Disclaimer: I neither own Reign, nor profit from this story.
They stood at the graves, hand in hand. Their fingers were freezing despite the warmth of the day.
It had become a yearly ritual for them and while their children joined them sometimes, they were always the last to stay. Side by side they stood, nearly frozen in time.
The first year on the anniversary of the twins deaths, Mary and Francis quietly walked up to their parents' in the morning, relieved first Henry and then Catherine of their normal chores and nudged them away. What little comfort Catherine had found since that terrible day had been seeping away a little at a time as the anniversary approached. To this end it took less effort than usual to convince her to accept the offer than ever before or since.
They looked at each other for a moment before silently accepting.
Henry moved just a few steps closer and put his arms around her, Catherine barely responded. She had in a way been hopeful that the day would simply pass by with little recognition of what had occurred.
She was grateful, but the recognition made it all the more real.
They walked together to the gravesite.
Another mixed blessing was that she had given birth to both of the twins so there were bodies to bury. A reminder of what had happened, a real and tangible reminder of what had happened.
Joan had been named, but never came into this world except in body. Her small lifeless form had been hidden from Catherine at first, but once she put the pieces together she demanded to see her.
Her small, now deformed body shrouded and still.
Trying to shake herself from these depressing thoughts she held Henry even tighter and buried her face in his body. This was the first time they had returned since the funeral. She wasn't even sure she had the strength to finish the journey.
His response was to stop their forward movement and return the embrace.
They did eventually make it to the burial site. Both of their eyes and faces were already wet with tears.
Initially Catherine refused to go in, to enter the gate and acknowledge that it was real.
The mind can do funny things and in the year that lapsed sometimes she was able to convince herself that it was all just a bad dream.
Slowly they made their way in, one agonizing step at a time. Catherine was transfixed by the stones and barely able to breathe. They were set next to Louie and he next to Henry's parents.
A parent was not meant to outline their child.
Catherine began to shake her head as the was once again overwhelmed by the grief. Henry responded and physically turned her into his body. He stood there with her as silent tears found their way down his face.
They eventually left the cemetery and went to what had become 'their spot' along the stream.
For a while after dinner was finished they had made a daily pilgrimage there to be alone together, to grieve. Usually they just sat there near the edge, completely quiet. Sometimes though they would be so overcome with their emotions that connecting with each other as husband and wife was all that carried them through.
At first Catherine felt guilty afterwards, enjoying the embrace of her husband and the physical pleasure it evoked when she was still so grief-stricken over her two little girls. They never went so far to be indecent, especially as they had also been sternly reminded by Nostradamus to be mindful of their intimate relations as Catherine's life could literally hang in the balance.
Their whole family had grown up a little more and now it was Charles taking lunch to Henry at work. He would also come if Catherine was faring poorly, though she would never ask.
Eventually she grudgingly agreed to begin coming herself to see Henry in the shop as needed. Francis and later Bash were quick studies and able to watch over everything if the couple needed to take some time to themselves.
Sometimes it was just a rest on the bench out back, others it was a stroll through town.
Occasionally when Henry was called back to the house he would send everyone away and be with her there alone. Here he might find her in a variety of states, sequestered in bed, crying inconsolably, staring off into space, or furiously doing housework.
Usually when she was crying she did so in her room to try and not upset the children.
Once in a while she would even take herself down to the stream.
It soothed her, both the solitude and the sound of the water as it flowed by gently.
Henry did not escape the toll of his own grief either. Usually if he was feeling overwhelmed he would return home take Catherine's hand and the two of them would start walking. He experience the grief differently than her as it had not been his body housing their two sweet girls all those months. Nor had he been wracked with worry in the same was she had from the time the pregnancy was confirmed.
There were no words that were adequate, and few that helped.
Never before were they more thankful though for having older children to take over when they were too well spent. It was certainly more responsibility than they would have liked, but some days there was little other choice.
As a family they tried to take time once a day, and later once a week, to allow the children to speak if they had something to say. For all of them the sting of grief did grow a little less each day.
Because Catherine's pregnancy was known and marginally understood by most in the house there was a subdued tone that settled over all of them, except for perhaps Margot and Hercule. Each for their own reasons they were the only ones that seemed to have much energy, although there were times that Charles and Little Henry were clearly muting their own impulses out of empathy. Some days it worked better than others.
Slowly they all began to recover. Time heals slowly, though in cases like this time seemed to move at an agonizing pace.
That first year there was much to consider.
