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Souls That Balance Joy and Pain

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It was alarming to Louis just how different Eleanor looked since the last time he saw her.

Louis had expected to see Eleanor’s dazzling smile when she got out of the carriage.

                Instead, the queen bore a hallow look. Her gaze was on Louis, but it was though she was looking through the Lord, as if he were a ghost. Her once rounded cheeks were now gaunt. Heavy bags that were not under Eleanor’s eyes eight months prior now dwelled there thickly and seemed to have been there for a while. Her eyes, her lovely ember eyes with flecks of gold, appeared lifeless and empty.

                A painful ache settled in Louis’ chest.

                Seeing his beloved like this had to be some sort of nightmare.

                King Liam gave Louis a monstrous bearhug, picking the Lord up about a foot off the ground and swayed him around while joyous exclamations came from the King. He was clearly beyond thrilled at seeing his trusted friend against, and the Lord should have been feeling the same way as well.

                But Louis kept looking back at Eleanor, dressed in all black with a think matching veil framing the sides of her face.

                How could Liam behave this way when his wife looked so drained? Louis just couldn’t understand it.

                “Ah Louis,” Liam sighed as he let Louis back on solid ground. The king looked broader, his bread thick on his cheeks. He had grown very well into the role of king, which Louis expected he would.

                Louis nodded feebly and gave a quick bow at his king, “My King, so lovely to see you.”

                “Stop with the formalities, Lou!” Liam insisted, nearly rolling his eyes, “I swear, it gets worse every time! Surely you know better then to be so ridged to me.”

                The Lord flashed a stiff smile, “Sorry my Ki—Liam.”

                “That’s better,” Liam smirked at his friend, but as he turned to his wife, Louis noticed a stern look had overcome him that practically matched Eleanor’s sullen face, “Eleanor dear, come greet Louis.”

                After a moment’s hesitation, Eleanor stepped forward beside her husband. Her eyes briefly met Louis’ gaze before she gave him a quick curtsey. Now with her closer to him, Louis’ stomach twisted painfully at how thin she looked. Eleanor was always a naturally slender woman, but her appearance was sickly. She extended her hand to him, and Louis noticed just how small her wrist looked. Surely it wasn’t always that skinny?

                Louis grew more fearful, more confused by Eleanor’s state. But he couldn’t say a damn thing.

                Instead, he did the proper thing. He took his queen’s hand and bent down to give it a small peck on the back of her hand.

                Louis was craving more, but couldn’t act on his desires.

                “Queen Eleanor,” Louis addressed her formally, and smiled sincerely at her, “A vision as always.”

                The tiniest smile came over Eleanor’s lips, and it was the first sign of life from her Louis had seen since she arrived. But then, the queen seemed to grow sheepish and she turned away, her hand falling back to her side. Louis yearned for her, for somehow her palm was still so warm despite the weather and despite the odd state she was in.

                “Oh Louis!” Liam interjected, sounding excited once again. Reluctantly, Louis pulled his gaze from Eleanor and looked at his king. He frowned at the unknown woman who stood beside him, because Louis was so caught up in Eleanor he hadn’t noticed there was another woman there.

                “Forgive me, madam,” Louis apologized to the young woman. He noticed right away how Liam was eyeing the new woman, and it was not a way a man should look at a woman who was not his wife. Regardless of his own thoughts, Louis reached for the woman’s hand and kissed it quickly just as he did with Eleanor.

                “Lou, this is the new Lady in Waiting, Lady Sophia Smith of Kent,” Liam proudly stated. Louis had heard of the Smith family, knew they were a wealthy merchant family and steadfastly loyal to the Paynes for decades. But they were not as well off as other members of the court, so Louis couldn’t recall the Smiths being able to attend as many functions at the palace. Plus, Louis couldn’t ever recall Liam ever talking about Sophia before.

                But Sophia was a beautiful woman indeed. Her hair was long and thin, with a slight natural wave. Her skin had a faint trace of tan from the summer. But Sophia’s true feature was her eyes, dazzling green like emeralds.

                Liam seemed to like Sophia’s eyes as well, for Louis noted he hadn’t stopped looking at them since he introduced Sophia.

                Louis took a quick second to look over to Eleanor. She was always distastefully looking at Liam and Sophia as well.

                What in the actual Hell happened over the last few months?

                Louis was Hell bent on finding out.

                “Pleasure to meet you, my Lord,” Sophia told Louis, and she actually sounded rather friendly—unlike the other ladies of the court. She went on, “His majesty has raved on about you Lord Tomlinson. And I must say thank you for your efforts in the war. I have a cousin who fought under your direction and he also speaks very highly of you.”

                And…wow. Sophia was certainly charming.

                “Well, thank you Lady Smith,” Louis hastily kissed the back of her hand, noting how she smelled of fresh citrus fruit.

                As he got back up, Louis weariedly looked over at Eleanor, and noticed a slight trace of annoyance in her eyes as she watched Sophia.

                But God bless Jay, who always had a knack for detecting any sort of tension.

                “My dear,” Jay sighed as she approached Eleanor. She took her hands in her own, giving them a tight squeezed as she smiled at her, “It’s so good to see you again, Your Majesty.”

                “D-Don’t,” Eleanor exhaled her first word since arriving. She swallowed thickly and told Jay, “Call me Eleanor, please.”

                Just hearing her voice after so many months separated, it was the purest music to his ears.

                Jay nodded, her face growing remorseful, “I’m so sorry about your father, hun.”

                And yes, that was why Eleanor was wearing black head to toe.

                She was in mourning and had been for a couple of months now. According to the very, very long ethical standards of mourning periods, close family members of the departed loved one must wear all black for six months. Afterwards they could wear normal attire but must always wear a black stripe on their upper arm for another six months.

                Louis was still getting used to all these upper-class norms, and he thought these rules of mourning clothes were blooding insane.

                “It’s been…” Eleanor began, looking over briefly at Louis before she shied away before admitting, “a challenging time.”

                Eleanor looked down then, and the sharp lines of her cheekbone stick out clear as day.

                Louis thought horridly that it wasn’t like that just eight months before.

                “King Richard will be missed,” Liam spoke up then, and added on, “But young King Harold seems to have a pretty good grip on things up there. And the Scottish people love him, so it seems that King Harold’s transitional period is going more smoothly then mine went.”

                Everyone minus the servants laughed, Louis smiled awkwardly at his King.

                But Eleanor remained silent.

                “Come now,” Louis spoke up, “We have some time before supper. I’d love to show everyone my estate.”

                King Liam’s eyes lit up, “Yes, please do Louis! I was just going to say it looks so different from when Wexler ran the estate here.”

                “Yes, yes,” Jay chimed in sagely, “The manor was in such a state when Louis and I arrived. There were weeds everywhere in the garden, prized works of art covered in dust, broken windows. Heavens, Liam it was just awful!”

                The group had begun to move into to manner, and Louis looked over his shoulder. Eleanor was walking a good three paces behind the group, her eyes locked on the floor and Louis frowned. A part of him wanted his beloved to see how far he came. He wanted Eleanor to see all the silver candlesticks, the fine art and lavish furnishings. But Eleanor seemed so far away. Funny, for the first time in close to a year, they were in the same place, in the same room. And yet, it felt as if Louis was back on the battleground hundreds of miles away.

                Sophia took her Queen’s hand in hers and locked their fingers together. Louis noticed Eleanor’s slight grimace on her face, but she doesn’t flinch away. Sophia looked up at Louis then, gave him a tight-lipped smile and curt nod.

                Louis looked away and tried his best not to worry about Eleanor for the rest of the afternoon.

                He failed miserably.

~~~

                “So how is it with the other Lords up here, Lou?” Liam asked as he wiped his lips.

                Louis was mid-chew on his piece of qual meat, so Jay spoke up.

                “Oh those men,” she sighed, “Bitter, greedy men that are milking their poor people dry to line their pockets. Lord Trombley is just a bore, Lord Harrison looks like he’s always scheming and the other one—what’s his name?”

                “Ah, Lord Smith,” Louis told his mother.

                “Oh yes of course,” Jay said, and told the King flatly, “That man is a complete dolt I tell ya! I have not bloody clue how he can run a whole town!”

                Louis smirked at his mother’s comments.

                But then, he realized that Lady Sophia was sitting beside him and happened to share the same last name.

                “My apologies Lady Sophia. I don’t hope we’ve offended you.”

                Jay paled as she turned to the Lady, “Oh heavens, you’re related to the man?”

                “Yes, unfortunately,” Lady Sophia smiled knowingly, “He’s a distant cousin on my father’s side. And yes, Lady Johannah, my cousin is terribly stupid. I have no idea how the man can lace up his own shoes let alone be a Lord.”

                The table erupted in laughter, and Louis took the moment to look over to Eleanor.

                Her fork was still beside the table beside her plate, with no trace of anything on it. Eleanor’s eyes never left the peas on her plate.

                Louis pursed his lips.

                “Louis?”

                The Lord turned his head back to his King upon hearing his voice, “Yes, Liam?”

                “I asked how things are really going with you and the other Lords up here?”

                Louis shrugged, “Alright, I guess. I mean, they can’t stand me and I don’t think very highly of them either. We hold quarterly meetings, say what we need to say about our towns, and that’s pretty much it.” Liam chuckled, his eyes crinkled in delight.

                “Well, Saturday night should be fun then.” Louis frowns.

                “I still don’t understand why you invited those Lords to the party, Liam,” he voiced his concern, “I don’t see how any good can come from that.”

                It was Louis’ idea to throw a gala in King Liam’s honor. He wanted to show his solidary to his King in front of the whole town. When Louis first arrived in York, he was appalled by many things. Lord Wexler purposefully understaffed the manor in order to keep as much money for himself. He over taxed the citizens and businesses of York, and owned King Liam and England as a whole a quite a bit of money, which Louis was steadfast in making sure was fully paid off.

                However, Louis was also surprised when he learned how most of the people in York were rather indifferent to Scottish people. He learned that yes, York didn’t really care for Scottish people, but they certainly didn’t ill of them. And in fact, most people in York didn’t want a war with England. They were for the most part loyal to England and to King Liam, and apparently had no problem with Queen Eleanor.

                “Told you before, Louis,” Liam sighed, “It’s all formalities. I’m more excited about properly meeting some of the people of York over the next week.”

                “I’ve set up a few meetings with various businessmen and farmers whom have all expressed desires to meet you,” Louis told him.

                Liam nodded approvingly, “Excellent.”

                “Oh, enough talk of business at the table!” Jay insisted wearily. She looked to Eleanor, “My dear, you’re quiet tonight. Are you feeling well?”

                Louis stared down Eleanor from across the table. The silence and sudden attention on her made the Queen give a sheepish, weak grin that Louis didn’t buy for a second.

                “My apologies, Jay,” Eleanor said flatly, “I’m just—tired from the journey. It’s been a long few days.”

                Beside Louis, Liam scoffed and shook his head as she passive aggressively cut his piece of steak. The gesture made Louis’ eyes widen. The King was always so composed, so polite and well mannered. He would hardly ever show his true emotions in public, so for Liam to openly show annoyance like that was so…strange. Eleanor stared blankly down the table at her husband before sighing gravely.

                What in the actual Hell was going on between them?

                Louis was determined to find out.

                “I’m terribly sorry to hear that, love,” Jay commented, but smiled as she asked, “How was your brother’s coronation last week?”

                At that, Eleanor seemed to perk up a little.

                “Oh it was wonderful!” she exclaimed, and even sounded happy, “It was nice seeing my family again, and Scotland is just as beautiful as I remembered.”

                “If I may add,” Sophia chimed in, “I’ve never been to Scotland before, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was so…rustic! The nature up there is superb!”

                As Louis took a sip of his wine, he looked across the table.

                Eleanor was back to staring down at her plate.

                And Liam was fondly looking at Sophia.

                Interesting.

                “Well we might just need to go up to Scotland then!” Jay proposed, asking her son, “Louis dear, you and King Harold were friends during the war, right?”

                Nodding, Louis responded, “Yes, yes. He’s a great gentleman, natural born leader and lots of charm. I have no don’t he’ll be a fine king.”

                Eleanor didn’t look up from her abandoned meal, but Louis saw from across the table that she smirked at Louis’ words.

                After dinner, Liam asked Louis if they could talk privately in the den. Louis agreed reluctantly, and watched as Eleanor left the dining hall his mother and Lady Sophia. Once in the den, Liam went straight for the bottle of Cognac and poured himself a small glass. He turned to Louis and offered one to him, but Louis declined. Liam shrugged before kicking back the drink, as Louis looked on with weary eyes.

                “You were never a huge drinker before, Liam,” Louis commented curiously.

                Liam smirked painfully, “Yeah well. I didn’t seem to have very many reasons to drink before.”

                At that, Louis paled.

                “Something seems off with you Liam,” Louis stated, although his thoughts were mainly on Eleanor and how different she was. But still, Louis needed to know whatever information he could gather, and so he asked, “What has happened?”

                The king shook his head sagely, “Lou—I dunno. Just, things have been so strange lately.”

                “How so?” Louis urged, trying so hard to not sound as desperate as he felt. The King let out a huff and he threw his head back against the back of his chair.

                “I’m getting a lot of pressure from my counsel, Louis,” Liam began to explain, adding lowly, “They are adamant that me and Eleanor must start having children soon.”

                Louis swallowed thickly, and desperately forced himself to remain cool under tension.

                “But…your counsel shouldn’t have a say in when you start your family,” he reasoned.

                Liam nodded stiffly, “I tried telling them that, believe me. That was a very awkward and unpleasant conversation with a bunch of old men,” he scoffed, and Louis let out a huff of laughter. Liam went on, “But they insist that now’s a proper time to do so, since there’s no threat to my life or the country anymore since the war ended. And apparently, my subjects are excited at the idea of a baby prince or princess and that would be good morale for the citizens.”

                Louis looked away, and dug his nails into the armrest of his chair as he ask reluctantly.

                “What does Queen Eleanor want?”

                “The Hell if I know,” Liam responded rather quickly, shocking Louis a little.

                “Wh—”

                “I barely speak to her now days Lou,” Liam confided in his friend, “It’s like, the past couple of months have been so strained between us. And yeah, I know her father died not that long ago. I know what it’s like, Lou—I lost both of my parents so suddenly and it’s bloody awful.”

                Louis held his breath as he nodded in agreement, waiting eagerly for Liam to continue.

                “So I’ve tried being patient with her, I have. But Eleanor hasn’t even acknowledged me these last few months at all. She’s been in quite a state since her father died. She barely leaves her chambers, she hardly eats and spends most of her days sleeping away the hours. Imagine my position, with my counsel heavily encouraging me to get my wife pregnant for the fate of my bloodline, but my wife refuses to leave her bed?”

                Louis coughed tightly, his heart racing.

                “Yes, um—I couldn’t help but notice there was some tension between the two of you tonight at supper.”

                Liam bite his lip and nodded timidly, “I know I should be more mindful, and I’m sorry you witnessed that. I thought that if I took her back to Scotland for King Harold’s coronation Eleanor would get better. I thought she’d perk up and be her old, pleasant self again. But it didn’t happen. Um, I tried one night while we were in Scotland to be together.”

                At that, at the thought of his beloved in the same bed with another man besides him, Louis could feel bile tickle the back of his throat.

                “And?” Louis asked thickly, feeling sick. Liam glared off to the side.

                “She rejected me, fought me off like I was some sort of monster,” he said weakly, “She’s repulsed by me.”

                “No,” Louis insisted, but Liam shook his head.

                “She is though, and the funny thing is—I don’t blame her. I don’t blame Eleanor one bit for not wanting me anymore. Because I—”

                Liam stopped abruptly. Louis watched his old friend close his eyes as he took a long breath.

                “What, Liam?” he pressed, but Liam shook his head. Suddenly, he was up on his feet and halfway towards the door.

                “I’m sorry for keeping you up, good friend,” Liam told him in haste, “You must be tired, as am I. I-I probably won’t remember most of this conversation come tomorrow.”

                Louis’ eyes widened, “But—”

                “Thank you again for opening your estate for us this week,” Liam told him with a fake smile plastered on his lips, “It’s a magnanimous gesture. But I must be going to bed—the journey and the wine has made me sleepy.”

                “Of course,” Louis rushed out, “My home is opened to you my friend and king any time.”

                Liam nodded and turned to open the door. He left without saying goodnight, and Louis was left in the den more confused then when he entered his den. His brain thumped against his skull as he mulled over the odd conversation he just had and reached for the Cognac to pour himself a glass as well. Quincey came in the den at some point, to see if the Lord needed his assistance with anything, but Louis waved him off and gave him the rest of the night off. It was still all bizarre to him, that he had staff that answered to him. Louis wasn’t sure he’d ever get use to that.

                Some time later, when the whole estate was dark and quiet, Louis wondered the halls towards his own chambers with a lone candle in his hand. He walked down the long hall of the second floor and knew that he was on the opposite end of the manner that he should have been. The manner was essentially a huge square shape, and Louis was walking in the eastern portion where quests were staying. He slowed down a bit as he approached the second to last bedroom at the right side of the hall. Louis held his breath as he stood at the door and listened.

                On the other side of the door, Louis could hear the woman he loved more then anything in the world crying hysterically. Out of reflex his hand reached for the doorknob, but he froze. He bit his lip as he stood by the door, his heart breaking at the sound of Eleanor weeping. And the fact that he had no idea why Eleanor was crying made it worse because he had no idea how to fix all this because he didn’t know what happened since he left.

                But Louis was determined to find out.

                Sleeping was still an issue for Louis, even though so many months passed since the war. On most nights, he would manage to sleep for four maybe five hours and that would be enough to sustain him for the day.

                But that night, Eleanor’s cries rang mercilessly in Louis’ ears and he didn’t sleep a wink.

~~~

                At morning tea in the garden the next day, Jay stated.

