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A Fairy Tale Prince

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Chapter 1:  "I Nearly Fell Off My Horse"

 

17 year old Philippe lay on the sofa in his salon reading a book. A not very interesting book but lately nothing seemed very interesting to him. It had been an exceedingly long winter locked up in the Palais Royal and he was bored. Louis no longer had time for him. Being king and finding a queen was all he cared about. There was the Comte de Guiche to amuse him but...he sighed and looked back down at the book. Sometimes the comte scared him, made him feel worse than alone...but maybe that was what he deserved. He jumped with a start as the royal guards flung open the doors to the chamber. He was even more surprised to see his brother. He smiled at Louis. "What are you doing here?"

Louis frowned. "Everyone else rises and bows when I enter a room."

"Everyone else doesn't know that you slept with a doll until you were 12," Philippe replied with a smirk.

Louis scowled and then laughed. "I thought I might go for a ride. It's quite warm out today. Would you join me?"

Philippe tossed his book on the floor. "Give me a moment to change."

 

"They may be a bit feisty today, your majesty," the Comte d'Harcourt warned. "They've been cooped up inside all winter."

"I know how they feel," Philippe muttered. He swung up on his white stallion. The horse whinnied and pranced eager to be off. "Just a moment, boy," he whispered soothingly to the horse, scratching the horse's ears.

"The king will be fine, father," the Comte d'Armagnac assured the older man. "He is an excellent rider. Your majesty, if you please." He held his hand out to assist the king onto the horse as protocol demanded.

Louis swung up. "We'll take them to Champs Elysee. That'll cure the winter doldrums."

A younger boy about 15 with a lion's mane of blond hair joined the group. "Father, the new Arabian has...." He saw Philippe and suddenly forgot his purpose. He had never seen anyone more beautiful.

Philippe turned to the new arrival and unconsciously loosed the reins of his horse. The horse returned to prancing and cavorting nearly unseating its rider. Philippe stared at the blond angel in front of him...the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It was a moment before he noticed that he had lost control of the horse. He gathered up the reins, forcing the horse to stay still but was unable take his eyes off the angel.

"Your majesty, I am not sure you remember my brother, Philippe, the Chevalier de Lorraine. He's just arrived at court," the Comte d'Armagnac said to Louis.

His brother's voice brought the chevalier back to reality along with the realization that he was in the presence of the king of France. He forced himself to look away from Philippe and turned his eyes to Louis. "Your majesty," the chevalier said, bowing properly to the king.

The Comte d'Harcourt watched the proceedings with wariness and hostility.

The chevalier rose and chanced another look at Philippe who, he was pleased to learn, was still looking at him.

"My brother, Philippe, the Duc d'Anjou," Louis said. "I'm sure the two of you met as children. Was it that one summer...."

"Saint-Germain, I believe," Armagnac said.

Philippe vaguely heard Louis and Armagnac speaking but it was difficult as he felt like he had been transported somewhere else. Some Eden where only he and the angel...the Chevalier de Lorraine existed.

"Your highness," the chevalier murmured and bowed to Philippe.

Philippe found that he hated seeing the chevalier bow as doing so hid his face.

The chevalier rose and looked Philippe in the eyes.

Philippe suddenly found it difficult to breathe.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe.

Philippe briefly lost control of the horse again, gathered it back up, and then smiled slightly at the chevalier.

"Shall we, brother?" Louis asked, oblivious.

Philippe looked at Louis with a moment's confusion and then remembered why he was on a horse. He could think of nothing he wanted to do less now but nodded.

Louis led them out of the stable yard and Philippe followed. He glanced back to see the chevalier watching him. He was rewarded with another smile from his blond angel before the Comte d'Harcourt directed the chevalier back into the stables.

 

Later that day, Philippe frantically combed through racks and racks of clothes in his dressing room but he hated everything he owned. He had already tried on several ensembles with no success. He had absolutely nothing to wear. He flashed to the blond angel and felt a bit nauseous. His stomach was roiling. Perhaps he was getting sick? He forced himself to return to the task at hand and finally chose a dark brocade coat. At least it was new.

 

The chevalier stared at his reflection in the mirror but his mind was on Philippe as it had been all day. He barely even remembered the argument with his father though his ribs were tender so clearly it had not gone well. He banished his father from his mind and returned to the much more pleasant thought of Philippe de France. He felt a bit nervous to see him again but it was a good nervousness. Excitement. He had chosen a blue brocade coat that he knew complimented him. He must make up for any impression of being a glorified stable boy. Of all the times to be introduced to...he did not quite have a word for Philippe. What word could really sum up what he felt when he first saw him? The French language was not up to the task.

 

Philippe followed Louis into the dining room and sat at his customary place to Louis' left. He looked around as discreetly as he could manage for the chevalier and found him standing beside his brother looking even more beautiful than Philippe remembered him. His stomach gave a disturbing lurch. Do. Not. Vomit.

The chevalier felt Philippe's presence a second before he saw him...even more beautiful than he remembered him though the dark gray brocade did him no favors. Why would someone so beautiful hide in shadows? He felt Philippe's eyes on him and smiled.

Philippe smiled back, the slight nausea being joined by an ache further south. His face felt hot and his heart was beating much too fast. Maybe he really was getting sick. Typhoid perhaps?

 

With dinner over though not eaten, Philippe followed Louis into the salon for the night's entertainment. It would be cards without doubt. Louis had lost to the Chevalier de Rohan the night before and would be eager to regain his dignity.

As Louis headed to the card table, Philippe wandered to a corner of the salon wondering where the chevalier was. He saw him across the room at the card table. His brother would play, of course, being part of Louis' little gang of friends. Philippe considered walking over to the table. It was unlikely Louis would let him play and highly likely that he would humiliate him for asking. He was not so nice with his friends around.

"Hiding again, I see," the Comte de Guiche said. "Come. We'll play our own game of hide and seek."

Philippe was a bit startled by the count as he had been busy staring at the chevalier. In fact, Guiche's presence was decidedly unwelcome. "I do not feel like it tonight."

"Whatever made you think you have a choice," Guiche sneered grabbing Philippe's arm roughly.

"Let go. You're hurting me," Philippe cried.

"I will hurt you a lot more if you do not come with me now," Guiche said tightening his grip on Philippe's arm.

"I do not want to," Philippe said grimacing in pain.

"I do not understand why you think that matters to me," Guiche said as he half dragged Philippe toward a private alcove.

"I believe the duke has made his wishes clear," the chevalier said quietly to Guiche as he approached them.

Philippe looked at the chevalier in shock and then at Guiche with fear.

"Mind your own business," Guiche snapped. "This is a private conversation."

"A conversation? Are you sure? Because what it looks like is that you are assaulting a prince of France in full view of the court which I believe to be more treason than conversation," the chevalier said. "And I must say, that coat is committing its own host of crimes against humanity."

Philippe giggled despite his fear and then quickly put a hand over his mouth.

The conversation, despite its hushed tones, was starting to generate some interest among nearby courtiers.

Guiche looked around at the growing crowd. "You will regret this," he hissed at Philippe. He let go of Philippe's arm and stormed out of the salon.

Philippe rubbed his arm already feeling it bruising.

"Nothing more to see here," the chevalier told the courtiers. "Back to losing the shirts off your backs."

The courtiers turned away.

"Are you well, your highness?" the chevalier asked Philippe. "Did he hurt you?"

Philippe shook his head. "You should not have done that," he said quietly.

"You wanted to go with him?" the chevalier asked a bit confused.

"No but...he is angry now," Philippe said.

"Why are you with someone who frightens you?"

"He does not frighten me," Philippe said convincing no one.

"He is a boor and a brute. You deserve better," the chevalier said.

Philippe looked unconvinced.

"Let me show you," the chevalier said. He confiscated a bottle of champagne and a plate of macarons from a nearby table. "Will you come with me?"

Philippe nodded and smiled slightly.

The chevalier led Philippe through a nearby door onto a balcony overlooking the Tuileries. Music from the night's entertainment joined the scent of early blooming jasmine wafting through the still chilly spring air. The chevalier set down the champagne and macarons and held out his hand to Philippe. "Dance with me?"

Philippe stared at the proffered hand, his heart thudding in his chest, his stomach roiling, his palms...sweaty? He considered running away in utter humiliation but the desire to touch the blond angel was too great. He took the chevalier's hand.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe and pulled him into his arms whirling him around the makeshift dance floor.

Philippe laughed and suddenly felt a hundred pounds lighter. "You're a good dancer," he said.

"You're extraordinarily graceful which makes it easier," the chevalier said whirling Philippe out and back against his chest. The music slowed and he tightened his grip on Philippe's waist.

Philippe tried to focus on breathing but he was so close to him. Their bodies were pressed together. He could smell the light scent of lavender in the chevalier's hair. Hair that was brushing his face. Eyes that were staring into his. His entire body ached.

The chevalier could not remember ever being so attracted to anyone. It was taking every ounce of self control he could muster not to kiss those pink lips that were mere inches away from his. He tried looking into Philippe's eyes but those were excruciatingly beautiful as well. "Isn't this better?" he asked in an effort to distract himself.

"Much," Philippe said softly, surprised he was capable of speech. "How...how was your first day at court?" he managed.

"It started off poorly but greatly improved shortly after lunch," the chevalier said and smiled.

"Oh?" Philippe asked.

"Have you forgotten so soon?"

Philippe shook his head, lost in the chevalier's eyes.

"You were so beautiful," the chevalier said softly. "I forgot what I was doing."

Philippe looked a little surprised that he had such impact. "I felt the same. I forgot to hold the reins...I nearly fell off my horse," he admitted sheepishly. "You look like an angel...."

The chevalier kissed Philippe gently, his lips lingering on those coveted pink lips.

Philippe felt himself melting into the chevalier's arms, head pleasantly spinning as he returned the kiss.

"I have been thinking about that all day," the chevalier murmured against Philippe's lips.

"As have I," Philippe said. "I was disappointed you were not there when we returned."

"My father...I would have been but...it does not matter," the chevalier said banishing his father and focusing on Philippe in his arms. "I am here now." He kissed Philippe again gentleness giving way to passion as Philippe opened his mouth to receive the chevalier's eager tongue. He pushed Philippe against the outside wall of the palace, his fingers tangled in silky ebony hair, their tongues exploring each other's mouths. He grimaced slightly as Philippe pulled him closer irritating a rib.

"Are you well? Did I do something wrong?" Philippe asked.

"I'm well. Everything you're doing is so right." He kissed Philippe again happy to be met with immediate and equal response.

Philippe felt himself drowning in desire. His lips, his tongue, his skin felt like fire. He rubbed against the chevalier wanting more than kisses. He pulled the chevalier's shirt out of his breeches and felt bare skin that was as hot as his own.

The chevalier moved his hands from Philippe's hair to Philippe's ass pressing their groins together. He moaned as he felt Philippe rubbing against him. He untied Philippe's breeches, needing bare skin. He barely noticed the door opening and closing but something in his mind registered "no longer alone". "Fuck me," he hissed and disentangled himself from Philippe.

"What..." Philippe asked in confusion. His lips were swollen, his head was swimming, and losing the chevalier's touch was more than he could bear. It was a moment before he registered the drunk courtesan staring at him.

"You're the Duc d...." the courtesan slurred.

"A duke? My Jacques?" the chevalier laughed. "Perhaps you've had a bit too much champagne, my dear." He looked pointedly at Philippe silently pleading with him to play along.

"But..." the courtesan said.

"Do you know, I heard the Duc de Burgundy asking about you earlier," the chevalier told the courtesan.

"You did?" the courtesan asked already thinking how jealous her friends would be to have to call her duchess.

"I did. Why would I lie to you?" the chevalier confirmed.

"You wouldn't, of course," the courtesan said. "I must go to him!" She opened the door and hurried back inside.

"I expect an invitation to the wedding!" the chevalier called after her.

Philippe laughed as the door closed. "The Duc de Burgundy is five years old. It is well past his bed time."

The chevalier turned back to Philippe. "It worked, did it not?" he asked without apology.

"You may look like an angel but you are not one," Philippe said.

"Does that disappoint you?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe shook his head.

The chevalier took a step closer to Philippe. "Are you an angel?"

Philippe's lips burned with the thought of kissing the chevalier again. Could he be so bold? "K-kiss me and find out."

The chevalier smiled and kissed Philippe, pressing him back against the wall, tongues and hands exploring, grinding against each other.

"Maybe somewhere more private," Philippe gasped between kisses. "The next person who comes out here may actually know the Duc de Burgundy."

"Did you have somewhere in mind?" the chevalier asked his lips against Philippe's.

"My rooms...are...somewhere...." Philippe murmured.

The chevalier laughed his mouth pressed against Philippe's ear. "We should try to find them then. Can you remember a general direction?"

"Maybe...but you must stop kissing me. I knew exactly where they were before that started," Philippe said, kissing the chevalier.

"You are kissing me. You must stop yourself," the chevalier said kissing Philippe.

"I cannot," Philippe said still kissing the chevalier.

The chevalier made a Herculean effort and took a step away from Philippe. "Think."

Philippe tried to redirect blood to his brain.

"Must we retrace your steps?" the chevalier asked.

"We have to go back...in there," Philippe said.

The chevalier surveyed Philippe, messy hair, swollen lips, breeches untied. "That is not ideal."

"There is another way," Philippe remembered and looked over the balcony to the shrubbery below. It had not yet bloomed and its branches did not look at all welcoming.

The chevalier looked over as well. "So we must go back through the salon." He tucked Philippe's shirt back into his breeches and retied them and then did the same to his own. He ran his fingers through Philippe's hair basically calming it. "There is nothing I can do about these," he said touching Philippe's swollen lips with his own. "We should avoid extended conversation if possible."

Philippe nodded. "What about that?" He gestured to the champagne and macarons.

"They may be needed...later," the chevalier said. He filled Philippe's coat pockets with macarons and then hid the champagne in his own coat. "Walk quickly, make no eye contact."

Philippe nodded.

The chevalier opened the door and they re-entered the salon. On plan, they walked quickly to the nearest set of double doors and straight into Anne of Austria.

"Mother," Philippe stammered through lips that he was sure could be seen for miles.

"Philippe," Anne said a touch suspicious. "Who is your friend?"

"I am Philippe, the Chevalier de Lorraine, your majesty," the chevalier volunteered, bowing to Anne.

"Your father is the Comte d'Harcourt, is he not? I had heard that his younger son would be joining us. Welcome to court," Anne said politely.

"Thank you, your majesty."

"Where are the two of you off to?" Anne asked with interest.

"Billiards!" Philippe spit out.

Anne's suspicion grew. "You hate billiards."

"I...I..." Philippe stuttered.

"He dislikes it because he is not good at it but I believe I can remedy that," the chevalier explained.

"Then we will be in your debt. I should warn you, you have your work cut out for you," Anne said not believing any of it.

"I am sure I am up for the challenge, your majesty," the chevalier assured Anne.

"Well, I shan't keep you," Anne said. "Do try to follow the chevalier's instruction, my son." She kissed Philippe on the cheek and walked away.

"Excellent advice," the chevalier said with a smirk.

Philippe blushed.

"Come. Our escape route is clear," the chevalier said and quickly left the salon with Philippe on his heels. "Which way?"

"Up the stairs, end of the hall, and to the right," Philippe said.

"Good. Now that your rooms have been relocated, I can do this again," the chevalier said and then kissed Philippe.

Philippe tangled his fingers in the chevalier's hair, his body melting into his, all thoughts of privacy forgotten.

The chevalier dragged his lips away from Philippe's. "You are going to land me in the Bastille. We must find your room."

"Then stop kissing me!" Philippe exclaimed a bit louder than intended.

"Then stop looking so kissable," the chevalier begged.

Philippe smiled and pulled the chevalier in for a kiss.

"Your rooms, you wicked thing," the chevalier murmured against Philippe's lips.

Philippe took the chevalier's hand and pulled him down the hall in the direction of his rooms. They made it nearly to the turn before Philippe found himself pinned against a marble wall with the chevalier's tongue in his mouth.

"How much further?" the chevalier gasped between kisses. "Surely we must be in Spain by now."

Philippe laughed and pushed the chevalier off him. He turned the corner and could see the royal guards in front of his room. "Nearly there." He took the chevalier's hand and pulled him down the hallway. The guards saw him, raised their spears, and opened the double doors for him.

The chevalier stopped momentarily at the sight of the royal guards as the full weight of what he was doing hit him. The king's brother. Next in line to the throne. If this ends badly, the Bastille will be the best case scenario for you but.... He looked at Philippe standing inside the room looking at him. Philippe who he was already half in love with. Philippe who was looking at him now as if he could read his mind.

"I'll understand," Philippe said softly, sadly. "If it's too much." The words caused him physical pain.

The chevalier walked into the room and the guards closed the doors behind him, followed by the clang of steel on steel as spears crossed. He put his hands on Philippe's face and kissed him tenderly. "You are worth it."

Philippe smiled at the chevalier and then leaned in for more kisses.

The chevalier happily obliged, kissing Philippe, his hands pushing off Philippe's coat and finding their way under shirt to land on bare skin.

Philippe stumbled backward toward his room, still kissing the chevalier, his hands pulling shirt from breeches, fumbling with buttons.

The chevalier removed the champagne from his coat and set it on a bedside table then removed his coat and let it fall to the floor, his lips never leaving Philippe's. He pushed Philippe back toward the bed until he saw a pile of clothes on it. "Dare I ask?"

Philippe looked at the pile and flushed. "I couldn't decide what to wear."

"Is this a typical problem?"

"No...I wanted...uh...I wanted you to notice me and I couldn't decide what you would like," Philippe admitted.

The chevalier smiled. "You would look beautiful in anything, my darling...or nothing."

Philippe smiled. "That didn't seem appropriate for dinner."

"No though I certainly would have noticed," the chevalier smirked. He let go of Philippe long enough to dump the pile of clothes to the floor. He unbuttoned Philippe's vest, pushed it off his shoulders, and added it to the pile.

Philippe watched the chevalier wide eyed.

The chevalier unbuttoned Philippe's breeches, freeing his shirt tails and then lifted the shirt over Philippe's head. "You are exquisite," the chevalier said running his hands over Philippe's bare chest. He could feel Philippe trembling.

"Why do you tremble, darling? Do you not want...."

Philippe shook his head. "I do want...you...make me tremble," he whispered.

The chevalier smiled and kissed Philippe, his hands continuing their exploration.

Philippe unbuttoned the chevalier's vest and pushed it off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor.

The chevalier lifted his arms to help with shirt removal. He pulled Philippe against him, kissing him, relishing the feel of bare skin on bare skin. He pushed Philippe back on the bed and crawled on top of him, kissing him. He kissed down his chest, down his stomach, pausing to unbutton and remove his breeches. He took Philippe's cock in his mouth and was surprised when every part of Philippe stiffened but his cock.

"Don't!" Philippe cried, sitting up quickly and tucking his legs under his chin.

The chevalier crawled over to Philippe. "What's wrong? What did I do?"

"It doesn't work," Philippe said barely audibly, his eyes downcast.

The chevalier swallowed shock. He put his finger on Philippe's chin and raised his face so that they were eye to eye. "That's okay, my darling. There are other ways to give you pleasure."
Philippe looked confused but the chevalier kissed him and he was lost again. He unbuttoned the chevalier's breeches and helped the chevalier take them off. He bent down and took the chevalier's cock in his mouth, relishing the feel of it swelling and hardening against his tongue, the moans from the chevalier growing louder.

"Enough," the chevalier moaned, knowing he would not last much longer that way. "I want to be inside you."

Philippe nodded and turned his back to the chevalier.

"No. Not like that," the chevalier said and turned Philippe around to face him and then pushed him back on the bed. "I want to see your beautiful face. Kiss your lips," he murmured, his lips against Philippe's. He gently entered Philippe still kissing him.

Philippe groaned as the chevalier filled him, with his cock, with his tongue, both thrusting.

The chevalier shifted Philippe slightly and thrust deeper.

Philippe cried out in pleasure. "What...please...yes...." he moaned incoherently. "Oh yes...." His hands pushed against the chevalier, pushing him in deeper.

The chevalier thrust deeper, harder into Philippe his orgasm growing. He felt Philippe hard between them and reached for his cock, rubbing in time to his thrusts.

Philippe was lost in waves of pleasure, no longer aware of anything but pleasure and then the waves were joined by an explosion and he felt he might faint from the sheer ecstasy of it. He squeezed the chevalier inside of him, felt the chevalier's entire body spasming inside of him, on top of him.

The chevalier collapsed on top of Philippe unable to move. He felt Philippe still squeezing him and moaned.

Philippe wrapped his arms and legs around the chevalier not wanting it to end. "That was..."

"...amazing," the chevalier finished weakly, his face in Philippe's hair where it had landed when his body had lost the ability to hold its own weight. Philippe smelled of orange blossoms and lust and it was intoxicating.

"It did not ever feel like that before," Philippe said.

The chevalier mustered all remaining strength and propped himself up enough to look at Philippe. "What do you mean?"

"I did not...have not...."

"Never???"

Philippe shook his head.

"Not even by yourself??"

Philippe shook his head.

The chevalier frowned. "Whomever it was, the boorish count or whomever...they did it wrong. Also, my mignonette, your cock works just fine."

Philippe looked confused. "Perhaps you fixed it."

"Perhaps they didn't bother to try and should never be allowed to touch you again," the chevalier said. He touched Philippe's face. "You deserve only pleasure, my darling."

Philippe smiled and reached his head up for a kiss. "I don't want them to touch me again," he said as the chevalier showered his lips with tiny kisses.

"Good answer," the chevalier said between kisses. "As I could not bear the thought of you with someone else." He kissed Philippe, his lips lingering.

Philippe opened his mouth, his tongue joining the chevalier's as the kiss deepened. He felt himself growing hard between them.

"See, it is an excellent cock, back at attention and ready for the next battle," the chevalier said rubbing his own swelling cock against Philippe's.

Philippe moaned. "Please. Again."

"Aren't you an insatiable mignonette?" the chevalier said with a smile. He moaned as he thrust deep into Philippe and settled back into a rhythm, slower this time but just as sweet.

 

The chevalier lay collapsed on top of Philippe unable to move. In fact, he was fairly certain he was drooling but nothing could be done about it. He listened to the thudding of Philippe's heart as he recovered or maybe it was his own heart. He was no longer sure whose body parts were whose. It did not seem particularly important anyway. He thought there may have been a time before Philippe but that also did not seem particularly important. Some cold and distant memory and he was warm and safe here with Philippe's arms and legs wrapped around him.

"Are you awake?" Philippe asked, gently twirling a finger through the chevalier's curls.

"Awake, yes. Something more than a gelatinous blob, no."

Philippe laughed and squeezed the cocoon tighter.

"Did you need something?" the chevalier asked without moving.

"I am quite hungry. I did not eat dinner," Philippe admitted.

"And why was that?" the chevalier asked wondering if he could reach the macarons without moving.

"I...I thought it was typhoid but I think I was just nervous to see you again," Philippe said a bit embarrassed.

"You confused your feelings for me with a debilitating disease?" the chevalier asked unsure whether to be offended or not.

Philippe laughed. "It would seem so, yes, but the end problem is the same. I'm hungry."

"I am a bit hungry too," the chevalier admitted.

"Did we not have macarons at one point?" Philippe asked.

"We did. They are in the pockets of your coat," the chevalier said.

"And my coat is...."

"On the floor somewhere between the corridor and the bed," the chevalier said. "I am sure of it."

"That is a great amount of territory to cover," Philippe said wondering if he could just ignore his hunger. His stomach growled a response.

"This is dire," the chevalier said. "Could a servant be summoned?"

Philippe considered. "They are in their beds in the servants quarters. No one stays here. We would have to yell very loudly and that may have unintended consequences."

"Like waking the palace and being caught like this?" the chevalier asked bemused.

"Yes. Like that. One of us must do it. I would but..." He gestured to the fact that the chevalier was preventing him from moving.

"I could focus all my strength on rolling off you and then you could do it," the chevalier suggested.

"Or I could order you to do it," Philippe said not very interested in moving.

"You could but I may forget how to do that thing you really like me to do," the chevalier said.

"That would be tragic," Philippe agreed. "Is there no solution then? We will have to waste away until morning when the servants wake?"

"It would seem so," the chevalier said laughing. "I'm really hungry."

"Me too," Philippe said.

"It would be less effort if we each searched a room," the chevalier suggested.

"I will search this room," Philippe volunteered quickly.

"Well played," the chevalier said drily. "I will need you to unwrap me."

Philippe sighed. "I quite like you where you are."

"Where I am is getting us no closer to the macarons," the chevalier said with equal disappointment.

Philippe moved his arms and legs, freeing the chevalier.

The chevalier focused on moving his limbs and, with great effort, managed to roll off Philippe.

"I do not like this at all," Philippe said.

"It is this or starvation," the chevalier said practically as he rolled out of the bed, landing not as gracefully on the floor as he had intended. He offered Philippe a hand.

Philippe took the chevalier's hand and cooperated in the chevalier's efforts to pull him out of bed. He looked at the pile of clothes on the floor greatly regretting his earlier decision to try on everything he owned. "The coat could be anywhere."

"Indeed," the chevalier said looking glumly at the pile. "I do not remember when or where I took it off you. Good luck, my darling." He walked into the other room to search.

Philippe sighed and began shuffling through clothes including coats that looked like the coat but contained no macarons. "What was I wearing..." he muttered to himself. He remembered vividly what the chevalier was wearing, the way the blue complimented his eyes.... Macarons, he reminded himself.

The chevalier looked around the darkened room with no idea where the coat was. Dare he just summon the macarons? Who would be the wiser? He was fairly certain he had taken the coat off in here. "Accio macarons," he whispered. The macarons and Philippe arrived at the same time.

Philippe looked at the chevalier in shock.

The chevalier looked at Philippe in shock.

The macarons fell to the floor...and then rose back into the air.

The chevalier looked confused. He was no longer in control of the macarons.

"Had I realized, I would have summoned them myself," Philippe said. "Back to bed," he ordered, walking back into the bedroom with the macarons following along behind him.

The chevalier closed his gaping mouth and followed Philippe and the macarons. He grabbed the champagne off the bedside table as he crawled back into bed beside Philippe who was still levitating the macarons.

"Plate?"

"Make do," the chevalier ordered.

Philippe dropped the macarons on his chest, picked one up and bit into it.

"Do you want to discuss what just happened?" the chevalier asked picking up a macaron.

"I think we should not ever discuss it," Philippe said seriously. "My brother will be marrying the Spanish infanta soon."

"The Inquisition will not come here surely," the chevalier said eating a second macaron.

"My brother will do what he can," Philippe said. "France is not Spain."

"Does the pope know that?" the chevalier wondered aloud.

"He will learn," Philippe said helping himself to another macaron. "You saved the champagne?"

"I did," the chevalier confirmed and popped the cork. "No glasses."

"We are already eating macarons off my chest like barbarians. We are past the Rubicon now," Philippe said taking a swig from the bottle.

The chevalier laughed and took the bottle from Philippe taking a swig. "The monks are good for something." He handed the bottle back to Philippe who took another drink spilling some on himself. "We can't have you sticky," the chevalier said softly, licking the champagne from Philippe's chin, neck, chest....

Philippe moaned as the chevalier continued licking. "I don't think I spilled it...mmm...there," he said softly, arching to meet the chevalier's mouth.

 

The chevalier lay collapsed on Philippe's chest sure that he was no longer capable of movement, not entirely sure he was capable of speech.

Philippe ran his fingers through the lion's mane of hair resting on his chest. "Where did you get these scars?" he asked, gently running his fingers over the ugly raised welts that had been hidden beneath the chevalier's hair

The chevalier flinched and tried to roll over. "Don't!"

Philippe caught the chevalier and held him so they were laying on their sides facing each other. "Who did this to you?" he asked.

"It does not matter. It's in the past."

"You grimaced earlier tonight when I hugged you too tightly. That is not in the past," Philippe reasoned.

"You would not understand. Your mother allows...this," the chevalier said gesturing to their naked bodies. "But we are...Catholic," he said by way of an explanation.

"So are we," Philippe insisted.

"DEVOUTLY Catholic," the chevalier clarified. "Do not get my father started on what he believes your family is."

"Did your father do this?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier sighed. "He has tried very hard to make me...normal," he said quietly. "He and my mother believe that I will go to hell and take them all with me if they do not fix me."

Philippe touched the chevalier's face gently. He was filled with an overwhelming desire to take away this pain, this pain that felt like his pain too. "I will have him banished from court and you will not return home," he stated. He was not entirely sure why he cared so much but he had never meant anything more.

The chevalier was nearly speechless. He could not allow it, of course, but that Philippe would wish to protect him touched his heart. "You are not who people think you are," the chevalier said quietly.

Philippe looked confused.

"You do not even see it yourself," the chevalier said. He gently touched Philippe's face. "You believe the lie but I see you, my darling. I see the man you truly are."

Philippe considered this, wove it into questions he only dared to ask himself. "Who am I?"

"You are an extraordinary man who has been convinced to live in the shadows for too long."

Philippe sifted through the chevalier's comments. He was raised among sycophants, courtiers, all with their own agenda but the chevalier seemed different. Because you find him madly attractive? "You only say that to win favor."

"Need I remind you that but for your grandfather's willingness to switch religions every time the wind changed directions, you and I could easily be in opposite positions? I am a Lorraine-Guise, prince etranger, not some stable boy. I do not need your favor," the chevalier said haughtily.

Philippe looked surprised to be spoken to in such a direct manner.

"Every rational thought in my head screams what a bad idea this is," the chevalier said quietly. He touched Philippe's face gently. "But I saw this face and none of that mattered and now that I know you...henceforth, every day that I do not touch you...." He ran his fingers across Philippe's lips. "...taste you...." He kissed Philippe gently. "...feel you..." He rolled over onto Philippe and entered him slowly. "...will be a day of death and mourning."

Philippe kissed the chevalier deeply, his hands on the chevalier's angelic face. He knew he was already falling in love with this man. Not just lust but something much deeper, something he'd never felt before and he welcomed it.

Chapter Text

Sun suddenly burst into the darkened room as a frantic maid opened the shutter and cried, "Monsieur! Mass begins in 20 minutes! You must get up!" The sunlight allowed the maid to see who was in the bed along with their state of undress and she averted her eyes. "Please Monsieur!"

"Get out!" Philippe bellowed, his eyes squinting against the light, his naked body mostly covered by the sleeping but equally naked chevalier. "I said get out!"

The frightened maid scurried away closing the doors behind her.

Philippe groaned and put his arm over his eyes to block out the sun.

The chevalier stirred and rolled off Philippe and onto some errant macarons. "I assume your attendance at mass is mandatory?" he asked sleepily. He picked up the squashed macaron and tossed it to the floor.

"I will inform them I am sick," Philippe said pulling the chevalier back on top of himself and pulling his head down for a kiss.

"And send the palace into quarantine? I think not." The chevalier reluctantly extricated himself from Philippe's arms and got out of bed. "Come. We'll get you dressed for mass."

"No!" Philippe reached for the chevalier. "I can think of a far better use for that time."

The chevalier stepped out of reach. "Your dedication to the true faith is inspiring, darling." He ducked into the dressing room. "Let's find you something to wear." He rifled through what was left of the racks of clothes. "You really did try on everything...." He smiled to himself that he had impacted Philippe to such a degree.

"I don't know why you bother," Philippe said standing naked in front of the mirror. He tried to run his fingers through his hopelessly tangled locks. "l shall send word to Mother that I am sick."

"You will not," the chevalier ordered from the dressing room. He emerged with a beautiful silk and lace ball gown. "Would you like to discuss this?"

Philippe looked nervous and then said, "I believe that may be too formal for mass."

"I question whether you have the decolletage to pull it off anyway," the chevalier said with a laugh.

Philippe smiled slightly.

The chevalier returned the dress and came back with a dark plum coat along with matching attire. "Come. Let's get you dressed."

"This seems like a waste of time," Philippe complained as he reluctantly cooperated with the chevalier. "You'll just be taking them off again anyway." He reached for the chevalier's cock. "Perhaps sooner than later."

The chevalier slapped Philippe's hand away trying to focus on buttons. "You are going to mass. I will not be held responsible for whatever protocol occurs if you do not appear."

"Fine. I will cooperate on one condition."

"I pity your governess."

"She would appreciate that pity especially since I shared her with my brother."

"What is the condition?"

"Immediately after mass, you must come back here and reverse this process," Philippe said, his lips brushing the chevalier's ear as the chevalier bent over the buttons on Philippe's vest.

"If I am able, I will with pleasure, my darling." The chevalier stood straight having finished the vest.

"What do you mean?"

"My father will expect my presence at the stables," the chevalier said, holding the coat for Philippe.

"No. You may not go."

"I do not want to but...."

Philippe tried to quickly think of a solution but his way was to ponder, to analyze even when he had slept more than two hours.

The chevalier quickly ran out of patience. "If you were to give me a position in your household, I would be forced to attend you."

"I would have thought of that," Philippe insisted.

"No doubt, my darling, but I can hear bells calling people to mass and your hair still looks like that of a whore after a particularly lucrative night." The chevalier waved the coat pointedly like a matador waving a red flag at a bull.

"And whose fault is that?" Philippe smiled thinking about how his hair reached its current state. He purposely brushed against the chevalier as he put on his coat.

"Mine without doubt," the chevalier said smiling at the same memories . "The question is what to do about it."

 

Philippe and the chevalier reached the door of the chapel as the last bell tolled.

"I have to sit in front. I will meet you after?" Philippe said to the chevalier.

The chevalier nodded.

Philippe joined his mother in the front row while the chevalier realized with great regret that he would be required to sit with his own family. He slid into the pew ignoring the hateful glare of his father. He could just see Philippe from here but more than that, he could smell Philippe on his skin, still feel him beneath his hands. He realized a moment too late that such thoughts caused situations not suitable for mass. He put the missal in his lap and tried to think about anything but Philippe.

"Where were you last night?" the Comte d'Armagnac whispered to the chevalier.

The chevalier realized he should have had this story prepared but he had not thought...had not thought of anything but Philippe since the moment they met if he were being honest. "I was...I...I got in quite late and got up quite early to...take a walk in the garden. You must not have heard me."

Armagnac looked extremely skeptical. "Father noticed your absence. You may want to work on your story."

"Thank you for the warning," the chevalier whispered sincerely. "Do you have any ideas?"

Armagnac laughed behind his missal. "The truth is not an option?"

"Under no circumstances," the chevalier whispered behind his own missal.

"I will say you were out with me and Rohan. You got drunk and we left you in a salon to sleep it off," Armagnac whispered.

"He will still be furious," the chevalier whispered.

"Is it worse than the truth?" Armagnac asked.

"Not in his eyes," the chevalier agreed.

"My story also nicely explains why you are at mass in your evening clothes where your walk in the garden does not," Armagnac pointed out.

"You make a good point," the chevalier conceded.

"Will you tell me where you actually were?" Armagnac asked.

"I think I cannot," the chevalier said. "Though it was well worth whatever Father has in store for me." He smiled slightly.

"I can see that it was," Armagnac said.

 

"How was your billiards lesson?" Anne asked Philippe quietly after they returned from communion.

Philippe looked at his mother in confusion.

Anne laughed behind her missal and then changed the subject. "You look nice today. That color is beautiful on you. You should wear it more often."

Philippe looked at the plum colored brocade and smiled, thinking of the chevalier.

"I will speak to the Comte d'Harcourt about the chevalier joining your household if you would like," Anne whispered.

Philippe looked shocked but then recovered. "I think I should ask myself. I am not a child."

Anne nodded. "As you wish, son. He is quite beautiful." She nodded slightly in the direction of the communion line that had formed to their left.

Philippe felt his heart skip a beat at just a glimpse of the chevalier.

The chevalier looked over at Philippe and smiled slightly.

Philippe smiled back pretending to read the missal but his eyes on the chevalier.

Armagnac watched the exchange with interest thinking he had perhaps found the true story behind his brother's absence.

The chevalier walked to the priest and held out his tongue for the eucharist.

Philippe watched the chevalier, trying to suppress the mass-inappropriate memories that flitted through his brain some of which involved that very tongue.

Anne took Philippe's hand. "It is nice to see you happy."

It was only then that Philippe realized that he had been smiling.

 

As soon as mass ended, the Comte d'Harcourt dragged his sons into the corridor outside the chapel. "Where were you last night?" he demanded of the chevalier. "Your first night at court and you do not return to our rooms? I should have known better than to allow you here. You will return home at first opportunity."

The chevalier paled. "No, Father, please...."

"It was not his fault, Father," Armagnac jumped in. "Rohan and I decided to have a bit of fun at Philippe's expense. We got him drunk and left him in a salon to sleep it off. His initiation to court. Please don't blame him. He thought he was drinking wine and we switched to armagnac."

"Is this true?" Harcourt asked the chevalier, still suspicious.

"It must be. I woke up in a salon still wearing this," the chevalier said.

"I am very disappointed in you, Louis," Harcourt said to Armagnac. "You should know better than this. Rohan is a bad influence."

Armagnac nodded in agreement. "A horrible influence but the king loves him and so what can I do?"

"Nothing. You must abide him. Of course, the Bourbon king would enjoy the company of that degenerate," Harcourt hissed. "Come. We must get to the stables. Several will ride out today."

Philippe approached the trio. "I would have a word," Philippe commanded Harcourt using what he considered his "royal" tone.

Harcourt narrowed his eyes for a second and then answered impassively, "Of course, your highness. How may I be of service? Will you ride this afternoon?"

"I will not. My need is that of a valet. I would use your son for such purpose," Philippe said.

"The Comte d'Armagnac?"

"The Chevalier de Lorraine," Philippe said using every ounce of self control not to look at the chevalier.

Harcourt grimaced in disgust for a second and then covered it. "Of course, your highness. It would be an honor."

"I would require his services immediately. My wardrobe is in quite a state," Philippe said.

The chevalier pressed finger nails hard into his hands to keep from laughing.

"Of course, your highness. We will make do in the stables," Harcourt said.

"I will require him to take rooms near to mine, of course," Philippe said. He finally turned to the chevalier. "With me."

"As you wish, your highness," the chevalier said trying to keep his voice formal and not giddy.

The chevalier followed the requisite two steps behind Philippe until they reached the safety of Philippe's rooms where they both burst out laughing.

"Do you think they suspected?" Philippe asked.

"My brother suspects something but he fell on the sword when my father asked where I was and why I was wearing evening clothes to mass," the chevalier said.

"I didn't think...you should have worn something of mine," Philippe said gesturing to the pile of clothes on the floor. "What excuse?"
"The story is that my brother and Rohan got me drunk and left me passed out in a salon. I woke up to the bells," the chevalier said. "Father was not pleased though mostly angry at my brother and Rohan."

"That was kind of him," Philippe said.

"You think your brother would not have covered for you?"

"Hard to tell these days," Philippe said a bit sadly.

The chevalier wrapped his arms around Philippe under his coat and kissed him. "I must confess to some inappropriate thoughts during mass."

"Oh yes? What sort of thoughts? Should I summon a priest?" Philippe asked with a smirk.

"Not unless you seek an audience," the chevalier murmured his lips against Philippe's. "Now I understand you have need of a valet."

"I do have a most urgent need. You see my clothes are on when they should not be," Philippe said.

"That is indeed urgent. I shall do my best, your highness," the chevalier said with a smirk. "You definitely don't need this," he said removing Philippe's coat and throwing it onto the clothes pile. "Or this," he continued, sending the vest to join the coat. "This also seems useless," he said pulling the shirt over Philippe's head. "And these...whoever put these on you was clearly an idiot," he smirked and shoved the breeches down to Philippe's ankles.

"I still see an issue," Philippe said.

"Is it the stockings?" the chevalier asked.

"It is the fact that my valet is still dressed," Philippe said.

"That is an issue. Your valet needs a valet," the chevalier said taking off his coat.

"Again with the audience," Philippe said watching the chevalier remove his vest and shirt. "You missed something."

"Oh? What would that be?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe untied the chevalier's breeches, his hot skin brushing against the chevalier's. "I believe we should implement a new dress code."

"Let me guess. No breeches allowed," the chevalier said as his breeches dropped to the floor.

"Why stop there?" Philippe asked pressing against the chevalier.

"Why indeed? Now come to bed. I need to confess my sins," the chevalier said and kissed Philippe passionately pushing him back on the bed and crawling on top of him. His kisses trailed lower down Philippe's chest to his stomach.

"Mmm...what are you doing?" Philippe asked and then moaned as the kisses traveled down further.

"Praying," the chevalier whispered, his breath hot on Philippe's cock.

Philippe moaned louder as the chevalier's mouth skimmed his tight skin. "You don't have to...."

"I want to," the chevalier said, taking Philippe's cock in his mouth.

"Oh...god..." Philippe moaned.

"Do you like it?" the chevalier asked as he licked the tip. "Tell me how much."

"I...oh...yes...." Philippe moaned louder. "God...yes...yes...I...can't...." He felt an explosion outside his control and then looked mortified. "I'm so sorry! I just...I..."

The chevalier looked surprised but swallowed without comment and then crawled up Philippe's body and kissed him. "Why are you apologizing?"

"I...I..." Philippe stammered, face bright red.

"You...you...experienced great pleasure. I'll take it as a compliment to my skills," the chevalier said with a smile. He kissed Philippe. "Though I'm not done with you yet."

Philippe's eyes widened.

The chevalier shook his head. "Just getting started." He gently rolled Philippe over so that his stomach was on the bed and then straddled him, kissing down his back, his ass....

Philippe gasped as tongue was felt where tongue was not expected and then moaned with unexpected pleasure. He shifted slightly to give the chevalier better access.

"You like that too?" the chevalier said, continuing. "So many ways to give pleasure."

Philippe moaned and pushed back against the chevalier wanting more.

The chevalier smiled and shifted his position.

Philippe gasped again as he felt the chevalier enter him.

"Yes?" the chevalier asked as he began to thrust.

"YES..god...yes...Philippe..." Philippe moaned incoherently. "Yes...god...more..."

"God finds your prayers acceptable," the chevalier said breathlessly as he thrust deeper.

Philippe missed the joke, lost in pleasure. His cock was hard again though pressed a bit painfully into the duvet. "I need...."

"Tell me what you need and you shall have it," the chevalier said.

Philippe tried to form thoughts with words but could not quite manage. "It's...stuck...bed...god yes...."

"What...oh..." The chevalier deciphered the message and rolled them both to their sides still thrusting. He took Philippe's cock in hand. "Didn't expect this to rejoin us quite so soon." He smiled. "I'd forgotten what an insatiable mignonette you are." He rubbed Philippe's cock, still thrusting.

"YES...yes..." Philippe moaned. "Oh god...."

"Turn your face to me. I want to see you," the chevalier ordered.

Philippe complied, finding the chevalier's lips and kissing him until the kiss turned into a shaky moan of release. "Ohhhhhhh....." He felt every part of his body spasming inside and out. His brain felt pleasantly fuzzy like he may faint.

The chevalier could control himself no more, the image of Philippe in the throes of passion undid his resolve and he felt himself shuddering and throbbing deep inside Philippe. "Ohhhhh yes. Fuck yes...." He relaxed against Philippe's back still inside of him. He could feel Philippe's heart thudding, his gasping breath. He smiled and pulled Philippe closer. "You are so...erotic. Just watching you excites me."

Philippe tried to catch his breath. "Everything about you excites me."

"Does it feel good when I'm inside you?" the chevalier asked as he slowly removed himself from Philippe.

"It feels so good," Philippe said, wrapping the chevalier's arms tighter around himself.

"What does it feel like?" the chevalier asked curiously.

Philippe looked confused. "You haven't..."

The chevalier paused for a moment before answering, "...no."

"It...um...it feels like waves of...pleasure...over and over again...but only with you. It didn't feel like that with Guiche or Jules. It just kind of...hurt...with them," Philippe explained.

"Jules...Mancini?" the chevalier asked.

"He was...the first," Philippe said. "I didn't actually realize that it was...possible...before that...though...it didn't feel like it does with you."

The chevalier smiled. "Good. I think it's rare. It only feels like that with the right person. Not with everyone. That's what I've heard anyway." He flashed back briefly to a fat, sweaty man and abject terror and then forced the memory from his head. "But with us, it will be only pleasure."

Philippe smiled, his eyelids heavy, his limbs heavier. He could not remember ever feeling safer or more content than he did in this moment.

The chevalier smiled as he heard Philippe's breath deepen. "Sweet dreams, my sleepy mignonette." He buried his face in silky orange blossom scented hair and let his eyelids close.

Chapter Text

Philippe woke slowly in his twilit bedroom. The chevalier slept behind him, arms wrapped tightly around him. Philippe thought he might like to stay like this forever but his bladder disagreed and so he carefully extricated himself from the sleeping chevalier and got out of bed to piss into the chamber pot.

The chevalier stirred. "Philippe?" He squinted in the growing darkness. "What time is it?"

Philippe finished and crawled back into bed. "Nearly dark."

The chevalier opened his arms to Philippe and Philippe snuggled against him. "My stomach says that it must be close to dinner."

