Author's Note: So this is my entry for the Odd Couple Ficathon, and my pairing is Anne of Cleves/Anthony Knivert, so naturally, it's AU. I made up Anthony Knivert's back story. So just go along with it, as I know all of you are very good at :) I watched the first two episodes of season four, but nothing further- but based on the previews and spoilers, I know that Anne of Cleves and Henry do have a relationship, but I sort of gave my own spin on it, since I'm not entirely sure what is going to happen.
Please don't forget to review, and I hope you enjoy! Oh, and as a side-note, those of you awaiting a chapter of King Arthur, I promise I will have a new one before April is over.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Tudors or history. I just mess around with it ;)
She didn't even realize she was crying. She knew it was half part relief and the other half the sting of rejection; but she didn't feel like she was even alive at that moment. It was like she was watching herself collapse into the arms of her ladies.
She didn't have many friends at the English court, and she had only been Queen for six months. The man who arranged her marriage was awaiting execution at the Tower of London, disgraced because the King disliked her. Cromwell wasn't the nicest man in the world; but she still felt responsible for his downfall, and she counted her blessings that she wasn't joining him tomorrow. She wouldn't go and watch, nor would she write to him expressing sympathy. She wasn't a fool; and she knew she was lucky.
Still, she hadn't seen THIS outcome in her future. She did hear some rumors that the King was in love again with a young noble woman named Katherine Howard. She felt sorry for this girl, only seventeen and thrust into the arms of a King old enough to be her grandfather. She thought that like the last foreign Queen on English soil, Princess Mary's unfortunate mother, that she would be set aside and sent to some remote place and would be forced to live in poverty- or worse yet, like the Lady Elizabeth's most unfortunate mother.
She was pleasantly surprised to hear otherwise. Yet, it stung to hear that the King couldn't stand the thought of staying married to her for a moment longer- and that a silly girl had stolen her place. But she had enough sense to stay silent about it. She didn't want the King to be more displeased with her than he already clearly was. She didn't refuse him, she submitted, and as a result she was getting more than she bargained for.
She knew that she should be more relieved than hurt.
Even so, the next week, after she had packed all of her belongings to make room for the King's new teenaged wife, she rode to Hever Castle with a strangely heavy heart. Gone were the pleasant fantasies she had about leaving Cleves and becoming the greatest Queen of England ever. Gone was the idea of having a child of her own. Gone was the idea of being in love. Gone was the idea of being somewhat important. She was an obligation here in England just like she was in Cleves.
But she would stay, because in the end, it was the lesser of two evils. She was rich here. Mary and Elizabeth were both fond of her- so even if she would never give birth, she had two daughters in her heart. And eventually, she hoped that the King would forgive her for being so displeasing.
She glanced into the full-length mirror in her new chamber at Hever and studied her reflection for a long time. A man who was an infamous lover of women found her so repulsive that he couldn't even conjure enough lust to create a child- a possible Duke of York!
Edward Seymour had told her that she could remarry again, that because she and the King were never married that she was as free as a woman could possibly be. She was sure that some man in debt would concede to marry her, use her for her money, if she truly desired a husband. But she would never marry a man that truly loved her and desired her- that was ridiculous. The King had ruined any chances of that ever happening, now that she had been branded the Flanders Mare for the rest of her life, and there was nothing she could do about it.
Yet, there was something she could do about the way she dressed, which was so odd and foreign to the judgmental English court. With her newfound wealth, she sent some of her ladies out to find cloth and she hired a seamstress to make her gowns that would flatter her coloring- and she also told them to make sure that it was cut in a fashionable style, so she wouldn't look like a fool any longer. She learned how dance, how to play more cards than what Charles Brandon had taught her during that stormy night at Calais (and she had even won a bit of money!).
When the King invited her to court for the New Year, she was ready. She was no longer the German princess from Cleves- unable to speak more than a few words of English, self-conscious and dressed in the most unfashionable of gowns. She was now the King's beloved sister, the only one of his former wives' to survive being married to him. She was now a true Englishwoman, and unafraid of anything.
She allowed Charles Brandon to kiss her hand, smiled her new smile at him, and described her success in the countryside with cards and gambling. She embraced her former husband and curtsied to his new wife. She sat on the King's left side, as Katherine sat on his right. She had finally felt accepted, and she even noticed a few pairs of male eyes rest on her, even though the Queen was far more vibrant than she ever was. When the King had retired to bed early, she even danced with the Queen, to the surprise of everybody present. She had no spite in her at all, and it was liberating.
She was so entranced with dancing and talking to the Queen that she didn't even notice that one man's eye was focused entirely on her.