                “There’s something wrong with Eleanor.”

                Louis stopped lifting his teacup halfway to his mouth and openly gawked his mother, “Well, obviously there is.”

                Jay gave him a pointed look, “I’m being serious here, Louis! Something is terribly wrong with her! I could tell the second she got off the carriage yesterday, and I can assume you did so as well.”

                Louis swallowed his tea thickly and nodded.

                She continued, “I tried talking to her last night after supper, but she refused to speak. She told me she was tired and went off to her guestroom.”

                At the mention of the guestroom, Louis coyly looked up at the window directly above the gardens behind his mother. He knew Eleanor was up there, since she hadn’t left her room at all since last night. When she didn’t show up for breakfast, Liam shook his head annoyingly and Sophia seemed to share a same concerned expression on her face as well.

                Jay caught Louis staring up at the window in Eleanor’s room.

                “Have you had a chance to talk to her alone?” she asked quietly, all too aware of the many servants and guests roaming about the manner.

                Louis shook his head, “Haven’t had the chance to yet. Liam insisted we talk after supper last night.”

                “Did he mention any reason as to why Eleanor is in such a state?” his mother asked. Louis pursed his lips.

                “Mainly, he spoke about his own woes, about how he’s being pressured about having children soon by his counsel.”

                Jay frowned, “Louis, Eleanor is in no state to carry a child right now.”

                “I know,” Louis sighed as he rubbed his temple.

                “Oh Louis,” Jay sighed, and reached out to pat her son on his knee, “I’m sorry. That must have been hard for you to hear.”     

                Why yes, it was hard for Louis hearing that. It hadn’t gotten easier, the distance and the time hadn’t made it easier at all.

                “Well it is what is yeah? She’s married to him and she’ll have to have his children someday. I guess—Liam said he tried to be intimate with Eleanor while they were in Scotland, but it didn’t go so well. She rejected his advances, and that’s just one of many reasons why he’s so frustrated with her. Apparently she’s been this distant since her father died.”

                “He must be patient with her.”

                “Of course—he knows, or at least he’s trying to be.”

                Jay shook her head, “But she won’t be honest with Liam, she won’t tell him a thing. She’ll only open up to you.”

                “Maybe, perhaps Sophia knows what’s going on with her.”

                “I doubt it.”

                Louis nodded to himself and gave another glance up at Eleanor’s room.

                “Okay, I will talk to her tonight,” he told his mother.

                At that, Jay smiled softly, “I still believe there’s a way you two could be together one day.”

                “Mum,” Louis sighed.

                “I know it’s complicated, and I know you feel obligated to remain loyal to Liam, but son. You’ve already had an affair with Eleanor—you can’t take that back. And we know Liam, we know he’s kind and considerate. He wouldn’t take away your new title or kill you.”

                Louis shook his head, “It’s not me I’m worried about, mum. It’s…different when a man has a mistress. That’s considered okay in our society. But when a woman cheats on her husband, it’s—”

                “Are you suggesting that Liam would put Eleanor to death for having an affair?” Jay gawked, “Louis, he is just and kind.”

                “Yes, but every man has his limits,” Louis whispered, “And besides, with him being the King, he might not have a choice.”

                “But he’s the king, Lou,” Jay stated, “He can do whatever he wishes. And I know he wouldn’t hurt you or anyone Lou, it’s not in his nature.

Louis remained silent, too caught up in his own thoughts. Perhaps she was right, maybe everything would work out. But at the same time, it wasn’t as if Louis could just come up to Liam and tell him that he had laid with his wife. Kings have killed their own wives in the past before. Liam was capable of such as well. Louis couldn’t imagine that going over too swimmingly. Regardless, Louis was in a rough place. More than anything, he just wanted to be by Eleanor’s side and comfort her during this clearly difficult time. At the same he couldn’t let Liam suspect anything. He had an estate to run, a town to manage and a King to please. Liam surely would be furious to discover the man whom he considered a brother was in love with his wife.

In all of the scenarios Louis spent hours slaving over for the past several months regarding how he could make Eleanor his, none of them resulted with a happy ending. 

The mother leaned over and took her son’s hand in her own.

                “You must have faith, my son,” Jay insisted, “I—When you first told me of your history with Eleanor, I wasn’t that pleased. I was worried for you, as you seem to always be on this matter. But now, after you told me how happy you are with her and much you love her—I must believe that the Heavens have willed you two to be together.”

                Louis shook his head, “Mum.”

                “You must believe that too, that you are destined for the very best in this world,” Jay continued. She reached up and cupped Louis’ cheek, “You have defined all odds against you, Louis. Your father abandoned us when you were just a baby, and I couldn’t provide you very much in this world. But yet, you worked hard every day. You became a strong young man, a protector of the King. And now the fates have granted you a title, and I—I’m still in awe of everything you’ve accomplished Louis.”

                Jay sniffled, and Louis bite his lip to keep his emotions at bay. Seeing his mother in tears affected him so much.

                “I always wanted to make you proud mum,” he confessed, and Jay gave a shaky grin.

                “You have made me proud, Louis. I’ve always been so bloody proud of you,” she assured him, “But now love, I want you to be happy. I want you to be with the woman who makes you happier then you ever thought was possible.”

                That would be Eleanor, no doubt.

                “I don’t know if it’s possible,” Louis told her lowly.

                Jay paused for a while before she said, “Anything is possible my love.”

                Louis wanted to believe that. He should have easily believe that because of everything he had been through and everything he had achieved through believing in himself.

                But he just couldn’t.

~~~ 

                Eleanor was missing from the table at supper as well.

                “My Queen sends her regards,” Sophia had spoken up at the beginning of dinner, “But she is feeling ill and will not be eating with us.”

                Louis tried his best not to frown with concern, but he wasn’t sure he was able to be discrete. Liam failed at being not upset, and Jay was quick with a few polite words to keep the room at ease. But Eleanor’s absence was deafening. Louis could not eat knowing she was in his estate and unwell. He kept glancing over at her empty place setting.

                Louis could only stomach half of his meal before excusing himself for the evening.

                He fetched a servant and ordered them to get a tray of that night’s dinner for the Queen. Within minutes, Louis watched the same servant rush up the stairs. He waited, tucked into a deserted hall until the same servant returned to the main level and walked away without noticing the Lord.

                Louis found himself in front of Eleanor’s room a few moments later. He was so excited to see Eleanor the day before, but now—now Louis was terrified. He swallowed thickly and touched the cool metal doorknob. He let himself in slowly, not bothering with knocking at all.

                One step into Eleanor’s guest room, and Louis’ breath was lodged in his throat.

                His beloved was curled up on the mattress with the blankets up to her chin. The room was dark, except for a lone candle that was mounted to the wall beside the door. The tray the servant had just brought up to her room sat on a stool at the foot of her bed, untouched. The door creaked as Louis walked in farther, and the sound made Eleanor’s eyes open up.

                At the sight of Louis in her presence, Eleanor picked her head up from the bed a few inches. Her eyes, those gorgeous amber eyes that Louis found himself daydreaming of for months, had a startled look in them as she watched him, waiting for something to happen.

                Louis opened his mouth, desperate to say anything, but he couldn’t find the words.

                “I was wondering when you’d show up,” Eleanor spoke up flatly, her voice soundly horse.

                The Lord was stunned by the bold words, but manly how dull Eleanor sounded as she spoke. It wasn’t like her.

                Louis sheepishly answered, “I…wasn’t sure you’d want me to come.”

                Eleanor froze and pursed her lips. She didn’t reply either way, only dropped her head back down on the pillow.

                Louis tried not to be too hurt by that response. It wasn’t what he expected at all.

                He made sure the close the door behind him, first and foremost. Then, Louis took the candle off the table beside the bed and lit it using the candle on the wall. Turning around and walking hesitantly towards the bed, Louis could see his beloved’s face more clearly with the additional light. Eleanor’s eyes were dull, with the white portions being a shade of pinkish-red. Louis set the candle down on the table, and to his surprise, Eleanor began to shuffle to the other side of the bed. She peeled back the covers, silently inviting him into the bed, and Louis’ throat grew dry from the sight of her in her nightgown. But Louis knew no such intimate actions were going to happen that night, not with Eleanor being in such a state.

                But Louis settled himself into the comfortable, in the spot that was warm from Eleanor’s body. He pulled the covers back up to their chins even though he felt hot under his collar, because Eleanor looked exceedingly happy to be concealed once more. Louis gave her a sad smile as he stroked her cheek. The gesture made Eleanor flinch a little bit, but within seconds she visibly melted under his fingers.

                “What is wrong, my love?” Louis asked softly, pleadingly.

                His beloved shook her head, her eyes boring into his, “Nothing—in this moment there is nothing wrong. For the first time in so many days, the pain that has been haunting me seems to quiver under your touch, Louis.”

                Her words made Louis blush a little.

                But they didn’t answer his question.

                “You know what I mean, El,” Louis urged. He watched as fear returned to his beloved’s eyes and Eleanor looked away nervously. She didn’t say a word and the ache that had sat in Louis chest for over a day began to spread over his body again. He sighed and pulled her in his arms. Eleanor sighed contently once in his chest, and her fingers tightly curled into his back desperately.

                Louis hummed softly as he petted Eleanor’s matted hair, “I must agree with you, my love. With you back in my arms all the troubles of the world seem to vanish.”

                “I’m missed you so much Louis,” Eleanor admitted into chest, “I’ve yearned for you so much these last few months—you have no idea. The only thing that has encouraged me to go on was knowing that one day we’d be like this once more.”

                Louis held back a gasp.

                “My love, you must tell me what is hurting you so much,” Louis pleaded. He placed a kiss gingerly on her scalp, and pulled Eleanor deeper against his body as he told her, “I cannot make you feel better until I know what is wrong.”

                Eleanor was silent for a few seconds before she whispered, “I can’t tell you.”

                “Please love,” Louis begged softly, “I’ll fix it—whatever it is I can help you get better. Just let me help you.”

                A shaky breath left Eleanor’s lips, and the sound broke Louis’ heart.

                “El, what has got you so upset?”

                Eleanor was quiet as she answered him, “You’d hate me if I told you what happened.”

                Louis frowned deeply at this, “My love, that could never be. Nothing you say or do could ever make me stop loving you.”

                “You say that now, because you don’t know,” Eleanor insisted dully, her voice breaking off at the end.

                “Please—” Louis tried again, because he couldn’t stand this anymore.

                But Eleanor’s hands squeezing his back with the force of God stopped him.

                “Don’t—” Eleanor began, her voice sounding wet, “Please—can we just not talk? I just—I can’t talk about it. I just—can we just stay like this? Can you—can you hold me, please? I missed you terribly.”

                “Of course,” Louis agreed easily, mainly not wanting to upset Eleanor anymore. At that her hands eased up a little bit and Louis could feel her relax in his arms. He turned his head and kissed the side of her head.

                “I’ve missed you too, my love,” Louis assured her, “I’ve missed you so much.”

                Eleanor’s fingers skimmed over the side of his neck and seconds later her lips were on the column of his neck. Louis grew silent as she pecked him softly, perfectly. He had been craving this for months, and Louis wasn’t going to screw it up by talking now. He’d get the truth out of Eleanor soon enough, but first he needed to comfort her, be there for her.

                The hours passed, and Louis remained still as Eleanor fell asleep on top of him. She looked like an angel in her slumber, as if whatever woes that had such a grip on her during the day took pity on her during sleep. Maybe that was why Eleanor stayed in her room, and Louis could understand that. But he also knew Eleanor needed to get better, and to do that she’d have to leave her room.

                Louis spent most of the night conjuring up different ways to put a smile on his beloved’s face, determined to do whatever he needed.

~~~

                Sometimes, Louis missed his days as knight.

                He was grateful for being a Lord. He didn’t have to work as hard for an income, his mother was able to retire and never lift a finger again in her life. He lived comfortably in a large estate, with people working under him to fulfill any request or demand. Louis knew most people would kill to be in his position, to be where he was.

                However, running an estate and subsequently a town wasn’t all it was hyped up to be.

                There were tons of meetings about taxes and businesses in the land. When Louis took over, he was stunned at how much the people of York were taxed just to support Wexler’s lavish lifestyle. He immediately lowered taxes for all people, which earned good graces with many of them. He also began having a more personal relationship with farmers and business owners, often listening in on their issues and would try to come of with ways to resolve them.

                So yes, Louis was thankful for his Lordship, but he missed his rowdy days of being a knight.

                That’s why Louis would always make an effort to continue training like he used to as a knight.

                An abandoned old shed on the property became the perfect place for Louis to wield his sword like the good ole days in secrecy. He’d venture off in the barn most mornings early on before most of the servants were even awake. He’d practice for a least an hour, using scrap pieces of large wood as a post to whack with his old trusted sword. He longed for the adventurous days, where he never was stooped up in an office talking about wheat production or tariffs.

                The morning after his evening in Eleanor’s room, Louis found himself working up a sweat in the shed. It felt so natural, swinging his old trusted sword with precision and grace since he was a boy. When he practiced, Louis often became entranced while practicing his sword. He took out his frustrations of his Lordship, of the meeting he was scheduled to have with King Liam and the other Lords of the war in just a few short days. But the main thing that lingered in his mind with every strike his blade made with the wooden post was Eleanor.

                Suddenly, the quiet shed echoed with the sound of a loud creak that came from behind him.

                Louis spun around, his sword pointing towards the intrusion.

                Eleanor stood timidly by the door, watching him intently. She was still in her nightgown, with just a thin robe hanging on her shoulders. She didn’t appear to be nervous, despite the fact that Louis was still dumbly pointing his sword at her. In fact, she seemed more focused on Louis’ bare chest, which was coated in a thin veil of sweat. The Lord remained perfectly still as the queen approached him. Her eyes lifted and locked her gaze with Louis’ eyes. He watched her closely as she stopped beside him. Eleanor slowly lifted her hand up to his chest.

                Louis held his breath in as her eyes dropped down to his chest once more. Eleanor’s fingers glided over a scar over his shoulder. Just the touch of it brought back the horrid memories of that night. It felt like a lifetime ago, back when Louis was just a knight and Eleanor was just a foreign princess. It seemed so simple before that night, when he was just tasked with bringing Eleanor to England. It was before the surprised attack from Wexler’s men, before the war and before Louis had properly fallen in love with Eleanor.

                Now though, everything seemed far more complicated.

                “Why do you keep fighting?” Eleanor asked lowly, her hand still pressed into his skin. She pressed on, “You don’t need to fight anymore.” She was frowning deeply, and Louis wished he could give her a decent answer.

                But.

                “I dunno,” Louis exhaled, and tossed his sword to the side.

Eleanor bit her lip and turned away. Wordlessly she walked around the quaint shed. Louis wiped his brow from off to the side of the room as he watched her. Eleanor stopped in front of the post to admire Louis’ work with his sword and studied it closely. Louis quickly slipped on his shirt once more and joined Eleanor up at the post

“What are you fighting?” he asked flatly, pleadingly, “What demons are you fighting, my love?”

Eleanor shook her head and refused to look at him, “I can’t tell you Louis.”

“You shouldn’t have to fight this hard,” he insisted. He pulled Eleanor into his arms, but she still could not look at him. Louis didn’t understand why she couldn’t, but he persisted, “Whatever it is that is hurting you, I can help you. I’ll fight with you, my love.”

“You’d hate me, Louis,” Eleanor declared woefully, “You would hate me, and I-I can’t let that happen.”

“I already told you I could never hate you, Eleanor,” Louis tried to convince her again, “Have you such little faith in me? In our love? Do you think we have a weak love that diminishes at the first sign of trouble?”

Eleanor scoffed at that, “You’re one to talk. Not even a year ago, you were in a similar state as I was.”

“Yes,” Louis agreed tightly, “Yes I was, and I made the terrible mistake of taking too long to confide in the one person that would make me better.”

Eleanor turned to him then, her eyes thick with tears, “So you’re all well now then?”

No he wasn’t, at least not completely.

But Louis wouldn’t reveal as much.

“I became much better once I told you what was wrong with me,” Louis insisted, “So yes, I am better now.”

Eleanor glanced down at that, and muttered, “That’s why I cannot tell you.”

Louis stood dumbfounded as Eleanor hastily left the shed. He felt horrible, that whatever Eleanor was going through, she didn’t feel confident enough to tell Louis about it. But Louis knew he didn’t have much ground to gripe about this, that he did the very same thing to her months before. He now just hated himself more that he did hide his woes from her for so long. Maybe he planted some doubt in Eleanor that had since lingered?