This day that marked the close of that first year had waned, though time seemed to stand still.
When they got back to the house there was a small gathering.
Nostradamus, the priest, even the midwife who had been passing through the village once more.
Throughout the year different families had also stopped by to help out as they could, especially the first month.
Catherine was both appreciative and embarrassed at all the attention, in addition to feeling inadequate. She did not like having to ask for help, and her own inner demons chastised her for not being a good enough mother or wife. For failing in her duties at the most basic level.
Henry did his best to refute these thoughts but they were her own battles to fight.
Whenever she became lost though Henry longed to reach her, to heal her, and he still tried.
If anything this was a test of endurance.
Moment to moment, day to day, week to week.
The timetable was uncertain, indeterminate. The pain nearly indescribable.
She was still recovering physically too. Nostradamus had not warned her needlessly about the toll of this last pregnancy.
And yet she had survived, and felt stronger every day.
Once the surprise of the gathering had worn off and she gathered her thoughts, Catherine genuinely thanked everyone for joining them. Though she had not planned to have to entertain guests, nor would she have chosen to, she appreciated their thoughts and care for her family.
Henry too thanked them all, though his words were far less eloquent.
As they retired for the night Catherine sat down heavily on their bed. Henry changed out of his daywear before he walked over to her, a sigh making its way through his lips.
Reaching for her hand to help her up Henry began to unlace her dress.
"Henry you don't have to…"
"Hush my queen, it pleases me to be able to do this for you."
Pursing her lips she answered, "Still seeking to quiet your queen? I don't see that ending well for you, even as king."
Her dress had just been undone and dropped from her person. His answer did not come in words but in deed. He grasped her arm suddenly and drew her to himself. A smile crept on her face, and a sparkle in his eye as their old selves returned for just a moment.
It felt odd but right.
The look in his eyes was one of intense focus, on the woman he loved more deeply than life itself.
He walked her back into the bed and accosted her lips until she began to whimper lightly.
When he paused to take a breath she finally managed to get out the words, "Henry I don't think I have the energy tonight, and we still have to be careful," though she was certainly no more pleased than he with this reality.
Smiling as his chest still heaved from their pervious exertion, he answered her, "And I had no plans to take this much farther my love."
Scooping her up, Henry deposited her lightly on the bed and left a kiss on her lips.
Appreciating the gesture, but worried for him Catherine turned to face him as he moved to the far side of the bed.
"You are also not getting any younger Henry, I wish you would be more careful."
Henry paused at the edge with a smile that spoke of his thoughts on the matter.
Catherine reached out to grasp his hand and pull him down to her. She drew him close and this time initiated the kiss herself.
Long and lingering, but sweet and light. They both knew their limitations.
Henry reached under his pillow to pull out a small wooden box. Curious Catherine pulled herself up so that she was now sitting and Henry mirrored her.
He gave her the box but said nothing.
Inside were two rings with leather cord looped inside of each. Each ring was a plain key ring made with iron but with flecks of tin and copper welded to it in a pattern she could not distinctively detect.
Catherine picked up one and Henry the other. When she finally met his eyes she found that this time her words had failed her.
Henry placed his around her neck before picking up the ring in question to explain.
"The strength of the iron band represents you and I. As strange as our marriage began we have been unshakable and unbreakable in our love and devotion to one another."
He tilted the ring then so that the flecks caught the low light of the few candles still burning.
"The tin represents out children, those that we see and touch every day, while the copper represents the children we have lost, never apart from our memory but sometimes dimmed in their clarity."
Laying the ring down near her breast he gently grasped her hands which still held the other cord and placed it over his own head.
"We both now have one so that we can remember, that even when life seems to hard that we have survived this and more. That our hearts have not been broken irreversibly yet despite our challenges. And that we can overcome."
Tears welled up in her eyes as her lip began to tremble.
Henry wiped his thumb across her cheek to rid her face of a single stray tear before he laid back down and urged her to lay with him.
She did so, more than willingly and placed her ear on his chest. As she listened for the sound of his heartbeat she found the ring on his chest with her one hand and curled it around the object.
His hand was running along her arm in a further gesture of comfort as well, as much for her as for him.
They just laid there for a while and tried to relax into sleep.
"Thank you Henry, my love and my life." Catherine finally spoke out loud.
Equally as bad at receiving compliments Henry answered her simply, "For always and forever my dear sweet Catherine. I have always loved you, and I always will."
They slept that night as king and queen, hearts melded and mending together.
They had both come home.