"Put away these clean linens, Lady Mary."

Mary grits her teeth and does as Lady Bryan bids, refusing to show humiliation and ignoring the tittering of the other ladies. She is a princess, no matter what they say, and they will never break her.

A tiny hand tugs at the formidable governess's sleeve. "But Lady Bryan, I wanted Lady Mary to come with us on our afternoon walk," Elizabeth pleads, an innocent smile quirking her lips.

Lady Bryan presses her lips. The Lady Mary's defiance must be broken at all costs, but she cannot countermand the Princess. "Very well."

Mary follows behind Elizabeth, grateful to escape the indignity of her chores, even if for one afternoon. Of all her duties as a servant, she prefers accompanying Elizabeth on her walks around the garden the most, even if she must walk behind her and take orders from her. Despite her hatred for the concubine, Mary has discovered, much to her surprise, that her little bastard is a sweet child and impossible to hate.

As soon as they are a safe distance from Lady Bryan, Elizabeth turns to her and crooks her finger. When Mary has bent down to her level, the barely-two-year-old child whispers, "Aren't you glad you don't have to work this afternoon?"

Mary jerks her head back. Elizabeth is precocious, but Mary had not expected she would be so perceptive as to notice that Mary despises her duties. As far as Elizabeth knows, she is a princess and the heir to the throne, and it is an honor for her maids to serve her. It would never occur to her that one of them might find her service a burden, sheltered and vain as the child is, though Mary could forgive her for it, for she had thought much the same when she was Elizabeth's age.

But it seems that her sister is more aware than she has let on. Sneaky little fox. Mary takes in her sister's mischievous expression and is chilled by the black eyes that are as cunning and scheming as the mother she has inherited them from, the eyes that have blighted Mary's life. But Elizabeth's eyes sparkle with childish delight where Anne's would have with smug satisfaction, and Mary is confident that, whatever else her mother might have passed on to her, Elizabeth has not inherited her malice, and God willing, she will remain uncorrupted by it.

So Mary nods back and smiles, enveloping her baby sister in a hug, grateful to have at least one person on her side in these dark times.

A/N: If anyone has any ideas or requests for any moments from Mary's life, seeing her interact with other Tudor figures, AU Mary-centric ideas, or even an entirely Mary-unrelated idea, leave me a comment!