"What happened to lunch?" Philippe asked. "I'm starving. Are there any macarons left?"

"None that I would dare eat," the chevalier said. "I think I heard a servant try to bring lunch but I think they were not keen to interrupt my...confession."

Philippe laughed.

The chevalier kissed Philippe softly. "I love your laugh," he murmured. "It brightens my heart."

"You brighten...everything," Philippe said quietly, painfully sincere.

The chevalier felt his heart bursting with something mere words could not express though he tried anyway. "You are why my heart beats, my love." He kissed Philippe as he rolled over on top of him. "I adore you."

 

Philippe lay with his head on the chevalier's chest, eyelids drooping.

The chevalier stroked Philippe's silky hair. "Might there be au d'oeuvres at the entertainment?"

Philippe lifted his head slightly. "There is some possibility. A far better solution than your last," he said letting his head fall back to the chevalier's warm chest.

"Planting a small garden seemed quicker than summoning your servants. We must find better ones immediately," the chevalier said as his stomach growled. "I think our only hope is to..." He sighed with intense disappointment. "...get dressed."

Philippe raised his head. "No, I cannot allow it," he said. "You must remain naked."

"Without sustenance, I fear I cannot perform the tasks you associate with my nakedness, my love," the chevalier said sadly.

"These are dark days indeed," Philippe said, dropping his head dramatically back onto the chevalier's chest.

"There is no other choice. We must leave this bed. Armor ourselves in silks and lace and proceed with great care into the wilds of the court. We may not survive it but it must be done. It is hunt or starve," the chevalier said with equally great drama.

Philippe laughed. "When described that way, perhaps starvation is the better choice."

"No. I cannot allow you to starve, darling," the chevalier said. "I must perform my valet duties and get you dressed." He ran a hand through Philippe's hair, his fingers getting stuck. "We may have to wash this."

"I am too hungry. I will faint in the bath," Philippe insisted.

"You could pin it up as women do," the chevalier suggested, thinking of the dresses in the closet.

Philippe got suddenly quiet and still. "No."

"Do you wear them?" the chevalier asked quietly.

Philippe considered the question and his answer, his face hidden between the chevalier's chest and his own hair.

"I would not ever judge you, my love," the chevalier said.

Philippe let out a breath. "Yes."

"In public?"

"Once." Philippe remembered the moment, the pain and humiliation administered by the Comte de Guiche.

The chevalier considered his next question and how to ask it. "Does it bring you pleasure?"

"I don't know. Sometimes. Does it bother you?" Philippe asked looking up at the chevalier.

"No though I am curious. Both as to why you do it and...what you look like in them. I think you would be beautiful either way. Man or woman. Your face would allow it. Would you show me?"

Philippe considered the request. "Maybe...but not now."

"No, now I must dress you for the hunt in the dark and dangerous jungles of the Palais Royal. It's no place for dresses," the chevalier said with a smirk. He gently pushed Philippe off himself and got out of bed.

"NO! Not clothes!" Philippe cried dramatically burying his head under a pillow leaving the rest of himself naked in the moonlight now streaming in through the open shutter.

The chevalier laughed. "Yes, clothes because clothes lead to food and food leads to energy and energy leads to me taking off your clothes...."

Philippe considered this logic for a moment and tossed the pillow aside. He sat up and looked at the chevalier. "I am convinced. Clothes for the greater good. Not from that pile though. I saw something moving in there earlier."

The chevalier stepped quickly away from the pile and headed into the dressing room to find clothes that had not been recently accused of movement.

 

Philippe and the chevalier walked down the corridor toward the salon their hands brushing slightly as they walked.

"I may have underestimated the tribulations of this plan," the chevalier admitted.

"Facing the court? I think that every day of my life," Philippe said.

"Not that. The tribulation of not being able to kiss you for what could be several hours," the chevalier said quietly. "I may not have the strength."

Philippe smiled. "There is always the balcony."

"Yes, that balcony served us well minus the drunk girl," the chevalier agreed. He curled his pinky around Philippe's.

"What happened to 'it's better than starvation'?" Philippe asked holding tight to the chevalier's pinky.

"There are many ways to starve," the chevalier said. "But we are here now so let us feast."

They entered the salon, reluctantly letting go of each other's pinkies.

"I have never been this hungry," Philippe admitted.

"You've had a handful of macarons in the last 24 hours. It's no surprise. You must eat, my...your highness," the chevalier corrected himself. He steered Philippe toward the savories. He filled a plate high with food while Philippe grabbed two glasses of wine. They headed with their feast to a table in the corner.

"Finally," Philippe said, an au d'oeuvre in each hand. He popped them both into his mouth and chewed happily.

"We must solve this food shortage situation," the chevalier said, his mouth full. "How did you manage before?"

"I was normally not...being confessed to...when the servants brought lunch," Philippe said popping another au d'oeuvre into his mouth.

The chevalier laughed. "A sacrilegious euphemism if ever there was one," he said. "My father may be right about the Bourbons."

"Do I offend you?" Philippe asked washing down au d'oeuvres with red wine.

"You and your brother offend him," the chevalier admitted. "But me? No, I am not so easily offended and even if you did offend, you would smile and I would forget."

Philippe smiled and popped another au d'oeuvre into his mouth. "Why do we offend him? Does he think us Huguenots?"

"Far worse than that. Faithless," the chevalier said taking a drink of wine.

"Not true," Philippe said. "Did we not attend mass just this morning? EVERY morning?"

The chevalier laughed. "During which time, your brother fucked a girl in the tribune."

"You are serious?" Philippe asked. "That was perhaps in bad form. How did you know? Could people hear?"

"The grate is a window not a door," the chevalier answered.

Philippe laughed. "We would not do well with the Inquisitors."

"Understatement," the chevalier agreed. "Myself, I was sitting with the missal in my lap trying not to think about fucking you."

Philippe pretended to be scandalized. "Sacrilege."

"And what did you do during mass this morning?" the chevalier asked.

"I prayed to my god for forgiveness, of course," Philippe said mischievously.

"Forgiveness for what?" the chevalier asked, his voice low.

"For wicked acts already committed...and wicked acts still to come," Philippe said quietly as his stocking foot massaged the chevalier's inner thigh.

The chevalier looked surprised for a moment and then smiled. "No god will forgive you for that."

"I shall have to take my chances with hell then," Philippe said, his foot working its way north.

"Brother!" the Comte D'Armagnac said as he clapped the chevalier on the back and sat down.

Philippe nearly fell off his chair as he retracted his foot from the chevalier's crotch.

The chevalier bit back a laugh and turned to his brother. "Louis! What brings you here?"

"Just thought I would say hello to my brother and your highness," Armagnac said addressing Philippe. "The least you could do is reward me with some conversation after I dealt with our father all day. He is furious that we got you drunk last night." Armagnac winked at the chevalier.

"Were you drunk last night?" Philippe asked the chevalier innocently. "Your first night at court too."

"Yes, I was. Quite drunk. My dearest brother switched out my wine with armagnac as a joke. I awoke in a salon right before mass this morning," the chevalier told Philippe.

"That is quite scandalous," Philippe said. "No wonder your father was furious. Not the behavior of a good, devout, Catholic boy."

"Your brother would not play such a prank on you?" Armagnac asked Philippe.

"He may try but I pride myself in knowing the difference between wine and armagnac," Philippe said with a smirk. "In fact, if I didn't know better, I would say this sounds like a story hastily concocted during mass."

The chevalier raised his eyebrows at Philippe.

Armagnac laughed. "Well, someone had to fall on the sword and Father is less likely to disown me."

The chevalier flinched slightly at the truth of his brother's words.

Philippe wanted to reach out and take the chevalier's hand, comfort him but knew that he could not. "It is not easy being the second son," he said seriously. "You never quite live up to expectations."

The chevalier gazed at Philippe with adoration.

Philippe smiled and then turned his attention to Armagnac. "No cards tonight? Did my brother finally tire of losing?"

Armagnac laughed. "I am sure his majesty will mount a dramatic comeback. I do not know where he is."

"Haven't seen him all day," Philippe said with a glance at the chevalier.

The Chevalier de Rohan joined the group and sat down next to Philippe. "Your Highness, how do you fare this evening?"

"Beginning to wonder what...or who...my brother is up to if the two of you are here," Philippe said.

"I just stopped by to extend my sincerest apologies to the Chevalier de Lorraine," Rohan said. "It seems that his brother and I played a horrible prank on him last night." He laughed and turned to the the chevalier. "You know a true friend would tell the real story to the friends who covered for him. Was she worth it?"

"And a true gentleman would not ask," Philippe said seriously.

"The duke is right," Armagnac said quickly. "A gentleman keeps his own counsel. I don't know what that makes you, my friend," he said to Rohan.

"No one ever accused Rohan of being a gentleman," Louis agreed joining the conversation.

"Your majesty, we were about to send out a search party," Rohan said, rising to his feet.

Armagnac and the chevalier rose as well. "Your majesty."

"I feel like billiards tonight. I have had enough of cards," Louis said.

"Billiards, it is," Armagnac agreed.

"Brother, would you join us?" Louis asked Philippe.

Philippe looked surprised. "Can the chevalier come as well?"

"Our brothers have become fast friends, sire," Armagnac told Louis.

A cloud of suspicion crossed Louis' face and then vanished. "Of course. I only hope you are better than Philippe. He has no idea what to do with the stick."

"That's because he doesn't care," Philippe said, grabbing his wine glass and rising. "Perhaps tonight I'll figure out what to do with the stick." He glanced at the chevalier with a smirk.

The chevalier hid a laugh behind his wine glass.

 

Philippe leaned over the ornate billiards table focused beyond the cue ball on the last two striped balls on the table. He aimed the cue at the cue ball and let go. The cue ball spun at the striped balls sending each into an opposite pocket. "8 ball in the side pocket." He walked around the table and neatly spun the cue ball into the eight ball, landing it exactly.

The chevalier smiled behind his wine glass. "Looks like a win for the king's team."

"I do not understand," Louis said. "You are horrible at this game whenever we play."

"Think a moment, brother. You'll get there," Philippe said, picking up his wine glass and joining the chevalier.

Armagnac and Rohan looked awkwardly at each other.

"A rematch?" Rohan suggested more as a way to break the tension. "Perhaps we should get his highness this time.""I am fairly certain it would do us no good," Armagnac replied watching Louis warily.

"You let me win?" Louis asked Philippe in shock.

"And there it is," Philippe said.

"Only at this or at other things?" Louis asked, anger rising.

Philippe sighed. "Only at this, of course."

"Another game?" the chevalier asked.

"I am no longer in the mood for billiards," Louis said tersely.

"Brother...."

"I believe I will get some air," Louis said and left.

The chevalier watched Philippe wondering just how often he had lost on purpose.

Rohan and Armagnac looked at each other unsure what to do.

Philippe sighed in frustration and handed his wine to the chevalier. "I will go." He left the billiards room in search of Louis and found him on the balcony. "Brother."

"I did not ask you here," Louis said, his back to Philippe.

"And yet, I am here. Story of our lives," Philippe said.

Louis said nothing.

"I am sorry," Philippe said. "I should not have...I thought it would be okay because I was not playing against you."

"You humiliated me in front of my friends. In front of the court," Louis said, his back to Philippe. "It is unacceptable."

Philippe rolled his eyes. "I did not think. Come back in and I will undo the damage."

"You will pretend to be bad so that I look better? How generous," Louis spat.

"I do not know what you want me to say. I cannot undo what is done," Philippe said.

"I would rather you say nothing. I tire of your voice. Leave me," Louis ordered.

"Fine," Philippe snapped. He turned and went back inside the empty salon. His mind was turned toward his anger at Louis and he did not see the Comte de Guiche at first.

"Do not walk away from me!" Guiche ordered.

Philippe looked up startled. "What...."

"You heard me," Guiche snarled. He pushed Philippe hard against a marble column. He was bigger than Philippe and restrained him easily.

"Get your hands off me!" Philippe yelled, anger at Louis spilling over and conquering his fear. He shoved Guiche away from him.

"You want it rough, mignon?" Guiche said through clinched teeth. "You'll get it rough." He grabbed Philippe and forced him face first against the column. He held him with one hand, the other hand fumbling with Philippe's breeches.

Philippe struggled against the bigger man. "No! Let me go!" He managed to twist away from Guiche and backed quickly away from him looking for anything that might be a weapon. He found nothing.

"You cannot run from me," Guiche said. "And your little chevalier is not around to save you this time." He lunged for Philippe and caught his arm in a vise-like grip.

Philippe swung a fist at Guiche's face as hard as he could and felt bone break as he made contact with his nose.

Guiche stared at Philippe in shock and then rage as blood poured out of his nose. He punched Philippe hard enough to knock his head back against the marble column with a crack.

The loud crack brought Rohan, Armagnac, and the chevalier out to investigate. All three were shocked to find the two men bleeding.

Philippe felt like his head might burst with pain, his vision blurred. He sunk down toward the floor but the chevalier got to him before he fell.

Rohan and Armagnac grabbed Guiche as he advanced on Philippe.

The chevalier held Philippe upright trying to keep terror at bay. "Philippe, are you well? Talk to me."

Philippe looked at the chevalier through his right eye, the left already swelling up. "Fine...."

"Not fine," the chevalier said examining the swelling eye.

"You did this?" Armagnac asked Guiche.

"Fuck you," Guiche said.

Rohan punched Guiche in the gut knocking him down. "You want to fight? You fight with someone your own size, Guiche." He kicked Guiche as he laid on the ground.

"Get the palace guards," Armagnac ordered Rohan.

"You ruin all my fun, Louis," Rohan complained but obeyed.

"Is he well?" Armagnac asked the chevalier. "Does he need a doctor?"

"Philippe?" the chevalier said. "Is it just your eye?" He saw something glistening in the ebony locks and touched it gently. Blood on his fingers. "He needs a doctor."

"I do not," Philippe said.

"Prove it. Stand on your own," the chevalier said, letting go of Philippe for a second which is all it took for him to begin to fall. The chevalier quickly grabbed him. "You are not well, my love. Let me get a doctor."

Philippe nodded and let his head drift to the chevalier's shoulder. It had become too heavy, too painful to hold up on its own. "My head hurts."

The chevalier wrapped his arms around Philippe, no longer caring what Armagnac and Guiche saw.

"I will go for the doctor as soon as the guards come," Armagnac told the chevalier. "He will be well, brother."

"You will not tell?" the chevalier asked Armagnac.

"I will keep your secret," Armagnac said.

Rohan returned with the guards. "He assaulted his highness," he said pointing to Guiche.

The guards nodded and pulled Guiche off the floor and hauled him away.

"Will you go for the doctor?" Armagnac asked Rohan. "I would help my brother get the duke to his rooms."

Rohan nodded. "That was quite a punch, your highness. I doubt his nose will recover." He smiled at Philippe.

Philippe tried to smile but the pain in his head was turning to nausea.

"I'll bring the doctor to your rooms," Rohan promised and left.

"Come. Let us get you home," Armagnac said walking over to Philippe and the chevalier. He draped Philippe's arm over his shoulder and supported half of Philippe's weight.

"Thank you," Philippe said.

 

The doctor prepared a poultice while Philippe sat on the sofa in blood stained shirt sleeves.

The chevalier watched with concern from a few feet away.

Armagnac watched the chevalier. "He will be well, brother. A black eye and a bump on the head. Nothing serious."

"What if we had not come in when we did?" the chevalier asked quietly.

"It is no matter because we did come and it is no worse," Armagnac said. "You care about him a great deal."

The chevalier nodded. "Please. You promised not to tell."

"A promise I intend to keep," Armagnac assured the chevalier. "You must be discreet though. If anyone were to find out...if Father were to find out...."

"I know the risks, brother, but he is worth it," the chevalier said.

"Does he feel the same for you?" Armagnac asked. "If he does not...."

"He does," the chevalier said.

"Philippe?" Philippe called from the sofa.

"I am here," the chevalier said and walked over to the couch.

"Sit with me," Philippe said.

The chevalier sat down and took Philippe's hand while the doctor applied the poultice to his eye.

"This should be changed every few hours," the doctor told the chevalier. To Philippe, "will anyone be here with you while you sleep?"

"My brother and I will stay with him," Armagnac said quickly.

"Good, good," the doctor said packing up his bag. "I will check on him in the morning."

"Thank you," the chevalier said to the doctor.

Armagnac held the door as the doctor left. He let it close and turned to the chevalier and Philippe. "I assume you are sleeping here tonight," he said to the chevalier.

"Of course," the chevalier said putting his arms around Philippe.

Philippe sagged against the chevalier, his head on his shoulder.

"I will return first thing in the morning so when the doctor arrives, it will appear that we both stayed here. On the couches," Armagnac ordered. "It should not appear that you were here alone with him."

"I am his valet," the chevalier said. "No one thinks anything of Bontemps being alone with the king."

Philippe giggled at the thought despite the pain. "He is old."

"And your brother is a great and public lover of women," Armagnac agreed. "But you are not and my brother is young. People will talk."

"Fine. We will see you in the morning. Bring pastries, would you? We have a bunch of very lazy servants here," the chevalier said.

"Do you need help getting him into bed?" Armagnac asked.

"I never have in the past," the chevalier said with a smirk.

Philippe laughed and then grimaced.

Armagnac rolled his eyes. "I bid you good night then." He left.

"Can you walk?" the chevalier asked Philippe.

"Yes. I'm feeling a bit better actually," Philippe said.

The chevalier helped Philippe to his feet and led him into the bedroom. He sat him on the bed and gently removed his shirt and breeches.

Philippe crawled into bed and lay back against the pillows. He turned to watch the chevalier undress. "Hurry. It's lonely in here."

The chevalier laughed. "It's not even been a moment."

"Still too long," Philippe complained. "I need kisses."

"Clearly, you are feeling better," the chevalier said stripping out of his breeches and standing naked in front of Philippe. He climbed into the bed and put his arms around Philippe snuggling him close.

"Kisses," Philippe demanded.

"As your highness commands," the chevalier said with a smirk. He kissed Philippe gently but lingered.

Philippe kissed the chevalier back, pleasure distracting him from pain. He tried to pull the chevalier on top of him but met resistance.

"You're hurt, my love," the chevalier said. "You need to rest...and I don't think movement will make your head feel better."

"You could be gentle," Philippe suggested. "You do not want me?"

"I want you more than anything but..."

Philippe kissed the chevalier pulling him down on top of him. "I want to be with you."

The chevalier sighed giving in to what they both wanted as he gently entered Philippe barely thrusting, his body over Philippe's in an effort to keep him as still as possible.

Philippe moaned.

"Are you well? Should I stop? I should stop," the chevalier said with a hint of panic.

"NO! You should not stop," Philippe said. "It was pleasure. Mmmm. Also pleasure."

The chevalier kissed Philippe continuing to thrust as gently as nature would allow. "You must tell me if anything hurts."

"I will...mmmm...not pain...ohhhh...." Philippe murmured.

"You're sure?" the chevalier asked.

"What you're doing...is making it hurt less..." Philippe said and then moaned loudly as the first waves came. "More...." He pulled the chevalier's head down and kissed him. "Please...more...."

The chevalier carefully thrust harder, moaning as the friction excited him. He leaned down and kissed Philippe, feeling Philippe hard between them. He continued to thrust letting the friction between their bodies stimulate Philippe's cock.

"God...yes...yes...ohhhhh...." Philippe moaned as pleasure overtook him rendering him incoherent.

The chevalier felt himself spasming in pleasure and used every bit of focus he could muster to not give in to his natural instinct to thrust harder. Thoughts of blood and concussion rolled around his head, dampening his pleasure somewhat. He looked down at Philippe who seemed barely conscious. "Philippe? Darling, are you okay? Say something," he demanded, his tone panicked.

"Something," Philippe murmured sleepily. "You made the pain go away."

The chevalier relaxed slightly, carefully rolling off Philippe and wrapping his arms around him. "Perhaps I have a vocation in the medical arts," he said with a laugh.

"I think your techniques might be unorthodox," Philippe said with a smirk.

"You really feel better?" the chevalier asked.

"I really do," Philippe said, his one functioning eyelid drooping.

"Sleep now, my love," the chevalier whispered, kissing Philippe on the forehead.

Chapter Text

The chevalier woke the next morning to a knock at the door and his arm dead asleep under Philippe. He stared at the door unsure what to do.

"It's Louis," came a familiar voice from behind the door.

The chevalier covered himself and Philippe. "You can come in."

Armagnac opened the doors and entered the still dark room. "How is he?" he asked the chevalier quietly.

"Still sleeping," the chevalier said.

"Not still sleeping," Philippe corrected. He tried to sit up, groaned in pain, and fell back on the pillow.

"My poor mignonette," the chevalier said rubbing Philippe's back. To Armagnac, "will you go see what's keeping the doctor?"
"If you'll get dressed," Armagnac agreed and left.

"He's right. I, at least, should not be naked when the doctor arrives," the chevalier said getting out of bed.

"I prefer you naked," Philippe said quietly.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe. "Perhaps later, my love." He stepped into breeches and pulled a shirt over his head.

Philippe smiled. He tried to sit up again more successfully this time. "I would be dressed too. I am not sick."

The chevalier helped Philippe stand and got him into breeches and a shirt. "You really feel better?" he asked, gently touching Philippe's injured eye, still swollen shut.

"I cannot really see but the pain and nausea are less," Philippe said.

"I would like nothing more than to watch Guiche die a slow, painful death," the chevalier hissed. "To hurt you like this."

"I hit him first," Philippe said. "With my fist because I couldn't find anything else to hit him with." He showed the chevalier his bruised knuckles.

"You were very brave, my love," the chevalier said gently kissing Philippe's knuckles. "But...may I suggest...." He rifled through a trunk of his own belongings and produced a dagger with a gold hilt. "It can be easily concealed."

Philippe took the dagger, examining it. "You think it necessary?"

"I cannot bear to think about what might have occurred had we not arrived when we did last night," the chevalier said.

"Where would I conceal it?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier picked up his own coat from the floor and showed Philippe a secret pocket on the inside with just room for the sheathe of a dagger.

"You carry this?" Philippe asked.

"I had considered it," the chevalier admitted. "But you have eliminated the need for it.""Your father," Philippe said quietly.

"I could no longer feel powerless," the chevalier said.

"I would no longer feel powerless either," Philippe said. "With him or with anyone else."

"Then we shall make some small alterations to your coats," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled twirling the dagger in his hand.

 

"Your highness, you will make a full recovery," the doctor assured Philippe. "Just keep replacing the poultice."

"How long until my eye will open?" Philippe asked.

"A day or two should do it," the doctor said repacking his bag.

Philippe's one working eye expressed disbelief.

The doctor left.

"If it makes you feel any better, Guiche will have a crooked nose for the rest of his life," Armagnac said. "And you know how vain he is."

Philippe laughed. "It does make me feel better." He noticed pastries on the dining table. "The servants brought breakfast?""I did," Armagnac said.

"You are a good brother," Philippe said, helping himself to a pastry.

"Speaking of brothers..." Armagnac said with some trepidation. "...yours has been informed of last night's...situation. He was not pleased."

"Surely he cannot blame Philippe for defending himself!" the chevalier said in outrage.

"It is not HIS HIGHNESS..." Armagnac said pointedly. "...that he is furious with."

The royal guards flung open the double doors and Louis entered.

"Speak of the devil," Philippe said. "Brother, what brings you here this fine morning?"

"Let me see. How badly are you hurt?" Louis asked with genuine concern while examining Philippe's eye. "It is not so bad. He looks worse than you do."

"Good," Philippe said with a smile.

"Regardless, counts cannot go around assaulting princes. Guiche has been banished from court," Louis said. "You have issue with that? You were friends."
"He was a poor friend," Philippe said quietly. "As you told me he would be."

"I am not here to judge you, brother," Louis said. "It is not always easy to see a false friend." He turned to the chevalier and Armagnac. "Thank you for taking care of him."

"Of course, your majesty," the chevalier said.

"Louis, you will ride out with me this morning?" Louis asked Armagnac.

"Of course, sire."

Louis and Armagnac walked toward the door. Louis turned back to Philippe. "What was the fight about?"

"I no longer wished to be his...friend...and he was displeased," Philippe said.

Louis looked at the chevalier in breeches and shirt, no shoes, no stockings. "I see."

Anne of Austria breezed in through the open double doors. "Philippe, I have only just heard." She walked quickly to her son and examined the damage. "Are you well, dear?"

"Because this was not humiliating enough," Philippe said.

"You will not jest," Anne ordered. "It is not so bad. I heard that he could not stand," she said to Louis looking for an explanation.

"He hit his head on a column, your majesty," Armagnac explained. "He may have a small concussion."

"I am fine," Philippe insisted.

"I would have the perpetrator removed from court immediately," Anne said.

"I have already handled the situation, Mother," Louis said.

"Where were the guards?" Anne asked.

All four men looked at each other.

"There were no guards," Philippe said. "No guards with the king either."

"I...uh...ordered them away," Louis admitted.

Anne looked furious. "We will deal with that next. First, you may not go out in public looking like that."

Philippe looked annoyed. "I am FINE. It is nothing."

"Um...perhaps if you saw it, your highness," the chevalier suggested. He grabbed a mirror. "It will heal. Quickly, I am sure."

"And certainly, Guiche looked worse," Armagnac reminded Philippe. "Could barely breathe but out of his mouth."

"Not that he has not always been a mouth breather," the chevalier pointed out.

"Let me see it," Philippe said. "I must be monstrous with all this prelude."

The chevalier handed Philippe the mirror.

Philippe looked at his reflection. Half of his face was perfect, the other half swollen in various tones of blues, purples, greens, and reds. "I will stay here," he said quietly. "I would prefer you all leave now. Please."

"Once the swelling goes down, make up will hide the rest," the chevalier assured Philippe.

"I will have one of my ladies help you with that," Anne said.

"I can manage," the chevalier said. "I have done it before."

"Why..." Anne realized and stopped.

Armagnac looked down not wanting to meet anyone's eyes.

"I can manage," the chevalier repeated. "I believe his highness just needs to rest."

Louis nodded. "Louis, I would ride now."

"Of course, your majesty," Armagnac responded as the two left.

"I am leaving him in your hands," Anne said to the chevalier. "Send a guard to my rooms if you need anything."

"I will, your majesty," the chevalier assured Anne.

"It will heal, my pretty son," Anne told Philippe touching the unbroken side of his face with her palm. She left.

The chevalier sat down next to Philippe and put his arms around him. "She is right. It will heal. Your eye will be shut for a day or so and after that, make up will hide the rest and soon you will be beautiful again."

"I hate that you know that," Philippe said.

"It does not matter now, my love. My life before you seems very far away now. Like someone else's life," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled slightly. "I think kisses would make me feel better."

"You think? More medically potent than the poultice?" the chevalier teased.

"Yes, I believe so," Philippe said.

"Then I shall administer the medicine posthaste," the chevalier said and kissed Philippe. "Better?"

"Much," Philippe smiled. "But I may need more."

"It's good that you have an infinite supply," the chevalier said, showering Philippe's lips with kisses making Philippe laugh. "So what shall we do today?"

"You don't have to stay here with me if you don't want to," Philippe said. "I'm the hideous one."

"I can't think of a single place I'd rather be but here," the chevalier said. He snuggled Philippe against him. "What would you normally be doing?"

"Sitting here alone. Reading, I guess," Philippe said laying his head down on the chevalier's lap.

"Don't you have studies? Or tutors? Or something?" the chevalier asked. "Some kingly thing?"

"Louis does. I used to sometimes or I would share his tutor. I quite enjoyed it actually but it's not really important, I guess. I'm not really important. Louis is healthy and about to be married. He'll produce an heir and then I won't matter at all," Philippe said matter-of-factly.

"Surely you matter enough to properly educate. You're a prince of France," the chevalier said.

"You saw what happened with billiards," Philippe said quietly.

"You're smarter than him," the chevalier guessed. "So the tutoring had to end."

"I try not to be but sometimes I forget. Like the other night. He's the king and I have to remember that," Philippe said.

The chevalier felt like he could hear Anne of Austria's voice in Philippe's words and frowned. "But what about you? You are to do what? Hide in the corner so you don't accidentally outshine your brother?"
"You have accurately summed up my role," Philippe said with some bitterness.

"And if you didn't have to hide in the corner, what would you do?" the chevalier asked.

"No one has ever asked me that before," Philippe said quietly.

"I'm asking. Use your imagination. What would you be if you could be anything?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe considered this for a moment. "I would be Alexander, the Great."

The chevalier bit back surprise at the last thing he expected to hear. "Actually Alexander, the Great or a great military leader?" he asked.

"A great military leader," Philippe answered. "I just read a book about Alexander, the Great but if I could have any job in this time period, I would want to go to war like he did, lead like he did. From the front with his men. Also he spent time training them. We don't do that. We just muster and send them out to be cannon fodder but imagine if they actually knew what they were doing? Worked as a team? We could be unstoppable..." He trailed off seeing the look on his audience's face.

The chevalier looked at Philippe in stunned silence.

"It's not what you expected me to say," Philippe said.

"It was not but the passion with which you said it made you even more beautiful," the chevalier said. "I will admit that when I first saw you, I fell for a pretty face but you are so much more than that."

"Not really a pretty face right now," Philippe said gingerly touching his bruised face.

"You are absolutely breathtaking, my love. Inside and out," the chevalier said gently stroking Philippe's cheek. "Have you ever told your brother what you just told me?"

Philippe shook his head. "He would just laugh. He thinks I'm weak. A fool. They all do."

"They're the fools. One day, you will show them who you truly are," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled slightly.

"Until then, I think I shall kiss you," the chevalier said.

Philippe raised his head to meet the chevalier's lips. "Yes please."

Chapter Text

Philippe awoke the next morning and instinctively opened both eyes. "I can see!"

The chevalier groaned sleepily.

Philippe straddled the chevalier. "I can see! It's opened!"

The chevalier squinted at Philippe and smiled. "So it is. Unfortunately, mine are not. Please go back to sleep."

"No! No sleep. I need fresh air!" He sniffed. "This room needs fresh air." He realized he was straddling the chevalier and then realized another need was growing. "Though first...." He leaned down and kissed the chevalier.

"I'm sleeping...."

"No you're not. You're talking to me...and...well, not all of you is asleep," Philippe said rubbing against the chevalier's newly awoken flesh.

"You are insatiable," the chevalier said and then flipped Philippe onto his back and kissed him.

 

The chevalier lay on his side with an arm slung over Philippe's chest. "Your eye does look better. If you really must leave the room, I can cover the bruising."

"I am torn between fresh air and my sweet naked chevalier," Philippe admitted. "Can I have both?"

"That would be a bit shocking even for French court," the chevalier answered. "You can have fresh air for awhile and nakedness later."

Philippe considered his options. "Let us try it your way though I am not entirely convinced of this need for clothes."

"I am convinced that both of our brothers are already suspicious and you arriving at mass with a naked moi will do nothing to convince them otherwise," the chevalier reasoned.

"You think they suspect?" Philippe asked.

"My brother knows," the chevalier said. "Neither of us did a good job of hiding it the night you were hurt. Your brother, I think, just suspects. I should have put on shoes and stockings yesterday morning."

"Does it bother you?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier considered the question. "There is not just one answer to that question, my love. I am mad for you and want to shout it from the rooftops but...."

"It is a crime punishable by death and hell, if you believe your parents," Philippe said. "I think the first will not happen with my brother as king and I doubt the second as well. Is not the real concern your father?"

"I know I should hate him but...it is more complicated than that," the chevalier said quietly.

Philippe pulled the chevalier down for a gentle kiss. He smiled. "Then we shall wear clothes to mass. It is settled," he said and sat up.

The chevalier smiled. "Come. I will dress you and see what I can do with the bruises."

 

Philippe looked at himself in the mirror, dressed but hair messy and eye bruised. "I did not know I owned this. I quite like it." He fingered the bronze colored brocade.

"Did you just admit you like something that is not gray?" the chevalier asked in shock. He put a hand on Philippe's forehead checking for fever. "Not hot. Maybe that bump on the head is more serious than we thought."

Philippe rolled his eyes. "There is nothing wrong with gray."

"Nothing at all. You could be a chimney sweep and no one would know the difference," the chevalier said. He picked up a jar of tinted cream and gently applied it around Philippe's eye.

"What is wrong with being a chimney sweep?" Philippe asked. "Think of the freedom they have. No mass, no dinner, no annoying brother...."

"Constantly dirty, thatched roof over their heads at best, rat stew...." the chevalier listed as he added powder to Philippe's face. "And they would still have to go to mass and they could well still have an annoying brother. Granted, yours is more annoying than most. Has he forgiven you for the billiards incident?"

"That is unclear," Philippe said. "He was still quite angry when we last spoke of it. I was perhaps thinking of my brother when I punched Guiche."

The chevalier laughed. "Then annoying brothers are good for something. There. Much better." He turned Philippe toward the mirror.

"It is barely noticeable," Philippe said and then sighed sadly. "How much practice have you had?"

"More than I would like," the chevalier said quietly.

Philippe kissed the chevalier. "I would not ever want to see you hurt."

"Seeing you hurt was no fun for me either," the chevalier said. "Please carry the dagger so it will not happen again."

Philippe picked up the dagger. "To mass even?"

"Did you expect what happened the other night?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe shook his head and obediently put the dagger in his coat.

 

Philippe and the chevalier returned from mass and entered their rooms.

Philippe looked around the room. Clothes, dishes, blankets piled everywhere. "I would ride out today. Perhaps the maids will grace us with their presence if they do not fear walking in on...the confessional."

The chevalier laughed. "But I so enjoy hearing your confession...down on your knees...in prayer."

"You are wicked," Philippe said smiling. "You will ride out with me?"

The chevalier hesitated. "Perhaps a walk around the Tuileries instead?"

"You are afraid to face your father," Philippe guessed.

"Not afraid...I can just think of better ways to spend my afternoon," the chevalier said, his finger in the waistband of Philippe's breeches.

Philippe removed the chevalier's hand and held it. "First, THAT is not going to get the maids to clean. Second, if that fight with Guiche taught me anything, it's that it feels better to face your fears than cower in front of them."

"You are wise, my love," the chevalier said.

"And third, I will not leave you alone with him," Philippe said softly. He put his hand on the chevalier's face. "Not for a moment."

The chevalier kissed Philippe tenderly. "Thank you."

 

Philippe and the chevalier walked through the stable yard fingers brushing against each other.

"Brother!" Armagnac called to them. "Your highness, lovely to see you. Beautiful day for a ride."

"Just why we're here," Philippe said. "Fresh air."

The chevalier was quiet, trying to determine if his father was around. Hoping he was not.

Armagnac sent a stable boy for horses as the Comte d'Harcourt emerged from the stable.

"Son, you deign to grace us with your presence," Harcourt sneered.

"Father...." Armagnac warned glancing at Philippe.

"Your highness, how can we serve you today?" Harcourt asked realizing his place.

"We would ride out," Philippe replied.

"How do you fare, Father?" the chevalier managed in a civil tone.

"I am well," Harcourt choked out. To Philippe, "I hope my son has proven up to the tasks you've assigned him."

"He has done quite well," Philippe assured Harcourt resisting an urge to punch him. "You have every reason to be proud of him."

Harcourt looked unconvinced but was prevented from further speech by the re-emergence of the stable boy with two saddled white horses.

Armagnac took the reins of one and led it to Philippe who swung up on its back.

The stable boy handed the other set of reins to the chevalier who swung up as well.

"We would be off then," Philippe said and rode out of the stable yard with the chevalier behind him. Once they were out of the yard, Philippe slowed and allowed the chevalier to ride alongside him. "Was it so bad?"

"No. Merely unpleasant," the chevalier said. "He is easier to deal with when there are witnesses."

"Then there shall always be witnesses," Philippe said. "Do you think you might ever reconcile?"

"I do not see a way," the chevalier admitted. "I am who I am and he believes what he believes. Do you think your father would feel differently?"

"I do not know. I have no memory of him and Mother rarely speaks of him," Philippe said.

"There were rumors, you know. About him," the chevalier said.

"What rumors?" Philippe asked.

"That there was a reason you and Louis were born so late. That he preferred...others," the chevalier said.

"Mistresses?" Philippe asked.

"No. Never mistresses," the chevalier said.

Philippe looked puzzled and then realized. "OH. Mother never mentioned that," Philippe said. "Do you think...that is why I am the way I am?"

"I do not know though such theory would not explain why I am the way I am," the chevalier reasoned. "And anyway, it is just a rumor. You know how people talk at court."

"Do you think there are rumors about us?" Philippe asked.

"So what if there are?" the chevalier said moving his horse closer to Philippe's and setting his hand on Philippe's thigh. "What will they say? That I love my dearest friend more than anything?"

Philippe laid his hand over the chevalier's. "They will say that I love you in turn and it will be true."

The chevalier smiled. "Do you? Love me?"

"You know that I do," Philippe said.

"You do not say it," the chevalier said.

Philippe stopped his horse and turned to face the chevalier. "I do love you, Philippe. My heart bursts with it."

The chevalier smiled, looked around, and kissed Philippe.

Chapter Text

Philippe lay in bed naked watching the chevalier as he absently traced circles around Philippe's nipple. He decided he like it. The intimacy of it more than any arousal. A thought occurred to him. "Have you ever been with a woman?"

The chevalier stopped mid-circle and looked up at Philippe. "Yes." He paused. "You have not."

"I...well, I couldn't...because it didn't work...but..." Philippe tried to force himself to stop stammering like an idiot. "It...wasn't my idea."

The chevalier looked confused. "Whose idea was it?"

Philippe flushed, wondering why he had broached this subject in the first place. "My mother's."

The chevalier sat up in shock. "I do not...what are you talking about?"

"She...she...I guess she wanted to see if I...what my...preference was so she...her friend...so unpleasant...Louis...ugh...awful," Philippe finished.

"I will require more words than that," the chevalier said. "That was not anywhere close to a proper sentence."

Philippe rolled over, burying his crimson face in the pillow. "Forget I mentioned it," he mumbled into the pillow.

The chevalier laughed. "I'm not sure I can forget, darling. Your mother wanted to know if you preferred men or women so she asked her friend to have sex with you?"

Philippe uttered a horrified cry into the pillow.

The chevalier tried not to laugh. "I don't understand where Louis fits in," he said.

Philippe laid very still in hopes of disappearing from the universe.

The chevalier rolled Philippe over. "Where did Louis fit in? You mustn't keep me in suspense."

"He...she made him have sex with her too," Philippe said quickly.

"Surely his preference wasn't in doubt. He fucks anything in a dress," the chevalier said.

"Crass...but true. Not his preference. She didn't want some girl leading him around by the...." Philippe stopped, turning a new shade of red.

"The cock?" the chevalier asked. "That makes good sense actually though you...was the friend attractive at least?"

"NO!" Philippe said with great anguish, resuming his position with face in the pillow. "She was hideous and old and wrinkly," he mumbled.

"No wonder your poor cock didn't work. It was traumatized," the chevalier said, gently rubbing Philippe's back.

Philippe slowly rolled back over to face the chevalier. "I don't think it would have mattered whether she was hideous or beautiful," he said quietly.

The chevalier nodded. "There is nothing wrong with that, my love." He bent down and kissed Philippe. "There is nothing wrong with you. You're perfect."

Philippe smiled slightly. "I think perhaps if you could erase that memory from my mind?"

"Oh yes? How would I do that?" the chevalier asked innocently.

"You know how," Philippe said.

"Do I? I may need a hint," the chevalier said.

"You would make me say it?" Philippe asked.

"I would very much enjoy hearing you say it," the chevalier said. "What could I do to help you forget the hideous crone?"

Philippe bit his lip pensively. "You could...kiss me," he said quietly.

The chevalier obeyed, kissing Philippe. "What else?"

"You could...kiss other places," Philippe said.

"What other places shall I kiss?" the chevalier asked. "Your ears?"

"Yes..."

The chevalier kissed Philippe's ear, gently sucking an earlobe. "Where else?"

"Um. My neck?"

The chevalier trailed kisses down Philippe's neck but stopped when he reached the end.

"And further down...."

The chevalier kissed further down his chest, swirling his tongue around Philippe's belly button. "Here?"

"Yes but..."

"Tell me where and I will kiss it," the chevalier promised.

"My...my...c-cock," Philippe stammered, his cheeks rosy.

The chevalier smiled and kissed his way down to Philippe's cock, his hair teasing. He placed a kiss at the base. "Is there something else you might like me to do?" he asked, his breath hot on Philippe's cock.

Philippe arched toward the chevalier's mouth, desperate.

"Tell me what you want," the chevalier said seductively.

"You know what I want," Philippe moaned. "Please...."

"I want to hear you say it," the chevalier said, his breath still heavy on Philippe's sensitive skin.

"I..I want you to put it in your mouth," Philippe said quickly, embarrassed.

"It?" the chevalier asked.

"My cock. Please," Philippe begged.

"Like thus?" the chevalier asked and gave Philippe what he asked for.

Philippe moaned loudly. "Yes...oh God...yes...."

Chapter Text

Philippe and the chevalier strolled through the Tuileries enjoying the late spring day, their hands brushing intentionally as they walked.

The chevalier grabbed Philippe's hand and ducked behind a large, well-manicured shrub. He kissed Philippe, lingering briefly, wanting to linger much longer.

"You are wicked. People will see!" Philippe pointed out. He kissed the chevalier.

"You are equally wicked and I had reached the limit of how long I can survive without touching you," the chevalier explained, his hands around Philippe's waist.

Philippe smiled. "We could go back...."

"I heard whispers at mass this morning that people thought you were sick. Don't want anyone snooping around. I shall try to restrain myself for another few hundred feet," the chevalier said and then kissed Philippe one last time before leading him back to the path and letting go of his hand.

"A few hundred feet seems like a few hundred miles," Philippe said quietly, his hand brushing the chevalier's hand.

"Hello Philippe," a woman called to Philippe as she met Philippe and the chevalier on the path. The woman and her friend both stopped and curtsied.

"Hello Henriette," Philippe responded and then said to the chevalier, "this is my cousin, Princess Henriette Stewart." To Henriette, "my friend, Philippe, the Chevalier de Lorraine."

Henriette greeted the chevalier and then turned to her friend. "This is my new lady-in-waiting, Athenais de Rochechouart."

Athenais curtsied to Philippe. "Your highness."

"This dress is lovely," Philippe told Athenais fingering the material of her sleeve without thinking.

"Thank you, your highness," Athenais said, trying to determine Philippe's intentions. She had heard the rumors, of course, but....

The chevalier looked amused, seeming to read Athenais' mind.

"Who designed it?" Philippe asked Athenais.

"His name is Claude. He has a shop in Paris. A wonderful talent," Athenais told Philippe, her curiosity sated. "I will have his information brought to you."

"Thank you," Philippe said. "I've been told recently that my wardrobe befits a chimney sweep."

The chevalier laughed. "A slight exaggeration, I'm sure."

"In my experience, true beauty shines through without announcing itself with trumpets and fanfare, your highness," Athenais said, her eyes sweeping disdainfully over the chevalier's bright blue coat.

"Some might say true beauty is left to the imagination," the chevalier replied with an eye to Athenais' mostly exposed bosom.

"We should be getting on," Henriette said, taking Athenais' arm.

"Oh yes, we must," Athenais agreed. "It was a pleasure to meet you, your highness." She smiled at Philippe.

The women continued down the path from which Philippe and the chevalier had come.

Philippe and the chevalier continued walking.

"Are you going to send for her designer?" the chevalier asked.

"Yes, I think so," Philippe answered.

"For a coat or...." the chevalier asked. "Perhaps you liked more than the material of her dress."

"Why are you so fascinated with this?" Philippe asked.

"I have never known anyone, a man anyway, who owns dresses. I am quite literally dying of curiosity. Will you not show me?" the chevalier pled.

"I don't know," Philippe said quietly. Part of him did want to share this with the chevalier but the other part still vividly remembered how Guiche had reacted.

"I would never judge you, my love," the chevalier said gently, brushing Philippe's hand with his. "You know this, right? Not ever."

"I know...I think I know that...."

"Tell me what happened," the chevalier said. "Someone did judge you."

"I...I wore a dress to this costume party. I dressed as a shepherdess. Guiche...he made me regret it. Humiliated me," Philippe said quietly.

"I really despise that man," the chevalier growled. "I would not ever do that," he said quietly and pulled Philippe to a stop to look into his eyes. "I would never do that to you, my love. My curiosity can go unsatisfied until you trust me enough to believe that."

"I do believe that," Philippe said quietly. "I do trust you and I...I want to show you."

The chevalier smiled slightly. "Now...."

Philippe nodded.

 

Philippe stood in the dressing room in his favorite dress now wondering if agreeing to this was a bad idea. Maybe he should just take it off....

"How's it going in there?" the chevalier called from the bedroom.

"It's...it's fine," Philippe stammered. He looked at himself in the mirror. Beautiful though doing his hair and makeup in the dressing room had been a trick.

"Philippe?" the chevalier asked from the threshold of the dressing room. He had agreed to wait outside and was trying to obey.

"I...I...you can come in," Philippe said quickly before he could change his mind.