Either way, a heaviness settled in Louis’ chest as he left the shed.

~~~

                “My Lord, a Sir Malik and a Sir Horan have just arrived on the grounds.”

                Louis smirked delightedly at Quincey’s words from his desk and stood up immediately.

                He hadn’t seen Zayn or Niall in ages, and perhaps they’d be a perfect distraction for him.

                Once outside his estate, Louis stopped and cursed.

                “Bloody Hell Niall!” he gasped in shock, “You’re a fucking beast, lad!”

                Niall rolled his eyes sheepishly, but it was true.

                Long gone were the days of Niall being a screwy young knight. It was clear to Louis that Niall had accelerated his training mainly by the large biceps he now processed. He seemed…taller almost, a brute of a man that came out of nowhere. Even his hair looked different, having gone from a dirty blonde color to all brown. The stubble on his cheeks was something Louis couldn’t exactly get over. Surely the boy was still too young for facial hair? Evidently not.

                Zayn came up beside Niall and gave him a hearty pat on his pat.

                “Like my work Lou, yeah?” he boasted, and Louis took a second to look over his old friend.

                He looked much like what Louis remembered of him, not having quite the dramatic change as Niall had. But Zayn’s hair is longer then Louis recalled, with strands going just past his chin. He also had an extra gleam in his amber eyes, but Louis had an inkling as to why.

                Niall frowned at Zayn’s words, “I seem to recall me doing most of the work in training while you just shouted commands at me from the side.”

                Louis scoffed and sputtered a laugh. Zayn waved him off.

                “Whatever,” he turned to Louis, his eye comedically growing wide, “Ooooh, speaking of change! Look at you lad! All posh and proper now?”

                Zayn dug his knuckled into Louis scalp, making th Lord wince before he shoved him off. He looked at Zayn closely before pulling him into a deep hug.

                “Missed you,” Louis admitted, being painfully true.

                He didn’t have very many friends up here.

                Zayn echoed this, “Me too, man. The palace doesn’t feel the same without you or Jay.”

                Louis was touched by this.

                “I’m so glad you both are here,” Louis says as he broke his hug with Louis.

                Niall chuckled, and nodded towards Zayn, “It took us a couple extra days to leave the palace because this one here didn’t want to leave Perrie.”

                “Sod off,” Zayn whined, but his cheeks reddened madly.

Louis grinned widely, “How far along are she?”

“Five months,” Zayn boasted proudly, and added on, “She’s doing great, even starting to show a little bit more every week. But I wish she would just slow down a little bit and just take it easy.”

“That doesn’t seem to be Perrie’s way,” Louis commented, and Niall laughed.

“Yeah you can imagine how much she hates him constantly nagging her to sit down and drink water.”

Zayn glared at Niall, “Excuse me for wanting my wife and baby to be healthy.”

Holy shit, Zayn was going to be a father in mere months.

Where has the time gone?

“Congratulations again,” Louis said, “You’re gonna make a great father.”

Zayn shyly smiled at the ground.

Niall spoke up then, “Well come on, Tomlinson! I’m dying to check out this quant little place you got here, yeah?” Him and Zayn snorted with laughter.

Louis just rolled his eyes and showed his friends inside his manner.

Come dinner time, the conversations and catching up had not settled down any bit. Jay kept bugging Zayn over questions about Perrie and the baby. And Liam took to opportunity to inform his head knight Zayn over everything that happened in the trip to Scotland.

Louis found himself smirking as he looked around the table before his eyes landed on Eleanor for the fourth time that course. At least she was physically at the table that night, which was a huge step forward from the day before. But mentally, Eleanor was somewhere else, somewhere far beyond Louis’ grasp. She hadn’t touched her meat at all and only took small nibbles of her peas here and there. She also did not add anything to any of the conversations, and Louis was dying to hear her voice. Sure he loved hearing Zayn, Niall and Liam talk but at the end of the day Eleanor’s voice mattered the most.

“Again, thank you for allowing me to stay behind for the Scotland trip, your majesty,” Zayn commented, “I didn’t feel comfortable leaving behind my wife for that long in her condition.”

Liam waved him off with ease, “Of course Zayn. Not a trouble at all! The other knights that accompanied me on the trip are set to leave tomorrow for London, and we’ll be back in London this in nine days. So Perrie should be just fine with her family until then.”

Louis paled a bit at the mention of everyone leaving.

Nine days.

He had nine days to fix Eleanor.

“A toast,” Liam declared proudly as he raised his glass, and everyone at the table scrambled to follow the King’s actions, “A toast to Zayn for impending fatherhood and Perrie for good health and strength for the new Malik!”

                Liam stopped, his smile dropping to annoyance as he looked over to his wife.

                Louis swallowed thickly.

                “Eleanor, dear,” Liam said tightly, “Care to actually join us?”

                The thumping rate of his heartbeat could be felt in Louis’ ears and looked back and forth between Eleanor and Liam. The Queen froze at her husband’s voice and lifted her head slowly. She held a stone-cold glare in her eyes, but Liam seemed unaffected by it. But within a few tense seconds, Eleanor’s tight lips curled up into a phony smile as she lifted her full glass.

                “My apologies,” she muttered.

                Louis looked back at his King, just in time to see him barely conceal a tired exhale.

                Thankfully, Sophia spoke up.

                “To Zayn!” she cheered, rather cutely as she tapped her glass with Niall’s. It seemingly ended the awkwardness, for just a moment at least.

                But once dinner was declared to be finished, Eleanor politely excused herself before briskly leaving the room. Louis didn’t even have time to properly stand from his chair before Eleanor was out of the room. Trying to conceal his disappointment and concern, Louis offered drinks in his den to Liam, Zayn and Niall. Liam declined kindly, claiming he was too tired, and Niall echoed the same sentiment. But Zayn accepted Louis’ offer and the Lord led the way to his den.

                It didn’t take very long for Louis to bring up Eleanor.

                “It’s been like that for months,” Zayn responded to Louis’ inquiries.

                The Lord frowned, “Really?” Zayn nodded slowly.

                “It started out with little spats, only really noticed by their personal servants who then would gossip about it to others in the palace. At first, Liam tried to keep up the façade that they were a loved-up couple. But then over time, I dunno mate—it must just have gotten to him. Now they barely talk to each other, they haven’t been in the same room on their own in months either. And Liam is clearly frustrated with her and his marriage, but he hasn’t spoken to me about it, or any of his friends for that matter.”

                “Seriously?” Louis questioned.

                Zayn pursed his lips, and carefully pondered his next words before telling him.

                “Liam has been hanging out with Sophia.”

                Louis’ eyes widened.

                “Just the two of them?” Zayn nodded, and Louis slumped back in his chair by the fire. He took a second to sip on his wine before stating, “I mean, I sort of sensed something between the two of them. But I just assumed Sophia had a school girl crush on him.”

                “I think the infatuation is mutual,” Zayn told him. Louis shook his head.

                “But how? How can Sophia have any time with Liam? She’s Eleanor’s Lady in Waiting. Shouldn’t she be with Eleanor at all times?”

                “That’s the thing, though,” Zayn began, his head shaking, “I believe that Eleanor grew very distant once her marriage started collapsing. She hardly goes to any public functions now and spent more days in his chambers.”

                Louis swallowed thickly, “She’s been like that here too.”

                “It could be that she’s still grieving the loss of her father now,” Zayn reasoned, “But regardless. Because Eleanor wasn’t socially active, she’d often dismiss the ladies of her court. So that left Liam and Sophia the opportunity to get to know each other evidently.”

                “So Liam has taken on a mistress then?” Louis asked. It wasn’t too terribly uncommon for royal men to have mistresses. But Louis was just stunned that Liam would do it himself. He never appeared to be the type, but Louis’ all too aware that people change.

                Zayn winced at the words, “I still think Liam is too nice of a man to cheat on Eleanor, even if he doesn’t love her. I would consider Sophia to be more of a female companion.”

                Louis looked at the billowing fire growing in the fireplace.

                “Something’s wrong with her, Zayn,” he muttered.

                “Well Liam acts like she doesn’t exist.”

                At that, Louis shook his head, his leg bouncing, “It’s more then that. My gut is telling me it’s more then that.”

                It was quiet then, with only the crackling fire as the only noise in the room for a while.

                “Have you talked to her?” Zayn finally asked.

                “I’ve tried to,” Louis told him, “I kept asking her what’s wrong but she refuses to tell me. She claims that whatever it is—that I’ll hate her if I know the truth.”

                Zayn sighed, “Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Because you’re so over the moon for her that nothing could change that.”

                “I’ve told her that as well, but she still doesn’t believe me Zayn,” Louis hoe-hummed as he tapped the side of his glass.

                “I would keep trying,” his friend told Louis, “If anyone can break through to her it’s you. I recommend getting her out of this place for a while. She’s spent most of the past few months just hauled up in a bedroom, only coming out here and there for her duties. I saw Eleanor today and fear that the toll of losing her father may be more then she can bare in her state.”

                Louis swallowed thickly at Zayn’s words, “I’m planning on whisking away Eleanor tomorrow for the day. Think you could distract Liam all day?”

                “I doubt Liam will even notice Eleanor is gone,” Louis felt sick by Zayn’s words, “But yeah. I’ll keep Liam busy tomorrow.”

                “Thanks mate,” Louis exhales. The silence returned for just a moment as Louis collected his thoughts. He mustered up the courage to ask the thought that has been haunting him for close to two years now.

                “Do you think it could actually work Zayn?” Louis asked lowly, afraid of the answer. He made himself looked up at his friend, “Could Eleanor and I actually be together after all this?”

                Zayn remained silent, as he usually did most of the time. He was always such a quiet man, more comfortable secluded in his perspective of things and rarely gave out these well thought ideas and opinions. But now more then ever, Louis needed to know.

                “I think,” Zayn started out, before exhaling deeply. He looked at Louis with pity in his eyes, “I think that sometimes, miracles happen. That even though things may look grim and impossible, sometimes it works out favorably. I just—Louis no one can predict the future on these things, and I’ve never been one to believe in God or fate or whatever. But if you do, if you believe Eleanor is your soulmate, then I urge you to have faith my friend.”

                Louis flashed a weary smile at his friend before standing up. He walked halfway to the door silently before turning around and telling Zayn flatly.

                “You could’ve just said no, Zayn. I wouldn’t have been mad at you.”

                He left before Zayn could mutter a word.

                Louis still found himself hours later in Eleanor’s bedroom. He mulled over Zayn’s words, over his own insecurities and uncertainties for the future all the while holding onto the shell of the woman he fell in love with.

~~~

                Louis opened the stable door quietly and stepped inside.

                Eleanor followed him in just as subtly, but with curious eyes.

                “I think someone has missed you,” Louis told her, before lifting the candle towards the back of the stables.

                Thank Heavens Sable was already up, as Louis knew how cranky his steed could be if forcefully roused from sleep.

                Louis looked over and saw Eleanor smiling a little bit.

                “She’s still so beautiful, Louis,” Eleanor commented as she made her way towards him, picking her light weight dress up a little bit as she walked. Sable tilted her head into Eleanor’s palm.

                Louis came up behind her and stated, “I don’t get enough chances to go out and ride her anymore these days. Sable’s knees are wearing down on her, and—yeah. I just want to be gentle with her I guess.”

                Eleanor turned to him, her gaze blank but her voice genuine as she said, “That’s very kind of you Louis. Always thinking of others.”

                Louis ignore that last comment, mainly out of sudden bashfulness.

                “I think she’d be up for a ride today though,” Louis muses before going to pet his horse, “What say you Sable? A nice long ride out of the town for the day sounds just splendid.”

                “I agree,” Eleanor muttered lowly, and Louis felt his spirits soaring.

                “Sable will be your steed for the day,” Louis declared as he moved to the next stall over, “I got a new mustang a couple of months back.”

                Eleanor’s eyes light up as she went over to Louis. Peering into the stall, she gasped softly.

                “Oh Louis! He’s so beautiful too! And quite young by the looks of it.”

                Louis told her, “He’s around a year and a half old. Still a bit feisty but very well trained, always listens to me. The stable people think most of his fiery spirit is almost gone, and I have them to thank for it. He was given to me as a gift by one of the merchants in York a few months after I arrived here as a sign of good gesture.”

                “What’s his name?” Eleanor wondered.

                “Jasper,” Louis told her. Eleanor’s lips curled up cutely at the name and Louis wanted to kiss her then and there.

But he resisted.

It took everything to get Eleanor out of bed that morning. Louis had to plead with her repeatedly until she gave an unenthusiastic yes. Louis hoped Eleanor would enjoy her day with him, and more so Louis prayed he wouldn’t do anything to muck it up.

The set out just as the eager sun began to rise over the Eastern horizon. As they rode towards the rising sun, Louis would sneak glances towards Eleanor’s way, and every time became blinded by Eleanor’s beauty. She looked so powerful on top of the horse, so in control and in command of every aspect of her life. Louis just wish she felt that way, even though he often felt just as low and weak as well.

It just wasn’t fair, that someone so majestically beautiful had to endure so much pain.

Almost an hour later, the pair came up to a barren field.

“Louis,” Eleanor exhaled in awe as they came to a stop.

The Lord felt just as struck by this place.

There wasn’t a cloud at all in the sky. The sky and the land just seemed to go on forever in perfect harmony along the horizon. The land was somehow still left untouched by man, with no houses or buildings in sight at all—just nature. The grass was still a deep tan over all, but small signs of spring’s arrival were there as well. It was perfectly, all stunningly perfect and Louis knew Eleanor loved it.

“This is—wow,” Eleanor sighed.

Within seconds, the queen had hopped off her horse and began running off towards the horizon. It took Louis by surprise at just how fast Eleanor was. A few scrambled seconds later Louis was going after her. She ran like a wild stag in nature, rapid and not a single care in the world. But at some point, as Louis chased after her, Eleanor’s movements had changed. Her frantic sprinting grew into fluid, graceful motions, as if she were dancing in the field. Eleanor spun around at times, with her arms extended out like bird wings and her head lifted to the sky.

At one point, Louis just stopped trying to chase after he.

He watched instead, glued to Eleanor’s every twirl and jump. He could hear her panting from breath after a while, but yet she still kept on and Louis didn’t dare intervene. This was the most alive and free Eleanor ever looked and Louis didn’t want to stop her, he simply didn’t have the heart to.

Finally though, Eleanor collapses onto her knees in the damp grass. Louis made sure she was completely done, waiting a moment to be sure she wouldn’t jump back up and start running again. When that didn’t happen, Louis took slow steps towards her. He sat down beside her, with his feet planted on the ground in front of him and his knees becoming the perfect rests for his arms. He looked over to Eleanor and was puzzled by her blank expression.

After a while, she muttered.

“S-Sorry,” she said softly, “You…must think I‘m crazy.”

“I don’t,” Louis told her firmly.

Eleanor responded just as quietly as before, “I feel crazy these days, all the time.”

“You’re not crazy, El,” Louis tried to tell her. Eleanor ignore him, kept squinting her eyes out towards the horizon under the bright sun above them. The wind had picked up then, taking some strands of Eleanor’s wild and long amber hair and dragging them over her strained face.

“Seeing an open field like this,” Eleanor began, “it just—it takes me back to when I was a little girl you know? When I just got to run around in the afternoons after my studies. I never missed a day, never missed an opportunity to runabout day or night. Rain or shine, I always went to the fields outside of the palace in Scotland,” she chuckled softly, “My mother would always get so angry with me, but I never listened to her, I went every day.”

Eleanor paused before the added, “That is until I was sent to England to learn the English way. My schooling become more cumbersome, my duties piled on endlessly and I never was allowed out of sight for so long. I had chances here and there to sneak away when I arrived in London with you, but since being married sneaking away became much harder. More was expected of me, and my days were filled completely. But today, right now was the first time I was able to run around freely in years.”

Louis nodded, and Eleanor looked over to him with a gracious grin, “Thank you, Louis.”

The Lord brushed his thumb over her cheek, “Anything for you love.”

The pair remained quiet for some time, enjoying the beautiful vista surrounding them.

“The winter appears to be ending,” she commented out of place suddenly, “It’s warmer then it had been, no sign of rain in sight.”

Louis bit his lip, “It appears that way, yes.”

“I can’t shake it off though Louis,” Eleanor admitted, and Louis frowned.

“What off?”

Eleanor wrapped her eyes around herself, and Louis thought me saw her shivering a little bit, “I dunno, this bitter cold that swept in months ago and hasn’t seemed to leave me at all. It’s never left me, haunts me at all hours of the day.”

Louis pursed his lips, a deep frown set on his brow.

                But then Eleanor leaned over and dropped her head to Louis’ shoulder. She sighed after a second and told.

                “You, however—you’ve very warm. I actually feel warmer with you.”

                Louis smiled softly at that, “Thanks, my love.” He reached for her hands and she took it happily.

                She was right, she was cold, bitterly cold.

                Louis wrapped his arms around her, feeling colder then he did before. He pressed a firm kiss onto her scalp, hoping she felt it. 

                They stayed in the field for most of the day. Eleanor wasn’t really in a talking mood, and Louis was more then okay with that. Just being there with her immersed with natured and the sun beating down on them was more then anything Louis could wish for. At some points, the two mounted back on their horses and trotted around the field, talking to each other only to point out small aspects of the nature around them. At one point, some clouds had drifted in from the West and the two laid out on the ground to watch them roll past above them. Louis was able to convince Eleanor to eat a piece of apple, a small slice of cheese and a chunk of bread for lunch. She seemed reluctant but complied eventually.

                By the end of their time together, Louis was able to get Eleanor to smile genuinely for him.

