Pairings: Mary/Francis, Mary/Bash
Summary: spec fic based on small bits of spoilers, ep descriptions, the new promo, promo pics & BTS info for eps 1x09-1x13. What I think will happen on the show. If you're spoiler free, you've been warned.
Disclaimer: CBS owns Reign, chess metaphors belong to me!
I asked for a private audience with Henry the next morning, after another night spent in Francis's arms. He thinks he's finally worn me down, another date has been set for the wedding. What he didn't know is my insatiability was because I knew I was saying goodbye, and wanted as much of him last night as I could get. I wanted to consume him and be consumed by him - never leave his arms.
He left me this morning in a chipper mood, lingering kisses and a lightness in his step, even after not sleeping a wink. He didn't know it was the calm before the storm I'm about to put into motion.
When I approach Henry's study his guard opens the door immediately, saying, "The king is expecting you, Your Grace."
"Mary," Henry greets me with a smile and kiss to my hand, ushering me to a chair in front of his desk. "Would you like some refreshment before we discuss what brings you here this afternoon?"
"Please," I nod back. I'd like something to occupy my hands.
"I have some mulled wine which was delivered a few moments ago," he offers. "It is very nice - warm you right up."
"That will be fine," I reply, not in the mood for idle chit-chat or niceties. I want to present my plan and get out of here as quickly as possible. I shift around in my seat, unable to find a comfortable position.
"What did you wish to discuss?" he inquires, turning to hand me a cup of mulled wine. I take a small sip before beginning, checking myself to make sure my nervousness isn't showing outwardly. My face a mask of calm. I can only hope that Henry isn't as shrewd a reader of my eyes as Francis or my fright and nervousness will be obvious.
"The alliance between our lands and the English throne," I return, getting straight to the point. "That is what I wish to discuss."
"Should Francis not be here?" he asks, moving to sit behind his desk.
"No," I shake my head. "This is between you and me. We are regents, not Francis."
He takes a moment, tenting his fingers, leaning back. "Well, I am intrigued. The two of you grew so close before you abruptly left, I suppose I assumed the two of you would have already spoken about this," he says after a few moments. "What do you want to discuss then?" He gestures between us with a raised brow. "Regent-to-regent."
I take my time, catching his eye, holding it. I've been reluctant to commit to his bid for the English throne, which has frustrated him. I know him to be an ambitious and greedy man, hungry for power. My refusal to give him the answer he desires has irritated him greatly. Defying a king in his own chateau is bad manners as far as he's concerned. I'd actually been surprised earlier when I wasn't made to wait a day to see him. Perhaps then I really didn't want to have this meeting today; perhaps I just wanted one more night in Francis's arms.
I take a deep breath and begin, "I am willing to claim the Throne of England..."
"This is wonderful news," Henry grins, slapping his hands together loudly.
"Im not finished," I say. "I have a condition, and if that condition is not met, I will not make that claim."
I let it settle on him for a moment. He rounds his fingers for me to go on, the grin vanishing from his face.
"If I marry Francis I will not make the claim," I continue evenly. "I wish for you to have Sebastian legitimized, declared your heir. I will marry him, the alliance will stay as is, only the Dauphin in question need change, and then - and only then - will I make the claim."
Henry is not a man to be surprised, but I see his jaw turn slack ever so slightly as I speak. No, he did not see that coming. If this weren't so important his reaction might make me laugh. But the stakes are high and Francis's life is at stake.
"You want me to do what?" he returns after a moment.
"I believe I was quite clear," I smile.
He shifts a couple of times in his chair, taking a few drinks from his cup.
"Let me see if I understand," he starts, having taken a few more moments. "You want me to dissolve my marriage to Catherine, which will make our children born outside of marriage, and then petition Rome to have Bash declared legitimate and my successor?"
"How you go about it is not my concern," I dismiss with a wave. "If you want to get rid of Catherine that is for you to decide. I just know it will take the combined power of both Scotland and France for me to win the English throne, and the only way I get that is to marry the man who will succeed you. I am not willing to marry Francis. So making Sebastian your heir would be the next step."
"You could marry Charles," he offers.
"And be without an heir for another decade? I think not," I reject. "I need to marry someone who can be a strong leader if you happen to die soon, and more importantly who can be a strong consort and advisor to me."
He looks at me, staring hard into my eyes - trying to access my seriousness, my resolve.
"Alright," he begins. "If I do this, what do I do with Francis? Have him killed? He has allies. Powerful courtiers and members of the Church who regard him well."
