. For her, it went no deeper than desire. Some of her tears, he knew, had been for him...because she didn't want to hurt him. Mary was an angel. He wouldn't ruin her chance for happiness with the man she had chosen.
Bash felt her shiver beneath his hand, and realized he was lightly stroking her arm...He stopped. Resolved to let go. Would probably have to keep resolving it every day for the rest of his hellish existence.
"Bash, what is it?"
He opened his eyes, and found he couldn't speak. First he had to drink in the sight of her. It felt like he was dying of thirst. Oh God, if only Mary would stop looking at him like that. Why couldn't she be an angel, all the time?
He nearly groaned at her words, and the longing in her voice. Couldn't help imagining holding her in his arms and...
Bash released her. Broke their gaze, and looked over her shoulder instead. Tried not to notice the bed.
"Mary, I just wanted to say, I'm sorry. I wasn't angry...at you. When I said it was nothing...of course I didn't mean your life. But you never would've been in danger in the first place if..." He tried to lighten his tone. "No need to thank me. We're friends. And it is my duty to protect Your Grace."
Bash risked a direct look at her. Mary's eyes had narrowed, studying him.
"Don't call me that," she murmured absently. "Bash...You said something about dreaming...and me being alive. When I came here tonight...when you first saw me. I remember we were standing at the door, just like this..."
"Oh, just like this? Were you waiting in my bedchamber, when I came in? Rather forward of you, Mary!"
He couldn't resist teasing her, unwise as it was. Why did he attempt to derail her dangerous train of thought, with even more dangerous suggestions?
"Well, no, we weren't standing exactly like this. Obviously. You were stopping me from coming in, not leaving." Mary glared at him, but her eyes were dancing. "Being cheeky, as usual. I remember what you said now!"
He wished he could forget. It had been his worst nightmare. Failing her. Losing her. Seeing her lifeless body hanging there in the Blood Wood. But she was safe. It hadn't happened. He didn't want to relive it again. Mary had woken him from the nightmare, and he had been surprised to see her... relieved to see her alive.
"You should leave before the guards return. Be careful going back to your quarters."
It was easier to push Mary away now, thinking of the Hell this night could have been. The pagans had marked her for death...because of him. They had chosen her, because he... How could he feel remorse, but no regret? He couldn't regret kissing Mary. Their first kiss...or their second...or this heavenly night with her, no matter how it ended.
"Don't let Francis know you came to see me. This...it's over now. There's no need to make your life as a Queen more difficult."
Mary shook her head, taking several steps back, away from the door. Bash followed her, but tried to maintain some distance.
"I'm not leaving until I know..."
"What do you want to know?"
She knew his blood debt was paid, but hadn't pressed for details. He would tell her, but it was an ugly truth. Using a terrified man as bait, in a trap to spill pagan blood. Planning to free the prisoner...but choosing to protect his mother. Still, murder. The sin was his, not Mary's, but she would blame herself for his going. And there was another, selfish reason, he prayed she wouldn't ask him.
"Anyone would be blessed, to have you in their life."
Her words echoed in his head. Impassioned. Untrue. Incredibly moving. What if Mary stopped believing this beautiful lie? What if he lost her completely?
"Bash, I already know about the prisoner you took from the dungeons...because of me."
She knew enough then, to judge him. The man was dead. His intentions and his motive, didn't matter.
"Francis told me. It's a terrible thing to have to choose..."
Mary reached out towards him, then let her hand drop to her side. Bash found himself focusing on her hand, and avoiding her eyes.
"Of course I knew you paid the debt somehow. I'm still alive...because of you. Francis wanted me to think less of you. Make me regret..."
Bash looked up, startled by the edge of anger in Mary's voice.
"No! Bash, how could I? You've done so much to protect me! Bravely risked your life and...I can't thank you enough. You're a good man...I know you don't take killing lightly. I regret giving you this burden. But I'll never regret our..."
Bash felt frantic to erase the sorrow in her eyes.