                He counted it as a win.

~~~

                The Lord stared at his servant Quincey.

                “I’m sorry,” he stuttered, “But—who is here to see me?”

                “Sir James Trombley of Lancaster. He requested to meet in private, and that no one know of his presences here,” the servant stated once more.

                Louis paled a bit, but nodded, “Send the lad in.” He watched Quincey leave the room and took in a deep breath.

                James Trombley, son of Lord Richard Trombley of Lancaster.

                Louis fought and killed men of Lancaster, when they aligned themselves with Lord Wexler. He hadn’t met his son James before, but then again that wasn’t terribly surprising. Louis would not converse with Trombley or the other Lords that conspired against his King to commit high treason and start a war that killed thousands of good, innocent men form all over England and Scotland alike.

                Needless to say, Louis was a little on edge to see the son of one of his enemies.

                But then Quincey returned to his den with James in toe. The young man had the hood of his cloak over his face and walked with his head down. Once inside the room, the Lord’s son picked his head up and uncovered his face, revealing the slightly nervously expression on his face.

                He was so young, probably just seventeen or so. His limbs long and thin, and there was not a trace of facial hair on his cheeks.

                James was just a scared little boy in Louis’ presence.

                “Leave us, Quincey,” Louis ordered politely. Once the servant was out of the room, James rattled out quickly, lowly.

                “No one must know I was ever here, Sir.”

                Louis nodded sagely, “Of course, my servant has told me such and I can assure you know one will ever know we ever met.” He gave the boy a small smile and gestured to the chair, “Come, sit. What brings you to York today?”

                James sat down, his legs fidgeting as he did so. He told Louis, “Sir—”

                “Call me Louis, please.”

                James nodded stiffly, “Right. Louis, I come here in hopes that you may see that I am an ally to you and to York. There are many in Lancaster who share my same feelings.”

                “But not your father,” Louis retorted flatly. James swallowed thickly.

                “Yes, my father—he’s a stubborn old many with ancient beliefs and unjust grievances. He, as well I was, shocked when he received an invitation to your gala this weekend.”

                “It wasn’t my idea,” Louis assured him, “But rather, King Liam extended invitations to your father, Lord Smith of Leeds and Lord Harrison of Manchester. He hopes to restore the peace, as it were.”

                James shook his head, “Louis, I urge you to revoke their invitations.”

                “I cannot do that. It’s not proper, and beside King Liam was the one who wants them there. I can’t go against my King’s wishes.”

                “You can and must if it’s for the safety of the King,” James stated, and Louis’ eyebrows furrowed as his chest tightened.

                “My boy, what do you know?”

                James shrugged, “Not much I’m afraid. Just—I saw a letter from Lord Harrison of Manchester to my father. In it, the Lord was plotting to get together the day before the party to come up with a plan to get even with King Liam and possibly even you. In it, he stated that Lord Smith of Leeds had already agreed to come up with a plot of destruction at the party.”

                “What did your father have to say about this?” Louis asked firmly, his fingers curling up in a fist.

                “I didn’t get to see the letter with his response,” he admitted, but added on, “But knowing him and his ways, I’m certain he is conspiring with Harrison and Smith.”

                Louis sat back in his seat and eyed the boy closely.

                “How can I trust you?” he wondered aloud, “You could be in this ploy as well for all I know. What boy would betray his father in such a manner?”

                James shook his head, “Louis, I do not agree with anyone of my father’s misguided and angered beliefs at all. Since you became Lord of York, I’ve heard of the tremendous growth that has transpired. Your methods are modern and are leading to prosperous results. The sons of Smith and Harrison, we all have taken noticed and wish to take on the same strategy as you have to improve our own lands. But our fathers, they’re corrupt vengeful men that are still bitter. They haven’t learned their lesson at all, they’re still holding onto vicious ideas of the past. And they desire to get payback for what has happened.”

                Louis looked over the boy with a heated glare. Nothing in the boy’s features showed that he was lying, which was a good sign.

                But.

                “I’m still unsure if I should believe you or not,” Louis admitted, “I can’t understand why three Lords would risk trying to do anything at a party that will be heavily guarded with knights. It would be a suicide mission, they wouldn’t make it out alive.”

                James shook his head, “You don’t have to believe me. Just—I urge you to be cautious. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to you or his Majesty.”

                With that, the boy got up and let himself out of the room. Louis mulled over the previous few moments. His heart was still racing, because the people in that room were going to be filled with everyone that mattered the most to him.

                His King.

                His mother.

                His best friends, in Zayn and Niall.

                And his beloved most importantly of all.

                His mind briefly flash backed to the first ambush Lord Wexler tried so long ago. Louis remembered painfully the terrible look of fear in Eleanor’s eyes when that happened. He recalled the second attempt at the engagement party of Liam and Eleanor, when spies of Wexler tried to poison the king at the end of supper. Again, Eleanor was struck with fear.

                Louis got out of his chair quickly with the mission of finding his king.

                This party couldn’t go on. Louis would do everything within his power to make sure it wouldn’t.

                It took ages to find Liam and when he did, the quick pace Louis had been walking came to an abrupt stop.

                He first heard them, a pair of glee filled laughter in the distance. Louis looked towards the noise and discovered that the sound came from the library with the door just slightly ajar. He approached the door carefully, treading on the tops of his feet to be as quiet as possible. He stopped at the side of the door and leaned over to steal a quick peek.

                Inside the library, Liam and Sophia were sitting on the floor, laughing and giggling over some book in Liam’s lap.

                Louis squinted at the scene, his heartrate picking up rapidly.

                Sophia reached for the book, but Liam moved it as far away from her as possible with his hand. Sophia protested amidst laughter and launched awkwardly on her side to get the book. Her efforts forced Liam down on the ground and the last thing Louis saw was Sophia on top of Liam with their faces just inches apart and desire deep in their eyes.

                He bolted out of there as quickly as he could.

~~~

                Louis’ chest was heavy under the metal plate, his breathing just as dazed and confused as his thoughts were.

                The screams of men being impaled by a sword roared loudly in his hears. Louis tried to look away, tried to cover his ears but he couldn’t escape it. All around him, men were meeting their fates, and Louis couldn’t stop it. Everywhere he looked, he saw man after man being stabbed with swards and axes through the fog. His body ached, yearned for Louis to slow down and stop but yet he found himself running seemingly nowhere. The hands of his enemies clawed at his armor, gripped into his arms to try and pull him back. Louis fought them all off, running pass all enemy soldiers and surging on to an empty field.

                Louis came to a stop, dread sinking in his gut at what he came upon.

                Lord Wexler stood atop a rock in the middle of the foggy field.

                He was holding Eleanor by her scalp and positioned a dagger to her neck. She looked terrified, and Louis felt the exact same way.

                Louis yelled, “Don’t hurt her!”

                “L-Louis?!” Eleanor screamed, “Help me Louis!”

                Wexler laughed at their pleas, and Louis felt his legs picking up again. He sprinted towards his beloved as fast as he could. But it wasn’t enough, for just as Louis got to the rock, Lord Wexler—

                “Louis, wake up.”

                Louis shot his eyes open, his chest panting hard for breath. A small hand rested on his chest, and another one stroked his cheek gingerly.

                “Are you okay?”

                Louis turned his head and focused his eyes on Eleanor. She was frowning deeply at him, and Louis hated being the cause of her worried little pout. Without thinking, Louis reached out and touched Eleanor’s cheek. She curved her face into his touch, her eyes still looking at him unsurely.

                Then she asked, “Were you having a nightmare, my love?” Louis gulped.

                “Yes.”

                “Do you get them often?” Eleanor asked.

                Louis shrugged meekly, “I dunno—a few times a month I reckon? Maybe more.” Eleanor’s hand glided over his chest as she listened to him. He swallowed thickly under her touch, and made himself refocus his brain on the conversation, “It’s not a big deal.”

                “What happens in these nightmares?” Eleanor asked gently. It was clear that was worried, that she cared about the demons that haunted Louis at night.

                It took Louis a minute or two before responding lowly, “The war, or like—stuff surrounding the war I guess. Usually I’m, um, on some sort of battlefield. There’s always a ton of other men, and I—I can hear them all scream, El. I can see them getting stabbed in battle over and over again.”

                “Oh Louis,” Eleanor sighed gravely. Her hand smoothed out over his chest once more. Louis relaxed slightly, his heartrate slowing down gradually. He watched her nibble on her lip for a moment just before she said, “Lou—tonight while you were having your nightmare, I woke up to you muttering my name.”

                Louis paled at that, “Oh.”

                “Was—I was in your nightmare?” she concluded, and Louis nodded stiffly.

                “That happens sometimes,” he explained weakly, hoping that would be enough for her. Of course, it wasn’t because Eleanor just stared at him with wide eyes, waiting for him to go on. Louis gave in with a heavy sigh, “In this dream, I came upon an empty field to find Lord Wexler had you in his grasp at knife point on top of a large rock. And I was running towards you, trying to save you from that wretched man. But,” Louis stopped, feeling sick at the images that came into his mind once more.

                Eleanor finished for him though, “But you didn’t get there in time.”

                Louis couldn’t look at Eleanor.

                “It’s not real though,” she told him, “None of that happened. You’re fine, Louis and I’m—well.” Louis turned and frowned at Eleanor. She looked up at the ceiling and shrugged.

                Hearing her pause, Louis turned over on his side, “El.” She sighed at his tone.

                “I’m fine,” she insisted.

                “You’re not,” Louis told her softly. He sighed lowly and explained as carefully as he could, “El, you’re not doing yourself any favors by keeping this all to yourself. And it’s not fair to me either.”

                Eleanor shot him a glare, “Not fair to you? What—you left me, remember that? How exactly were you being fair to me then?” Louis blinked, guilt seeping into his gut.

                “El—”

“You left me, went hundreds of miles away. I was all by myself, had no one to confide in anymore. And I was all alone when—” Eleanor pursed her lips, her eyes welled up in tears. Louis pulled in back in his chest swiftly.

                “Shh, my love,” Louis tried to calm her down, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I-I should’ve done more to keep in contact with you. But I got here and there were a million things that needed to get done and. I’m so sorry love. But every day I thought about you. I prayed for you every morning and night that you were safe and okay. That wasn’t enough, I know but I—Heavens, please forgive, El.”

                Eleanor didn’t forgive him. In fact, Eleanor didn’t say another single word to Louis for the rest of the night. She let Louis hold him close, and the Lord was grateful for that and didn’t let her go until sun was sneaking into the room through the window.

                Although Eleanor was right beside him, it felt like they were hundreds of miles away again.

                And that scared Louis.

~~~

                Eleanor was not at breakfast the next morning.

                Louis couldn’t say he was surprised exactly, but at the same time he spent the entire breakfast worrying about her. He felt so sick to his stomach about the whole ordeal the previous night. There wasn’t a chance in Hell he could eat his breakfast at the table, because the guilt sat thickly on his gut. Liam didn’t seem all the annoyed or surprised that his wife wasn’t at the table. He just appeared not to give a single care that his wife was absent, and that irked Louis so much.

                Once the others looked like they were done with their meals and half of them had already excused themselves, Louis bolted for the door.

                Sophia was standing in the hall, waiting for him.

                “May I speak with you in private, Lord Tomlinson?”

                Louis frowned at her words, all too aware that Liam was somewhere nearby watching them, “Um, I’m sorry Lady Sophia but I—”

                “It won’t take that long,” she assured him sweetly. And well, Louis found himself reluctantly nodding. It’s not like Louis didn’t like Sophia. She was very friendly and seemed to care about Eleanor to a certain extent. But after what Louis saw in the library, seeing the way she and Liam were acting around each other, Louis felt very protective over Eleanor. He feared Sophia was using Eleanor in her fragile state to get to Liam.

                And Louis had no idea what Sophia wanted of him.

                “What can I do for you?” Louis asked nervously once they were in his den. Sophia gave him a small grin.

                “I know you saw me and Liam in the library, Lord Tomlinson,” she revealed to him. Louis gulped thickly.

                “Please call me Louis in private,” he insisted. If they were going to have a very uncomfortable conversation, Sophia had the right to address him informally.

                “You don’t deny it then, Louis?” Sophia asked curiously.

                Louis shrugged feebly, “I mean, it’s not really any of my business. Um, Liam can take on a mistress if he pleases.”

                “I’m not a mistress, Louis,” Sophia insisted, her face turning cold, “I—We haven’t done anything. Liam and I just hang out and talk. He’s been lonely for months and needed a friend. I was there for him.”

                At that, Louis couldn’t help but scoff, “You should have been there for Eleanor. You’re here lady in waiting, you are bound by duty to help her in any way.”

                “I know,” Sophia admitted, even sounding a bit guilty, “But—I don’t know. The Queen has been going through a difficult patch and refused to see any of the ladies. The other women didn’t bother trying to stay and be with her. But I did, I genuinely care for Eleanor, and on the days she let me stay in her chambers with her, I did.”

                “But the other times, you were catering to King Liam,” Louis said gruffly. Sophia’s gaze sharpened.

                “He wanted to lay with me,” she told him flatly, “For months, King Liam’s tried to get under my dress. But I refused him.”

                Louis squinted his eyes at her, “Why?”

                “Because I’m not a mistress. I’m not just some girl to take to bed, to take the edge off for a night and then only be called when a man has his needs,” she explained. She sat farther back in her chair, looking taller and proud, “I desire to be loved and cherished, to be wed.”

                “Why are you telling me this?” Louis begged. But Sophia went on.

                “Liam has come to realize this, that I’m not just some night girl on call for him because he’s wife’s too sad to do her duties to him,” Louis felt sick at her blunt words, “And I think he might have even grown to love me as much as I do.”

                “Liam loves you?” Louis questioned, and Sophia shrugged.

                “I hope so,” she explained, then focused her eyes on Louis, “I aspire to have a man love me as much as you love Eleanor.”

                Louis’ eyes widened as a rock seemed to sink in his gut.

                “How did you—”

                “One day, a couple months back, I came into Eleanor’s chambers. Not surprisingly, she was still asleep,” Sophia explained, “But her hand was holding a dagger with the sheath still covering it.”

                The Lord swallowed thickly.

                Sophia smirked, “I pried it out of her hand, fearing mostly that she was intending on using it for herself.”

                “Please don’t” Louis pleaded. He couldn’t imagine Eleanor taking her own life.

                “Sorry,” she muttered, sounding genuine, “It was just—she seemed in the place where that could happened. And I didn’t want that, so I took the dagger away from her while she remained asleep. I looked at the dagger, wondering why she had such a weapon, and found your name etched in the sheath.”

                Louis looked away, feeling like a child being caught in a terrible lie.

                “I put two and two together. Plus other clues.”

                “Other clues?”

                Sophia hummed, “Eleanor was the one who suggested Liam come and visit you after the stay in Scotland. Liam agreed, mainly because he just wanted to make her happier. And she was, Louis. For the first time in months, Eleanor smiled when Liam agreed to come here.”

                Louis wasn’t sure how to feel about that, but his chest felt full.

                “And then I saw the way you looked at Eleanor when she arrived here,” Sophia went on. Louis looked back up at her, and found the Lady frowning slightly, “You looked horrified, like your whole world was crashing down. Because you knew, the second you saw her that something wasn’t right. You looked at her the way anyone would look at their loved one suffering and that was the final clue I needed.”

                “How long as she been like this?” Louis begged Sophia, “Surely, you know more then most.”

                “I do,” she agreed, “I came on as her Lady in Waiting nearly five months ago. For the first few weeks, she seemed like herself, and was happier then most women should be.”

                Louis prompted, “But then?”

                “Four months ago, I came into her room one morning. Eleanor was sobbing madly. I tried to calm her down, but it didn’t work. She—well, she became sick from crying so hard.”

                “Heavens,” Louis exhaled.

                “She banished me and the other ladies for a week,” Sophia explained, “When I went to see her after a week was up, she was in that sullen state she’s in now, but much worse. I was told by the staff she hadn’t eaten in days. I had to force her to take a couple of spoonsful of soup just to keep her alive.”

                “What happened to her?” Louis asked and Sophia shook her head.

                “I have no idea Louis,” she answered earnestly, “But I know you’re the only thing that can snap her out of this spell.”

                Louis shook his head, “My efforts have failed.”

                “You must try again,” Sophia urged him, “You love her Louis.”

                “But I fear she does not love me anymore,” Louis finally admitted, and Sophia sighed.

                “Louis, she does I know she does. Because she looks at you the same way I look at Liam. Your name and presences are the things that give a twinkle in her eyes.”

                Louis eyed Sophia closely, “Why are you doing this? For all I know, you just want Eleanor out of the picture so you can have Liam.”

                “Please,” she retorted, “If that were the case, I would have reported Eleanor’s infidelities to Liam and not have a care what were happen to her.”

                Louis shrugged slightly at that. She had a point there.

                “Plus, as I have to keep repeating myself, I do like Eleanor. I care for her, she’s a lovely woman and I want her to have her happy ending as much as I want mine. Everyone deserves that.”

                “You think Liam would let me and Eleanor live in peace?” Louis asked, “If he were ever to discover that Eleanor and I have been together while she was married to him, you seriously think everything will be okay? That he wouldn’t try to kill me or Eleanor?”

                Sophia frowned deeply, “You clearly don’t know Liam as well as you should. He’s the most gently King in the world. He would want you to happy, and I’m certain he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a loveless marriage either.”

                Louis bit his lip and looked to the ground.

                “This is all such a mess,” he sighed.

                “Just take it one issue at a time,” Sophia recommended, “Eleanor needs to the be the top priority, getting her well again is a must. Then we can figure out how to get all our happy endings.”

                Louis smirked slightly at that, picking his head back up. He wished he could be as optimistic as she was about this whole thing. But he just couldn’t, not completely at least. It was a little foolish to him to believe that everything could end up so smoothly. Surely it wouldn’t, it couldn’t. Sophia gave him a small smile, perhaps sensing his uncertainty, before she stood back up and turned for the door.

                “You know Louis,” Sophia said, turning back to him, “We’re not so different, are we?”

                Louis thought about it, and he found himself chuckling a little bit.

                “Yeah, I guess we’re not.”

~~~

                When Louis went up to Eleanor’s room that night, he didn’t find her in the bed.

                Panicking a little, he searched her room for any trace of her. His scanned over the window in the room, and he stopped briefly before leaving the room quickly.

                The evening wind was gentle on Louis’ exposed neck but came with a bitter touch. It didn’t matter though, because his forced was trained on the small candlelight he was walking towards in the garden.

                Or rather, Eleanor.

                His beloved stood before the thriving heather plant, her eyes fixated on it. Her long hair was braided to the side, and she looked like she was dressed in a nightgown. She was bundled up in a blanket but even from the distance, Louis would see her shivering. The warmth of the small candlelight beside her could not warm her, nor the blankets.

                “My love,” Louis greeted her once he was beside Eleanor. She stared intently at the heather plant as she reached out to softly pluck off one of the buds from the top of the plant. She lifted the pinkish flower to her nose and took in a deep inhale. She hummed shortly at the scent before pulling it away from her.

                “Your heather plant is beautiful, Lou. So vibrant and prosperous,” she commented, and added lowly, “My plant is all shriveled up back home.”

                Louis let out a tiny gasp.