"Give Francis land and a title - a duchy - which will give him people to care for," I reason, trying to not show my horror at the thought that he might have Francis killed, my arms tense, my legs lock together beneath my skirts. Thats the one thing I don't want. "I don't mean for you to do nothing for him. I certainly don't mean for you to kill him."
"You think my son will be satisfied with a duchy?" he asks, incredulity dripping in his voice. A harsh, barking laugh coming from his mouth. "He has been trained and groomed his entire life to lead, to become king. And he is supposed to just accept this and be happy about it?"
"No, but that is not my concern," I say, evenly. "It is yours."
"Okay," he draws out, chuckling, shaking his head. "There's also the not so small matter of the reason you may claim the English crown is because your cousin is an illigitimate bastard. How will it look if you're trying to claim that crown with a legitimized bastard as your king?"
I knew this issue would arise; it is one of the things I worked out in my mind before requesting this meeting - it is my strongest move.
"I am the queen of Scotland, the claim is mine and mine alone," I reply, leaning forward, my hand on the desk. "Elizabeth is bastard born and seeks the crown for her own. It matters not if I marry Francis or Sebastian, for the claim is not theirs to make and no one doubts my legitimacy. If you back Sebastian, then the Pope would have no reason to not bless the union.
"And let's not jest. The Pope wants England. If my cousin is coronated the chances of that ever happening are very slim," I continue. "Then the Catholic Church loses England - perhaps forever. You really think the Pope is going to let England slip through his fingers? If he has any chance to save it? It will be his legacy, letting England slip from his grasp. And how will he look at you, the man responsible for allowing that to happen? Because he will know. I will make sure of it.
"You want England - I will give it to you - but this is my price," I finish, tapping the desk.
I can see the wheels turning in his head. I know how badly he wants this, wants to rule most of Western Europe before he leaves this earth. He is a greedy man, anxious for as much power as he can acquire. And that is my game - play against his weakness, his lust. Offer him that which he most desires, in exchange for that which I most desire. Everyone wins. Except Francis.
But I can't think of that now. If I think too long about how deeply this betrayal will cut, I'll crumble. I'm ripping away everything he cares about, and he will know this was a calculated move - not one made in haste without checking the board for other possible options. I can't think of any of it because his life is more important than anything else. He must live, even if it is to live that life at someone else's side.
"Alright," Henry says after several minutes, nodding. "You have a bargain."
"You are a true queen, Mary Stuart," he calls out as I open the door. I nod in return and hurry toward my rooms where I collapse on the couch, sobs wracking my body.
Francis said that to me once, in admiration, with love. It was the first time he told me he loved me without actually telling me. Now I'm driving a stake into that love. I should be overjoyed, I got exactly what I wanted. Instead I only feel an aching emptiness.
I hear rapid footsteps behind me, male from the heaviness. I'm going to the dungeons to have my newly betrothed released. He's been down here since we returned on his father's orders for being a party to his possibly losing the English throne.
"What the hell have you done?" an enraged Francis spits at me, yanking my arm to spin me around to face him.
I'm not ready for this. I don't think I'll ever be ready for this. But I am a queen. I must be strong. I must not flinch.
"It is inappropriate for you to address a queen regent until she has given her leave for you to speak," I answer. The only way I'm going to get through this is to hide behind a mask of protocol.
"I'm terribly sorry," he grates out, dropping my arm with a look of disgust. "I thought you were the woman whose bed I've shared the last four nights, the woman who gave me the scratches that are on my back. The woman that urged me to fuck her harder...more...to never stop. I thought you were the woman who claimed to love me - always - for the rest of your life. But I guess that was just one more lie to add to all the promises you broke when you struck this ludicrous deal with my progenitor."
I flinch when he calls our lovemaking "fucking." It can never be just that. Those were the happiest moments of my life. The most beautiful. They're the memories I will cling to always, knowing I've really felt what it is to love someone and give myself to him completely. He can't take those memories away from me - I need to fight against. letting him taint them.
"Be that as it may," I begin. "That's not who we are any longer."
"What the hell was last night?" he cuts in.
"Goodbye," I whisper, looking down at the ground. My arms are stiff, my nails biting into my fisted hands.
"So last night when you wouldn't allow me to sleep, you knew you were going to offer my father this deal?" he questions. "My birthright for England?"
I nod sharply, causing him to laugh bitterly. "Well at least I know you got your money's worth if you were going to treat me like a cheap whore! You even left payment on the table in the form of a duchy."
I balk at his characterization of what has been between us. Looking back at the floor, blinking away tears furiously, he can't see how shaky my resolve might be.
"I am the Dauphin of France," he finishes.
"That is for the Pope to decide," I volley back.