"Anthony, so glad to see you back at court for Christmas," Charles remarked to his old friend, sitting down next to him. He was always fond of Knivert, and was saddened when he left court to marry and start a family. Now he was back, ten years later, and the court, and their old friend Henry, had changed tremendously. In a way, Anthony was lucky to come back when he did. He missed Anne Boleyn's coronation, and her violent downfall. He missed the abuse of Katherine of Aragon- and the Princess Mary. He missed the death of Jane Seymour, and the birth of Henry's beloved son.
And he missed the most peaceful annulment of any of Henry's wives- and the transformation of Anne of Cleves. Now he was back when Henry was finally happy with his life again- free of that worm Cromwell and married to his youngest and most naïve wife yet.
"Well, since I am now a widower, I suppose it is acceptable for me to be here, your grace. My wife never cared for court, and for all of my bravado, I could never force her to visit, nor could I leave her," Knivert explained. He had loved her in his own way- even if it was an arranged marriage by the King. She died of consumption that summer, and when Henry heard of it, he invited Knivert back to court for his wedding and back into his good graces, as if the past ten years (and Henry's rapid aging) hadn't happened at all. Occasionally he left to go settle his estates, but he was back for Christmas, and finally had the chance to speak to his good friend, the Duke of Suffolk.
Of course, he had followed events closely while he lived in the country, and couldn't believe all that had happened. Anne Boleyn, the woman that Henry had tore his country apart, was dead and gone, on his own orders. And now he was married to a seventeen year old girl, who couldn't read or write or hold much of a conversation that didn't require giggling or trivial womanish things. That's not to say, however, that Knivert didn't know exactly why Henry married her. He wasn't a fool, and he knew his friend very well, despite how long it had been since he had seen him.
"How do you find things? Quite clearly, they have changed drastically," Charles wryly commented, scanning the court and remembering those who were in power ten years ago, and where most of them were now. Wolsey, More, Cromwell, Anne and her family- all of those who dominated years ago were now mostly buried underneath the Tower's chapel, forgotten memories of a viciously changing court.
"You could imagine my surprise that the King has found himself a new sister- and a very beautiful one, might I add. Who is she?" Knivert asked. He had come back after Anne of Cleves had left for the countryside, and was now surprised to see the mysterious and very poised woman, in such a high place. He was naturally curious who she was, and how she got to such a place.
"That is Anne of Cleves, the King's sister because his majesty didn't like her as a wife. Now, she is quite changed. When she first came here, she spoke little English, dressed very strangely, and as the King put it 'looked like a horse.' Now she is his sister, because she was the only one who accepted his offer of annulment, the King decided to be generous. She lives at Hever, the old Boleyn family home, and has a very generous pension," Brandon explained, also focusing his eyes over towards her. He was just as surprised as the rest of the court to see her so changed.
"Is that so? I shall have to introduce myself. Excuse me Charles," Knivert said, not allowing for Charles to give much of a response. Unlike Charles and Henry- Knivert's aging was gradual, and he still retained much of his boyish looks, charm, and physically ability. So he knew that he had no fear that Anne of Cleves would find him repulsive, as Henry had apparently found her. Yet, he couldn't help but feel nervous. It had been a long time since he had to rely on his connections to the King and his looks to win a woman over.
"Lady Anne," he greeted, sweeping a well-practiced bow in front of her chair on the dais. She and the Queen had just gotten done dancing, and had hit an interlude in their conversation. "My name is Sir Anthony Knivert; I am an old friend of the King's. Would you do me the honor of a dance?"
"Gladly, Sir Anthony," Anne replied, taken aback by the offer. She had many curious eyes on her, but none had the courage to approach her. Apparently this man, this Sir Anthony, was charmed by her, and she felt her breath hitch in her throat when took her hand and lead her to the middle of the floor. He was probably just being polite, she reminded herself stubbornly, refusing to believe that any man could love her for what had taken place earlier that year. As they started dancing, Anne remarked, "You are an old friend of the King's? You do not look so very old to me."
"Thank you, my lady, but yes it is true. I used to live at court near ten years ago now, but I left to start a family," Knivert replied.
Anne felt her stomach drop when he said the word 'family.' Of course a middle aged man would have a family of his own. She felt like a fool, but did not allow for her surprising disappointment to show on her face. "What brings you back, then? After ten long years, I imagine a great many things have changed for you," as she said these words, she didn't even realize that there was a slight sharpness to her voice, unintentional, of course. She couldn't begrudge this man, who she had just met, for having a life beyond the court, but she couldn't help her own disappointment.
