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Conde and his Bash 2.0 Mary-pining antics have only succeeded in making me extremely nostalgic for Original Flavor Bash! And so I decided to bust out some season two Bash/Mary interaction my damn self. Come onnnn, show writers. Follow suit. You know you want to! (Why don't they want to??)

Content warning: this takes place after 2x10, and there is some vague discussion of rape.

and in my heart there stirs a quiet pain (for unremembered lads) - Reign ; Bash/Mary (past romance, present friendship), slight Francis/Mary and Henry/Catherine ; 2,800 words. After reading Conde's letter, Mary's thoughts are pulled to someone else entirely, and she decides to mend old wounds.

I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

(Edna St. Vincent Millay)

And maybe, just maybe
I'll come home

(Ben Howard, "Promise")


It isn’t Conde Mary thinks of after she reads his letter. It’s Bash.

She can’t help it. The plague brought with it the threat of ghosts, the whispers said, and in a way Conde has been that. He stands at her side, loyal and dark, ready to do whatever she might ask of him. There are worse ways to be haunted.


These days, Mary tries very hard to pretend that Bash is only Francis’s brother—a man she thinks kindly of in a general way, but has no particular interest in. Most of the time it’s easy. Bash has Kenna now, and against all odds they seem to have found true happiness. Kenna glows when she speaks of him. (Kenna has never once alluded to the fact that her husband was once almost Mary’s husband – an odd thing, considering Kenna has never had much restraint in conversation.)

These days, Mary and Bash speak when they must—talking about affairs of state, mostly. Mary makes sure to always be pleasant but direct. She never lets herself catch his gaze too long, or think Once you swore to love me over all else. To live for me and only me. I thought I knew then what I was giving up, but I had no idea. They never stand particularly close. They exchange polite smiles, but don’t laugh.

No one would ever guess that they’d been engaged once. In love once, or at least the start of something like it.


Maybe she has been encouraging Conde’s interest without meaning to. Maybe it’s because in some way, she misses Bash at her side but knows she can never ask him to stand by her again. Not after breaking his heart the way she did. Not after he stood at her marriage bed, pain on his face, and she chose to look away.

She has left her marriage bed now. She sits alone in the bed she slept in back when she was not a wife, and she clutches Conde’s letter in her fingers. It’s such a light, fragile thing to hold so much weight. A kiss of flame, and it would be gone.

When she dreams, she still sees the flames licking the dark sky. She is glad of what she did, but something in her has died of doing it. She doesn’t know quite who she is anymore.

And so she keeps her eyes open again. She looks at his words. In love with a queen.

She could call it a second chance. Not one she will take, of course. She is so tired of love, and she hates the thought of anyone’s hands on her. Her heart has been so full of love for Francis—overflowing with it, bleeding of it—that she feels certain she can be nothing but empty without him. There is a certain peace in emptiness.

But looking at the words, she feels young again. Her memory pulls her back, to the point where she can almost feel the crisp autumn air and her sliced palm stinging with the pain of a fresh wound. Bash’s fingers are gentle and sure as they wrap a handkerchief around her hand. His promise is simple: to be hers. To be her family. To let that matter most. She is just a girl and he is just a boy, not the king of anything.

She knows it would have been harder than it seemed on that day in that field. Bash hadn’t been raised to rule, and surely would have fumbled terribly. (Never mind that Francis has fumbled plenty terribly himself.) The shadow of Francis would have always lurked in Mary’s heart. Bash would have deserved better, deserved more, and Mary would have always known it, and the guilt would have worn at her. Would have wrenched them apart in time, in spite of all her good intentions.

She knows these things.

But just for now, she closes her eyes and lets herself be that young girl in a field, cherished. Nursing a broken heart, yes, but healing. Standing on the brink of some new, sweet, unanticipated life. The girl who leaned in and kissed him first, claiming happiness where she could find it.

Her eyes drift down to the letter again.

After a moment, she folds it carefully in half and sets it aside.


“Would you like to know a thing about marriage?” Catherine says the next evening. She must be a little drunk. She hasn’t had much wine since she joined Mary in her chambers half an hour ago, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t imbibing before the visit. Mary has watched Catherine’s wine intake increase considerably since the coronation.

Mary looks up.

“About my marriage,” Catherine clarifies.

“All right,” Mary says hesitantly.

