Disclaimer: I don't own Reign or any characters associated with the show. Just my original characters and my story lines.
Author's note: Its been a long time since I've updated, way too long, but I'm back at it with a few ideas. I'll only update if I see any activity from readers of a positive note and there is a demand. Enjoy if you read!
The royal family had gathered for breakfast, and they only awaited the arrival of Henry. Catherine sat at one end with Margot to her left and Little Henry to her right. Claude and Mary chatted beside of Margot about possible baby names, and Francis sat between Charles and Little Henry. The young brothers had taken to arguing over who got to sit beside Francis and that was the only solution for their young feud.
"Mother, can't I have one strawberry? They look so yummy."
Charles mouth was watering from the tasty fruit on his plate.
"No, Charles. I told your father we would wait for him to begin."
Catherine straightened her napkin on her lap as she answered.
"But I'm hungry! Surely one little strawberry wouldn't hurt my appetite."
Catherine looked at Francis pleadingly for help. She'd been up with Hercule for most of the night, and was exhausted. The youngest prince had kept a fever, and just wouldn't take comfort until the sun had risen. She knew breakfast was late already, but she'd also promised Henry she would wait for him to speak to the messenger.
"Charles, we have to wait for Father. You'll live."
Francis gave his mother a grin as he took up her cause.
"But what if I don't?"
The pert reply from young Charles as his stomach grumbled loud enough for the whole table to hear.
"Then I shall get all your strawberries, little brother."
Claude's reply was quick as was her smile.
"Then I shan't die, I suppose."
Charles sighed and Catherine chuckled.
"What is this talk of death at breakfast all about? Seems a dreary conversation to have on a day as promising as today."
Catherine turned at Henry's voice, and smiled as he leant down for a small kiss before taking his seat at the other end of the table.
"Charles was claiming he might die if he didn't eat soon, Father." Francis replied as he reached for a grape.
"Ah, yes. Well I am sorry for being so late. I had a request in writing for a meeting from Lord Narcisse. I told the messenger to have him come this afternoon." Henry said as he took a bite of his omelet.
Catherine's brow furrowed as she watched her husband eat his breakfast.
"Did he address in the letter why he wants to meet with you, Henry?"
"He wants to discuss a permanent position here at court."
"Is it wise to look for new advisers so suddenly?"
"Life has to move on, Catherine."
"Yes, I know, but must it move so fast?"
"I think it's time to have a group of loyalists around us."
"I don't know if Stephane is loyal to us, Henry. I've never trusted him."
All this time Henry hadn't looked at anything other than his plate as he'd been ravenously hungry, but her statement made his eyes settle on her as he sat up straighter.
"He's loyal to France, and he's been one of my closest friends since childhood."
Francis glanced at Mary with a worried look. His parents were always on opposing sides when it came to certain matters, and that hadn't changed since their reconcilement. They were working on it, but their discussions could still get heated. He knew they were in trouble when his mother settled her hands by her side, and fires of determination burned within her eyes.
"He's also easily bought I'm told. We need to surround ourselves with those whose loyalty isn't dependent upon coin or lands. He could be working for someone and we wouldn't even know it. The Duke-"
"The Duke wasn't a loyalist. Stephane and I were more like brothers."
"I know that, Henry, but you had others that were like brothers whom also betrayed you."
"And who else was also a part of that betrayal?"
Mary was nervous in her seat. Claude hadn't the slightest reaction, and simply helped Margot eat her breakfast like a big girl, but the tension was palpable. Catherine tensed in her seat, feeling as if she had been slapped. Henry had been more understanding in everything lately, but his quick words could still wound her when they came. He always apologized after, but that didn't stop her heart from bleeding in the heat of the moment.
"Father, Mother, is this the best time for political discussions?" Francis inquired, hoping to quell the tension between his parents.
Henry just raised an eyebrow at Catherine as she raised her chin stubbornly.
"I think it is time to let the matter lie until after breakfast. Don't you, darling?"
She heard the stubbornness in her husband's tone and for the sake of the children she let it drop without another word. She would speak with him again after breakfast.
"Father, Claude is taking us riding today! Can you come with us?" Charles asked before he crammed another berry into his mouth.
Henry regretted his full schedule for the day as his son's eyes lit up in want. He'd been so busy lately he'd hardly gotten to spend any time with his older children lately.
"I would love to, Charles, but I'm afraid it will have to wait until later in the week. I've a full schedule today. Where will you be taking them, Claude?"
"I thought I'd take them to the falls, and show them that old cave we found there when I was little. It'll be a grand adventure!"
Claude was excited to show her little brothers all her favorite places from when she was little.
"Are you taking food? The boys will no doubt need lunch if you're gone too long. I'll have one made up."
"Thank you, Mother."
Catherine and Claude's relationship was steadily improving, and they rarely argued much anymore.
"Be sure to take enough guards, Claude. One can't be too careful."
Henry glanced at Catherine as he spoke. Her abduction was still fresh in his mind, and she knew he was still uneasy about any of them venturing too far from the castle grounds.
"We'll be careful, Father."
With a nod of his head he turned the conversation to remind Claude of the time they had found that cave by the waterfall. Breakfast went smoothly after that and not another word of politics came up. Only after the children had been set on their ways and Henry was walking with Catherine back to the nursery to check on Hercule did she mention it again.
"Henry, we need to talk about Stephane coming back to court."
"I don't care to discuss it. Stephane is someone I trust. I know him better than you do. I understand your concern in the matter, but I don't think it's warranted."
"He doesn't care for me. He opposed our marriage just as the Duke de Guise did."
"He thought as his father did, Catherine."
"That a marriage alliance to a country I would one day be King of would be wiser. I was once betrothed to Mary Tudor and a few other princesses as well."
