Title: We're All A Little Mad Here
Category: The Tudors.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of them.
Spoilers: Up to Season 4 and the execution of Katherine Howard.
Summary: "How do you know I'm mad?" "You must be, or you wouldn't have come here."
The day is clear, the sun is shining, and there's horror awaiting her at the Tower green.
She knows the second he is brought out before the crowd, but she refuses to look. Oh, her eyes are fixed in the correct direction, lest anyone notice something different. But she focuses her eyes just above and to the side. The top of his head, dark hair full and youthful, bobs in and out of her line of vision ever so often. She has to steel herself not to flinch.
When he's on the platform, it's easier to pretend. All heads are turned slightly upwards, looking upon the walking dead man. He tries to speak, but she can't hear him (doesn't want to hear him). The jeers of the crowds are too loud in any case; none of the nobles towards the back could hear over the catcalls of the poor.
She's still looking slightly above and to the side when the axe comes down. She blinks and hears two ladies to her right commence whispering. She can't make out the words, but she knows they are talking about her, about her non-reaction. But what did they expect? Hadn't she had a hand in his fate?
"You know, you shouldn't begrudge them their idle gossip," he whispers in her ear. A finger starts tracing lazy circles on her arm and she shrugs it off discreetly. "And they aren't wrong."
The other men are being brought to the scaffold. She ignores her companion as he starts to chuckle. The common folk are getting quite a show today, and their enthusiasm is slightly nauseating. She wonders why they haven't anything else to do. She knows she is here because it is expected of her, and it is too dangerous a time at court to do anything other than what is expected of you.
Once, twice, thrice-Henry Norris, Will Brereton, and Francis Weston all victim to the axe. She feels for these men, for she knows of their innocence. Casualties of one man's anger towards his wife. She notes the way they make their way to the block, all defeated and stoic as they take their turns kneeling. She watches and only returns to above and to the side when they drag that wretch, Mark Smeaton, towards the scaffold. She has no desire to see that man ever again.
"You should have looked," comes another whisper into her right ear. Hands find a place at her waist, one even inching upwards teasingly. She calmly raises her own hand and stops its progress. He chuckles again. "You really should have looked."
The axe comes down for the last time today and the poor are still cheering. The nobles around her stir, gather their cloaks and robes, and start to depart for home or court. She turns to join them, ignoring as the whispers and the looks of passing ladies. Her companion is annoyingly persistent and tags along behind her. She can feel his breath on her neck and his hand on her hip.
"You really should have looked," he repeats. "I was looking at you."
Her eyes travel up the walls of the Tower until they land upon a single window. She sees a blurry image of a white face framed by dark hair. That face seems to turn towards her and she looks away quickly. She shoves the hand off her hip and admonishes him out of the corner of her mouth.
"Don't lie, George."
Jane Seymour is the exact opposite of Anne Boleyn, and she has to wonder if it's deliberate. Surely the new queen would have been stupid not to learn any lessons from the former queen-but Jane strikes her as a lovely woman on her own. Certainly the new queen treats her far better than she would have expected. Her appointment to Jane's household is not luck-it's payment for services rendered.
She wonders if that makes her a whore.
"You wonder the silliest things," George tells her when she's undressing for the night. She ignores him, as she always does. He laughs at her stubbornness. "And I find it odd that you're so obsessed with this one question. Surely you deliberated this question longer than you deliberated the question of betrayal."
Her eyes flick over him, laying on her bed in his nightclothes. She swallows a scream of frustration, knows that even now there are people watching her every move.
He laughs even louder now. "Paranoia is such an unattractive quality in a woman! Careful dear wife, it'll make you look mad."
She climbs into bed, pulling the covers up to her chest. She turns on her side, her back towards him and closes her eyes resolutely. His hand is soon on her arm, gliding up and down before changing direction to head down to her bosom. She lashes out with her own hand, stopping his movements and digging her hands into his flesh hard enough to draw blood.
More laughter. "Dead men don't bleed, sweetheart."
She throws his hand away and tries to burrow herself under the covers. "Go haunt Cromwell. He marked you for death, not me."
"It's useless trying to haunt that man," George snakes an arm around her waist and tugs her close. She scrambles to take hold of the headboard, to resist him in any way. But he's still too strong for her. "He doesn't care about what he did to me. It doesn't bother him."