"Mary, you're not to blame! I interfered in pagan rituals. Why did I free their sacrifices? Those people were beyond saving. The pagans warned me I owed a blood debt, but I failed to choose a new victim. I only made a target of someone I..."
Mary's voice was fierce, and her eyes burned into his.
"Don't ever regret trying to save us all...It was noble and right!"
"You'll never regret our...kiss? But, Mary...don't you love Francis?"
Their words tumbled over one another, then trailed off into silence.
His heart began pounding loudly...like a knock on the door. Could she hear it too?
Bash watched her face intently. Mary closed her eyes, then took a deep shuddering breath.
"Someone you...what, Bash? You said...you made a target of someone you...what?"
"Mary, you still haven't answered my question."
"Yes, I have."
Bash smiled at the echo of their earlier teasing. It felt like a lifetime ago, but it was only this night. Mary had kissed him again, impulsively, making an unconscious choice... shared her dreams, and given him hope. He tried to sacrifice his dream, for her sake. But the sacrifice was rejected. Mary accepted him, flawed as he was. He knew he didn't deserve her, but he really wasn't that noble. He would follow Mary anywhere... if she asked him.
He walked towards her.
The words rang out with each step closer.
Then Mary was in his arms, and she was kissing him.
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A lifetime later, Bash pulled away slightly, to look at her. Mary's arms tightened around him, and she pressed closer, raining kisses against his neck. He thought he felt tears, too.
"Shh, Mary...I'm here...I promise, I'll always be here."
Mary lifted her head, and the look in her eyes made him wonder, again, if he was only dreaming.
"Bash, I love...you...everything about you. From the first day...the first time our eyes met...something in me knew."
The only sensible way to respond to this...was by kissing her senseless.
Then more words poured out, even if they didn't need to be said.
"God, Mary, why didn't you tell me? I thought you chose..."
"I did, Bash! Every time we kissed...and then you stopped kissing me!"
"Never stop...never stop loving you, Mary..."
He couldn't believe she was here, and his, completely. He knew there were forces beyond his control, that would try to pull them apart.
He resolved to never let go.
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Bash woke to the sound of two heartbeats.
Moving closer to the girl, asleep at his side, he swept back a strand of dark hair. Wanted to see...
Mary slowly opened her eyes, and met his.
She smiled, and his heart skipped, like a fool in a romantic novel.
He felt the gentle pressure of her hands on his chest, and knew she could feel his heart racing.
"Have I told you," Mary breathed, between kisses, "how much I love the way you look at me?"
This was real. She was here. Bash was only a little sorry he woke her.
Mary had woken him first...from the nightmare of losing her.
Chosen him to love...in this new dream.
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I wish I could just leave it there, with no author's notes to ruin the mood. But I can't help myself. ;) So, an ending with a hopeful resolution, even if some things are still unresolved...but I kind of like that lack of resolution and I hinted that there'll be future obstacles to deal with, but they're united and in love and in my mind, they'll be fine. :) But what about Francis? (Maybe he'll die soon ;)) And Mary's a Queen who "has to" marry a King (no she doesn't! Mash will find a way!)...will Mary sacrifice royal duty for love? I kind of hinted in chapter 4 that she might be willing to do that (after all, Bash sacrifices so much for her, as she noticed...it's her turn, not that running away with him would *really* be much of a sacrifice ;)), but I'll leave you all to imagine what you like. :) (Or will I write a sequel? Who knows?! I might surprise myself again, since I never imagined I'd be able to write this...but I did! :) And I feel like I can hear the "right" words in my head like...poems or song lyrics? With rhythm? I don't know! But I like it. :)
So, after exploring the rest of the room, they made it to the bed! Let's give them some privacy. ;) I tried to include every aspect of Mash here, from flirty banter, teasing, tension, to the heavier, deeper love-stuff (there had to be more of that though). Hope you kissing fiends out there aren't disappointed, but it's a miracle (to me) that I'm writing romance at all, and this kind of turned into an emotional/somewhat angsty story. Theirs is not just a physical connection, as they had to discover. :) Well, they didn't fully understand that they were expressing spiritual/emotional love *through* the physical, y'know? Mary knew, by chapter 4, that she had unconsciously been in love with him since they met, but it took "my" Bash longer to believe it wasn't just physical on her part, partly 'cause he felt unworthy. Good thing she accepted his "dark side" & they got to talking about the blood debt.