"I'm well aware of whom you were betrothed to before me, Henry. Everyone thought anyone besides me was a better choice."
"We both know he liked the idea of my dowry. France was drowning in debt from his wars."
"Yes, but after he met you he loved you, Catherine. It's a good thing he was already married when you came to France."
"Your father didn't have that kind of an eye for me, Husband."
"No, he didn't, but I believe he could have."
"He loved me as a daughter."
"He always thought more of you than he ever did of me. We both know that."
Catherine stopped and looked at Henry, already weary of the conversation.
"He loved you. You were his son. Whatever his affection was for me you were his heir."
"He was happier that you were my wife than I was his heir. He always said I would be a good King if I listened to your council."
Catherine raised an eyebrow at her husband's words. He really did seem to still resent that didn't he?
"You're still angry that he favored me after all these years? After everything the past year has brought us?"
"No. What I'm upset about is you questioning every move I make. I know by now who I can trust. I've been a good King. I've made mistakes, but I have kept this family safe for twenty five years."
"Yes you have, but the plot against our family requires us to use even more caution."
She stepped forward to lay a hand on his chest, but stopped with her hand in midair when she saw his chest heave in exasperation.
"Please don't be cross. I'm only being vigilant where our safety is concerned."
His face softened as he covered her hand with his against his chest.
"I know your motives, Catherine. I suppose it's just harder to break certain habits than others."
"You're under a heavy burden as King. Whatever I may have done has always been to lessen your burden, and my actions have always been for the good of the country. It might not always have seemed so, but it was. My unease of Stephane is for our good. If we invite him back, he'll have to be watched."
"I agree, and if he shows himself disloyal than we'll have his head. I doubt he'd betray France."
"Yes, but does he think that the line of Valois and France are one and the same?"
"I don't doubt he'll know before it's over if he doesn't already. I'm sure he's heard of the Duke's demise."
"All of French nobility has, and they don't doubt your strength. That is why they'll be more cautious if they wish to move against us."
"Then keeping Stephane close is a good idea. He would be deadly as a foe."
"I know, Henry. That's what is worrisome. Keeping him within arm's reach would be helpful since it means he can be watched."
Henry's eyes widened as she truthfully seemed to agree with him.
"Then it must be the right move. Tell me does your wizard say the stars are to align soon?"
Catherine frowned as she tried to understand his meaning.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean it's a miracle that you are agreeing with me on anything politically. It's quite a blessed event. We should mark it with a kiss."
Her lips softened from the hard frown as he leaned forward, but she stopped him before his lips touched hers.
"I would like to suggest a wager?"
Henry grinned as his face lit up in amusement.
"You would bet against your husband, the King?"
"I would unless you're scared of betting against your wife, the Queen."
"I only worry for your pride if you were to lose."
"I can assure you my pride would recover."
"So what does this wager of yours consist of?"
"If he isn't loyal to us I get to fill the open position that's on the council."
"And if I win?"
"If you are right and he is a loyal person than you haven't lost anything."
"So I get nothing if I win except the satisfaction of knowing I was right?"
He let her hands go and crossed his arms over his chest.
"I would think that knowing you were right would be enough to boost your ego for a long time."
"I would be satisfied in that knowledge, but…"
"But you want something else if you are correct. What would that be, Husband?"
She had already guessed he'd want something else when she had made her suggestion.
He waggled his eyebrows at her with a sinister smirk on his face. It made warmth spread through her body as he stepped forward and lowered his voice.
"You're closer to Mary than you've ever been, and since Mary Tudor has died she has a stronger claim to the English throne."
"Mary doesn't want England, Henry."
"She doesn't want the trouble she thinks will come with it. If she was convinced she had support from the Vatican I believe she would be more agreeable."
"So if I'm wrong about Stephane you want me to convince Mary to try to claim England?"
"Yes, but I also want you to throw your full support behind the move. Your family has more weight when it comes to Vatican support, and Mary will need that when she petitions them."
Catherine thought about that a moment. There were pros and cons to all of it, but she was almost certain about Stephane. There had always been something behind his eyes she hadn't trusted.
"It would have to be after she gives birth to our grandchild. I wouldn't risk her, or the baby's health."
"I wouldn't ask you to, Dear. Besides she grows bigger every day."
"She has a while to go yet. I would say at least another thirty days or more. The longer she waits to stake a claim the weaker her claim will be."
"But it won't be impossible, and if England wouldn't be a threat to France any longer I would feel more secure."
She scowled at him as she considered it. She'd always hated the idea of putting Francis's life in danger for England because of Mary, but if Elizabeth could be rooted out…it would be her only way of ever having a chance to place someone in Henry's ear that she knew was loyal to her family.
"And these are your terms? You don't want anything else?"
His eyes warmed to a milky dark chocolate as he dipped his lips to whisper into her ear.
"I want a night without our son fussing for his mother as well, but I thought you would find that suggestion petty."
Catherine felt a shiver of need course through her veins. It had been far too long since she'd had his full attention, and the feeling was intoxicating.
"I would have told you it isn't needed. I miss our time alone together as well."
Her hand trailed up his chest, and he felt its warmth through his shirt. His voice was even lower as his lips skimmed across the skin below her ear.
"You could always leave him with his nurse tonight. He has to get used to her sooner or later."
She took a deep breath to calm her voice before she answered.
"If he is feeling better throughout the day I can try. Other than a night with your wife is there anything else you want from our bargain?"
"No, I'm quite satisfied to make a deal with what we've accomplished already. You're a marvelous petitioner, Catherine."
She hummed in her throat before letting her lips move to his, sealing their deal with a kiss before slipping away to check on her baby. Henry watched her until the door had closed before heading off with a swing in his step to take care of the matters of the day.