Disclaimer: I neither own Reign, nor profit from this story.
Ch 1 - When Reality is but a Dream
Henry woke up with a start, shaking his head to try and clear the dream from his wakeful consciousness. He was sweating lightly, senses still on high alert and his breathing had yet to quiet, though he was trying desperately to do so. He heard Catherine groan next to him and tried all the more to stay as still and quiet as possible.
Unfortunately though her eyes were still closed the woman next to him began to noticeably stir, her breathing deepened until her husky voice floated across what little space stretched between them.
"Henry, what is it?"
Too late. His ever insightful Catherine could always tell when there was something amiss, no matter the state of her own consciousness.
Staring up at the ceiling to try and return his thoughts to some semblance of order he answered, "It's nothing darling, just a bad dream."
Turning to face him properly she propped herself up on one elbow and reached over to run a featherlight touch back and forth across his nearest forearm.
When he still chose not to continue she called his name and made a more direct approach.
"Do you want to tell me about it my love?"
Knowing she would continue to wonder, although probably silently until he told her, Henry took hold of her hand and brought it to his lips before turning to face her and obliged her inquiry. "I dreamed that I was the King, and you my Queen…of France. Can you imagine?"
Raising her eyebrow at his reply she decided to remain silent until he had finished…this ought to be good.
Smiling bashfully he draped her hand over his waist and moved to mirror her reclined position.
"Well not about you as the Queen…that does not surprise me in the least."
Always the charmer her husband, Catherine thought.
"It's me as the King that I couldn't believe…I could never, would never want that…it would be too much pressure, too much responsibility."
Humming Catherine countered, "I'm not so sure of that my love. At town meetings you seem to do well enough helping to mediate disputes or problems that arise, and many of the others trust you and your judgement."
Grinning, Catherine tried to hide the doubt that inevitably lurked in the corners of her mind, creating her own nightmares which plagued her sleep far more often than she would care to admit. "There would also plenty of ladies to take your mind off of your troubles…" Catherine edged. She had faith in her husband, but she heard the stories, and unlike her own gender, men as a rule were not required to remain faithful.
Running a callused but gentle had along her cheek he stared into her eyes…eyes which belayed her words of absolute faith and certainty, though few ever dared looked deep enough to find such doubts.
"My beautiful wife, there is no one I would rather spend my long, aching, tiresome days as a blacksmith with than with you." Cupping her cheek and running his thumb along her cheekbone he tried to instill every ounce of love that he felt into his gaze and his touch.
"And your nights Henry? After all I'm sure there are younger women who have caught your eye Henry…I am not as young as I used to. It is…"
But she was cut off by his lips on hers, caressing, searching, plundering her mouth. He hated when she did that. She had always been beautiful to him, and neither twenty-five years of marriage nor the passage of seven children through her body could change his mind.
Pulling back only when his lungs were screaming for air he tried to counter any argument she may have this time with a single truth. "I choose you Catherine. I will always choose you."
Smiling at her husband as he hovered above her, Catherine brushed her own hand along his cheek and replied, "And I will always love you…and love you best."
The next morning as usual began early. Catherine and Henry both woke their not so small brood of children up together before heading out to care for their decidedly smaller brood of animals. Hercule had recently begun sleeping through the night and the couple enjoyed the peace and quiet, as much as they loved their dear children.
They enjoyed the routine of beginning their days together. Although they appreciated whatever help the children provided once awake, they wanted to take as much off of children's list of cares if at all possible.
Their first few years of marriage both had played the roles society imposed on them, he the provider, she the homemaker, and at the end of the the day they despised it. In addition, Henry had held firm on his disinterest in one particular expectation that without question went directly against the time and their station.
Henry had announced not long into their marriage that he did not want to have children right away. He said that he wanted her to himself for a while before adding to their small family. Catherine had internally laughed. but even when she tried to encourage him otherwise he wouldn't budge. It was sweet, though seemed quite odd to her…for a husband to care for a wife in such a way.
It was even odder to everyone else when he seemed in no rush to have children and in no way pressuring her to do so. Though this did lead to some decidedly uncomfortable pressure for Catherine, primarily from the other women in the village.
A few years in Henry seemed less inclined to be careful and at times quite interested in conceiving which was when things began to get tense the first time. Given even the slightest hint from her husband that he desired children Catherine began to try anything and everything to make it happen. She even sought out the village quack, barely tolerated by the clergy, and generally avoided by everyone else…but she was desperate.
And a desperate Catherine meant a singularly focused Catherine, even to the point of risking her life and health.
Once they finally began having children they also decided to raise them with a greater sense of belonging and of purpose.
On the off chance that Catherine has been questioned about her lack of 'discipline' regarding her children by the other women she simply answered, "I love my children, and though it may be a small gesture, I want them to feel cared for. They will have enough to shoulder soon enough, so even if it is for just a time I will gladly do more than I am expected."
They both cared for the children immeasurably and desired not only to raise them well but also for them to feel loved and cared for.
Secretly Catherine and Henry both had favorites.
For Catherine it was Francis her first, and Little Henry who they both thought would be their youngest boy.
Henry on the other hand always admired Charles and Margot's audacity…much to the chagrin of their mother.
And then there was Mary.
Mary was an orphan they had brought into their home when she was just 6 years old. She had bright auburn hair and was hard to miss or forget. Her parents had been travelers, staying near the village for a season. The group did not mingle much with the village folk but Mary being just a child had become fast friend's with Francis.
Even after the travelers departed Mary still came around, through she had seemed more burdened that usual. Her parent's were elderly and after quite a bit of coaxing by Catherine, they learned that her former guardians had died and Mary was on her own, that at night she returned to no one.
It did not take much coaxing for Henry and Catherine to take her in, and that was six years ago.
As it turns out, her coming was fortuitous as later that year they lost their fourth child Louis who was still an infant. Catherine was nearly inconsolable but Mary's heart was so tender, so compassionate.
On more than one occasion Henry was subjected to sleeping in Mary's tiny cot as he would find the two of them fast asleep in their bed by the time he turned in. Not wanting to disturb his wife as she found so little peace or rest these days he decided it was best to simply make due with other accommodations.
As Mary, Elisabeth and Claude shared a room, his other girls found it quite amusing, waking up to his presence on several occasions.
This may be in part what helped to bring Catherine out of the depression Louis's death had prompted.
Both the young girl's compassion, and finding her husband on several mornings spilling out of the small bed frame.
One morning she came to him and somehow found one small spot to sit next to his awkwardly situated frame. After running her fingers over his arm a few times she leaned down and kissed him lightly on the lips. Opening his eyes he could see just a glimmer of his wife from before peeking through.
It was not easy, he supposed that recovering from the loss of a child never was, but from then on they were alright.