So this was a one-shot idea that had been bouncing around my head for a while now, and as I typed it just kept growing. Hopefully you all like it. Please enjoy!
Henry was lived at Catherine. How dare she question him, in front of his own court! How was he to manage a country if he couldn't even keep his wife under control? It all started with her disagreeing on how he was handling the war in Italy. She had actually questioned his actions aloud. Obviously Henry reacted to her doubts, and once one reacted to the other, tempers flared quickly.
He felt the eyes of court on him after Catherine's outburst, they all waited to see how he would react to Catherine's abrupt departure. Right now he would show indifference, not let the court know how much he hated fighting with his wife. It also didn't help that every fight he had with her left him wanting her. They hadn't had marital relations for quite some time, and despite his mistresses and affairs, Henry still found himself frustrated.
This time he found himself staring at her mouth while they argued. Her perfect mouth that he knew would taste like the red wine she'd had earlier. Lord knew how her mouth drove him crazy with the never ending arguments that came sputtering out of it, but it also drove him wild knowing how that mouth would feel upon his own.
As Henry watched her stomp away, he resolutely decided that tonight he would get rid of this want of Catherine once and for all. Tonight there was to be a masquerade ball in for the Venetian dignitaries' arrival in honor for their help during the Italian wars. He would even eschew some of his roles as host, allowing for Francis to really take a more important role in hosting a party. Once he could escape his role as king he would be allowed to mingle amongst his Italian guests, and by extension Italian women. Yes, tonight Henry would woo an Italian woman in order to fill his want of his Italian wife.
With the way things were between the two of them Catherine would never consent to willingly enter Henry's bed, so instead tonight he would attempt to find someone that could fill that void.
Catherine was fuming. Henry never listened to her. All she had done was tried to point out a few problems with his proposed alliance, and instead he lashed out at her. Damn his male pride! She was really only looking out for the interests of France.
She knew she just made herself look like a fool in front of all of the court, but she couldn't allow Venice to get the better deal out of the alliance. Then as they argued she could feel the tensions building within her. She didn't know if she wanted to punch Henry or draw him closer and pull him to her. Why was Henry such an enigma?
It wasn't fair that Henry was allowed to seek pleasures elsewhere. Often after their fights Catherine would find herself wanting Henry in the worst way. Probably some effects of the terribly blurry line between love and hate she pondered. But still, Henry was allowed to find release, even encouraged, while she on the other hand would lose everything even by just a whisper of infidelity.
That was why tonight would be the only night Catherine could find some release. The Venetian party that was arriving was quite large, she would easily be able to blend in, especially at the party, and since it was a masked ball (one of her more brilliant ideas) she would be able to conceal her identity.
She wasn't especially keen on the idea of being unfaithful but she had needs, ones that her husband clearly did not want to tend to. Plus it wasn't like she was going to start an affair, just have one night of lust. Yes, tonight Catherine was going to find a lover, one that would give her new memories to cheer her up when her husband would let her down.
Henry threw open the doors to his chamber and quickly dismissed everyone. He wanted to go over his costume for the night and no one else could see it, otherwise his secret identity for tonight would be revealed. He'd only trusted one valet to commission his second mask, and it was perfect. He'd been planning this ever since it was announced that there was to be a masked ball. Catherine had been creeping more and more into his thoughts as of late, driving Henry quite insane with want, a want he really needed to quench, thoughts of her were beginning to interfere with work.
His second identity would just be a normal courtier. There would be several other men just as similar, he'd blend right in! No one would look twice at his disguise. Everyone would probably overlook him, which was perfect for a king who wanted to hide. His mask would come down to cover his cheek bones but still allow for him to have easy conversation. He'd wear a hat, one with a red feather sticking out from the side with modest beading, playing into the regular courtier look.
Henry chuckled to himself. He was so pleased with the way things were turning out (besides the regrettable fight with Catherine, but that just seemed to be his marriage nowadays). Tonight though he wouldn't be lusting over a woman that hated the very air he breathed, and just as importantly he thought, one that wouldn't want something from him knowing he was king, like most of the other women.
