Title: not far from the tree
Disclaimer: the basic premise isn't mine; all of the characters are
Warnings: fluff? schoomp? situations resolved offscreen?
Pairings: a great deal of OMC/OFC
Point of view: third
Prompt: Fairy Tales, Cinderella, she teaches her son the value of work, and it makes him the best king the realm had ever known
Notes: I'm going to attempt fleshing this out into a novel. Wish me luck.
Jacques has her eyes and his father's smile. He laughs like his grandda did and wears the circlet of Crown Prince with a solemnity that could only have come from his grandmother, the late Queen Mother.
Aaron doesn't understand why Jocelyn takes their children with her to the market every Tuesday and Thursday, just after lunch. Jacques always spends those mornings with his father, listening to the problems commoners bring before the throne, seeking aid or retribution. During the first three years he sat in, Aaron never asked Jacques what he thought should be done; Jacques complained about that more than once, storming around Jocelyn's tearoom like a little thundercloud. But recently, since Jacques turned sixteen, Aaron listens to him. He rarely follows Jacques suggestions, of course, as their son is still so young, but he gives Jacques due consideration, and Jacques is honored by that.
Yvette and Rochelle are five years younger than their brother. Yvette looks just like her royal grandmother, hair as bright as the sun and eyes shining like the sea Jocelyn fell in love with in her first months with Aaron, when he took her on a whirlwind tour to introduce his new bride to her people. Rochelle is darker, with Aaron's black hair and Da's eyes.
Rochelle enjoys going to the market the most. She's kinder to the servants than all of the courtiers and she makes notes of the ways the poor can be helped. She's barely eleven, but she speaks passionately about it, phrasing everything in a way even the stodgiest old coot can't deny she's right. Aaron smiles, and asks her to help him draft a new law. Rochelle has no interest in the princes already clamoring for her attention, or the nobility that showers her with compliments about her raven locks and dazzling green eyes. She wants to change social policy, and she steals away all of Jacques' Saturday mornings, sitting him down in the princesses' tearoom for lessons about what needs to be fixed and the best ways to go about it.
Yvette is the court's darling, but her sharp eyes miss nothing. All the ladies adore her, not noticing the tidbits she soaks up, delivered to her mother. Jocelyn was once a slave to women much like most of those court ladies. She wants no one like that to have too much power, and her daughters will not marry the sons of anyone like her stepmother. Yvette knows all the secrets of the court before she's twelve. Jocelyn knows what to do with the things her daughter learns.
And Jacques. Dear Jacques. Future king. One week of each year since his sixth birthday has been spent doing all the chores a castle requires. He has emptied chamber pots and swept the stairs, scrubbed the kitchen floor and fed the livestock. He understands hard work and appreciates all the effort put into his home. Thanks to Rochelle, he speaks to everyone the same whether they command an army or have nothing but their name.
At the market, dressed in drab clothes, the queen, crown prince, and princesses pretend to be a woman out shopping and her children. She buys bolts of cloth while Yvette charms the vendors, Rochelle speaks to a pickpocket, and Jacques sneaks scraps to a skinny dog who will follow them home and join the family.
In the coming years, Jocelyn will pretend she doesn't know Rochelle vanishes every Monday afternoon, meeting the pickpocket for lessons. A guard follows her, far enough away to not be noticed, but close enough to act. The lessons evolve, of course. By the time she's seventeen, Rochelle's pickpocket has stolen her heart and a dozen kisses and what the late Queen Mother would've said should be saved for the marriage bed. Jocelyn just barely keeps the pickpocket from execution for that.
Yvette is Jacques' most trusted advisor, as he studies statecraft. The courtiers still don't know about the spy in their midst, the secrets revealed to their king and future king. Jocelyn has almost convinced Jacques to appoint his sister the position of spymaster, when the throne is his.
Aaron is a good king and a loving husband, but he has always known privilege, like all his advisors, all his courtiers, even the guards. He still sometimes ignores the servants, not seeing them even as they serve his dinner. But Aaron's children have toiled – a week a year since each of them was six. They still don't fully understand the severity of Jocelyn's twelve years enslaved by her stepmother, but they walk the market like commoners and have friends of every social class, and she knows that her son and her daughters herald change.
Jacques ascends the throne at thirty-five, when Aaron steps down. The first thing he does, when the crown has barely been on his head for a minute, is tell Rochelle to marry her pickpocket. The next is to ask Yvette if she'll become his spymaster.
Aaron and Jocelyn go live by the sea. She walks amongst her people, listening as they praise her son, already beloved.
History, she knows, will remember him well. And Yvette and Rochelle, behind the scenes, the voices of the commoners and nobility both.
Yvette marries the younger son of a neighboring king; he willingly moves to live in a nice manor house just outside the capitol. Jocelyn is sure he never realizes just who he wed. Yvette puts down two attempted coups in forty-five years, before retiring in favor of her granddaughter. Jocelyn is long dead by that time, of course.
Rochelle weds her pickpocket in the spring after her brother is crowned. Her pickpocket figured out who she was during that very first meeting, two decades before, but everyone else she knows from the market is shocked. Her pickpocket has become respectable by their wedding, of course. He is Yvette's right hand, keeping the realm safe from the shadows. Rochelle implements literacy programs and juggles the tax laws so that the rich pay more and the poor pay less, and her husband saves her life no fewer than seven times over fifty years.
And Jacques. Dear Jacques. He is called Jacques the Merciful by history, the best beloved king their realm ever knows.
Jocelyn outlives her husband, and she is sitting on the balcony, remembering the first trip to the market with eight-year-old Jacques and two toddling girls, imagining the great things her babies will do, listening to the sea, when she breathes in, smiles at the sky, and never again breathes out.
The day King Aaron and Queen Jocelyn were crowned is declared a national holiday. She is laid to rest beside her husband and King Jacques' first granddaughter is named Jocelyn. His children know the value of hard work and walked the market dressed in drab clothing, and his heir, the Crown Princess Isabella, has her grandma's eyes and the laugh of the great-granda she never knew.