The chevalier entered the candlelit dressing room and gasped slightly at what he saw.

Philippe flinched and began to remove his gloves. "Never mind...."

"No, no," the chevalier said quickly. "You are...beautiful. Maybe even more beautiful which I did not think possible."

"I am?"

"You are," the chevalier said. "Do you not feel beautiful?"

"I...I do," Philippe admitted.

The chevalier ran his hand down Philippe's corseted waist. "Exquisite."

Philippe dared to smile.

"Will you come out of the dressing room so I can see you in proper lighting?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe nodded.

The chevalier gave Philippe his hand and led them out of the dressing room. "You really are stunning."

"It does not...upset you?" Philippe asked.

"Not at all," the chevalier said. "It's a bit erotic actually. Like having a menage a trois without the need for a third." He smiled.

Philippe laughed slightly, loosening up.

"Will you dance with me?" the chevalier asked.

"There is no music," Philippe pointed out.

"No matter," the chevalier said and pulled Philippe into his arms, treating him formally like he would a lady of substance.

Philippe laughed. "So formal. I think I prefer it when you dance with me like this," he said and moved closer to the chevalier.

"Mademoiselle! I don't know what kind of man you think I am," the chevalier said in mock outrage.

Philippe laughed and moved even closer. "I know exactly what kind of man you are."

"Just remember before you get too...close...I am a bit out of practice with corsets," the chevalier said.

"You can leave it on," Philippe said, his lips and body pressed against the chevalier.

"You are utterly wicked," the chevalier said breathlessly, pushing Philippe toward the bed.

Chapter Text

"I don't even want to go to this," Philippe complained, staring at himself in the full length mirror.

"It's your birthday. A party in your honor," the chevalier said as he looped his arms around Philippe from behind. "Why wouldn't you want to go to that?"

Philippe looked skeptical.

"Speak. Why is this party the root of all evil?" the chevalier asked.

"Had you born witness to the first 17 of them, you would not have to ask," Philippe said.

"It is my great misfortune to have missed the first 17 years of your existence, my love. Do fill me in," the chevalier said.

"It is a ruse. Another excuse for my brother to blind everyone with his brilliant rays. It has nothing to do with me. No one even notices that I'm there," Philippe said. He knew he sounded pathetic but it was true.

"So make them notice you," the chevalier said as if this was obvious. "If you do not wish to be the shadow then simply change your position in relationship to the sun. You outshine him, darling. Whenever you wish to. It is your day. Be the star."

"I do not know how," Philippe said.

"Yes, you do. You need only have the courage," the chevalier said. He let go of Philippe and walked into the dressing room. He returned with his favorite gown and a questioning look.

"In public?" Philippe asked with some trepidation.

"What if people whisper? Gossip about you? First, they do anyway. Second, who cares about the opinion of ants when you are a lion?" the chevalier asked. "Third, I will be right beside you the entire time and I vow to you noble heads on pikes if they dare to laugh."

Philippe smiled slightly. "Pikes probably aren't necessary."

"Figurative pikes then. If they laugh, we shall spend our days plotting to destroy their lives," the chevalier said.

Philippe considered the offer and the possibility of wearing the dress in public and the memory of what happened the last time.

"Do you want to wear it?"

"Yes," Philippe said softly.

"Then fuck them all," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled. "Will you help me with my hair and makeup?"
"Of course, my love," the chevalier said. "Consider me your lady-in-waiting."

Philippe laughed. "If that were true, you'd have to wear a dress as well."

"Perhaps some day if you are very good to me," the chevalier said.

"It IS my birthday. Shouldn't you be very good to me?" Philippe asked suggestively.

"Did you have something in mind?" the chevalier asked innocently. He laid the dress over a chair and wrapped his arms around Philippe pulling him close.

"Maybe...a few things...." Philippe said, his heart quickening at the chevalier's proximity.

"Can any of them be done in your current attire?" the chevalier asked, his fingers caressing the silk of Philippe's vest.

Philippe shook his head sadly.

"We can't have a sad birthday boy," the chevalier said as he removed the vest and tossed it to the floor.

Philippe watched the chevalier, already growing hard in anticipation.

The chevalier lifted Philippe's shirt over his head and then untied his breeches and let them drop to the floor. "I see someone is already at full attention." He knelt down and took Philippe in his mouth.

Philippe moaned, his hands on the chevalier's head to steady himself as his pleasure made him light-headed.

 

The chevalier fussed with a final strand of Philippe's hair and then stood back to see the full effect.

Philippe looked at the chevalier expectantly.

"Stunning. Absolute perfection," the chevalier said. "I am tempted to lay you down on the bed and have my way with you but I'm not sure I can recreate this current work of art."

Philippe smiled. "Maybe later you could have your way with me?" he asked hopefully.

"I will count the minutes, mignonette," the chevalier said. "But now we must attend this fete in your honor." He offered his arm to Philippe.

Philippe paled with fear.

"If you truly do not want to, I will put it all back but if it is only fear stopping you then...."

Philippe took a deep breath and took the chevalier's arm.

The chevalier smiled a bit nervously as he considered what repercussions this may have for him as well. Considered too late, of course, as was his way. He took his own deep breath and led Philippe out of their rooms, summoning the mignons he had pressed into service over the summer to following them.

"What is their purpose?" Philippe asked, glancing at the mignons who obediently trailed along behind them.

"You are a prince. I am, technically, a prince. Etranger anyway. Princes should have beautiful people trailing behind them, should they not?" the chevalier reasoned. "Besides, they are much more reliable and discreet than the servants."

"You are wise," Philippe said with a smile. "But why do they agree?"
"You really don't understand your place in the world, do you? Or the way you shine in it?" He smiled at Philippe indulgently. "Some agree for favor, some agree because they think there's some chance I'll look away for a moment and they can seduce you. They're wrong, of course. I'll never look away." The chevalier raised Philippe's hand to his lips. "You are mine."

Philippe smiled, enjoying the chevalier's possessiveness.

They arrived at the entrance to the salon.

The chevalier turned to Philippe. "You are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. Do not doubt that for a moment, mignonette."

Philippe nodded nervously and then steeled himself to enter.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe and offered his arm.

Philippe took the proffered arm and the two of them entered the salon.

The guard at the door looked at them and proceeded to do his duty of announcing newcomers. "The Chevalier de Lorraine and the..." The guard faltered, fear flashing in his eyes.

The chevalier felt Philippe tense. "The Duke d'Anjou," he hissed at the guard.

The guard went white with shock and then recovered. "The Duke d'Anjou."

All eyes turned to look at Philippe and the chevalier with pasted smiles for the birthday boy. The pasted smiles faded to shock and then slowly returned to their pasted smile masks.

The chevalier led Philippe through the salon ignoring the whispers that followed them. "Prince or princess? Can you believe? What will the king do?"

Philippe's face was still but his insides were roiling. The urge to turn around and walk out was nearly overpowering.

The chevalier tightened his grip on Philippe's arm and leaned over to whisper in his ear. "Pikes."

Philippe laughed, taken off guard by humor in what had become, for him, a humorless situation. He relaxed slightly and smiled at the chevalier.

The chevalier handed Philippe a glass of wine. "To the brightest star in any room. Happy Birthday, mignonette."

Philippe smiled as their glasses clinked together. "Birthdays with you are a much more enjoyable experience."

"The night is still young," the chevalier said suggestively.

"I want to touch you," Philippe said quietly.

The chevalier considered this request. "Dance with me."

Philippe looked at the chevalier as if he had lost his mind.

"I cannot ask a lady to dance?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe stared at the chevalier wide eyed and then considered. "You may."

The chevalier smiled and offered his hand to Philippe who took it. He led Philippe onto the dance floor joining in the dance.

The whispers became louder, nearly drowning out the music.

"Pikes," the chevalier said as he and Philippe danced together, the chevalier's hand on Philippe's waist.

"Pikes," Philippe agreed with a smile.

 

"I will require more wine after that," the chevalier said, smiling as he led Philippe off the dance floor and to the buffet. He picked up a macaron and held it up to Philippe's mouth.

Philippe looked surprised but took a bite.

The chevalier ate the rest of the macaron, surveying the crowd, waiting for the consequences. He had seen his father's glare during the dance and the king's as well. It was only a matter of who would attack first.

Louis approached with a quizzical look. "Brother?"

Philippe turned to Louis.

"Or is it sister now?" Louis asked.

The chevalier braced.

"Brother," Philippe assured him. "You do not like my dress?"

"The dress is quite lovely. My concern is solely related to what the dress is doing on you, brother," Louis said tersely.

"It IS my birthday. Can I not wear what I want?" Philippe asked.

"I would certainly not question your taste in breeches and coats," Louis said. "But this...do you wish to be the court jester?"

Philippe's pleasant demeanor flashed to rage in an instant. "You may be king but you cannot tell me what to wear!"

The chevalier placed what he hoped was a calming hand on Philippe's arm.

"I can tell you to stop making me look like a fool," Louis spat, his own anger growing.

"Everything always has to be about YOU, doesn't it, brother? The world revolves around the sun king," Philippe spat out the words in derision. "Here is some news for you, YOUR MAJESTY. This has nothing to do with you."

"You think you don't reflect on me?" Louis asked angrily. "You think these people don't look at you and wonder how I can control France if I can't control my own brother? Everything is about me!" he yelled much louder than intended.

Anne of Austria joined the group. "Enough," she said quietly. "Louis, you will go dance. Philippe, you will go change."

"No," Philippe said.

Anne looked shocked. "Philippe, you have made your point whatever it was. Now, you will go change."

"But Mother, where do you think I got this idea?" Philippe asked.

"You are not a child anymore, Philippe," Louis said.

"I am aware of that, Louis," Philippe spat. "I am not a child nor am I a puppet who will do whatever you say without question. This is who I am."

"You are a man in a dress dancing with another man and looking like a fool!" Louis exclaimed.

"Sons, please," Anne said, her voice low in hopes of reducing the volume of her sons' voices. "Philippe, you can wear the dress tonight and tomorrow, we will discuss this in private."

"There's nothing to discuss!" Philippe exclaimed.

"Take the win," the chevalier hissed in Philippe's ear. Aloud, he said, "ah look. The Princess Henriette and Mademoiselle de Rochechouart."

Louis' head snapped around to look at the newcomers, his eyes fixed on Henriette. "Tomorrow." He walked away toward Henriette.

Anne looked at Philippe and then sighed. "You look lovely, dear." She walked away as well.

"Well, that was fun. It's an architectural feat that your brother's ego can fit through the salon doors," the chevalier said.

Philippe laughed. "They were enlarged especially for that purpose."

"Are you okay?" the chevalier asked, his hand on Philippe's shoulder.

"Yes though I wouldn't mind seeing my brother's head on a pike right now," Philippe said quietly. "Figuratively or otherwise."

"No doubt many people in this room think the same," the chevalier said blithely. "Not Princess Henriette, of course...."

Philippe followed the chevalier's gaze to the king and Henriette flirting with each other. "Ah yes. Henriette has been in love with Louis since we were children. They would always want to play king and queen in their palace."

"Where did that leave you?" the chevalier asked.

"Bored at first and then attacking their stupid little palace and breaking all their things," Philippe said.

"Perhaps you just needed a chevalier in this little game," the chevalier said with a smile.

"That would have been much more fun," Philippe agreed. "Dance with me again?"

"With pleasure, darling," the chevalier said as he led Philippe to the dance floor.

Their path was blocked by the Comte d'Armagnac. "I need to talk to you."

"It will have to wait," the chevalier said. "We are about to dance."

"It cannot wait," Armagnac insisted.

Philippe glared at Armagnac.

"I am sorry, your highness. I really must talk to my brother immediately," Armagnac said.
"So speak," the chevalier said.

Armagnac looked at Philippe.

Philippe looked back at Armagnac not moving.

"Fine. Brother, you promised me you would be discreet about this," Armagnac began.

"And we have," the chevalier said.

"This is your idea of discretion?" Armagnac hissed. "I just stopped you from dancing with him. AGAIN."

"HE is wearing a dress. I believe we're not...entirely...outside the rules," the chevalier said a bit bemused.

Armagnac sighed in frustration. "This is no time for semantics. Father is furious."

"Pikes," Philippe said.

Armagnac looked confused.

The chevalier laughed. "Indeed. Number one on the list. Father is furious that I exist on the planet. This is hardly newsworthy."

"You know very well that this is different, brother," Armagnac said gently.

"This is different," the chevalier said sincerely. "The others were just for pleasure, a lark. This is...for real."

Armagnac sighed. "I understand that and...I am happy for you but...please...just...you must be discreet. I cannot protect you from him."

"I've known that for years, brother," the chevalier said. "I don't need your protection."

Armagnac flinched as if slapped though he knew the words were true. He had not done enough to protect his younger brother from their father. Not nearly enough. "I do not know what he'll do if this continues."

"I guess we will find out because I will not give him up," the chevalier said quietly.

Chapter Text

On a cold morning in early October, Philippe, Louis, and Anne ate breakfast in Louis' private salon.

"I do not agree," Louis said for the tenth time. "I will not have my brother wearing a dress in public. Why can he not keep his deviancies to his rooms?"

"Why can he not keep his ego from suffocating everyone in the room?" Philippe snarled.

Anne sighed. "Philippe, if you could just practice some discretion...."

"You speak to me of discretion?" Philippe exclaimed. "He fucked a girl in the vestibule!"

Anne looked suitably horrified. She looked at Louis for confirmation.

"How did you know...he's lying!" Louis said.

Philippe laughed sarcastically. "The grate is a window not a door, brother."

Louis had the grace to look momentarily embarrassed at having been caught desecrating a sacred space before returning to his argument. "Regardless, that is completely different. I was with a woman as God intended."

"I don't think God intended you to be with a woman while the rest of us were taking communion," Philippe reasoned.

"Still...it was a woman. Not a man. And in a dress? Why can't you just be discreet? Do what you want in the privacy of your own rooms and not in full view of the court," Louis said.

"I AM DISCREET!" Philippe yelled. "Was I fucking him in public? NO. I don't even touch him in public. I felt like wearing a dress! Get the fuck over it!"

"I cannot allow this," Louis said.

Philippe took a calming breath. "You control every part of my life, brother. Where I live, what money I spend, eventually who I marry. Can you not give me this one thing?"

"I do not understand it," Louis said matching Philippe's calmer tone. "Why do you not like women? Other than their clothing, of course."

"I do not know, brother. Do you think I do this to spite you? Do you not think I would fuck women if I could?" Philippe asked, tears rising in his voice. "I do not know why but I cannot change it no matter how much I may want to."

Louis softened. "Will this dress be a regular occurrence?"

"I don't think so," Philippe said. "It...it was my birthday and I...wanted to feel special. I wanted people to notice me...for once."

"You certainly accomplished that," Louis said.

Philippe smiled slightly.

"In other matters, we have been invited to the chateau of Barthelemy Hervart for a royal feast tonight," Anne said. "He is an important ally and so we will go."

Louis and Philippe groaned collectively.

"And we will not complain about it," Anne said. "Not one peep from either of you."

Philippe rolled his eyes.

Louis laughed.

"May I bring the Chevalier de Lorraine?" Philippe asked.

Louis rolled his eyes. "So much for discretion."

"I cannot bring a friend to dinner?" Philippe asked bitterly.

"Yes, yes, you may bring him," Anne said quickly before the argument began anew.

 

"Who is this person?" the chevalier asked Philippe as they walked toward their carriage.

"I don't remember," Philippe said.

"And where are we going?" the chevalier asked as he entered the carriage and sat down across from Philippe.

"I didn't ask actually." Philippe patted the seat beside him. "Sit by me."

"Did you not just get the discretion lecture this morning?" the chevalier asked in amusement.

"Did I? I have forgotten that as well," Philippe said with a smile.

The chevalier laughed and switched seats.

Philippe pulled a blanket over them both and then took the chevalier's hand under the blanket.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe.

A footman helped Anne into the carriage. "Your brothers are riding ahead...I see you're already comfortable in here though."

"Quite," Philippe agreed.

"Please try not to antagonize your brother tonight, Philippe," Anne said.

"I cannot help it if he finds my presence antagonistic," Philippe said.

"It is not YOUR presence as you well know," Anne said.

Philippe squeezed the chevalier's hand. "He will have to learn to live with a world that does not quite meet his expectations, Mother. Just as the rest of us do."

 

The carriage rolled up to a small villa south of Paris.

"What is this place called, your majesty?" the chevalier asked politely.

"Saint-Cloud, I believe," Anne said. "It's quite lovely out here."

"What a beautiful view of the river," Philippe said as he leaned over the chevalier to get a better look out the window.

"Do I recall correctly? Was Henry III not assassinated in this chateau?" the chevalier asked.

"I believe you are correct," Anne said. "The moment that the Bourbon dynasty began."

"Depending on who you ask, you may have my great uncle to thank for that," the chevalier said glibly.

"Is that true?" Philippe asked.

"There were rumors certainly," Anne said. "Your grandmother was alive then and told me and your father many stories about the war of the Henrys though...I do not understand what Henry de Guise would have gained by removing a Catholic king and replacing him with a king who had previously been a Huguenot."

"I do not believe it was his intention to allow the Huguenot to come to power. He just failed to assassinate the other Henry in a timely manner," the chevalier said. "Or so the rumors go."

"I would look no further than your grandmother, Marie, with regard to your grandfather," Anne said.

"Mother!" Philippe said in mock shock. "Such a gossip."

"She was an awful woman," Anne said. "I am not even sorry for saying it."

The carriage pulled up in front of Saint-Cloud and servants quickly opened the doors and pulled up the steps to allow them to disembark.

The trio disembarked and met with the rest of the party.

Philippe looked east toward the Seine as the last vestiges of sunlight fell behind them.

"It really does have a lovely view," the chevalier said.

"There's something peaceful about this place," Philippe said.

"You would miss Paris if you were gone for more than a moment," the chevalier said.

"Well, perhaps not the smell," Philippe said.

"It does smell much better out here," the chevalier agreed.

Hervart addressed the group inviting them on a tour as servants brought them wine. He led them through the darkening gardens, lit mostly by flaming torches, talking about the work he had done to the chateau.

Philippe found himself more and more at peace. He reached out and gently wrapped his pinkie around the chevalier's pinkie, an act hidden in twilight.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe and moved closer to him. There was something about this place. Normally, country air reminded him of a horrible childhood but this place seemed a million miles away from Chateau d'Harcourt though, in fact, it was only 80 miles to the northeast. He felt pressure on his pinkie as Philippe wandered off the path to get a better look at a statue. The chevalier laughed as he immediately saw what attracted Philippe's attention. "Quite well endowed, yes?"

Philippe laughed. "I think I would be afraid of it," he whispered in awe.

"Perhaps this Hervart enjoys a more sizable asset," the chevalier whispered.

Philippe's eyes widened. "Do you think?"

The chevalier shrugged. "Perhaps he is just a collector of fine art." He tugged at Philippe's pinkie. "Come, we are losing the tour."

 

The feast was followed by dancing with much of the court of the Palais Royal making the trip to Saint-Cloud.

Philippe and the chevalier watched the dancers wistfully.

"Come. Let's go explore," Philippe said.

"Brilliant idea, mignonette," the chevalier said, liberating a bottle of champagne from a servant.

They discreetly left the ballroom via a patio and headed down a torchlit path.

The chevalier took Philippe's hand swinging their hands between them. "Much better."

"Much...though I would rather be dancing with you," Philippe said.

"Better to dance than to walk down a dark and deserted path with your amour?" the chevalier asked.

"Well...maybe the path could have its benefits. You would have to convince me," Philippe said.

"I do have one argument in favor of the path," the chevalier said.

"What is that?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier kissed Philippe, a long, lingering kiss.

"I am convinced," Philippe said, his lips finding the chevalier's again.

The chevalier wrapped his arms around Philippe's waist, pulling him closer. "Much better than dancing in a crowded ballroom." He slowly danced them around in a circle.

"I hate being discreet," Philippe said, pressing himself against the chevalier. "If one of us were a woman, no one would care. It would probably even be encouraged."

"They would marry us off with their blessings and we would live in the Chateau Saint-Cloud with all of our children," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled. "Perhaps that would be nice."

"Perhaps it would be," the chevalier said, kissing Philippe.

 

Philippe lay on the couch in his private salon, his stocking feet resting on the chevalier's lap. "I spoke to the Cardinal today."

The chevalier looked up from his book. "Did you? About what? Saving your soul?"
"He's not that kind of cardinal," Philippe said.

The chevalier laughed. "I cannot argue that. What was the topic of conversation then if not your immortal soul?"
"Saint-Cloud," Philippe said.

"The chateau from last week?" the chevalier confirmed.

"Yes. I think...I think I may buy it," Philippe said quickly.

The chevalier looked surprised. "It needs a lot of work. No matter what Hervart said."

"It has good potential though and I like the location and we could...." Philippe trailed off nervously.

"We?" the chevalier prompted.

Philippe took a breath and said, "I will have to spend most of my time with Louis but Saint-Cloud could be our home. A place where we...don't have to be discreet."

"Our home," the chevalier said softly.

"If you wanted...." Philippe said second guessing himself.

"I do want," the chevalier said. He crawled over on top of Philippe and kissed him. "Our home."

Chapter Text


Philippe and the chevalier waved goodbye to the last of the carriages as they departed Saint-Cloud.

Philippe sighed loudly.

"I thought they would never leave," the chevalier said. "Your mother, particularly, seemed determined to move in."

"That was odd," Philippe said. "Perhaps Louis' health crisis still haunts her. She was overly helpful which is not like her. Not to me anyway."

"Whatever the cause, she is gone. They are all gone." The chevalier turned to Philippe and looped his arms around Philippe's waist. "Just us."

"In our home," Philippe smiled. "Alone...at least until the architects and builders return."

"Alone for now," the chevalier said. "I'll take it."

"What would you like to do first?" Philippe asked.

"Christen every room?" the chevalier suggested with a smile.

"I like your ambition," Philippe said, pulling the chevalier closer. "There are a lot of rooms. We should get started."

"Indeed," the chevalier said, kissing Philippe.


Philippe and the chevalier lay on a blanket on the marble floor of a salon looking up at a fresco ceiling.

"Some of these rooms are in desperate need of furniture," the chevalier said.

"I am not sure how many more freezing marble floors I care to lay on," Philippe said.

"Perhaps the rest of the rooms can wait until the chateau is better equipped," the chevalier suggested. "You know what we should do before renovations begin?"

"What is that?" Philippe asked, sitting up and rubbing his back.

"We should host a party here. A huge party of only people we like. No one who would dare to preach discretion shall receive an invitation," the chevalier said.

"Do we know that many people we like?" Philippe asked.

"More than you think," the chevalier said. "Which you would know if you talked to more people."

"I will leave conversing with the nobles to you and your brother and whatever you're both up to that I don't want to know about," Philippe said.

"We're simply providing a service to a few nobles who have found themselves down on their luck at the gambling tables," the chevalier said. "Nothing to worry about."

"So you really think people would come to a party here?" Philippe asked.

"The right people would come," the chevalier said. He sat up and looked seriously at Philippe. "You are well admired at court. Would be even more well admired if you let them see what I see."

Philippe looked shocked.

"You're so literal. Not physically see but see what's in your heart. Who you really are," the chevalier explained. "Let me prove it to you. Agree to this party."

Philippe nodded.

"It will be fun. I promise," the chevalier said.


Philippe looked at himself in the full length mirror in his bedroom at Saint-Cloud. He was wearing a considerably brighter purple than he was comfortable with courtesy of the chevalier. He smiled as he thought of the chevalier and decided that he liked the purple.

The chevalier entered the open double doors. "Our guests are already arriving! I should warn you that I think a few, like the Mancinis, plan to stay for a few days. You're friends with the Duc de Nevers, yes? I thought you wouldn't mind."

"Jules is here?" Philippe asked with surprise.

"With his sisters, yes," the chevalier said.

"They can stay here though we may be harboring fugitives," Philippe said.

The chevalier looked confused.

"Louis...well, he couldn't choose a sister and things got a bit ugly and...well, they had to leave France for a little while," Philippe explained. "I'm sure it's fine now."

"Your brother is like a tropical storm in human form," the chevalier said.

Philippe laughed. "An apt description. Who else?"

"My brother and Rohan," the chevalier said carefully.

"And my brother?" Philippe asked warily.

"They are somehow without him. I did not ask for details of that miracle," the chevalier said. "Also Blois, Artois, Henriette's new lady...Athenais, I believe...."

Jules Mancini entered unannounced through the open double doors. "Philippe!"

Both Philippe and the chevalier turned around.

Philippe smiled. "Jules! I'd no idea you were allowed back in France." The two men hugged.

"I had to beg your brother's forgiveness and blame my sisters for things that were not their fault but I could stand Italy no more. How are you? You look well," Jules said.

"I am well," Philippe said. "Sorry about my brother. Your sisters were not at fault."

"May I ask what happened?" the chevalier asked, more to remind them of his presence than real interest.

"Jules, this is my dearest friend, Philippe, the Chevalier de Lorraine," Philippe said, taking the chevalier's hand.

"I had heard you had dumped that troll, Guiche, for someone positively heavenly and I see that the rumor was true," Jules said, looking the chevalier up and down appreciatively.

Philippe pulled the chevalier slightly closer to himself with a pointed look at Jules.

Jules laughed. "Point taken. You don't want to share. As to what happened with Louis, he seduced one of my sisters and then dumped her for another sister. It caused quite a mess and I felt it was necessary to defend their honor. Louis disagreed and we spent some quality time in Italy."

"He challenged my brother to a duel which may or may not be treason," Philippe explained.

"Louis was fairly convinced that it was," Jules said. "Please tell me he's not invited."

"Definitely not invited," the chevalier said. "Though he is the king of France. He may not feel he requires an invitation and we did take away his playmates. You should prepare for him to show up."

"Then he should prepare for a dramatic lack of discretion," Philippe said. He kissed the chevalier, lingering for a moment. "Our home. Our rules."

The chevalier smiled at Philippe.

"I like this new you," Jules said to Philippe. "Clearly, the chevalier has been a good influence on you."

"I am certain no one has ever said that about me before," the chevalier said with a smirk.

Philippe laughed. "Jules, you must tell us about Italy. Wine?"

"Please. I cannot even tell you what passes for wine in that backwater of a country," Jules said.


Later in the evening, Philippe stood looking at himself in the mirror. The chevalier stepped behind Philippe and wrapped his arms around him, gazing at them both in the mirror.

"Are you ready to face your adoring court, my love?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe rolled his eyes. "I cannot have a court. I am not a king."

"You can have whatever you dare to have, darling."

Philippe smiled slightly. "Can I have you?"

"You have me."

"Then the rest is superfluous," Philippe said. He turned in the chevalier's arms and kissed him.

"Perhaps but it is at your feet nonetheless. They await their prince," the chevalier said. "You would disappoint them?"

Philippe shook his head.

"Then let us go," the chevalier said, offering Philippe his arm.


Philippe sat on the chevalier's lap watching the party rage around them. Musicians played albeit drunkenly as half naked courtiers danced with abandon around the grand ballroom. Wine and champagne and powders flowed. Philippe watched in utter fascination. "I recognize some of these people but...this is not how they act at the Palais Royal."

"They act as they must to survive at the Palais Royal. They play their role. They wear their masks," the chevalier said, his hand resting possessively high up on Philippe's inner thigh.

"But here, they do not?" Philippe asked. "Why do they not?"

"Because they sense that you do not require them to," the chevalier said. "Would you have preferred a party like the Palais Royal?"

"No," Philippe said. "If they do not...wear their masks...then I do not have to either."

"Exactly," the chevalier said. He bent Philippe's head down and kissed him. "No discretion."

Philippe smiled. "How did you know this about them all?"

"How do you not?" the chevalier asked with a sigh. "I fear your mother has not prepared either of you for the real world. How do I know? My father may despise me but he did not fail to instill some survival skills. Starting with information is power. Also, I can sense a kindred spirit. Like I did with you. Like you did with me."

"I sensed something?" Philippe asked.

"I hope you did because if you are in the habit of flirting with every man in your vicinity without a clue as to whether they share your...spirit...I fear for your continued safety," the chevalier said.

"I...I guess I didn't think about it. I just...it never actually occurred to me that you wouldn't...share my spirit," Philippe admitted. "You smiled at me."

"You are a prince of France. I could have just been being nice to you, currying favor," the chevalier said.

"You asked me to dance," Philippe said.

"Yes but not until you had been very clear that you were interested in me," the chevalier said.

"I was?"

The chevalier sighed, a bit frustrated. "Yes! Okay, look around the room and tell me who...shares your spirit."

"Why? I already have you," Philippe said.

"Humor me," the chevalier said drily.

"Well, Jules," Philippe said.

"People who you have not already fucked," the chevalier clarified.

Philippe saw two men kissing in a corner and pointed to them.

"Philippe, really, please try to take this seriously," the chevalier said. "You must be able to tell."

Philippe studied the room intently, finally settling on a young man talking to a courtesan. "Him."

"Why do you think so?"

"He's talking to that girl but he's not standing very close to her and he's actually looking more at Jules than her," Philippe said.

"I will give you that one and I agree," the chevalier said.

"Who is he?" Philippe asked.

"Antoine, the Marquis d'Effiat," the chevalier replied.

"You know him?" Philippe asked, feeling a pang of jealousy.

"Not like that," the chevalier said. "He is a friend...just a friend."

"You do not find him attractive?" Philippe asked.

"Do YOU find him attractive?" the chevalier asked, a bit jealous.

Philippe heard the tone and shook his head. A small lie. It is not like he had plans to act on it. "I think he finds Jules quite attractive."

"Indeed. They would make a good match," the chevalier said. He watched Jules to see if he noticed Antoine but Jules seemed engaged in a conversation with a couple of courtesans. "Jules does not notice."

"Those girls will be disappointed," Philippe said.

The chevalier laughed. His laughter caught in his throat as he saw Louis enter the room. "Your brother is here."

Philippe sighed. "We knew it was a possibility. He will be angry that he was not invited."

"Do you want to go talk to him?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe shook his head and then leaned down and kissed the chevalier.

"Brother," Louis said as he approached.

Philippe reluctantly took his lips off the chevalier. "Louis, I see you've made it."

"I will assume my invitation was given to an unreliable courier," Louis said, his eyes taking in Philippe's seating arrangements.

"I can think of no other explanation," Philippe said.

Armagnac joined the group, sensing trouble. "Your majesty, I was wondering if you would be joining us."

"Do you think this is appropriate?" Louis asked Philippe.

"What would that be?" Philippe asked.

Louis scanned the room, his eyes finally landing on Philippe cuddled on the chevalier's lap. "All of it. What would the Spanish Infanta think of this?"

"Did you bring her?" Philippe asked. "If not, I cannot imagine she would think anything at all about it."

"We cannot have this kind of behavior at court," Louis said.

"Look around, brother. We are not 'at court'. Not yours anyway," Philippe said. "We are in our home having a small party with friends. I cannot imagine how this is the business of Spain or anyone else."

"You know why," Louis said tersely.

"You would know what goes on behind closed doors now? A spy in every bedroom?" Philippe asked, growing angry.

"I am sure that is not what his majesty meant," Armagnac said diplomatically. "Come, your majesty. There are many who wish to speak with you."

"You have no issue with...this?" Louis asked Armagnac. "Should our brothers not practice discretion?"

"I would prefer discretion but this is not the Palais Royal and honestly, my heartfelt advice has fallen on deaf ears on this matter," Armagnac said.

"Your advice was to be discreet around our father. We did not invite him which, I believe, solves the problem," the chevalier told Armagnac.

Louis saw Marie de Mancini across the room talking to the Chevalier de Rohan. "Marie is here? You invited her?" he asked Philippe.

"I invited Jules and he brought his sisters," Philippe said. "I thought you were done with her. Didn't you move on to Olympa? She's here too somewhere."

"I...it is not relevant. I would not have her talk to Rohan," Louis said angrily. He turned back to Philippe. "I would not have this continue. I am not interested in what you do in your bedroom but, in public, you will not touch him."

"We are not in public! We are in MY ballroom in MY home," Philippe said. "You do not dictate what goes on here anymore than you dictate what goes on at the Chateau d'Harcourt. If you do not wish to see it, you are welcome to leave."

Louis glared at Philippe and then glared at Marie and Rohan torn between atrocities. He chose Marie and stormed off.

Philippe got up. "We need to find Jules."

The chevalier stood and took Philippe's hand. He led him to Antoine.

"Your highness," Antoine murmured reverently and bowed to Philippe.

"Enough. We need your help," the chevalier said.

"Anything," Antoine said.

"The man you were staring at earlier, the dark haired man, where is he?" Philippe asked.

"The Duc de Nevers?" Antoine asked and then blushed. "I was not..."

"You were. It's fine. But we need him," the chevalier said.

"He went outside with some mignon," Antoine said sadly. "Via those doors."

"The balcony. Thank you," Philippe said.

"It was an honor, your highness," Antoine replied, head bowed.

Philippe and the chevalier ran to the doors and flung them open to find the mignon on his knees in front of Jules.

Jules looked up in surprise and then relaxed. "Oh, it's you. Has a line formed?"

The chevalier laughed. "No line except the one forming to watch Louis and Rohan duel over your sister's honor."

"My God. Which sister?" Jules asked, pulling his cock out of the mouth of the mignon.

"Marie," Philippe said.

"Well, at least she has honor to duel over," Jules said. "Where?"

Philippe and the chevalier led Jules back inside. The music had stopped and been replaced by the sounds of an argument.

"Your majesty, we were only talking," Rohan insisted.

"I have known you a very long time and have never known you to just talk to a woman," Louis said.

"It is none of your business who I talk to!" Marie yelled at Louis. "You have made your intentions perfectly clear." She glared at Olympa. "I do apologize for not agreeing to be your whore."

"I am not a whore!" Olympa yelled at Marie.

"They make me happy that my sister became a nun," the chevalier said to Jules.

"Is that an option? I have five of them and they're all like this," Jules said. "Marie, enough, it is time to retire for the evening."

"Why? When I did nothing wrong? We were only talking!" Marie yelled at Jules.

"Do not attack the messenger, please. You're going to get Rohan into more trouble than he probably deserves. Just come with me," Jules begged Marie quietly.

"I wish he hadn't come!" Marie said angrily, glaring at Louis. "You ruin everything!"

"Marie, please," Jules begged.

"I did not mean to," Louis said quietly to Marie. "I...." He could not bring himself to say the words, to apologize. Kings do not apologize. "She can remain here. Rohan, with me."

Louis turned and walked away. Armagnac followed him. Rohan watched Marie.

"Let's go," Armagnac said to Rohan.

Rohan reluctantly followed Armagnac.

"Well, that was fun. Can't imagine why we didn't invite him," the chevalier said.

Marie watched Louis join a group of beautiful courtesans. Her eyes filled with tears.

"Stop," Philippe said. "Trust me, he is not worth your tears."

Marie nodded tearfully.

"Now, this is a party in case you hadn't noticed," Philippe said. "And parties are meant for happy people."

"A proper bacchanalia!" Olympa exclaimed. "Thank you for inviting us, your highness. Much better than the parties at the Palais Royal."

Philippe smiled.

"Perhaps these ladies would do us the honor of a dance?" the chevalier asked Marie and Olympa. "I believe your brother has some unfinished business to attend to."

"Thank you, my friend," Jules said, clapping the chevalier on the back. "If you'll excuse me."

The quartet joined the dance with Philippe and the chevalier dancing together and the sisters dancing together. Both couples sparked some spirited discussion but no judgment.

"Look at poor Rohan," the chevalier said to Philippe. "As if fantasizing about one Mancini sister wasn't bad enough, now he's got that image in his head." He pointed to the sisters who were purposely rubbing against each other. "The cardinal must be so proud."

Philippe laughed. "Olympa has always enjoyed the shock but Marie...that is probably for my brother's benefit."

"So while he is distracted...." The chevalier kissed Philippe. "I think I may take you to bed."

"Oh yes?" Philippe asked.

"For awhile at least," the chevalier said. "I may need to do more than kiss you."

"Oh. Much more?" Philippe asked with a smile.

"Much, much more," the chevalier said, his lips on Philippe's ear, his groin pressed against Philippe.

"Then take me to bed," Philippe said.


The chevalier pushed Philippe into their rooms, kissing him while leaving a trail of clothes. He stopped suddenly as he saw Jules naked in their bed.

"What?" Philippe asked and then turned in the direction of the chevalier's gaze. "Jules?"

"I'd hoped the two of you would show up here eventually," Jules said.

"What happened to your mignon?" Philippe asked.

"I forgot which one he was," Jules admitted. "I think we could have more fun here anyway. The three of us."

Philippe looked at Jules with wide eyes.

"Really? You've never had a menage a trois?" Jules asked.

Philippe shook his head.

The chevalier looked intrigued. Jules was beautiful. To have them both....

"So I'll be your first again," Jules said.

"I...." Philippe looked at the chevalier.

"We are not interested," the chevalier said, sensing Philippe's discomfort.

Liar, Jules thought. "Are you sure?" He turned to Philippe. "I understand what he is to you and I don't want to insert myself into that. It's simply for pleasure."

"You are sure?" Philippe asked.

"He makes you happy, light. I would never interfere with that, my friend. I vow it," Jules said.

"Do you want to, Mignonette?" the chevalier asked Philippe.

"Maybe. I don't know. Do you want to?" Philippe asked the chevalier.

"I want whatever you want," the chevalier said. "It would be just for pleasure. For fun."

Philippe nodded. "Okay." He looked nervously at the bed.

"It is nothing you haven't done with both of us before," Jules said, holding out his hand to Philippe.

Philippe stared at the hand.

The chevalier pulled Philippe to him and kissed him.

Philippe kissed the chevalier, rubbing his naked skin against the chevalier's. Regardless of Jules, he had been thinking about this all night.

The chevalier gently pushed Philippe back on the bed next to Jules.

Jules leaned over and kissed Philippe while the chevalier knelt in the front of the bed and took Philippe's cock in his mouth.

Philippe gasped in surprised and then moaned in pleasure.

"Not so bad, huh?" Jules asked between kisses, his hands exploring Philippe's chest.

Philippe moaned against Jules' lips as the chevalier continued to devour him. He was a little disappointed when he felt the cool air of the room suddenly instead of the chevalier's warm mouth.

The chevalier shifted Philippe and entered him.

Philippe moaned as Jules slowly kissed down his chest and stomach, his lips landing near Philippe's cock.

The chevalier continued to thrust eliciting whimpers of pleasure from Philippe.

Jules took Philippe in his mouth.

Philippe arched his back as a tidal wave of pleasure hit him. He moaned loudly. "Oh...yes...god yes...."

The chevalier recognized the sounds Philippe was making and let himself climax deep inside of Philippe, moaning loudly as his body spasmed. He bent down to kiss Philippe just as Jules swallowed and moved up to kiss Philippe. They looked at each other and laughed as they nearly collided. They looked at Philippe who was lying still, eyes shut.

"Darling?" the chevalier called gently. "Are you well?"

"Philippe?" Jules said. "Did we break him?"

"My love, just raise a pinkie if you can hear us," the chevalier suggested.

A moment passed and then Philippe's pinkie moved slightly.

"There is apparently a limit to how much pleasure one man can take," the chevalier said as he cuddled against Philippe, his arm across Philippe's chest.

"I'd always wondered what it would feel like," Jules said, rolling onto his side a respectful foot away from Philippe.

"It feels amazing," Philippe whispered, eyes still closed. "I may have briefly fainted."

The chevalier smiled. "I am happy you enjoyed your first menage a trois."

"No offense, Jules, but you are far better at that than you are at the other," Philippe said.

"Yes, well, one of us had to be on top and I don't recall you volunteering," Jules said. "I see you've since found someone who knows what he's doing." He eyed the chevalier with interest.

Philippe frowned and possessively entangled his legs with the chevalier's legs.

"Talking of which, have you met the Marquis d'Effiat?" the chevalier asked Jules.

"Was he the gentleman staring at me all night?" Jules asked.

The chevalier laughed. "He lacks subtlety perhaps but he's a good man. A good friend."

"You know from personal experience?" Jules asked.

"Not in that manner, no. You will have to do your own investigations there. He is just a friend...a friend who seems to have a great interest in you," the chevalier said.

"Perhaps we should invite him to join us," Philippe suggested.

"You were nervous about a menage a trois and are now eager for a menage a quartre?" the chevalier asked teasingly. "My insatiable mignonette strikes again." He kissed Philippe on the lips with affection.

Philippe laughed.

Jules watched them. "You are lucky. To have what you have. It is rare when most are seeking only fleeting pleasure."

The chevalier reached over to the nightstand, picked up a small bell, and rang it.

A servant appeared.

"Bring me champagne, glasses, and the Marquis d'Effiat," the chevalier said.

The servant left to carry out his instructions.

Jules glared at the chevalier.

"Coy isn't as attractive as you think it is, Jules. Just take what you want," the chevalier said.

"I wasn't...well, I was but...fine," Jules said, arranging himself on the bed to show off his best assets.

Philippe laughed. "He was staring at you like a starving man staring at a big, juicy steak. I think he already finds you quite appealing."

"If you wish to play coy, you could put your clothes back on and pretend that you didn't just sneak into our bed with the intention of seducing us," the chevalier said with a smirk.

"You are so amusing," Jules snarked.

Antoine entered with a bottle of champagne and four glasses. "I am told you required both me and the champagne, my friend." He saw Jules naked on the bed and blushed. "Uh...your grace...uh...."

"Look how cute he is!" Philippe exclaimed.

Antoine blushed further, eyes downcast, hoping to disappear from the room and from the memory of the room's occupants. Perhaps start his entrance anew. Perhaps move to England.

"Come. Sit with us," Jules said. He stood and walked over to Antoine, relieving him of the bottle.

Antoine involuntarily glanced down and blushed further.

"This is greatly entertaining," Philippe told the chevalier. "Though you should have procured bonbons as well. We could eat them while we watch."

"I am not sure equating Antoine's suffering to a particularly interesting play is helping, darling," the chevalier said, trying not to laugh.

"I...I was actually looking for the Duc de Nevers when the servant found me," Antoine said, his eyes carefully averted toward a Ming vase in the far corner of the room.

"Obviously," Philippe said.

"You were hardly subtle, my friend," the chevalier said.

Jules laughed. "I've been told that playing coy is overrated."

Antoine briefly considered suicide rather than living with the embarrassment of the situation but alas, he had a purpose. "I...I did not mean...it's your sister...."

Jules dramatically collapsed on the bed in a fit of disgust. "NO! I will hear no more. We will henceforth pretend that I am an only child."

"If only pretending would make it so," Philippe said. "I would be an only child too."

"I actually like my brothers. Well, a couple of them anyway," the chevalier said. "What are the Mazarinettes up to now?"

"Um...they've decided to duel over Louis. They are choosing weapons," Antoine said, eyes still carefully fixed on the vase despite a desperate yearning to look elsewhere.

"Jules! You must do something!" Philippe insisted.

"I know, I know. You are lucky to have no sisters," Jules said.

"You are serious? Would you like to trade? Do not forget what has caused this duel," Philippe said.

Jules stood. "Fine. I will go. What weapons are available?" Jules asked Antoine.

"Swords and pistols, your grace," Antoine said, daring to look Jules in the eyes. He involuntarily glanced down and blushed again.

Jules smiled at Antoine. "You may look if you'd like." He took a step closer to Antoine. "You may touch if you'd like."

Antoine's face turned nearly purple.

"Perhaps touching after you stop your sisters from staining the marble?" Philippe suggested. To the chevalier, "maybe we should go as well. We are the hosts, after all."

The chevalier sighed. "Must we?"

Philippe nodded.

"I blame you for this," the chevalier snarled playfully at Jules. "Come. Let us all get dressed."


The quartet walked quickly into the ballroom which had turned into a large circle of people with space in the middle like an ancient coliseum awaiting the first blood of the gladiators.

"They must have chosen swords. Surely, pistols would have cleared the room," the chevalier said.

Jules saw his sisters in the center of the crowd with Louis trying to reason with them. "It is doubtful that your brother is helping," he said to Philippe.

"I will deal with Louis. You deal with your sisters before they accidentally make me king of France," Philippe said.

"On the other hand, we could all go back to bed and just see what happens?" the chevalier suggested. "Let fate decide."

Philippe shook his head.

"Fine," the chevalier said in dramatic disappointment.

Philippe and Jules pushed their way to the front of the crowd followed by the chevalier and Antoine. As they grew closer, they could hear the sounds of women arguing and Louis placating.

"Brother, please step away from the angry women with swords," Philippe said, keeping his voice calm.

"You are not needed here. I have the situation under control," Louis said.

"I will cut your tits off!" Marie screamed at Olympa.

"At least I have tits!" Olympa screamed back.

"Yes, I can see that the situation is well in hand but perhaps you could step back nonetheless," Philippe suggested.

Marie lunged at Olympa with a solid thrust and cut the sleeve of Olympa's dress.

"Jules!" Philippe yelled.

Jules grabbed Marie and tried to wrestle the sword away from her. "Stop! She's your sister!"

Olympa lunged at Marie, sword drawn.