A knock at the door pulled him from his revelry. Henry quickly shut the doors to his wardrobe and called for the unknown person to appear. A servant appeared in his door way with the message that Catherine would not be attending tonight's festivities due to a headache.
Henry felt himself deflate a little. It was not surprising, her "headache" and deciding to not attend the party, considering their argument. He just was surprised at his reaction. Catherine not attending would make it easier on Henry, she knew him better than anyone and that included everyone. If there was any person that would see through the ruse it would be Catherine. Her absence would also abate his guilt at wooing another woman in front of his wife. He always felt dirty when his liaisons had a presence in front of his wife, and despite her nonchalant attitude towards his affairs he knew they affected Catherine, they'd had plenty of arguments over Diane to prove that true.
Maybe it was just a part of him would have loved to woo Catherine as an unknown, wanted to see if she would be attracted to him, if maybe there would be any connection between the two of them. No, he thought even if she was in attendance those thoughts would lead to his downfall. Surely she would see through the ruse. Or maybe she wouldn't even want him, would spurn him, and Henry couldn't handle that rejection, not after knowing how she rejected him knowing who he was.
That was why tonight it needed to not be Catherine behind the mask.
Catherine had just sent word to Henry that she would not be present at tonight's festivities. Instead she would be able to use the extra time to prepare her costume. It was imperative that her identity not be discovered, she had a lot that she could lose. Maybe she should just call it off. Was one night of frivolity worth her reputation?
Looking around her room and finding everything lacking, for surely that would be where she'd end up spending the evening. She made up her mind, she would go. She didn't necessarily have to find a lover tonight, maybe just dropping the queen façade would be enough, though perhaps some flirtation would be nice. No! The whole point of the mask was to be able to misbehave in an anonymous way, get her want of Henry out of her system. She could do this!
Walking around to her wardrobe, Catherine opened the doors and found her dress. For a queen it was rather simple. No jewels adorned the bodice, no ostentatious patterns drew the eye in, and the gown barely had any gold threading. She would easy blend in in her plain red gown. Her mask, however, had to be a little bit more ornate. The designs of swirls were intricate and stunning. Catherine couldn't help but be mesmerized by the patterns, with a golden swirled border around the whole mask.
Since Catherine opted for a half mask that came down to her cheekbones, so she could converse easily, she'd had feathers put on the side to help hide her hair, which would be held back with a pearled hair net. She'd had the net made so tight that when one looked at it, all they could see was the pearls and gold thread. She'd also have ribbons braided into her hair to help disguise the color. Plus, the room would be dimly lit, making it hard to see her true hair color. She'd also make sure to steer clear of Henry, he always was drawn in by her hair, and he'd surely recognize it. Maybe she would get lucky and he'd disappear with some woman.
Of course the thought of him not knowing it was her, but still drawn to her had its appeals. She used to attract him, once upon a time. But was she losing her mind? Henry couldn't be near her, if he found out…the consequences were too horrendous to imagine.
As Henry reentered the banquet hall in his second disguise, he couldn't help but feel giddy. So far no one suspected a thing, he'd fooled everyone. He'd made his great escape as king with a woman on his arm, like everyone would suspect. Then on the way to his chambers his valet interrupted them and told him of a pressing matter that needed to be addressed. Henry bid the woman adieu and quickly took off to his chambers to change into his anonymous disguise.
Currently Henry was standing on the periphery of the festivities, everyone ignored him. People walked by him, around him, one even bumped into him, and no one had figured out his identity. Of course maybe it would be a tad harder to introduce himself to others considering he looked like any other noble. Several women had already walked by him and not even looked his way. Suddenly a little unsure of himself, Henry made his way towards the dancing.
Looking every woman up and down, trying his hardest to find a woman to drown his memories of Catherine in, Henry couldn't find one that compared to her. It was also hard to find a woman that fit his desires when half of their faces were covered by masks, their hair was disguised by feathers, pearls, nets, several contraptions to hide the original color.