"It doesn't bother me either," she snaps, beating at the arm around her middle.
He leans close and places gentle kisses all along her neck. "Don't lie, Jane."
She decides that Jane Seymour is naturally sweet and the perfect match for their erstwhile king. So when that gentle lady dies less than week after granting the king (and the country) the prince he so desperately wanted, the entire court falls into grief.
She sits in the chapel, listening to the funeral ceremony with only half an ear. The black veil over her face hides her tears from her fellow ladies-in-waiting. The great lady had fulfilled her promise to her lord and country, and she paid dearly for it.
"You didn't even cry for me," George accuses her softly. He's dressed in black clothes of mourning as well, but the grin on his face ruins the effect. She doesn't turn to look at him, keeps her hands clasped tightly in her lap even when his hands start wandering again. "I was your husband; you could have shed at least one tear."
"You've had your share of my tears," she whispers with her head bowed, desperately hoping no one hears her conversing with her dead husband. "You had it on our wedding night."
His hand is squeezing her knee. "Husbands have certain rights," he tells her before moving his hand up to her thigh. "You owed me certain privileges."
His hand wedges itself between her legs and his fingers press roughly against her centre. "You owed me a certain courtesy."
He laughs, loud and hard; his booming voice echoes off the walls of the chapel and seem to deafen her. "Do you think you live in a land that affords any courtesies towards wives?"
Her eyes dart to where the king sits and she has to bite her lip when George's fingers become even more aggressive. "A little courtesy might have translated to a little loyalty."
He leans in close, lips brushing her ear. "And you tell me not to lie."
The priest finishes the ceremony and George bites down hard on her shoulder. It takes all of her strength not to whimper.
"And you're wet as well," he teases her. "Jane, you little slut! Have some decorum. This is a funeral."
Anne of Cleves arrives and there is doom in the air. The newest queen does not please the king, not in the least. He has named her the Flanders Mare, and issues insults every hour upon the hour.
She thinks the newest queen has more strength than others know. Anne of Cleves must know of her husband's displeasure. But the queen ignores it, favours all with smiles.
"Lady Rochford," the queen says to her in her halting English. "You must teach me the ways of your country. I have much to learn before the people can accept me as their queen."
The people are less of a concern. The king is the one who needs to be appeased. But she smiles politely at the doomed queen and promises loyalty and dedicated service.
Six months later, she is swearing to Edward Seymour that the queen is still a virgin so that the king may have his divorce.
"Now, she was perfectly nice," George muses when she enters her rooms after giving her testimony. "She even afforded you that courtesy you always complain about. So how is it she garners as much loyalty as I did?"
She hasn't the strength to ignore him. The days are growing darker and darker. Cromwell is on the run and the Duke of Suffolk is leading the hunt after him. Cromwell is reduced to pleading and begging for favours, but can find none in a court that turns its nose down at commoners. Cromwell is every inch the king's creature; he was the one who orchestrated the king's release from Anne Boleyn. The king pledged to be ever grateful. The king lied.
Perhaps such favours should be thus rewarded.
"The king is looking for an annulment, not an execution," she says as she turns her attention to readying for bed. "Annulment, not treason. The queen is safe."
"You're so pretty when you lie," George saunters up behind her and grabs her roughly by the hips. "You are the Queen of Justifications, aren't you Jane?"
She brushes him off and starts undressing for bed. "Don't lecture me, George. Your family whored both your sisters out to the king. You certainly didn't have any problems with it when you were in the king's good graces. I do what I do for my life-pitiful and inconsequential as it is. You helped sell your sisters for money and power."
"You can't shame dead men, darling."
"I couldn't shame you when you were alive," she looks at him with raised brows. "Perhaps you were just utterly shameless."
George smiles devilishly. "I do love your sermons, Jane. It's almost as if you believe them."
She strips off her dress and pulls on her nightgown. She expects his touch and moves towards the bed even while his hands wander over her body. "The queen is safe," she says as she gets into bed. "She will be asked for an annulment, she will grant it, and she will be safe. I've done nothing wrong. It's the best for her."
George pushes a strand of hair behind her ear and places a chaste kiss on her cheek. "I never knew you were so charitable, dear."
