Joined: 05 Oct 2003
|Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:51 am Post subject: Tudors. Anne/Henry (post series). 'In Her Wake'
|TITLE: In Her Wake
DISCLAIMER: Henry VIII has always provoked an angry reaction in me, but I wouldn't be opposed to owning this version.
SUMMARY: A ghost story. Henry/Anne, post-series
RATING: A for Angst.
He does not remember.
She lets him forget.
"You love me well, my sweet Anne?"
To him, it will always be those golden months of bright hope and happiness, his hand resting on her belly even though it's now sunken in from months of fear and weeks of isolation, when food had tasted bitter and the only light came from the small window - little comfort, as it overlooked the place where she'd die.
That, he will not remember.
He wanders down the halls, still king and master, and the living tremble when the torches flare up in a fickle gust of wind, or the tables groan as if weighed by great serving platters in the abandoned dining halls. He is still England in its prime, lands that know little of war and are still innocent in the ways of betrayal.
For all that he became, she can't help but love him for who he'd been, the man that laughed with her and held her as the wife of his heart for years before their wedding vows. How she had missed him, when he slipped away; how she had hated him! Too bad she never thought to fear him until it was too late.... But now it's never late, it's never anything but this younger sovereign kneeling before her, holding her hand as if it were a treasure he could not conceive losing. "Oh, Henry," she can't help but sigh, feeling the maidservants in the back of the room fan themselves against the sudden warmth of a Queen's blush, the older slipping the other a tiny cross and an old rhyme against spirits.
If Whitehall weren't their home first the charm might not be so useless, she thinks sometimes, diverted at the living as she'd once amused herself at her court's expense.
No. Not her court.
(And how had it been quick to follow his lead and turn against her!)
She has slipped her hand from his hold. Not today, she thinks. Not today when their daughter says her name among her prayers, asking for her mother's eternal rest.
Is this why Katherine and Mistress Seymour avoid him, why her poor cousin wanders through the rotten decay and whimpering moans of the Tower, choosing to walk on her lover's arm rather than return to the splendor of Whitehall? The others have deserted him, more for their own sake rather than to torment him - if he can be tormented, proud as he is. Perhaps the other women, more and less fortunate than her depending on the point of view (and her own is the only one that thinks them 'less' from time to time. Not today, though, no), walk the furthest parts to try and forget, let their memories wash away as his seem to have.
They don't know how he's managed to shed a decade and more worth of life, why he's been allowed to retain happier times as his afterlife when the rest of them must recall the ways he made them unhappy. Oh, Henry, she thinks, not without fondness, you always managed the impossible in order to take the easy way out.
Or perhaps the other women have moved on, found their children and left this cursed place. Perhaps she's the one left behind, and she would have willingly stayed if only to watch over her child, her little girl now made queen. But....
But that's not all, she knows.
"Say you love me still, Anne," he asks.
Sometimes she wonders whether he remembers enough to ask for this token of absolution.
Sometimes she absolves him (she did love him, after all, and she did love him best).
Today her silence is ice, and their daughter orders a warmer wrap to be brought to her.
She leaves the room, and wonders how she can feel so weary after having known the suffering she did. Can the dead feel pain, after years of absolute peace? And then, with a laugh she realizes that if anybody would stir such dreaded emotions, it would be him. His approaching death had brought out her bitterness, she remembers, enough that she took advantage of the thinner barrier between the dead and those at death's door - but then he did join them, blind to the political turmoil he'd left behind and everything that wasn't his youthful pleasures.
"Anne!" He is following her, concerned at first and then with an easier spring to his step. To him, it's but a game, isn't it? A moment trapped in the merry chase she led him, in those years he'd possessed a confidence worth of the mightiest prince, and had challenged the fools who dared put obstacles in his way. They breeze past the stables, the horses wary and their ears straight up, while the humans in charge instinctively seek refuge closer to the larger beasts. "Don't go so fast, Anne."
"Oh, Henry," she murmurs when she stops in the throne room, knowing that he won't understand if she doesn't let him catch her, that he won't remember pronouncing her his biggest obstacle. This younger man, this lover and husband, knew only the moment of his greatest victory when he returned to her, that time when he'd lorded over the whole world his triumph and gloried in the beauty of his new wife and the means he'd used to win her, when nobody would even whisper about his toppling over court and country to no avail. Everything afterwards - the disappointment and anger, the broken illusions - is no more.... Should anyone be surprised that he's chosen to forget it all, shrugged off his failures and abandoned them for the living to deal with?
Their daughter prays for him too, every Sunday with her maids echoing her, and more often she fights to hold onto the shattered legacy he left behind.
But he doesn't see it.
He is smiling when he reaches her, his steps whisper-soft in the wake of hers (He always smiles now). "You didn't answer," he says, his fingers grazing her cheek. Around them, the room becomes brighter, the fires laugh and sing, and the members of their daughter's court gasp and cross themselves. "Do you still love me, my sweet wife?" His smile is confident, the decade and half he lived after her gone and erased. The man before her is younger still than the husband who forsook and condemned her. Only by three years, a blink in eternity now; but she remembers how they had stretched into three decades while she lay awake in the Tower.
Is this her fate, then? To resent the man he became, yet love the man of their younger years - this man he's chosen as his eternal manner? To watch him smile at her and strive to win her favor, yet remember how this same love could be snuffed away and turned into cold loneliness? To know that the hand now begging for a caress once signed a death sentence, a sentence against her?
Sometimes she wonders whether he remembers enough to know she was the one who fit best at his side, whether some part of him knows he never again knew passion like the one she'd fanned in his heart.
Sometimes, she says yes.
But today she has heard the swish of a sword haunt her since dawn, and today she's seen a tear threaten to fall down their daughter's cheek. However many years have passed, May always wraps her in an anguished embrace and this day is the worst.
"Not today," she pleads.
But he doesn't listen. Before or after her, he never learned that, and she was not allowed the time to teach him. He takes her hand instead, and takes her tight grasp as a sign of tender feelings instead of the force of will not to tear herself away.
After all, he does not remember.
Perhaps because she lets him forget.
"Doesn't matter. Today or tomorrow," he laughs, young and in love, "Of course you do!" How can she deny him this, when she knows what it is to be discarded unfeelingly? "Who else would you love, my sweet Anne?"
She bites her lip against a cry or a harsh laugh; she doesn't know which. "Indeed, Henry," and wonders whether one day he'll allow his memories to return, whether he'll appreciate the irony of her words, whether he'll still believe those terrible accusations that gave him justification to… to… Oh, Henry, she thinks, and ties her fate to his again, and again, and… "Who else would I love?"