Chevalier swept through the halls of Versailles, cloak streaming behind him. He cursed the caprice of his brother, who had detained him in Paris for most of the day, on a matter that merited no more than an hour's discussion, at most. Now here he was, returning to Versailles well after dark, hot and flushed from riding.
Chevalier hated to be flustered.
He discarded his cloak and gloves to the hands of the staff who lined the way to Philippe's bedroom. "My darling," he said, "I can only apologise. My brother is an absolute ass. He has all the consideration of a—"
Chevalier froze in the doorway, transfixed.
Philippe wore a gown of shimmering blue. The skirts were flowing folds of silk, the colour of the sky at the very cusp of sunset. Flowing sleeves were gathered to a froth at Philippe's elbow, giving way to most elegant, glittering gloves reaching to his knuckles. The bodice was adorned with a thousand tiny beads, the neckline peppered with little black roses, each with a tiny pearl at its centre, drawing attention to the perfect, creamy skin of his shoulders and throat.
"You're late," said Philippe.
Chevalier struggled to find his voice, and failed.
"You haven't forgotten, have you?" said Philippe.
Chevalier shook his head.
Philippe glanced down at his skirts. "It is too much?"
Chevalier found some words at last. "My darling, you are positively stunning. Remind me, why don't you wear that colour more often?"
Philippe turned back to the mirror with a little smirk. "Because it is the king's colour."
"Well, I hope that doesn't mean that you are also his."
"No more than usual. The banquet tonight has a theme, I've been told. 'The Sun King's Glory'. I understand a certain Monsieur Lavisse has been invited. My brother had Bontemps take special care to emphasise how crucial it is to make a good impression."
"Monsieur Lavisse?" Chevalier couldn't quite keep the smirk from his lips.
"Indeed. So, here I am. What do you think? Am I impressive?" Philippe arranged a curl over one shoulder. His hair was piled on his head in flowing, intricate braids, adorned with ribbons, beads and tiny feathers. A few curled tendrils remained free to caress his neck. Chevalier envied them.
"My love, you are the most glorious creature in all of France. In all the world." He placed a kiss at the curve of Philippe's shoulder, and glanced in the mirror. He noted with displeasure how coarse and flushed he looked next to Philippe. "Give me five minutes to change, and I will attempt to do you justice."
Philippe wrinkled his nose. "You have ten."
In fact it was closer to an hour later that Chevalier took his place at Philippe's side. He'd chosen a pale aqua ensemble, richly embroidered. A triumph of tailoring and detail, selected to set off Philippe's gown while in no way overshadowing it.
He picked a single strand of blue ribbon from the piles on Philippe's dressing table, and secured it in his own hair, hidden under layers of freshly coifed curls. He made sure that Philippe noticed him placing it there.
Philippe raised an eyebrow. "Would you wear my colours into battle, then?"
"Always, my love," said Chevalier. He moved in to kiss Philippe's reddened lips, but Philippe restrained him with a firm hand on his shoulder. "Not now. You'll smudge things."
"I would smudge nothing that could not be unsmudged. You have my word."
"Come now. We're already late. With my wife in England, I fear the ballroom may not be glorious enough without us."
Chevalier noted the set of Philippe's jaw, the steel in his eyes. This really was a battle, and he didn't want to lose his edge. Very well.
"In that case, I shall restrain myself. For now." He extended his arm for Philippe to take. "Shall we?"
A smile flickered at Philippe's lips, and he linked his arm gracefully with Chevalier's. "Let's."
Chevalier paused at the doors to the ballroom, waiting until all eyes were on them before stepping forwards to be announced. He glanced around the room, noting the reactions of the court to their entrance. The old hands took it in their stride. The new arrivals looked more startled, realising that the stories they had heard vastly understated the reality. There were no sneers or mockery or disgust, Chevalier observed, as there had been a few seasons ago. People liked Monsieur, regardless of what he wore, or whom he chose to share his bed. Especially since the war.
Even the king had been treating him better, although to see the thunderous expression on his face as he strode towards them, one might not have guessed it.
"Good evening, brother," said Philippe.
"It may have escaped your notice," Louis said, "but you are embarrassing me in front of several visiting dignitaries, all of whom I was hoping to impress."
"And it may have escaped your notice, dear brother, that I am, in fact, quite impressive."
