A/N: Clearly, all things Sarah Bolger can relate back to The Tudors and now that Phillip is "dead" they should just cast Anthony Brophy as her love interest. (Just kidding, we should all be shipping Mulan/Aurora because perfection.) (Well, kind of not kidding.) (Shh.)
He'd stood by while her frozen lips had been kissed by the legion of young, rich, and handsome European noblemen that Henry had trotted in front of her body. The months after the spell had been cast by the witch on her funeral pyre had been long and dark, Christendom's brightest jewel dimmed at the consequence of her father's cruel ambitions and vicious whims.
She is your only hope, your majesty. She is the only good, that girl of yours. The only hope of saving the realm. She deserves it, but you don't.
The witch had been sent up in flames, but not before her threats had given way to crazed chanting, and then those had given way to a cloud of unstoppable black smoke—and miles away in Hunsdon, the Lady Mary, his princess in truth, had collapsed to the floor, and had not awoken since. Her finger, the maids had said, had been on the spindle of her spinning wheel, her gentile hands working on clothe to send to the poorhouse of the county unto which she unofficially tendered her care.
Her body sent to Hampton to lie in some perverse form of state, the king had called upon every able-bodied man in the kingdom to try and break the curse.
True love's kiss—oh but you'll never allow her that, your majesty. Never allow her happiness if it's not at your bidding. She'll never wake up, and it'll be all your bleeding fault.
The king seemed to think that the princess' true love would be a handsome Duke or Earl, or son thereof, with jewels on his fingers and gold in his coffer. When that failed, he sent messengers abroad, calling upon all of the young princes of Europe to try their luck. The Ambassador had stood by and cringed, hands tightening around his cane, knuckles white, as boy after boy laid their lips onto his lady's.
Henry thought that some charming prince would do it, and as they all failed again and again and his court continued to swell with the nobility of Europe, and the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys smirked, bemused. How much the king did not know about his daughter, of her piety and grace of heart. Of her kindness and wit, her intelligence, and her beauty inside and out, even as her sleeping, beautiful body grew thinner and weaker with each passing day.
(It would break his heart, if the old, hardened Ambassador could admit that he had a heart to break. But no, all of the goodness and tenderness in the world was reserved for ladies such as Mary Tudor, who suffered so and could still not be cowed by the sword of consequence as swung by their derelict fathers.)
(Even if their derelict fathers remake them into princesses after they have caused the worst to befall their daughters.)
You are, and always have been, my most faithful and truest friend in all this world.
Her hand is cold under his, in the blackness of night. Candles flicker and guards in their finest livery stand around the bed on which she lies. The king's physicians said that she could not last in this state much longer. The king, having sent for all of the noblemen of Europe and even beyond, had yelled and shouted at his servants and friends, and sent his wife to the traitor's block.
There was no one left, Henry had cried. No princes were left to kiss Princess Mary awake. She had been restored to the line of succession, a crown placed upon her head, her dowry tripled and then quadrupled in size, bringing all eligible bachelors from every corner of the world to try and wake the princess.
My most faithful and truest friend in all this world.
Her last words to him, spoken earnestly, with kindness and her ghost-like touch upon his arm.
Eustace Chapuys sinks to his knees before her prone form, hissing as his leg protests. He lets his cane fall to the ground with an echoing clatter. No matter. He is no charming prince, and this is the first time he has been allowed to approach her since the curse was enacted. And perhaps it will be his last.
He coughs, blinking back the unfamiliar approach of tears. He takes one of her fine, slender hands in his, stretching out her furled palms over his, uncurling her cold fingers. "My lady," he whispers mournfully. "My poor, sweet, lady."
She is so cold, her skin papery to the touch, and Chapuys settles for wrapping his hands around hers in the damp, dark hall.
He kneels there for as long as his leg allows, praying fervently for her deliverance. If God should spare anyone, it would be her. The words 'please' and 'beseech' do not fall easily from his lips, but they do. For all that the world has hardened him, she has always been there to slow him down. To touch his arm, and teach him to breathe softly. To speak with compassion.
She will die, he thinks. And the world will be poorer for it. And I…
(And he will stop remembering how to breathe softly.)
An ache settles not in his leg, but in his chest. "My lady," he begins again. "If any one person in all of Christendom had deserved a happy ending, it would have been you. My lady… I must beg your forgiveness, for you will take leave of this world and I cannot help you." The ache takes hold of his heart and roots there. When it fades, just as she will from the world, his heart will be left blackened and shriveled. "I must beg your forgiveness," he voice trembles, his fingers tighten around her lifeless hands, "for not being able to help you as you should have been in this world. Not—not doing more for you, has been my greatest sin, for which I will always be unable to atone."
He crosses himself, and climbs wearily to his feet. Yet again blinking back tears, he stoops, and reverently presses a kiss to one hand, and then the other. Straightening, he brings a shaking hand to her cheek.
True love's kiss…
Princesses don't fall in love with old, broken Ambassadors.
"Goodbye," he whispers plaintively, almost tenderly, tears dripping down his nose. "Go with God, my lady."
Hesitantly, he lowers his lips to the corner of her mouth, and kisses her reverently. (Old, broken, Ambassdors, however, do quite commonly fall in love with princesses.)
Mary is unsure of what pushes her out of the darkness, but she has spent the past hour screaming into the black at the sound of his voice for the first time in what felt like eternity. How terrifying it has been, to be unable to move and unable to speak and unable to see, for so long, to feel herself dying of hunger and thirst but unable to drink, to eat.
She had drifted, had begun to drift and to leave.
And then she heard his voice, felt his hands wrap around hers.
She sighs into existence with his mouth on hers, feels him tense as love breathes into her, and makes her bloom awake. She giggles around his mouth, her hand moving to wind into his curls, and distantly she hears the surprised shouts of men and the din of rapidly moving feet, but Eustace catches on quickly and winds his arms around her waist, drawing her to him.
True love's kiss, she had heard her father shout over and over. Of course, who else would it be to wake her with such a kiss, except for the only person to stand by her side for so many long and dark years?
Mary pulls back, one hand in his hair and one on his cheek, eyes wide open in compensation for the long months in darkness. The sun moves into the horizon, but all she can see is the light reflected in the Ambassador's bright blue eyes, in his shocked smile, in the love in his face as he looks upon her with more than grief for the first time in so long.
"My lady?" he stammers, and she knows that he is seconds away from either an apology or an apoplexy.
"I knew it would be you," she whispers, before bringing her mouth back to his.
(He may not always be charming, but she'll make a prince of him yet.)
Crit is very much appreciated.