"After my wife died, his majesty graciously gave me my old apartments back…" he was cut off by the end of the song, and the commencement of clapping. "Would you walk with me, tomorrow? I wish to speak to you more, Lady Anne," Knivert asked, noticing that the Queen was ready to retire, and he was certain that Anne would follow, as was proper. He couldn't imagine this lady doing anything that wasn't proper.
She should have said no, and left it at that. But she felt hopeful, for some reason. Sir Anthony could possibly like her. He was a widower, with no knowledge of who she was before. He could possibly offer her a fresh start beyond clothes and cards, and she could make her first friend in the English court. How could she refuse? "Of course, Sir Anthony," she replied, curtsying and withdrawing, with hopeful thoughts of tomorrow running through her head.
Knivert was pulled out of his thoughts with Charles' words. "How do you find the Lady Anne?"
Knivert could have sung the highest praises of Anne, because she would deserve each one of them. But instead, he felt like he couldn't trust Charles, not anymore, now that he was required to do whatever the King commanded. The Lady, although not born his majesty's sister, was clearly now treated as such. He couldn't confide in Charles, not anymore, now that things had changed forever. His strange desire for Anne of Cleves had to stay a secret, until he had sorted everything out.
"I don't know, we hardly spoke at all, at least about nothing worth mentioning." And he prayed Charles didn't read into anything more than that.
"I was surprised, Sir Anthony, that you invited to me to walk with you. It is a cold day, after all," Anne commented as soon as the two of them began to walk outside of Whitehall palace, the ice and snow beneath their feet crunching with each step they took.
"Yes, and so, we are assured to be alone," Knivert replied, smiling at her, and it turned even wider when she smiled back. My God, he wondered, how could Henry not find her desirable? "Tell me about yourself, Lady Anne."
Anne was taken aback, once again, by the brashness and curiosity of this friend of the King's. Nobody really cared about her, not anymore at least. She lived in the countryside, and it was first time back at court since she had left in June, and even though she had been invited back, she stood on unsure footing. "Certainly you know that I used to be the King's wife, and that he annulled the marriage because it was not consummated," Anne replied just as frankly as he had asked her, not allowing herself to blush in shame anymore. She was just as much a maid as she had been the day she was born, and she was no longer ashamed of it. It was not her fault.
"Not consummated?" Knivert questioned in shock. Henry must have truly gone mad, as the rumors he had heard suggested. The one thing he knew about his friend is that he wanted children more than anything else, and would kill to get them, or do other unpleasant things, such as exile his one wife and execute another. Surely sleeping with a woman who he found unpleasant wouldn't be the worst thing he had to do.
"No, Sir Anthony. So now I am a free woman, and I live at Hever Castle for most of the time. This is my first time back to court in a while. I have been living there all summer, and fall, and most of winter- and the Lady Elizabeth and the Princess Mary often come to visit me. I spend my time with them, or playing cards," Anne explained in her accented voice. "And what of you, Sir Anthony? You have a family, yah?"
"I do, two children, a son and a daughter. My wife died last summer, of consumption," Knivert explained, not allowing himself to think of the woman who had spent ten years with as he talked to Anne.
"Do they have names?" Anne asked, giving him a mischievous smile.
"They do, my lady. My son's name is Henry, and my daughter's name is Jane." Even though he had not been at court while Jane Seymour was Queen, he had enough sense to have his daughter christened after Henry's most beloved Queen. And naturally, his firstborn was a son, and could only have one name.
"I should like to meet them," Anne proposed, smiling at her companion once again. She liked Sir Anthony; he was the first person to show her such a pure kindness. She didn't feel so alone anymore. Even though it was important that the current Queen and his majesty be fond of her, and she was eating supper with them that night, she could never consider them friends. They were fond of her, no doubt, and could call her a friend, but she could never trust either of them. Charles Brandon was kind to her, but she knew who he was, and who his first loyalty was to.
Sir Anthony Knivert could maybe just be loyal to her- and maybe she could trust him someday. That thought gave her some hope.
"They would be honored, my lady," Knivert replied. So few women would make such an offer; and he was also taken aback by her kindness towards the King's daughters. He knew that Mary was in a better place now, back in her father's favor somewhat- but Elizabeth was on different footing. He knew that the king's youngest daughter, and the child of Anne Boleyn, would probably never be completely trusted or loved by her father. Yet Anne loved her, without fear. He could not help but admire that about her, as there were a few brave people that would be willing to do that for an innocent child whose only crime was having the wrong mother.
