Disclaimer: I neither own Reign, nor profit from this story.
The next morning Henry woke before Catherine.
She was sleeping sprawled out on his chest, with her curls spread out wildly around her head.
He sighed contentedly, his body still buzzing from their evening activities.
All the waiting, all the longing, all his effort to get her back and her opening herself to trusting him again…it had more than been worth it. He knew that she was equally as pleased, but even more so they had actually done it.
Once broken nothing mends exactly the way it was before, but if the mending is done carefully, thoughtfully, and with true intentions it can forge into a masterpiece that is even stronger than before.
The process was painful but worth it in the end.
Staring up at the ceiling he had no desire to get up and leave the little piece of heaven they had created for themselves. He sighed deeply and tried just to take in the moment, but he had never been very good at that…all boyish energy and enthusiasm, with no desire for self reflection.
And that of course was at the core of how he had come to lose her trust in the first place, he was impulsive and self serving. It came very naturally to him and had aided in his many years as King. He established and ended alliances as they suited him and the kingdom, but it was in no way helpful when it came to cultivating and maintaining a healthy relationship.
She was not without her baggage either, but he could only fix himself and support her as she struggled with her own demons.
Drawing her closer at the thought, he wished he could do something to further eradicate those demons…from here at court or from her time in Florence. The sheer resiliency of his wife still astounded him, especially after having heard more about what that time in her life had been like.
Catherine woke slowly. As she came to consciousness and reviewed what had happened the previous night a grin slowly spread on her face until…owww!
Pursing her lips in frustration she tried not to let her annoyance blossom any further.
Honestly, they finally had gotten it right and this had to happen…now of all times?
Shifting the felt the pain spread from her lower abdomen all the way around her back and down her thighs. Groaning she tried to get comfortable and then remembered that if she didn't get up and soon she would have a much bigger mess to clean up than what already existed.
Grumbling to herself she had almost forgotten that Henry was there with her…and he was already awake.
"Catherine are you alright?"
Did she seem alright?!
"Henry I will be fine I just need get up and take a bath."
"Or we could wait just a little longer and then take a bath together," he tried tempting her. But as that had been part of the issue, aside from the fact that he was being completely insensitive at the moment…she was not amused.
But before she had a chance to answer he had flipped her on her back and was already dropping kissed down her neck.
"Henry," she ground out, "if you cannot do me the curtesy of listening to what I ask then I will ask you to leave, now."
Confused at her apparent displeasure, he rolled far enough that she could free herself of she chose. She quickly got up and headed in the direction of her wardrobe, muttering in Italian as she went.
She pulled out a shift and robe which had stains on it…Henry didn't even know that she owned something that was that soiled! Usually anything less than perfect went to her servants. Although neither garment would be seen outside of this room, he couldn't figure out why Catherine would specifically choose those over the rest.
As the bathing area was back in his direction she turned and noticed him staring.
"Henry, what are you staring at?"
"A radiant light that shines even brighter than the sun, and one which I have not had nearly enough time to admire."
"Yes, well who's fault is that," she retorted.
Clearly he was missing something. Although his first inclination was to duck and hide it was what he had always done, so he wasn't sure that was right either.
She hadn't told him to leave, but she hadn't asked him to stay.
Retrieving his pants so that she wouldn't feel pressured into anything he approached the bathing area.
He was about to call her name when he heard her sobbing softly.
Deciding that he couldn't possibly make it any worse he walked slowly around the partition and called her name softly, "Catherine?"
"Go away Henry, I am in no state for anything at all. Please just leave me be."
Processing her statement he knew that disregarding her request could be dangerous, but she sounded more dejected than angry. Deciding to tempt fate just a bit he knelt down next to the tub and began to stroke her hair, to which she tilted he head slightly downward and away from him. When he received no further reaction he gently turned her chin back toward him with the pads of just two fingers.
What he saw broke his heart.
Her eyes were closed, but there was evidence of recent tear tracks marring her cheeks.
