Disclaimer: Not mine, or else Anne wouldn't have bothered with Bryan or Tommy-boy and would instead have decided to seduce her overly-cold husband till he finally gave in.
A/N: And here is where the rating goes up… because the show did not give us this.
I think I made a bad mistake
'Cause once I ran away
I loved you since the day
The day I broke your heart
It's more than I can take
I loved you since the day
The day we fell apart
Now everything is comin' undone
'Cause you were the chance I can't afford to waste
I loved you since the day
The day we fell apart – Kelly Clarkson, The Day We Fell Apart
It had been the perfect plan, really, it had. And God knew Bryan had been eager; he hated Edward, so getting the chance to anger him as well as have sex with a willing, experienced partner was an easy deal for him. As for Anne, well, what she wanted was something else. Yes, she wanted the sex, and the thrill of a clandestine affair was fun, but that wasn't her real goal. And though Bryan suspected there was more to her interest than just a fling, he didn't care enough to ask. Which was fine by her.
When she and Edward had first gotten married, a year or so before Jane caught the King's eye, things hadn't been bad between them at all. Yes, he was cold and distant then as well, but she could… persuade him out of such moods when she wanted to, and she knew why he was that way. It made it a little less annoying; had she been married to someone who then turned around and slept with a family member, she might be less than trusting with a new spouse.
So things had been just fine, and he was even starting to warm up to her. Then Jane had married the King, and suddenly Edward was one of the King's most trusted men. Which was good, except it meant that he was always occupied with something or other, and he pulled away from her with a vengeance. At first she hadn't minded, thinking that if she really wanted to, she could pull him back as she'd done before.
And she'd tried, but it hadn't worked. Not only had it not worked, but he'd shoved her away, saying that he wanted to be left alone and she should find someone else to bother. The anger over that was still burning in her veins when she'd noticed Bryan giving her the once-over. So she did have to admit, the idea to cuckold Edward had begun as sheer revenge – after all, he'd told her to find someone else, hadn't he? It had changed almost immediately, though. She'd decided that if Edward was going to ignore her, she'd force him to pay attention again. If she'd stopped to notice her thoughts at the time, she'd have been shocked by how badly she wanted him back.
If she'd thought about her anger when he'd all but ordered her to seduce Surrey, her odd sense of betrayal, she might have realized that something more was going on than just simple anger over an inattentive husband. She might have wondered why, when Edward berated her for not taking Surrey as a lover and therefore making a greater enemy of him, she couldn't even be irritated but simply felt numb. But she hadn't paid any attention.
She was paying attention now. Tonight had been hell. It had clearly been a bad idea to taunt Thomas – the man couldn't tell the difference between mockery and challenge, apparently, and had somehow assumed she was inviting him to her bed. She was lucky that one of her maids had interrupted their confrontation; the look in his eyes had made her wonder if he'd have forced the issue. Now she was sitting on her bed, trying to figure out how it had all gone so damn wrong.
"…You hate my brother. You hate him, just as much as I hate him. But you can't tell anyone, except for me."
She laughed bitterly as she laid down, staring up at the ceiling, ignoring the fact that her eyes were stinging with tears her pride would not let her shed. Even alone in her room, she would never cry for a man, not even her husband. Because the problem was, Thomas was right, but like the dolt he was, he only saw part of the picture.
If only she just hated Edward. That would be so much easier than bitter hate all tangled with hopeless… Hopeless what?
And that was when she finally admitted that she was in love with her husband, had been since the beginning, because he had been so cool and distant, a constant challenge. He'd fascinated her because she couldn't scare him off as she did most men, he wasn't bothered by her at all. And some part of her had refused to let her see when that intrigue had turned into attraction – well, lust had always been there and still was, she had to admit that – and then to love.
But she knew now. And knowing, she could not forget it, or pretend she did not know. But as for what she ought to do about it… That was a mystery.
Edward had always been remarkably good at compartmentalizing his thoughts, which let him focus on the task at hand even when part of him wanted to be thinking of something else. Right now, in Scotland, the important task was handling the skirmishes, and during the day that was all that occupied his thoughts. But now, at night, when there was no pressing business to hold his attention, his mind wandered.