Anne smiled and nodded, and allowed Sir Anthony to ask whatever questions he wished. She soon found herself in a comfortable conversation with the man who she had just met the previous night. They stayed outside, despite the freezing temperatures, talking for hours, bundled up against their furs. When one of her ladies came back out to tell her it was time for her to prepare for her meal with the King and Queen, both of them felt an acute sense of sadness.
"When can I see you again?" Knivert asked, catching her arm before she left.
"I'll write to you when I get back to Hever. Then you can bring the children, and stay for a while," Anne invited, allowing him to kiss her hand, and ignoring the blush she felt creep into her cheeks.
She had made her first real friend that day. She had trouble sleeping that night, even with her new dog snuggled up against her, with thoughts of his smile running through her mind.
"They don't usually fall asleep that fast, my lady. You certainly tired them out," Knivert mentioned as they sat in Anne's bedchamber on the first night of their visit, playing a game of cards. Her ladies were watching them diligently, distrustful of his motives, and certain that their lady was falling for a widower with an ulterior plan in mind instead of playing cards.
"They are such lovely children; I thank you for allowing me to meet them. And you may call me Anne, Sir Anthony," Anne offered, sick of them calling each other by their proper courtly titles, even though they had only known each other for a month or so. Yet Anne felt very close to him, since everyday she had stayed at court he had sought her out, walked with her, danced with her, or dined with her. He truly was her only friend, and she wasn't sure what she felt for him any longer.
She loved seeing him interact with his children- his devotion to them was so charming. She loved that he brought them to see her, and they were so polite and well-mannered like he was. She loved that he allowed them to play with her, like the Lady Elizabeth would occasionally allow her to do when she came to visit. She just wasn't sure if she loved him- yet. But she was sure that it would come to pass, and then what? The future was disheartening to her.
"And you may call me Anthony, Anne," he offered, her name feeling good rolling off of his tongue.
She smiled at him, which always melted him just a little bit more, and they continued to play cards and joke and laugh until the early hours of the morning. "Anthony, it is getting late. I must be getting to bed," she said, rising to kiss him on the cheek. However, for the first time in her life, he pulled her close to him and kissed her lips. Hard. Passionately. Without reservation.
And she kissed back.
"Ladies, you may leave us," Knivert dismissed, not allowing their disgusted and distrustful looks to affect him. He wanted Anne, and he didn't want to wait any longer.
"What are you doing?" she questioned as he started to kiss her neck and unlace her gown. Henry never did this to her, well, at least not with the urgency that Anthony was doing it now. There was always ritual when Henry attempted to sleep with her, and he never looked happy about anything. Yet Anthony was not married to her, so he didn't have to do anything with her. He didn't even have to speak to her. She didn't think that any man wanted to anything intimate with her, but here he was anyway.
"What I should have done a long time ago, when you first left court, after Henry left you. I should have been with you. I should have escorted you here. I should have made you feel loved," Anthony frantically replied as Anne's gown fell into a pool around her, and as he was placing frantic kisses in places where Anne had never even been touched before. "I want you to know that you aren't ugly, or unworthy of love or affection."
"Anthony, I,I…" she stuttered as he removed any last layer of clothing she had on. She felt a cold gush of air hit her as she stood there completely exposed before him.
He placed a finger to her lips. "Ssh, don't say anything. I know you have no idea what I'm doing, but I want you to be okay with this. Nod if you are, and let me show you what you deserve."
She couldn't do anything else but nod. She was speechless, but she was ready.
"What happens now?" she whispered in the midst of the night, elated but scared. Confident but unsure.
"I want to stay here."
"Then don't leave. Don't go back to London. Stay."
"And the King? What should I tell him?"
"Just stay. We'll worry about everything later. Just please stay."
So he does stay. He and the children stay at Hever Castle. He and Anne fall in love. It's the most at peace he's ever been with himself. Even though the Lady Elizabeth doesn't come for months on end, Anne doesn't feel sad. Everything feels right- so she knows it's going to end soon. Sooner or later, somebody or something will come and intervene for them, and ruin their precariously built happiness. Because they are both bound to the King- and they cannot keep this secret forever.
That summer, she knew that she wanted to marry him. But he doesn't ask, so she doesn't push him.
Yet, a nagging voice in the back of her head wanted to force itself out. She wanted to be his wife so badly, and she knew that it would solve all of her problems. Yet she couldn't bring herself to bring it up, not yet. She wanted to wait for him to, so she allows for them to just continue to their romance in the sunshine of the English countryside, without obligation.
But one night in bed, she grew tired of all of the waiting. She wanted to be his wife, so she would be.
"Anthony, you love me, no?" she asked, her eyes shining with confidence, but her voice was racked with worry.
