Disclaimer: Not mine. Do you actually need me to tell you that?
Chapter 6 - Shattered: It was hard to say how much time had passed. There were ways to pass the time – embroidery materials, a deck of cards, a chess set. There were even blank leather-bound books and implements to write or draw.
Both women had devoted themselves to solitary pursuits at first, before that finally became tiresome. It was Anne who lost patience and suggested that they play chess. She regretted it at first when Katherine beat her soundly every time. But soon they were more evenly matched, and if Anne was right about her next move…
"Checkmate," she informed the other woman with a faint grin. Katherine tipped her king over and smiled slightly herself. For a moment it seemed as though the ice between them was cracked a little, if not yet broken, but then the mirror flared to life. Both of them turned to face it, immediately distracted.
Mary sat at a desk, staring down at a piece of paper. Anne would have bet anything she knew what was written on it.
"What if I do not sign it?" Mary asked the other person in the room – Chapuys.
"It is very possible the King will put you to death," the Imperial ambassador said grimly. Mary paled slightly, her breath coming unevenly as she fought back tears. "You can sign and then make what is called a 'protestation apart'," Chapuys continued. "A promise made under duress is not binding, and the Holy Father will absolve you." Mary frowned, clearly at a loss.
Katherine was torn. She did not want to see Mary give in, declaring herself a bastard and calling Katherine's marriage invalid. But if Chapuys could ensure Papal forgiveness for Mary, her soul would be safe. And as much as Katherine wanted to spend time with her daughter again, she did not want Mary to come here yet. Henry had killed Anne, a woman he'd once loved enough to turn England upside down for. He'd executed Thomas More, a man who had been his close friend for years. Would he hesitate to order the death of his daughter? She feared that he would not. She watched Mary, terrified for her child.
Then Mary snatched up her quill and signed the paper, her expression anguished. Throwing the quill down, she whispered, "As long as I live, I will never forgive myself." Katherine had never wished so desperately, in all the long months she'd been here, that she could speak to Mary, to go to her. She wanted to hug her little girl close again and assure her that it was all right, that she would have never wanted to see Mary killed for this, and she would never blame her for signing if that was the alternative. It wasn't worth it.
Anne watched the scene unfold and saw the effect it had on her companion. She wanted to apologize – the Oath was partly her fault, after all – but something stopped her. Part of it was guilt, and the knowledge that no words could ever make up for pain like this. But more than that, she wasn't sure the apology would be sincere. She'd honestly thought, at the time, that the Oath was the only way to secure Elizabeth's future. In hindsight, she could see how the bloodshed might have turned people against her beautiful little girl, but that didn't change her motivations. She could not apologize for doing – or simply condoning – something to keep her child safe. Katherine would have done the same for Mary, and so Anne felt she could not be sorry. She could and did regret not thinking things through, not seeing that there could be better ways, but she could not regret doing what she had honestly thought was best for her child.
A/N: I was going to put the reconciliations with Mary and Elizabeth in this one, but the tone went too dark for that, so expect that to be the focus of the next chapter.