Frustrated by this not thought out part of his plan, Henry made his way to the wine. He needed to regroup, come up with a plan. Catherine looked wonderful in blue, maybe he should focus on women in blue dresses? Scanning his eyes around the room, he suddenly found everyone woman in a blue dress lacking. Who was he kidding there was no imitation of what he wanted…just Catherine.
Then as if fate had intervened, Henry heard the second most melodic laugh, causing him to pause. Slowly turning around his eyes settled on a petite woman wearing one of the less ostentatious dresses, and his breath caught. Henry felt the floor shake. This was the woman he wanted, no needed. He couldn't tell really any defining characteristics from where he was standing but he knew tonight she was what he needed. She currently held two gentlemen captive in her story, which she was telling in Italian, another point for her.
How to get her to notice him? Normally everyone noticed him that was part of being king, but under these circumstances he couldn't rely on his title. He wanted her to feel the same pull that was drawing him towards her. Grabbing another glass of wine Henry drank some liquid courage.
Catherine was having the most marvelous time. She was dancing, flirting, never once worrying about her station. So far no one particular man stood out but she wasn't discouraged. Her escape would show up and whisk her away, but in the meantime Catherine enjoyed the festivities.
Upon entering the hall Catherine had scanned the room for her husband, but it seemed he had already vacated for the evening. Pushing down her disappointment and breathing a sigh of relief, Catherine made her way towards the clustered Venetian dignitaries. It would be easy enough to blend in with them. Part of her disguise was only speaking in Italian. She knew that it was easier to play with the pitch of her voice in her native tongue, and most of the French nobles knew her voice. Better to play it safe and pretend not to know French. It was there, amongst her fellow Italians, she seamlessly blended in until she was asked to dance.
After a series of dances, she had made her way to the wine, which was how she wound up talking to two dull French lords. One really butchered her language, making him hard to understand, while the other she definitely recognized as the penniless Lord LeHoux. The only enjoyable part of their conversation was they had no idea who she was. This part of knowing who they were and watching them vie for her attention was worth every risk. They genuinely had no clue they were talking (in a bawdy manner) to their queen. And when they turned and talked amongst themselves arguing, in French, over who would end up with her, they had no idea she knew every word.
Of course neither one of them would be the gentleman for her. No, she still hadn't found someone that piqued her interest. So far all of the other men were too tall, too loud, too old or just plain dull. She found that she couldn't help but compare all the others to Henry, which vexed her to no end. She didn't want to find all other men lacking, especially when her husband was seriously lacking when it came to her. She didn't want to think that she could only find release with a man who hated her.
As Catherine was lamenting her nonexistent romance while the two dullards argued over her, it was then she noticed a fellow standing by the wine table. From across the room he seemed perfect, although there was nothing discernible about whom he was, she was after all only looking at him from behind. There was just a pull towards him, a pull so strong that even though she could distinguish nothing about him, she knew he was perfect.
Suddenly Catherine laughed loudly, causing the two lords to look at her confused, but it did the trick, she had the mysterious man's attention. Continuing to speak in Italian, Catherine made up some story trying to keep the two lords engaged. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her mysterious gentlemen continue to watch her. He made no move to approach her, but she still had his attention, that had to be a good sign right?
Beginning to lose hope on her watcher, Catherine continued to add to the story, somehow she'd almost lost her life on some cliffs apparently. Then he took one last large gulp of wine and began towards her. It was happening! He was on his way to her, now if only she could shake these two bores.
"Ah husband there you are!"
It was the first thing that popped into her mind, knowing just the word husband would scare off these two. Hopefully it wasn't too forward. She also prayed he understood Italian. Her admirer did pause for just a moment as he was about to reach her, and it was in that pause that Catherine fled the two Frenchmen and latched on to the mysterious figure's arm. Thankfully, if he was thrown off by her comment, he seemed to understand the situation and quickly recovered.
"Please play along." She whispered.