For the record, I think Bash is being way too hard on himself (but it makes him even more noble & swoon-worthy ;)) and he should totally tell Mary the details of his original intent & motive for killing the prisoner (but it's better that he doesn't make excuses for his actions). But it doesn't matter. She loves him anyway. :) (Btw, I wouldn't be surprised if the prisoner turns up alive after all, having survived the fall off the cliff. Maybe that's why the writers chose that way of "killing" him. Rule of TV: if you don't see the body, they're probably not really dead! Maybe he'll show up later to cause more drama/problems for Bash/expose Diane's pagan past...)
I hope the Mash Misunderstandings are resolved to everyone's satisfaction! It seemed like a good idea to have new conversations uncover the truth of their feelings (although Mary started to doubt her original interpretation of his feelings when he stopped her from leaving, and couldn't let go of her arm. Don't you admire her restraint, not kissing him? ;)). I knew I wanted them to talk more about the pagan situation, because they *really* should have, on the show (and recognize what a jerk Francis is, of course) and it just kinda worked out, I think. :)
I hope that overlapping dialogue exchange where they kept interrupting eachother, came across well, like they were passionately responding to certain aspects of what the other person was saying, and wanting to reassure eachother, and then rather belatedly realizing what *else* the other person was saying (I love you! I love you!) :) Btw, "I'll never regret our..." and "I only made a target of someone I..." both really end in ... love. :) Because "kiss" means love too, as an unconscious expression of their love, as they finally realize ...and as Mary expresses later in the "why didn't you tell me (you loved me)?" "I did, every time we kissed" exchange. :)
I didn't expect to get so spiritual/religious in this fic, but that's what "my" Mash wanted. Writing this was part planning & part who-knows-where-it-came-from instinct/inspiration. At one point, writing this chapter, I was awake for 2 days & nights in a row with no sleep (and barely any food) and I wasn't tired. At all. So much energy and focus. Some kind of non-chemically-induced creative high? :P It was great! I wish I could always be in "the zone". Of course this chapter took me the longest to write, even if I was feeling "inspired" and words were flowing pretty well. So much fussing and revising, but I'm happy with it and wish I'd spent more time on the others! Tempted to go back and fix those. ;) But each chapter helped me write the next one...there were lines and things that would trigger other ideas.
This last one's got lots of references to previous chapters. Actual plot events, of course, plus similar phrasing, echoes of thoughts & conversations, because, soulmates! I hoped it would create a feeling that Mary & Bash really lived a lifetime in one night, and had a history, and more connections between them than they realized (even if they were crossing wires and miscommunicating at times. :))
I wanted chapter 6 to sort of sum up everything that had come before, with lots of tie-ins, so (just a few examples, there's more! ;))
Mary stumbled backwards at the door here ('cause Bash suddenly blocks her exit), and Bash stumbled backwards in chapter 1 (when she came in and gently pushed him out of the way 'cause he was blocking her entrance :))
The chapter starts with Bash feeling rather frustrated, naturally, like he did in chapter 3 & 4, and it's his turn to look over her shoulder and notice/try not to notice the bed. ;) There's a bit of Mash banter/call-backs to chapter 2. The interlude/chapter 5 really helped me write Bash's POV in chapter 6, especially the pagan discussion.