The chevalier jumped in front of Olympa bumping her sword with his shoulder and causing it to clatter to the ground.

Antoine picked up the sword quickly as Jules wrested the other sword from Marie.

"BOTH OF YOU, TO YOUR ROOMS IMMEDIATELY!" Jules yelled. He turned to Louis. "And if you ever speak to any of my sisters again, I'll give them the swords back!"

"You dare to threaten the king?" Armagnac asked.

"He's not...he's angry. Jules, just...get rid of them, please," Philippe said.

"Why should we have to leave?" Olympa asked.

"Are you serious?" Jules asked.

"I'll help you get them upstairs," Antoine offered, handing the swords to Armagnac.

"Thank you," Jules said.

"I'm not leaving!" Marie shouted.

Antoine looked at Jules who appeared to be close to losing his mind. He picked Marie up and carried her kicking and hurling insults from the ballroom.

"You may be right about him," Jules said to Philippe and the chevalier. To Olympa, "would you prefer to walk?"
Fine!" Olympa yelled and stormed out of the ballroom with Jules on her heels.

"Brother, are you well?" Armagnac asked the chevalier who had turned pale.

"What's wrong? Are you sick?" Philippe asked, instantly concerned. He put his hand on the chevalier's face.

The chevalier turned to them and staggered, his eyes unfocused.

Philippe and Armagnac caught the chevalier before he fell.

Philippe took one hand away from the chevalier's arm when he felt something wet. "Blood!"

"That would explain it...." the chevalier murmured as his eyes rolled back.

"Give them some space," Rohan roared at the party guests who quickly moved back though still craned their necks to see.

Philippe and Armagnac gently lowered the chevalier to the floor.

"Let me see," Armagnac said, looking at the now clearly bloody arm. He took out his dagger and quickly cut the rest of the sleeve so he could see the wound. "Someone summon a doctor!" he yelled.

Philippe paled as he sat on the marble floor of the ballroom with the chevalier's head in his lap. "Is it bad?"

"It is fairly deep and bleeding quite a bit. Brother, can you hear me?" Armagnac asked the chevalier.

"Philippe?" the chevalier asked.

"I'm right here, my sweet," Philippe said and touched the chevalier's face gently. "The doctor is coming."

"Olympa must have cut him with her sword," Louis said.

"Exactly why I told you to get away from them," Philippe grumbled. He could hear the party guests still buzzing about the night's events. "Can someone please send them all home?"

Louis turned to the guests. "You heard my brother. Everyone out."

The guests hurried toward the doors.

"Perhaps we should go as well, sire," Rohan suggested. "I'll leave my carriage for Armagnac if you would give me a ride back to Paris."

"You are okay here, brother?" Louis asked. "I did not...."
"I know," Philippe said. "You can go. Armagnac will stay here tonight."

Louis and Rohan followed the last of the party guests out the door.

"No one will forget this party at least," the chevalier said weakly, trying to joke.

"Just stay still, brother," Armagnac said. "You've lost a great deal of blood."

"Legendary," the chevalier said to Philippe. "Like you."

"Like us," Philippe said, stroking the chevalier's hair. "Does it hurt?"

"Not really," the chevalier said.

"It will. Just rest, brother," Armagnac said. "I will go outside and meet the doctor. You will stay with him?"

"Of course," Philippe said.

Armagnac left.

"The Mancini sisters dueling for the hand of the king of France," the chevalier said. "Poets will write about it."

"Not poets who wish to keep their heads," Philippe said. "It does not paint my brother in a good light and you know how he is about perception."

"Well, those that were here will remember," the chevalier said.

"And they will tell the story but who will believe them?" Philippe asked.


The chevalier lay in bed with a heavily bandaged arm watching Philippe flit around the room.

"Are you sure you don't want wine? A snack?" Philippe asked.

"No, I'm...just please sit. You're making my head spin," the chevalier said.

Philippe gently sat down on the bed next to the chevalier. "You're sure I can't get you anything?"

"I would like a prince to cuddle me. Do you have one of those around?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe smiled and carefully laid down next to the chevalier and put his arm over his chest. "Am I hurting you?"

"You are not," the chevalier assured Philippe. "Do you plan to sleep in your clothes?"

Philippe looked down at himself still fully dressed including his shoes and coat. "I guess not." He got up and removed all of his clothes. "Better?"

"Much," the chevalier said, running his eyes over Philippe's naked body. "You know...I am a bit useless but...we could...."

"We could NOT," Philippe corrected. "The doctor said you must stay perfectly still so the wound doesn't begin bleeding again."

The chevalier looked disappointed. "A kiss perhaps? I have had a harrowing night."

Philippe smiled and laid down next to the chevalier. He leaned over and kissed him gently on the lips, very careful not to disturb him. "You were very brave."

"Perhaps I was trying to impress a certain prince," the chevalier said.

"You already have," Philippe said. He kissed the chevalier again and then nestled his head against the chevalier's head. "Sleep now, my fearless chevalier."

"Sweet dreams, my beautiful prince," the chevalier said.

Chapter Text

The chevalier sat in front of the fire re-reading the same page of Clélie, histoire romaine for the tenth time. Philippe had been forced to attend Louis and had been gone for what felt like hours. No one was in the salons, most having already gone to their estates for Noel. The palace was a crypt and he was bored.

The doors swung open and Philippe entered.

"Ah! There you are," the chevalier said with a smile. "Come sit with me."

Philippe smiled at the chevalier and walked over to the chair. He tossed the book on the floor and sat in the chevalier's lap, snuggling against him.

The chevalier wrapped his arms around Philippe. "This place has all the liveliness of a mausoleum," he complained.

"Most have left for the holiday," Philippe said. "Which reminds me...Louis insists we spend the holiday at Versailles."

The chevalier looked at Philippe blankly.

"Our father's hunting lodge in a swamp in the middle of nowhere. It's absolutely awful but Louis loves it and wants to hunt," Philippe explained.

"Sounds lovely," the chevalier said sardonically.

"Well, I would understand if you don't want to go but I have to and I would really like to spend Noel with you and..." Philippe babbled out the words nervously, afraid of rejection.

The chevalier silenced him with a kiss. "There is nowhere else I would rather be than spending Noel in a swamp with you."

Philippe smiled. "You're sure?"

"Completely sure. And we can take the new carriage," the chevalier said.

"That was a brilliant idea that you had to buy it," Philippe said, resting his head on the chevalier's head.

"How else would we get to our new chateau?" the chevalier asked.

"Indeed and now Mother will, at least, have to ask politely before she just rides with us," Philippe said.

"It will be quite cold, I suppose. I will need to be cuddled on the trip," the chevalier said.

Philippe snuggled closer. "I will practice now."

"So who is going to the swamp lodge?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe laughed. "It will be us and Mother and Louis. Henriette and her mother. Hopefully my uncle if Mother is speaking to him. You'll like him. The cardinal, of course. Maybe Rohan. I don't think he likes his family. Maybe your brother or did he leave?"

"He left yesterday," the chevalier confirmed. "Though he mentioned hunting over the holidays with your brother so maybe he has swamp plans later in the week."

"Perhaps. I'm sure my brother can only be left alone for so long without people to fawn over him," Philippe said. "I should warn you that he will make us hunt with him as well."

"Unlike you, I do not mind it," the chevalier said.

"I do not mind the ride," Philippe said.

The chevalier's mind was not on the hunt. "It is okay if I go with you? To the swamp?"

"Yes, why wouldn't it be?" Philippe asked.

"Because everyone else you named, minus Rohan, is your family," the chevalier said.

"You are my family too," Philippe said. "The family I chose not the one I was cursed with."

The chevalier laughed. "If you're sure."

"I am," Philippe said and kissed the chevalier gently. "Though I must reiterate...it is a hunting lodge in a swamp. Do not expect the Palais Royal."

"I would happily live in a shack with you," the chevalier said.

Philippe looked skeptical.

"For a few days anyway. I'm not a barbarian, of course," the chevalier said.

Philippe laughed and snuggled closer to the chevalier.


The shiny black carriage bumped along what passed for a road as snow began to fall. It was third in a parade of carriages all finding the terrain equally challenging.

The carriage hit a particularly large pot hole jostling its passengers.

"Are we sure this is even a road?" the chevalier asked Philippe.

Philippe readjusted himself having been nearly thrown off the seat after the last bump. He settled back against the chevalier, pulling the blanket tighter around them. "I believe I mentioned the middle of nowhere location of Versailles and you still agreed to go."

"I do remember you saying something like that but I believe I may have been paying more attention to your lips than the words coming out of them," the chevalier confessed, grasping Philippe around the waist as another large bump nearly unseated him again.

"Would you not have come, had you heard?" Philippe asked a bit hurt.

The chevalier sighed. "I was teasing, mignonette. I always hear every word you say." He kissed Philippe gently, lingering. Another large jolt broke up their kiss.

"This is not a road," Philippe complained. "My brother is an idiot. Only he would prefer this to Paris."

"It is a one time trip, my love," the chevalier said. "We shall make the best of it."

The carriage came to a stop.

"What now?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier shrugged.

Philippe got up, walked to the door of the carriage and popped his head out. "What happened? Why did we stop?"

"One of the carriages lost a wheel in the last rut," Rohan explained already out of his carriage. "The guards are changing it now but it will be a bit."

"Come outside, brother. It's snowing!" Louis exclaimed.

Philippe looked back at the chevalier in exasperation.

"I'm surprised we didn't lose an entire carriage in that last hole," the chevalier said. "Shall we stretch our legs?"

Philippe shrugged and opened the carriage door and the two men climbed out.

The chevalier walked over to inspect the wheel.

"Do you know anything about wheels?" Philippe asked.

"I know that they belong on that stick thing not on the side of the road," the chevalier said.

Rohan laughed. "A regular tradesman, you are."

Philippe shrieked as something cold and wet hit him in the side of the head. He turned toward the direction from which the object came and was greeted with a second blast of snow to the face. "LOUIS!!!!!"

Louis laughed. "What happened, brother?"

Philippe picked up snow and made it into a ball and threw it at Louis, missing him entirely. He picked up more snow and tried again.

The chevalier and Rohan joined in until the clearing was nothing but shrieks and snowballs and Philippe and Louis wrestling in the snow after Philippe had failed to hit Louis with a snowball and used his body as a projectile instead.

Anne of Austria climbed out of her carriage to see what was causing the ruckus. "BOYS! You will stop this nonsense immediately before you all catch your deaths! STOP THIS INSTANT."

The chevalier and Rohan stopped immediately.

"My apologies, your majesty," Rohan said, eyes downcast.

Louis and Philippe continued wrestling in the snow undeterred by their mother. What had begun in fun was beginning to turn violent as Philippe landed a punch to the gut.

Anne turned to Rohan and the chevalier. "Don't just stand there. Stop them!"

Rohan and the chevalier looked blankly at each other and then walked over and dragged the brothers apart.

"Let go of me," Philippe demanded, twisting away from the chevalier and lunging back toward Louis.

Louis took a swing at Philippe before Rohan managed to pin his arms. His punch connected with Philippe's face.

The chevalier got a better grip on Philippe and held on, dragging him toward their carriage.

Philippe continued to struggle against the chevalier.

"STOP," the chevalier said quietly. "It's over now."

Philippe stopped struggling and let the chevalier hold him though continuing to glare at Louis.

Anne turned to Philippe. "Apologize to your brother."

Philippe looked astounded as did the chevalier.

"I will not," Philippe said. "He started it.""I do not care who started it. I am ending it," Anne said. "You will apologize and then we will return to our carriages before we all freeze to death."

Louis waited expectantly, a smug look on his face.

The chevalier had never wanted to punch someone more in his life.

"Philippe, now," Anne said.

"I am so sorry, your majesty," Philippe spat out, words dripping in sarcasm and just a dash of hatred. He turned to get into the carriage.

"Your king has not dismissed you," Louis said.

Anne glared at Louis but said nothing.

Philippe paused and then turned back around, his eyes cold.

"You may return to your carriage...brother," Louis said.

Philippe climbed silently into the carriage followed by the chevalier.

The chevalier touched Philippe's arm but Philippe turned away from him.

"Don't touch me," Philippe said, eyes filled with tears of anger and humiliation. "I hate him."

"I know you do. I do too," the chevalier said. He rubbed Philippe's back ignoring his wishes. "He is jealous of you."

"I can assure you that he is not," Philippe said, relaxing slightly.

"He is king and people love him because he is king. People love you because you're beautiful and smart and talented. You shine, my love, because you are you. He shines only because he is king and so he must assert the only asset he has whenever he feels threatened. He thinks he must put you down to rise himself up."

"Your brother does not treat you thus," Philippe said.

"My brother is not drowning in insecurity," the chevalier said.

"So I just let him use me for target practice," Philippe said.

The chevalier touched Philippe's chin, forcing eye contact. "You remember who the true star is, darling."

Philippe smiled slightly and nodded as the carriages started moving again. He snuggled against the chevalier who wrapped his arms around him. "Thank you."

The chevalier kissed the top of Philippe's head. "Now, I should get you out of these clothes."

Philippe sat up quickly. "Are you mad? In the carriage? We're as likely to freeze to death or suffer a massive head trauma as to find pleasure in it...."

The chevalier laughed. "No, no, no. Not for that purpose...well, maybe...no, your clothes are soaked, mignonette. You will surely freeze to death if we leave them on and mine are little better. We'll take off the wet clothes and keep warm under the blanket."

"Oh! I thought...well..." Philippe blushed.

"Yes, I think I've figured out what you were thinking. You really are insatiable. How would we even manage in this carriage?" the chevalier asked and then looked around, sizing up the options. "Perhaps...not in the dead of winter though. Now let's get your coat off. It's dripping all over the upholstery."

Philippe and the chevalier stripped down to shirts and stockings, all other articles of clothing being sopping wet and beginning to freeze.

The chevalier lifted up the blanket and Philippe crawled under it, cuddling close to the chevalier for warmth. The chevalier tucked the blanket around them leaving only their heads uncovered. "Better?"

Philippe shivered. "Somewhat."

The chevalier pulled Philippe closer. "I guess your plan would raise body temperatures quickly."

"I don't want to do anything that requires moving out from under this blanket," Philippe said.

"Hm." The chevalier moved one of his hands from Philippe's stomach lower down.

Philippe gasped as he felt a somewhat cold hand on his bare groin. "Hands are cold!" He turned slightly and moved his head under the blanket.

The chevalier gasped as he felt warm kisses trailing down his stomach to his cock which immediately stirred to attention.

Philippe smiled and took the chevalier's cock in his mouth, feeling it grow even harder under his tongue. He could hear the chevalier moaning as he ran his tongue over the sensitive tip before he took it all into his mouth.

"You...are...nothing...if not a...problem...oh...yes...solver," the chevalier said shakily, his orgasm building quickly. He felt himself spasming inside Philippe's warm mouth. "Oh god...Philippe...yes...yes...."

Philippe swallowed and made his way back up to pop his head out of the blanket. "Warmer now?"

The chevalier stared at Philippe with unfocused eyes. "Much." He took a shaky breath. "Lay back."

Philippe smiled and did as he was told.


Philippe and the chevalier emerged from the carriage wearing nothing but shirts and riding boots, wrapped in blankets.

Anne saw her son's attire and took a moment to compose a response. "Philippe, where are your breeches?"

"We took the wet clothes off, Mother. You yourself said we would catch our deaths of cold," Philippe reminded her. He swept past her into the lodge followed by the chevalier.

Rohan laughed but then stopped after Anne glared at him.

"Well, you did say it, Mother," Louis said with a smirk.

Anne shook her head and muttered, "at least your father understood discretion" and marched into the house barking orders to the servants to prepare hot baths.


"I believe there is a hot bath waiting for me in my rooms," the chevalier said to Philippe.

"I believe there is a hot bath waiting for you right here," Philippe said pointing to the tub, steam wafting off of it.

"Whatever will the servants think if my bath goes unused?" the chevalier asked.

"I believe my brother pays them not to think," Philippe said. "Besides, I will be lonely if I am in this bath all by myself." He pulled off his shirt and stood naked except for riding boots.

The chevalier bit back a laugh at Philippe's attire. "You make a good point."

"Why are you laughing?" Philippe asked.

"I am not," the chevalier said laughing. He looked up and down Philippe's body and stopped laughing as humor was replaced with desire. "I'm not laughing." He stepped over to Philippe and ran his finger down Philippe's chest to his stomach and lower.

Philippe watched the progress of the chevalier's finger, becoming aroused in anticipation.

"Lay back on the bed," the chevalier commanded.

Philippe obeyed, sitting down on the bed and scooting back. He reached down to take off his riding boots.

The chevalier shook his head. "Leave them on," he said huskily, crawling on top of Philippe.

Philippe looked at the chevalier eyes wide. "Yes?"

"Oh yes," the chevalier said as he entered Philippe and began to thrust. He could feel the rough leather of the riding boots on his back as Philippe shifted to give him deeper access. "The boots...oh yes...." He thrust harder. He could hear Philippe whimpering in pleasure beneath him. "You like that...."

"God yes...yes...." Philippe moaned and moved his leg higher at the same time the chevalier shifted position. Boot heel met eye socket with a crack.

"Ow...fuck...ooooh," the chevalier moaned as pain mixed with pleasure ending the whole thing prematurely. He collapsed on Philippe, rubbing his eye.

"I'm so sorry!" Philippe exclaimed. "Are you okay?"

"Ow. I think my eye is swelling," the chevalier said. He laughed slightly. "That killed the mood."

Philippe laughed. "So maybe no boots in bed is a good rule."

"It may be worth the pain," the chevalier said. "If you could have seen yourself wearing nothing but the boots...."

"Let me see your eye," Philippe said.

The chevalier lifted himself up so Philippe could see his face.

Philippe squinted at the chevalier in the candlelight. "This may be difficult to explain."

"You think the truth would be inappropriate?" the chevalier asked.

"Maybe not. Let's tell everyone at dinner how it really happened and gauge the reaction," Philippe suggested.

The chevalier laughed. "I am going to assume you jest and tell them I slipped getting out of the bath."

"You are no fun at all," Philippe said. "Speaking of baths, I think ours is cold."


Philippe and the chevalier sprinted through the blinding snow to the chapel, housed in a pavilion detached from the lodge. The snow dampened the ringing of the bells, making them sound far away but still urgent. They caught up to the last of the stragglers and slowed their pace.

"Why is the chapel outside?" the chevalier asked, wiping snow from his bruised eye gently.

"I told you it was a horrible place," Philippe said.

"I thought you were exaggerating for comic effect," the chevalier said. "I see now that you were not."

"There is nothing funny about this," Philippe said bitterly as he shook snow from his coat. "We may as well be peasants."

The chevalier followed Philippe into the candlelit chapel, squinting to see a foot in front of him. "Is it actually colder in here than outside?"

"One would think hell would be warmer," Philippe snarked.

The chevalier laughed. He saw Rohan in the second row of pews and slid in beside him as Philippe joined Anne and Louis in the front row. The chevalier tried to make out the other mass-goers but the darkness made it impossible giving the whole place an aura more suitable for a black mass than a Noel eve one.

"A bit macabre, no?" Rohan whispered to the chevalier.

The chevalier turned to Rohan. "More than a bit. I wonder which part of mass contains the human sacrifice."

Rohan laughed. "What happened to your eye? Snowball?"
"No...yes! The snowball fight," the chevalier said. "Definitely the snowball fight."

"If I'm going to keep covering for you, you have to tell me the real story," Rohan insisted. He lowered his voice. "I know that you and his highness are together. I'm not here to judge."

"Let's just say that riding boots have no place in bed," the chevalier whispered.

Rohan burst out laughing and then quickly put a hand over his mouth. "That story buys you as many more cover ups as you need."

The chevalier smiled. "You're a good friend."

Rohan smiled as Cardinal Mazarin rose and began the mass.


The soaked and frozen delegation tromped into the dining room of Versailles, snow dripping to the floor as they all huddled around the fire places.

"I am cold and I am hungry and I hate this place," Philippe complained as he rubbed his red and frozen hands over the fire.

The chevalier frowned at Philippe. "It is Noel...you cannot feel the festive spirit?"

Philippe gave the chevalier a look that made it clear he could not. His look softened as he saw the state of the chevalier's eye. "Your eye...I really am sorry. This whole thing has been a disaster. I never should have asked you to come."

"Stop. I wanted to come and it is not a disaster," the chevalier said. "It is Noel and we are spending it together. Yes, we're spending it in a swampy iceberg with limited fire places but it's temporary. One day, we will look back at this and laugh about the time we had to spend Noel in the swamp."

"You are right, of course," Philippe said. He smiled at the chevalier. "I am happy you are here."

"So am I," the chevalier said. "Talking of my eye though...the official story is that Rohan threw a very well packed snowball at me."

"That's actually quite brilliant. I'm glad you thought of it," Philippe said. "Much better than slipping in the bath."

"We have Rohan to thank. He has decided to make it his mission in life to keep our secret," the chevalier said.

"Do you trust him to do so?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier considered this. "I do."

 

The chevalier found himself drawn to the creche, the nativity scene at the far end of the room. His family had always had one, of course, but this one was extraordinary. The usual characters were front and center as expected but they had been joined by a menagerie of other characters very unlikely to have been present at the actual event. He recognized Louis, Anne, and Cardinal Mazarin almost instantly. "Your brother looks arrogant even as a clay figure."

Philippe laughed. "The artist captured his likeness perfectly."

"Where are you?" the chevalier asked. "This one?" He pointed to a figure with dark hair that did not very closely resemble Philippe.

"I believe that is the Infanta," Philippe said, anger rising.

"He's wearing a coat," the chevalier said.

"Look closer," Philippe hissed.

The chevalier peered at the clay figure. "You are correct. A dress. This sculptor is horrible. So which one is you?"

"None of them," Philippe said quietly.

"That's ridiculous..." the chevalier began. He scanned again, eyeing each figure closely. He turned to Philippe, realizing that he was right. "The sculptor is a hack anyway. Who would want him anywhere near their likeness?" He tried to be glib, funny but he could see the real pain on Philippe's face. "Darling..." he said softly and instinctively reached for Philippe's hand.

"There's my favorite nephew," Gaston said as he joined Philippe and the chevalier. Realizing what he had just said, he glanced quickly around to see that Louis was out of earshot. "You look like you're having a wonderful time."

Philippe's glare slowly faded to a small smile. "Uncle. I'm happy you came."

Gaston glanced at Louis across the room surrounded by everyone else. "Holidays are the worst."

Philippe nodded solemnly. "He is in rare form."

Gaston gave Philippe's shoulder a sympathetic squeeze and then noticed the chevalier. "Who is your friend?"

"This is Philippe, the Chevalier de Lorraine," Philippe said, smiling at the chevalier. "My uncle, Gaston, the Duc d'Orleans."

The chevalier bowed to the duke. "It is an honor, your highness."

Gaston smiled at the chevalier. "Thank you for making the journey out here. My nephew is always in need of an ally."

Philippe smiled. "He has made it nearly tolerable."

"Then he truly has my gratitude," Gaston said sincerely. "This place is awful. It's only grace is that it was closer to my home than Paris. Your brother's doing, I assume?"

"Who else?" Philippe asked bitterly. "Whatever Louis wants, Louis gets."

"I remember when your father built this place. It has not improved with age," Gaston said glancing around the room. "And considering it was not much to begin with...."

Philippe smiled. "You do always make me feel better."

"So what has he done this time?" Gaston asked as he took glasses of champagne from a passing servant and handed them to Philippe and the chevalier. "Alcohol is always the right answer to the holiday question."

Philippe took the proffered glass gratefully. "It began with a snowball fight that he started and I got blamed for, followed by forcing me to stay in his presence out of spite, and now it seems that I don't even rate a fucking clay figure."

Gaston examined the creche. "Well, then, I am in excellent company, nephew. Absent as well." He lowered his voice. "Really, considering who did get clay figures, I consider myself honored to not be in the presence of his hypocritical holiness and the rest." He glared at Mazarin who was talking in hushed voices to Anne. "Shall we dine accordingly? Those without clay figures to the fun side of the table."

Philippe smiled.

The chevalier laughed.

"Did I hear that there would be a fun side of the table?" Jules asked as he approached the group. "I had not thought such a thing possible after the black mass from which we just emerged."

Gaston laughed.

"Your highness," Jules said addressing Gaston.

"Your grace," Gaston replied. "No Mazarinettes tonight? Such a shame. I was hoping to see a duel." He winked at Jules.

Philippe and the chevalier laughed.

Jules frowned.

"Too soon?" Gaston said with a smirk.

"See, I told you people would tell the story," the chevalier said to Philippe. "Legendary."

"How is your arm?" Jules asked the chevalier. "Olympe is horribly sorry about that. Not as sorry about trying to kill her sister...."

"My arm has mostly healed," the chevalier said. "Tell her that she is forgiven. Sometimes one can't help but thrust a sword at a sibling."

Gaston nodded. "I once pushed my brother in a lake knowing full well he couldn't swim. He struggled for a minute before guilt got the better of me and I went in after him."

"How did you get away with it?" Philippe asked with astonishment. "Did he not tell your mother?"

"He did. The first chance he got. I did not, by any means, get away with it," Gaston said bitterly. He quickly readjusted and continued. "So we've decided on the fun side of the table?"

"There's a fun side of the table?" Rohan asked as he joined the conversation. "That would be a lovely surprise. Your highness, your grace," he said bowing to Jules and Gaston. "I just stopped over to issue a formal apology to the Chevalier de Lorraine for the snowball fight that clearly got out of control."

"No need for apology. No real harm done," the chevalier said to Rohan with a smile.

"I was wondering what happened to your eye," Gaston said.

"I did not know my own strength, I'm afraid," Rohan said.

"It doesn't look like a snowball. More like the toe of a bo...." Jules said.

Philippe elbowed Jules hard in the ribs.

"It was a snowball, your grace. No doubt about it," Rohan said. "May I ask, did your sisters join you tonight?"

"I am afraid they did not," Jules said, eyeing Rohan suspiciously. "Marie, particularly, was disappointed."

Rohan looked hopeful. "I am so sorry to hear of her disappointment."

"I'm sure you are," Jules said warily. "Tread carefully there, my friend."

"I will tread as carefully as my heart will allow," Rohan said honestly.

"Following the heart can be perilous," Philippe said with a pointed glance at Louis.

"Not following the heart can lead to a life not worth living anyway," Rohan said.

"There are fates worse than death," Gaston said. "Imprisonment, exile...my nephew speaks wisely."

The group was summoned to Le Revellion, ending the conversation.

Louis motioned for Philippe to join him.

Philippe sighed. "So much for the fun side of the table."

 

Philippe and the chevalier walked silently back to Philippe's rooms after a very long Le Revellion feast. Philippe walked staring at the floor.

"What's wrong, darling?" the chevalier asked.

"Nothing," Philippe said, not raising his eyes.

"Liar," the chevalier said. "Tell me."

"I'm fine."

"Philippe!"

"You and Jules seemed to have a wonderful time," Philippe said, still looking at the ground.

"It was the fun side of the table," the chevalier said with a laugh. "Missing you, of course."

"You didn't look like you were missing me," Philippe said, anger rising. "Maybe you'd rather go to Jules' rooms instead of mine."

"Mignonette...." The chevalier pulled Philippe into an alcove and forced Philippe to look at him. "I have no interest in Jules and Jules has no interest in me because we are both already with people who make us blissfully happy."

"Really?" Philippe asked not quite able to believe.

"Really," the chevalier confirmed. "No one could ever replace you." He put his hands on Philippe's face. "Not ever." He kissed Philippe gently. "Now, come along. Let us see if Pere Noel has left us anything."

Philippe gave the chevalier a withering look. "Pere Noel? Really? Are you 6?"

"Your holiday spirit is really questionable, my love. You do not believe in noel miracles?" the chevalier asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He held out his hand to Philippe.

"Fine," Philippe said and took the chevalier's hand, allowing himself to be dragged the last ten feet to his rooms.

The chevalier opened the door and ushered Philippe inside.

Philippe walked in and then stopped suddenly, his face registering surprise as he looked around the room.

A giant fir tree graced the corner of the room, various sweets hanging from its branches. Candles twinkled everywhere giving the room an enchanted glow.

"How did you...." Philippe began.

"I did nothing. It must have been Pere Noel!" the chevalier exclaimed with a smile. "Let's see what he has left in our shoes." He walked over to the fireplace.

"What shoes?" Philippe asked in confusion.

The chevalier pointed to Philippe's riding boots that were stationed in front of the fireplace. He handed one of the boots to Philippe and then sat down on the hearth in front of the fire and picked up the other boot.

Philippe took the boot with some skepticism but then sat down beside the chevalier on the hearth.

"See what's inside!" the chevalier said.

"Lint from my stockings?" Philippe asked.

"Please...." the chevalier said.

Philippe rolled his eyes but dutifully reached his hand into the boot. He felt a box and brought it out with a surprised look on his face. "How did you...."

The chevalier shook his head as he brought his own box out of his own boot. "What could be in them, I wonder?"

They opened their boxes together. Each contained a ring, one amber, one emerald.

The chevalier took the ring from the box in Philippe's hand and gently put the ring on Philippe's finger. "You are mine and I am yours...always."

Philippe stared into the chevalier's eyes, his heart bursting with unspoken emotion. He took the ring from the box in the chevalier's hand and put it on the chevalier's finger. "Always." He leaned over and kissed the chevalier gently but lingering, silent tears rolling down his face.

Chapter Text


The hunting party sat mounted on their horses waiting for the king as the sun shone on the freshly fallen snow which left the temperature frigid.

"Leave it to my brother to leave people freezing to death at the crack of dawn," Philippe grumbled.

The chevalier failed to respond, his eyes drooping shut and his head flopping over to his shoulder.

"No animal worth hunting will even be out when it's this cold," Gaston said to Philippe.

"My bed was quite warm. I am considering the consequences of returning to it," Philippe said.

"It may not be you who faces those consequences," Gaston reminded Philippe, glancing at the chevalier who had just been startled awake by Armagnac and Rohan grabbing him and nearly unseating him.

"Then we shall hunt if we do not freeze first," Philippe said. "I would not have him ever suffer the consequences on my behalf."

Gaston smiled at Philippe. "It is good to see you with a loyal friend, nephew. I can see the change in you, that you are happier, more confident, and it warms my heart."


After hours of fruitless search, the dogs found the scent of a wild boar. The dogs sprinted after the beast followed quickly by the horse-mounted hunting party.

Philippe lagged behind, uninterested in watching the chase or the results. He was not squeamish per se but hunting had never been a passion. Perhaps he identified with the fate of a poor, unsuspecting animal going on about his daily business and then suddenly being set on by someone he could not possibly hope to defeat. He cringed as he heard the boar squealing in pain as it died. He rode up and joined the back of the group reluctantly.

Louis and the other hunters whooped and hollered sharing some manly right of passage as the boar slowly died in front of them.

Philippe realized one moment too late that his lack of participation was noticeable as Louis turned eyes from the boar to him.

"Brother, you did not participate," Louis said.

"You had it well under control," Philippe responded.

Louis turned to the other hunters. "You will have to excuse my brother. He does not have the stomach for such things."

Philippe felt the sting of the insult beneath the words. Please excuse my brother. He is weak. His first thought was to cower, to accept the truth of Louis' words but...he was not weak. Why must he pretend to be so? "I merely do not find sport in it," he said in defense.

The other men stood nervously dreading the king's response.

"Perhaps you'd find more sport in helping the women with their needlework," Louis sniped, laughing at his own joke.

A few forced laughs followed.

The chevalier looked at Philippe with concern.

Gaston glared at Louis thinking how much he looked like his father with that smirk upon his face.

Philippe stared blankly at Louis, considering his options and the consequences thereof. Punch Louis in the face? Bad consequence. Turn horse around and walk away with teary eyes? Makes Louis look right and will be made worse when he orders you to stay. Humor? Possibly. "You mean, I could be in front of a warm fire with a glass of wine right now? Why was I not informed?" he asked with a mock huff.

Nervous looks turned to smiles and unforced laughter as the tension broke.

Philippe smiled at the reaction.

Louis stared at his brother displeased with the turn of events and weighed his own options. He chose a forced laugh. "Come! We'll continue the hunt." He turned his horse and galloped after the dogs. The horse tripped over a fallen tree buried in snow and threw Louis several feet in the air before he landed on the ground, his body twisted and still.

"Brother!" Philippe jumped off his horse and ran to his brother, reaching him before anyone else did. "Louis, can you hear me? Brother?"

Louis moaned slightly and opened his eyes.

"Are you well?" Philippe asked, terrified. He turned to the other men. "Go for a doctor. NOW."

"I do not need a doctor," Louis insisted as Rohan galloped in the direction of the lodge.

"We should get him out of the snow before he gets too cold," Armagnac suggested.

"It may be better not to move him," Jules said. "Something may be broken. We could make it worse."

"I am fine," Louis grumbled and tried to sit up. He moaned in pain and laid back down.

"You are not," Philippe said. "Just stay still. Please." His eyes were clouded with concern. He took off his coat and wrapped it around Louis. "The doctor will be here soon."

"I am...I did not intend to hurt your feelings," Louis said quietly, for Philippe's ears only.

"Just stay still, brother," Philippe said. "You're not dying. No need to clear your conscience." His voice bore a hint of malice.

Louis frowned. "You cannot just accept my apology?"
"I did not hear one," Philippe said.

"I just said it," Louis said.

"I can assure you, you did not," Philippe said, anger rising. "You said you did not intend to hurt my feelings but you certainly did intend to humiliate me and nowhere in there did you apologize."

"Brother...." Louis began.

"Forget it," Philipe said tersely, his fear that Louis was seriously hurt giving way to daydreams of Louis being seriously hurt.

"I do not know why you are so sensitive," Louis said.

Philippe's eyes dilated in anger. The sound of thundering horse hooves prevented further response as Rohan and the doctor arrived. Philippe took a calming breath and stood up in pretense of letting the doctor attend Louis.

The doctor knelt beside Louis as Philippe took a few steps toward the back of the crowd that had gathered around his brother. The chevalier discreetly took a few steps back as well and joined Philippe.

"Everything okay?" the chevalier asked, taking his coat off and putting it around Philippe's shoulders. "You're freezing."

"What could be wrong? I hate hunting, my brother is a...." Philippe stopped, realizing that people were listening. "...and I am freezing."

The chevalier rubbed Philippe's shivering arms, wanting desperately to hold him close but knowing that he could not. "I am sorry...your highness," the chevalier said aloud and then whispered, "I will warm you properly as soon as we're allowed to return to the lodge."

Philippe smiled at the chevalier. He tried to return the chevalier's coat. "It will be you who is freezing if you don't put this back on."

The chevalier shook his head. "You are all that matters," he murmured.

Gaston approached Philippe and the chevalier holding a blanket. He handed it to the chevalier. "Thank you for taking care of him."

"Of course, your highness," the chevalier said formally, gratefully taking the blanket. He took his coat back and wrapped the thick blanket around Philippe's shoulders, wrapping him up tightly.

Gaston watched the chevalier out of the corner of his eye. "Your brother is definitely your father's son," Gaston said to Philippe. "And I, by no means, mean that as a compliment."

Philippe smiled. "The chevalier says it's because he's drowning in insecurity," he said quietly. "He needs to put me down to feel like he is king."

The chevalier looked warily at Gaston.

"An apt observation," Gaston said. "Though it doesn't make it any easier to be his punching bag whether verbal or otherwise."

"Do you have any advice?" Philippe asked.

"None that won't result in your exile...or worse," Gaston said honestly. He looked at the chevalier who was still rubbing Philippe's arms, trying to keep his body temperature up. "Maybe you've already found the solution. Just surround yourself with people who you know truly love you. That is something your brother will never have."

Philippe looked at Louis, now sitting up and talking to the doctor. "I truly love him," Philippe said softly.

"I know you do," Gaston said. "That will be the hardest part for you. All of your life."

"Did you not love my father?" Philippe asked.

"My mother was not so cruel as yours, to raise us like true brothers," Gaston replied.

Armagnac and Rohan helped Louis to a carriage and the rest of the party remounted their horses.

"Come. Let's get you home, dar...your highness," the chevalier said, putting his arm around Philippe and leading him toward their horses.

Gaston watched them mount and ride off side by side with a smile on his face.


Philippe sunk with a happy sigh into the metal tub of steaming water despite the slight pain in his extremely cold extremities. A fire blazed in the fireplace. A servant deposited a bumper of red wine and a plate of macarons on a table beside the tub. He looked at the chevalier, still fully clothed and standing a few feet away. "What are you doing?" He splashed the water in front of him gently. "I'm lonely."

The chevalier smiled and started removing his clothes. "We can't have that."

Philippe shook his head solemnly. "I've heard that people have died of loneliness."

"I think more die from frostbite," the chevalier said as he untied his breeches and let them slide to the floor, leaving him naked.

Philippe could not resist a peek at the chevalier's cock. More than a peek.

"See something you like?" the chevalier asked taking a step toward the tub.

Philippe nodded. "Something I like very much actually."

The chevalier smiled and stepped gingerly into the tub, settling himself between Philippe's legs and leaning back with a contented sigh.

Philippe put his hands around the chevalier's belly and kissed his ear. "How much more do I like this than hunting? A thousand times more? A million times more?"

The chevalier took Philippe's hands and wrapped them tighter around himself. "Infinity more."

"Definitely," Philippe agreed. "Infinity."

"Your brother was out of line," the chevalier said.

"He is king of France. He has no lines," Philippe answered bitterly.

"What your uncle said...that it was cruel for your mother to raise you as brothers...."

"You agree? That it was cruel?" Philippe asked.

"Yes but also brilliant," the chevalier said.

"How brilliant?" Philippe asked.

"Would you ever do what your uncle did?" the chevalier asked.

"What do you mean?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier looked puzzled. "Lead a rebellion, of course. Or in your uncle's case, multiple rebellions."

"That's exaggerated at best," Philippe said dismissively.

The chevalier swallowed surprise. "Why do you think he was exiled? Why do you think he's under house arrest now?"

"He does not get along with my mother or the Cardinal. This one or the previous one." Philippe sighed. "I am not stupid or naive. I know that he has risen up against us but...I do not believe that he would actually hurt Louis or me. He just thinks Mazarin has too much power."

"He does but that's not the point," the chevalier said.

"What is the point?" Philippe asked. "Do you not like him?"

"I do like him actually. I like him a lot. Mostly I like that he clearly cares about you, my darling," the chevalier said, bringing one of Philippe's hands to his lips and kissing it. "My point was...I saw the look on your face when the king fell off his horse. Anyone else in your place would have let a moment of joy pass before putting on a concerned face but you were absolutely terrified that he was seriously hurt. Even though he had publicly humiliated you moments before, even though his death would greatly benefit you."

"You would not be terrified if your brother fell off his horse?" Philippe asked slightly confused.

"I would be, yes, but my brother has always been kind to me and I don't stand to gain the French throne if he were to die," the chevalier said.

Philippe was silent for a moment now understanding the chevalier's point. "I would not want to be king if it meant my brother's death. I know that he is not always nice to me, is usually not nice to me but...it's complicated. There are a lot of times that I hate him but more than that, I love him and I do not know what my life would be without him."


Philippe sat at the large table with Gaston to his left and Louis to his right. Conversation filtered over his head but his attention was with the other side of the table where Rohan, Armagnac, Jules, and the chevalier were laughing loudly at some joke. He was not so much jealous that the chevalier was interested in Jules as he was that they were all having a good time and he was stuck far away listening to everyone express concern about Louis' fall despite the fact that he barely had a bruise. He did not even notice at first when the subject changed from the fall to Louis' upcoming marriage.

"Are you sure that a Spanish bride is the best choice?" Gaston asked. "Surely with their Inquisition, Spain should not be encouraged to have a foothold in France."

"It is a bride. Hardly a foothold," Mazarin said tersely. "She'll do as her husband bids as all wives should."

Anne bristled slightly but did not comment.

"And if they have a child and something happens to Louis, what then? Still just a bride or a regent with Philip IV ruling through her?" Gaston asked.

"You threaten the life of the king?" Mazarin asked in mock astonishment.

"You know that I did not but you also know that kings do not always live to be old men," Gaston said. "My father and brother are both proof of that. The bride, and those who would influence her, could factor into the future of France." He looked pointedly at Mazarin and Anne.

"You tread on thin ice, Uncle," Louis said quietly.

"I merely see things clearly...your majesty," Gaston said. "Succession must be considered and that succession should not come from Spain...or Rome."

"And where should it come? From you?" Louis asked tersely. "Shall I expect your armed followers at my doors tonight? Again."

"Brother...." Philippe said.

"I know you haven't forgotten. How terrified you were that we would all die," Louis said to Philippe. "That our uncle would slaughter us in our cots."

"I would not...." Gaston began.

"And I should take the word of a traitor?" Louis asked.

"He's not a traitor!" Philippe said, growing upset.

"Your naivety astounds." Louis said to Philippe. "That you trust him, that you love him, is one more mark against your judgment."

"He is our family!" Philippe said. "He would not hurt us."

"You're a fool," Louis said. "With your dresses and...him...who would even listen to you?"

"Stop!" Gaston shouted a bit louder than intended. He lowered his voice. "You may be king of France but you have no right to speak to your brother that way. The brother who loves you despite the way you treat him."

"You forget your place, Uncle," Louis said, furious. "Let me remind you." He turned. "GUARDS!"

Royal guards came running.

"I will no longer have this man in my presence. He is banned from all royal residences effective immediately and lasting until the day he blessedly dies. May it be soon," Louis seethed.

"Brother! No!" Philippe said, standing up. "Please don't," he begged. He felt tears coming to his eyes and tried to will them away. You don't need to do this. He's our uncle!"

"I have no uncle," Louis said. To the guards, "remove him."

The guards grabbed Gaston who wrenched away. "I am still a prince of France and you will not touch me. I'll leave." He leaned toward Philippe and whispered quietly. "Stay strong, my nephew. You are none of the things he thinks you are. Don't let them make you believe you are less than him when you are not."

The guards shoved Gaston out of the now silent dining room, all eyes turned toward the show.

Philippe watched Gaston go, tears rolling down his cheeks. He wanted to run after him, beg Gaston to take him too, anything to not be near his brother.....

Louis seemed to guess what was going through Philippe's mind. "You will sit down, brother."

Philippe glared at Louis, hating him. He could feel the eyes of the small court on him. He wanted to vanish into the wood flooring beneath his feet, perhaps curl up into a ball and sob, but he remembered what Gaston had said to him. He discreetly wiped away his tears and looked Louis in the eyes. "Of course, brother." He walked to the other end of the table and sat down between the chevalier and Jules. A servant quickly brought him a plate and a glass of wine.

Louis stared at Philippe in shock for a moment.

Philippe took a drink of wine, daring Louis to act.

Mazarin discreetly summoned servants to bring in the roasted boar from the hunting expedition, breaking the tension.

Louis took a last look at Philippe and then turned his attention to the boar.

"I am pleased to see that my family isn't the only one to publicly air their issues," Jules said with a smile.

Philippe frowned.

"Too soon?" Jules asked.

"Are you okay?" the chevalier asked Philippe, his hand discreetly on Philippe's thigh under the table.

Philippe shook his head. "Yes, of course." He glared at Louis across the room. "I hate him," he said softly. "I wish he was never born."

"I know, darling," the chevalier murmured softly.

"I have no acceptable solution to your overall problem but I do have a temporary solution," Jules said.

"What is it?" Philippe asked.

Jules motioned for a servant to fill Philippe's wine glass to the top. "It is a good idea?"

Philippe laughed. "It's not your worst."

Jules motioned for the servant to do the same to his glass and the chevalier's. "In that case...."


Philippe stumbled down the hallway contending with drunkenness and high heeled shoes.

The chevalier caught Philippe before he fell though staggering himself. He tried to right them both but failed and landed them both on the floor.

Jules laughed, sliding down a wall to join them on the floor where Philippe and the chevalier were also laughing. "You...fell...." Jules stammered, breaking out into fresh laughter.

Philippe squinted down the darkened hallway at a shadowy figure. "Is that your sister?"

Jules stopped laughing and looked down the hallway.

"I thought you said they weren't invited," the chevalier said.

"They weren't," Jules confirmed. "It can't be...."

"How would she have even arrived here?" Philippe wondered.

"We should spy on her," the chevalier said. He staggered to his feet with the help of the wall. "We must be very quiet."

Philippe let out a loud giggle.

"SHHHHHH," the chevalier said loudly. He offered Philippe his hand and managed to get him off the floor without falling over himself.

Jules crawled over to a pillar and dragged himself up. "If this is my sister, than I suggest we sell her and Louis to the highest bidder."

"Who would want him?" Philippe asked.

"Do you think she's here for Louis?" the chevalier asked.

"I hope she is because the alternative is even worse," Jules said. "Let us follow."


Rohan pulled a robe over his nightshirt as he hurried to answer the knock at his door thinking it was Armagnac. "Louis, it's the middle of the night...." He stopped when he opened the door to find Marie Mancini.

"I am definitely not Louis," Marie said.

"You are definitely not," Rohan agreed. His heart pounded just being near her but.... "You shouldn't be here."