“I always loved Henry. A day never went by where I didn’t love him. I don’t know that I knew it at the time. I hated him too, after all, and hatred is easier to notice than love, especially as you grow older. But after he died ... watching him die ... those are the sort of moments where everything else ceases to matter. And with him gone, I was so lost. I thought I would never get the chance to—” She glances across the room. There’s nothing to see there, besides the fireplace, but her gaze fixes on it with an odd intensity. Maybe she’s more than a little drunk. “He’s my husband, and I do love him, and I know now that I was wrong to bury it away all those years.”

“Maybe you should eat something,” Mary says. “I’m a bit hungry myself. I’ll call for the servants; we’ll have a nice quiet supper here—”

Catherine ignores her. “I never did tell Henry what happened to me. It happened before we were married, and the match would have been over in a second if word had gotten out. So I always kept that secret very carefully, until—well, until I told you, in fact.” She still stares at the fireplace – not down into the fire, but some inches above the mantle. “Now you know.”

It’s peculiar phrasing, considering Mary has known for over a year. “Catherine ...”

“When we were first married ... when y—when he touched me, I would always flinch away, and he didn’t understand why. He thought I didn’t care for him.” Her voice wavers slightly. Mary feels a stab of panic at the idea of Catherine crying in front of her. Mary has faith in her own ability to handle many things, but not that. “He and I were very alike, in a way; we both became crueler when we were afraid. It wasn’t until it was too late that he told me, and I ... well, nothing could be done about it by then. Things were too bad, at that point, and there was no going back. I thought,” she finishes, “that we would never reconcile. Isn’t that sad?”

“Why are you telling me this?” Mary demands softly.

Catherine shifts her gaze to Mary. “I know you don’t want to be around Francis right now, Mary. I understand that it’s a hard time, and his presence only makes it harder. But don’t write him off for good. If any part of you still loves him, trust that. Listen to it. And when you’re ready, don’t hesitate to open your heart again.”

Mary looks down at her folded hands. “I don’t know if I ...”

“I am trying to save you,” Catherine interrupts, “from becoming me.” Her tone is harder now. More the sound that Mary is used to. “Make no mistake, dear. You’re well on your way down that path. And I want better for my son, and better for you.”

“I’ll speak to him again when I’m ready.” If I’m ever ready.

“That’s all I ask.” Catherine settles back into her chair, languid again. “When you let these things go on too long, you reach a point where there’s no turning back. Hearts can harden for good. And then the only second chances you can find will be in miracles.”

Catherine’s gaze drifts across the room again. She smiles slightly, as if she’s picturing some beloved thing there.

Maybe Mary isn’t the only one who finds it easier, these days, to live in memories and what-might-have-beens. The present hasn’t been easy for Catherine either, with Claude so unaccountably ill.

Mary doesn’t doubt that Catherine’s advice is wise, but she knows she cannot follow it. Not yet.

At least not with Francis.


Early in the morning, Bash likes to go out walking or riding in the forest when he can. Kenna says that it keeps him from going mad devoting the rest of his time to courtly duties.

And so the morning after her strange talk with Catherine, Mary takes a chance. Snow is gently falling outside. Fresh air is a soothing prospect. She bundles up in a thick cloak and furs and ventures out, letting her guards know that she is off to find the king’s brother and they needn’t worry.

It surprises her how relieved she feels, stepping out into the snow and new daylight.

After it happened, she thought she would never want to step outside—would never want to go anywhere again, always looking over her shoulder in fear. But she feels curiously free this morning. Rooms are worse than open spaces. At least outside, there’s ample space to run.

Her timing is good. She’s been walking no more than ten minutes when Bash emerges on horseback from the trees. She waves, inspiring him to quicken his pace.

“Mary,” he says urgently, and descends from the horse to stand beside her. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing,” Mary says, petting the horse absently; she’s glad for the distraction. “I just felt like a bit of exercise.”

“Ah,” Bash says. His brow furrows in slight confusion.

“And I ... I hoped I might cross your path.”

“You did? Why?” Bash’s tone makes it clear just how strange her behavior seems. He must hear it too; he hastily adds, “Not that I’m not pleased to see you—”

“No, I understand,” Mary interrupts. “We haven’t been particularly social lately, the two of us.”

“No,” Bash agrees.

“May I walk with you?”

“Of course.”

They walk on in awkward quiet. Mary casts around for something, anything, to say, and finally heeds Catherine’s advice and settles on the truth.

“I’ve been thinking of you lately. Things have been so hard, I just ... can’t help but think back to ... to when we were younger. It makes me miss the way things were. I know we haven’t spoken freely in ages, and I understand why. But I hope that we’re still friends.”

She looks over at him just in time to catch the look of surprise on his face before he hides it. “I am always on your side, Mary. Much has changed, but never that.”