                “El,” he sighed helplessly. He gently took hold of her shoulders, and slowly turned her around. Eleanor wouldn’t meet his gaze, her eyes looking down at the grass. He softly stroked her cheek, “My love, please tell me what happened. I promise, no matter what it is, I’ll always love you. Nothing you tell me will change that. I just—I want to help you. I need to know what or who hurt you like this so I can try and fix this.”

                Eleanor shook her head, her eyes still on the ground, “Y-You can’t fix it, Lou.”

                “Then just tell me,” he urged, “So that you don’t have to carry this burden on your own anymore.”

                At that, the Queen picked her head up. Her gorgeous deep brown eyes scanned over Louis’, her lip caught in her teeth. But Louis seemed to see something change in her eyes, that hollowness, that guard that had been there since Eleanor arrived in York seemed to drop. A surge of hope spiked in Louis’ chest, and Eleanor opened her mouth, her eyes locked on his.

                “When you left me the first time, you gave me your dagger as a token to remember you,” Eleanor said. Louis frowned, not expecting that at all, but nodded anyway. Eleanor exhaled deeply, her lower lip quaking.

                “Well, um—when you left me for York eight months ago,” she went on, her voice growing thicker, “Y-You gave me something else.”

                Louis’ frown deepened, not recalling doing such thing.

                But then Eleanor’s head dropped and Louis followed her gaze.

                Her hands were placed on her lower abdomen, rubbing lovingly in circles.

                Louis’ eyes widened.

                “E-El?” he gasped, his head shaking, “Y-You, you were—?”

                Eleanor sniffled, “Y-You gave me the best gift, Lou.”

                “You’re with c-child?” Louis asked, his voice breaking at the last part. Eleanor kept her eyes on her tummy, but her face broke at his words.

                “I w-was,” she whispered. Louis could see tears on his beloved’s cheek, and his gut twisted.

                “Oh no,” he replied weakly. Eleanor shook her head.

                “No one knew about it,” she explained, even smiling a little bit, “I-I was carrying your child, and no one had a clue I was even pregnant. I-I never really showed that much. But I knew, I knew your child was growing inside me. I could see a tiny bump when I looked in the mirror closely. A-And I was so happy L-Lou, I didn’t care with the child came out with your blue eyes and everyone knowing he wasn’t Liam’s child. I didn’t care one bit, because you gave me a child, Lou.”

                Louis shook his head, tears stinging his eyes, “E-El.” Eleanor sniffled once more, her fingers digging into her abdomen more so.

                “I-I was about four months along, when I tripped going up the stairs in the palace,” Eleanor said thickly. She shook her head, “I landed on my stomach, but I felt f-fine. I swear I was f-fine Louis. B-But then—”

A short sob left her lips and Louis took hold of one of her hands. He needed, just needed to touch her, to hold her any way he could. Her grip was tight around his palm, it nearly hurt him. But Louis was sure he was holding onto Eleanor just as tightly.

Eleanor composed herself enough to tell him, “I-I woke up that night because my stomach was cramping a lot. I was in so much pain, L-Lou—it was unreal. A-And then, I pulled the covers off,” she sighed, her voice shaky. Louis saw a tear drop off her cheek and fall to the ground.

“S-So much blood,” she crocked out eventually, a small sob escaping her.

Louis pulled her in his arms, “Shh, my love. It’s okay. You don’t—I get it.” Eleanor buried her face into the crook of Louis’ neck. He felt her tears on his bare skin.

“I-I couldn’t tell anyone, Lou,” she explained, “M-My—our baby died Lou, and I couldn’t tell a soul. I bled for four days, almost none stop. I felt so weak, so faint, but I couldn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t ask anyone for help. I burned the sheets on my bed and any other clothes I wore that had evidence,” she muttered again, “So much blood Lou.”

Louis broke then, his body shaking hard as he cried. He clung onto Eleanor as he wept, not wanting her to ever, ever leave his sight or his arms ever again. He could feel Eleanor crying as well, her small sobs loud and painfully clear in his ear. They cried until it felt colder on their skins, when the moon had traveled a little higher in the sky and their eyes had no more tears left to give.

“I’m sorry Lou,” she crocked out. Louis blinked, his eyelashes still saturated with tears.

“What?”

Eleanor shook her head, “I-It was an accident, I swear! I-I didn’t want my baby to—I wanted our baby s-so bad. A-And I failed to protect it.”

“No, no, no,” Louis chanted softly, and turned to kiss her on the cheek.

But Eleanor shied away from it, “You gave me such a beautiful gift Lou, and I—I”

“Eleanor,” Louis sighed. His beloved let out a low sigh.

“You must hate me.”

At that, Louis drew back slightly. He lifted her chin up to look at him, and Eleanor’s eyes were red from crying.

“I could never hate you, Eleanor. I love you far too much,” he said earnestly.

Eleanor frowned at his words, “But I—”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, my love,” he insisted, hoping some part of her would believe him. He cupped Eleanor’s face with his hands and felt the traces of tears left on her cheeks, “It was an accident, no fault of your own.”

Eleanor shook her head, “I should have been more careful.”

“You shouldn’t torture yourself like this,” Louis kissed her scalp, and sighed into her skin, “God, the anguish you must have lived through these past months. I-I’m sorry you had to go through all that on your own,” Louis said softly after some time. Eleanor’s hands squeezed his back at his words.

“I keep asking myself why it happened,” Eleanor muttered, her voice thick.

Louis sighed gravely, “There are so many questions in this world that we’ll never get the answer to. Only God knows them.”

“I hate God,” she confessed, scowling, “I-I hate God for keeping me away from you and for taking away our child.”

“I understand that my love,” Louis agreed, “I probably would too if went through what you did.”

Eleanor paused for a while, and Louis busied himself by looking up at the clear evening sky while he drew soft patterns on her back.

“What makes me the most upset,” she finally said, sounding just as stoic as she did when Eleanor arrived in York days ago, “Is that I’m not sure if that I’ll be able to have another child ever again. And if, if I were—Louis I would be petrified the whole time.”

“You can’t let these demons haunt you forever,” he said, “You—Eleanor that’s no way to live. You won’t be able to live if this keeps a hold on you.”

Louis held his breath as soon as he said it, half expecting Eleanor to be upset.

But.

“I know,” Eleanor sighed, “I hate feeling like this, being like this. I want to get better, I really do. I just—I can’t, not yet at least. It’s been a little bit easier being here. I’ve been able to get out of bed a little be, eat a little more then I have been. But it’s just—so hard Lou. I can’t fully let go.”

“Then I’ll help you,” Loui said simply.

Eleanor reminded him painfully, “I’m leaving in a few days.”

But Louis had already made up his mind.

There was no way in Hell he was letting Eleanor go ever again.

“I’ll find a way for us to be together.”

“Louis—” Eleanor chided.

“I mean it this time,” he insisted, “I don’t care what it takes, El. As long as you’ll have me, I’ll see to it you’ll never leave my side ever again.”

Louis could feel Eleanor smile against the side of his neck.

“I like the sound of that.”

~~~

                Louis scoffed as he approached the carriage.

“Always arrive in the nick of time, ay?” he called out.

King Harry belted out a loud laugh and then shrugged, “Well, someone said there’s a party here tonight. Thought I might stop by for a little while and have some wine.”

Queen Anne, or rather the former Queen Anne of Scotland (Louis had no idea what her new title was since her husband’s passing) got out of the carriage with Harry’s assistance. She was also dressed in all black, just like Eleanor had been ever since King Richard’s passing. Harry, however, only bore a black stripe on his shoulder for mourning. Rules were rules, different for men and women alike.

“Lord Tomlinson,” Queen Anne greeted him with her hand. Louis paused before remembering to take her hand and give it a small kiss, “We were delighted to receive your invitation.”

Louis stated, “It’s my pleasure to have you both here, Queen Anne.” At that, the former Queen’s face dropped, and Louis knew he messed up.

“Um, I go by Queen Mother Anne of Scotland these days,” she informed Louis, “I’m not worthy of the noble title anymore.”

“Oh mother,” Harry sighed.

“It’s true,” the Queen mother mumbled.

“My apologies,” Louis stepped in, “For stating the wrong title but for also the loss of your husband King Richard. I only had the pleasure of meeting him once, but the late King was…” Louis paused as he searched for the right words before concluding, “such a delight.”

“Thank you, Lord Tomlinson,” Anne gave him a small smile, “That’s very kind of you to say. I miss my Richard every day, but my Harold is an excellent King.”

“Not quite yet, but I am doing my best,” King Harry joked. Louis turned back to the Queen Mother after laughing.

“Please, do call me Louis.”

“Yes mother,” King Harry said, smirking, “Louis here hates titles.”

Queen mother Anne question, “Really?” Louis froze, choosing his words carefully.

“I mean, of course I am very grateful for King Liam giving me my Lordship,” he began, “It really was such a magnificent gesture, one I’m not sure I’m fully entitled to. But I personally struggle with the formalities of it all. I wasn’t raised as a royal, but rather a servant’s son. I haven’t grown fully accustomed to the titles and all the is expected of me. I respect my title immensely, but for people staying in my manner, I insist they call me my name and not my title.”

Queen Mother Anne eyed him closely, before a small amused smile stretched over her lips.

“You’re very well spoken for being uneducated,” she noted, “And I may not fully agree with your stance, but I do respect it, Louis.”

Louis grinned, “My staff will show you to the rooms. How long will your stay be?”

“Not long, I’m afraid,” King Harry commented sagely, “Two nights total. I must be back in Scotland by the middle of the week.” Louis nodded.

“Then we shall be thankful for every moment.”

“Where’s Eleanor?” Queen Mother Anne questioned him. Louis could see the bit of worry on her face. He didn’t blame her.

“I believe she’s in the gardens,” Louis told her, “Quincey my valet will show you to her.”

The Queen Mother nodded and followed Quincey.

When it was just King Harry and Louis, the king confided in Louis.

“My sister is in a wretched state,” he said bluntly, and all Louis could due was nod, “I was shocked when she arrived in Scotland for my coronation. I demanded to know what was wrong, but she refused to tell me or my mother. My mother especially is quite distraught over this whole ordeal. It was hard enough losing my father, but seeing my sister this way is just heartbreaking.”

“I know,” Louis agreed weakly.

Harry asked, “Has she told you happened to her?”

“Yes,” Louis told him, “She was reluctant at first, but she finally told me about it two days ago. Since then her spirits seem better. Eleanor’s gotten out of her chambers more, and I’ve seen her eat some of her meals.”

“Good,” Harry exhaled, “What happened to her? Has King Liam hurt her?” The last question came out weakly, but Louis could hear the subtle rage in his voice.

Louis shook his head, “King Liam has done nothing to her.” Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

“Thank Heavens. I saw how awkward things are between them while they were in Scotland and I assumed the worse.”

“It’s not King Liam, but Eleanor conversed with me in private. What happened to her was very personal and I cannot, nor will I, tell anyone what she told me. It’s her information to share by her own choice, and I love and respect her too much to break her trust by telling you or anyone for that matter.”

Harry just stared at him closely, looking a bit pensive.

“Thank Heavens my sister has you in her life.”

Louis smiled in relief.

~~~

                “You…what?!”

                Louis knew Zayn was going to be mad, of course he would be.

                “You’re telling me you were informed earlier this week that the other Northern Lords might be planning an attack on King Liam, and you didn’t tell me?” the head knight gawked.

                “Well I’m telling you now!” he retorted weakly.

Zayn threw his hands in the air, “Yes, just as the last of the guests are arriving! Are you actually mad, Louis?! I have the two young Kings that these Northern Lords despise greatly in the same room without the proper number of knights to protect them!”

Louis rolled his eyes because really, there was nothing to worry about. It would be utterly foolish for any of the Northern Lords to try something, especially in a room full of people and dozens of armed knights. Louis couldn’t certainly cancel to gala upon farther reflection, because that would seem too suspicious.

“I already told Harry and his knights to be on guard,” Louis stated.

“Oh good thing you told them before bothering to tell me,” Zayn complained.

Louis sighed, “Look I fucked up, yeah? It just all sorta slipped my mind until today. I had other things to worry about.”

Immediately, Louis looked out to the crowded room and spotted Eleanor instantly. She was dressed in black, unsurprisingly, but there were touches of gold embroidery on the dress as well as a gold headpiece. Her hair was down in her infamous glorious curls that tempt Louis so much. He took a much needed sip of his wine.

“She seems better,” Zayn commented lightly.

“I hope she’s getting better,” Louis said unsurely, “I know it’ll take time, but my hopes are high that she might be on the mend finally.”

“That’s wonderful Louis.”

Louis finished the rest of his wine and set his cup on the table. He couldn’t look at Zayn as he told him.

“I’m going to confront Liam,” he murmured lowly, “I’m going to tell him what’s been going on with me and Eleanor.”

Zayn cursed under his breath, “Jesus. Want me to be there with you when you do it?”

“I’m not gonna hurt Liam.” Zayn shook his head.

“I was referring to be there for your protection.” Louis paled.

“You really think it could be that bad?”

The knight shrugged, “Dunno mate, I’ve never really seemed Liam fuming mad. That’s kinda of scary yeah?”

“I can fair well enough on my own,” Louis said weakly, “If it came to that.”

“What if Liam takes away your title? What would you do then?” Zayn asked, “Lou, he could—”

“I’m not afraid, Zayn,” the Lord said flatly, “You could take my title, my life—I don’t care.”

“What about your mum?” Zayn asked, and Louis’ gaze traced around the room until his eyes landed on his sweet mother, “What happens to her if you get sent to the tower?”

“I’ve made arrangements for her,” Louis informed him, “I spoke to Harry and he agreed to give her asylum in Scotland.”

“Blimey this is gonna turn into another war,” Zayn sighed. He was silent for a moment before stating, “She’s really worth all this, huh?”

Louis shrugged, “I can’t be away from her a moment longer. Eleanor’s worth losing everything for. She is my everything. I got so caught up in all this—I forgot to see that for a while. But now that she’s been here, I can’t figure out how I’ve lived so long without her. I—”

“Heavens, Lou,” Zayn stopped him, chuckling, “You sound like a bloody poet. You love Eleanor and you wish to never be parted from her ever again, no matter the cost. End of story. No need to drone on about it.”

Louis smirked a little, relieved, “Your support is truly touching, Zayn.” He looked over at his dear friend. Zayn held a stoic gaze, as he always did, and reached out to pat Louis on the shoulder.

“I wish you all the best, Lou,” he told him, “If anyone deserves whatever they want in this world, it’s you.”

With that, Zayn left before Louis could respond.

Louis addressed the room with a quick speech, thanking everyone for attending. He talked up King Liam and the newly kinged Harry, hamming them up so much so that it garnered a concealed laugh from Eleanor. The Northern Lords looked thoroughly annoyed at Louis’ kind words, and that was just what Louis intended. He gave smug smirk before raising his glass to finish the toast and taking a huge sip with all his guests, in which the Northern Lords did not join in.

Wretched twats.  

The gala started on a lively foot, with violins strumming up jovial tone that got everyone dancing about. Liam and Harry sat beside each other, laughing and drinking with a full team of knights behind them ready and on guard. Louis felt a bit more at ease when he saw that and felt alright enough to mingle with the guests. He always enjoyed talking to the people of York. He found it so much easier talking to them then entitled people. They seemed more genuine and friendlier then snooty rich upper-class people, and they always accepted Louis as their Lord with open arms.

Every once in a while, Louis checked around the room. Old knight habits die hard evidently, as he always would remain on guard for the rest of his life. The Northern Lords were sat in the corner of the room still, the only guest sitting in fact. They sat closely together with scheming grins on their faces and their eyes darting off towards the other side of the room.

Louis followed their gaze, landing on Eleanor.

His stomached coiled.

Trying to appear casual and collected, Louis began making his way through the crowd to Eleanor. It was probably nothing, just a bit of coincidence perhaps. But still, Louis would feel a million times better if he were closer to Eleanor. No harm in being on the safe side.

Eleanor was with her brother, with Harry charming a group of women around them. Queen Mother Anne was on the other side of her daughter, their arms linked. Eleanor seemed aloof, disengaged from the conversation other then a quant smile and curt nod here and there. A part of Louis wanted to whisk her away from the party and take her into the fields where it would just be the two of them and they’d be safe.

                “Louis!” Harry exclaimed when the Lord joined the group, “Perfect timing! I was just telling these lovely ladies about one of the battles during the war.”

                The Lord had a bemused expression, but played along, “Pray tell King Harold. Which battle were you referring to?” The ladies giggled around them and Harry preened at their attention.

                “The one where four enemy soldiers came at me all at once,” the ladies gasped, and Louis hid his smile behind his cup. Harry paused for dramatic effect before adding, “But thankfully I’m excellently trained sword wielder and I slayed the whole lot of them within two minutes flat.”

                The ladies cheered, but Louis nervously looked around.

                He found some disgruntled faces. The war was very much so a touchy subject in the North.

                “It was quite the show of athleticism, for sure,” Louis said, and then changed the subject, “Ladies, has King Harold here told you that he is an excellent dancer? I wouldn’t waste this evening by not having a chance to dance with him.”

                Louis William Tomlinson.

                Former Knight, current Lord and excellent wingman.

                He got Zayn together with Perrie.

                As the ladies shrill in delight and fawn over Harry, Louis turned to Eleanor. They share a smile, just for the two of them.

                Louis found it funny how every time he looked at Eleanor, he still was taken aback at her beauty.

                “Are you ladies enjoying the gala?” Louis asked, gesturing to the mother-daughter duo.

                Eleanor nodded a little, grinning softly, “Yes, we’re having a joyous time.”

                “I can’t get over how lovely your estate is Lord Tomlinson,” Queen Mother Anne chimed in, adding on with a perplexed face, “Earlier in the gardens, I swore I thought I saw a heather plant in there. Rather odd finding that in a British manner.”

                Louis’ eyes widened, and Eleanor turned her head to conceal a grin.