"Catherine my love, please look at me.," he implored, encouraged by the fact that she had not bitten his head off, suggesting that he made the right choice.
Shaking her head she squeezed her eyes tighter and a few more tears made their way down.
Wiping then away with his knuckles he tried one more time, "Amata mia, dimmi del tuo dolore e lasciami condividere il tuo peso."
In the quietest voice that he had ever heard from his wife, he almost missed her answer.
"You chose me."
If she didn't look so pitiful he would be well on his way to begin angry…at himself as much as at her. He didn't know what else to do!
He was…this was…
This was her infertility all over again.
What was that she had said when they had finally talked, when the threat of execution was hanging over her head?
'I hurt your feelings…I was saving my life!'
The only times she withdrew this much was when something else was going on.
"Catherine what do you need from me?"
"Nothing Henry, it is nothing that you need be concerned about. I just love you so much and you've been so sweet to me, patient, and caring, you sent her away, you finally sent her away and not me…you finally sent her away, and it wasn't my scheming or manipulations or any other reasons other than that you chose me…and it's never me."
"Catherine I…," but she didn't even hear him as she continued.
"And nothing, nothing in my life had ever been this good, my parents left me, my aunt left me, the nuns left me, your father left me, our dear sweet children…oh my dear sweet Emone and Henrietta, oh Henry…I can't, I just can't…"
Feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do he stood and began to pick her up, but even that wasn't right. "No Henry I can't, I have to get everything prepared before I leave…"
Giving up on removing her he instead decided to do the opposite. He removed his now very worn pants, picked her up despite her protests and got in with her, cradling her to his chest to let her cry it out.
Eventually the tears subsided and she regained her equilibrium, as he gently ran his hand in small circles on her arm.
Finally regaining her senses she buried her face into his chest and mumbled something that he couldn't quite make out.
"I'm sorry cara but I didn't quite catch that."
Sighing she leveraged herself up and repeated herself, "I'm sorry Henry for being such a mess."
"Catherine I love you, there is no mess that I wouldn't happily clean up with you at my side. Just tell me what to do."
Moving in slowly to kiss him briefly on the lips she looked deeply into his eyes and answered. "Henry there is nothing you can do except bear with me over the next few days. You," she began as she drew one hand to her heart, "have done nothing wrong."
"Henry, you have been the paramour of probably hundreds of women over the course of your lifetime, surely I do do not need to explain this again."
Then it clicked.
"Hence your not wanted to leave the bath, and your quick exodus from the bed this morning."
"Mmmhmmm," she nodded.
Tipping her chin up he returned her affection then simply said, "I love you."
Smiling so that it now reached her eyes she replied, "and I love you."
**Italian Translation: Tell me of your sorrow beloved, and let me share your burden.
Later that day Henry was sitting in the midst of his advisors and trying very very hard to listen to what they were saying.
Trying, and failing.
All he could think about was how much he missed Catherine when she wasn't even a five minute walk away. And that was something that he knew his advisors would definitely not approve of.
It was a conversation that he had been subjected to far too many times, and one of the reasons he had taken Diane as his mistress in the first place.
'A king should not be constrained by the determinations of his Queen.'
'A King who only keeps a wife and no mistresses looks weak and lovesick to the rest of Europe.'
"She's only a woman, what bearing do her feelings have on you?'
Shaking his head, he realized now that ignoring their advice would have saved him a great deal of heartache…also headaches, but wishing would not help anyone and so he did his best to return his attention to their ramblings.
Turning as Francis added his ideas to the discussion, it appeared that the Dauphin was gleaning more from the meeting than he was. Francis had asked to start sitting in on the meetings with his advisors and his diligence appeared to be paying off.
Henry knew that his many lessons would never fully prepare Francis for his rule, but even the limited amount of wisdom he had been able to pass on seemed to be sticking.
And that gave him an idea.
An idea which was quickly turning into a plan.
Standing somewhat abruptly he interrupted their current debate, "I'm sorry gentleman, but you will have to excuse me. I just remembered that I have an urgent matter to attend to that will likely take the rest of the day. For any decisions that you require approval, the Dauphin may speak for me in my absence, good day."