It isn’t quite the same thing as friendship, but Mary doesn’t want to push the matter. “Thank you.”

“You needn’t thank me.”

“Oh,” Mary says, rather stupidly.

The awkward silence continues. It’s agony. Mary curses herself for taking advice from a drunk Catherine who was locked in a staring contest with the wall.

At last, Bash has mercy on the both of them. “What’s brought this on?” he asks.

“Promise you won’t tell?”

Bash looks wary.

“It’s nowhere near as serious as regicide,” Mary assures him. “But ... but I would prefer if you didn’t tell Francis.”

She expects for a moment that he will refuse. His loyalty to Francis is so strong.

“I promise,” he says at last.

Mary takes a breath. “Conde has ... expressed feelings for me.”

Bash smiles slightly. “I suspected he might.”

“Oh, you did?” Mary asks, heartened by his good humor.

“I walked that particular road myself. I can recognize all the symptoms in another.”

Mary laughs a little.

“What will you do?” Bash asks.

“Tell him that I’m flattered but it cannot be pursued. He’s a charming man, and a good one, but I don’t especially wish to join his legion of married lovers.”

“Even though you’ve parted from Francis.”

Hearing the words sends a little pinprick of pain to her heart. She inhales sharply without meaning to. “Yes.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll let him down gently,” Bash says.

Perhaps he means nothing by the words, but she can’t help it. “Bash, I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For how terribly I ended our engagement. It was all so fast, and I worried for you afterwards but didn’t want to force myself back into your life to tell you so. It seemed too cruel. And I understand if you’ll never be able to think of me as a friend again. But I want you to know that—that I consider myself your friend, even if it’s from afar, and if you ever have need of me—”

“Mary, it’s all right,” Bash interjects.

“Is it?” Mary says doubtfully.

“It didn’t feel all right for a very long time,” he admits. “But I never would have wed Kenna if it weren’t for everything else that happened, and being with her ... it’s made it all worth it. It was a hard journey, yes, but one I don’t regret.”

“Good,” Mary says, relieved.

The silence resumes, but it’s more pleasant this time.

“She’s crazy about you,” Mary says then, smiling a little.

“Well, who couldn’t be?” Cheekily, he adds, “Present company excluded, of course.”

Mary elbows him in the side, and he laughs.

“I’m glad you two found happiness when it seemed so impossible,” Mary says. “It’s the sort of thing that gives others hope.”

She looks up into the white sky, gazing at the snowfall. It reminds her of feathers.



“Don’t lose hope just yet.”

She shifts her gaze down to her feet. “I love him. I’ll always love him, but I don’t see how I’ll ever make it past this.” She feels tears beginning to prick her eyes and blinks stubbornly. Forcing her voice steady, she asks, “Did he tell you what happened?”

Bash sighs. “No. Only that the attackers made it too far into the castle for anyone’s comfort. But ... but between his reaction and Kenna’s, I think I might have figured it out on my own.”

She looks over at him. There’s pain in his eyes.

“I tracked them down and killed them for what they did. The man who—” She swallows. “I burned him alive.”

“Good,” Bash says darkly. “He deserved a thousand times worse.”

“You don’t think badly of me for taking matters into my own hands, rather than waiting for Francis to avenge me?”

“I think you’re strong, and remarkable. And I’m proud of you. But I know what such actions can do. If it haunts you ... taking a life is difficult, but sometimes—”

“No,” Mary interrupts. “This was easy.”

“I understand,” Bash says readily. “Mary, it was justice.”

“I know.”

“And you must know Francis won’t think less of you for it.”

Mary lets out a quavering laugh. “Please, don’t speak of Francis right now. I’m glad you two have grown so close again, truly, but ....”

“But what you need is the company of a friend,” Bash discerns. “Not your husband’s brother.”

Mary nods.

Bash gives her a small, kind smile. “Then consider me your friend.”

Gladness fills her. She can’t remember the last time she felt so light. “I’ve missed you, Bash.”

“We see each other every day,” Bash points out.

“And we’ve spoken more to each other in this conversation than we had in the past six months at least!”

“Good point.” He chuckles. “Well, I’ve missed you too, Mary.”

The horse neighs, and they both laugh.

“I believe we have his approval,” Bash says.

“Maybe we can take walks together more often,” Mary suggests. “Not every morning. I understand better than most how necessary time alone can be. But just ... once in awhile, to make sure we don’t drift apart again.”

“I would like that,” Bash says, smiling.

Mary smiles back, and they continue home to the castle.


At least she has regained one thing she thought she’d lost for good.

Who knows what others might follow?

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