"I suppose it is," he nods. "But my father is not the only one with influence at the Papal court. The Medicis have great influence there, the last Pope being one of my uncles, and I guarantee when my mother finds about this nonsense she will be in touch with everyone she knows in Rome to help me stop this."
I take a deep breath. I should have calculated on his looking at this turn of events as a challenge to be met, not something to accept. I try one final time to get through, to make him understand.
"Why do you refuse to see that I'm doing all of this for you?" I implore. "That I just want you to live a long life, to find happiness again - it is my one comfort."
The tears gathering in my eyes cause his stance to soften. Taking my hand in his, he begins softly, "Mary?"
"No," I yank my hand out of his, lacing my fingers in front of me. "I've never lied to you," I breathe. "You may hate me, but I will love you for the rest of my life. I will not be the cause of your death."
He drops my hands, clasping his own behind his back, shaking his head. "I do not understand how an educated and intelligent woman such as yourself can let mysticism control her life. You say you love me, how can that be? You're trying to take every single thing that means anything away from me. The people I've sought to protect and serve, my country, and, yes - even still - you. All of my memories of us - from childhood to now - are ruined because of this fool's gambit you've embarked upon."
I don't know how to answer him, so I go forstraightforward, trying to get out of this. "The decision is made."
"No," he says emphatically. "It is not. You've played the king's pawn as your opening move. A strong one, I'll give you. But it's also always been your tell. You've always believed because I've always let you play white that you had the advantage, the king's pawn in your arsenal. But just because it is a strong opening move does not mean it always results in victory. Black has its own set of weapons and I mean to use them. You think this game is over, it's not. That is a guarantee. Black hasn't even made its first move."
He's right, he's always been the better strategist and tactician of the two of us. At times surveying a board like a hawk searching for his prey, to dive down and swiftly snatch up a kill. I should have known he would fight back. I knew when I started this that it wasn't an easy path I was choosing. Giving up the love, warmth, security and happiness that I've found in his arms. But I know I have made the right decision. Of that I am sure.
"I am the Queen of Scotland, Francis," I fall back to protocol, again trying to end this. Neither of us is changing the other's mind. "I do not answer to you."
"Wearing your title like armour will not help you," he flings back. "A pawn can become many things, but it can never become a king. You will find that out in time. Though what it might cost you, I hesitate to even wonder. My brother is many things, but careful, strategic and tactical are not amongst them. He also lacks patience."
"This is no longer your decision to make, Francis," I reply sharply. "Your father and I have struck a bargain. He gets what he wants, I get what I want. It's what regents do - find a way to get what they desire." I know I'm hitting below the belt, but my blows need to strike both flesh and bone - hard.
"You would throw everything away for superstition!" he spits at me.
"No," I return, fighting to keep my voice even. "Because our union was only ever one piece of the puzzle, and I have found a suitable substitute."
"Ha!" he barks. "My brother and I might share a progenitor, but you're about to learn we can't just be swapped one for the other. I share some of his strengths but he shares few of mine," he finishes, his upper lip curling into a sneer.
"Anything he lacks, he can learn," I respond, my nails again gouging into my palms to keep my hands from seeking his. I need to comfort him. I want him to finally see that I'm really doing all of this for him. But I know if I weaken even the slightest, all will be lost. I must stay strong even though my stomach feels as if it's tied in a million knots, and my muscles ache from having to restrain them from keeping my body from seeking its home - his comfort.
"We shall see, I suppose," he says with a short, bitter laugh.
"I suppose we shall," I nod, forcing myself not to relax, seeing the end of this confrontation.
"You may think this is over, that you've won. But I guarantee you, you are wrong," he shoots back, his body ramrod straight, his eyes becoming steely and determination taking over his countenance. "Let this be a reminder and a warning," his voice softens, becoming very even. "I am the better chess player of the two of us. You think you have me in check-mate, but know this, it is false, and you are wrong. You will not steal my birthright, and I will capture my queen. I am patient, tactical and strategic, and I aim to win this game you've set in motion. "He reaches out to capture my jaw giving me a hard kiss, pushing his way into my mouth. My jaw slackens, allowing him to do as he wants, my hands raising to his arms, cupping his elbows - clinging to him. He ends the kiss just as abruptly as he began it - ripping his mouth away. "You are mine, and I am yours," he breathes, his forehead resting against mine. "This isn't the end of us!"
He straightens, turns on his heel and walks out. Steps rapid, posture stiff.
My body collapses in on itself and I seek stability from the filthy dungeon walls, arm across my belly.
What have I set in motion?
- Current Mood: calm
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