"I love you with all of my heart Anne. I thank God everyday for bringing you into my life," he replied sincerely and he knew it was the truth- that he just wasn't being a romantic like all of the other liars at court. He went back a few times, to; of course, lie to the King about where he was. He claimed that he was at his old estate, to take care of things with his children and late wife, but all the while he and his children were there, at Hever with the King's beloved 'sister' and former wife.
And doing things to Anne that Henry, for some absurd reason, was not man enough to do. But not that Knivert was complaining. He would have hated the thought of a man like the King getting to Anne first- she didn't deserve that, to be used and discarded.
"So I am not just some mistress- like the ones you used to have before you got married? You care for me?" Anne asked, wanting to drive the point home. She wanted him to know that she would not tolerate being treated like a whore by anybody. Her mother always told her that she needed to be married to be intimate with a man (even if her mother never defined with intimate was). Of course, she had broken this rule, gladly at first, but now she wanted things to be honest. She wanted to be married- and only to this man, who didn't judge her for her past.
"Of course! What makes you think that?" Anthony asked, wondering where this is coming from. He hoped that he had given her enough cause to know that he truly did love her.
"It's been months since were first began living together, and yet we are not married. I want to be your wife, Anthony," she finally said, looking at him with desperation in her eyes.
He almost said yes, but then a memory came to him, from years ago.
He was annoyed that he had to walk in the rain and meet Charles- when he had been commanded to bring Princess Margaret straight to court after she was widowed in Portugal. He had the feeling that Charles was hiding something from him, and from the King. Walking through the pub and pushing off a girl who threw herself at him, he finally found Charles.
"My dear Anthony," he greeted, pulling him for a hug.
"Charles, welcome back." He knew that Charles had the somewhat unpleasant task of escorting the Princess to Lisbon to marry the aging King; and taking her back almost as soon as they got there, because of his mysterious death. Finally, after they exchanged pleasantries, he got down to his real question. "I don't understand, why here? We've been expecting you back at court."
Charles, Anthony noticed, immediately began to wear an unpleasant expression. "How is the King?" he asked, and Anthony knew right then that something was wrong.
"Anxiously awaiting his sister, to share her grief," Anthony replied, as if it was obvious- and annoying that Charles was delaying for some strange and unexplainable reason.
Anthony laughed at first, awkwardly, as if Charles had made some kind of poor joke. But after his friend's expression remained unchanged, Anthony sobered. "What?" he asked.
"She, and me, we're married," Charles stated again, dropping his face into his palms, clearly distressed and aware of the mistake he had made.
"You and…?" Anthony began, but was unable to finish the sentence. Charles married King Henry's sister! The thought was almost insane- Charles was newly made a Duke, before then, he only had his father's sacrifices years before that he was even allowed to enjoy royal favor. Anthony, at the time, couldn't understand why he would do something so dangerous. Now, as he was uncomfortably aware, he understood perfectly.
Anthony and Charles stopped talking as the bartender delivered their ale and Anthony couldn't help but laugh at Charles' predicament. He always knew that some kind of woman would cause him trouble, but he had certainly not expected the King's sister, who had certainly inherited a fair share of the Tudor temper.
"You have to tell him. You have to tell the King," Charles desperately explained, not leaving Anthony with another option.
"I have to tell him? Why do I have to tell him?"
"Because it would be better coming from you," Charles replied, which at the time, amused Anthony. Charles was unarguably the closest to the King than he or William, so the fact that he was be recruited for this unpleasant task showed him that at least Charles was aware that what he had done was serious.
"What's the matter Charles, have you lost your nerve?"
"This is no laughing matter."
"Then why did you do it?" Anthony asked harshly.
"You know me, I don't always think."
"Yes you do, just not with your head!" Anthony exclaimed, giving him a light tap across his head.
Now, he was aware that he could be having a similar and far more unsympathic conversation with his friend, only the tables would be turned onto him.
"Is he sorry? Does he repent it? Tell me, does he beg my forgiveness?" Henry asked, his eyes full of thoughtful anger.
"Your majesty knows his grace," Anthony hoped that this would be enough to answer his question.
"You mean he does not."
All Anthony could do was stand their uncomfortably and lower his eyes.
"Send in my sister, then."
He did, and he could see the worry in Margaret's eyes when he sent her to meet with her brother, yet he also saw the defiance. That was almost twenty years ago, when the King was young and carefree, still married to Katherine of Aragon but passionately in love with Anne Boleyn- before she hardened him during the Great Matter. That was before Henry executed her, lost Jane Seymour, and put to death many consulters and friends. That was when King Henry was still forgiving, and yet he berated both Margaret and Charles and had almost killed both of them.
