She was done.
Nicholas could see it on her face, in the way she had started rolling her shoulders 30 minutes ago (she always got knots when she was stressed). He knew that while her right hand was above the table, jotting down notes and reminders between her mediation attempts, her left hand was below the table alternatively tapping on her leg and curling into a fist.
Whoever had thought a six-hour parliamentary session was a good idea was out of their mind. Sure, the first two hours had been productive. But that had been three hours ago and they weren't going to be finished anytime soon.
Nicholas had long lost track of all the topics that had been discussed. He doubted many in the room knew aside from the Queen and a handful of old, hostile men who felt it necessary to have an opinion on everything from high priority foreign national policies to side chatter legislation about making pears a tax-free fruit, the latter of which they were discussing now.
Charlotte had been arguing back and forth with a few of the lords for the past few minutes. "We have sales tax for a reason!"
"Well it's hurting local farmers and the economy is suffering," a white-haired man spat back. Nicholas couldn't remember his name. Most of the viscounts and lords here had white hair and it was hard to keep track sometimes. "I propose that we make pears tax-free. They are our national fruit after all! All in favor say-"
"-Lord Jeffers," the Queen cut in as she pulled a piece of paper from the overfilled binder in front of her. "I have reports from the Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee showing that the pear economy is fine." Lord Jeffers opened his mouth to protest, but the Queen pushed on. "In fact, it looks like numbers haven't been this high in years. We may have a record season." She raised an eyebrow as if daring him to explain away his contradictory claims.
Lord Jeffers stared at the report like his eyes were lasers and he could burn a hole right through the thing. "But the taxes..."
"Don't you have a pear farm, Lord Jeffers?" The Queen received a solemn nod in answer. "Then if your sales are truly suffering, perhaps we should consider offering free marketing and operations classes to independent business owners like yourself.
Lord Jeffers frowned. "Excuse me?"
The Queen's hand paused in midair as she was putting away the report and the look she gave the lord held none of the patience she had displayed over the last five hours."I believe in getting to the root of the problem, sir. And to me it seems the root of the problem isn't sales taxes but uneducated-"
Seeing where this was headed, Nicholas was on his feet in an instant. "-and that ends today's session!" he interjected, rushing around the table with as much class as he could muster.
When he reached the Queen, the entire room, save the Queen and Lord Jeffers, had already stood and were readying to leave. They didn't need to be told twice.
Lord Jeffers, for his part, had turned a shade of bright red. "Why I never..."
Nicholas laid a hand on the Queen's shoulder. Partly to provide support and partly because he was worried she would rise out of her chair and attack the man.
"Tomorrow we're having discussions about the new bus system, are we not?" a voice piped up, and Nicholas recognized it as Charlotte having stayed back. Her question sent a spark of recognition to his brain as he finally remembered the lord from a state dinner he'd attended years ago. Chair to the urban development board and also the third (or was it the fourth?) largest seller of pears in Genovia.
Realizing at this point that without anyone else in the room he wasn't going to get his tax suggestion passed, Lord Jeffers just nodded at Charlotte and started to gather his things.
"I look forward to it," Nicholas said, smiling a small thanks at Charlotte who nodded and waved them on. Then he not so subtly urged the Queen from her chair and through the side door that led to her office.
Once through it, Mia's shoulders sagged in relief, as anticipated. Then she rounded on Nicholas and swatted at his jacket. Also as anticipated.
"You can't end sessions whenever you feel like it!" she said, throwing a stack of papers on her desk and reaching for the tight bun her hair was pulled up into.
"And yet I did," he pointed out, closing the door behind him and leaning back against it.
Mia yanked out a bobby pin. "Just because..." She paused, pulling at a stubborn pin and gritting her teeth. "Just because you're my..."
Nicholas pushed off the door and walked over, hands gently taking hers away before going to remove the pins himself. "Just because I'm what? You're boyfriend?" he asked, smirking. Three pins clicked against wood as he dropped them onto her desk. "I don't know why it's so hard for you to say it."
Mouth pressed firmly into a line, Mia slumped against her desk as Nicholas proceeded to unravel what he commonly thought of as a torture mechanism to the highest level.
"No wonder you almost strangled the pear man. This is so tight you're probably losing blood flow to your brain as we speak."
A hand swatted at him again, this time not so forcefully. His eyes flicked down and were greeted by a pair of dark brown ones staring back at him. They were smiling, even if their owner's mouth wasn't.
Then the eyes closed as Mia let out a loud, frustrated sigh. "Six hours!"
The last of the bobby pins gone, Nicholas pulled out the final restraint (an elastic band) and brown hair tumbled down in its absence, completely changing the woman before him. Now this was the Mia he knew and cared for. Beautiful, hair always slightly out of sorts... and definitely not in a dictator bun. He smiled, resting his hands on Mia's shoulders as he played with the ends of the glossy strands. "Six hours," he agreed, before leaning down to press a kiss against her forehead.
Then he kissed the tip of her nose, then her cheek...
Before he could make it to her lips, Mia turned her head and met him in a long, sweet kiss. He could practically feel all of the lingering tension seep out of her as she pressed against him.
When Mia pulled away, she looked calmer and was smiling slightly. Suddenly, her smile widened and she reached over her desk to grab her cell phone from an open drawer.
She tapped into it for a minute, not letting him peak at the message, then hit one final button. "And sent!"
A moment later Nicholas pulled his own phone out to see that he had received a mass communication email from the official Queen of Genovia address. He scanned the message quickly. "Tomorrow's session has been reduced to three hours?"
Mia pulled his phone towards her so that she could see it too, then pointed at the last line. "And this afternoon's arts committee is being postponed due to more 'information gathering' being required."
Nicholas shut off the phone and pocketed it. "I approve."
"Being a queen has its perks, doesn't it?" Mia joked before giving into a yawn that was a long time coming.
"Sometimes," he agreed, looking beyond the well-done makeup to tired eyes and an even more exhausted woman. "Sometimes not."
Mia shrugged as if to say 'what can you do?' before yawning again.
Nicholas had a few ideas on that note. "Come with me," he instructed, slipping an arm around Mia and leading her to the back staircase. "I think I know just the cure for a twenty-minute verbal diatribe about pears.
"And what's that?" she asked, tilting her head to the side to look at him.
"Ice cream and movies," he replied as if the answer was obvious. And then added in a whisper like they were about to commit some sort of national crime, "In our pajamas. In the middle of the day."
Mia laughed and wrapped an arm around his waist as they started the climb upwards. "Now I remember why I keep you around. You do make a pretty good boyfriend."