And it always seemed to come back to the same thing. A few months earlier, he'd suggested to Anne that she ought to 'deal with' the Earl of Surrey, and both of them had known what he meant. To Edward, it made sense. If she was going to be unfaithful anyway, it might as well be in a useful way. But she'd seemed almost… Well, no, no almost about it, for some reason she'd been rather put out by the idea.
They'd had one final conversation about it, after the first time he'd brought it up. Anne was usually sharp-edged, but she'd been moody enough that he'd had to comment on it.
"You're insufferable today, you are aware of that?"
A dark look, but no response. Edward raised an eyebrow at that one; Anne always had a sharp retort at the ready. So what on earth…? A thought struck him, and while it seemed ridiculous, it was Anne, so he asked anyway. "Don't tell me this is because of Surrey."
Anne shrugged, but he saw anger flash through her eyes before she looked away from him again, and he knew he was right. He scowled at her, wondering just what bothered her so much. Clearly, she wasn't inclined to be faithful to him, so, rather than get angry over that – and he'd already dealt with his anger, or so he told himself – he could use it to his advantage. "I thought you'd be pleased, Anne; it's an excuse to be unfaithful." He knew his tone was mocking; he'd meant it to be.
Anne turned back to him then, and there was something in her eyes that he'd never seen before, something that unsettled him greatly because he couldn't define it. "If you think that an excuse is what I'm looking for, you've missed the point entirely, Edward, and I've no desire to spell it out for you." Her voice wasn't angry, just… tired. But she swept out of the room as though in a high temper, leaving him confused by the mixed signals.
She'd toyed with Surrey, in the end, but she hadn't slept with him. Edward had been furious with her, especially after Surrey's reaction was to redouble his attacks on the family, but she hadn't seemed to care, simply looking at him with a blank expression, almost as though she didn't hear him. He had to admit, that had shaken him more than anything. Anne never refused to react; even her silences meant something. But that… had been nothing. Just nothing.
"… you've missed the point entirely…" What the hell did that mean? That permission to stray ruined the thrill of it, or something? But that idea didn't match her tone, or the blank look in her eyes later. But the dark expression in her eyes, that did remind him of another time, a dinner of prawns, and a conversation that he'd thought then was simply her needling him, but now…
Why did he have the feeling he'd missed something, somewhere? But just what had he missed?
Between Thomas sulking about her "leading him on" (how, exactly, was it her fault that he was an idiot?) and the black mood Edward had been in since his return from Scotland, Anne was ready to strangle both of the Seymour brothers. But at least she could ignore Thomas, for the most part. Her husband, on the other hand, was a bit harder to deal with.
"What is wrong with you? The Scottish campaign went well; is something else going on?" she demanded one day, finally out of patience.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Anne," was the indifferent reply.
"You're more dour than usual. Something's gone wrong." He hadn't even bothered to look up from his papers when he'd answered her. And he wondered why she wasn't faithful. The answer was right in front of him; she'd even hinted at it once, but he'd completely missed it.
Silence reigned for several minutes before Edward slammed down the ledger he'd been working on, hard enough that Anne jumped. "Do you want to know what's wrong? Do you really?"
There was a dark look in his eyes, one that made his blue-gray eyes almost a navy, and it made her wary. She'd never seen him look like that before. But she pressed on regardless. "Would I ask if I didn't?" she replied, keeping her voice deliberately light as a counter to his sudden intensity.
"Damn it, is this just another game to you? You couldn't care less what's wrong, could you?"
She had no idea what had set him off, but apparently he was angry with her. And had been for some time, if this reaction was anything to go by. Well, she was never one to take that lying down, and with what he'd said… "Are you actually accusing me of being uncaring? Good God, Edward, I didn't realize you were such a hypocrite!"
"Oh, is that why I 'missed the point entirely'? Damn you, that little conversation of ours has been driving me mad! Wasn't cuckolding me enough? Do you have to torment me with it as well?"
"You've been going mad?" she screamed at him, losing her temper completely. "Do you understand how frustrating it is, being married to you? This is the most emotion you've shown me in years! I can't take the indifference; why do you think I took a lover in the first place?"