Anne wasn't nearly as important as Margaret Tudor was then. She would not need to be worried about being used as a marital alliance- since she was really not the King's sister by birth. She didn't have that Tudor temper, but yet here she was anyway, offering to commit treason, which now as Anthony was aware of, anything the King wished it to be. If they asked the King for permission, he could refuse them, and he didn't want to lose her. But if they married without his permission, they would both pay for it- more dearly than Charles or Margaret did.
In both cases, he would lose her, and he couldn't stand the thought of it.
"Anne, we can't. I want to, but we can't. Isn't this enough?" he asked, cursing himself for the way the words came out. Of course it wasn't enough for her- and she did deserve to be married to a man that she loved and to be happy and to be a true wife and to have children of her own. He wanted so desperately to be the man to give that all to her, and more. But he couldn't- he just wasn't brave enough, or as Charles would tell him, he wasn't stupid enough or thoughtless enough.
"Why not? Do you not love me as you claim?" Anne asked, hurt etched all over her face.
"No, no it is not that! I love you, I do. We cannot marry without the King's permission, and he may not give it to us," Anthony explained, but even though it was the truth, it sounded weak and pathetic coming out of his mouth, and he knew it would hurt her. "I don't not want to lose you, because if he finds out that we love each other, and he does not wish us to marry, we cannot see each other again without risking your honor."
"You do not think he will give to us?! He told me that I could marry, that me and him, we were never man and wife. I have only known you, never the King," Anne fervently claimed. If he would not marry her because he believed she was ruined, she would do whatever it took to prove otherwise to him. But, looking at his uncomfortable expression, she knew that it wasn't his love for her. "You are scared of him."
"Yes," he admitted. "He is not the same man I used to know, he is different now, and he could kill us both."
"No, you are a coward. Soon the whole country will know that we have been living together, and my honor will be ruined. They may not know now, but they will. Especially if I am to become heavy with your child without us being married. If you do not marry me, and ask the King for permission, you cannot live here anymore. Then what? Our relationship is over, and I lose the only man I could ever love," Anne explained, wanting to cry. She didn't think it was too much to ask, but apparently for him, it was. "He will give us permission, you are just scared!"
"No, Anne, darling he will not. Even if you were not born so, you are his sister now, and treated as such. You are bound to him, and I am his friend, so he will feel betrayed," Anthony explained, even though it hurt him just as much as it hurt her.
"So what, no children ever? If I have a child, it will be a bastard, and then all eyes will be on me and the King will not view me the same anymore. We cannot be together for much longer unless you marry, which you will clearly not, because then your lie to the King will become expired and everybody will know," Anne paused to take a breath, and to her horror, she began to cry, but she contained herself to give her final ultimatum. "You have to leave tonight. I don't want you here in the morning if you will not ask the King. Pack your things and leave."
"Anne…" he began, but he was cut off.
"No. Leave now if you cannot do what I ask. It is not fair for you to expect me to do this any longer without any future in mind. I will send the children after you tomorrow morning- you need not wake them tonight. You need to just leave, now, before I change my mind," Anne explained, trying not to shout and slap and run into his arms at the same time. He had to leave before she made another mistake. "Me and you, we are clearly a mistake."
"Anne, we are not a mistake," he gathered her and kissed her. "I love you, don't do this to me."
"I do not wish it so, Anthony, but it must be done. Leave, please, just leave," she begged, pushing him away and turning her back. "Pretend as if we never were."
And she turned his back to him. His heart dropped into his chest, but there was nothing more to be said- he could do nothing now to win her back instead of ask the King- which was unthinkable. He wouldn't put her life in jeopardy- or his own. His children had already lost one parent.
"Goodbye Anne," he said instead, shutting the door behind him. He didn't want to leave, but there was nothing he could do. He had to do what she had asked, and that was the end of it. Even if he wanted nothing more than to marry her, he knew that in his heart it could never happen, and that he did need to leave her, to avoid ruining her honor more than he already had.
But he still found it difficult to ignore her pained cries that the whole house could hear- and knowing that he caused them.
It was nearly six months since he had gone. Six months without waking up to his soft kisses. Six months without spending the afternoon lazily walking through the gardens or playing with his children, who she came to view as her own. Six months without spending the nights with him- either playing cards or in bed. She never, in her life, thought it was possible to miss somebody so much and so entirely. And time did nothing to heal her pain.
She had spent them at Hever, painfully aware of the void he left. A few times, the Lady Elizabeth came to visit her, and stayed for a few weeks, but it was nothing that could heal her- although for a few weeks she could forget about him and focus on the girl she knew as a daughter, and those were happy moments, but she was never truly happy again.