Bash walks towards her with words of love ringing out, as Mary walked towards him at the end of chapter 4 with the words "not love" ringing in her head. Mary gets to tell him some of what she was thinking about him in chapter 4. Bash comforting a tearful Mary & promising to stay echoes his words of friendship in chapter 4, and "never stop loving you" echoes his "never hate you" from chapter 4...it means the same thing, but it's a joyful declaration now instead of a sorrowful acceptance of her supposed rejection. :) And Mary gets to re-say her declaration of love from chapter 4, more clearly this time. ;)
Mary's final line echoes something similar that Bash said to her in chapter 2, and of course the very end of chapter 6 ties-in to the beginning of chapter 1 (incorporating references to some Mash mush from chapter 2, as well) :)
I knew Bash would be waking to the sound of two heartbeats at the beginning and end. :) The first time it was actually Mary knocking on his door, and the second time she was really there beside him when he woke... *but* when you think about it, her knocking on the door/him opening the door, led to the opening up of their hearts...(I'm a sap, yes, I'm writing romance, what do you expect? :)) ...so *really* her knocking *was* her heart beating, unconsciously saying "let me in, and love me!". :) Which is why Bash also hears his heart "pounding loudly, like a knock on the door" in this chapter, when he realizes Mary doesn't regret their kiss/loves him! Wow, I love how that worked out. :)
I had the ending in mind when I started the story, so when I sensed this was time to wrap things up, I had to return to Bash's POV (even though chapter 5 was his, it wasn't really enough of him anyway) I had fun with Mary's POV in chapter 4 and thought I might return to it, but no, this worked out better. :) Learning to listen to my instincts, woo!
This has been exciting, writing a fic and knowing there's a (very nice!) audience out there, interested and waiting for an update. You guys helped me focus! So, if anyone's made it this far down in the author's notes, one last big THANK YOU TO MY READERS! I couldn't have done this without you guys! Love you guys! Aww, I'm gonna miss you guys, now that my fic is done! I really enjoyed our PM conversations too. I'm gonna thank people like I'm on an awards show now, okay? ;) Thank you Marie Meyers for reaching out to an insecure newbie with your truly inspiring speech about what it means to be a writer (or author, if you insist ;)) Thanks again Quirky Del for the thoughtful feedback, noticing the subtle stuff and appreciating my angsty side I didn't even know existed! :) Thanks again Dot1996 for your touching review that keeps echoing in my head and made me feel better about an "unpopular" chapter! Thanks to all my regular reviewers who let me know I wasn't screwing up *too* badly with each new update. It really means a lot that you stuck around and took the time to encourage me... iloverob32 (I'm not as insecure anymore, yay!), Jane (no more misunderstandings, yay!) Joan89 (hope you liked Bash's thoughts again :)), junellelio (thanks for not minding my PMs :)) NinjaSheik (I did my story my way!), pgoodrichboggs (Mary didn't trip into Bash's arms at the door, but she stumbled until he steadied her! And they had to work through things so it wasn't quite as simple as your cute suggestion, but I hope you enjoyed their physical contact anyway ;)) ...and thanks to the excitable Guest who jumped off their chair over an update (That's so sweet! Hope I didn't let you down, Guest! May you find a Bash to share your chair with! ;))
Thanks to Mary & Bash for the inspiration too. ;) The potential for their love story...aahh...I'm gonna be sad if they don't end up together on Reign, and I still wish it had happened after Chosen...just like my fic! Thanks again, everyone, for the kind feedback, and I hope you like the ending as much as I do. Yes, I do! But I don't take full credit for wherever the words come from, so don't think I'm getting conceited. ;) (Oh great, now I sound like one of those writers who talk about their "muse" taking over, and you think I'm pretentious instead. ;)) Bye everyone!
Update after waking: I revised again, even though I read & revised obsessively before publishing! I thought I had found all the right words! Everyone come back and re-read? ;) It's okay. I did it for me. :) But it's better now! So embarrassed. I thought *this* chapter would really be *finished* before I let the world see it. Ah well. Next time I think I'll write the whole story, let nobody else see it, then...years later... ;)
Update again, Jan. 11, 2014: I couldn't resist! Revised the first 2 chapters, fixed clunky phrasing & expanded ch. 2 a bit. :)