A/N: Mostly, this story will be my own original scenes and drabble about what's happening in their heads and hearts (e.g. what Mary wrote in those fake love letters!), and eventually a whole overarching storyline that will likely deviate from the show. But for the first several chapters there will probably be whole scenes from the show in this story so that I can show what they were thinking and feeling during the original scene, but I will try to avoid that as much as possible because you all have already seen the show. I apologize in advance.
Prologue: Fight or Flight
The door to the cell in London Tower opened with the loud clattering of heavy metal locks. The prisoner seated at the desk writing looked up as Queen Elizabeth sauntered in, her chin raised imperiously. His face was smudged, his clothes dirty. Yet he smiled like someone in on a joke at her expense, clearly unimpressed by her.
"What's this?" Gideon Blackburn crowed in mock surprise, "The queen herself paying a visit to a common prisoner? Hmm. You must need something." Elizabeth narrowed her eyes and tried not to let him get the better of her as he turned back to his writing, so much as if he intended to ignore her presence. She took comfort in the fact that he was in this cell and she was the one who put him here.
"A task that should come all too easily, given your talents," she mused scornfully. Gideon smirked in exasperation at the reintroduction of an age-old topic between them, and set down his quill as she paced behind him. "You lied to me," she accused, leaning over the back of his chair to hiss the words in his ear before continuing her circuit of his cell. Gideon rolled his eyes, unseen by her. "You made me care for you. You nearly made me…"
"But I didn't," he interrupted in defensive exasperation, before continuing in mocking innocence, "I couldn't make you fall in love with me because you're in love with Robert Dudley." Elizabeth paused with her back to him, not wanting him to see the rage that still played over her face at the memory of what had happened.
"Which you happily reported back to my half-sister. I was a girl, Gideon," she snarled. Gideon stood up, finally sufficiently provoked to meet her emotion with some of his own.
"And Bloody Mary was my queen," he defended angrily, all too logical for Elizabeth's tastes, "I was her eyes and ears sent to inform on you, the greatest threat to her crown." His voice, his words made it clear that he wondered when this would end. When she would finally stop punishing him. Stop taking it personally. She was a queen herself now and should know better than to blame a spy for being a spy.
"And when she ripped Robert from his cell and my arms, it nearly killed me," she returned stonily. Gideon's jaw tightened before he regained control of himself.
"Weakening you was a necessary precaution," he pointed out quickly. Then continued more gently, reprovingly, like a mentor schooling his pupil, "A queen must always be looking over her shoulder to those with the power to undo her." He walked up behind her, waiting for her to take in his words. Elizabeth's gaze slid sideways thoughtfully.
"I understand that now," she said bitterly, in no small way blaming him for teaching that lesson. She turned around to face him. "That's why I'm here," she added in a sly, pleased tone, "Mary Queen of Scots will soon seek a marriage alliance. Spain's Prince Don Carlos is among the interested candidates." Gideon smirked, amused at Elizabeth's expense.
"Well, that union would be quite the feather in your cousin's cap," he observed.
"Yes," drawled Elizabeth, "And one I'm eager to thwart." Gideon changed tactics, beginning to pace the room himself some.
"I hear Robert left court," he said in badly feigned solicitousness, "The Lady Dudley is quite ill. Is that why you're so eager to bring down the queen of Scots? Robert has abandoned you, you're bored without your little plaything?" His tone turned mocking on the words "bored" and "plaything." Elizabeth ignored his needling.
"Mary has released the French troops from Scotland," she explained, brushing past him, her golden skirts rustling, "And a new alliance would raise her international standing. That is something I can't afford." Gideon's face became serious as he listened to her, his mind for diplomatic strategy quickly analyzing the situation and its ramifications.
"And why would I agree to help you?" he asked skeptically.
"To gain your freedom," she said with mocking sweetness, "Perhaps there's a part of your blackened heart that longs to meet your daughter. I've taken Agatha in as my ward. Such a pity, a child growing up with two absent parents. Do this for me and I'll see you're reunited." Watching his face, she knew she had him. At the mention of his daughter he'd frowned, trying to control the emotion there. But there was no mistaking the longing or the defeat.
"And how do you suggest I gain Mary's trust?" he asked, his voice low with barely controlled anger. What was there that he wouldn't do to see his daughter? To get her away from the likes of Elizabeth?
"Well, by doing what you do best. By doing what you tried to do to me," she said sinisterly, "Make Mary fall in love with you."
When Mary closed the trunk lid over Francis' wedding jacket she had intended to close it over her heart as well. But the grief stayed with her. While a piece of her was packed away with the garment—the piece that allowed her to love, to find joy, to have hope in the world—the deep, unending sorrow remained. She knew she couldn't give in to it; she had a country to rule and a promise to keep to Francis. What would he think if she failed her country now? After all they had been through—the fights they had had over the fates of their respective countries, the attacks they had survived—how could she dishonor that memory by doing anything less than building a new alliance just as he had tried to arrange for her before he'd even passed? She would not love again. She knew it with every bone in her body. She was not capable of it. There would never be another love for her like Francis. He had been her passion and her inspiration. She could still feel the brush of his lips against hers, feel his hands running up and down her arms to comfort her. The emptiness of where those hands should have been felt cold.
But even though he had been her everything, there was one thing that remained her own: her strength. And she couldn't let the loss of him take that from her too. He would not have stood for it. It was true that she would not love again as she had loved Francis, but she didn't need to. That was not the way marriage alliances worked for monarchs. Her strength and resolve would have to be enough. She would find another husband to respect her and support her cause. She would find a powerful husband for Scotland.
In the meantime, what happened in the solitude of her room was her own secret to keep. And in the lonely darkness she held herself and wept.