"If that's what you see in your mirror, I suggest you get a new one."
"Is that why you have so many? You constantly doubt the voracity of your own reflection?"
"You are ruining our chances of securing a trade agreement worth a small fortune."
"Are you sure about that?"
"You clearly know nothing of business. Ah, but I forgot. Naturally, commerce is no occupation for a woman."
"And you know nothing of Monsieur Lavisse. Very naughty of you, really. Have you been relying too heavily on Colbert's research? He doesn't always ask the right questions, you know."
"You would be wise to hold your tongue!"
"As you wish."
Philippe closed his mouth, but the smirk on his face spoke volumes.
"You are insufferable."
"If I may be so bold, Your Majesty," said Chevalier.
"You may not," replied Louis.
"I believe Monsieur has a plan you may wish to hear. It could work quite deftly in your favour."
Philippe smiled sweetly.
Louis looked Philippe up and down, his eyes narrowed. "Explain."
"Indeed," said Chevalier. "It appears that—"
"Not you. Brother. Speak."
"Very well," Philippe said. "You wish to flatter Monsieur Lavisse and lull him into a false sense of security, do you not? You are blinding him as we speak with the magnitude of your glory. Let me play the final card."
"You would seduce him?"
"Oh, my dear brother, I already have."
"It was 1662, as I recall," said Chevalier. "A spring ball at the Palais-Royale. Quite a fun evening."
Philippe snapped open his fan and fluttered it in front of his face, concealing his mouth as he leaned close to Louis and whispered, "It would be a terrible thing if his new wife found out, don't you think? I hear she's terribly devout and has a rather irritable father."
"Irritable and rich," added Chevalier.
Louis glanced from one to the other of them, his brow furrowed. "Very well. But if you get into trouble, rest assured I will not see fit to rescue you."
"Your faith in my methods is overwhelming," said Philippe drily.
Louis glared at him once more, before his attention was diverted by the entrance of Madame de Montespan.
Philippe led the way to Monsieur Lavisse and his party, who were standing by the window, admiring the view.
"My dear Monsieur Lavisse," Philippe said.
The expression on Lavisse's face as he turned from the window was a picture. His cheeks bloomed with recognition; his eyes went wide and mouth was slack with surprise.
"Your Highness?" he said, although he knew perfectly well whom he addressed.
Philippe gave him a courteous nod of the head. The jewels in his hair glittered.
"I trust you are well, Monsieur Lavisse" Chevalier said. "You look a little flushed. Are you too warm, perhaps?"
"Oh, no, not at all," he replied. "It must be the wine. Your brother does not skimp on his hospitality, does he? A fine vintage."
"He likes to show off," Philippe said.
Lavisse could not take his eyes off him. Chevalier noticed the wife watching the little scene unfold. She did not look particularly pleased.
"As you know," - Philippe touched Lavisse's arm - "my brother is planning on drawing up some very dull trade agreements, upon which I think he desires your signature."
"I am so excited to hear of your involvement." Philippe ran his finger down the edge of Lavisse's coat, and moved in closer. "Aren't you?"
"W-well, one shouldn't mix business and-"
Philippe's hand disappeared beneath the coat.
"Pleasure!" Lavisse squeaked. "Please, sir, I cannot-"
Philippe glanced at the man's wife. She scowled, clearly aware something was afoot, but unable, from her vantage point, to see what.
"But my dear Lavisse, we already know that you can."
Chevalier had a shrewd suspicion as to what Philippe's fingers were busy doing, in the protective shadows that fell between his skirt and Lavisse's breeches. He wondered if his face looked as idiotic when Philippe did it to him.
Well, obviously not. Perish the thought.
"Come now, Monsieur," Chevalier said to Philippe. "We are forgetting our manners. See, there is our friend's new wife, and we haven't even said hello. There's so much we should tell her."
The blood drained from Lavisse's face. "No!"
Philippe smiled pleasantly at him.
"Please," Lavisse said.
"Oh look," said Chevalier. "Here's Colbert."
Philippe took a step back and took Chevalier's arm again. Lavisse was left with a rather prominent bulge in his breeches, in a state of confusion and not a little discomfort.
"Good evening Colbert," said Philippe. "I believe you have met Monsieur Lavisse."
"Of course," said Colbert, and inclined his head politely.