                “Um, yes it is—rather strange,” the Lord stumbled over his words, “I-It was here when my mother and I moved in. I believe someone, um, gifted the plant to estate a long, long time ago and it’s still growing strong.”

                The Queen Mother squinted her eyes at the Lord before her lips stretched in a bemused smile.

                Suddenly, a hand was over Louis’.

                “Dance with me,” Eleanor insisted, just as the quartet struck up a new song.

                Louis looked around nervously, “Um, I’m not sure if it would be entirely appropriate.”

                Eleanor smiled weakly, and whispered in his ear, “Lou, my husband has been the corner this entire time with his hand on Sophia’s thigh.” Louis frowned and quickly searched the room until he found his King, doing just what Eleanor had mentioned.

                “I don’t give a damn about what’s appropriate or not,” she continued, “I just want to dance with you. I haven’t danced in such a long time.”

                And well, Louis couldn’t resist her request.

                They walked to the dancefloor, their hands brushing together but not quite touching enough for Louis’ taste. They assumed the traditional position for the dances, with men lined up on one side of the floor and the women lined up on the other side. Eleanor smirked at Louis just before the dance began. The song sounded familiar to Louis, having heard it dozens of times before at various other galas, but he couldn’t remember the steps. Thankfully, he was able to follow the lead of the other men in toe. He bowed to Eleanor, took a step towards her. The ladies curtsied and made a circled around the men. The Lord held his breath as Eleanor passed him by, smelling her familiar, sweet scent. Their eyes locked when they assumed the original position, and their hands joined in front of them.

                The music picked up speed then, with the dance mainly becoming just a series of spins and twirls with some high jumps thrown in. Louis felt dizzy, regretting the wine he drank before agreeing to dance.

                But Eleanor.

                Eleanor practically came to life. The room was spinning, the song grew faster then Louis could keep up with. But the smile and laughter of his beloved was the only thing Louis could focus on. He hadn’t seen Eleanor like this in ages, so carefree and lively and…happy. Eleanor actually, for just a few moments seemed happy.

                Damn the dizziness and Louis’ stumbling feet.

                It was all worth it, just see her lips stretched in a glorious smile and her melodious laughter thick in his ears.

                For a moment, twirling about on a compacted dance floor, they experienced what they always wanted, what they were always meant to have.

                They were together, as one.

                All too soon, Louis came crashing down from his euphoric high.

                He saw the man approaching them, the brief glare on the knife he was barely concealing.

                Eleanor was unaware that the man was right behind her.

                Louis quickly pulled her into his arms, grabbed her shoulders and spun her around just in the nick of time.

                A sharp, intense pain came from his side. It took his breath away, his eyes growing wide. He touched the source of his pain and felt blood on his hand.

                “Louis!” Eleanor cried out in horror, but Louis—he couldn’t say a word, couldn’t speak at all. She caught her lover as his legs grew weak and the two fell to the ground together.

                All around them was pure chaos, men shouting and women screaming.

                But the lovers were left alone, mainly unnoticed.

                The Lord was soothed in the arms of his beloved, as Eleanor held him and rocked him back and forth with tears in her eyes.

                “It’s okay, Louis,” she told him thickly. Louis hated how scared she sounded. She brought her hand up to Louis’ face, her bloody fingers leaving long streaks on his face, “You’re going to be okay my love. I-I love you, I love you Louis.”

                Louis attempted to smile up at her, tried to make himself repeat the same words back up at her.

But the Lord didn’t have the strength to.

The last thing he felt was Eleanor’s lips on his forehead before he blacked out.

~~~

                “Louis?”

                The Lord’s bow furrowed at the distant voice. It kept repeating, growing louder and clearer. He felt a small shake on his shoulders, and that jostled his eyes open. He blinked up at the ceiling of the room and took him a second or two for him to recall he was in his room.  

                “Can you hear me, son?”

                Louis looked over, frowning at his mother’s voice. He saw her, saw how worried she looked and tried to sit up to comfort her.

                A sharp pain came from his gut.

                “Easy there, boy,” Jay instructed him, her hand on his shoulder, “Don’t move. You’ve got stitches in you.”

                A frightful expression fell on Louis’ face, “St-Stich—”

                “Don’t strain yourself,” Jay instructed, her hand stroking his cheek.

                A flash of a memory came into Louis’ fuzzy mind.

                “E-El,” he croaked out weakly.

                Jay rolled her eyes, “Gosh you two love birds. All you can think about is each other.”

                “W-What?” Louis tried, “Is s-she—?”

                “She’s fine, my boy,” Jay told him, giving him a stern look, “All thanks to your idiotic heroism.”

                Louis tried to chuckle, but it quickly turned into a cough.

                “Jesus, Louis,” the mother scolded her son. She retrieved a cup of warm tea and made her son take a small sip, “Don’t get yourself all worked up. You need your rest.”

                Louis weakly shook his head, “W-What h-happened?” The mother signed and hesitated before telling her son.

                “The Northern Lords hired a hit man to kill Eleanor.”

                The Lord’s frown deepened, “Why?”

                “Because, in their twisted minds, they believe that her marriage to King Liam was the source of their troubles. They’re still a bitter old lot that need others to blame, so they planned on killing Eleanor and then King Liam and King Harry.”

                “H-Heavens,” Louis exhaled. Jay smiled down at her son.

                “No need to worry anymore. The hitman was taken away instantly, and is currently in the London Tower where he’ll spend the rest of his God given life there,” Jay explained, “And the Northern Lords are being imprisoned at the Tower as well for the time being. King Liam is setting their execution dates for a few months from now, after all three of them endure much torture.”

                Louis laid back, his reeling head struggling to take all this information.

                “E-El,” he sighed tiredly.

                “Get some rest, my boy,” Jay insisted, “You’ll see Eleanor soon enough.”

                “Promised?”

                Jay smirked, relieved, “Promise, Louis.”

                With that, sleep overtook Louis once more.

~~~

                The second time Louis woke up, it was to the sensation of wet lips on his knuckles.

                His vision was groggy at first, but soon the fog lifted.

                Eleanor was holding his hand, sat in a chair next to Louis’ bed. Her eyes widened when she noticed he was looking at her.

                “Forgive me,” Eleanor whispered, and it was then that Louis noticed she was in her night robe. The rest of the manner must have been asleep then. The Queen looked down at his hand and brought it up to her cheek. She exhaled deeply, Louis could feel it under his palm, “I just—I couldn’t spend another separated from you. I just—I needed to see for myself that you were well off.”

                Louis smiled briefly, “El,” he sighed, “My lovely E-El.” Eleanor smiled bashfully.

                “I shouldn’t have woken you up. I didn’t mean to, honestly,” she pecked Louis’ fingers once more, “I should leave you now, let you rest.”

                “S-Stay,” Louis chocked out. Eleanor eyed him closely, not saying a word and seemed unsure. He willed himself enough strength to stretch his fingertips out as far as they could go to stroke the plump apple of her cheek. He sighed a final plea, “Please.”

                Eleanor grinned, “Of course, Lou.”

                There wasn’t much space on the bed, and Louis couldn’t move because of his stitches. But Eleanor didn’t seem to mind the cramp quarters and Louis didn’t wasn’t complaining. He sought comfort in her warmth, in feeling her body up against his. Eleanor laid on her side and Louis awkwardly dropped his head down on her chest.

                He was out in moments, with Eleanor petting his hair and humming him a tune.

~~~

                A peaceful recovery was shattered a few week or so later.

                At that point, Louis was able to start eating semi-solid foods, mainly mashed apples and root vegetables. He also began trying to walk, with the assistance of his mother propping him up. He was fairing quite well, and even manage to walk about the room for a few minutes before complaining of feeling faint. His stitches where doing their job, and there was no sign of infection. Most of his days though were filled hours of sleep and his many good, kindhearted friends that would pay him a visit whilst he was awake.

                This of course included Eleanor.

                She would sneak into his room in secrecy at night, always bringing a book or a small game with her. Because Louis slept so much during the day, he often couldn’t find slumber at night. So he happily welcomed hearing Eleanor read on about ancient Greek poems and enjoyed the tiny excitement of playing cards with her. Mostly, he just enjoyed having her there with him, talking to him, holding his hand, giving him small kisses on his cheeks. She would always stay the night, and Jay would come in bright and earlier the following morning to escort her out before anyone would see.

                Louis had managed to sleep a little bit one night about a week into his recovery. When he woke up a short time after drifting to sleep, he saw Eleanor was still wide awake on the bed beside him, staying at him mutely. The sun was low in the window behind her, but the soft glow of it’s rays let Louis see her stoic face clearly. He tried petting her cheek, tried coaxing a smile out of her but it was all in vain.

                “I can’t forgive myself for what happened,” she finally confessed to him, “I keep replaying it over, and over again. And I—I can’t help but feel part of the blame is on me.”

                “Eleanor,” Louis sighed.

                She reasoned, “Their plan was to hurt me.”

                “To kill you,” Louis rasped, feeling sick.

                “But you would’ve been spared.”

                “I would’ve died,” Louis told her softly, “If anything happened to you, I couldn’t live with myself.”

                Eleanor smirked, “Jay was right, all we worry about is each other and not ourselves.”

                Louis smiled, happily allowing Eleanor to take his hand.

                “Mum tends to right about most things,” Louis agreed.

                Eleanor was silent for a bit before she spoken again.

                “All I kept thinking of, after the incident happened to you, was how I wasted so much time,” Eleanor admitted, sighing, “I should’ve spent more time with you. I hate myself for pushing you away like I did.”

                “El…you weren’t well.”

                Eleanor shrugged, “It doesn’t excuse me from shutting you off completely. I wasted so much time—we could’ve been together the way we should always be.”

                Louis opened up his arms, “Come here, love.” Eleanor didn’t need to be told twice. She shuffled closer towards him, sighing contently as she let herself drop into Louis’ shoulder. He welcomed her warmth happily.

                “There hasn’t been a whole lot where we’ve been properly together,” he started out, and Eleanor sighed distastefully in his arms. He began to play with her hair, “And—I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I truly mean it this time. If you—I want to tell Liam about us.”

                Eleanor exhaled, “Oh Lou.” But the Lord went on.

                “I have to,” he explained, “I-I can’t go on these long stretches, knowing you and I are both unhappy. We believe we’re meant to be together, and I think it’s about time forever started for us.”

                “Yes,” Eleanor agreed in an instant, “Please—I only love you, always love you. I want to be with you.”

                Louis smiled, large and bright, as he took her hands into his, “El, I can’t promise that me talking to Liam will end all shiny and perfect. But I-I can promise you that I will love you for the rest of my days. Whatever time we may have, it’s all for you my love.”

                “Me too,” Eleanor repeated lowly, “I love you so much Louis. I don’t care how it all pans out. I’ll take mere days with you over a lifetime with anyone else.”

                The Lord’s lips wobbled, “My El.”

                Eleanor closed the gap between them with a searing kiss. It felt just as incredible as the first kiss they shared together ages ago in the barren field outside of London. Still felt so perfect and so right to have Eleanor’s lips on his, to hold her body in his arms.

                There sweet moment was cut short yet again.

                “What in God’s name is going on?”

                The two broke off.

Louis’ eyes widened at the figure at the door.

There, Liam stood—his eyes fuming.

“Liam,” Louis exhaled, sitting up slowly. Eleanor was frozen still in Louis’ arms.

The King glared at Louis, his nostrils flaring, “I came in here to check on my friend. The man I considered a brother for my entire life. Only to find him snogging my wife.”

Silence fell upon the room, but Louis swore the whole world could hear his heart beating.

He swallowed thickly before replying, “This isn’t a discussion we should be having in my chambers, Liam.” The King pursed his lips, but gave a curt nod.

“I’ll see you in your den then,” he agreed, but added firmly, “But don’t dare keep me waiting.”

                The door slamming echo violently in the room.

                Louis counted to three before getting to his feet.

                “Lou,” Eleanor exhaled from the bed. Louis couldn’t look at her, instead hobbled over to his wardrobe, “Louis, oh my Heavens! D-Did that—is this happening.”

                The Lord swallowed thickly, “It is.”

                He suddenly felt weak on his knees.

                “You can’t walk to your den, Lou,” Eleanor pointed you, “You can barely make it across the room.”

                Louis scoffed at her but it was mainly due to stress, “I refuse to have this conversation hauled up in my bed.”

                “Louis—”

                “Now help me get dress or you can go.”

                Eleanor eyed him closely, Louis could feel her gaze on the back of his neck, “You’re mad if you think I’m leaving you alone with Liam.”

                “Well there’s no chance in Hell you’re going to be in the room with us,” Louis grunted out.

                “But—I’m a part of this mess Lou! You don’t—you shouldn’t get the brunt of it.”

                Louis fetched a clean shirt and looked back at his beloved with firm eyes, “I can’t let anything happen to you. Besides, so far Liam’s managed to be pretty calm. We might have a chance to work out a gentleman’s agreement after all.”

                Eleanor’s lips wobbled, “L-Lou.”

                He couldn’t stand seeing her so anxious.

                “C’mon love, help me pull this shirt over me head yeah? I gotta look a bit decent I supposed.” She bit her lip but nodded and quickly helped Louis into a fresh tunic and into his trousers.”

                Once he was all dressed, Eleanor smoothed her hands over the top of his shirt.

                “Your heart’s racing,” she stated.

                Louis swallowed thickly, “I love you El. No matter what happens, I love you.”

                Eleanor looked up at him and gave a curt nod before giving a chaste kiss on his cheek.

                “I love you too, Lou.”

                Louis used the walls as a guide as he walked towards the den, fearing each step he took.

~~~

                “You,” Liam stuttered, frowning, “You what?”

                Louis closed his eyes and exhaled before repeating himself.

                “I love Eleanor.”

                Liam blinked at Louis, his face unreadable, and the Lord hadn’t the slightest clue what his king was thinking.

                “I,” Liam exhaled, before stopping himself and taking a deep breath, “When did this start?”

                Louis hesitated before deciding to answer, “Shortly after we met.”

                “Before Eleanor and I were wed?” Liam asked, frowning, “While we were still betrothed to be wed?”

                Louis looked down at his lap, unable to answer.

                “Christ,” Liam swore.

                Louis winced, “We didn’t meant to hurt you, Liam.” At that the king scoffed.

                “Sure I bet my feelings were the farthest things from your minds.”

                “Believe me,” Louis said, looking up at his old friend, “We both respect you very much—”

                “You fucked my wife Louis!” Liam shouted, and it was the dam bursting open.

                Louis winced at his loud voice, “Liam, please—”

                “You’ve been having an affair for two years behind my back Louis!” he yelled once more, “You claimed to be loyal to me, to my reign. But in reality you were betraying me the whole time!”

                “I-I tried,” Louis insisted, “I tried to stop it, how I felt about Eleanor. And she tried to. It’s just—the fates had other plans.”

                Liam shook his head, “If you cared about me half as much as you claim you do, you wouldn’t have had an affair to begin with!”

                The room began to spin.

                Louis had to sit down in his office chair. He closed his eyes, breathed in deep a few times before responding flatly.

                “Liam, with all do respect. I took a vow to protect you as your personal knight for years. I went off to war to make sure your reign was protected. And now I serve as your Lord to better your country as a whole. My devotion is to you, Liam. It always has been.”

                “How can I possibly believe that?” Liam spat out, “You fooled me for a long time, Louis. All this time I thought you were a lamb at the side of its shepherd. But you were just a wolf in sheep’s skin.”

                Louis couldn’t help it.

                His lip turned up in disgust.

                “Oh like you’re so innocent, Liam.”

                Liam’s face dropped, his eyes widened.

                Louis shouldn’t have said that, he knew it in an instant.

                But he couldn’t take it back.

                “Excuse me?” the King demanded, his voice raising.

                The Lord accepted his challenge.

                “You treat Eleanor like shit,” he told him bluntly, Liam flinching at the word, “All this time, she’s been in such a state and you couldn’t care less about her!”

                “Yeah?” Liam retorted, his eyebrows raised, “Well where were you then yeah? Mooching off of me for money and a title when the woman you supposedly love couldn’t even get out of bed for breakfast?” he scoffed while Louis fumed in silence, “You love Eleanor and yet you weren’t there for her either. You’re ripping me apart when you did the exact same thing I did. You think you’re better than me, Tommo? Really?”

                Louis stood up then, the den seemingly spinning around him. He walked briskly up to Liam keeping a scant foot of space between them. The two men stared off, neither one of them backing down any time soon. They couldn’t go back

                “At least I don’t claim to be a just man while cheating on his wife,” Louis finally gritted out, “I never claimed to being just or noble, but you got this whole façade about how good you are. But you and me Liam, we both got dirt on your hands. You’re not entirely innocent, you’re not perfect—no matter if you’re a bloody King and everyone tells you are.”

                Liam’s lip twitched and within seconds, his hands were on Louis’ collar. Louis’ breath was got in his throat.

                “You dare speak to your King in such a manner!” Liam screamed, “I should behead you for saying such things!

                Louis couldn’t speak, physically could not talk.

                “Let go of him!”

                The two men looked over the third intruding voice. Louis’ eyes widened.

                Eleanor stood at the door, her wild gaze set on Liam.

                Out stretched before her. Her trembling hands held Louis’ dagger pointed at her husband.

                At her King.

                Realizing this, Louis croaked out a soft plea, “E-El.”

                “I mean it, Liam,” Eleanor warned, ignoring her lover, “Let go of Louis right now.”

                “Have you both gone mad?” Liam asked, perplexed. He had yet to take his hands off of Louis, but he had loosened his grip slightly, “All this insanity, this treason, just for a fling?”

                Eleanor shook her head, “It’s not just a fling Liam. If Louis was just a fling I wouldn’t be standing before my king and husband with a dagger pointed at his throat.”

                “El,” Louis exhaled.