"Oh, so it's my fault that you're a whore?" he shot back, voice dripping with contempt.
"Well, you certainly gave me good reason to seek out another's bed," she snapped, with a laugh that sounded more bitter than amused. "Besides, it's not like you were particularly bothered by it. I seem to recall, what, five minutes of annoyance, oh, and you did warn Bryan away from me once."
"What was I supposed to do, pitch a fit?"
"At least it would have shown a little more emotion. I don't know why I thought you might; it must have been beneath your notice after the initial irritation. After all, I was never worth a moment of your time before that." She'd turned away as she spoke, her voice mocking but still bitter underneath, and he honestly wasn't sure if she was mocking him or herself.
Anne, on the other hand, was perfectly aware that she'd been deriding herself more than him. And now… Well, now she was furious with herself. She'd come within a hairsbreadth of telling him exactly why she'd wanted a reaction from him, exactly how she really felt. And that would never do.
Edward didn't know what she was thinking, and damn it, he didn't care. He shoved himself away from the desk, crossed the space between them in two strides, and spun her around to face him, pushing her back against the desk and gripping her upper arms tightly so she couldn't pull away from him. "Don't you dare make yourself out as a victim," he hissed, voice deadly quiet.
"Let go of me," she said, her voice as soft as his. But she had lowered hers for a very different reason; so he wouldn't catch the fear in it. She knew Edward wasn't interested in rape, but the hold he had on her, tight enough to bruise, was too much like what his brother had done.
He saw the flash of panic behind the anger in her eyes, but ignored it. He wanted answers, and he was going to get them. "What was the point of sleeping with Bryan? If I missed it, then what the hell was it?"
"Oh, stop pretending it matters to you." She believed what she'd said, completely, but she wished she was wrong. She wished he could prove her wrong but she knew he wouldn't.
"Why?" he said again, shaking her. "I wanted to kill him the second I knew you'd let him touch you, I think I at least deserve to know why you betrayed me like that."
"There was nothing to betray! You don't care about me, you never did! God knows I could drop dead tomorrow and you probably wouldn't blink! What does it matter if we're legally bound, there's never been anything between us and that is your fault, not mine! At least I tried, at first, but you just couldn't be bothered, could you?" No trace of anger now, her voice was pure bitterness, and her eyes held that look he'd seen before, the one he hadn't been able to decipher. He still couldn't.
"And taking a lover was supposed to make me want to try harder?" he asked, taking refuge in sarcasm since he could think of no other comeback.
"I thought I'd at least get a reaction from you. Even hate would be better than indifference, at least it would mean I'd had an effect on you. But no, that damned self-control of yours hides everything, assuming you actually have emotions to hide. And I'm sick of trying to figure out more extreme methods of pushing you." She wasn't sure if she'd surprised him, or if he'd just gotten careless, but the grip he had on her arms had relaxed enough that she was able to yank herself free, and she slipped past him, heading for the door.
This was it. She was sure he wouldn't come after her, certain he'd see no point in it. And she'd meant what she said; she was tired of trying to get something, anything, out of him. So if he didn't stop her, she was done. No more affairs; they were as pointless as the rest of it. She'd simply take a leaf from Catherine Brandon's book; it was something she'd been considering for a while now anyway.
Anne actually made it to the door and was starting to pull it open when a hand came from behind her, slamming it shut. She turned to face Edward, honestly stunned. She'd really thought he would just let her leave. Now… She had no idea how to react. The look in his eyes was intense and unfamiliar, but it sped her pulse, and not, she realized dizzily, from fear. But she pushed it back, forced herself to speak as though he was hardly affecting her at all. "I answered your question, so what else do you want?" She was trying for careless annoyance, but it didn't work, and her voice was breathy and a little shaky. Damn it.
What did he want? Edward let the question take over his thoughts, because honestly, he wasn't sure. Part of him wanted to strangle her for driving him mad like this, part of him wanted to bang his own head into the wall because, apparently, he'd missed quite a lot more than he'd ever imagined, but…
She was staring up at him, gray eyes almost black, breathing hard, everything about her screaming defiance. And looking at her, there was something else he wanted to do, something both sides of him could agree with. This war between them had to end now. And she was his, damn it, no one else had the right to even think about touching her. Clearly, she hadn't figured that out, but it wouldn't too difficult to make his point.