"Do you not want me here?" Marie asked, a bit hurt.

"You know that I do. More than anything. But..." Rohan began.

Marie silenced his protests with a kiss to which Rohan immediately responded.

"I love you, my darling," Rohan whispered between kisses. "I cannot live without you."

"Nor I you, my love," Marie said. She put her hands on his face and kissed him tenderly.

"You cannot be serious!" Jules raged from behind Marie and Rohan. "What in the name of God are you doing here?"

Rohan and Marie let go of each other, shocked by the sudden intrusion.

"I think it's fairly obvious what she's doing here," the chevalier responded.

"I don't think you're helping," Philippe said quietly.

"You are not helping!" Jules yelled.

"Please, your grace, keep your voice down," Rohan begged.

"Oh, so NOW you're worried about discretion? Where was that concern a minute ago when you were debauching my sister in a public corridor?" Jules said, voice still too loud.

"Jules, please, I love him!" Marie cried.

"And I love her, your grace. I want to marry her," Rohan said. "With your permission."

Marie looked surprised but pleased.

"It is not MY permission that matters as you both well know," Jules said, his voice decreasing in volume with his anger. "He will never allow it."

"Then we will run away. We will leave France!" Marie said with passion.

Rohan smiled sadly at her knowing that he loved her too much to force such a life upon her.

"Someone's coming," Philippe said.

"Come. We'll get you out of here," Jules said.

"I don't want to leave," Marie said.

"My love, you must," Rohan said, his hand on Marie's face. "You know you must."

Jules took Marie's hand.

"I'll create a distraction and the two of you get her back to her carriage," Philippe said. "You...back into your room. Pretend to be asleep," he ordered Rohan.

All complied as Rohan shut his door and Marie, Jules, and the chevalier went the opposite way of the noise in the corridor.

Philippe staggered toward the noise, no longer all that drunk but pretending to be. He purposely tripped and fell into his brother who was followed by two royal guards.

"Philippe?" Louis asked in surprise, trying to right Philippe before he fell. "What are you doing out here in the middle of the night? I heard people yelling. Are you drunk?"

"That...is a lot...of questions," Philippe slurred, hanging onto Louis for support. "Why are you out here in the middle of the night?"
"I just told you...I heard people yelling," Louis said. "You smell like you fell in a wine vat."

"I...I did not fall in a wine vat...I don't think," Philippe said. "I did...however...drink a great deal of wine."

"Obviously," Louis said a bit disgusted. "Did you see who was arguing?"

"I...did...not," Philippe said. "Why were they arguing?"
"I do not know," Louis said, getting annoyed. "I was not there. You, however, just came from the direction of the voices."

"I...may...have been...talking to...myself," Philippe said.

Louis looked suspicious. "Why are you alone? Where is the Chevalier de Lorraine? The Duke de Nevers?"

"I...do...not...know. I...we were arguing about how to get back to our rooms...and they thought I was lost," Philippe explained. "But I am not lost. My rooms are down this hall." He pointed down a random hallway.

"Your rooms are not down that hall," Louis said. "Come, I'll take you to your rooms." He put Philippe's arm around his shoulders, supporting his weight, and steered him back the way he had come, away from Rohan's room and Marie's escape route.


Louis and Philippe made it to Philippe's door with Philippe singing a bawdy song about a serving wench as loud as he could.

The royal guards opened the door to an empty room.

The chevalier came up behind the group. "You've found him! I am relieved. Thank you, your majesty."

"He is quite drunk. I would not expect you or the Duke de Nevers to allow him to wander around the lodge in such a state unattended," Louis said to the chevalier.

"It was not our intention, I can assure you. He was with us one moment and then gone the next. Through a secret passage perhaps? We were quite worried. I've been waiting out here for nearly an hour hoping that he might find his way home," the chevalier said smoothly.

"I love secret passageways," Philippe slurred, still leaning all his weight on Louis.

"He would not have. I caught him about to take the corridor to the kitchens," Louis said. "You can deal with him from here?"

"I can, your majesty. I promise you, he won't be out again tonight," the chevalier said.

Louis shoved Philippe into the chevalier's arms. "Please do a better job of attending him in the future."

"Yes, your majesty," the chevalier said with a bow as Louis and the two guards left. He dragged Philippe into the room as the other two guards closed the door.

Philippe let go of the chevalier and poured two glasses of wine, handing one to the chevalier. "Did she get away?"

"She did," the chevalier said. "You were an excellent distraction."

Philippe sat down and leaned back on the divan, motioning for the chevalier to join him.

The chevalier lay back between Philippe's legs, smiling as Philippe flung an arm around his stomach.

"I feel sad for them," Philippe said.

"For Rohan and Marie?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe nodded. "He will never allow them to be together. They will have to marry other people and spend their lives desperately unhappy."

"Like us," the chevalier said quietly.

Philippe set down his wine glass and hugged the chevalier tightly. "I do not want to live my life without you," he whispered earnestly. "I cannot."

The chevalier set down his wine glass and turned to face Philippe. "We will find a way to be together, my love. You have to believe that." He kissed Philippe tenderly. "I will not let you go."

Philippe pulled the chevalier down on top of himself, kissing him, needing to be lost in him. "Will you take me to bed now?"

The chevalier smiled. "I will, my love, and once there, I will prove to you that our love can't be vanquished by something as mundane as marriage."

Chapter Text

Philippe watched from the window of the salon as the carriage pulled up in front of the Palais Royal and let out its passengers, Rohan and Armagnac. Philippe pulled the heavy coat tighter around himself and ventured outside to meet them.

"Your highness!" Rohan said with surprise. "What are you doing out here? You'll catch a chill."

"I have been waiting for the two of you," Philippe said.

"To what end?" Armagnac asked. "What could be so important that you would brave this weather?"

"Your brother, of course," Philippe said, walking with the two men back toward the palace.

"Is he unwell?" Armagnac asked with concern. "Did Father...."

"No, no," Philippe assured Armagnac. "He's quite well. He's also turning 16 in a few days."

"Oh yes, of course," Armagnac said.

"So you'll help?" Philippe asked.

"I'm sure we'd be delighted to help but you'll need to be a bit more specific," Armagnac said.

Guards opened the doors for the three men who gratefully entered the relative warmth of the palace.

Rohan smiled. "You will have to excuse my friend. His lack of love life has turned him into a cynic...or worse."

Armagnac looked confused.

Rohan rolled his eyes. "His highness wants to do something special for your brother's birthday...perhaps a party...and would like us to help," he explained in a tone normally reserved for explaining complex math to toddlers.

"Oh," Armagnac said. He turned to Philippe. "Are you sure that's wise?"

Philippe's eyes flashed in anger.

"I only meant...."

"I am well aware of what you meant," Philippe said coldly. He took a breath and spoke to Rohan. "I was thinking of a party. In our rooms rather than a salon so my brother couldn't interfere."

"I am at your service," Rohan said with a smile.

"Thank you," Philippe said. He turned back to Armagnac. "I understand that you do not approve of us...."

"That is not my point," Armagnac interrupted. "...your highness." He sighed. "May I speak plainly?"

Philippe nodded. "You may."

"I love my brother and I do want him to be happy and I do understand that you make him very happy but I am also terrified of what consequences he could face. Consequences that you, as brother to the king, are highly unlikely to face. What if you tire of...."

"I won't. Not ever," Philippe interrupted.

"What if your brother tires of the two of you?" Armagnac asked.

Philippe looked down in silence.

"I understand that you love him but you are not king and there is only so much you can do to protect him. I cannot bear to think of him imprisoned...or worse," Armagnac said.

Philippe softened. "And you think I can? I could not exist without him." He sighed. "I hear you, Louis. I do. I would give my life to protect him."

"I hear you, Philippe," Armagnac said. "And I believe you. It is a difficult situation that needs to be handled with care."

Philippe nodded. "I am not unaware of that. It's why I thought to have the party in our rooms instead of in a public salon. I just want his birthday to be special like he made mine special."

Armagnac sighed. "I will, of course, help in whatever way you need."

Philippe smiled. "Maybe you could tell me about some of the things he liked to do before he met me?"

Armagnac smiled. "Of course...though I think he'd point to the time since he's met you as the best time of his life."

Philippe smiled.

"And so then Armagnac grabbed the lady's corset and whipped it around like the winning banner on the battlefield," Rohan said loudly.

Philippe and Armagnac looked at Rohan as if he had lost his mind.

"Louis, it's your brother!" Rohan exclaimed to Armagnac as the chevalier joined the group.

Philippe turned to the chevalier and smiled. "I've been looking for you."

"You have?" the chevalier asked. "I can't imagine how I could be more entertaining than a story of my brother and what I hope was a well compensated lady."

Rohan laughed loudly.

"I can assure you, there was no lady. Rohan should be a playwright, the way he makes up stories," Armagnac insisted.

"Alas, it may have been me with the corset," Rohan admitted. "Memory plays tricks."

 

"Have you done it?" Philippe asked Athenais anxiously as he pulled her into an alcove.

Athenais caught her breath, nearly shrieking in terror at the sudden abduction. She calmed herself. "Yes, your highness, as I told you before, I have done it. All is prepared."

"You are sure?" Philippe asked intently. "You must be sure!"

Athenais took a step back looking past Philippe. "Your highness, I can assure you that I did see your brother in the salon with Rohan. It looked to be a long night of cards to me."

Philippe looked confused and then looked in the direction of Athenais' eyes and saw the chevalier. He smiled. "I've been looking everywhere for you."

A breath of suspicion passed across the chevalier's face before he smiled at Philippe. "You have? Well, you've found me."

"If you'll excuse me, your highness," Athenais said, bowing and then continuing on her path.

"What was that about?" the chevalier asked.

"Oh...uh...Mother was just wondering where Louis was," Philippe lied poorly.

"And she sent you to question every beautiful woman you could find?" the chevalier inquired.

"Well, she was looking for Louis," Philippe said with a smirk.

"Fair enough," the chevalier said.


Philippe and Jules sat in Philippe's private salon sipping wine in front of the fire.

"So you'll help?" Philippe asked.

"Of course, my friend," Jules assured Philippe. "You can count on me. My sisters as well, most particularly the ones who ruined the last party and are eager to make amends." He smiled. "You really love him."

"I really do," Philippe said softly.

"Then he is a lucky man," Jules said. He took Philippe's hand and squeezed it. "You deserve this...I know what your mother and my uncle did to you and I am sorry...especially for my role in it."

"We are all puppets in this macabre comedy, Jules. You as much as I," Philippe said, his eyes on the flickering fire. He took a breath to clear his reverie. "Besides, I was not aware of what was...possible...before you so there was some benefit to me."

"Then I'm sorry I wasn't better at it," Jules said with a laugh.

"We shall hope Antoine is a good instructor," Philippe said.

"Quite good," Jules said.

"You like him?" Philippe asked.

"I do," Jules said.

"I'm glad," Philippe said. "You deserve it too, Jules."

Jules raised his glass. "To amore."

"To amour," Philippe said, taking a drink.

"There you are!" the chevalier exclaimed walking into the room. He stopped short when he saw Jules. "Jules, I had no idea you were in Paris." He eyed the man suspiciously and then walked over to Philippe, putting a possessive hand on his shoulder.

"I just arrived this afternoon," Jules said. "If I never see Rome again, it will be too soon." He glanced at the chevalier's hand. "I should be going. I haven't even been to my rooms yet." He stood. "It was lovely to see both of you." He left.

The chevalier took Jules' seat and motioned for a mignon to bring him wine. "What news did Jules bring?" he asked trying to sound casual.

"He is quite infatuated with Antoine, it would seem," Philippe said.

"Oh?" the chevalier asked. "You are sure he is not quite infatuated with you?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Philippe said. "Why would you even say such a thing?"

"I walk in on you and another man sipping wine and holding hands in front of the fire and you wonder why I would say such a thing?" the chevalier asked, anger rising.

"He is a friend," Philippe said. "Nothing more."

"He's an ex-lover," the chevalier said. "A lot more."

Philippe sighed and reached for the chevalier's hand. "You have no cause to be jealous. Not of Jules, not of anyone," he said softly and kissed the chevalier's hand. "My heart only has room for you."

"Does Jules know that?" the chevalier asked.

"What Jules does or does not know does not matter because I know," Philippe said. He stood, walked over to the chevalier's chair, and sat down on his lap. "And what I know is that I love you beyond all reason." He bent down and kissed the chevalier gently.

The chevalier sighed and kissed Philippe back, wrapping his arms around him.


"Antoine, this entire event hinges on you," Philippe said gravely. "You are my marechal de camp. Without you...."

"Your highness, I can assure you that all is prepared. I have left no stone unturned...no latrine undug," Antoine said with a laugh at his own joke.

Philippe did not laugh or even smile.

"I am sorry, your highness. What I meant to say is that all is prepared and that I think you will be pleased with the outcome," Antoine said. "Ju...the Duc de Nevers has been quite helpful as well."

"It must be perfect, Antoine. Perfect," Philippe said.

"It will be, your highness," Antoine said. "He does not suspect?"

Neither man saw the chevalier approach.

"He suspects nothing. We have been most discreet," Philippe assured Antoine. He took Antoine's hand. "You have been a dear friend, Antoine."

"It has been entirely my pleasure, your highness," Antoine replied.

Neither man saw the chevalier blink away the tears from his eyes and silently walk away.


The sun shone onto Philippe's sleeping face causing him to blink his eyes blearily. He realized the day and smiled as he rolled over. "Happy Birthday, my dar...." He stopped as he came face to face with an empty pillow. "Philippe?" He sat up and looked around the room. "Philippe!"

A mignon ran in, his eyes to the floor. "Did you call me, your highness? How may I serve you?"

"What? NO!" Philippe got out of bed. "Where is the Chevalier de Lorraine?" he demanded loudly.

The mignon paled. "H-h-h-he...."

"SPIT IT OUT!" Philippe yelled in frustration.

"...hunting...brother...." the mignon mumbled.

Another mignon entered. "The chevalier went hunting with his brother, your highness. They left at first light."

Philippe sighed. "Of course. I asked the count to keep him busy while party preparations were made. I just didn't realize they would be leaving quite so early. Thank you...."

"...Pierre, your highness," the mignon supplied. "I am happy to be of service. Your breakfast will be coming shortly and your designer and his team have just pulled up in front of the palace. Shall I see them in?"

"Yes. Please. Also find the Duc de Nevers and Marquis d'Effiat...also the Chevalier de Rohan. I need them all immediately. I would also be dressed," Philippe commanded as the mignons scattered to do his bidding.


"It is too cold to hunt, brother. I cannot imagine why you suggested it," the chevalier said to Armagnac.

"You love to hunt and it's your birthday. I thought it would make you happy," Armagnac said. He handed a flask to the chevalier. "For the cold."

The chevalier took a long swig from the flask. "A fruitless hunt, frozen extremities. What more could I wish for? It is happiness personified."

Armagnac looked stung.

The chevalier softened. "I am sorry. It is not you with whom I am angry."

"And who is that unfortunate soul?" Armagnac asked, taking a swig from the flask.

"Souls. Plural," the chevalier spat. "My most loyal friend and the man I love more than anyone."

Armagnac looked concerned. "You are upset with his highness?"

"Upset? Yes, that is one word for it," the chevalier said. "Furious...betrayed...devastated...also accurate."

"Will you tell me what happened?" Armagnac asked. "You know that you can, Philippe. No matter what, I am your brother first. I will always take your side."

"I...I think he has...been with others," the chevalier said.

"That seems so very unlikely..."

"What happened to you will always take my side?" the chevalier asked, growing angry.

"And I will!" Armagnac exclaimed. "What makes you think this?"

"First, I have seen him talking to people all week and as soon as I approach, the subject changes. He is not so subtle. And I caught him with Jules," the chevalier spat.

"Caught him doing what with the duke?"

"Well...talking...but they were sitting in front of the fire holding hands," the chevalier said.

"They are old friends, yes?"

"Old friends and then some," the chevalier said.

"Oh...but they did not stay together?"

"Well...no. They're not...compatible...you know...in bed," the chevalier said.

"I...will take your word for that though if that were true, it would seem unlikely that they are anything more than friends now," Armagnac pointed out.

"Well...I suppose. But he was also sneaking around with the Marquis d'Effiat and they would not have that problem," the chevalier said.

"The Marquis d'Effiat, your most loyal friend?" Armagnac asked. "You think he would betray you like this?"

"I didn't think so," the chevalier said.

"You are an excellent judge of people, brother. From the moment you learned to talk, you could tell the worth of someone within moments of talking to them," Armagnac said. "It's why I trust your word when in comes to our gaming business. Why do you think you have misjudged the two people closest to you?"

"I...I...you think there could be another explanation," the chevalier said.

"I think it highly unlikely that this crime has been committed. First, as mentioned, your ability to see through people is unequalled. Second, I have known his highness for nearly as long as I've known you and never once have I seen him act in a deceitful manner. It is not his nature."

"This is true," the chevalier admitted.

"Third, I know he adores you, brother. I see it every time he looks at you. It's the only reason that I have not truly tried to intervene between you even though you know I believe your relationship with him is fraught with danger. Honestly, if I thought there was a modicum of truth to your fears, I would enflame them with hopes of you ending this before it ends in tragedy."

"Thank you, brother," the chevalier said quietly. "Sometimes he seems too good to be true and I start to wonder what he sees in me. He is extraordinary and I am...."

"...also extraordinary," Armagnac interrupted. "That's father's voice you're hearing. You cannot listen to him, brother."

"Some days, it is very hard not to," the chevalier said.

"On those days, you listen to my voice," Armagnac said seriously. "You are worthy of love and he does love you. I know it for a fact."

The chevalier smiled slightly and nodded. "Can we go back? No offense, but I think I'd rather spend my birthday cuddled with a warm prince in front of a roaring fire."

Armagnac laughed. "I'll try not to take it personally. Race you back?"

The chevalier kicked his heels into his horse and the two men sped back toward the Palais Royal.


"Philippe, it's perfect. What are you fretting about?" Jules asked Philippe.

"It's just...it's ridiculous. It's just...it's the longest I've ever gone without talking to him," Philippe said. "He was already asleep when I got in last night and he was gone when I awoke this morning and I've been spending so much time planning this that we've barely spoken in days. It feels...bad."

"Your highness! Your highness!" yelled an out of breath mignon as he ran into the room. "They're returning!"

"WHAT?" Philippe asked in a panic. "It's too soon!"

"Everyone! Places!" Antoine commanded with some authority causing everyone to immediately obey.

Jules looked at Antoine with a smile. "I shall have you know that he is equally commanding in other aspects of his life."

"Jules!" Philippe admonished. "Really, you're as corrupt as your sisters."

Jules laughed. "Come. Get your mask on and take your place."


The chevalier and Armagnac walked down the hall toward Philippe's rooms. "Thank you for today, brother. Perhaps not the fruitless hunt but...."

"Of course...that's what big brothers are for," Armagnac said.

"You don't have to walk me back, you know. I'm sure you have other things to do. Poor Rohan has been left to his own devices all day," the chevalier said.

"It is on my way," Armagnac said.

"On your way to where?" the chevalier asked as they approached the guarded double doors.

The guards raised their spears and swung open the double doors.

The chevalier entered and nearly fell over in shock as a hundred people jumped up and yelled "Happy Birthday!" The shock was so great that it was a moment before he realized they were all wearing various animal masks and furs. "What...."

A man with long dark hair wearing spotted fur draped over him like a toga and a leopard mask approached the chevalier.

"Philippe? What...." the chevalier found himself too speechless to inquire further. "How? When?"

The leopard smiled and lifted his mask. He kissed the chevalier gently on the lips. "Happy Birthday, my love. Do you like it?" He gestured around the room.

The people all wore masks and furs and pelts of various African animals. Tropical trees, flora, and sand decorated the room along with rudimentary torches for light. The Mazarinettes, dressed as natives with painted faces and considerable bare skin, danced to the beat of drums pounded on by mignons with painted chests. Fire eaters wandered the room performing their craft as brightly colored parrots squawked and tiny monkeys chattered and hopped from tree to tree and occasionally from noble to noble.

"It's...." the chevalier began. "...extraordinary. I...how?"

"Your brother told me about the explorer that came to your chateau when you were a child. How you would all play that you were explorers in the wilds of Africa after that. I thought..." Philippe began to second guess himself. "You do not like it?"

"I love it!" the chevalier said. He kissed Philippe. "I love you. I can't believe you did this."

"Well, I had help. A lot of help actually. Your brother, Rohan, Jules, Antoine...Athenais' designer friend made everyone's costume. Talking of which, there's one for you too if you want?"

The chevalier realized. "You've been planning this. For weeks. I am a complete fool. I thought.... Something I should have never thought." He took Philippe's hands. "This is the best birthday ever...and you make a really adorable leopard."

Philippe smiled. "Wait until you see your costume!" He took the chevalier's hand and pulled him into their dressing room.


A few minutes later, the leopard and the lion, the king of the jungle, emerged from the dressing room, holding hands/paws and joined the festivities.


A few hours later, Philippe and the chevalier danced pressed against each other, their masks moved to the top of their heads. Philippe kissed the chevalier swaying against him, his arms wrapped around the chevalier's waist. A mignon wandered by with a tray of champagne and the chevalier grabbed a glass and poured some into Philippe's mouth.

"There is more champagne in Africa then I would have guessed," the chevalier murmured, his lips against Philippe's ear.

"We have brought culture to the savages," Philippe said.

"Did we make sure they wanted culture first?" the chevalier asked, bemused.

"Why would they not?" Philippe asked.

"I can think of no reason," the chevalier agreed. "This champagne is delicious." He nibbled Philippe's ear. "Leopard is also delicious. It pairs well with the champagne."

Philippe giggled and then kissed the chevalier's neck, sucking until he was satisfied that he had left a mark. "It seems lion is also a delicacy. I may like to put some other lion parts between my lips...."

"Naughty leopard," the chevalier whispered. He leaned in to kiss Philippe but was slammed into by Rohan in an elephant mask fighting with a monkey that had attached itself to his face and was pulling out tufts of hair.

Chaos ensued as masked animals ran into each other fleeing the rampaging masked elephant.

"Help! Help me!" Rohan bellowed, his hands on the monkey.

"We're trying!" Armagnac shouted, chasing Rohan.

"Come here, little monkey," Marie de Mancini cooed.

The monkey spat at her.

Armagnac took out his dagger. "I'll handle it."

"NO!!!!" Philippe cried out.

The chevalier wrestled the dagger out of Armagnac's hands while the monkey continued to tear out Rohan's hair.

"We have to do something!" Armagnac exclaimed.

"Please help me. His claws are in my eyes!" Rohan cried.

Philippe approached the monkey. "It's okay, little friend. Shh. It's okay. You're just scared." He spoke to the monkey soothingly, gently rubbing its back. "All is well."

The monkey looked at Philippe with curiosity and chattered something in response.

"Are you hungry? Do you like macarons?" Philippe asked the monkey. He snapped his fingers and a mignon ran over with a macaron.

"Darling, be careful," the chevalier said to Philippe.

"He won't hurt me, will you?" Philippe held out the macaron. "Have a bite of this."

The monkey leaned over and took the macaron from Philippe's hand, holding it in his tiny hands. He took a bite and then quickly devoured the entire macaron.

"Looks like he has your sweet tooth, darling," the chevalier said.

Philippe cautiously held out his arm to the monkey.

The monkey studied Philippe for a moment and then detached itself from Rohan's face and scampered onto Philippe's arm.

"There, there, my little bonbon," Philippe cooed. "Would you like another macaron?"

The monkey chattered in agreement.

Philippe looked at the mignon standing beside him. "You heard him. He wants another macaron!"

The mignon considered for a moment whether taking orders from monkeys was in his job description and then ran off to get more macarons.

The chevalier approached Philippe and the monkey as the mignon delivered a handful of macarons to Philippe who handed one to the monkey.

"Isn't he adorable?" Philippe asked. "Look at his tiny hands!" To the monkey, he said, "this is my dearest friend. Today is his 16th birthday."

The monkey looked up from his macaron and studied the chevalier. He offered the macaron to the chevalier.

Philippe laughed with delight. "It's a birthday present!"

The chevalier smiled at Philippe. "You are too adorable for mere words, my love. Will we be keeping your little bonbon?"

"A hate to be the voice of reason here, but that is a wild animal," Armagnac pointed out. "You cannot keep it as a pet."

"A wild animal that tried to kill me!" Rohan added.

"He wasn't trying to kill you," the chevalier corrected. "He merely thought you had too much hair."

"Alas, wild animal or not, our monkey friend here has a family," Jules said. "You do not wish to separate them."

"Considering our families, are we the right ones to judge whether or not Bonbon would be better off with or without his family?" Philippe asked Jules.

Jules laughed. "A far point but I think Bonbon likes his family. They are all here tonight." He gestured around the room and then pointed to the monkeys' keeper. "You remember Mario, yes? He brought the monkeys."

"Your highness, a palace in the city is no place for the monkeys. The little monkey needs trees to play in," Mario explained.

Philippe considered the situation. "Mario, Bonbon and Bonbon's family will live at Saint-Cloud, my chateau in the country, where we can all visit them and where they can attend parties as they wish." He turned to Mario. "Bonbon may also have all the macarons he wants. I will send a boy with you to see to his needs."

"Thank you, your highness," Mario said unsure whether something good or bad had just occurred.


The rising sun found the party winding down into pairs of mismatched animals kissing in shadows. Philippe wrapped his arms around the chevalier. "Did you have a good birthday?"

"The best birthday ever," the chevalier said, pulling Philippe closer.

"I do have one other present for you," Philippe said, his hands exploring the chevalier's skin under his fur.

"What might that be?" the chevalier asked, his own hands finding bare skin.

"Guess," Philippe said, sucking on the chevalier's ear lobe.

"Hm. Is it a monkey?"

"No," Philippe said, his lips trailing down the chevalier's throat.

"Is it a new coat?"

"It has nothing to do with clothes," Philippe said, his hands on the chevalier's bare chest.

"Do I need to unwrap it?"

Philippe nodded. "Yes, it needs to be unwrapped." He pressed his hard flesh against the chevalier. "Urgently."

The chevalier smiled. "I wonder what it could be. I couldn't possibly guess."

"Shall I give you a hint?" Philippe asked, his fingers finding their way under fur to caress hardening flesh.

The chevalier moaned. "It's becoming clearer, yes. Perhaps I should unwrap this particular present in private. I would not want anyone else coveting this present."

"I did pick it out just for you," Philippe said, leading the chevalier toward their bed chamber.

"Oh? Will it fit me like a glove?" the chevalier asked, allowing himself to be dragged toward their bed.

"Perhaps even tighter than a glove," Philippe said as he reached the bed and pulled the chevalier against himself. "Will you unwrap it now?"

The chevalier slid his hands under Philippe's leopard fur, finding bare skin. He squeezed buttocks, letting a finger slip between teasingly. "I think I may feel around first." He moved his finger deeper.

Philippe moaned. "I am not sure how long...the present...can stand not being...unwrapped."

The chevalier moved his finger inside.

"Please...." Philippe begged.

"I am not sure I have ever seen a more demanding present," the chevalier said, his finger continuing its exploration as his other hand began to stroke hard flesh.

"Mmmm...." Philippe moaned, trying to press into hand and finger at once. "Please...." He reached under lion fur and gently slid his hand around the object of his desire, his thumb brushing tip.

The chevalier moaned at Philippe's touch. "Such a naughty present. Perhaps I will wait to unwrap it until the morning."

"It IS morning," Philippe murmured desperately. "No more teasing. I need you."

"Need me to do what?" the chevalier asked, trying to ignore his own situation which was growing urgent.

"Cock...inside...please," Philippe begged. He lay back on the bed and pulled the chevalier with him.

"Such a demanding birthday present," the chevalier murmured as he gently entered Philippe. "I didn't even have a chance to unwrap it."

Philippe moaned as he felt the chevalier thrust deeper. "Unwrap later. Mmmmm. Yes."

The chevalier kissed Philippe gently, buried deep inside him. "Before you become completely incoherent, I need to tell you something." He looked into Philippe's eyes. "Can you hear me?"

Philippe nodded, trying to resist thrusting against the chevalier's cock.

"Thank you. That was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me and you are the best thing that's ever happened to me," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled and touched the chevalier's face. "I adore you. More than anything or anyone in the entire world. Before you, my life was shadow. Darkness. You made it worth living."

The chevalier kissed Philippe gently, tears welling in his eyes. "I adore you too, mignonette." He kissed Philippe again and began to thrust.

Chapter Text

Philippe glared angrily out the window as the snow fell in sheets and the wind blew through the Palais Royal. It had been a long and horrible winter and he felt like he had not breathed air in months despite the fact that it was early spring.

A knock at the door drew Philippe out of his doldrums for a moment as he glanced at the double doors. Realizing that he was alone, he got up and trudged over to the doors, flinging them open with annoyance. He looked around seeing no one and frowned in confusion. It was then that he saw a missive on the marble. He bent down and picked it up, examining the seal. The wax had been sealed with a gem rather than a signet. He cracked the seal and opened the paper. "What to do when you're feeling blue? Join me in the cave and we'll toast to you."

Philippe looked at the paper and smiled. "Philippe...but what cave? Ah, the wine cellar."

 

Philippe pushed open the creaky door to the royal wine cellar and look around his dusty, dank surroundings lit only by two torches on the walls. "Philippe?" He saw a bottle of champagne sans dust sitting on a nearby table with another note. "I would spend eternity in your arms dancing across our own private ballroom. Would you spend yours in mine? P.S. Don't forget the champagne...." He smiled and put the note in his pocket and then picked up the champagne.

 

Philippe crossed the empty salon to the door to their balcony. He opened the door a quarter of an inch when a note fell out. He smiled and bent down to pick it up. He quickly opened it. "Are you daft? It's freezing out there! Though I would greatly enjoy warming you up. My love, you make my heart soar and have from the moment that we met. Meet me there. P.S. Don't trip over the macarons...." He folded the paper with a smile and put it in his pocket. He took a step and nearly tripped over the macarons. He picked them up and dumped them into his coat pockets and continued on.

 

Philippe took a longer but indoor route to the stables, assuming that the chevalier meant his parents' apartments and not the stables themselves. The comte must be away, he thought as he raised his hand to the knock on the door. He stopped as he spied a note sticking out from under a porcelain vase. He opened it quickly. "Are you mad? Try again." He laughed and put the note in his pocket.

Philippe walked through the atrium to the stables themselves, greeting horses by name as he passed them. He found his favorite and gave him one of the macarons along with a good nose rub. "Philippe? Are you in here?" He walked through to the outside realizing that this must have been the path that the chevalier took when he first saw him coming out of the stables. "Philippe? Where are you?" He turned back around and saw another note. He read it with some confusion. "I thought you'd come here but this isn't where we first met...or when. Perhaps you could 'flit' over there, my love?" He was consternated. Of course, they met there. "I certainly don't flit...." He had a flash of a childhood memory. "That's not possible."

FLASHBACK:

8 year old Philippe, 10 year old Louis, and 10 year old Armagnac played croquet on the lawn outside the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Philippe had been given the great privilege of accompanying the older boys that day and was doing what he could to prolong the experience. His turn came up and he studied the situation. If he knocked his brother's ball out of the way, he could win. He was about to swing when he remembered his place. He sighed and pretended to miscue on his own ball, knocking it out of bounds.

Louis laughed at his brother's poor play. "You really are horrible at sports, Philippe. It's amazing you can even walk!"

Armagnac said nothing, understanding what had happened.

"Have you ever seen anyone so pathetic?" Louis asked Armagnac, still laughing.

Philippe fought back the angry urge to tackle his brother and punch him in the face until his nose bled.

"Have you?" Louis demanded of Armagnac. "He can't do anything right."

"I am sure his highness will improve with time and practice," Armagnac said diplomatically.

"I doubt that very much," Louis said. "He just lacks the physical strength for outdoor pursuits. Manly pursuits."

Philippe felt the frustrated rage turning to tears and dug his nails into his palms trying to prevent the inevitable.

"Oh look! He's starting to cry," Louis said. "Why don't you run home to mommy like the baby you are."

Armagnac looked down, unable to stomach the scene.

"I hate you!" Philippe yelled before he ran away, tears streaming down his face. He ran until his lungs began to burn and then collapsed on a bench, sobbing in frustration.

A 6 year old boy with an angelic face and blond curls approached Philippe. "Your highness, why are you sad?"

"I'm not." Philippe barked and then softened when he saw the small child. "I'm not sad just...I don't know."

The boy held out his hand to Philippe.

Philippe looked at the little boy's hand for a moment and then took it, unsure why he did so.

The little boy led Philippe to an isolated section of a hedgerow maze and then led him inside. There were hundreds of butterflies flitting everywhere.

Philippe stared at the butterflies in amazement. Hundreds of butterflies, all different species, colors, patterns. One landed on Philippe's nose.

The little boy laughed and then put his hand over his mouth realizing that he should not have laughed at a prince of France.

Philippe smiled and then laughed himself as the butterfly flitted away.

The two boys spent the rest of the afternoon chasing the butterflies around the maze, laughing and happy.

End of Flashback

Philippe walked with purpose to the maze and smiled as he saw the chevalier surrounded by butterflies inside of a makeshift botanical conservatory. "I never knew."

"I realized that pretty early on but...that was the moment I knew there was nothing I would not do to make you smile, to see you happy," the chevalier said, touching Philippe's cheek. "This beautiful face should never see a single tear."

Philippe felt tears rolling down his cheeks. "They're not sad tears."

The chevalier kissed a tear away. "Happy first and eleventh anniversary, Mignonette."

Philippe kissed the chevalier tenderly. "You saved me that day."

"I will save you whenever you need saving, my love. I shall always be here for you," the chevalier said reverently.

"Forever?" Philippe asked softly.

"Forever," the chevalier agreed, kissing Philippe tenderly.

Chapter Text

The chevalier entered their rooms with a flourish, dressed in the black and gold uniform of the Lorraine, sword swinging from his belt. "Philippe! I have the most excellent news!"

Philippe looked up from his book with a small smile, always happy to see the chevalier. "What are you wearing?"

"A military uniform," the chevalier stated the obvious.

"Why are you wearing it?" Philippe asked.

"My father's regiment is being deployed to lay siege to Turin and I will be going with him," the chevalier said with excitement.

Philippe frowned.

The chevalier realized the problem. "I am sure your brother would allow you to go if you asked. It is common for the princes to take part."

"I shall not hold my breath," Philippe said quietly. "He thinks me weak. A fool. You've heard him yourself."

The chevalier knelt in front of Philippe and touched his chin, forcing eye contact. "Then we shall convince him that you are strong."

"How?"

"We shall prepare you for battle, of course," the chevalier said, standing up. "Beginning immediately." He unsheathed one of his swords and handed it to Philippe.

Philippe took the sword and stood up.

"Have you had any lessons?" the chevalier asked, pulling out his second sword.

Philippe shook his head. "When we were little but...."

"Of course," the chevalier said. "Well, at least we know we're working with some natural talent. En garde."

 

A few hours later, their rooms were wrecked with overturned furniture everywhere. Philippe and the chevalier continued dueling until the chevalier finally saw an advantage and tackled Philippe to the floor, taking his sword.

"Do you surrender?" the chevalier asked, straddling Philippe.

Philippe glanced down to where their groins touched suddenly very aware.

The chevalier followed Philippe's eyes with a smile.

"What would you do to me if I didn't?" Philippe asked.
"I would be forced to make you my prisoner," the chevalier said, using the sword to pop open the buttons on Philippe's vest.

Philippe inhaled sharply. "Would you restrain me?"

"I think I would have to...you may try to escape," the chevalier said. He used the sword to slice open Philippe's shirt and then used the scraps to tie Philippe's wrists to the legs of a heavy desk, being a little rough as he made sure they were tight.

Philippe gasped. "Do you treat all of your prisoners in such a harsh manner?"

"War is war and you have been captured," the chevalier explained. "I should probably interrogate you. Perhaps you know the enemy's plans. Perhaps you are even carrying them on your person."

"You...you will conduct a...thorough...search?" Philippe asked breathlessly.

"I fear I must," the chevalier said.

"Will...will you use your hands?" Philippe asked.

"I will use every...tool...at my disposal," the chevalier said, as he leaned over Philippe, the rough wool of his uniform glancing over Philippe's bare chest.

Philippe's breathing quickened as the chevalier pretended to look for documents hidden in Philippe's curls.

"Nothing here but that would be too obvious...perhaps...." He crawled back down Philippe's body. "What is this?" he asked, seeing a bulge in Philippe's breeches. "A sneaky hiding spot to be sure but not sneaky enough." He used the sword to carefully rip the ties of Philippe's breeches and then ripped them off him.

Philippe gasped as the cold air hit his hot skin.

"Well, I have most certainly found something," the chevalier said, bending down to examine his findings, his breath hot against Philippe's taut skin.

Philippe moaned and arched toward the chevalier.

"Hm. You are hiding something under here perhaps...." He continued his search, his curls but nothing else brushing Philippe.

"Please...." Philippe moaned.

"The prisoner begs for mercy?" the chevalier said. "I must be getting close to the prize indeed." He roughly spread Philippe's legs. "Could it be? Well, I must be thorough." He stuck his finger inside Philippe and searched around, his curls tickling Philippe's taut skin.

"Oh god.... Please...." Philippe moaned, pushing against the chevalier's finger.

"I see the prisoner is a religious man but God cannot help him now," the chevalier said, breath hot on taut skin, finger still exploring. "I believe I'll need to dig deeper." He untied his breeches and removed himself. "I am sorry that it has come to this but you have refused to cooperate."

"I'll never tell you where it is!" Philippe said defiantly.

"Oh I will not stop until I have satisfaction. I can assure you of that," the chevalier said as he pushed into Philippe and began to thrust.

"Oh god...yes...yes..." Philippe moaned.

"I see I'm getting closer," the chevalier said, continuing to thrust. "It must be here somewhere unless...." He wrapped his hand around Philippe. "Perhaps I did not search here thoroughly enough.

Philippe let out a loud moan, lost in pleasure.

"So close I can almost feel it," the chevalier said, thrusting and stroking. He felt Philippe losing control. "What is this?" he asked breathlessly as Philippe came in his hand.

"Oooooh...." Philippe moaned, arching to take the chevalier deeper, spasming around him.

"I think my torture...has taken...an unforeseen turn," the chevalier stuttered, losing control. "Mmmm...ohhhh...." He shuddered as he came, collapsing on Philippe's chest. "I told you I would have satisfaction," he muttered weakly.

Philippe smiled, wrapping his legs around the chevalier, his hands still bound to the desk. "You were most thorough. A credit to your regiment, your country, and your king."

"I've heard the king's a bit of a dolt. Now the king's brother...." the chevalier said with a lascivious grin.

Philippe laughed. "You know, I don't recall my other fencing lessons ending this way."

The chevalier laughed. "I should hope not!"

 

As the weather warmed, Philippe's training intensified. One warm day found Philippe and the chevalier dueling in the gardens of the Palais Royal, drawing a bit of a crowd. The duel went on, the chevalier finding himself working a lot harder than he used to. He blocked Philippe but was not quick enough to block his follow up thrust and heard his sword clatter to the ground. He smiled at Philippe who was grinning.

Philippe beamed with pride and then considered. "You did not let me win?"
"I most certainly did not!"

"You really didn't?" Philippe asked.

"I want you to go to war with me but not if it means you could be hurt...or worse. You must be able to defend yourself. How would letting you win further that end?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe smiled. "Again?" He returned the chevalier's sword.

"Yes though we'll see how much more my ego can take," the chevalier said with some seriousness.

 

Philippe and the chevalier stood in front of the full length mirror in their rooms as the chevalier put the finishing touches on Philippe's outfit, chosen to be taken seriously and to look as manly and responsible as possible. "There," the chevalier said. "Perfect."

Philippe looked skeptical. "I think it will take more than a color change to convince my brother to send me to war."

"Which is why we've been training," the chevalier said. "In public so the rumors of your prowess will reach him." He turned Philippe to face him. "You already understood the tactics and strategy. Now you can fight very well. You must believe in yourself and then he will believe in you."

Philippe nodded nervously. "I wish you could come with me."
The chevalier shook his head. "You must do this on your own, my love. But I will be with you in spirit," he said, his hand on Philippe's heart. "Always here."

 

Philippe approached Louis' bedroom door and waited while the guards opened the double doors for him. He took a deep breath and entered the room, shoulders back to project confidence. Just Louis and Bontemps...the best case scenario. He nodded at Bontemps.

"Your highness," Bontemps said with a bow.

"Brother, what brings you here?" Louis asked seeming genuinely happy to see Philippe.

Philippe swallowed his nerves. "Brother, there is something I wish to discuss with you."

"What is it? Please tell me you haven't gone through your allowance already," Louis said with a hint of annoyance.

"What? No! It's not...." Philippe took a breath, forcing himself not to sound defensive. "This is not about money."

"Then what?"

"I would go to Turin with the army," Philppe blurted out, forgetting the more eloquent speech he and the chevalier had rehearsed.

Louis look surprised and a bit amused. "To what end?"

"To fight, of course," Philippe said. "To defend France."

Louis laughed.

Philippe's face fell. He felt like he had been stabbed in the gut.

"You are serious?" Louis asked.

"I...I am," Philippe said shakily, confidence gone.

"Brother...." Louis began, his voice kind but patronizing. "This is not for you. It's dangerous and dirty and difficult...."

"I can fight! I've been training with the chevalier. I can beat him!" Philippe said quickly.

"Do you think that perhaps the chevalier, your dearest friend, is letting you win to make you feel better about yourself?" Louis asked gently.

"He is not!" Philippe said. "He isn't," he said again with less certainty. "Please brother. Let me go. I could be good at this."

Louis sighed. "Brother, I tell you this for your own good. Not to vex you," he said seriously, his hands on Philippe's shoulders. "The men will not respect an officer who cavorts with men and wears dresses. This is not going to happen."

Philippe felt the crushing weight of the truth and nodded. Of course, Louis was right. He had been a fool to think otherwise. He turned and walked back toward the door in defeat. He could not face the chevalier and walked in the opposite direction of their rooms. He wanted to curl up somewhere and die but the palace was teeming with people and he could find no solitude. He gave up and went back to his rooms. The guards opened his doors and he entered.

"How did it...." The chevalier saw Philippe's face and stopped talking. He put his arms around Philippe and held on as he felt Philippe's shoulders shaking.

 

The chevalier sat on the side of their bed in full military uniform. He watched Philippe pretend to sleep. He laid his hand on Philippe's shoulder. "I will not leave without saying good-bye to you."

"Then you will not leave," Philippe said, eyes still closed.

"You know I must," the chevalier said.

"Then go. Be glorious. I'll be here knitting and gossiping. I've been thinking of taking up embroidery," Philippe spat angrily, pulling away from the chevalier's hand.

"Philippe, please...." the chevalier begged. "I have no choice."

Philippe sighed sadly. "None of us have a choice."

"Will you please sit up so I can see your face before I go?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe considered and then sat up to face the chevalier.

"Thank you," the chevalier said, his hand on Philippe's cheek. "I will miss you, my darling."

"I will miss you too," Philippe said quietly, trying not to think about how much.

"Will you write to me?" the chevalier asked.

"My writing is atrocious. You know that," Philippe said.

"I would cherish the slightest scribble," the chevalier said with a smile. "Because I would know that this hand held the pen," he said, kissing Philippe's palm.

"I will try," Philippe conceded.

The chevalier smiled. "I will be back before you can miss me."

"I already miss you," Philippe whispered, lowering his head as tears began to pool in his eyes. "Please don't leave me here alone."

The chevalier's heart broke. He put his fingers under Philippe's chin to lift his head. "You are not the same man I found a year ago, my darling. Your brother may think that he can break you but this is the time to prove that he cannot. Go to the salons every night and outshine him. Make him regret not sending you with me."

Philippe considered this. "You counsel vengeance?"

The chevalier smiled. "Figurative pikes, right?"

Philippe smiled and wiped away a tear. "You give wise counsel." He kissed the chevalier. "I will still miss you terribly."

A pounding on the door made them both jump.

"Now Philippe! Father can wait no more," Armagnac yelled at the closed door.

The chevalier kissed Philippe thoroughly and then stood and walked out the door.

Chapter Text

My Dearest Mignonette,

I am somewhere in southeastern France missing you terribly. All we do is ride all day, every day. If I never see another horse again, it will be too soon. We did pass by some interesting mountain villages today where everyone wore brightly colored clothes. Yellows and oranges. You would have been horrified. Not a chimney sweep in sight.

We're at camp now. I'm sharing a tent with my brother like we're children but Father insisted. At least I get my own bed...though it is horribly empty without you, my love. I doubt very much that I'll be able to sleep without you in my arms.

Ugh. Louis returns (mine not yours, of course). He says to tell you hello. I'll write more tomorrow. I love you and I miss you.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

Better to share a tent with your brother than mine. As to people wearing yellow and orange, don't get any ideas. I shall make sure that chimney sweep gray is the height of fashion by the time you return.