                “I would die for                 Louis,” Eleanor told her husband. Her gripped tightened on the dagger, her glare grow more focused, “And believe me, I would kill for him too—even my King.”

                Louis nervously watched Liam’s expression.

                And miraculously, Liam let Louis go. Just like that, just unclenched his fingers from Louis’ collar and stepped back as if there wasn’t any anger in him. The Lord was stunned, and nearly fell backwards at the sudden loss.

                But thankfully, Eleanor came up to Louis’ side just in the nick of time to catch him.

                “Easy love,” she instructed him as she helped him back into a chair. Louis’ side was hurting him so he happily rested his head on Eleanor’s, “Heavens love, you’re sweating. You need to get back to bed.”

                “I’m fine,” Louis insisted, but Eleanor was still frowning in dismay. He smirked at her, and took her hand into his to give it a kiss. Afterwards, told her, “You’re bloody mad, my love.”

                “Only as mad as you are,” Eleanor retorted, her lips failing to fight off a smile.

                For a few seconds, the couple just hold each other close, lost in their own world.

                But then, Louis remembered they weren’t alone.

                He glanced pasted Eleanor, and discovered Liam was staring at them. He was leaning against the fireplace, his expression unreadable except for his bottom lip caught in his teeth.

                “You two really love each other then?” he asked, almost dumbfounded.

                It took a moment before Eleanor responded.

                “Yes,” she said simply, “More then anything.”

                Liam moved from his spot, pacing in front of the fireplace. He finally looked back up at Eleanor.

                “You both betrayed me.”

                Eleanor shook her head, “We didn’t mean to, Liam. Honestly. We’re sorry for what we’re done but I don’t regret it,” she glanced back at Louis and smiled softly, “We’re soulmates. God has willed us to be together.”

                “God willed us to be together!” Liam shouted back at her, “You and me—we were destined to be together!”

                “Our fathers forced us to be together,” Eleanor retorted firmly, “We were forced into a loveless marriage where everything is awkward and we’re both miserable. Do you honestly believe that God would want this for us? Do you really think we should put our countries before our own happiness, Liam? Because I don’t. I believe we deserve people who love us, Liam.”

 

Liam was silent once more, his face frowning a bit. Eleanor seemed to have won that little argument, but Louis was still on edge. Liam could have cracked at any moment. He still kept his hand on Eleanor, and Louis noticed his lover still had a tight hold of the dagger in his palm.

The wordlessly, Liam picked up the bell on Louis’ desk and rang it violently, signaling for one of the servants to come. Louis winced at the sound, due to a splitting headache and it only made his heart race. Eleanor must have felt just as uneasy because she moved in closer to his side. They anxiously, silently, waited for a servant to come in the room.

“Bring King Harold and the Queen Mother Anne here,” Liam instructed the servant when he arrived. The nervous servant looked over to his Lord, which Louis nodded at him to follow the King’s orders.

Once the servant left, silence fell on the room once more.

“Liam,” Eleanor tried, but the King lifted his finger, silencing her once more. He wasn’t even looking at Louis or Eleanor anymore, just seemed fixated on the door.

King Harold was barely in the room when Liam blurted out.

“Eleanor has been having an affair with Louis.”

At that, the Scottish King froze at the door, nervously glancing over at Louis. But the Queen Mother briskly walked up to her daughter.

“What?” Anne asked, staring at her daughter. She seemed shell shocked at Louis and Eleanor’s joint hands. She shook her head, “This can’t be.”

Liam scoffed, “Well it’s true. I caught them snogging each other.”

“Heavens,” Harry cursed.

The Queen Mother tried, “Well, it must have been a one off thing.”

“It’s not, mother,” Eleanor insisted, her hand tightening on Louis, “I’ve loved Louis since the moment I saw him. We tried mother, we tried so hard to resist each other but we couldn’t. Because we’re soulmates.”

“Your marriage is in a rough patch,” the Queen Mother insisted, her head shaking, “That happens in all marriages, especially arranged ones. What you’re feeling for Louis is nothing but foolish whims, not love. God has willed you to be King Liam’s wife, Eleanor.”

Eleanor stubbornly shook her head, “I love Louis—”

“Dammit Eleanor!” the Queen Mother yelled frantically, “What are you saying? What are you doing? Are you trying to get yourself hung?”

“I’m not going to sentence Eleanor to death.”

Everyone in the room turned to their gaze to Liam.

Louis’ heart continued to pound.

“No!” Eleanor screamed as she flung her arms around Louis. She began to sob into his shoulder, “No! No! I will not let you hurt Louis!”

Louis swallowed the lump in his throat, “I-It’s okay love.”

“Jesus, Eleanor,” Liam commented before coming towards the couple. He placed his hands on Eleanor’s shoulders and tried to pull her away.

But Eleanor clung onto her lover, “Let go of me! You’ll have to kill me to get to Louis!”

“Oh God,” the Queen Mother exclaimed to herself.

“No one’s getting killed!” Liam announced.

At that, Louis sighed in relief.

Eleanor picked her head up from Louis’ shoulder. Fresh tears were still brimming in her eyes, but her lips were drawn up in a frown.

“W-What?” she asked.

Liam looked up briefly at Louis before turning back to Harry.

“King Harold,” he asked, “Do you believe we can revoke the agreement our fathers made in regard to my marriage with Eleanor? Like, is that something that can truly be done?”

Louis blinked, stunned.

Harry scoffed, “Liam, mate—we’re the kings now. We can do whatever we please.”

“Right,” Liam sighed to himself and nodded, “Do you think the Archbishop of Canterbury would agree to nullify my marriage with Eleanor.”

“He’s a stuffy old school man,” Harry commented, “But you line his pockets so.” He shrugged, “He may adhere to God’s commands, but the commands of his king are not too beneath God’s.”

Liam exhaled and slumped down into a chair. He rubbed his forehead as he sighed, “Thank Heavens.”

“You,” Eleanor commented, “What?”

Liam smiled softly, “No one’s getting sent to the tower,” he assured her, “And I’ll make sure my counsel starts preparations for our annulment.”

Louis kept a smile at bay. He could let the fleeting sense of joy billowing in his chest take over just yet. He had waited, dreamed for this moment for what felt like eternity and he just couldn’t be sure it was all actually happening. Eleanor squeezed Louis’ heads.

“Seriously?” she asked, “Just like that?”

“You’re right Eleanor,” Liam went on, “You—God, you’re such a great woman. But I don’t love you, not even close. I’ve treated you so awful, because I resented you. I felt trapped into this marriage ever since day one. And I don’t know, I just obliged to my parents to keep the promise of our marriage alive. And so, when I saw you with Louis, my first instincts were to punish you two and make sure neither of you would ever be together again.”

He sighed heavily, “I didn’t—I wanted this marriage to succeed so much. I got into a war with territories in my own country for this marriage. It was my parents’ will for us to be wed, to bring our countries together. And, in some ways, I feel like I let them down for agreeing to end our marriage. I dunno if I’ll ever truly be at peace about this decision, but I—I can’t keep up this act any longer. I was never happy, and I tried and tried to make this marriage work.”

“I know,” Eleanor agreed, “Believe it or not I did too, try to love you I mean. You’re a wonderful man, Liam. You’re an excellent king and with the right woman, you’d make a wonderful husband.” Liam smirked sheepishly, before looking to Louis.

“Lou,” he started, looking terribly guilty, “I’m sorry about how I was earlier. I just, so much was riding on my marriage to Eleanor. You knew that too, and I just assumed you went behind my back and betrayed me regardless.”

Louis winced, his head shaking, “Liam it wasn’t like that, I promise.”

“I believe you lot,” Liam assures them, sighing sadly, “I just—I wished it worked out better you know? I’m happy that my best friend is in love, I really am. And Eleanor you deserve that happiness too. It’s just—p” he sighed and rubbed his forehead, “Damn this is all so hard still. I worry for you two, how the public will perceive your union.”

“I couldn’t care less what they think of us,” Louis butted in, his fingers linking up with Eleanor’s, “I appreciate my subjects and will do whatever I can for them. But in matters of my personal life, that’s all mine.”

Liam stared a long time at Louis before saying, “Regardless, I worry that our marriage ending will result in some anger. This was supposed to bring together England and Scotland forever, and though I’ve wanted to end my marriage for so long now,” he stopped and looked at Eleanor a guilty look, “Sorry Eleanor.”

“Don’t worry, feeling’s mutual,” she insisted.

“What always held me back was my duty to this country and my people,” Liam said firmly, “And now, well. I’m—I dunno how to feel. I’m hurt but your affair, but also a bit relieved by it. I’m happy about ending our loveless marriage but worry about what consequences may come from it.”

King Harold chimed in, “If I may, King Liam. You said that your marriage to my dear sister was deigned to bring our nations together?” Liam nodded with a pensive look and the Scottish prince beamed, “Well, I would think that a marriage with a British Lord would do the job just as well. That is, if you’re not planning on revoking Lord Louis’ title.”

Liam turned his focus back at Louis and Eleanor. His stoic face broke into a brief smile.

“I won’t be doing that,” he stated, “Louis has earned everything he has.”

Louis nodded, gratefulness bursting in his chest. Eleanor pecks his forehead sweetly.

“I just,” Liam sighed, turning back to the Scottish Queen Mother and her son, “Are you two really okay with this? That we’re going against King Richard’s wishes?”

Anne and Harry shared a look. Harry broke contact first, his eyes darting off to find his sister. He smirked once he saw her.

“More then anything,” he started out, “I just want my sister happy. She deserves that, and I don’t know if my father would agree, but I’m king now. I agree that there might be some or even loads of trouble for my sister and Lord Louis. But I can tell in just the brief moments I’ve seen Eleanor with Lord Louis that he makes her happy. And clearly, he does everything he can to keep her safe. I know my sister will have a safe, happy life here with Lord Louis,” he shrugged, “What more could a brother want for his sister?”

                Liam looked back at Louis, their eyes locking for a moment. One more his King’s gaze was a bit mixed. He seemed conflicted, Louis could see the wheels turning in his mind. But there was something else there, perhaps hope beyond his pensive eyes.

                Eleanor began to trace Louis’ forearm. Liam gaze caught her movements and his eyes dropped to watch.

                And then.

                “I could get a divorce?” Liam asked once more, still sounding unsure. He turned to Harry and added, “Really?”

                A wide grin cracked on Harry’s lips, “You can, and you’ll have Scotland’s support.”

                A heavy breath left Liam. Louis noticed how though he looked relieved, there was a bit of sadness on his face as well.

                “It’s settled then,” Liam spoke up, standing suddenly. He sighed, “I shall meet with my council to preparations under way for our annulment.”

                At that, Eleanor gasped.

                Louis couldn’t speak, he was barely sure he heard Liam currently.

                “Seriously?” Eleanor asked, and Liam nodded.

                “I imagine it will take some time, since I would have to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury. But yes, I think ending our marriage is what’s best for all of us, including our countries.”

                Elation, pure joy shot throw Louis.

                “Thank you,” he exhaled, “Thank you so much, Li,” he tried to stand up. But that proved to be too difficult, as a sharp pain spread from his wound to all parts of his body.

                Eleanor chided him, “Lou,” but still her comforting arms held him close to her. Louis steadied his body on his and extended his hand out for Liam with a sheepish smile.

                Liam looked at his briefly before turning away awkwardly.

                “I um,” Liam began, “It’s just—I’m not mad that you two had an affair. It’s well established that Eleanor and I were not happy in our marriage. And I’m happy that you two found each other, I really am.

                “It’s just,” he sighed, “It still hurts yeah? I’m hurt and right now, and I just, I can’t bare to be around you both right now. I don’t think I should stay here much longer.”

                Louis’ gaze fell, “Oh.”

                “Yeah,” Liam agreed, and coughed tightly before saying, “I do think, one day—perhaps in the near or distant future, I think we all might be friends again. But for now, I just—need to figure this all out. Let the waters settle as it were.”

                Eleanor echoed the same thoughts, stating, “It’s probably for the best.”

                And Louis—Louis didn’t know how to feel exactly.

                “You’re staying here, with Louis of course,” Liam managed to smirk a little bit, “I’ll make sure all your possessions back at the palace are sent here for you.”

                “Right,” Eleanor nodded. She lowered Louis back down in the chair, which Louis happily sat back in. Louis noticed her bottom lip was in her teeth as she raised her left hand in front on her. She struggled to twist her wedding ring off, but after a good tug, the dazzling piece of jewelry was off her finger. She handed it over to Liam with a grim look.

                Liam looked at it for a while before accepting it.

                “Your mother’s broach is in the top drawer of my vanity in my cham—well former chambers in the palace,” Eleanor told him, her head shaking, “It—I never felt right wearing it.”

                “Thanks for telling me,” Liam told her.

                Louis watched their last goodbye, with Liam allowing Eleanor to give him a deep hug.

                “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

                Liam repeated that thought, “I am too.”

                With that, the King drew back. He looked at Louis, his lips pressed tight as he nodded once at him. It felt odd to Louis, to have the man he considered a brother address him in the same fashion he would to a stranger in the streets.

                But still, Louis mirrored the same gesture back at Liam.

                And then Liam was briskly walking out of the room.

                Everyone in the room fell silent for a few moments. It didn’t feel right to talk just yet because none of it felt real. Louis was still holding his breath, still believed that Liam was going to come back in and crush their dreams.

                Surely none of this could be real, right?

                But then King Harold spoke up, sputtering a shocked laugh before he spoke.

                “You lucky bastard,” he commented jokingly to Louis. The Lord let out a shaky breath, giving a nervous chuckle at the Queen Mother Anne’s appealed look at her son.

                Then Eleanor asked what was on Louis’ mind.

                “So, that’s it?” she inquired, “Like, I actually get to be with Louis?”

                King Harold shrugged, “If Liam goes back on his word, I’ll create another war, plain and simple.”

                “Harold!” Anne screeched. Harry waved her off.

                “Well it’s not gonna happen!” he insisted, “Liam looked mighty keen at the idea of not being married to El anymore.”

                “Hey!” Eleanor cried out, pouting slightly, “Any man would be lucky to have me as his wife!”

                “I don’t—” Louis began, his voice shaky. He looked up to them, his eyes wide, “This is all actually happening, yeah? I get to have Eleanor as my wife?”

                Harry grinned, “After her marriage is officially over, yeah. The Archbishop might require you two to wait a bit, maybe do other things before he would agree to marry you two. But yes, your happily ever after was just handed over on a silver platter.”

                Louis beamed, an enormous smile stretching over his lips. He looked over to his beloved it and sighed at the sight of tears in Eleanor’s eyes.

                “It’s a miracle,” Louis concluded, but Eleanor disagreed. Her head shaking, she cupped Louis’ face. She smiled as joyous tears fell down her cheeks.

                “It’s fate, my love.”

Epilogue

~Four Months Later~

                The sound of a creaking door behind him spiked Louis’ heartrate.

                He turned around and smirked lovingly at his beautiful wife. She adorned the same large smile on her lips as well, with happiness beaming in her eyes that seems to radiate off of her. Louis knew he must have been looking the same way, because he’s never felt such elation before.

                Eleanor was actually his wife, completely official and everything with a small emerald ring on her left finger.

                He could hardly believe his luck.

                She looked angelic in the soft glow of the candlelight. She dressed only in a thin, long white night gown with a little bit of lace at the collar and at the end of the sleeves.

                “We’re finally alone,” Eleanor murmured, filling the space between them.

                Louis’ lips twitched upwards, “At last,” he sighed happily, and stretched out his arms to him, “Come here, my love.”

                Happily, Eleanor took Louis’ stretched out hands in her own. He kissed her knuckles, his eyes locked on hers.

                “Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Louis asked, and Eleanor rolled her eyes fondly.

                “You sound just like you did the first time when laid together,” she told him, cocking an eyebrow at him, “I am not untouched virgin anymore, you should know that.”

                Louis solemnly told her, “Of course I know that El. But, it’s just—it’ll be the first time since—”

                “I know,” she exhaled lowly, “I wanted to always be your wife, and today that finally happened. And I can’t think of anything else more I want then to feel you inside me. But Louis, I’ve yearned for this night for months. I want this—so badly.”

                Louis felt a little weak at her words.

                The thing was, Louis had been dying for this night as well.

                While the annulment of King Liam and Eleanor’s marriage became finalized, Louis and Eleanor made an oath to the Archbishop of Canterbury that they wouldn’t touch each other until they were officially wed. This was, supposedly, the only way God would accept their relationship that began in quote ‘sinful desires.’ As ridiculous as it may have sounded, it was the only way for the Archbishop to give his blessings to marry Louis and Eleanor.

                So they took it very seriously, despite how difficult it was for them to be apart. Their relationship in so many ways felt like it was a budding romance all over again, with an officially (and unnecessary) courting period where they were never left alone. Seriously, Eleanor and Louis were never alone together. There was always someone in the room with them, usually Jay or Quincey, overhearing every awkward conversation and every small touch to make sure it never became something scandalous. It was unbearable, absolutely torturously slow moments that stretched onto irritating days.  

                Finally, after the dust settled in the country from the separation of King Liam and Eleanor, they were allowed to be married. A quant little ceremony in the gardens at Louis’ estate, with only Jay and Eleanor’s family present. Liam was invited, but declined because of a previous foreign engagement. Louis figured as much, that Liam wouldn’t come if it made things awkward. Their relationship was strained for sure, but he sent Louis a letter of his approval and gave the couple his blessings with fine piece of art. It was a kind gesture for sure, one that Louis and Eleanor appreciated deeply.

Eleanor wore a lovely ivory dress and held a bouquet of pink heathers that Louis picked out the day before. The ceremony seemed to drag on for ages, but when all was said and done, Eleanor was titled Lady Tomlinson of York and Louis got what he always wanted.

                A quick parade in the town followed the ceremony to greet the people of York, all of which cheered the happy couple on as they passed by. Next, a short dinner occurred, in which Louis and Eleanor held hands under the table the entire time.