Now, she had to go back to court, to face him. King Henry wanted her back at court, and in all honesty, she was horrified of going back. Not only because she had to face Anthony for the first time since their argument- but because Kitty Howard had been arrested and it was likely that she would face treason charges- along with two men accused of being her lovers. She was horrified that the young Queen was to face the same fate as so many before her- and that two men were going down with her. The King was likely to be in a dark mood, so why did he want to see her?
The options of what the King could say- or if he had found out about her affair with Anthony- were frightening to her but she knew she had no choice. She gathered all of her belongings needed for a stay at court and left Hever with an apprehensive heart. She didn't want to see Anthony or the King; she just wanted to be left alone to sulk in her own misery and dwell on everything that she lost. Anthony's rejection hurt far worse than Henry's repulsion ever could- and if she came face to face with him ever again she feared that she would break her resolve of never speaking to him again.
As soon as she arrived at Whitehall, the King requested her presence, so she rushed to his chambers and was admitted admittedly, as if his grooms were expecting her. What could he possibly want with her- after leaving her to her own devices for so long?
"Your majesty," she said upon entering his private chamber, dropping down into a well-practiced and deep curtsy. His back was to her, and her head was downcast, so she couldn't see his face, but when he commanded her to rise, what she saw was horrifying.
The King looked as if he had lived a thousand lifetimes. His eyes were heavy with remorse and sorrow, he had grown considerably in girth, and he had allowed his beard to grow without constraint. When she had married him- the King's age was apparent, but not even close to as much as it was when she looked him. The betrayal of Katherine Howard clearly had taken its toll on his health and appearance. Anne, quite frankly, was shocked at how much the King had let himself go. And as he approached, she could almost smell his leg ulcer oozing.
"Lady Anne, thank you for coming to see me. I know that you have not been to court in a while, and I'm sorry for making you quit your fine house, I just needed somebody to talk to- to take my mind off things that have happened," Henry explained, his eyes never leaving hers, and Anne was surprised at how earnest he sounded. As if he truly wanted to talk to her- yet she knew what that meant now, after all of Anthony's stories. The King wanted her, and all she wanted to do was run. But she couldn't.
It was ironic, that a year or so ago, she would have wanted nothing more than the King to desire her, so she wouldn't lose her position. Now, the thought absolutely terrified and repulsed her- not to mention confused her. She didn't want to have any man but Anthony kiss her, though, and she didn't want any man but Anthony to make love to her. The thought that King was going to do it to her scared her and angered her, but she couldn't refuse. Not when his favor was so important.
"Of course, your majesty. You may unburden yourself," Anne offered, hoping that it didn't sound the least bit suggestive. She didn't intend to make it easy for the King to seduce her, if that was truly his intention (which she was truly praying was not).
"You heard of what has happened- with that whore and her lovers? How she has made a fool of me, cuckolded me in my own court? I cannot forgive her. I want to kill her myself," Henry explained, and Anne felt a shiver go down her spine at the malice in his tone, but she wisely chose to say nothing. She just wanted to wait until Henry was done with his rant, and then she wanted to leave. She didn't want to be here any longer. "I thought she really loved me- what a fool I was. She didn't desire me; I was too old for her. She and Culpepper, I curse the day I ever showed favor to him! They wanted me to die; they wanted me to die so they could get married. So they could have children- or maybe they wanted to pass of one of their brats as mine!"
Anne just sat there; her wide eyes alight with terror. She wanted this madness to end; she just wanted to go home. She didn't want to hear anymore about scheming wives, or hear the words of her insane King anymore. She just wanted to be with him. Oh she never wanted more than to be with him. She wanted to forgive him, and live forever with him, even if the sacrifice was her own honor. She would do anything, at that moment, to have him back in her life again.
But it appeared as though Henry was finished. He looked like he was going to dismiss her, and she sincerely prayed that it was the case. Instead, all he did was look at her with a gleam in his eyes, one that she had never seen before or ever wanted to see again. "Can I visit your bed tonight, Lady Anne? I do not want to be alone."
What was she supposed to say? No was what she wanted to say, but she knew what she HAD to say. "Yes, your majesty, you may visit me tonight," she replied, hating herself for every word that came out of her mouth. Nothing more revolted her than the idea of it, but she couldn't do anything. She had nothing left, she couldn't lose the King's favor, and by extension, the Lady Elizabeth and her home. She had to hold on to her last vestiges of happiness while she still could.