Things are okay here. I have taken your wise counsel to heart and spend all my time in the salons. I do not know if I shine but it is less painful than sitting in our rooms missing you. The Spanish envoy is here to negotiate Louis' (mine not yours) marriage to the infanta so Louis is trying to make everyone behave in a pious and very un-French manner. I make it a point to follow around behind him with copious amounts of armagnac and then let nature take its course. I think you'd be proud of me.

I find I cannot sleep without you either. May I suggest the aforementioned armagnac as a solution? I find about half the bottle does the trick.

Love,

Philippe

 

My Dearest Mignonette,

Thank you for the suggestion of armagnac though I find that half a bottle causes trouble the next morning when the cannons start firing. We have made it to Turin and spent a couple of days firing at their city walls to no avail. Now we sit around and wait which is growing increasingly boring and my father is here so that's always a joyous occasion. I am making it my life's goal to avoid him but as I report to him, that is easier said than done.

Speaking of the devil, he bellows. I will write more soon. I love you and wish more than anything that I was in your arms.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

Are you okay? I was so wrapped up in my own...I did not give a thought to him being so near to you without witnesses. I shall write to your brother at once. Perhaps he can finally be of use in this area.

I am trying very hard to annoy Louis with my shininess but it becomes harder and harder to not think about you. How much I miss you, the danger you're in, the situation with your father. I hate not being able to protect you, to comfort you. How much longer will this siege last? When will you come home?
Love,

Philippe

 

My Dearest Mignonette,

Please don't involve my brother. It will do no good. He was born without a spine when it comes to standing up to our father. I am okay. I try not to put myself in a situation where I am alone with him. I do love how much you care though. No one has ever done that before.

As to the siege, there is good news. Spies say that we caught them unawares and they are quickly running out of food. Surrender is imminent. We could be home as early as the middle of July.

I miss you so much, my darling. I re-read all your letters every night before bed. Your writing is not THAT atrocious, by the way.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

I am counting the days! The middle of July gives me hope. I cannot wait to see you again, to kiss you again, to do many, many other things to you again....

Things here are becoming ridiculous. Louis' latest effort to impress the Spanish is to make mass mandatory TWICE a day. The normal time and at DAWN. Yes, you read that correctly. I feel like there may be a third Fronde on the horizon and I would feel it perfectly justified. The only upside is that most of the court is still drunk from the night before which occasionally produces some comedy.

I miss you horribly and can't wait to see you. Please thank the Italians for their quick capitulation for me.

Love,

Philippe

 

My Dearest Mignonette,

I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the Italians did indeed surrender. The bad news is that your brother is sending us to Hungary to fight the Turks for the Emperor. We are apparently mercenaries now though, at least, we will finally see some action.

We move out today and so I must get back on that godforsaken horse. I love you and miss you so, so much.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

I hate my brother.

Love, Philippe

 

My Dearest Mignonette,

Is this hatred limited to his military decisions or something more? Either way, remember that this is the summer of vengeance not the summer of feeling sorry for yourself. Remember who the enemy is...it's not you.

We're attacking the Turks tomorrow and I can't sleep. I really, really wish you were here with me. Wish me luck.

Love,

Philippe

P.S. In case anything happens...just know that I love you more than anything or anyone. That I will always love you. That you are an extraordinary man and you deserve everything.

 

Dear Philippe,

How did the battle go? Are you okay? I've heard we've suffered casualties. Please write me back.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

My head tells me that if something would have happened to you, someone would tell me but...please write back and let me know you're okay.

Love,

Philippe

 

My Dearest Mignonette,

I'm okay. The battle was a long one and impacted the post. I'm sorry for worrying you. I killed a Turk. Several in fact. They were not nearly as good with a sword as you are. I must confess, it was exhilarating. Empowering. My father was even impressed which no doubt nearly killed him to admit.

I wish you were here. The siege was boring but this is something else. Everyone is discussing strategy and tactics and weaponry. You would love it! And no doubt add more value than I am. Killing Turks is one thing but planning to kill Turks not so much.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

My heart is beating again now that I've heard from you. I didn't really think you were dead. Surely, I would feel it if you were but...I have little to do here but worry. My brother has decreed a curfew to impress the Spanish with his piety (he's still fucking half the women at court, of course) so now the salons close before dinner and everyone is expected to go to mass and then straight to bed (alone or with one's spouse for procreation purposes only). Yes, a THIRD mass. If this continues, I will nominate myself Pope Philippe! Do you think I would look good in the mitre? I think it may make my face look too long.

I am slowly going insane here. Please kill all the Turks as quickly as possible so you can return to me.

Love,

Philippe

 

My Dearest Mignonette,

I am having all sorts of wicked thoughts of you wearing the mitre and nothing else. I shall call you Pope Philippe in bed from now on. In bed...I REALLY miss you. On several levels. Physically, emotionally, to talk to.... I think I did not realize how much I just enjoy talking to you...not that I don't enjoy doing other things to you but I'm trying very hard not to think about those other things when you're so far away.

I have killed more Turks but there are a lot of Turks. I shall do my best to singlehandedly end the war though. For you, my love.

Love,

Philippe

 

Dear Philippe,

Such wicked words. I am now spending my days inquiring as to how I might acquire a mitre. They are not so easy to find as you might think but anything for you, my sweet chevalier.

I am summoned to a family dinner with the Spanish envoys tonight. I am quite tempted to wear something...special...for the occasion. I shall be thinking of you and mitres throughout.

Love,

Philippe

 

My Dearest Wicked Mignonette,

Just when I thought my insomnia couldn't get worse, this mitre situation...arises. I do hope your endeavors have been successful.

As to here, there is talk of a battle to end all battles. With luck, all the Turks will be present so I can kill them all in your honor and then run home to you and crawl into our bed never to leave.

I may not be able to write for awhile. Please don't worry, my love. I have much to fight (and live) for.

Love,

Philippe

Chapter Text

Philippe folded the chevalier's latest letter and put it in his coat pocket. He had already read it several times and was trying to push the worry away but found it increasingly difficult. If he were just there, he would know he was okay, could fight by his side. Protect him even though he probably did not need protection, he was probably not good enough to protect him even if he did need it. He sighed, took the letter out, and read it again.

The doors opened and Louis entered unannounced.

Philippe looked up and quickly folded the letter and put it in his pocket. "Brother, what brings you by?"

"I was surprised not to see you in the salons," Louis replied. "Did something in that letter upset you?"

Philippe shook his head, his hand involuntarily going to his pocket to protect the letter. "No...I was just feeling a bit tired."

Louis looked skeptical.

"Were you looking for me for a purpose?"

"I was. Your birthday is nearly here," Louis stated.

Philippe looked surprised and then a bit sad. "So it is."

"Birthdays are a happy occasion," Louis said.

"Of course," Philippe said without conviction.

Louis sighed, slightly frustrated. "You cannot enjoy your birthday without him?"

Philippe found he lacked the energy to respond.

Louis shook his head. "We will have a celebration in your honor."

"I will look forward to it," Philippe said.

"You are a horrible liar," Louis said. He sighed and sat down on the couch beside Philippe. "What can I do to make this event more palatable? And not having it is not an option. The Spanish envoys...."

"Of course. We must keep up appearances," Philippe said sarcastically.

"Philippe...."

Philippe sighed. "Would you invite our uncle? He would cheer me."

"I understand that you love him," Louis said trying to keep a diplomatic tone. "But our uncle is a traitor who questions my authority at every turn."

"He is not a traitor against YOU," Philippe insisted. "He just doesn't like the cardinal having so much power."

Louis was quiet for a moment. "It is not his place and until he learns his place, I cannot have him at court. Is there anyone else you might like to have?"

Philippe shook his head. He reconsidered. "Can I invite Jules and his sisters?"

Louis considered a party that would introduce Spanish envoys to Mazarinettes and shook his head.

"Invite whoever," Philippe said. "I don't care," he said sadly without the energy to argue.

Louis sighed, looking concerned. "You are determined to have them?"
"They would at least make it fun," Philippe said.

"That is my biggest concern," Louis said.

"Do you really think that a party that is a party and not a funeral mass will make the Spanish change their minds about a match that has been in the works for years?" Philippe reasoned.

Louis considered this. "Okay...but if you see any of them going for a weapon...."

"It seems like talking to you is the only thing that makes them violent, brother," Philippe said with a small smirk.

Louis glared at Philippe.

"Okay, okay. I will tell Jules that they must be on their best behavior. No weapons, fully clothed, dancing with men only...have I missed anything?"

"Please stop before I come to my senses," Louis said.

 

The day of the party arrived and Philippe sat at his toilette wishing he had never agreed to this. There had been no more letters from the chevalier, not even one wishing him a happy birthday. Was he dead? Did he lose interest? He tried to convince himself that he was just busy killing Turks so he could come home but the negative whispers were growing louder.

Jules swept into the room. "Bongiorno, mon amie! Or perhaps I should speak Spanish to entertain our guests?" He bent and kissed Philippe's cheek.

"I think my brother would like you and your sisters to avoid our Spanish guests entirely," Philippe said as he turned around to face Jules.

"Is that what you're wearing?" Jules asked.

Philippe looked annoyed. "Yes."

"Okay...it's just...a bit gloomy...for a party, yes?"

"It suits my mood," Philippe snapped defensively.

Jules fingered the black fabric. "I see that it does." He poured two glasses of wine and handed one to Philippe. "Philippe hasn't returned?"
Philippe glared at Jules.

"Obviously," Jules said. "So...probably awkward timing but...can I bring Antoine?"

Philippe softened. "Of course! He should have been invited but I let my brother handle the details." He sighed. "I can see the idiocy of that now but...."

"You miss him," Jules said softly.

Philippe nodded, tears starting to form. "I hate this day. He's the only thing that made it bearable last year."

"Well then I will do what needs to be done," Jules said, setting his wine down with a determined look on his face. "First, I must find reinforcements."

"Reinforcements for what?" Philippe asked.

Jules swept out of the room without answering.

"Reinforcements for what?" Philippe asked the empty room.

 

Philippe stared at his reflection in the full length mirror. He had changed to a violet coat that the chevalier had picked out and was trying to decide if the coat was a comfort or making things worse.

Louis entered. "Are you ready?"

Philippe looked at Louis in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"Escorting you to the party," Louis said.

"I don't plan to make a run for it," Philippe snapped.

Louis sighed. "That was not my point." He walked over to Philippe and put his hands on his shoulders. "I am trying to be a good brother."

"Oh...."

"I know you are sad and you don't want to go to this," Louis said quietly. "That you are doing it to help me with the Spanish. Let me try to make the ordeal less miserable."

Philippe nodded. "I am sorry I snapped at you."

Louis smiled. "I also got you a present that I think you will very much like though it's coming from a long way away and it's timely delivery has not yet been confirmed."

Philippe plastered an appropriate smile on his face. "I am sure it will be lovely."

"Shall we?"

Philippe nodded.

 

Louis and Philippe entered the ballroom to find a full carnivale in progress complete with masks, costumed dancers, fire eaters, and dwarf tumblers rolling around on the floor. The doors to the ballroom opened to the courtyard where bonfires blazed with more undulating dancers. The French guests were dancing while the Spanish envoys stood together in a corner with stony faces.

"This...what...." Louis sputtered, at a loss for words. "How did this happen?" he asked Philippe. "Did you...."

"...uh...not intentionally," Philippe said. "I...uh...may have told Jules that I was not looking forward to the party. He said something about reinforcements and then ran off...."

"And you didn't think to stop him?" Louis asked, astounded.

"It did not actually occur to me that he had the resources to pull something like this together this fast," Philippe said. "Or the creativity...."

Louis sighed angrily. "I knew I should have said no to them. I need to go deal with the Spanish." He stormed across the ballroom to the Spanish envoys, leaving Philippe alone.

Jules ran up to Philippe with Antoine in tow. "Philippe! Happy Birthday!" He slung an arm around Philippe already a little drunk. "You remember Antoine."

"Happy Birthday, Your Highness," Antoine murmured, his eyes downcast respectfully.

"This...you really outdid yourself, Jules," Philippe said. "It may well earn you another involuntary trip to Rome." He nodded at his brother and the Spanish envoys.

Jules considered for a moment. "Still worth it. I cannot stand by while my good friend has a miserable birthday."

Philippe smiled slightly. "I do appreciate your efforts."

"I know this won't make up for him not being here but maybe it can be a distraction," Jules said.

Philippe nodded. "It is certainly a distraction. How did you even manage this?"

"Antoine helped," Jules said, his hand on Antoine's arm a bit longer than social norms allowed.

"Thank you, Antoine," Philippe said.

"You are most welcome, your highness," Antoine said, eyes still down.

"If we're to be friends, perhaps we could be a little less formal," Philippe said to Antoine. "At the very least, you could stop looking at the floor."

Antoine flushed with embarrassment. "Oh yes, of course, your highness." He lifted his head up. "I just did not want to overstep or assume...."

Philippe smiled. "So...I think this would be more palatable if I were drunk...."

Antoine smiled. "That can be arranged, your highness."

 

Philippe sat a table with Antoine and Jules watching the revelers. "This party is beginning to look more like Saint-Cloud than one of Louis'."

"Then my work here is done," Jules said with a smile.

"Seriously Jules...." Philippe began.

"Have you ever been to Rome?" Jules asked Antoine.

"Surely your highness exaggerates?" Antoine asked Philippe.

"My brother is uncharacteristically anxious about this marriage," Philippe said. "The Spanish are quite...uptight. Someone should slip something into their wine to loosen them up."

"An interesting thought," Jules said.

"You should definitely NOT do that, Jules," Philippe said. "Unless you are absolutely sure you won't be caught."

"I am like the wind," Jules said.

 

An hour later, the Spanish envoys were dancing with the Mazarinettes.

"Now my work here is truly done," Jules said.

Philippe laughed.

"At the very least, it may provide the king blackmail material if the deal falls apart," Antoine pointed out.

"You have a very devious mind, Antoine," Jules said. "I quite like it."

Antoine smiled at Jules, discreetly touching his thigh under the table.

Philippe looked away, sudden sadness crashing down on him. He watched the dancers, all merry. "Is that your sister with Rohan?"

Jules sighed and followed Philippe's gaze. "Of course it is. Because she is trying to get him killed. I should go...."

"Too late," Antoine said, watching the king approach Marie and Rohan.

"My brother is an absolute idiot," Philippe said, getting up and storming across the room to Louis, Marie, and Rohan.

"What's going on, brother?" Philippe asked Louis. "Rohan, Marie."

"Happy Birthday, your highness," Rohan replied. "Lovely party."

"Happy Birthday!" Marie said, kissing Philippe's cheeks.

Philippe smiled at both of them and then turned back to Louis. "Brother?""I do not approve of this which they both well know," Louis said, glaring at Rohan.

"May I remind you that the Spanish envoys are watching this scene with interest, brother," Philippe said calmly. "You remember them? The ones whose infanta you are so desperate to marry to secure our southern border? Perhaps this is not the right time to throw a jealous fit over an ex," he hissed into Louis' ear.

Louis opened his mouth and then shut it. "This discussion is not over," he said quietly to Marie and Rohan. He walked toward the Spanish envoys with a smile on his face.

"Thank you," Marie said to Philippe, taking his hands in hers.

"Do not thank me," Philippe said. "I only delayed the executioner. This is not going to end well."

"I know you do not believe it, your highness, but we do love each other," Rohan said.

"It does not matter what I believe or who you love," Philippe said. "We are all his puppets to do with as he wishes. Do you think being here tonight is my choice?"

"We tried to make it better," Marie said.

Philippe smiled slightly. "I know you did, my dear, and I very much appreciate the effort."

"The war will not be much longer, your highness," Rohan said. "He will be home soon."

Philippe sighed. "Not soon enough to save this night."

"I would not be so sure about that," Marie said, looking toward the door.

Philippe looked and felt an anvil lift off his heart. He smiled genuinely for the first time in months as he walked toward the door.

Louis stopped Philippe, a hand on his shoulder. "Please remember that you're in public, brother," he whispered into Philippe's ear. "Happy Birthday."

"You did this?" Philippe asked in surprise.

"I told you your gift was coming from quite far away," Louis said with a smile. "I thought you might have guessed."

"I did not," Philippe said, still smiling at the chevalier. "Thank you. It is, by far, the best birthday gift you have ever given me."

"I do love you, brother, and wish for your happiness," Louis said.

"Tonight, I believe you," Philippe said. "May I?"

"Please," Louis said, letting go of Philippe's arm.

Philippe walked the rest of the way to the chevalier who stood next to Armagnac. He looked at the chevalier but spoke to Armagnac. "Thank you for delivering my present."

Armagnac smiled. "I didn't have time to wrap it."

"It is exquisite just as it is," Philippe said.

"If you'll excuse me," Armagnac said and walked toward Louis.

"Happy Birthday, Mignonette," the chevalier said with a smile.

Philippe smiled trying to remember that they were in public. "I didn't think you would make it."

"I couldn't miss your birthday," the chevalier said.

"I really want to kiss you," Philippe said quietly.

"I really want to kiss you too," the chevalier said. "To begin anyway...."

"How are you here...."

"Your brother summoned us home early," the chevalier said. "We've been riding for two days straight but it's worth it to see your face." He reached out and then dropped his hand. "Follow me."

"Where?"

The chevalier walked quickly toward the outside doors and then shook his head as bonfires lit up the night sky.

"Jules...got carried away," Philippe explained.

"Remind me to thank him with a glass of hemlock," the chevalier said. He discreetly took Philippe's pinky and led him past the bonfires to the far side of the garden. "Better."

Philippe moved closer to the chevalier. "Definitely better though a temporary solution."

"I don't need long...I just need to do this," the chevalier said. He looked around and then kissed Philippe thoroughly, his hands on his hips. "Now it feels like home."

Philippe smiled, his forehead resting on the chevalier's forehead, his hands inside the chevalier's coat. "I have really missed you."

"As have I, my darling," the chevalier said. He kissed Philippe again but more chastely. "I assume the Spanish are here and you must be seen to not be doing what you're doing right now."

"Louis was kind enough to give you to me so yes," Philippe said. "You'll be by my side though?"
"Where else would I be?"
"I thought you were...."

The chevalier silenced Philippe with another kiss. "Not any of those things, my love. I'm right here. I'll always be right here."

Philippe nodded. "Always? Even on my 50th birthday?"

"Even on your 100th birthday," the chevalier confirmed.

Philippe smiled and then led the chevalier back toward the palace.

Chapter Text

Louis quietly entered Philippe's bed chamber. A fire burned softly lighting the bed and the two men sleeping curled up together. For a moment, he considered leaving, letting Philippe sleep. The news could wait until morning.

Philippe stirred and blinked his eyes. "Brother?" he called out softly. "What is it?"

"It's nothing. It can wait for morning," Louis said.

Philippe sat up. "If that were true, you wouldn't be here. What's wrong?"

The chevalier stirred and then pressed his face into Philippe's hip. "...back to sleep..." he murmured, petting Philippe's chest.

Philippe got up, grabbing a robe as he crossed the room. "What's happened?"

"It's our uncle," Louis said.

The chevalier sat up, rubbing his eyes. His brain finally registered Louis and he got out of bed quickly and found a robe. "Your majesty."

"What? Are you here to tell me he's formed a new fronde? To gloat?" Philippe asked.

"No...not that," Louis said. "A messenger just arrived from Blois." He put his hand on Philippe's shoulder. "He's dying, brother."

Philippe felt his heart breaking. "I must go to him." He turned toward his dressing room, intent on getting dressed.

"You will do nothing of the sort," Louis commanded.

"You hate him even now?!?" Philippe asked angrily, turning back to Louis. "He's dying!" He felt tears coming as he spoke the words and struggled to keep them in.

"No...no, it's not malice, brother," Louis said. "I know that you love him, that this must be very upsetting but you can't go. It's the middle of winter, the middle of the night. It's too dangerous."

"I can take care of myself!" Philippe said.

"I can go with him, your majesty," the chevalier said, his eyes downcast. "We'll take guards."

"I cannot risk it," Louis said. "Until I am married and have a son, you are my heir. France cannot take the risk."

"Brother please," Philippe begged. "He is the closest thing I have ever had to a father and he's dying. You must allow me to go to him."

"You cannot, brother. I am sorry," Louis said with some sincerity as he turned and left.

Tears rolled down Philippe's cheeks.

The chevalier put his arms around Philippe. "I'm so sorry, my love." He rubbed Philippe's back, letting him cry.

"I will not get to say goodbye," Philippe said tearily. "He will think I did not care."

"He knows that you love him," the chevalier said. "He will rightly blame Louis for you not being there."

"I do love him," Philippe said softly. "Since I can remember, he always knew what to say, how to make it better, tolerable. He was the only one who understood...what it was like...."

"Then you should go," the chevalier said quietly.

"You heard him," Philippe said.

"I did," the chevalier confirmed. "And he's not wrong about the weather or the dangers on the road but he is wrong about you, my love. You can take care of yourself."

"You would come with me?"

"There's no way you're going without me and there's no way we're going without appropriate provisions but if you want to do this, to say goodbye, I'll help you do it," the chevalier said.

Philippe nodded. "Thank you."

"First, we dress. Warmly," the chevalier said as he steered Philippe toward his dressing room.

 

Philippe and the chevalier walked quietly toward the stables.

The chevalier held a finger to his lips as he slowly opened the door, praying it did not creak. It did not and they snuck in.

The chevalier crept into his father's office, opened a desk drawer, and removed a set of keys.

Philippe looked at the chevalier questioningly.

The chevalier walked to a large cabinet and used the key to open the lock. The door swung open with the smallest creak and both men jumped.

They stayed frozen for a moment and when no one came, the chevalier opened the cabinet door the rest of the way revealing an arsenal of swords, daggers, and guns.

 

Fully armed, the chevalier led two saddled horses out of the stables and handed the reins of one to Philippe. The horse ninnied softly and the two men froze. No movement so the chevalier pointed toward the servants' entrance to the palace, the main gates being heavily guarded.

Philippe steered his horse in the direction of the chevalier's, barely breathing until they were past the gate and onto the streets of Paris.

"Hoods," the chevalier whispered as he pulled up his hood as mounted his horse.

Philippe did the same and mounted his horse. "Thank you for doing this," he whispered.

"There's nothing I wouldn't do for you," the chevalier whispered back. "Let's go."

 

The two men galloped down a moonlit, snow covered road.

"Hold up," the chevalier said, seeing something in the distance. "Quickly. Into the woods."

They both dismounted and led their horses into a dense area.

"What is it?" Philippe whispered.

"Light ahead. A torch perhaps," the chevalier said.

The torch came closer, along with the sounds of several men on horseback.

"Your brother wasn't wrong about this road being dangerous," the chevalier whispered as he unholstered his pistol and quietly prepared it to fire. "Whatever happens, don't tell them who you are."

Philippe nodded. He looked at the pistol but unsheathed a sword instead.

"Fresh tracks," said one of the men.

The other men began to look around.

"We attack," the chevalier hissed. He fired the pistol at one of the men who fell from his horse dead and then unsheathed his sword, following Philippe into the fray.

Philippe slashed through two surprised men before two more turned their attention to him. Training and adrenaline overtook fear as he continued to fight with the men.

The chevalier fought with his own group while trying to keep an eye on Philippe. He killed three men but felt the fourth overtaking him when a shot rang out and the man dropped to the ground. He looked over to see Philippe standing in the middle of bodies, the pistol still smoking in the cold predawn air.

"I never taught you to do that," the chevalier said, his heart pounding.

"Lucky shot," Philippe said.

The chevalier walked over to Philippe, taking the pistol out of his now shaking hand. He shook his head. "Louis really underestimates you. The Turks wouldn't have stood a chance."

Philippe stared at the chevalier, shock replacing adrenaline.

"Are you okay?" the chevalier asked. "It's over now."

Philippe nodded. "That was...."

"You get used to it. It was them or you. You had no choice," the chevalier said.

"I was going to say exhilarating," Philippe said.

"That to," the chevalier said with a smile. "We should have kept one alive to tell the story to your brother."

Philippe laughed. "He wouldn't believe them anyway." He looked around. "So...uh...what now?"

"I think now we leave quickly before anyone comes looking for them," the chevalier said, walking back to the horses.

"Do you think any of them had families?" Philippe asked as he followed the chevalier back to the horses.

"You can't think about it," the chevalier said. "They wouldn't have wondered about your family had it gone the other way."

Philippe nodded, trying not to think about it.

They mounted the horses and continued toward Blois.

 

Gaston lay in his sick bed coughing up blood, his wife and daughters surrounding him.

Philippe and the chevalier were ushered in by the governor of the house.

"Uncle! I came as soon as I heard," Philippe said, kneeling beside Gaston's bed and taking his hand.

"Nephew, I am so pleased to see you. I did not think you would be allowed," Gaston said weakly.

"Allowed is a bit strong," the chevalier said.

"Why is their blood on your coat?" Anne-Marie-Louise asked Philippe.

"No matter," the chevalier said.

"Is it true, Uncle?" Philippe asked, struggling to keep the tears at bay.

"I would speak to my nephew alone," Gaston said.

The room vacated.

"I am glad you have come," Gaston said squeezing Philippe's hand with what strength he could muster. "The roads are dangerous...." He pointed to the blood on Philippe's coat.

"Nothing we couldn't handle," Philippe said. "I've been training with the chevalier," he explained. "Not that it matters."

"It does matter," Gaston insisted. "Philippe, you are the closest thing I've ever had to a son. I could not love you more if you were my own son."

Philippe felt tears creeping down his face. "You are the only father I've ever known," he said softly.

"Then as your father, I need you to hear this," Gaston said. "It all matters because it changes the way you see yourself. I see it...the confidence in the way you carry yourself, the way you dress now. That little boy who was raised to be less than is slowly being eclipsed by this remarkable young man that you're becoming."

"I will never be him," Philippe said.

"Who would want to be?" Gaston asked. "Yes, everyone fawns all over him but deep in his mind, there is a whisper. If I were not king...." He reached up and brushed a tear from Philippe's cheek. "But you, my son, will never doubt that people love you because of who YOU are. Give them something to love. Shine for them but also shine for yourself."

Philippe nodded.

"I only wish I would live to see the man that you become," Gaston said softly. "But know that I love you, have always loved you."

"I love you too," Philippe said quietly, tears rolling down his face.

"No tears for me, my son," Gaston said. "I have lived a good life, married the woman that I love beyond all reason...talking of which...I believe the light is beginning to fade and I have wisdom left to impart. Starting with your friend."

Philippe looked confused. "The chevalier?"

Gaston nodded. "Would you get him please?"

Philippe nodded. "You will still be here...."

"I'm not dying quite yet," Gaston assured Philippe.

Philippe walked into the hallway to the chevalier. "He wants to talk to you."

The chevalier looked confused but entered the chamber.

"Come here," Gaston commanded. "Closer."

The chevalier walked to the bed. "Your highness, what can I do for you?"

"I believe you are already doing it but I must make sure that you understand that I am entrusting my dearest nephew to your care," Gaston said. "His life will not ever be easy...Louis will make sure of it."

The chevalier nodded. "I see that."

"He will need you even when he thinks that he doesn't," Gaston said. "He will be angry with Louis and take it out on you. Know that he does not mean what he says. It is misplaced anger and he will eventually be sorry."

The chevalier nodded.

"Remind him of who he is...who he really is. Do not let him believe the lies that his brother and his mother will tell him...and he will believe them because they have been lying for so long, they do not sound like lies but they are. You and I know they are. Can you promise me that?" Gaston asked.

"I vow to you this thing you ask," the chevalier said. "It is an easy vow as it is one that I have already vowed to myself."

Gaston nodded. "I thought as much. I can see how much you love him and it warms my heart."

"You know what we are to each other...." the chevalier said.

"I do," Gaston said softly. He took the chevalier's hand. "Love is a precious thing regardless of what form it may take."

"I wish my father felt as you do," the chevalier said softly.

"Ah the stories I could tell of my brother and your father," Gaston said with a small laugh. "Do not let him deter you from what your heart is telling you to do."

The chevalier nodded. "I will take care of him. You have my word, your highness."

"Call me Gaston...in another, better world, you would be son-in-law," Gaston said. "Take care of my boy."

The chevalier nodded.

"I believe I need my wife now," Gaston said, his voice growing weaker.

 

The chevalier and Philippe stood outside the chamber door along with Gaston's daughters, waiting for the inevitable announcement.

"Thank you for coming with me," Philippe said. "I would have been devastated to miss this."

"I know," the chevalier said. "It was good for both of you. To say goodbye. He loves you."

"I love him," Philippe said. "So many happy childhood memories are of him."

"Perhaps some day you will share them with me," the chevalier said.

Philippe nodded and tried to smile.

The chevalier took Philippe's hand and squeezed it not caring who saw it. "He knows about us, did you know that? He approves...he said that in a better world, he would call me son-in-law."

"I would greatly enjoy that world," Philippe said softly.

"Me too," the chevalier said. He reluctantly let go of Philippe's hand. "In this world...."

The door opened and the priest and the doctor emerged.

"He is gone," the doctor said.

The daughters wept on each other's shoulders.

The chevalier pulled Philippe into his arms as fresh tears fell down Philippe's face.

 

A band of musketeers pulled up behind their commanding officer at the wave of the officer's hand. The officer got down from his horse to inspect the bodies strewn on the ground of the road between Paris and Blois.

"There are ten, sir," a musketeer stated.

"Yes, I can see that," Fabien Marechal answered. "But how did they all end up dead?"

"They must have been ambushed, sir," another musketeer volunteered.

"Perhaps. A rival band of brigands on the road," Fabien said to himself. He bent down and examined a gunshot wound in the head of one. "This one was taken by surprise," he said. He walked over to a group of four bodies on the ground. "Four...and then five...." He walked to the second group of bodies. "Another gunshot," he said, kneeling beside a man with a large hole in his chest.

"Must have been eight or nine men," a third musketeer said.

"Or two very skilled men," Fabien said. "Soldiers. Well trained." He stood. "You," he pointed at a musketeer. "Back to Paris. Bring someone back to clean up this mess. The rest...with me. He still have a prince to find."

 

Philippe and the chevalier sat together on the couch in the salon where mourners were beginning to gather.

"It does not seem possible that he is gone," Philippe said.

"Have the doctors said how it happened?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe shook his head. "A sudden illness."

"He had a good life," the chevalier said. "It should be celebrated not mourned. I shall always remember as the life of the fun side of the table."

Philippe smiled slightly. "I shall remember him as the one person who always made me feel special, like I mattered and I shall remember him as my father in any way that really mattered." His eyes grew damp. "I shall miss him a great deal."

The chevalier put his hand on Philippe's hand. "I shall do everything in my power to ease your pain, my love."

"You do that just by being here," Philippe said quietly, wrapping his fingers around the chevalier's fingers.

"Please excuse me, your highness," the governor said, eyes downcast in respect. "There are...men...here for you."

Philippe looked confused for a moment until the musketeers appeared. "Of course there are."

"Your highness," Fabien said, bowing to Philippe. "We are here to escort you back to Paris."

"Please feel free to make yourselves comfortable. I am not yet ready to return to Paris," Philippe told Fabien.

Fabien considered this for a moment. "The king has sent us."

"Obviously," the chevalier said with a small sneer. "And you are?"

"Fabien Marechal, sir," Fabien said with a small bow.

"Fabien Maechal, your highness," Philippe corrected.

Fabien looked confused.

"He is a prince and should be addressed thus," Philippe said.

"Prince of Lorraine," the governor supplied helpfully.

The chevalier smiled and waited.

Fabien looked annoyed for a second and then returned to impassivity. "Fabien Marechal, your highness."

"I don't know you," Philippe said.

"I am recently appointed to the king's guard, your highness," Fabien explained.

"And already in charge of this rabble?" the chevalier asked. "A meteoric rise."

Fabien examined Philippe more closely as was his habit with people with whom he had recently become acquainted. "Is that blood, your highness?" he asked.

"So what if it is?" the chevalier answered.

"It was the two of you on the road," Fabien said matter of factly.

"We were attacked...or would have been," Philippe said.

"Impressive work," Fabien said with a hint of surprise. The chevalier's exploits in Turkey were well known but the king's brother did not add up.

"Do you intend to stand there staring all day?" the chevalier asked.

"I intend to take his highness back to Paris per the king's orders...your highness," Fabien said.

"Did my brother give specific orders? What if I resist?" Philippe asked.

"He is a prince of France. You cannot touch him," the chevalier reminded Fabien.

"That is quite a dilemma," Philippe said.

"You could threaten to shoot him," the chevalier suggested to Fabien.

"A hollow threat," Philippe told the chevalier. "As much as I may antagonize my brother, I think there would be consequences to THAT."

"Your uncle just died, did he not?" Fabien asked Philippe.

"Sadly yes," Philippe said. "A great man gone too soon."

"Perhaps his family would appreciate not having a group of slightly ripe musketeers in their salon during such a grievous time," Fabien said quietly.

Philippe sighed.

"He makes a fair point," the chevalier said. "You have done what you came to do. I fear we must go back now and face whatever consequences await us."

"Okay," Philippe said. "On one condition."

Fabien bit back a sigh. "Name it."

"You will tell my brother your theory about what happened on the road," Philippe said.

"Is my theory accurate?" Fabien asked.

"Is your theory that the prince and I bested ten men?" the chevalier asked.

Fabien nodded. "It is."

"Then you will not lie to the king," Philippe said.

"Then I shall include your statements in my report," Fabien agreed.

"Then we shall accompany you back to Paris," Philippe agreed.

 

Back at the Palais Royal, Fabien escorted Philippe and the chevalier to the king's war room where Louis, Ann, and Armagnac were all in attendance.

Louis looked up as the trio entered. "I see you've found my brother. Not dead in a ditch either. A surprise, I must say."

Philippe glared at Louis.

Fabien considered the two brothers. "If I may offer my report, your majesty. We did come across several dead bodies on the road. The princes were set on by brigands last night...ten in total...but overcame them and emerged unharmed as you can see. I have sent men to clean up the...situation."

Louis looked impressed. "Lorraine, that is quite impressive work. I see the reports from the East were not exaggerated."

"That is kind, your majesty, but...I cannot take credit for all ten," the chevalier said. "Five at most. Philippe killed the other five himself. I daresay I would not be standing here had he not killed the last one."

Louis looked surprised. "Surely, it is false modesty."

"I can assure you that it is not," the chevalier insisted.

"I do not believe one man could have done it," Fabien added. "The arrangement of the bodies suggested two skilled men. I assumed soldiers at the time."

Philippe allowed himself the smallest smile.

Louis narrowed his eyes for a moment and then continued. "That does not change the fact that you left this palace against my express wishes, brother." He turned his eyes to the chevalier. "As to you, explain yourself."

"You would have preferred that he go alone?" the chevalier asked.

"I made it quite clear that I prefer he not go at all!" Louis said.

"Do not yell at him," Philippe said to Louis. "If you wish to be angry with someone, you can be angry with me but do not expect an apology because you will not be receiving one!"

"Marechal, you may go," Louis said tersely.

Fabien left the room.

"You defied your brother, the king," Ann told Philippe.

"My brother, the king, was being an insensitive ass," Philippe told Ann. "My uncle was dying and I went to say goodbye. I will not apologize for that."

"I forbade you from going because the roads are dangerous as evidenced by the fact that you were attacked," Louis said.

"You could have sent guards with me," Philippe said. "I needed to say goodbye to him and if you feel that I must suffer some consequence for doing so, that is fine but it is I who should suffer the consequence not the chevalier. It was my idea to go. He begged me not to go and only came to protect me."

Louis considered for a moment. "You may leave," he said to the chevalier. "You as well, Louis."

The chevalier gave Philippe a sympathetic smile as he followed his brother from the room.

Philippe sat down in a chair. "Please proceed. I'm quite tired and would like to go to bed."

"I am not a admirer of this cavalier attitude, Philippe," Ann admonished.

"Mother, you may leave us as well," Louis said.

Ann looked like she might protest but then walked toward the door and left.

"Is he dead?" Louis asked.

Philippe nodded. "He died peacefully in the arms of the person he loved."

"I should like to go that way," Louis said quietly.

"As would I," Philippe said. "I would not have disobeyed you had it not been him. I needed to see him, to talk to him one last time before he left us."

Louis nodded. "I know that you and he always had a close relationship. I will admit that I was, at times, jealous of it. That he loved you more than me."

"Well...everyone else feels the opposite," Philippe said bitterly.

"Yes, of course," Louis said without thinking. "The messenger last night also brought our uncle's will."

Philippe shrugged not caring.

"You do not wish to know what he left you?" Louis asked.

Philippe looked surprised. "I did not expect him to leave me anything."

"He did leave much to Ann-Marie-Louise, of course. She may well be the richest woman in France this morning," Louis said. "And he left his art collection to me. The rest...he left to you."

"The rest?" Philippe asked.

"His titles, his appanages...he left to you," Louis said.

Philippe looked surprised. "I did not know...." He realized. "You will not allow it."

"Do you really think you've proven yourself responsible enough to handle such things?" Louis asked.

Philippe said nothing, eyes downcast.

"Our uncle clearly saw something in you that I do not," Louis said.

Philippe remembered his uncle's words to him and raised his eyes to meet Louis'. "I can handle such things. I am 19, a man."

"A man? Are you?" Louis asked. "Do men wear dresses? Cavort with other men? I think not. Men marry, produce heirs, go to war."

"You would not allow me to go to war," Philippe reminded Louis.

"I would allow you to marry," Louis said. "After I do, of course."

Philippe forced his face to remain impassive despite the fact that the idea made his stomach churn.

"Prove to me that you are a man by marrying...a woman...and you may have your inheritance," Louis said.

Philippe bristled but bit back an angry retort. "Do I have your word?"

"You do," Louis said. "I must approve the girl, of course."

"I would expect no less," Philippe said. "May I leave now?"

Louis nodded.

 

Philippe stormed into his rooms and threw his coat on a chair.

The chevalier looked up from his place on the couch. "How bad was it? To bed with no supper? A reduction in allowance? Pistols at dawn? If it's the last, my money is on you, my love."

"It's...he's...." Philippe sputtered angrily.

The chevalier stood and put his hands on Philippe's shoulders. "Whatever it is, we shall face it together."

"Not this," Philippe said. He sighed and collapsed on the couch.

The chevalier sat down next to Philippe. "Speak."

"My uncle left me his titles and appanage," Philippe said.

The chevalier smiled. "That sounds like him...though I do not understand your anger?"

"My dearest brother won't give me my inheritance unless I marry," Philippe spat the last word.

"Ah, I see. And that sounds like Louis," the chevalier said. "So you shall marry and then you shall be rich."

"You make it sound easy!" Philippe said.

"Well...it is, is it not?" the chevalier asked.

"The actual marrying part may be but what comes after...."

"Oh that," the chevalier said, realizing the problem. "A consternation to be sure but not an insurmountable one."

"Easy for you to say. You're not the one who has to do...the mounting," Philippe anguished.

The chevalier laughed. "Indeed I am not but I can help with the situation."

"I cannot see how," Philippe said. "I think she would notice if it were you instead of me."

"Well, short of marrying a blind girl, yes, I think she would. You will have to do the...mounting...but I can most certainly prepare you for the...journey," the chevalier said.

"What do you mean?" Philippe asked.

"I will make sure your soldier is ready for battle and then send you to her," the chevalier explained. "She need not be the wiser."

Philippe considered this. "You would do that?"

"As I mentioned earlier, we are in this together," the chevalier said, taking Philippe's hand. "If this is what you need from me, than this is what I shall give you."

"You think I could do it?" Philippe asked, daring to hope.

"I do not doubt my...mustering...skills," the chevalier said with a grin. "After that, it's only a matter of closing your eyes and getting the job done."

Philippe nodded. "My brother does not think I can do this. He thinks he has made a safe bet, that I will fail and the appanage will fall to him."

"Then we shall prove him wrong," the chevalier said with a smile.

Chapter Text

Philippe studied his reflection in the full length mirror he had brought with him to Pheasant Island to attend the official hand off of the Infanta from her father, Philip IV to his brother. He was dressed in pale pink silk with ruffles at the sleeves and hem and he quite liked it. He turned to try to see the back.

"Careful. You will outshine the bride," the chevalier said putting his arms around Philippe from behind.

"I am planning on it," Philippe said pulling the chevalier's arms tighter around himself. He picked up a ribbon and held it near his head. "Yes?"

"Maybe no," the chevalier said, taking the ribbon. "Better to skip the ribbons when one is looking for a wife."

"You are wise, of course," Philippe agreed. He turned to face the chevalier. "I had a thought about that."

"Do tell," the chevalier said.

"What about one of Jules' sisters?" Philippe suggested.

The chevalier bit back a smile. "My dear, sweet mignonette, you know that I absolutely adore you, yes?"

Philippe nodded warily.

"I say this with the utmost affection but you cannot handle a Mazarinette, my love," the chevalier said. "We need to be thinking...virginal...without expectations."

"What do you mean?" Philippe asked.

"I mean that women with certain experience are going to see through our charade," the chevalier explained. "They may want to do my job for me."

Philippe looked puzzled and then realized. "You mean they would want to touch me?" he asked appalled.

The chevalier nodded. "With their hands, with their lips...."

"Stop! That's disgusting. No. They cannot touch me," Philippe said with a shudder. "They must just lay there while I...do my duty."

"Exactly why we must be thinking virgins with no expectations," the chevalier reiterated. "We'll find someone appropriate. Until then...no ribbons."

Philippe frowned. "I like that ribbon."

"Once you have your appanage, you can wear all the ribbons...and dresses...that you want," the chevalier reminded Philippe. "A small sacrifice, yes?"

"Yes," Philippe said. He frowned still thinking about his potential wife. "I don't want them to touch me."

"I know, darling," the chevalier said, his arms around Philippe. "Would you like me to touch you?"

Philippe nodded. "Very much so."

"Good because I would very much like to meet the Spanish smelling of you, of us," the chevalier said with a wicked grin. He pushed Philippe down on the bed and crawled on top of him. "I think I shall touch you everywhere," he said, pulling off Philippe's breeches. "With my hands," he said, his hands pushing up Philippe's shirt. "With my lips," he said as he took Philippe in his mouth.

"Oh yes...." Philippe moaned.

 

Philippe and the chevalier entered the French side of the pavilion on Pheasant Island between France and Spain.

"I see the Spanish are dressed for a party," the chevalier said with a judgmental glance at the dark and dour clothes of the Spanish. "So last century."

"Perhaps that's how long it takes fashion to cross the Pyrenees?" Philippe asked with a laugh. "I can only imagine what Louis' bride will look like."

Louis gestured to Philippe from across the room near the Spanish side.

"Ugh. He beckons," Philippe said. "Kiss me before I go? See if any of the Spanish faint from shock?"

"I would love to kiss you alas, I do not have a death wish," the chevalier said with a smile. "I shall kiss your hand...for now." He kissed Philippe's hand. "And later, I shall kiss...everywhere else."

"How easy it is to ready the soldier for battle," Philippe said with a lascivious wink.

The chevalier laughed. "No doubt a chat with your brother and the Spanish will send him into full retreat."

Philippe sighed. "The mere thought was enough." He walked over to join Louis.

"Brother, how may I serve you?" Philippe asked drolly.

"If you could just be...normal...in front of the Spanish," Louis said.

"I am wearing breeches. I do not know what more you want of me," Philippe replied. "I would have worn something...else...but I did not want to outshine the bride."

"That is exactly the sort of thing I don't want," Louis hissed.

Philippe winked at Louis. "You really are quite vexed today, brother. You are already married by proxy. It is not as if she can back out now...or perhaps you are the one with cold feet?"

Louis was quiet.

Philippe sighed. "I know she is not Marie but that was never going to be allowed, brother," he said softly. "Even if you ran to her right now, all you would do is cause a war between France and Spain and eventually get stuck with the Infanta anyway."

"I know that which is why I am here but...in my head, I understand that marriage is about duty not love but my heart...."

"You are king, brother. You are not allowed the luxury of a heart or so you tell me," Philippe said. "Or an escape. She arrives." He nodded toward the door of the pavilion on the Spanish side as Philip IV and Marie Terese entered. "At least she is not wearing black," he whispered to Louis.

"Small mercies," Louis whispered back and then walked toward Philip IV. "Philip, it is a pleasure to see you and your daughter, the Infanta."

Marie Terese curtsied properly. "Mi Rey."

"First, a treaty of peace between France and Spain will be signed," Philip IV said. "And then the introductions."

"Of course," Louis said motioning to Cardinal Mazarin to bring forward two copies of the treaty.

Mazarin handed a copy to each king along with a pen.

"After you," Philip IV said to Louis.

Louis' hand hovered above the treaty for a moment before he put pen to paper and signed. He look expectantly at Philip IV.

Philip IV signed his copy and then the two men switched copies and signed again.

"To peace between our great countries," Mazarin said.

The crowd cheered the announcement.

"I present to you my daughter, the Infanta of Spain, Maria Teresa," Philip IV said, taking Marie Terese's hand and placing it in Louis' hand careful that neither he nor Marie Terese stepped into France.

"It is a pleasure, your highness," Louis said being equally careful to stay in his own country.