"Monsieur Lavisse was just telling me how impressed he has been this evening. He finds his confidence quite assured, and will agree to all my dear brother's conditions. Isn't that right, my friend?"
Poor Lavisse hesitated, stuttered but finally nodded his head and said, in a small voice, "Yes. I shall."
"Well," said Colbert. "That is magnificent news. I shall tell the King at once."
"Splendid," said Philippe.
The strings struck up a new minuet, and Chevalier said, "Shall we?"
"I thought you'd never ask," said Philippe.
Chevalier whisked him away to the dance floor, leaving Lavisse simpering in their wake.
"It's a shame, really," Chevalier murmured. "He was a lot of fun, once."
"I'm sure his wife will be a great comfort to him," said Philippe.
There followed several hours of dancing, drinking and nibbling on titbits. A little after midnight they went out onto the balcony to look at the stars. Philippe leaned on the balustrade, a smile playing on his lips. His eyes shone in the moonlight.
Chevalier kissed his hand. "I swear, you are the most beautiful creature that I have ever seen."
Philippe smiled fondly at him. He had heard such compliments many times before, and no doubt would for many years to come. It irritated Chevalier that he had no unique words, no novelty with which to make his mark. Instead he could only stare, drinking in the contrast between the dark blue of the dress and the buttermilk of Philippe's skin, the way it picked up the colour of his eyes and made them sparkle.
Then it came to him.
"If we could marry," Chevalier said, "I would imagine you wearing a dress such as this to the ceremony."
Philippe raised an eyebrow. "You would marry me?"
"But of course! In a heartbeat, my love."
Philippe drew Chevalier's hand to his cheek, and nuzzled his palm. "I would look good in a veil, don't you think? Cream lace?"
"Perfection," Chevalier agreed.
"We would make our vows in front of God, and you would lift my veil when the priest directed, and then—"
"I should kiss you," Chevalier said, "like this."
The silk of Philippe's dress rustled as Chevalier stepped in close, cupped Philippe's jaw, and kissed him tenderly. He drank in the scent of damp grass, the distant lilt of music, the softness of Philippe's lips. A moment to remember forever.
"And then?" Philippe whispered.
"I'm not sure," teased Chevalier. "What do people do when newly married?"
"I have no idea."
"My darling, you're the one who's been through it."
"Oh, that. Well, there was a feast, you'll recall, and then we retired to my rooms and… I really don't want to think about it."
"Ah." Chevalier ran his fingertip along the neckline of Philippe's dress, flirting between lace and skin. "The consummation." He drew the word out, holding Philippe's gaze. Philippe licked his slightly smudged lips. "Well, there aren't any laws to say we can't do that part."
"Actually, there are."
"None that I care to entertain. Shall I fuck you here? Would you lean across the balustrade and have me hoick up your skirts and take you from behind?"
Philippe's eyes glazed over.
"Or," Chevalier continued, "shall we go back to your rooms and take advantage of your big," -he kissed Philippe's shoulder- "Soft," -and his neck- "Bed?" The last whispered in Philippe's ear.
Philippe shivered, and whispered, "Take me to bed, husband."
They took their leave of the ball and hurried back to Philippe's chambers. They had to pause half way in a shadowy alcove, overwhelmed by desire; Chevalier palmed Philippe's erection through the soft folds of his dress, and kissed him senseless. He was about to drop to his knees right there in the corridor when he heard guards approaching. So instead they continued their frenzied journey and finally swept through the doors of Philippe's chambers. Philippe bid the servants turn their faces to the wall, and hastened to his bedroom, Chevalier's hand firmly grasped in his. Chevalier snatched the oil from the mantlepiece and guided Philippe to the bed. They kissed, so passionately that Philippe's legs gave way and he sat down, suddenly, on the bed.
All of which was entirely to Chevalier's advantage. He ran his hand along Philippe's thigh over his skirts. So much simpler, women's dress. So free of hinderance. He grasped the fabric and bunched it up. Philippe quickly caught the idea and snatched the hem up to help.
Philippe wore blue stockings, caught at each knee with the prettiest of garters. Chevalier slipped off each of Philippe's shoes and caressed his stockinged legs. He caught a garter between his teeth, plucked at it, then dropped a kiss onto the tiny embroidered rose that adorned the ribbon.