Anne waited for him to say something, and when he didn't she opened her mouth to make some caustic comment – only she didn't get that far. His mouth crushed hers in a kiss that was as much out of anger as lust, and she was too floored to respond immediately. He started to pull back, and she slid one hand to the back of his neck. "Don't even think about it," she whispered against his lips before kissing him back, hard. So there was something under that self-contained persona, she thought, before losing the ability to think much at all.
He pushed her against the closed door, his mouth moving from her lips to her neck. He both heard and felt her gasp when he nipped at the base of her neck, and he would have smirked had his lips not been otherwise occupied. She'd wanted more from him than indifference, well… He let the thought go to concentrate on what he was doing – after all, he'd always been very good at focusing on the task at hand.
Her fingers fumbled at the ties of his shirt, moving on instinct now. This was insane, she wasn't really an exhibitionist by nature and he certainly wasn't. But she didn't care, not when she had gotten his shirt half-open and was lightly tracing a diagonal scar just under his collarbone. She'd always wondered where that came from, and one day maybe she'd actually ask. But right now she was tracing it with her lips instead of her fingers, and the questions could wait.
He slid his hand under her skirt, fingers ghosting up her thigh. She sucked in a sharp breath, giving him a wild look. Good God, they really were doing this – she almost laughed but it turned into a moan when he brushed his fingertips against her. She bit her lip to silence herself, not sure how long that would be effective.
He kept stroking her lightly, fingers teasing but not doing nearly enough. She whimpered, frustrated, because this was going to drive her mad. Her head fell back as he grazed over that one spot, the one that drove her up the wall. She couldn't think, couldn't do anything as tingles ran through her body and things low in her body tightened so fast it almost hurt.
With what was left of her coherent mind, she wondered if giving tit for tat would speed him up, and one of her hands tried to slip inside his breeches. He caught her wrist with his free hand, and then grabbed her other wrist, pinning her hands above her head, against the wall. She tried to tug her hands free, but found his grip was too strong. Unlike earlier, though, the feeling of being trapped didn't scare her, it only heightened the excitement.
His fingers kept circling, coming close but not entering her, until she had to fight back a scream. She bucked under him, trying to tell him wordlessly to take it further, and when he finally slid two fingers inside her, she bit her lip again, trying to be quiet. That didn't last long when his thumb was circling over that spot and his fingers were moving in and out of her agonizingly slowly. A warm weight began to build and she moaned low in her throat, the only clear thought in her head still that she couldn't be too loud, because she really didn't want to be interrupted.
The warmth built and built, and finally spilled over her in waves that had her writhing, her knees buckling and only his grip on her wrists keeping her upright. She buried her face in his shoulder to muffle her scream as her vision blurred and she began sliding down the wall. He let her wrists go, one arm catching her waist so she wouldn't crash to the floor, and she collapsed against him, unable to do anything else.
She didn't remember being lowered to the floor, or her dress coming off, but apparently that had happened because the stone floor was cool against her back. She was, however, aware enough again to note that this was hardly an equal situation, because while Edward's shirt was half off, he was still mostly dressed. Not fair, really…
Edward was braced above her with his hands on the floor, making it hard to get the shirt completely off, so she tugged at the laces of his breeches instead until she pushed them down past his knees, running her fingernails lightly along his length. A sharp gasp rewarded her and she laughed, a laugh that became a cry when he pulled back just long enough to angle himself properly before plunging inside her. Her spine bowed back and her hands clutched at his shoulders.
He found a rhythm that was deep and slow, again torturing her by bringing her just to the edge, but not going far enough to push her over. Frustrated, she pushed her hips upward, trying to make him speed up. Her legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him closer to her. That weight began to build again, and she started to shake underneath him, her body tightening around him until she felt his rhythm start to falter, until she noticed he was shaking too.
They fell over that edge together, and Anne managed to pull Edward's head down to hers, muffling both their cries with a hard kiss as the climax ripped through them both. He collapsed on top of her for a moment, breathing hard, before rolling off and onto his back.