When Edward Seymour tells Anne of Cleves her marriage is over, the queen collapses and dissolves into tears. Her ladies all rush around, cooing and petting. She barely restrains the urge to roll her eyes, pushes to the front, and grabs the former queen by the hand.
"You are alive, my lady!" she says this while shaking the queen a bit. "You are alive, and the king has granted you lands and money. Be thankful, be courteous, and above all, be accommodating. Your fate could be worse."
Anne of Cleves is young, but smart. The king's newly made sister nods and rises, ordering her ladies to prepare for their departure. She withdraws to the door, hands clasped in front as she watches the shaken, yet still regal German lady.
"So, you didn't send her to the block," George chuckles darkly. "But no worries, the axeman will still get his wage. Your friend Cromwell is already on his way to the Tower. Though, I'm not sure what the fuss is about. She's not that bad looking, and she certainly doesn't seem to me to resemble a horse. Oh well, the king is ever fickle. He changes his mind at the slightest occurrence. You should guard your neck well, dear wife; Henry doesn't always remember his promises."
"Go away, George."
She feels more like a governess than a lady-in-waiting when Katherine Howard becomes queen. The king's new fancy is flighty and silly, given to giggling at all occasions and speaking in the most juvenile ways. When the new queen tries to issue orders, it is though a young child is play-acting with her mother's jewels. But still, Katherine Howard might be insipid enough to please the king longer than his last wife.
She orders a bath and watches as the newest queen is washed free of layers of mud. Katherine and some of her ladies had gone for a mud bath, it seemed. She watches as servants rush to and fro, picking up muddied clothes and bringing bucket after bucket of water. Katherine is in her large tub with two other ladies and all are giggling like mindless fools.
"Anne was better than this," George spits derisively.
She feels a smile threatening to break out. "Which Anne?"
George laughs and nuzzles her neck with his nose affectionately. "Jane, you become more and more delightful as the days go by. You should have been this way when I was alive. You might have had some of that courtesy you wanted."
"Lady Rochford!" squeals Katherine from the tub so suddenly and shrilly that she jumps. "I am famished! Have them send up some lunch. Oh, and tell them to bring something nice from the confectioner. I desire something sweet."
For no discernible reason, Katherine and her ladies break out in another round of raucous giggles at this declaration. She nods, smiles, and curtsies before turning to do as she is commanded. George follows, clucking his tongue in disapproval.
"How do you put up with that sound?" he asks in wonder. "Better yet, how does Henry put up with that noise? If she's this loud during a bath, I'd hate to hear how loud she goes when they're rutting. He's losing his mind, isn't he, Jane?"
"That's assuming he had it in the first place."
Thomas Culpepper has such pretty blue eyes; she honestly doesn't know what to do when he turns them on her. It's Christmas and the king's celebrating with his new queen. Only, his former queen is also present and Henry now sees that he was too hasty in dismissing the Lady from Cleves. She watches the king eyeing his old wife and laments that England's once beloved prince has turned into this inconsistent tyrant.
Thomas comes with wine and words that are prettier than his eyes. She ends the night with him in her bed, enjoying an activity she has been absent from for the past five years. He speaks a lot of the queen, and of how he desires her. It's an odd thing to say to a woman you have just dallied with, but Thomas is beyond such worries. She bites her lips, desperate to please the man that has granted her the first bit of real pleasure she has known. She says she can arrange it, and Thomas thanks her with more of those tender touches and heated thrusts.
She is watching pretty Thomas sleep when George yanks painfully on her hair. She stifles a cry, not wanting to wake her lover. "Don't be stupid, Jane! He is using you to make his way to the queen. It's folly beyond reason."
She stares back at her enraged dead husband with a blank face. "He has been kind to me," she says in reply.
George releases her hair and spits viciously on the ground. "It is a false kindness!"
She turns to look back at the sleeping Thomas and smiles softly. "Any kindness is better than no kindness at all."
George pinches her arm savagely. "Have you gone mad, Jane?"
"I have been speaking daily with the ghost of my dead husband for almost five years," she shakes her head. "I've always been mad. It's nothing new, George."
"This is reckless, Jane. It will lead to only one end."
"Don't start caring now, George. It's less than useful at this point."