                And that has led them to here, their joint chambers.

                “We’ll go slow,” Louis told her, but Eleanor shook her head.

                “I don’t want to go slow, Lou,” she whined, her knees buckling as her gaze dropped to his lips, “I want to show you how much I love you, how much I ache for you inside me.”

                Louis exhaled, “Fuck, El. I’m trying to be gentlemanly here.” Eleanor’s eyes grew dark. The Lord was shocked when his wife lightly shoved him back onto the bed. She loomed over him, her hand skimming over his upper thigh.

                “Don’t,” she told him flatly.

                Louis swallowed thickly as Eleanor disrobed before him. God she was stunning, in every sense of the word. Months of dreaming for this night had finally led to this and Louis just wanted to soak it all in as much as he could. Before he knew it, Eleanor was climbing on top of him, her knee rubbed against the front of his trousers.

                “El,” he hissed at the friction, his cock aching for more.

                But she ignored him, wordlessly moved to his lips to kiss him hurriedly. Eleanor kept her hand against him, palming him through his clothes. It hurt, it was all too much but Louis didn’t wish for it to stop. By the time Eleanor pulled away, Louis was desperately rotating his hips into her palm with a trace of sweat on his brow and his mind growing fuzzier by the moment.

                “I can’t wait to feel you again. I-I need it,” Eleanor whispered, her eyes darker then before. Her hands worked on the ties of Louis’ trousers. The Lord sat back and watched, feeling proud at the ring on her finger.

                Just another reminder that this was all actually real.

                Louis bit his lips fondly at watching Eleanor hastily work on the ties and pulled down his trousers with little finesse. But his smile faded once he saw his wife eyeing his dick, fully hard laying back on his lower abdomen. The tip of her tongue stuck out just a little before she lowered herself.

                The first lick somehow took Louis be surprise, even when he saw it coming.

                “F-Fuck,” he hissed, surprised. His fingers dug into the sheets.

                Eleanor hummed against the tip, looking all too happy as she took more of Louis into her mouth. The Lord froze, just let his wife pleasure him slowly and perfectly. He wasn’t expecting none of this at all, but loved the feeling so, so much.

                “Yes,” Louis encouraged his wife as she took more of him in his mouth. He was just in awe of Eleanor, mainly at how she never ceases to surprise him. A shaky breath escaped Louis as Eleanor hummed around him, her eyes fluttering closed, “S-So good.”

                After what feels like an eternity of Louis scolding himself not to come, Eleanor pulled off of him, allowing Louis to breathe for just a second before her hand was back on him, stroking his cock confidently. She was so good at jerking him off, Louis could see stars.

                “E-Enough,” Louis rasped, “Don’t wanna—need you, love. I need more.”

                With that, his wife grins a devilish smile.

                “Been dreaming of doing that for you for months,” Eleanor informed him easily, as she kneeled back on the mattress. She straddled his thighs, and Louis’ lidded eyes drift down to her sex. He bit his lip hard at the sight of it, wanting nothing more then to just finally be connected to his beloved.

                Eleanor above him snickered, her hand taking Louis’ cock once more.

                “Want to ride you,” she told him briskly, her voice low and tempting, and has Louis’ head is spinning as she went on, “Want to feel you inside me, with your hands all over my body. Please Lou, t-touch me.”

She then hunched over Louis to give him a searing kiss. He groaned in her mouth, tasting himself on her tongue. His hands glided up her ribcage to her breasts and caressed them in each hand. Eleanor moaned against his lips when he pinched her nipples, going hard with no warning in advance. He held his quivering wife up with one arm as his other hand lowered to her sex.

Eleanor gasped when Louis slipped a finger into her.

“Fuck Els,” he cursed into her neck upon feeling the slick, warmth of her. He began to pump his finger inside her, working his wife into a shaking mess on top of him before adding another finger. He hummed against her skin, kissing it repeatedly as he chanted, “Feel so good, love. Always feel so good El. Love you so much, so—so much.”

“Lou,” Eleanor exhaled, and slowly began rotating her hips on Louis’ fingers.

Louis encouraged her, “That’s it love, make yourself feel good El.”

In no time, both were working up a sweat. Eleanor was whining in Louis’ ear, growing breathless and her hips grinding down on his fingers more erratically. Louis loved it, loved how her body was trembling like crazy. Loved feeling how turned on she was. Loved how hard Eleanor was tugging on his hair. Loved all the little moans and grasps the escaped her. He loved it all.

“I love you, Els,” he told her, his voice wrecked, “I love you so much.”

At that, Eleanor stilled and let out low growl of a moan into his shoulder. Her legs were shaking like mad and Louis could feel her tightening around his fingers.

Louis soothed her through her high, “That’s it, love. You look so beautiful like this.”

It was true, Eleanor would always be so beautiful to him. He always was in awe of her.

Louis is under her same awestruck spell moments later when a shaky Eleanor positioned herself over his cock. She held onto his hands, locking her glossy brown eyes on his as she lowered herself down on him, inch by inch almost painfully slow. It felt too good to be real, she was still so tight around him he couldn’t breathe. But he couldn’t stop her or lull his head off to the side in ecstasy, not when Eleanor looked this good. She looked lost in the passion, entranced in pleasure as she settled onto her husband’s lap. Her body quaking slightly, her mouth parted with little pants escaping her, the thin veneer of sweat on her brow.

He couldn’t look away, didn’t want to miss a moment of any of this.

Once she caught her breath, Eleanor began rotating her hips on him, grinding little juts that grow and grow. Louis was just a useless blob under her, his feeble hands loosely touched her hips, but she did not seem to need his help. Eleanor began lifting herself up and down on him, picking up a steady rhythm in no time. Her head was thrown back as she rode him, her hands pressed hard on his chest and little whines of pleasure falling from her mouth.

“You’re stunning,” Louis whimpered in awe, “S-So gorgeous.”

Eleanor panted out a moan, and lost the rhythm she built up.

Suddenly, Louis hazy mind cleared out.

He sat up, his arms wrapping around Eleanor’s sides protectively. He held her in place under her arms and began bucking his hips up into her. His wife moaned and dropped her head to his shoulder and just held onto him desperately.

“C-Close,” Eleanor warned him. Louis licked his lips and nodded, training his attention to his thrusts. He quickly worked his hand down to her sex and found her clitoris. Just touching is slightly made Eleanor’s body jerk, but Louis held her close as he continued to fuck into her while rubbing her off.

Louis exhaled into her skin, “I’m close too. Just—fuck babe. Let go love, wanna feel you come.”

“L-Lou,” Eleanor whined needy, and Louis doubled his efforts, his hips moving faster and losing the steady motion.

They come nearly at the same time, with Louis following shortly after Eleanor tightened painfully around him and her body growing limp in his arms. They stayed like that for a while, clinging to each other as they caught their breaths. After a while, Louis pulled out of Eleanor and rolled them onto the bed. Eleanor still looked blissed out, her eyes crossing with tiredness, but she seemed determined not to fall asleep.

“Go to bed, love,” Louis insisted, but Eleanor shook her head stubbornly.

“I don’t—it’s too early.” Louis smirked before pulling her in for another kiss.

“We have all the time in the world, love.”

And was true. There was no threat to their love anymore.

They both slept so peacefully that night.

~~~

~One Year Later~

A high pitch shrill of pain echoed down the hall.

                Louis stood up at attention at the sound.

                A hand tugged on his nightshirt.

                “Easy son,” Jay heeded, a bemused smile on her lips, “You’ll have a very long night ahead if you keep jumping up at every sound.”

                Louis anxiously kept his eye at the thin line under the door at the end of the long, dark hall.

                “Is it—?” he began, feel sick with worry, “Sounds like she’s in a lot of pain.”

                “Sounds about right to me,” Jay assured her boy, “all things considered.

                Yes, all things considered.

                Louis was mere hours, moments away from fatherhood.

                Louis sat slowly back down beside his mother, his knees shaking.

                “Drink up,” Jay instructed him, handing him a piping hot cup of tea, “It’s well sugared.”

                The lord took the drink thankfully, hastily taking a sip that burned the roof of his mouth.

                A few moments later, Eleanor screamed once more, this time sounding worse then before.

                Louis moved to stand up, but Jay patted his knee to still him.

                “Things must be moving along quickly,” Jay commented idly.

                Louis winced as Eleanor’s cry died down.

                “Dear God,” he exhaled.

                Jay promised him, “Your wife is in the best care. The top midwives in York are in there and the doctor should be here shortly just to oversee everything.”

                “What if something goes wrong?” Louis asked, his voice shaky, “W-What if something happens to her or the baby?”

                “Oh Louis,” Jay sighed, her hand cupping Louis’ cheek. She looked at him pitifully, “I know you want to protect her from any sort of pain. But childbirth is probably the one cross you can’t bare for her. She has to do this on her own. Her body knows what to do, and she has the assistance of the midwives to help her along. Your place right now is here, Louis—outside of the room. She’s fighting to bring that life into the world, and then your job will truly begin. You’ll have another life to protect, to defend and do what ever you can to make them happy. You think now is hard?” Jay scoffed.

                Louis looked at his mum in awe, “How did you do this all by yourself?” he wondered, “How did you manage to be a parent on your own?”

                “I had a great kid, my boy,” Jay smiled, “Made the job a bit easier.”

                Another cry came from Eleanor down the hall.

                Louis began to tremble.

                “Here,” Jay said, and suddenly she had a bottle of scotch in her hand. She uncapped it and poured a splash of it in Louis’ tea, “Just a little. You’ll want your head on straight when you meet your child for the first time. But this should be enough to settle your nerves.”

                The Lord nodded and gulped down the rest of his tea in one go.

                The night waged on, with Eleanor’s screams growing louder and closer together and Louis’ anxiety billowing. He was dying to go in her chambers, wanting nothing more then to be by her side. Instead, he sat in a chair in the hall with his legs bouncing. He then found pacing up and down the hall, his stomach churning.

                Jay, the whole time, sat in the chair knitting a quilt for her new grandchild.

                Just as dawn was beginning to show her telltale signs, a much welcome sound came from down the hall.

                A loud cry, young and new to the world, cut through the whole estate.

                Louis stopped dead in his tracks and turned towards the noise. The crying kept on, and the beautiful sound made tears spring up in his eyes.

                “Oh my,” he exhaled.

                Jay popped up and gave her son a firm hug, tears welling up in her eyes.

                “Congratulations dad,” she whispered, and Louis’ lips began to quiver.

                “I g-gotta see them,” he commented.

                But Jay shook her head, “Not yet son. The afterbirth needs to happen first, and I reckon they’re doing some check ups on the baby to make sure it’s sound.”

                “But,” Louis sighed, sounding desperate.

                “You’ll see them soon enough,” Jay promised him, “And then you’ll have them for the rest of your life.”

                She was right, as usual. In what felt like ages of more waiting, and hearing his child cry and waiting in agony, a midwife came out. At first, Louis noticed the spot of blood on her smock and other unidentifiable fluids that made Louis’ upper lip pull up. But the midwife was beaming from ear to ear.

                “How is she?” Louis asked.

                The midwife’s grin widened, “Eager to see you. Mother and baby are both well.”

                Mother and baby.

                Eleanor’s a mother, she had a baby and Louis’ the father.

                He was a father now—just like that.

                “Can I?” he asked hastily.

                “Yes, my Lord,” the midwife told him, “Congratulations.”

                “Thank you,” Louis told her, before turning to his mum to take her hand.

                Jay shook her head, “You go, son. You and Eleanor have your time with your new one.”

                Louis hesitated, waited for Jay to shove him lightly in the right direction. That was all he needed before turning and booking it down the hall. He stopped at the door he had been staring at all night, and it was slightly opened already. He’s chest was soaring with excitement as he pushed open the door.

                The scene before him brought tears back to his eyes.

                Eleanor was sat up in the bed, smiling up at her husband. Exhaustion was clear in her eyes but so were the tears of joy as well. The sweat on her brow shined in the early beams of sunlight coming through the room and made globs of her hair stick to her forehead. But there was a dazzling, near blinding smile on her lips that matched the occasion.

                She was okay. She was perfect well in fact. That eased Louis’ mind tremendously.

Something, or rather someone, wiggled in Eleanor’s arms. A tiny hand came up into Louis’ view.

                Louis lowered his gaze, and fresh tears appeared in his eyes.

                “Come here, love,” Eleanor rasped, and God her voice sounded so strained. But there was a pureness to it, an elation in it that Louis had never heard. The baby in her arms held onto her finger with a vice grip as she told her husband, “Come meet your son.”

                “S-Son?” Louis stuttered, his chest swelling with pride, “We have a boy?”

                Eleanor nodded, a tear falling down her cheek, “He’s so perfect Lou. He’s waiting to meet you. I’ve been telling him all about you.”

                Louis scoffed, still felt as though this was all a dream, “Yeah?” he mused.

Floating on air, he walked tentatively across the room and sat at the edge of the bed. He was in awe, in awe of the two innocent, wide eyes staring up at him with such curiosity. He was so tiny, Louis couldn’t fully wrap his head around it. Gingerly, he lifted his finger to his son’s cheek and glided it over the plush, virgin skin.

“Whatever your mum said about me,” Louis talked to his boy, “it isn’t true.”

Eleanor let out a breathy laugh, “So you’re not handsome then? Or incredibly thoughtful and brave and generous?” Louis smirked cunningly.

“Well,” he deadpanned, looking back at his son, “I guess that stuff is true.”

“You wanna hold him?” Eleanor asked, and Louis found himself nodding before Eleanor finished speaking. She gently handed him off to Louis, setting up from the bed a little bit more to be closer to Louis. The baby felt light as a feather in Louis’ arms, and the new father was scared to do anything really. But he slowly began to rock the baby in his arms, and the boy’s eyes fluttered close. The night must have been long for him too.

Eleanor’s hand came up to stroke Louis’ arm.

“Your name will live on, Louis,” she told him, sounding proud.

Louis smirked, doing his best to will his tears away, “And this little lad’s gonna grow up with a father in his life, every step of the way,” he looked up at Eleanor and earnestly told her, “I’ll never be like my father El. I would never desert you or our son.”

“I know, love,” she assured him.

“You wanna sleep?” Louis asked, “I can look after him while you sleep for a bit.” Eleanor snickered.

“We have more pressing issues to tend to then lack of sleep.”

“Oh?” Louis asked, and Eleanor rolled her eyes.

“This baby might have a title, but that’s useless without an actual name for him,” she teased him, but Louis’ eyes widened.

“Oh yes,” he looked down at his son, and wheels in his head were turning for a name. Nothing came to mind, his tired brain proving to be useless. He bit his lip nervously and cursed himself and Eleanor for not coming up with a name beforehand.

“I was thinking William,” Eleanor informed him.

Louis looked perplexed, “William?”

“You don’t like it?” she asked.

“Dunno,” Louis answered, “Never really not about names all that much before. It’s a nice name, I guess.”

“It’s your middle name, Lou.”

“I know,” Louis said, “I just, no one really uses middle names that much. I never really felt connected to it.”

Eleanor sighed, “Well that’s a shame. Because Jay told me that your middle name was after her father.”

“Really?” he asked and Eleanor nodded. He looked back down at his son and replayed the name over and over again in his head. He started grinning, “I like it. Yeah, I can see him as a William. We can call him Will for short.”

“Got any ideas for a middle name?” Eleanor asked, “I think it’s only fair. I got to pick the first name, you get to pick the middle name.”

Louis pondered on it as he continued to bounce William. A name finally came to him.

“James,” he said, “William James.”

Eleanor leaned over and kissed Louis’ cheek, “I really like that name.”

“Liam’s middle name is James,” Louis stated, “I know, things are weird between him and I. I hope one day we can properly try to rebuild our friendship. But, if it wasn’t for him and his kind gesture, I wouldn’t have you as my wife and we wouldn’t have this little boy or any title to give him. We’re set for life because of him. I got everything I’ve ever wanted and more because of Liam. Seems only fair to name a part of child after him.”

The Lady smiled softly, “That’s really sweet Louis. I think Liam will like that you did that.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Eleanor looked down at her son and exhaled, “William James Tomlinson.”

“I love you,” Louis said, looking up at Eleanor, “I hate myself for not saying it sooner. But I love you so much El. For so many, many things. But right now, the biggest thing I love you for is that you carried our son for nine months and kept him perfectly safe and healthy. I know—I know you were scared, after what happened last time—”

“Lou,” Eleanor sighed. Louis knew how upset Eleanor would get when her past miscarriage was on her mind. He quickly tacked on.

“But you were so brave the whole time. And you did such a great job tonight,” he said kissed the side of her scalp, “Thank you for giving me a son, giving me this life and all this happiness. I don’t deserve it, not even close. But thank you for loving me anyway.”

Eleanor shook her head, giving Louis a stern look, “You make it sound like loving you is something to dread. But it’s not, it has been my greatest pleasure to love you, to have you and to expand our family with you, Louis.”

Louis smirked sheepishly, “Go to sleep my love. You’ve earned it.”

As he watched his beloved drift off to sleep, Louis couldn’t help but reflect on the last few years. He once was a knight, the personal knight to his young king. He was tasked with retrieved the King’s betrothed from Scotland, Princess Eleanor so that they could be married. That was it, that should have been the end of the simple, short story.

But it wasn’t.

Fate had other plans for Louis and Eleanor. So many unexpected twists and turns, war and forbidden love. Strife and joy. Heartache and peace. New beginnings and painful endings. It was all worth it though, and the worrying and waiting and uncertainty—that was all worth it.

Louis reached one hand over to Eleanor’s and took it in his own without disturbing his sleeping wife and child.

He knew there was more in store for them, for good moments and more hardships to come.

Louis would welcome whatever the fates would give them.

 

 

~*~ THE END ~*~