Anne slowly blinked away the white edges from her vision, trying to form some kind of coherent thought. It took a lot longer than she might have expected, but she finally had a comment, and she was pretty sure she could make it. It took two tries, but she finally managed to turn her head toward him and say, "Perhaps we should have had this conversation years ago."
Edward turned his head to give her a look, a faint smile on his face. But it faded as he looked at her, and though he could have left the comment as the joke it was, he wasn't sure there would ever be a second chance to ask what he wanted to. "So why didn't we?" He had to know why she'd turned away instead of trying to tell him something was wrong, why she thought she could "drop dead tomorrow and he probably wouldn't blink." The thought of it made him feel like someone had gripped his heart in an iron fist, but clearly she didn't know that.
It wasn't an innuendo, like her comment, and he could see from the change in her expression that she knew it. She looked away, eyes fixed on the ceiling as though she could find an answer for him there. Finally she said, in a quiet voice, "I didn't think there'd be any point in it." She paused. "If I had said something, anything of what I said earlier… Would it have meant anything?"
"I don't know." It was his turn to stare at the ceiling, because she was looking at him with that unreadable expression again, and somehow he couldn't meet her eyes and admit this when she looked like that. "But you didn't, you just…"
"That's such a small thing to you, isn't it, Edward?"
"As long as you do, don't expect me to be faithful to you."
He sat up, the shock of the realization forcing him to do so. Anne raised herself up on one elbow, frowning, knowing he'd thought of something but not knowing what. "What?" When he didn't reply, but kept staring off into some middle distance, she scowled. "Edward. What?"
He shook his head. "When we were talking about Bryan, when I said I'd warned him away from you, you did imply… Damn it, Anne, couldn't you have just said it? Why be so vague, so… I thought you were just toying with me."
"I'm sure that's what you thought when all this started too, after Jane became Queen and the King gave you more and more responsibility. That I didn't understand how important it was, that I was distracting you on a whim… I wasn't playing games and I wasn't just being impulsive, I just didn't want to come right out and say…" She broke off, shaking her head. "Never mind, it's not important. You're right, I shouldn't have played games, I should have been honest. It would have saved us both considerable trouble."
And what else was there to say? Despite it all, Edward did know his wife – somewhat – and he knew that he would get no further explanation, knew that whatever she hadn't wanted to say flat-out was something she still wasn't willing to share. And, honestly, there were things he didn't want to admit to yet, either. Things like just why he'd wanted to kill Bryan, and why it bothered him so much for Anne to think he didn't care if she lived or died. But that conversation, if they ever had it, could wait for another time. "Well, we'll both remember, and hopefully there won't be any more… misunderstandings." He stood up and started to replace his clothing. Anne glanced around and found her dress in the corner, and followed his example.
Edward was completely dressed when he heard Anne mutter something about laces under her breath. "Something wrong?" She glared at him.
"Mind helping me out with these? I still don't know how you got me out of this without ripping anything," she added with a frown.
"I'm sorry, I can't tell you that," he said blandly as he tried to figure out how to lace the damn thing. It was a lot easier to undo it…
"Was that a joke?" Anne said incredulously.
She turned her head to stare at him. "Are you feeling all right?"
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Damn," Edward said, before going to answer it. Anne tried to hear what he said to the page on the other side, but couldn't quite make it out.
"Did something happen?" she asked when he closed the door, running a hand through his hair.
"Emergency Council meeting," he said, for once not sounding particularly eager to go.
"Oh. Well, you'd better hurry, then," she said, her voice light. It was amusing, on one level, to see him fading back into his composed self now that he had to leave – no one would have ever suspected that the two of them had just had sex on the floor of his office, which had her biting back a laugh. But she was annoyed that he could just go so easily, though she knew better, really.
He paused at the door, glancing back. "Don't drop dead on me; blinking is hardly a fair example of how I'd react."
Anne stared at the closed door, a faint smile on her face. Maybe things weren't entirely hopeless. She just needed to stop playing games and actually try for some honesty; it seemed to work much better with him. She wasn't used to that, but… She had a chance here, and she wasn't about to waste it.