So she prepared for that night with a quiet and disgusted resignation. The King was not likely to be gentle with her- like Anthony always was. He wasn't likely to say more than few words to her- unlike Anthony did, when he used to whisper words of comfort and love into her ear. He probably wouldn't even stay with her after it was done. He was likely to smell bad and it was likely that his ulcer would rub against her at least once. The worst feeling was that she was betraying Anthony- even though they had not spoken in more than half a year. He wrote to her, as often as he could, but she always burned them before reading letters. She couldn't afford to open her heart up to more pain.
Horrified, she later realized that it was likely the King would discover she was not a virgin any longer. So she would have to fake it, to hold onto her memories of a relationship with Anthony, and her reputation.
He came earlier than Anthony used to- because unlike the King, Anthony was older but he was also fit. He didn't open himself up to a life of luxury and laziness. So the King got more tired more easily, and the King also came accompanied by some grooms, who disrobed him. Anthony always came alone, stealing into the early hours of the morning by showering kisses upon her. Anne didn't even want Henry to take off her gown, she did that herself, hoping to show the King that she was more confident before- and that she knew what it was like to be loved instead of used.
No words were spoken as they lay on the bed, or as he began to kiss her. She didn't let herself feel anything. Her real self was completely numb- and she allowed a persona to become Henry's lover. All that she could really feel was pain, and when it was all over, she allowed a single tear to fall down her face, in recognition of all that she had lost.
Henry left as quickly as he came, thanking her for always giving him all that he desired. Her persona smiled and kissed him- the real Anne said nothing. She wanted to berate him for being a hypocrite and a murderer- a spoilt child on a power-trip. But she said nothing. There was nothing to say. All she did was wrap the covers around her body, ignoring the putrid smell of them, and weep quietly.
She didn't even hear him come in. Or else she surely would have shown him out in embarrassment.
"Anne, Anne what has happened?" he questioned frantically, running to her side, holding her gingerly.
"The…King… he…Katherine Howard…bed…" she hiccupped, her tears become more audible now as he wrapped his strong and safe arms around her- she felt like she could breathe again after being constricted for so long. "He finally wanted me," she was finally able to say, and she laughed bitterly as she said it. "After I no longer wanted him."
"Oh Anne," Anthony cried, gathering her completely onto his chest and rubbing her hair. "I'm so sorry darling."
"Please, don't ever leave me again," she begged, looking up at him with tears in her eyes. "I cannot take the thought of ever having to go through this again. I cannot be at the King's beck and call. I do not love him- or even like him. He wasn't you, Anthony. He didn't love me."
"Anne, I'm so so sorry he did this to you. If he were any man but the King, I would box his ears," Anthony promised, kissing the crown of her forehead, hiding his true fury. How dare the King finally decide that Anne was worthy of sharing his bed! And it was only in his grief that he used her like that. She deserved better than to be the leftover castoff of the King. She deserved so much more than that. She deserved to be a proper wife- and it was his fault that she was not yet one. He intended to do right by her- damn the consequences!
He had too much time to think, and too much time without her. He evaluated what really mattered, and all he could think of was her smiles in the sunshine or late at night over a game of cards and wine. Even his children missed her bright face, and being with her. She was a magnetic presence, and he didn't want her to belong to the King anymore. He wanted her to belong to him- to be his in body and soul.
"Anthony, I missed you. It's been so lonely without you," she cried.
"I know sweetheart. I intend to make that better. I intend to petition the King, as soon as this mess with Katherine Howard is over and he is in a better mood. You will become my wife, even if I have to marry you without his permission. I love you too much to be without you. I want you to be happy," he vowed, kissing her with more love than ever before.
She believed him. She knew, that in that moment, despite what had happened, that he would always love her.
He had seen beyond her German ways and broken English. He had seen beyond her shameful past. He had seen beyond her plain looks and rumored hideous one. He defied the court to be with her. She knew that he loved her.
In the beginning, before the King and the English had ruined her chance at a happy ending, that's what she wanted. She wanted a handsome man to love her and to have his children. She knew that even though it hadn't seemed like it was ever going to happen, that it finally had. Anthony Knivert was everything she had asked for in her childish prayers.
"Then I will be happy. Because if we are together, I always will be."
Most corny story I have EVER written- so I really hope you all appreciated it. I cannot say I hate it as much as I thought I would although the ending isn't as strong as I wanted it to be, but I felt like I had dragged it out long enough. Just a quick side-note, I am aware that the flashback scene was actually between William Compton and Charles Brandon, but for dramatic effect, I made it between Anthony and Brandon. Hope nobody minds too much. In any case, I hope everyone enjoyed and please don't forget to review and tell me how you felt :D