And despite the half hearted protests of his advisors he strode swiftly out of the room and straight to Catherine's chambers.
On the way he decided to make a slight detour out to the gardens for some flowers but otherwise remained undeterred.
Knocking on her door…after all he was trying different this time, one of her ladies answered and motioned him in. Catherine was sitting at her desk with two tall stacks of papers on either side of her.
How she ever managed to fight those stacks down to manageable sizes he would never know, and to be honest had neither the desire nor the intention of finding out.
Having gotten lost in thought again, he realized that he must have missed Catherine calling his name at least a few times now. Quickly making his way over he thrust the flowers forward and received a slightly tired but grateful smile for the gesture.
Calling one of her ladies over she told them to place them in water, instructing the girl to use the vase by her stuffed chair near the window.
The memory most recently made surrounding that chair and Catherine's adorable feet briefly surfaced, for Henry but he quickly refocused on his wife who was looking directly at him, both amused and inquisitive.
"Thank you for the flowers Henry, now how can I help you?"
"I want to take you on a second marriage tour," he said so quickly that she almost missed it.
"Henry the only reason that we got away on our first one was that we were not yet King and Queen. That is not generally a luxury afforded ruling monarchs the first time around, and you want to go on a second? We have several ongoing matters that require our attention."
"No, they require attention, but not necessarily ours."
"Then who else…"
"The nearly grown, very capable Dauphin and Dauphine of France."
Pausing for a moment to process his suggestion Catherine was about to speak when Henry cut her off now pacing as he continued.
"Francis has shown an increased interest in politics lately, Mary has always been well aware of the responsibilities and taken them seriously. And it would be good practice for them to take on our responsibilities temporarily. Also,we," he paused in his analysis and pacing long enough to grasp her hands in both of his, "could use the time away.
"And what of…"
"The rest of the children can either stay here or visit Elizabeth in Spain. I know that she would thoroughly enjoy an extended visit by her siblings."
"It seems you have thought of everything."
"Only because I am a man on a mission, and because we could use the time away….just the two of us."
Sighing, she replied, "Let me think about it Henry. Give me until dinner tonight to decide?"
"Done," he agreed with a grin.
Leaning down to leave her a peck on the lips Henry straightened and then made his way out of the room.
Unlike Catherine he had no qualms playing hooky and decided that with the rest of the afternoon off he would spend it with his children.
"And make sure to have all of the orders in at least three weeks before you think they will need, and triple check them to make sure that by the time they get down to the maids and the cooks they are precisely the same as when they left your hands."
Mary had been nodding at Catherine for at least a half an hour.
She was glad that she would be getting this time alone with Henry, but they could only do that if she actually left the Castle, and that had been delayed by all of Catherine's last minute checks, clarifications, and now instructions.
Catherine was about to start into another lecture when Henry gently grasped her shoulders and physically maneuvered her out of the room.
"And if Mary really needs any help we will be just a messenger away."
Digging her heels in enough to halt their progress she continued, "But the guests we will be receiving…"
Cutting her words off with a kiss, Henry continued his pursuit until she relaxed and began responding to him.
"...will be charmed by her and Francis's grace and maturity. Now before the children climb back out of their carriages we must be on our way so that we can see them safely to Spain, visit with Elizabeth and her husband, and then on to Chenonceau for the remainder of our time away."
At her slightly petulant look he went on, "We both agreed that we could use a break from the matters of state, that Mary and Francis would benefit from acting as Regents, and because we," he emphasized as his hands began to wander, "could use the time to reconnect properly."
The combination of Henry's logic and his attentions swayed her enough to get her moving again. She also had no intention of letting him continue on his current course in full view of everyone.
His inhibitions still astounded her sometimes.
Removing his hands to a safer location she replied, "agreed Henry, and all in good time."
And with that Henry offered her his arm for them to walk out of the Castle and into the waiting carriage. One which Henry had insisted they ride in alone.
And for once, Catherine had not argued.