It leads to the only end it can. She sits in her cell at the Tower, George next to her as both listen to the constable as he declares her to be mad.
"They should have put you in my cell," George says contemplatively. "It would have been much more poetic."
"Our king is no longer worried with poetry," she replies listlessly. She moves back until her back hits the cell wall and she slides down to the ground. Her knees she draws up to her chest and she wraps her arms around them. "He delights more in beheadings. I wonder how he will get another wife after this."
George frowns. "You think he'll want another?"
"Why not? Marriage seems to be his greatest hobby," she laughs. "If only he learned to play gently with his dolls. They might not have all broken by now."
"Well, they still should have put you into my old cell," George shakes his head. "I left you a message, carved into the wall."
"Be quiet, George. It's not time for one of your jokes."
"You never appreciated my humour when I was alive," George admonishes her. "You could at least pretend to like it since I'm dead."
"You aren't funny, George. And crudeness isn't something that I appreciate."
"You are a cruel mistress, Jane Boleyn," George sighs. "It wasn't all bad."
"No," she agrees. "It was worse than bad."
"They're calling you the Mad Lady of the Tower," George chuckles. "You should give them a show."
She doesn't reply, because she hasn't anything to say. Night is settling in and she's colder than she ever remembers being. She shivers slightly and leans forward to rest her forehead on her knees. "Does it hurt to die, George?"
"Not at all," he replies easily. "It's the lead up that's the most terrifying. But don't worry, sweetheart, I'll be with you the entire time."
She jerks upright and glares at him. "What makes you think I desire your presence at all?"
George smiles gently and cups her cheek tenderly. "What makes you think your desires matter at all?"
The tears come, five years worth of them. "My life would have been better had I never married you."
"Undoubtedly, but you did," George gives her a pointed look. "Tell me, Jane. All these years of chatting and lecturing, haven't you understood anything? Don't you know why I'm here?"
She glares at him. "I'm mad, that's why you're here."
"I'm here because you know that one lie helped send me to the axe," George wags a finger in her face. "I'm here because of your guilt, because of your loneliness. You hated me Jane, but I was your husband. I was your life. When I died, who did you have left? A father that turned his back on you, a set of in-laws that cursed your name. I was your everything, Jane. And you've been steadily marching towards our reunion the day my head fell."
"Shut up, George!"
He appears in front of her, grabbing her roughly by the hair and forcing her head up to meet his eyes. "Perhaps, even though you hated me, you loved me just a bit as well?"
"Never!" she shrieks, hands clawing at the one fisted in her hair. "I hate you! I killed you because I hated you!"
He releases his hold, throwing her head back against the wall. Her skull hits the stones with force and the pain sets her mind swimming. He's on his feet and laughing at her again. "Perhaps you killed me because you loved me a bit, and I never loved you at all."
She lays shivering on the cold stone floor, her dead husband's taunts her only company. When they come to tell her that she's to die, she wants to scream that she already knows.
"Of course you knew," George coos into her ears at night. "You're my wife. Wherever I go, you will follow."
Her mind breaks nightly, until finally she no longer has the sense to hear him anymore. They give her clothes to wear on that final day, and cap to tie back her hair. She is snivelling and unsure as they lead her out into the sunshine, her mind unable to understand what's happening but her heart knowing all the while. Katherine walks in front of her and the queen no longer looks like a queen, but like a frightened young girl.
They put her on a scaffold and tell her to speak.
"I as-ask for fo-forgiveness," she manages to stutter. "For m-my sins. From his gra-gracious majesty the king, from G-God, a-and from all of you."
No one says anything in reply. She blinks back tears and turns to the constable. "Sh-should I say more?"
He shakes his head and says it is enough. She doesn't know how it could be enough. Surely final speeches are meant to be more impressive. But, she's not an impressive person-never has been. That had been left to her husband and his doomed little sister.
She lays her head down upon the block, the fear surely more than her broken mind can handle. She feels fingers on her face and opens her eyes to see George, dressed in his execution clothes as she is dressed in hers.
"It won't hurt, right?" she whispers through a flood of tears.
He pinches her cheek with two fingers and smiles. "Not even for a second."
She looks at the spectre of her dead husband and weeps, not comforted though he has said what she wanted to hear.
The axe falls.