 

"Tengo el honor de conocer al rey y a mi esposo. Soy tu obediente sirviente," Marie Terese said formally.

Louis looked at the Spanish ambassador who translated for him.

"She does not speak French?" Philippe asked Louis quietly.

"Not a word apparently," Louis said.

"Perhaps that is for the best. You will not be required to produce a sparkling wit," Philippe said with a wink.

"Your help today has been inspiring, brother," Louis hissed. "I may not have your sparkling wit but at least I will be able to perform on my wedding night."

Philippe looked stung. "As usual, you escalate a game into a war. I pity her."

"May I present my brother, Philippe, the Duc d'Orleans," Louis said to Marie Terese, glaring at Philippe.

"It is an honor, I am sure," Philippe said graciously. "Welcome to France and to our family."

The translator whispered into Marie Terese's ear.

"Es un honor conocer a mi estimado cuñado," Marie Terese told Philippe.

"Your gown is lovely," Philippe told Marie Terese.

"Gracias," Marie Terese said sincerely.

Philippe smiled at Marie Terese.

Marie Terese shyly smiled back.

"I believe this concludes today's business," Mazarin said. "We shall return tomorrow to bring the Infanta to France."

Philip IV and Marie Terese returned to the private side of the Spanish pavilion.

Philippe turned to go back to the chevalier but Louis grabbed his arm. Philippe looked at his brother, saw the panic in his eyes.

"If you really want to run, we'll go," Philippe whispered to Louis. "You are my brother first."

Louis nodded and swallowed. He let go of Philippe's arm.

"You do not have to love her, brother," Philippe said. "You just have to produce an heir with her. Love can come from elsewhere, yes?"

Louis nodded, breathing beginning to normalize. "Thank you, brother."

Philippe smiled. "It is refreshing to see you like this. Still human after all."

 

Philippe and the chevalier returned to the Palais Royal.

The chevalier threw himself on their bed. "Ah, home! How I have missed you!"

Philippe laughed. "We weren't even gone a week." He laid down beside the chevalier. "As long as you are with me, it still feels like home."

The chevalier took Philippe's hand and kissed it.

"I feel bad for the Infanta," Philippe said.

"Because of her atrocious sense of fashion?" the chevalier asked. "I do as well."

"Because she's been taken to a country where she doesn't know anyone, doesn't speak the language, and has to bed someone who loves someone else," Philippe said.

"The same could be said of your future wife," the chevalier said.

"The last part can't be helped, of course," Philippe said. "But the rest...I should like to marry a French woman, I think."

"A French virgin of marrying age? Perhaps we are setting the bar too high?" the chevalier pondered.

"I AM next in line to the throne of France," Philippe pointed out.

"I am questioning whether such a lady exists not whether you are worthy of her," the chevalier said.

"What about my cousin?" Philippe asked.

"Henriette?" the chevalier asked.

"No, the other cousin. Anne-Marie-Louise," Philippe said. "You do not think she is a virgin?"

"I have given it absolutely no thought. She is ridiculously wealthy so maybe we could loosen the virginity requirement though...would your brother approve?" the chevalier asked.

"Why would he not?" Philippe asked.

The chevalier sighed. "I understand that you saw your uncle through rose colored glasses but the Fronde did happen and your cousin also sided against your family. She fired a cannon in the general direction of the king."

"She is no longer exiled. Louis has..mostly...forgiven her and she has always been nice to me," Philippe said. "Even if she is not a virgin, maybe she would understand...the charade. She may even be willing to be a co-conspirator," he suggested hopefully.

"Perhaps," the chevalier said.

"I must marry someone," Philippe said. "I would rather it be someone who was a friend."

"She is not very attractive," the chevalier said.

"Is she not?" Philippe asked. "She is not hideous and honestly, I will be keeping my eyes tightly shut through the entire proceeding anyway."

"Then the two of you may be the perfect match," the chevalier said. "You should pursue it."

"I think I must wait until after Louis is married and then I shall ask Mother about it," Philippe said.

"She will be delighted by your enthusiasm, no doubt," the chevalier said. "A true romantic."

"You know that it is not that," Philippe said, rolling over to face the chevalier. "It will never be a love match. I already love you." He touched the chevalier's face. "I wish I would have been born a girl."

"So you could always wear dresses?" the chevalier asked.

"So I could marry you," Philippe said softly.

"We would have really beautiful babies," the chevalier said with a smile.

Philippe leaned over and kissed the chevalier. "No matter who I marry, you will always be my true spouse, Philippe de Lorraine."

"And you mine," the chevalier said softly. "Mon mari toujours."

 

Philippe and the chevalier walked by the buffet table.

The chevalier popped a macaron in his mouth. "Your brother certainly spared no expense."

"He does enjoy gilding things," Philippe agreed. "Chairs, glasses...swans?"

"Let us hope the new queen is not an admirer of subtlety," the chevalier said.

"Philippe, there you are, my son," Anne said as she approached Philippe.

"I believe I see my brother overserved at the gilded punchbowl. If you will excuse me, your majesty, your highness," the chevalier said with a bow and a quick exit.

"I did not mean to frighten him away," Anne said.

"He was left with the unenviable task of keeping his brother and Rohan from falling down drunk anywhere," Philippe explained. "Louis does not want his new wife to get the wrong idea about us."

"She will learn eventually," Anne said. "As we all do."
"Was it difficult, Mother? When you came here?" Philippe asked.

Anne considered her answer. "It was not easy. Even knowing from birth that I would have to go, it was difficult. Your father...was a stranger. My French was not so good. I was able to bring a couple of ladies with me but yes, it was quite difficult." She looked at Marie Terese who swung from looking happy to looking terrified from moment to moment. "I do not envy her."

"Nor do I," Philippe said. "I...I know I must marry now that Louis has."

Anne looked surprised. "Yes, you must though...I expected a bit more resistance."

"Louis has made things very clear," Philippe said. "I should like to marry as soon as possible."

"Do you have someone in mind?" Anne asked, wondering what exactly Louis had made clear.

"Perhaps my cousin," Philippe said.

"Henriette?" Anne asked.

"No! You know she is in love with Louis," Philippe said. "Anne-Marie-Louise."

"THAT cousin?" Anne asked. "She has already turned down several suitors and now that her father has left her independently wealthy, she may not be receptive...."

"She has always been kind to me," Philippe said. "She's my friend."

"I will inquire as to her interest," Anne said. "And what does the Chevalier de Lorraine think of this?"

"He understands," Philippe said. "We must all do our duty. Just as you and my father did."

Anne nodded. "We do, Philippe. No matter how difficult or unpleasant it may be," she said thinking of her late husband. "I am proud of you for taking responsibility for this." She kissed Philippe on the cheek. "You are becoming a wonderful young man."

Philippe blushed, basking in Anne's love and attention.

Louis stood up and a hush fell on the crowd. "I believe the queen and I will retire."

Marie Terese turned pale as a few partygoers issued catcalls and whistles.

"I must go," Anne said and walked toward Louis' table.

 

Philippe found the chevalier on their balcony. "Much warmer tonight than it was that night."

The chevalier smiled at the sound of Philippe's voice and turned around. "I thought I did an excellent job of keeping you warm."

Philippe slid his arms around the chevalier's waist. "VERY warm as I recall."

"Dance with me," the chevalier said, pulling Philippe closer.

Philippe buried his face in blond curls. "Tell me about our wedding."

The chevalier smiled, resting his head on Philippe's shoulder. "The secret one or the official one that they were forced to have once they learn about the secret one?"

Philippe laughed. "The secret first."

"I asked you to marry me the first night we met, of course," the chevalier began. "But as a princess of France, you knew your fate was to be wed to some wretched king in some foreign land."
"Poor me," Philippe murmured.

"Indeed. You told me all about your fears that night and about how you wanted to marry for love. A gallant chevalier, perhaps, who rescued you from your terrible fate," the chevalier said dramatically.

"Such a handsome chevalier at that. What was I to do?" Philippe asked.

"You tried to resist what we felt for each other," the chevalier said.

"Did I?" Philippe asked with surprise.

"Well, for a moment anyway. I'm trying to give you some scruples here," the chevalier said.

Philippe laughed. "It is a valiant effort."

"We made love and we both knew that we would love each other forever," the chevalier said.

Philippe smiled. "Forever."

"But the next morning, your wicked brother, the king, came into your room unannounced and found us together," the chevalier said.

"Always a wicked king in these stories," Philippe said.

"This one was particularly wicked because he exiled me and locked you in your rooms surrounded by many guards," the chevalier said.

"What did you do?" Philippe asked.

"I pined in exile for a couple of months, drinking too much and trying to forget my princess," the chevalier said.

"Did you succeed?" Philippe asked.

"I could never succeed in that," the chevalier said. "You owned my heart completely."

Philippe smiled. "What happened next?"

"Unbeknownst to me, you had your own concerns. Not only were you desperately unhappy from missing your dashing chevalier, you had fallen pregnant."

"How scandalous of me! My wicked brother will be furious!" Philippe said. "Is it yours?"

The chevalier gasped. "Of course, it's mine!"

Philippe laughed.

"I knew I had to act even if it meant angering the king and making my situation even worse than it was or even if it meant making myself quite dead...death would be preferable to a life without my princess," the chevalier said.

"Your princess would agree," Philippe said quietly.

"So I snuck back into France and rode all through the night to Paris. I disguised myself as a servant, gave all the guards a sleeping draught, and then crept into your rooms. At first, you were terrified."

"I didn't expect one of the servants to climb into bed with me," Philippe explained.

"No, I should have removed the disguise first. It was my fault, my love," the chevalier said. "But once you realized it was me, you kissed me and my heart began to beat again."

"I should like to spend eternity kissing you," Philippe said softly.

"We're getting to that," the chevalier promised. "After thoroughly reacquainting ourselves, I asked again for your hand in marriage and you started to cry."

"Pregnancy does cause some women to get emotional," Philippe said.

"It took a bit but I was finally able to understand that you were pregnant and terrified of what might happen to you if your wicked brother found out," the chevalier said. "So I held you until you stopped crying and then told you of my plan. We would ride to my brother's abbey and he would marry us in secret. Together we would face the consequences of our actions."

"It was everything I'd prayed for," Philippe said. "My chevalier come back to rescue me from my gilded prison."

"Dressed as servants, we snuck out of the palace, stole a horse..."

"A white horse," Philippe corrected.

"Who's telling this story?" the chevalier asked.

"Continue...."

"We stole a WHITE horse and rode through the night to freedom. We reached my brother's abbey at dawn and he married us as the sun rose," the chevalier said.

"My heart burst with love for you," Philippe said. "I could not contain it."

"Nor I, my love. No matter what happened next, we would conquer it because together, we were invincible," the chevalier said. "My brother offered us a room, clean but sparsely furnished. A small bed and a table."

"What more did we need than that small bed?" Philippe asked.

"Nothing in the world but that small bed and each other," the chevalier agreed. "Alas, the world would not leave us alone and musketeers showed up the next morning looking for you."

"Perhaps your brother's abbey was a bit obvious," Philippe said.

"No one but blood would have dared risk offending the king," the chevalier explained.

"He is an offensive king," Philippe agreed. "To treat his sister thus."

"The musketeers dragged us back to Paris to stand in front of the wicked king who immediately sentenced me to death," the chevalier said.

"Mazarin tried to remind him that killing the prince of a border duchy that we barely held might create unintended consequences but the wicked king was ruled by his own ego rather than logic," Philippe said. "I had no choice but to throw myself at his stinking feet and beg for your life. I told him everything. That I loved you, that I was pregnant, that we were married in front of God. I had never seen the wicked king so furious."

"It was your mother who saw the solution. To save you from scandal and to placate the uppity Lorraine-Guise who were long overdue for a good rebellion and were just looking a reason. A marriage of love and political opportunity," the chevalier said.

"The official wedding was beautiful because you and I got to plan and style everything and the wicked king got no say whatsoever," Philippe said. "Not a single gilded anything as far as the eye could see."

"Even in the most beautiful gown anyone had ever seen, I couldn't help but think that I'd never seen you look more beautiful than you did in that abbey with tears in your eyes and the sun coming up over the horizon," the chevalier said.

"Do you ever think there will be a time when we could marry each other?" Philippe asked softly.

"Maybe in a thousand years," the chevalier said. "Until then I think I shall take you to bed."

"I think I shall like that," Philippe murmured, offering the chevalier is hand.

Chapter Text

"Why does she wish to speak to me?" Philippe asked his mother as they walked down the corridor toward his mother's private salon.

"I do not know. I broached the subject of marriage with her as you requested and she said that she would speak with you about it," Anne said. "Perhaps she wishes to judge the strength of your intention."

"My intentions are true, Mother," Philippe said.

"I do understand that, my son," Anne said. "Your brother, the king, told me that he has made marriage a contingency of your inheritance from Gaston."

Philippe scowled. "The puppet master pulls the strings, does he not? And now I shall leap and dance to his tune."

"Philippe...."

The guards opened the doors to the salon.

"You may remain here," Philippe told Anne and entered the salon. He saw the Duchesse de Montpensier sitting on the chaise. "Cousin, you wished to see me?"

Anne Marie Louise smiled at Philippe and patted the space on the chaise next to her. "Please join me." She snapped at a waiting servant. "Wine."

The servant quickly poured two glasses and handed them to Anne Marie Louise and Philippe as Philippe seated himself.

Philippe found himself unsure what to say and instead took a long drink of his wine.

Anne Marie Louise sighed slightly knowing that her decision was the right one. "You asked your mother to talk to me about marriage."

"I did," Philippe said. "We are both eligible and I thought...."

"Why do you want to marry me?" Anne Marie Louise asked.

Philippe seemed surprised by the question. "Well...we must marry someone and...we are friends, yes?"

Anne Marie Louise softened. "We are friends, cousin...and you must marry someone certainly. I, however..." She paused and looked at Philippe. "We are friends, you and I. In fact, you're one of my favorite people."

Philippe smiled.

"One of my father's favorite people as well and no doubt, he would approve of your idea," Anne Marie Louise mused. "But it is due to him that I must decline."

Philippe looked confused. "But if he would approve...."

"You were not often at our home," Anne Marie Louise began. "You never saw the way that he and my step-mother were together. He loved her more than anything in this entire world. She was his heart, his soul. He risked everything for her. Exile. The wrath of his brother, your brother, Mazarin, the list is endless. I want that kind of love, Philippe. I deserve that kind of love and I won't settle for a marriage of convenience. Not even one to my dearest friend. Do you understand?"

Philippe thought of the chevalier. What would he risk for him? Everything. "I do," he said softly.

"I thought you might," Anne Marie Louise said quietly. "I think you might already have found such a love."

Philippe nodded slightly.

"I am happy for you, cousin," Anne Marie Louise said. "Could you be happy for me too?"

"Of course," Philippe said. "You deserve love, my dearest cousin. May you find it with someone you are actually allowed to marry," he added sadly.

Anne Marie Louise frowned and squeezed Philippe's hand in sympathy.

 

The chevalier and Armagnac stood in front of a window in the salon watching the leaves fall from the trees on the esplanade.

"Will you be joining us for Noel this year?" Armagnac asked the chevalier.

"I will be wherever Philippe is," the chevalier said. "Hopefully here and not Versailles again."

"Mother asks about you," Armagnac said. "Perhaps you could come just for a day or two."

"So my choices are Noel with someone who loves me or with someone who despises me?" the chevalier asked Armagnac. "Your arguments need work, brother."

"We love you, brother," Armagnac said quietly.

"He doesn't," the chevalier said.

"He is not all of us," Armagnac said and then sighed. "Perhaps then after Noel before the court reconvenes."

"Perhaps," the chevalier said, more to end the conversation than in agreement.

Armagnac sighed, slightly annoyed. "This tryst cannot last forever, Philippe. He will have to marry. You will have to marry. Please don't turn your back on the people who are forever for the sake of one who cannot be."

"As usual, you have no idea about that of which you speak," the chevalier spat.

"You think I am wrong? That these things will not come to pass?" Armagnac asked. "Marriage is the way of things. Me, you, everyone must marry and now that the king has taken a wife, it is imminent."

"I know that," the chevalier said. "I know that we will have to marry and we are working on a plan." He turned to Armagnac. "I am also aware that family is forever, brother. He IS my family. Marriages will not change that fact."

"Brother, I know you are not a fool but you are sounding like a naive little girl right now," Armagnac hissed. "And you need to grow up and face some stark realities. This can not last."

Philippe saw the chevalier and Armagnac from across the room and smiled.

The chevalier smiled at Philippe, the weight of his brother's words evaporating into the air. "You don't know him or what we are to each other. Marriages or no marriages, we are forever." He left Armagnac's side and met Philippe in the middle of the salon. "How did it go?"

"Plan A has failed," Philippe reported. "She wishes to marry for love."

"Don't we all?" the chevalier asked.

"Yes, but her father, my dearest uncle, has left her with a bank account that may actually allow her to do so," Philippe said. "So we are back to the drawing board."

The chevalier saw Henriette and Athenais playing cards at a nearby table. "She is not your only cousin."

Philippe sighed. "Must I?"

"Perhaps we are not that desperate yet," the chevalier agreed. "Let us go to our rooms and think about it."

"You want to go to our rooms and think?" Philippe asked, a bit disappointed.

"No, I want to go to our rooms and spend the rest of the afternoon fucking your brains out but that didn't seem an appropriate thing to say in the salon," the chevalier hissed into Philippe's ear.

Philippe smiled. "I think we must go post haste. We have much...thinking...to do."

 

Philippe lay on his stomach, completely naked, his head at the foot of the bed, his long dark hair spilling down his back.

The chevalier gently traced his finger down Philippe's back.

"So plan B," Philippe began.

"Must we discuss that?" the chevalier asked.

"Did you have other plans?" Philippe asked.

"I am currently engaged in admiring your exquisite derriere," the chevalier said, his finger roaming lower.

Philippe smiled and turned his head to look. "Is it exquisite?"

"The most exquisite I have ever laid eyes...or lips...on," the chevalier said, placing a kiss on the cheek nearest him.

Philippe laughed. "Do you think my future wife will appreciate it?"

The chevalier sighed. "No but I shall and that is all that matters." He rolled over to his stomach and joined Philippe at the foot of the bed. "So plan B."

"You're sure Jules' sisters are a bad idea?" Philippe asked.

"I have never been more sure of anything," the chevalier said.

"What about Athenais?"

"You are a prince. She is only a marquise. I think you cannot go lower than duchesse," the chevalier reasoned.

Philippe sighed. "Who then?"

"Perhaps a foreign princess?"

"If there were one of those, Louis already would have made me marry her," Philippe pointed out.

"True...well, there is one exception," the chevalier said.

"I thought we were not that desperate," Philippe reminded the chevalier.

"Upon further thought...let us think about what the ideal wife for you would be. First, virginal with no expectations. Your brother flirts but has not fucked her, yes?"

"Yes. I think he flirts because he cannot help himself. She is a bit thin for him," Philippe confirmed.

"Second, someone for whom this will be a step up so that she may be more inspired to not...rock the boat," the chevalier said.

"The political situation in England has certainly lowered her stock though she is no longer in exile. No doubt if there were a foreign prince interested, she would have already married him," Philippe said and then sighed. "Is she really the only choice?"

"You do not mind her so much," the chevalier said. "She is quite a bit dull certainly and far too thin but you only have to get her pregnant on occasion and be seen in public together. We are not looking for a love match here."

"What do I get from it?" Philippe asked.

"Her brother is king of England. Surely a dowery is not too much to expect. Also your brother will be forced to surrender your appanage which is the whole point of this farce, is it not?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe sighed. "Why can't he just give me what's mine and let me live in peace?"

"I will assume that is a rhetorical question that you do not intend for me to answer," the chevalier replied.

Philippe sighed. "I have to do this, don't I?"

"Louis will make you marry someone, my darling. You can either accept his carrot or prepare yourself for the stick," the chevalier pointed out.

"I hate him," Philippe said quietly.

The chevalier kissed Philippe's shoulder tenderly. "I love you."

Philippe smiled and leaned over, kissing the chevalier gently. "I love you too."

Chapter Text

Philippe lay in bed enjoying the warmth and comfort of the chevalier's arms around him. He could see snow falling softly in the pre-dawn light outside the window. Noel was right around the corner. Versailles again. He sighed, remembering the horrific little hunting lodge from last Noel. At least the chevalier would be there with him. He wrapped the chevalier's arms tighter around himself.

"Are you cold, darling?" the chevalier murmured, tightening his grip on Philippe.

Philippe shook his head. "No. I just wanted you closer."

The chevalier smiled and snuggled closer, planting a kiss on Philippe's ear. "You're awake early."

"Just dreading the voyage," Philippe said.

"Ah yes. Another swampy Noel awaits us," the chevalier said. He kissed Philippe's bare shoulder. "It wasn't so bad last year, was it?"

"You made it not so bad," Philippe said and then turned to face the chevalier. "You make everything better."

The chevalier kissed Philippe. "I do my best for my prince." He rolled over onto Philippe still kissing him.

 

The chevalier and Philippe walked onto the cour d'honneur toward the awaiting carriages.

"Is your brother going to the swamp palace?" Philippe asked, seeing the Armagnac crest on one of the carriages.

"No, he's going home. He's just off to a late start, I guess," the chevalier said. "He suggested I should go with him. I laughed and laughed."

"Why would you do that?" Philippe asked. "Granted, the swamp palace IS awful...."

"And yet still better than spending even a second with my father. We will make do in the swamp palace. I believe we have packed every piece of wool we own," the chevalier said, shivering in the frigid temperatures.

"It will still not be enough," Philippe said.

"Then I shall keep you warm, my love," the chevalier whispered to Philippe, his hand brushing Philippe's hand.

Philippe smiled as he and the chevalier stopped in front of their carriage.

Louis met them. "I am afraid that it is family only this year, brother."

Philippe looked confused. "What do you mean?"
The chevalier looked crestfallen, knowing exactly what Louis meant.

"It is the queen's first noel in France and we felt that it would be more appropriate that it be an intimate gathering. Family only," Louis repeated.

Philippe felt rage rising and tried to control it, to speak rationally. "He is my family, brother. Surely one more will not ruin the queen's Noel."

"No exceptions," Louis said and walked away.

Philippe seethed, too angry to form words. He felt angry tears forming in his eyes and tried to blink them away.

"I know, darling," the chevalier said quietly. "I know you do." He discreetly touched Philippe's hand. "It's only for a few days," he said, trying to comfort.

"Where will you go?" Philippe asked. "Will you stay here alone?"

"I believe that would be the best case scenario but I think I have other plans about to be forced upon me," the chevalier said, seeing Armagnac walking toward him.

"No! You cannot...." Philippe said. "I cannot provide a witness."

"I will be careful not to upset him," the chevalier said. "There will be so many people...perhaps he will not even notice me."

Philippe nodded tearfully. "I do not wish to spend Noel alone."

"I do not wish this either but...."

"I despise him," Philippe said. "I wish that he had never been born."

"Philippe!" Armagnac called. "You will come with me."

The chevalier sighed. "I hate this holiday almost as much as I hate both of our brothers," he whispered to Philippe. "Of course, brother. It would appear that your Noel wishes have been granted by our wise king," he spat, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"It is only for a few days," Armagnac said.

"Did you ask him to do this?" Philippe asked Armagnac. "Is that why you waited until today to leave?"

Armagnac was silent for a moment not wishing to lie to Philippe. "Does it matter?"

"If your brute of a father so much as looks at him wrong, I'll have him thrown in the Bastille," Philippe hissed.

Armagnac looked surprised. "Your highness...." He stopped, unsure what to say, unsure whether Philippe was capable of making good on the threat. "I will watch over him. You have my word."

"I will be fine, my darling," the chevalier said quietly to Philippe.

Philippe looked unconvinced. "I will talk to Louis. Make him change his mind."

"My love...he will not change his mind. He will just use it as an excuse to humiliate you and I cannot allow that," the chevalier whispered to Philippe. "It is just a few days and then we will be back together."

Philippe nodded, fighting tears. "Just a few days."

"The carriages are loaded, brother," Armagnac said. "We need to go now."

The chevalier squeezed Philippe's hand and followed his brother to the Armagnac carriage.

Philippe watched them go and then took a step toward his own carriage.

"Your highness, the king requests that you ride with him and the queen," said an out of breath courtier.

"Please tell the king that he can go fuck himself," Philippe spat as he climbed into his own carriage and slammed the door shut on the shocked courtier.

 

The chevalier watched the snow begin to fall outside the windows of the Armagnac carriage. Missing Philippe and dreading what was to come mixed together in his stomach making him a bit queasy.

"Will I be receiving the silent treatment for the entire journey?" Armagnac inquired.

"Do you not deserve it?" the chevalier asked.

"I gave you the opportunity to attend voluntarily," Armagnac reminded the chevalier.

"And I made it perfectly clear that I had no desire to spend even a moment in that house," the chevalier said. "I can promise you that my desires align perfectly with our father's in this matter."

"I did not do this for him. Mother misses you," Armagnac said. "You were always her favorite."

The chevalier softened. "I miss her too but...this is not going to be the touching family reunion you think it is."

"It could be," Armagnac said.

"You are correct. I could walk in and pretend to be you, the perfect son," the chevalier spat.

"Philippe...."

"Shall we go back to the silent treatment, brother?" the chevalier asked and turned his face back to the window.

Armagnac sighed in frustration.

 

The royal carriages came to a stop at the small cour d'honneur of Versailles.

Philippe alit from the carriage and stomped toward the house.

"Brother!" Louis called out cheerfully. "Perhaps a ride before dinner?"

Philippe ignored Louis.

"Brother!" Louis grabbed Philippe's shoulder, stopping his progress.

"I have no brother," Philippe hissed angrily.

Louis rolled his eyes. "It's a few days! It's nothing. Stop being a baby."

"You get everything, everything in the entire world! I wanted one thing. One fucking thing and you couldn't even let me have that!" Philippe yelled. "You can make me be here but you cannot make me be happy about it and you certainly cannot make me get on a horse and ride with you." He turned and stormed the rest of the way inside.

Louis sighed in frustration as his mother approached. "Don't start."

"You may not like it, may not understand it, but the chevalier makes him happy and if he's happy, he's obedient," Anne said. "Whatever happens, you brought this on yourself." She turned and walked into the lodge.

 

The Armagnac carriage pulled into the cour d'honneur of the Chateau d'Harcourt. Servants ran up with steps for the carriage and opened the door.

Armagnac hopped down and turned to the chevalier. "It's far too cold to stay in there for the duration, brother."

The chevalier scowled at Armagnac but stood and stepped down from the carriage. He looked up at the candle lit chateau, more medieval fortress than palace, and felt his queasiness increase tenfold. "Let us get this over with."

"A positive attitude might make this..." Armagnac stopped, seeing the homicidal glare on his brother's face. "It will be pleasant to see Mother and Charles, will it not? You won't even recognize Charles."

The chevalier nodded and steeled himself as he walked toward the open door flanked by servants murmuring "your highness" as he and Armagnac passed.

"Mother?" Armagnac yelled. "Charles? I have a Noel surprise for you!"

"We're in here, my dear," a woman's voice called from the salon.

The chevalier felt his heart melt a little at his mother's voice. He did miss her very much.

"What did you bring me? Is it a sword? A gun?" Nine-year-old Charles asked excitedly, running out of the salon to find his brother. He saw the chevalier and his face showed shock and then happiness. "Philippe!" He ran to his brother, nearly tackling him with a hug.

The chevalier smiled despite himself, hugging his baby brother back tightly. "I have missed you, my little urchin."

"Not so little!" Charles insisted, measuring himself against the chevalier. "Only a couple more inches and I shall be as tall as you."

"So you shall be," the chevalier said with fondness. "You are getting so big! When did that happen?"

"They have not seen you in nearly two years, brother," Armagnac reminded the chevalier.

"Is it true?" Marguerite-Philippe asked, coming out of the salon with tears in her eyes. "Is that my dearest son's voice I hear?"

"It is, Mama," the chevalier said quietly, tears in his own eyes. He met the older woman halfway, hugging her tightly. "I'm sorry I've been away so long."

Armagnac smiled with satisfaction.

 

Philippe sat on the chaise in his private salon with a book in his lap wondering what the chevalier was doing. He realized that it was only a few days and that he was perhaps overreacting but it was Noel and Louis did not understand the situation with the Comte d'Harcourt. He hoped that Armagnac was a man of his word though he doubted it. If their father had lived, if he would have hurt me, would Louis have done anything about it, he wondered. Probably not.

The doors to the room opened and Anne entered. "Hello, my son."

"Hello Mother," Philippe said tiredly.

"Are you ready?" Anne asked.

"For what?"

"Mass begins in 10 minutes," Anne said.

Philippe looked confused. "It is still daylight."

"It is a Spanish tradition that mass is attended all day today," Anne explained.

"I did doze in the carriage for a bit. Did we cross the Spanish border?" Philippe asked.

"Please don't be flippant. It is her first Noel away from her family. She is very religious. Can you please just be a good brother and come with me?" Anne asked.

"Whatever...." Philippe said quietly. He got up and walked toward the door.

"Are you not going to change? You wore that in the carriage," Anne said. "They are traveling clothes."

Philippe shrugged.

"And your hair...."

"It's fine." Philippe walked out through the open doors.

Anne watched him with concern.

 

Marguerite-Philippe led the chevalier and Armagnac into the salon. "We were just having tea." She waved a servant away to get more cups.

The chevalier stopped the servant and whispered "wine".

The servant nodded and left on her mission.

The chevalier and Armagnac took seats across from Marguerite and Charles. "You look well, Mama," Armagnac said.

"You are so sweet to say so, my dear," Marguerite replied. "My handsome sons." She smiled at the three of them. "You must tell me all the gossip at court. How is the new queen? I did so wish to attend the wedding."

"She's lovely. Just settling in," Armagnac said.

"Poor thing doesn't speak a word of French," the chevalier said. "Refuses to learn."

"I am sure that she will improve," Armagnac said. "The king seems happy with her. We see much less of him these days."

"Perhaps the Mazarinettes should come to court and we can perform a test of his marital bliss," the chevalier suggested.

Armagnac glared at the chevalier.

The chevalier shrugged. "Be careful what you wish for," he hissed to Armagnac. To his mother and Charles, he said, "the story is that the king was quite in love with Marie de Mancini but she was...a bit pure if you know what I'm saying. Fortunately for the king, her sister, Olympe did not have such notions and so he dumped Marie for Olympe."

Charles listened openmouthed. "What happened next?"

"I feel certain that what happened next is not suitable conversation," Armagnac warned.

"What happened next was a duel," the chevalier said with much drama.

"The king of France was in a DUEL?" Charles asked astounded.

"He was the cause of a duel! The sisters chose swords and vowed to fight to the death!" the chevalier exclaimed beginning to enjoy himself.

Marguerite looked shocked.

"Then what happened???" Charles demanded.

The chevalier sighed. "Well, some thought fate should decide but others thought that it should be broken up before they accidentally stabbed the king of France."

"Did anyone get stabbed?" Charles asked.

"Charles, that is enough!" Marguerite admonished.

"Well, I, being a good Samaritan wanting to protect the king, did get nicked," the chevalier said. "Just here," he pointed to his arm.

"Are you alright, dear?" Marguerite asked with worry.

"It did bleed quite a lot," the chevalier said.

"He was fine. I found a doctor before he lost too much blood," Armagnac said quickly.

"And this all happened in Paris? Your father didn't mention this," Marguerite said.

"It happened at Philippe's chateau," the chevalier said.

"HIS HIGHNESS had a bit of a party to celebrate the purchase of his chateau and it would appear that things got a bit out of hand. I do not believe Father attended the soiree," Armagnac explained.

"Your father said that you were a member of the prince's household," Marguerite said.

"He is my dearest friend," the chevalier said, feeling a pang in his heart, missing Philippe.

Marguerite looked suspicious. "It is good to have such high connections but it is time for both of you to begin thinking of marriage."

"I am thinking of marriage, Mother," Armagnac began. "I believe you know Catherine de Neufville?"

"A lovely girl!" Marguerite exclaimed. "Your father will wholeheartedly approve."

Armagnac smiled. "The prince, also, is getting married this spring. To Princess Henriette-Anne," he said, looking pointedly at the chevalier.

The chevalier glared at Armagnac. "Indeed, we are all looking forward to a spring wedding."

 

Philippe sat between his mother and brother and the queen, staring into space as Cardinal Mazarin droned on. They were on hour number three and Philippe had begun mentally listing the reasons that he hated the Spanish. He heard a soft buzzing noise and looked over at his brother. Asleep. He laughed out loud and then clapped a hand over his mouth.

"Philippe!" Anne hissed.

Louis woke up, a bit confused by his surroundings.

Marie Terese whispered something to Louis in Spanish.

"Why will she not learn French?" Philippe whispered to Louis. "Can you not make her?"

"Mind your own business," Louis hissed.

"I would gladly be minding my own business but alas, I am stuck here with you," Philippe reminded Louis.

"Then pray," Louis whispered.

"Do I pray like this?" Philippe asked making a little snoring noise.

"Stop talking. Both of you," Anne pled.

Philippe sighed and slouched down in the pew. "What do you think he wears under the robe? Mother, do you know?"

"PHILIPPE!" Anne hissed loudly, drawing attention from surrounding pews.

Marie Terese burst into tears. "Tu hermano es el Diablo," she said under her breath.

"Enough!" Louis yelled. "You with me." He got up and stormed down the aisle toward the door to the outside.

Philippe smirked and followed Louis.

"Please...continue," Anne said to Mazarin.

 

Philippe walked outside and was immediately pinned against the building by his much bigger brother. "Stop it!"

"I know that you are angry that I didn't let your little...friend...come but this stops now!" Louis yelled.

"Whatever are you talking about?" Philippe asked innocently.

"You are deliberately trying to embarrass me," Louis said.

"You are deliberately trying to make me miserable so I guess we're even!" Philippe yelled.

"You know things will change when you marry, brother. You will have to give him up then anyway," Louis said.

"Like you've given up your mistresses?" Philippe asked. "You've set an excellent example for me."

"That is completely different!" Louis yelled.

"Why is that? Because they don't have a cock?" Philippe asked. "Because he does indeed have a cock," he said with a smile.

"Don't be disgusting!" Louis yelled. He took a step away from Philippe and wiped his hands on his coat as if touching Philippe suddenly felt dirty.

Philippe buried the hurt under false bravado. "You do not like the word cock or do not like that like cock? Shall I tell you how much I like it? "

"Enough! Just...go to your rooms. I can't deal with you anymore. You may return for Reveillon."

"As you wish, your majesty," Philippe spat and then stormed toward the lodge, a small smile on his face.

 

The chevalier walked down the stairs of the chateau in a coat he knew was finer than anything anyone else would be wearing. Philippe had bought it for him as a token of his affection but tonight, it served as silk armor. He passed a servant with a tray of champagne flutes and took one. He quickly downed it and took a second as he steeled himself to walk into the grand dining room. He had expected multitudes but found only four: his two brothers and his parents. Not good. "Where is everyone?"

"Armande, Alfonse, and Raimond were unable to get away from their duties," Marguerite explained.

"It is the same every year," Armagnac said pointedly to the chevalier. "It is just us."

The chevalier frowned for a moment and then took his mother's arm with a smile. "Who needs them anyway? We shall be greatly entertained just us."

"It is so very good to see you, my dearest," Marguerite said, squeezing the chevalier's arm. "This coat is lovely."

The chevalier said. "A gift from a very dear friend."

Harcourt glared at the chevalier from behind his goblet of armagnac. "Dear friend indeed," he hissed under his breath.

The chevalier heard Harcourt. "I'm sorry, Father. Did you have something to say?"

"I am sure he did not or he would have said it," Armagnac said always the peacekeeper. "Father, did Mother tell you of my plans with Catherine?"

Harcourt turned his glare from the chevalier and focused on Armagnac. "She did indeed. An excellent match, son. We are quite proud of you."

The chevalier rolled his eyes and drained his champagne glass. He snapped at a servant who brought him another.

"Next, we must find someone suitable for Philippe," Marguerite said. "Such a handsome man you've grown into it. That should be no trouble at all."

Harcourt laughed harshly. "I should not bet money on it. What woman would want him?"

Armagnac looked nervous.

The chevalier looked hurt but remembered that he was wearing silk armor and had more champagne than blood in his veins. "Any woman wishing to be called your highness, I should think."

Marguerite nodded. "He is a prince of Lorraine and quite a handsome one at that and close to the royal family."

"Too close," Harcourt growled.

"I should think he could marry a duchesse. Perhaps Montpensier," Marguerite continued.

Harcourt laughed again. "No doubt someone like that would want a real man."

"Father," Armagnac hissed.

Harcourt ignored Armagnac. "No doubt that's why she turned down Monsieur."

The chevalier felt the champagne blood boiling in his veins. "You may say what you want about me but leave Philippe out of this!"

"I'm sure Father didn't mean to insult his highness..." Armagnac began.

"I merely speak the truth that everyone knows and is too afraid to say," Harcourt spat. "There is something wrong with him."

"There is nothing wrong with him!" the chevalier yelled.

"That is enough," Marguerite said quietly. "It is Noel and we shall eat in peace."

The chevalier and Harcourt glared at each other.

 

Louis, Marie Terese, Anne, the Cardinal, Jules, Rohan, along with Conde and Conti and their wives and children, sat at the long table in the dining room. One seat was glaringly empty.

"Where is my brother?" Louis asked Anne tersely.

"I am sure he is just running late," Anne said nervously, a bad feeling in her stomach.

"I can go look for him, your majesty, if you would like," Jules volunteered.

"That will not be necessary," Philippe said from the doorway. "I am found." He smiled at the group, resplendent in a pure white evening gown, his shoulders bare, his hair pinned in elegant and intricate braids, his face made up.

The group stared at Philippe, mouths agape. Marie Terese crossed herself.

"Goose! Oh good. I am ravenous," Philippe said, sitting next to Louis and helping himself. He snapped at a servant who brought him wine.

"What...are...you...wearing?" Louis asked through clenched teeth.

Philippe smiled. "As it is obvious, I shall assume that your question was rhetorical." He delicately picked up a goose leg and nibbled on it. "Delicious."

Louis took the goose leg away from Philippe. "You may finish it once you've returned properly attired."

"And what exactly is wrong with my attire?" Philippe asked, picking up a tart and eating it instead.

"I think you look lovely, your highness," Jules volunteered.

Mazarin glared at Jules.

"Thank you, Jules," Philippe said. "It was a difficult choice."

"Between a dress and breeches?" Louis asked.

"Oh no, that choice was easy. The difficult choice was between this dress and my blue dress. I'm not sure that blue is my color though. What do you think, brother?"
Louis seethed. "Go...change...now."

"No," Philippe said and took another bite of tart.

"Louis, just let him wear it," Anne said. "He's only doing it to make you angry."
"Mission accomplished," Rohan whispered to Jules.

Jules laughed behind his hand.

"I will not let him wear it, Mother. He will obey me," Louis said. "Go change now."

"Make me," Philippe said, his eyes deadlocked with Louis'.

"Guards," Louis said quietly. "You will return my brother to his rooms."

"Sire?" asked the lead guard.

"By any means necessary," Louis spat.

Philippe's eyes widened. "I am a prince of France. You will not touch me!"

The guards looked again at the king who nodded. The guards grabbed Philippe by the arms and dragged him from the chair, ripping his dress.

"Louis, stop this," Anne begged.

"No, he must learn to obey me," Louis said. "You will learn, brother."

"Fuck you," Philippe spat, angry tears forming in his eyes.

"Get him out of my sight!" Louis yelled.

The guards began dragging Philippe toward the door.

"Get your fucking hands off me! Swine!" Philippe yelled, struggling against the guards as they dragged him out of the dining room.

"Now, we eat," Louis said calmly.

Rohan and Jules diverted their gazes to their plates, unsettled by the scene.

 

The chevalier sat on his childhood bed trying not to replay his father's words. Real man, real man, real man.... He spun the ring on his finger as his mind turned to last Noel and he smiled at Philippe's cynicism about Pere Noel and his joy at finding the rings in his boots. Maybe Pere Noel would deliver Philippe to him this year. He could think of no other thing he wanted.

 

Philippe wrested his arms away from the guards as they approached his rooms. "I can walk from here, thank you," he spat angrily.

The guards opened the door and Philippe walked in, throwing his shoes at a vase, shattering it.

The guards quickly closed the door behind Philippe.

"Fucking swine!" Philippe screamed at the closed door. "Fuck you!" He picked up another vase and threw it against the wall, glass shattering everywhere. He gave into the rage then throwing everything he could get his hands on, overturning the furniture that he was strong enough to lift. He tried to turn over the chaise but he wasn't strong enough and slowly the rage turned into impotence and exhaustion and hot angry tears as he sunk to the floor in his torn dress. Blood dripped down his face from a cut caused by the flying glass. He wiped it away, smearing it across his rouged cheeks. The blood mixed with the tears as he sobbed.

 

The chevalier, in a night shirt and a robe, quietly snuck down the stairs to the kitchen looking for a glass of water and some powder to cure his champagne headache. He stopped quickly when he heard voices coming from his parents' salon.

"Marguerite, he will not marry. No one will marry him. You know this. Why do you persist?" Harcourt asked.

"If he marries, we may still be able to save him, Louis. We may still be able to save his soul," Marguerite said desperately. "He is our child!"

"He is an abomination and you know it as well as I do," Harcourt said. "I do not mean to be rough, wife, but you know that this is true. He is beyond redemption."

Marguerite sighed sadly. "You cannot blame a mother for wishing that what is so was not so."

The chevalier leaned back against the wall, tears falling down his face. His father's rage, he could deal with that but the quiet, sad disappointment of his mother was too much to bear. He slipped out of the chateau to the stables, saddled a horse, wrapped himself in a blanket and rode out into the pounding snow.

 

Philippe sat in the corner of his room, still in his torn dress, and contemplated a jagged piece of glass in his hand. He gently ran it down his arm, intrigued by the pools of blood it caused. He heard the pounding on the door. They had been pounding for awhile but he didn't care. He ran the glass along his arm again, less gently. More blood. Somehow the pain of the cut made him feel better. He did it again, making a new line of blood.

 

The chevalier rode for hours. He was freezing, past exhaustion when he finally saw the outline of the lodge in the nearly blinding snow. He dismounted and nearly fell to the ground, his legs too frozen to support his weight. He limped toward the lodge until he saw the guards at the main entrance. He took a left and walked in the shadows until he found the window of Philippe's room. Let's hope they did not change sleeping arrangements, he thought as he hoisted himself up to the balcony and quietly opened the window. He could barely see in the candlelit darkness. The room looked trashed and he frowned as he lowered himself to the floor and heard the crunch of glass under his slippers. "Philippe," he whispered. He walked to the bed. Still made. "Philippe," he said aloud as he saw movement in the corner. He knelt beside Philippe and put his arms around him. The torn dress. Blood. "What the hell happened here? I'll get the guards," he said, turning to yell for the guards.

"No," Philippe said weakly. He blinked a few times. "Philippe?"

"It is I," the chevalier said. He ripped a piece of blanket and began to wrap it around Philippe's bleeding arm. "What happened, my love?"

Philippe looked confused. "Are you really here?"

"I am...I...escaped," the chevalier said with a small smile. He noted the glass in Philippe's hand and gently took it away from him. His heart broke as he realized who made the cuts on Philippe's arm. "I'm here now, my love."

Philippe threw his arms around the chevalier and clung to him.

"It's okay now, darling," the chevalier said soothingly. "Whatever happened here, we'll fix it." He gathered Philippe into his arms and carried him to the bed. "Let's get this dress off you. I think it's seen its last party," he said, fingering the rip in the bodice. The knocking began again attracting the chevalier's attention. "Just stay here."

"NO!" Philippe shrieked, clinging to the chevalier's arm. "If they see you, they'll send you back." He felt tears in his eyes and tried to blink them away.

"Okay, okay," the chevalier said, wondering what the hell had happened to cause all this. "They're going to get in eventually though and then what?"
"You...you can hide under the bed," Philippe said. He focused on the chevalier's presence and began to feel calmer. "I need you to be here with me."

The chevalier surveyed the room. "I can see that." He thought for a moment. "What if you get into a nightshirt and then answer the door yourself. Tell them that you're fine. That you were sleeping. I'll hide under the bed until they leave."

Philippe nodded. "That seems like a good plan."

The chevalier helped Philippe out of the dress and into a nightshirt. "Don't let them in though. You don't want to explain what happened to the room."

Philippe looked around at the destruction. "I...I was angry."

The chevalier nodded. "I know and I'm sure it was justified but they may not understand."

Philippe nodded and took a step toward the door.

"Wait!" the chevalier whispered. "There's glass everywhere. Take my slippers."

Philippe finally registered that the chevalier was only wearing a nightshirt, robe, and slippers. "What happened to you?"

"Later. We deal with your issues first because they are pounding on the door," the chevalier said.

Philippe put the slippers on and took a step toward the door and then a step back to the chevalier. "Thank you for coming to my rescue me, my brave chevalier." He kissed the chevalier.