He made his way up Philippe's long, elegant legs, kissing his knee, his thigh, the soft skin at the top. He nuzzled Philippe's balls, enjoying every gasp and sigh that Philippe made. Then he fussed at Philippe's gorgeous, hard prick. It was quite the loveliest he'd ever seen: straight and beautifully proportioned, impressively sized without being too big nor too thick. Chevalier worshipped it with his tongue and lips until Philippe's fingers tangled in his hair and tugged.
He looked up. Philippe was panting, staring up at the ceiling with an expression of pure bliss on his face.
Chevalier knelt between his legs, and took a moment to free his own cock from his breeches. He let it rub against Philippe's, enjoying the spectacle of Philippe rolling his hips to catch the friction, while Chevalier found the oil and tipped a generous pool of it in his palm. He slicked his own prick, allowing it to dribble onto Philippe's too, and then he reached between Philippe's lovely thighs to find his hole. He stroked and oiled and, eventually, when Philippe was murmuring, 'yes, please, yes,' and wildly bucking his hips, he slid back and put the tip of his cock to Philippe's entrance.
Philippe calmed a little and lay still, smiling at him. Such a soft, honest smile, the likes of which Chevalier had never seen him give anyone else. Chevalier paused, savouring the heat and passion in Philippe's eyes. The love. He kissed Philippe's painted lips hungrily, as if eating a ripe peach, and pushed, taking his prize with a single, well-oiled thrust. Philippe gasped, clutching at Chevalier's arms. Chevalier kissed his neck, his throat, his breastbone. Perfect, pale skin. A braid of hair unravelled across Philippe's cheek; Chevalier brushed it away and kissed where it had been. Philippe responded with such appetite that Chevalier could hold back no more and began to fuck.
Philippe rocked his hips to meet every thrust, his eyes always on Chevalier's. He made a throaty noise of pleasure every time Chevalier filled him, and his prick was hard as steel in Chevalier's hand, wet and sticky at the tip. They found their rhythm and Chevalier knew he would not last long. He lost himself in everything Philippe was: brave, handsome, and as wild as the fucking ocean. Chevalier roared as he came, helplessly, as deep inside as he could get. Philippe's legs wound around him, holding him fast, his hand flying over his own prick until he spattered his seed over his underskirts, Chevalier's breeches, his own hand.
Then he raised his hand to Chevalier's lips, and Chevalier licked him clean.
He had never felt more depraved, or more triumphant, in his life.
Philippe let out a long, satisfied sigh, and fell back on the bed.
Chevalier called for a handbasin, and when it arrived he stripped and washed, before slipping into his nightgown. Philippe was fast asleep, stockings rumpled, sprawled on a sea of blue silk. A beautiful wreck. Chevalier kissed him softly on the lips.
"Come, my love. It's our wedding night. Too soon yet to sleep."
Philippe's eyes fluttered open. "You are not satisfied? I'm exhausted."
"Well, we'll see. Shall I help you out of your corset?"
"Very well. Stand, please, Mignonette. Let me get to work."
Philippe rose to his feet, yawning and bleary-eyed, and obediently stood while Chevalier attended to him. One by one Chevalier peeled the layers of clothing away, unravelled the dressings of his hair with a skill to rival any ladies' maid. When Philippe was quite naked, he washed him with clean water and massaged perfumed oils into his skin until he glistened in the candlelight. Philippe stood tall, with that new air of confidence he had brought back from the war. All that authority and new-found power, and yet he still liked for Chevalier to spoil him. Tease him. Put him to bed.
They stood by the fire, and Chevalier robed Philippe in fresh, soft linen.
"You are a most attentive husband," Philippe said, touching Chevalier's nose.
"Always, my darling. And you are the most beautiful-"
It hung between them for a moment. Philippe daring Chevalier to say it. To put a label on him. To confine him with a single word.
"Creature," said the Chevalier.
"Just beautiful?" Philippe's eyes sparkled.
"Glorious." Chevalier brushed his lips across Philippe's. "Magnificent."
He held Philippe's hands in his, and looked him up and down.
"Resplendent," he said.
Philippe pulled him in with a swift jerk of his arms for another kiss. "I think it's time for a bit more consummation," said Philippe, his voice deep and rumbling. "Don't you?"