"I will always come to rescue you, my love," the chevalier said. "Now please go make the pounding stop. I drank far too much champagne last night."

Philippe laughed and walked to the door.

"Pretend to look sleepy!" the chevalier hissed as he rolled under the bed.

Philippe moved the chair from under the knob and opened the door, feigning surprise to see Jules, Rohan, and Anne outside.

"Philippe!" Jules exclaimed and hugged Philippe.

"My son," Anne said with relief.

"We were quite worried, your highness," Rohan explained.

"I...I didn't mean to worry anyone," Philippe said, touched by the concern. "I...I may have drank a bit too much when I returned here. I didn't hear you knocking."

"Why was the door blocked?" Anne asked suspiciously.

"I...I must have knocked the chair over by accident. Definitely drank too much," Philippe said, his hand on his head. "Starting to pay for it now...."

Jules surveyed the damage to the room, realizing that he was the only one in a position to see it. "We should let his highness get back to sleep," he said pointedly to Rohan.

Rohan glanced in the room and saw some of the carnage. "Indeed. Nothing worse than a sore head in the morning."

Anne nodded. "Sleep well, my son. I am glad you are doing better." She kissed Philippe's forehead and the three of them left.

Philippe quietly closed the door and then leaned against it. "I think they bought it."

The chevalier rolled out from under the bed. "Then get over here and warm me up! I think I may have frostbite."

Philippe walked through the rubble as quickly as possible and pushed the chevalier into the bed and started covering him with blankets.

"This isn't the kind of warming up I had in mind," the chevalier said. Now that the excitement was over, he began to shiver.

Philippe threw more wood on the fire until it blazed up and then returned to the bed, stripping off his nightshirt and crawling next to the chevalier.

The chevalier smiled, watching.

Philippe helped the chevalier take off his nightshirt. "Why is it wet?"

"Snow...."

"You rode here in a nightshirt?" Philippe asked aghast. "You could have frozen to death!"

"I...still...may," the chevalier said between shivers.

Philippe pulled the chevalier against him, hot bare skin against cold bare skin and then pulled the blankets over them. "Better?"

"Getting...there...."

Philippe rubbed the chevalier's arms and then curled down and rubbed his legs. He touched one of the chevalier's toes and winced at the cold. He was so cold. "My hands aren't warm enough." He gently put the chevalier's big toe in his mouth and sucked lightly.

"Mmmm....."

"Really?" Philippe asked. "Well, it is warmer." He continued sucking toes and rubbing legs, working his way up. "Is everything frozen?" he asked, his breath hot against the chevalier's cock.

The chevalier gasped.

"So not everything...maybe..." He licked across the tip of the chevalier's cock, eliciting a loud moan. He smiled as the cock stiffened. He put his lips around it and took it into his mouth. It was unusually cold which concerned him. He felt it hardening and swelling and warming in his mouth as he moved his lips back and forth, his tongue licking the tip. He took more into his mouth, hand and his lips working in tandem. The taste, the smell, the chevalier's moans excited him, his own cock growing hard in anticipation. He shifted his position and gently guided the chevalier's cock inside of him. "Mmmm."

The chevalier moaned at the sudden tightness.

"Sorry I...it was a bit too exciting," Philippe explained as he carefully moved up and down on the chevalier's cock, finding the spot inside that was pure pleasure. "Mmmm. Yes."

The chevalier smiled. "There may be nothing more erotic than watching you pleasure yourself with me inside you." He reached out and took Philippe in hand. "Well, one thing maybe." He stroked in time to Philippe's thrusts.

"Oh yes...." Philippe moaned, speeding up, care being replaced by need and desire.

The chevalier felt heat flooding through his body, pins and needles serving as an odd aphrodisiac as his pleasure grew tenfold. "God yes.... Philippe...not much longer...." he tried to warn.

"Oooooh...." Philippe moaned loudly, releasing all over the chevalier's hand and chest.

The chevalier immediately let go inside of Philippe, shuddering in pleasure.

Philippe collapsed on the chevalier's chest, his skin hot and sweaty. "Sorry...I got distracted...."

The chevalier laughed weakly. "I think you solved the problem. I am now burning hot."

"Yes you are..." Philippe agreed, kissing the chevalier thoroughly. "You're quite warm now too."

"I believe we've found a new cure for frostbite," the chevalier said, his hand stroking Philippe's hair.

"Frostbite, rage, sadness...it's a true cure-all," Philippe said, his head resting on the chevalier's chest.

"Do you want to tell me what happened that made you ransack your room?"

"Do you want to tell me what happened that made you ride through a blizzard in the middle of the night in nothing but your nightshirt?"

"I had a robe on," the chevalier said.

Philippe lifted his head questioningly.

"It would seem that both my parents think I'm beyond redemption. An abomination," the chevalier said. "I guess...I'd never heard her say it before."

Philippe frowned and kissed the chevalier gently. "I'm sorry."

"And your situation? What did the vases do to deserve such treatment?"

"Louis, of course. I wore a dress to Reveillon and he had the guards drag me out though really...it's not just that. It's...." He felt the tears forming again. "It's...everything...."

The chevalier pulled Philippe close. "The holidays are the worst," he said quietly.

"Gaston," Philippe whispered.

"The wisest man I've ever met," the chevalier said with a small smile.

"I miss him," Philippe said quietly.

"Me too," the chevalier said.

"I love you," Philippe said softly and kissed the chevalier.

"I love you too, mignonette," the chevalier said. "Sleep now, darling. The sun is coming up. It's almost Noel."

Chapter Text

Philippe led a blindfolded chevalier down a torchlit hallway at Saint-Cloud.

"Is this meant to simulate my 85th birthday when I am actually blind?" the chevalier asked.

Philippe laughed. "I cannot imagine you as an old man."

"I think I do not want to ever be that old," the chevalier said.

"You must live to be that old! What would I do without you?" Philippe asked.

"Do you plan to live to be that old?" the chevalier asked.

"I do not know. I only know that I cannot be without you," Philippe said quietly.

"Then we should find a way to die together," the chevalier said. "I could not live without you either."

Philippe smiled. "He have arrived."

"Arrived where exactly?" the chevalier asked.

"To your birthday surprise," Philippe said.

"Another jungle party?" the chevalier asked.

"No, I wanted you to myself," Philippe said and then second guessed himself. "Are you disappointed?"

"Not a bit," the chevalier said. "Can I take this off?" he asked, his hand on the blindfold.

"You do not trust me?" Philippe asked.

"If I didn't trust you, I wouldn't have allowed you to lead me around for the last 20 minutes," the chevalier said.

"Then continue to trust me," Philippe said. He led the chevalier into the room.

The chevalier could feel the heat of the roaring fire. He had mentally questioned whether Saint-Cloud in February was a good idea but he did not want to spoil whatever Philippe had planned. He felt Philippe remove his coat, his hands lingering on the thin material covering his arms. He shivered.

"Are you cold?" Philippe asked.

"No," the chevalier answered. "Just...reacting to your touch."

Philippe smiled.

"You're smiling," the chevalier said.

"Can you see through that?"

"No...I just know you," the chevalier answered. He felt Philippe's fingers under his shirt, brushing his skin, something he had done hundreds of times but the blindfold seemed to be making everything more sensitive. He lifted his arms and Philippe pulled the shirt over his head. He could feel the heat of the fire intently now, burning his skin but it was a good burn. He knew that Philippe would untie his breeches next but still shuddered as his fingers brushed the skin of his lower belly. He felt himself begin to swell in anticipation of what was to come. He felt his breeches fall to the floor and helpfully stepped out of them. He could tell that Philippe was staring at him and felt himself becoming harder under his attention.

"You're breathtaking," Philippe murmured.

"Then touch me," the chevalier said.

"Not yet," Philippe said, his voice husky. "Lie down here."

The chevalier felt Philippe take his hand and guide him. He laid down on something soft, furry, so soft, a contradiction with the flames of the fire which were much closer now. He really wanted to be touched...not that he did not always want Philippe to touch him but this...he really needed it. "Please touch me."

"Open your mouth," Philippe said.

The chevalier smiled, knowing what was coming and happy to receive it. He opened his mouth willingly and was surprised to taste strawberry. "That is not where I thought this was going."

Philippe laughed. "You would skip the hors d'oeurve and go right to the main course?"

"It turns out I am very hungry," the chevalier said, eating the strawberry. "For something a bit...meatier. What is that?" He felt something wet trailing down his chest followed by warm lips and tongue that he definitely recognized. The wet thing trailed further down and he involuntarily arched toward it. He felt it on his tip and moaned. "Philippe...." It ran up his length and he felt his head swimming. "I need you. Please...." The wet thing continued to tease him, making him desperate. He had never needed anything more.

"Tell me," Philippe whispered, his breath hot on the chevalier, using a strawberry to further stimulate matters.

"In your mouth. Please Philippe. NOW...." the chevalier begged, losing the battle with restraint.

Philippe smiled and did as he was asked. "Mmm. You taste of strawberries," he mumbled, his mouth full, his tongue busy. He ran his finger down further and gently inserted it into the chevalier.

The chevalier felt a wave of pleasure different from what he had felt before and moaned loudly, drowning in pleasure, the blindfold increasing his enjoyment even more as Philippe expertly tended him. He felt the uncontrollable explosion, Philippe's perfect mouth still ministering to him. He felt Philippe's weight on him and then his lips on his lips. "Why are you still clothed?" he asked weakly.

"Were you imagining me naked?" Philippe asked, kissing the chevalier again. "Do you want to take the blindfold off?"

"I think after what you just did, I may be blind regardless," the chevalier said, still trying to calm his breathing.

Philippe smiled and gently removed the blindfold. "You liked it?"

"Yes, all of it," the chevalier said. "You...really do have a god given talent."

"You inspire me," Philippe whispered. "I like the way you feel inside my mouth, the way you taste."

"You are so utterly wicked," the chevalier said.

"Do you mind?" Philippe asked.

"It is one of my favorite things about you," the chevalier said with a smile. "Are you really going to keep your clothes on?"

"Did you have a reason for me to take them off?" Philippe asked suggestively.

"Give me a few moments and I believe I can find one," the chevalier said.

 

A while later, Philippe lay naked in the chevalier's arms, staring at the fire.

"What are you thinking about?" the chevalier asked.

"Nothing."

"Philippe...."

"You really don't want to know," Philippe said.

"My brother said that her boat docked this morning. He and Rohan are riding out to meet them," the chevalier said, guessing what was on Philippe's mind.

"This is really going to happen," Philippe said.

"It is," the chevalier said. "Did you think perhaps you could be married by proxy and she would stay in England?"

"I had hoped," Philippe said. He sighed. "No doubt, my brother will require proof of consummation before he'll release my inheritance though."

"I would count on it," the chevalier said.

"What if I can't?" Philippe asked quietly, voicing his biggest fear.

The chevalier rubbed Philippe's back. "You can."

"I can't even stand to be touched," Philippe said.

"She won't touch you...not your skin anyway and I've seen you allow women to touch your clothes without becoming upset," the chevalier said.

"How do you figure?" Philippe asked, turning to face the chevalier.

"You'll be wearing a night shirt. We'll make sure it's a big one, that you are well covered."

"I should keep it on?" Philippe asked.

"Yes and she will keep hers on," the chevalier said. "And then I'll...get you ready...you'll do the deed and that will be that."

"I can do the deed without touching her?" Philippe asked dubiously.

"Well, there may be some brief fumbling and, of course, you'll have to be inside her but I really think touching can be kept to a minimum," the chevalier said.

"Fumbling...to find where to put it?"

"Yes," the chevalier said.

"Will it be obvious? What if I put it in the wrong place?" Philippe asked, uncovering some new anxiety.

The chevalier bit his lip, knowing that laughter was not going to help. "It should be fairly obvious."

"I don't want to do this," Philippe said quietly. "Just thinking about it is making me feel a little sick."

"Then stop thinking about it. Is obsessing over it going to solve the problem?"

"No but...."

"Then just stop. There will be plenty of time to worry about it on your wedding night," the chevalier said. "Let's think of the more pleasant part of all this."

"The appanage?"

"Well, yes, but I was thinking of the wedding and the reception. You can spend all the money you want on it and Louis can't complain about it," the chevalier said.

Philippe's face brightened. "I can! God, no gold plated anything though. I know he thinks it makes us look rich but it's just tacky."

"I agree but it must still look stupendous. Ideally, better than Louis' wedding," the chevalier said, warming to the topic.

"Jewels perhaps?"

"On people?"

"Floating in the air," Philippe said. "Like it's raining gems."

"That would be painful. Like hail," the chevalier said.

"They wouldn't actually fall on people," Philippe said. "They would just be floating."

"Perhaps we could make people do embarrassing things to earn the gems?"

"Yes! Games with the gems as prizes," Philippe said excitedly, anxiety forgotten. "And perhaps a play?"

"We will contact Moliere immediately," the chevalier said with a smile. "What will you wear?"

"Hm. What do you think? Perhaps violet?"

"I'll send a message to Athenais' tailor in the morning. Maybe a few options and then you can choose?" the chevalier suggested.

"Brilliant as always," Philippe said, kissing the chevalier. He was quiet for a moment. "Does it bother you that I'm marrying?"

The chevalier shook his head. "I know your heart belongs to me."

"It does," Philippe said softly. "Forever, it is yours."

 

Philippe walked into Louis' salon, announcing himself with, "you wished to see me?"

"I did, brother. Please sit," Louis motioned pointedly to a chair without arms.

Philippe glared at Louis for a moment. "I would rather stand."

Louis shook his head. "So you are like that today."

"Like what, brother?"

"Contrary," Louis said. "Exhausting."

Philippe bit back a satisfied smile. "Did you need something?"

"You have heard that Henriette and her mother return today?" Louis asked.

"I am well informed, yes," Philippe said nonchalantly. He had decided on his way that he would not give Louis a moment's satisfaction today.

"I thought I would throw an engagement party for the two of you, toast the happy couple," Louis said.

"I shall be there with bells on," Philippe said, feigning enthusiasm.

"I would settle for breeches," Louis said drily.

Philippe laughed. "If it moves this thing along, breeches it shall be."

"Your eagerness is surprising, brother. You do realize what is entailed in this endeavor, do you not?" Louis asked.

"Vows...perhaps dancing...oh, you refer to the wedding night," Philippe said. "I shall do my very best for France."

"Are you really going through with this?" Louis asked bemused. "Honestly, I thought you would have backed out by now."

"You have left me no choice but to dance to your tune, brother. If selling my body is the cost of getting what is rightfully mine then I am prepared to pay it," Philippe said tersely.

"So romantic. Henriette is a lucky woman," Louis said.

"No doubt, the same could be said of our fairest queen," Philippe replied. "Who are you sleeping with these days? Still Olympe or have you moved on to greener pastures?"

Louis looked annoyed for a moment but chose not to engage. "So we shall throw a grand entertainment to celebrate your engagement. Two nights hence? We would not want your future bride to still be tired from her trip."

"I look forward with baited breath, brother," Philippe said. "In fact, I have already began planning the wedding. I'll send you the invoices, yes?" He smiled.

"Please be moderately sensible," Louis said quietly.

"Sensible?" Philippe asked. "A prince of France and a princess of England are marrying, brother. We must throw a fete worthy of our two great nations."

"Just do not bankrupt THIS great nation," Louis said plaintively.

"I cannot promise anything," Philippe said with a wink. "I was thinking of having 50 doves dusted in gild paint flying around the grand ballroom. We could have nobles we don't like pick up their droppings...your thoughts?"

Louis sighed. "You may go."

"Is that a no?"

"Please go," Louis said. "Though...I do have a counsel meeting coming up and may want to revisit the dove idea," he said with a laugh.

Philippe laughed. "I shall note it down as a strong maybe."

 

"I am not sure about this green," the chevalier said, studying Philippe's forest green suit.

"You picked it out," Philippe said.

"I do like how it shimmers in the candlelight," the chevalier said. "Yes, I think this is the one."

"Are you sure?" Philippe glanced at the monstrous pile of clothes on the bed. "I have been your mannequin for hours now."

"You must look stunning tonight, my love," the chevalier said.

"It's only the engagement party. How big will the pile be for the wedding?" Philippe asked.

"You must be the most beautiful creature in the room, darling," the chevalier said.

"I believe you're thinking of the bride," Philippe said.

"I am certain that I am not," the chevalier said, straightening Philippe's coat. "Only you can shine, my darling, and you do."

Philippe smiled and kissed the chevalier. "If I do, it is for you."

The chevalier smiled. "I do adore you, mignonette." He frowned slightly. "It shall be torture to let her stand by your side tonight."

Philippe frowned. "I shall make it up to you later."

The chevalier smiled, his fingers inside Philippe's breeches. "Do you vow it?"

"On everything that I hold dear," Philippe said solemnly. "Which is really just you."

"Then I shall bear it," the chevalier said. "For the greater good. Louis will give you what is yours and then...."

"...and then...I'm honestly not really sure what to do with it," Philippe admitted. "Or what IT even entails but Gaston wanted me to have it so I must have it."

"We shall figure it out once the papers are in your possession. Your uncle cared deeply for you, Philippe. We will find an appropriate way to honor his legacy in a way that benefits you," the chevalier said. "I have a few ideas...but first, you are already quite late even by your standards."

 

The engagement party was in full swing by the time Philippe and the chevalier made an appearance.

"Ah, brother," Louis said, tearing his eyes away from Henriette with whom he had been flirting. "I was beginning to think you were having cold feet." He clapped Philippe on the back.

Philippe smiled still determined not to give Louis the satisfaction. "You are greatly mistaken, brother. I am quite looking forward to this marriage."

"Looking forward to something anyway," Louis said quietly. Aloud, "Ladies, Gentlemen, I give to you, my brother, the Duc d'Orleans and Princess Henriette soon to be the Duchesse d'Orleans."

Philippe held out his hand to Henriette looked stunning in a gold dress.

"She cleans up nicely," the chevalier murmured in Philippe's ear. "Still not as beautiful as you but who is?"

Philippe smiled at the chevalier and then took a couple of steps to Henriette, his hand outstretched, his face a plastered smile.

Henriette met Philippe halfway and took his hand.

"Shall we dance, Madame?" Philippe asked.

"I would be delighted, Monsieur," Henriette replied, allowing Philippe to lead her to the dance floor.

The gathered nobles murmured as they passed. "Poor thing has no clue" and "what a beautiful couple".

The chevalier watched them dance.

Jules put his hand briefly on the chevalier's shoulder. "We all know that it is just for show. A show we must all put on at some point."

Antoine nodded. "Some sooner than others."

"Antoine too is being forced to marry," Jules told the chevalier. "It is just a matter of time before the same fate befalls us, my friend."

"You perhaps. I have been deemed an irredeemable abomination," the chevalier said, trying to joke.

"I am sorry," Antoine said. "My family, while not understanding per se, have dealt with the situation previously."

"Oh yes. Your notorious uncle...seducing kings and princes alike," Jules said dramatically.

"I don't believe he seduced the prince," Antoine said. "Though most certainly, the king."

"Yes, well, let's hope we all keep our heads," the chevalier said.

Antoine paled.

"I believe it was seducing both brothers that caused Cinq-Mars the problem," Jules said. "Had it just been one...."

"You are a big talker for someone whose sisters both cause and fight duels," the chevalier said.

Antoine laughed.

"Touché, my friend," Jules said, also laughing. "They are all here tonight so I do hope you're wearing chain mail under your silks."

"My arm has a quite prominent scar, I'll have you know," the chevalier said. "Not a mark from the Turks, but one party with your sisters and I'm marred for life."

"They really are sorry about that," Jules said. "That party did have some benefits though." He smiled at Antoine, brushing his hand.

Antoine smiled back.

"Aren't you both adorable?" The chevalier took another glass of champagne from a passing servant. Watching Philippe dancing with Henriette was proving more difficult than he thought.

Jules watched the chevalier watch Philippe and Henriette. "You know you have nothing to worry about there, right?"

"I do know that but apparently, knowing it doesn't make it any easier to watch it."

Antoine took another glass of champagne and handed it to the chevalier. "Then we shall do everything in our power to get you through it, my friend."

 

Philippe and Henriette continued to dance, a show for their appreciative audience.

"How was England?" Philippe asked to make conversation. "I was very sorry to hear about your sister."

"As was I though I did not know her well," Henriette said. "As you know, I was quite young when we fled to France."

"How are things with your brother? Calming down?" Philippe asked.

"Yes, the violence in the streets is subsiding," Henriette said.

Philippe shuddered slightly thinking of the Fronde. "He has my sympathies. That is an upsetting event to live through. You and your mother were lucky to escape."

"My poor father was not so lucky," Henriette said.

"There were several nights when I thought the same fate might befall myself and Louis," Philippe admitted softly.

"I did not know that the situation was so dire," Henriette said.

"I believe now that it was not but we were children, eight and ten, and when they came every night, we were not sure of their intentions," Philippe said. "We did not sleep much."

"And yet our uncle always favored you," Henriette said. "You thought him capable of harming you?"

"As an adult, I see that his purpose was just to ensure that Mother hadn't take us away. We were hostages certainly but not in actual danger. Louis, of course, does not see it that way," Philippe said.

Henriette brightened at the mention of Louis' name. "He looks quite handsome tonight...as does the queen," she said quickly, realizing her mistake.

"Does he? I hadn't noticed," Philippe said obliviously. "You dance well."

"Thank you, Monsieur," Henriette said. "As do you. You and your brother are both so graceful."

Philippe frowned for a moment at the second mention of Louis. "Let us speak of something else. Do you look forward to our wedding?"

"I do," Henriette said with a smile that was ever so slightly forced. "Mother is sending for the dress maker tomorrow."

"The Chevalier de Lorraine has already been contemplating my costume for a couple of weeks now. I am not sure that I even get a say in the matter," Philippe said with a smile. He looked around for the chevalier but did not see him anywhere which made him sad.

Henriette frowned slightly at the mention of the chevalier. One of her biggest concerns about the marriage brought to light...but she had agreed. To stay in France, to be second lady at court, these were things that were worth the sacrifice. She spied Athenais waving at her.

Philippe saw Athenais as well and used her as an excuse. "Would you like to go chat with her? It is okay with me."

Henriette smiled. "I would. It was lovely dancing with you, Philippe. I am looking forward to our wedding."

 

The chevalier sat by himself in a corner nursing a glass of armagnac.

"There you are!" Philippe said, a bit breathless from dancing. "I've been looking for you."

The chevalier felt his heart lighten. "You have?"

Philippe sat down next to the chevalier and took his glass, drinking from it. "Of course, I have. I haven't seen you in hours which is hours too long." He studied the chevalier. "You are not okay."

"I am...a bit drunk," the chevalier admitted.

"Why are you a bit drunk?"

"It was...more difficult to watch her with you than I thought it would be," the chevalier admitted.

"Philippe...she is a means to an end, nothing more. You know that. You know where my heart is," Philippe said, his eyes intent on the chevalier's.

"I do know...I...I am not proud of it," the chevalier said. "This...jealousy...I guess it is. It's not even rational. I know how you feel about women."

"Even if I was not disgusted by women, you would still own my heart," Philippe said quietly. "Please do not ever forget that."

"Maybe you could take me to bed and remind me?" the chevalier asked hopefully.

Philippe smiled. "I would be delighted."

 

"I saw you dancing with your husband," Louis said to Henriette.

"He is not my husband yet," Henriette said with a suggestive smile.

"And why are you not with him now?" Louis asked though he could see Philippe talking to the chevalier. "If you were soon to be my wife, I would not let you out of my sight...or my arms."

Henriette smiled, her heart skipping a beat. "If only I was soon to be your wife," she murmured.

Louis took a step closer to Henriette, his pulse quickening.

"There you are, my daughter," Henriette-Marie said, quickly stepping between Henriette and Louis. "I had wondered where you were." She turned to Louis. "Your majesty."

"Your majesty," Louis replied. "I was just on my way to the buffet," he said, graciously taking the hint. "Your highness," he said to Henriette.

"Your majesty," Henriette replied, disappointed at her mother's appearance.

Louis walked toward the buffet but caught sight of a man and a woman kissing behind a pillar. Recognizing the man and the woman, he walked quickly toward them, rage rising. "Get your hands off of her!" he yelled before he could think of what he was doing.

Marie and Rohan jumped apart, startled by the noise. Both looked alarmed as they saw who was doing the yelling.

"Your majesty, it..." He was about to say that it was not what he thought. "Your majesty, I love her. She is my heart, my life. I know that I should have come to her, to ask permission...."

A crowd began to gather including Philippe, the chevalier, and Jules.

"I love him as well, your majesty. Please, grant us your permission to marry. If you ever loved me, you will grant me this happiness. Please sire...." Marie begged.

"This is not going to end well," the chevalier whispered to Jules.

"Brother," Philippe said, stepping between the king and Rohan. "What a wonderful opportunity to show that you are committed to your marriage and that you wish the happiness of all your subjects."

Louis glared at Rohan, barely registering Philippe's words.

"Please, your majesty.... I know what you think of me but this is true love," Rohan continued begging. "She is my life."

"You have betrayed me," Louis said to Rohan, his voice deadly quiet.

"No, no, your majesty, I would never betray you. You are my dearest friend. I love you," Rohan said, tears forming in his eyes.

"A true friend would not behave thus," Louis said. "Only an enemy would stab a friend when his back was turned, a coward, a traitor. Guards!"

"NO!" Marie screamed, clinging to Rohan. "NO!!!!" She sobbed against his chest.

Jules looked at Louis, realizing that there was no way to save Rohan. That he could only save his sister. He gently pried Marie off Rohan as the guards seized him. "Mi dispiace così tanto, amore mio. sono così dispiaciuto. devi lasciarlo andare," he whispered to Marie, his heart breaking for her.

"No!" Marie continued to sob, fighting against Jules' efforts to hold her, to comfort her.

"Brother...this is not necessary," Philippe said softly.

"You understand nothing," Louis spat at Philippe. "You have always been a fool." Aloud, he said, "Rohan, you are exiled from France. You will leave tonight and not return upon threat of death."

"NO!" Marie screamed, her sobs becoming hysterical.

"Jules, your sister will accept the marriage proposal of Prince Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna. The marriage will occur immediately," Louis said.

"I WILL NEVER MARRY HIM!" Marie screamed at Louis. She broke away from Jules and landed a punch into Louis' chest before Antoine grabbed her, restraining her arms. "I HATE YOU!"

"She does not mean it, your majesty," Jules said quickly before things could escalate further. "She is just upset, hysterical. We'll take her to her rooms."

"Tomorrow, she goes to Italy," Louis said to Jules. "No delays."

Jules nodded as he and Antoine half dragged a sobbing Marie from the room.

"You are the fool," Philippe hissed at Louis. "He was your friend and you have made him an enemy." He walked out of the ballroom followed by the chevalier.

Chapter Text

Philippe knelt beside Louis' sickbed, his knees sore. He had not moved for hours. He could not remember praying this hard for anything but Louis was getting worse not better. Why would God listen to a degenerate like you? a voice in his head asked. He tuned the voice out and tried again. He knew the courtiers thought his devotion was for show. Perhaps only he could know the depths to which it was not. As much as Louis drove him mad, he loved him more. For so many years, he had only loved him. His brother, in many ways, his father. He had always loved him, needed him, and now he could.... He could not even think the word. It was impossible.

Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin huddled near the doctor who was looking grave as he shook his head. The doctor looked at Philippe and then back at Anne and the cardinal. The cardinal nodded and Anne approached her younger son.

"Philippe, darling, you must leave," Anne said gently, her hand on Philippe's shoulder.

Philippe shook his head. "I cannot."

"You must," Anne said. "The doctor is not sure what ails your brother. It may be...contagious. We cannot..." Her eyes implored her son to understand and obey.

"I do not care if I catch it," Philippe said. "I will not leave him!"

The cardinal joined Anne. "My son, your devotion to your brother is admirable but as your mother said, we need...FRANCE needs you to leave. Immediately."

Philippe shook his head before the cardinal's words truly registered. "Oh...." He shook his head again as the reality slowly sank in. He had been grieving for his brother, had not thought.... He felt his heart race, felt short of breath, felt suddenly quite sick himself.

"Philippe please," Anne said.

Philippe stood reluctantly. "You will let me know if there is any change."

"Of course," Anne said.

"Any change at all. Even if there is no change," Philippe said.

Anne nodded. "I vow it."

Philippe took a long look at his brother, praying that it would not be his last, and then left the room.

Mazarin followed Philippe out, his hand on Philippe's shoulder. "It is just a precaution. Your brother is very strong and we have every hope that he will recover."

"A-a-and if he doesn't...." Philippe asked with a shaky voice.

"We shall deal with that if it happens. You will not be alone in this, Philippe."

Philippe nodded, terror and sadness mixing in his eyes.

 

The chevalier looked up from his book as the doors to Philippe's private salon opened. He looked surprised to see Philippe. "Should I bow to the king of France?" he asked a bit flippantly.

Philippe glared at the chevalier. "Don't say that!" he snapped angrily.

The chevalier looked stung for a moment before recovering and changing his tone. "He is not better then."

Philippe shook his head sadly, collapsing onto a chair across from the chevalier.

"Why are you not with him?" the chevalier asked carefully.

"Because of what you said when I walked in," Philippe said quietly. "They do not know if it is contagious and I...."

The chevalier nodded. He surveyed Philippe for a moment, wondering how to proceed, desperately wanting to ask about the succession but realizing that he could not. Not yet. "Have you eaten?"

Philippe looked confused by the question.

"Food, a bath, maybe some sleep. Come." The chevalier stood and snapped at a nearby servant to bring food. He offered his hand to Philippe. "But first...." He pulled Philippe out of the chair and into his arms. Philippe resisted for a moment and then sunk into the proffered arms, the sobs coming despite his best efforts.

 

The chevalier dried Philippe's hair as Philippe sat on the bed, looking dazed. He had been uncharacteristically quiet through dinner and the bath and the chevalier was worried. He threw the towel at a servant and sat down beside Philippe, running a gentle finger down his cheek. "Talk to me."

Philippe shook his head. "I don't know what to say...what to do.... He can't...I can't lose him."

The chevalier marveled at Philippe's ability to love a brother who treated him awfully more often than not. A brother whose death would make him king of France. Even with a front row seat, he did not entirely understand the brothers' relationship. Would he accept such treatment from his own brother? Likely not. "What do the doctors know?"

"Nothing. They do not know what is wrong with him and their treatments have failed. He is very sick, the fever will not break," Philippe said gravely. "And then I had to leave...I hadn't even thought...about what would happen if he...but the cardinal...."

"I know you want to be with him but the cardinal was right to send you away. France must have a king. If something were to happen to you too, it would be a never ending Fronde," the chevalier said. He felt a lump in his throat at the thought of something happening to Philippe. He could not imagine his life without him. He reached out and took Philippe's hands, needing to touch him.

"I...I am...terrified," Philippe whispered, his eyes downcast. "I am not fit to be king." He breathed slightly having finally voiced the words that had been screaming in his ears since Mazarin made him leave his brother's side.

The chevalier put his finger under Philippe's chin, bringing his eyes up to meet his own. "Do you think Louis would be fit to be king had he not been trained from birth? If you are unprepared, it is not your fault nor is it due to any weakness of character on your part." He spoke sternly, his eyes fixed on Philippe's, needing his words to penetrate. "You are just as smart, just as capable as Louis. Perhaps more so. You must listen to my voice not the others that have told you differently your entire life. Do you understand?"

Philippe stared at the chevalier, still shellshocked.

"Philippe, you must understand this," the chevalier said, his voice slightly raised. "This isn't just about trying to repair the damage they did to you. This is now about the future of France. You must believe you are fit to be king and you must believe it now."

Philippe swallowed, his eyes too wide.

The chevalier softened. "You are not alone in this. I'll be right here." He kissed Philippe's hands. "Many others as well. I know you don't always believe me when I tell you but you are quite beloved."

"Perhaps they would trust me to throw a grand fete but to lead France?" Philippe asked skeptically. He shook his head.

"Because they do not see you that way. They have been trained to see you the way your mother and brother want them to see you. As someone who cannot lead France. To see you otherwise...to see you as they saw your uncle may give some old nobles some old ideas. But that is perception not reality," the chevalier said. "Do you remember what I said to you the first night we were together?"

"Which part?" Philippe asked. His cheeks flushed as he suddenly remembered a lot of non verbal activities from that night.

"After that," the chevalier said, a small grin at the color in Philippe's cheeks. "I said that you were not the man people thought you were and every day since, you have proven me right. It is time to prove it to the rest of them."

"Prove it how?" Philippe asked.

"Leave it with me for now," the chevalier said. "First, you must rest. Have you slept at all?"

Philippe shook his head and yawned, suddenly exhausted. "Not really."

The chevalier pulled back the duvet as Philippe crawled into the bed and laid down. The chevalier crawled in after him, putting his arms around Philippe. "Sleep now, my love. Things will be clearer in the morning."

 

The chevalier waited in a quiet alcove. He had not been surprised to receive the message from Nicholas Fouquet, the superintendent of finance. He was a man known for having his finger on the pulse of the court. It did occur to him that Philippe's fortunes would not be the only to rise if the king were to die. His own as well would rise. He had spent most of the night thinking of this new role. Philippe was too kind, too honest for the ugliness of politics. He could protect him from that, determine who could be trusted, who could not. Act as a gatekeeper. Fouquet had clearly come to the same conclusion. He saw the middle aged man walking towards him. Mazarin's number two...likely auditioning for the role of Philippe's number one.

"Your highness," Fouquet said with a slight bow to a prince of Lorraine.

"Vicomte," the chevalier responded, noting the deference due to a foreign born prince. "You wished to speak to me."

"I assume that you are aware of the details of the king's illness."

The chevalier nodded, giving away nothing.

"And of what would happen if...the illness were to progress."

The chevalier was silent, waiting.

Fouquet realized that this would not be as easy as he thought. "I, of course, wish for nothing but the king's recovery...."

"We are all praying for such a miracle," the chevalier replied.

"But if the worst were to happen, we would not wish to be without a plan," Fouquet said carefully.

"What plan do you have in mind?" the chevalier asked after a moment's silence. "If the worst were to happen which we do not wish for."

"It is my desire to be of service to France regardless of the outcome," Fouquet said. "I have not always agreed with my dear friend, Mazarin's plan where preparation for such an unwanted outcome may occur. I could perhaps assist in places where preparation has been lacking."

The chevalier nodded slightly. "And in return for such assistance...."

"I only wish to be of service, your highness," Fouquet said.

For now, thought the chevalier. "His royal highness is terribly upset as you can well imagine. He and his brother are extremely close."

"Yes, of course. They are both in my prayers," Fouquet said. But you took this meeting, he thought.

"He is not unaware of the political significance of this personal tragedy," the chevalier said. "And that there have been gaps in preparation. Gaps that need to be filled quickly."

Fouquet nodded.

The chevalier paled for an instant before recovering. "I look forward to seeing your new chateau. I have discovered a new love of architecture since we have begun renovations on Saint-Cloud."

A second's confusion flashed across Fouquet's face before he realized they were no longer alone. "I would be honored to host you and Monsieur, of course. I am quite anxious to show off my Vaux le Vicomte."

"Once the king is well, we would be honored to attend," the chevalier said. "Brother, what news of the king?" he asked Armagnac as he approached.

Armagnac looked at Fouquet with suspicion and then at his brother with deeper suspicion.

"The vicomte was just telling me about a landscaper whom he has employed. Le Notre. We are looking for such skills at Saint-Cloud," the chevalier explained.

"He is extraordinary. I would be happy to arrange a meeting," Fouquet said smoothly thinking he would cultivate this friendship regardless of how things went with the king.

Armagnac considered for a moment and then let it go. "There is no news of the king. He is the same."

The chevalier frowned. "I should return to Monsieur and let him know. If you would like to bring the landscape drawings by this afternoon perhaps that would cheer him," he suggested to Fouquet.

"It would be my honor. Your highnesses," Fouquet said with a bow as he left.

"Landscape architecture?" Armagnac asked the chevalier.

"We are in great need. Hevart preferred a jungle," the chevalier explained. "Word of the vicomte's gardens is spreading."

"He's superintendent of finance," Armagnac said.

"Is he?" the chevalier asked innocently.

"Please be careful, brother," Armagnac begged. "He could live."

 

Philippe watched as the chevalier walked Fouquet to the door of their private salon. The doors shut behind Fouquet and the chevalier returned to Philippe. He picked up a landscape drawing.

"He really is quite good," the chevalier said. "We should have him come to Saint-Cloud and make some drawings."

Philippe stared into space not really hearing him.

"He gave you a lot to think about, I know," the chevalier said quietly. "But is it not comforting to know that someone like him is on your side? Thinks that you can do this?"

Philippe nodded.

"And he would not be your only advisor. Like your father, you would have a counsel each member of which was an expert on his subject. You don't need to know everything. No one could. Not even your brother."

Philippe leaned his head on the chevalier's shoulder, relaxing slightly for the first time in days. "Thank you."

"I only want to help you, my love," the chevalier said, taking Philippe's hand and kissing it.

"Do you think he's right? About going to the salons?"

"I do. I know it will be difficult for you but no one is asking you to pretend that you're not worried about your brother. They do not ask that you are the belle of the ball...they just need to know that you are here for them. That the ship would not be rudderless."

Philippe nodded. "You will not leave my side?"

"I will never leave your side, darling. Not ever."

 

Philippe fingered the silk of the somber gray jacket he was wearing as they stood outside the salon. "No comments about chimney sweeps?"

"You dress appropriately," the chevalier said, also somewhat toned down for the occasion. "Are you ready?"

"No," Philippe said. "But I will go anyway." They entered the salon to an immediate increase in volume as the courtesans began talking about them.

The Duchesse de Montpensier approached them and grasped Philippe's hand. "You were right to come, cousin. Many were beginning to fear that you were sick as well."

"Sick from fear perhaps," Philippe muttered.

"Do not fear, Philippe. If the worst happens, this is your birthright. Do not allow others to control the way you think of yourself," Anne Marie Louise said.

"Thank you," Philippe said.

"It is what my dear father would have told you," Anne Marie Louise said.

"I have never wished him alive more," Philippe said. "To have his advice was always a comfort."

"You shall have mine, cousin. Always," Anne Marie Louise said. "And my support in all things."

Philippe attempted a small smile.

"The Grande Conde is coming this way," the chevalier murmured.

"And so it begins...."

 

Philippe slipped into his room completely exhausted. He had not even been able to signal to the chevalier to join him. It was all he could do to escape. He could not decide which were worse: those who felt that he was a vampire waiting eagerly for his brother's corpse or those who were oh too happy to support him as king. He walked through the dark room not bothering with candles and collapsed on his bed fully clothed.

"Monsieur, I thought you would never return," a woman whispered seductively in his ear.

Philippe jumped out of the bed. "Who...what?" he sputtered as he fumbled for a candle.

"I am here to do whatever you want...my...king," the woman purred.

Philippe managed to light the candle and shoved the light toward the woman, lighting her face. Catherine de Gramont, princess of Monaco. He recognized her, of course. He had spent months fucking her brother. Guiche. "I...I don't want you to do anything." He was genuinely confused. Of all women at court, this one should know better.

"ANYTHING you want," Catherine repeated. She crawled over to the side of the bed, revealing her naked body. "You can put it anywhere you want. You can do things to me that my brother wouldn't allow."

"I have no desire to put anything anywhere in you!" Philippe gasped in horror. "Please leave!"

Catherine stood and pressed against Philippe, her hands working on his breeches.

"NO!" Philippe yelled, trying to get away from her. He stumbled backwards in the dark, running into a pillar.

Catherine pursued him, her hands inside his shirt, inside his breeches. "Just let me please you, my king."

"I don't want this! I'm not attracted to you! Please stop!"

"You just haven't been with the right woman," Catherine assured Philippe. "Let me show you." She dropped to her knees and took Philippe in her mouth.

Philippe flashed to his mother's friend and felt vomit rising rather than the appendage in Catherine's mouth. "Please stop, please stop....." He tried to back away but found himself stuck between the wall and a very heavy chair. "Stop! Stop!"

The chevalier ran in, hearing Philippe yelling from the hallway and expecting assassins. He stopped in shock for a brief moment before running across the room and pulling Catherine off Philippe. "Just when I thought your family couldn't stoop lower than your swine of a brother. Out! OUT! Before I have the Swiss Guard escort you out. No doubt they would actually be willing to fuck you."

Catherine glared at the chevalier but decided that he was serious about giving her to the guards and complied, picking up her dress on her way out.

The chevalier turned to Philippe who was shaking and upset. He carefully retied his breeches and retucked his shirt. "It's over now. Just take a deep breath."

"What was she doing here?" Philippe asked.

"I would guess that she wishes to be the king's mistress," the chevalier said. He led Philippe to the bed and poured him a glass of wine.

Philippe took the wine in shaky hands and then drained the glass. "I don't understand. She knows that I prefer men. She's Guiche's sister."

The chevalier refilled their glasses and sat next to Philippe on the bed. "I believe she assumed that your preferences were as fluid as her brother's and thought, like him, that she could trade sex for influence."

"You think that's what he did?" Philippe asked softly.

"I think he has not been rumored to be with men other than you," the chevalier said.

Philippe considered this and then considered something worse. "Are you attracted to other men?"

"I cannot think of any answer that does not get me into trouble," the chevalier said with a small laugh. He considered. "Yes but I would never act on it. Unless you wanted a menage a trois with them and then...." He lifted his eyebrows with hope.

Philippe relaxed slightly. "I started seeing my mother's friend when she wouldn't stop touching me. I may have...overreacted."

"Some strange person snuck into your bedroom and attacked you. She's lucky to still be breathing," the chevalier reasoned.

"Some other woman handed me a quite scandalous note tonight as well. Is this Louis' life?"

The chevalier laughed. "I think Louis' life has a different ending than a naked woman being ordered OUT of his rooms."

"I can still smell her everywhere."

"Come. Let's get you into the bath and have the servants change the sheets, maybe burn some incense," the chevalier said. He stood and offered Philippe his hand.

"Will you be in the bath with me?" Philippe asked hopefully.

The chevalier nodded. "How else will I be able to clean the hard to reach parts?"

Philippe smiled.

 

Later on, Philippe and the chevalier lay naked in bed, Philippe's head on the chevalier's chest. The chevalier stroked Philippe's still wet hair.

"Do you think I would be a good king?" Philippe asked. "Honestly. I will love you no matter your answer."

The chevalier considered. "I do. I think you would not be the same sort of king your brother is. He has strengths you don't have but you have strengths that he lacks."

"Not true."

"Absolutely true. For example, you are the most fair minded person I have ever met. A very important trait in a great king and something Louis isn't at all. And you are kind, truly kind, without ulterior motive. I think because you know what it is to be treated unfairly, unkindly. You see what is good in people." He paused, his voice quieter. "Like you see what is good in me...and that you see it makes me want to be better. To be the man you see in me," he finished barely above a whisper. He was glad Philippe could not see him in the dark. He felt naked not just without clothes but without skin.

Philippe sat up and straddled the chevalier, kissing him as he pushed him back onto the pillows. "I see only what is right in front of me," he whispered between kisses.

 

Guards pounded on the door as the gray morning light began to filter through Philippe's window.

Philippe opened a groggy eye to see the chevalier still sleeping on top of him. He wrapped his arms around him and closed his eyes.

The pounding grew more insistent and then the door flew open.

Philippe sat up quickly followed by the chevalier.

"What?!?" Philippe stopped when he saw his mother. He realized what his mother's presence must mean and felt fear rising. "It's...he's...he can't be...."

Anne realized and corrected Philippe. "No, no. The fever has broken. The doctors are optimistic."

Philippe stared at Anne blankly, barely comprehending her words. "He's...he's well?"

Anne nodded. "He will be. He is still very weak."

"May I see him?"

"Give him some time to recover. Perhaps supper this evening."

Philippe nodded, relief flooding his face as Anne left. He fell back on the pillows feeling a thousand pounds lighter than he had in weeks.

The chevalier laid back on the pillows, his fingers tracing a pattern on Philippe's chest. "Feeling better?"

"You have no idea," Philippe said.

"You could have managed it, you know," the chevalier said. "Perhaps France would have been the better for it."

"I know you believe that but...."

"You do not," the chevalier finished sadly.

"Not just that...even if you are right...it is not something I want," Philippe said. "I think I did not know that until it nearly happened."

"All that power? You do not want it?" the chevalier asked with surprise. "Everyone wants it."

"It is not so much that I do not want what I would have gained but that I would not want to give up what I would have had to give up," Philippe said. He reached his hand to the chevalier's face. "The king of France can show no...weakness."

The chevalier realized what Philippe was saying. "We would have been discreet."

Philippe knew what would have been required of him. It would have been more than discretion. "It does not matter now. It is as it should be. Louis will be king and I will be...me." He hesitated. "Is that enough for you?"

"You are everything to me. How can that not be enough? But is it enough for you?" the chevalier asked. "Just because you are not king does not mean you cannot accomplish extraordinary things in your own right."

Philippe considered this. "What sort of extraordinary things?"

"Whatever you wish to accomplish."

"Will you help me?"

"Always."