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The drive from Paris to Saint Cloud had never seemed longer, for all that the conditions were excellent and the distance less than ten miles. Chevalier had been plagued with doubts and anxieties since they crossed the Italian border, and they intensified with every mile.

What if Philippe no longer cared for him?

No. He must still care, otherwise Chevalier's release from exile would have held no currency for Louis to exploit. But that did not, necessarily, mean that Chevalier was returning to Philippe's favour. It was true that they had corresponded frequently, with Marie acting as a willing go-between, and that the tone of Philippe's letters had been extremely and consistently affectionate. But he had heard nothing since his release was confirmed several weeks ago. Perhaps Philippe found it easier to be affectionate at a distance. 

Saint Cloud finally came into view. Sunshine danced on the cascades and the grass was a vibrant green. It was a far cry from the prison Chevalier had endured in Italy. Not a literal prison this time, for the most part. But by the time Louis' messenger had arrived, it was starting to feel very much like one. Out of favour and shunned by a significant proportion of the Italian court for this and that, Chevalier had spent most of the last few weeks in one small room in the house he shared with his brother. It was sparsely furnished and prone to drafts. He had no company to speak of, and if it were not for the escape he found in the little boxes and vials Marie sent him, well. It would have been dull beyond measure.

Now the pleasures of the world were opening up to Chevalier again. Providing, that was, that his luck had truly held, and Philippe still loved him.

The carriage drew up in front of the house, and Chevalier stepped down onto crunchy gravel. The doors were open, and Robert stood waiting on the steps. He took Chevalier's overcoat and hat, and directed him towards the reception rooms.

Chevalier saw Philippe at once. He was fussing with a flower arrangement, but Chevalier had no doubt that this was a planned tableau, and mere moments ago Philippe would have been watching Chevalier's arrival. The window by which he stood was perfectly appointed for that purpose. Another flicker of doubt slowed Chevalier's steps. What if the price Louis had asked was too much? What if Philippe had looked for Chevalier's arrival not with longing, but with anger? What if it was like last time? Chevalier took a deep breath and attempted to banish such thoughts from his mind. He hastened to Philippe with all the hope and confidence he could muster. Philippe looked up, flowers forgotten. A smile lit his face as brightly as the mid-morning sun, and his arms opened wide. Chevalier flew to him, took him in an embrace so fierce that it left them both gasping for breath.

"My love," Philippe murmured, the tip of his nose so soft against Chevalier's cheek. "Home at last."

"Not yet." Chevalier relaxed his hold just enough that he could kiss him. Philippe's lips were soft, his tongue eager, and he whimpered adorably as Chevalier stroked his hair back from his face. Chevalier was consumed by a longing to touch where others had, no doubt, touched, to kiss where others had kissed. To make Philippe his own again.

"I think we need the bedroom for this," Philippe said. 

Chevalier followed him eagerly through the salon to the bed chamber. Philippe had been busy decorating and furnishing in his absence. Chevalier felt a pang of regret that he had not been able to influence Philippe's choices, but he had to admit the result was exquisite. Everything was clean, fresh and tasteful. The very opposite of Versailles. Philippe's bed was gloriously masculine. Dressed with cream linens, fine lace and rich burgundy silks complementing the triumph of gothic splendour that was the bedhead. An inviting, thick, brown fur sat on top of it all.

Chevalier remembered that fur. He remembered the touch of it against his naked skin that night, out in the garden. 

"I fear I can wait no longer," Chevalier gasped. He released the bow at Philippe's cravat with trembling fingers.

"Good." Philippe snapped his fingers and ordered the servants to face the wall. 

Chevalier hadn't even noticed the servants. 

He kissed Philippe again, forcing himself to keep things to the calmer side of frenetic. There was no denying the tremble to his fingers, however, as he set about getting Philippe out of his clothes. It made dealing with the buttons of Philippe's very lovely waistcoat tricky, to the point where Philippe tried to help. He wasn't much better off, however, all but stamping his foot in his impatience to get the Chevalier into bed. It was gratifying, and Chevalier allowed himself to relax a little. He pushed Philippe's open shirt over one shoulder, kissing the creamy skin thus revealed. He slid his hand up Philippe's thigh, rucking the shirt up over his hips. He'd thought about this moment constantly over the past two years. About having Philippe in his arms, touching him, bringing from his throat the exact noises he was making now. Needy ones. 

"My darling," he said. "It is as if I've been sleeping for the past two years, and only in your presence have I awoken."

Philippe raised a disbelieving eyebrow, but there was a sparkle in his eyes. "I hope that all of you is quite awake now."

Chevalier pulled Philippe's hips in close, so he could feel for himself just how awake he was. He was rewarded with a roguish chuckle.

To the devil with a restored position at court, the delights of French society, the wealth and splendour. All he cared about was this. To hold the man he loved in his arms, to make him cry out in pleasure. To fuck him, yes - oh, God, yes - but so much more. Chevalier enjoyed luxury and power as much as the next man. But he would trade it all for Philippe in a heartbeat.

"You look afraid." Philippe drew a fingertip across Chevalier's face, tracing his cheekbone. 

"Merely excited, my love. It has been far too long."

Philippe replied with a smile that might have looked coy on anyone else. On Philippe it just looked like an outrageous invitation. 

"On the bed, Mignonette," said Chevalier.

Philippe lay down and Chevalier took a moment to drink in the sight before him. Philippe, his beloved Philippe. Hungry for him, luminescent in the sunlight, the dark of the fur showing off his pale skin to perfection.

"Come on, then," said Philippe. "Or have you forgotten how?"

Chevalier got himself out of his clothes somehow, stumbling over the buttons of his breeches and tangling his arms in his sleeves. Finally he pulled his shirt over his head, tossed it to the floor and joined Philippe on the bed. The fur was every bit as soft as he'd remembered; like being caressed by the gentlest hands, kissed by the softest lips. He caught the corner of it and used it to stroke up Philippe's arm, across to his nipple. Philippe remained astonishingly composed, but then, he never had had particularly ticklish nipples. His ticklish spots were here on his elbow (a giggle) and here at his waist (a squirm) and here at the top of his inner thigh (a writhe and a gasp and a firm grip on Chevalier's wrist). 

"Remind me to experiment more with that later," Chevalier said. 

Philippe nodded his head in vigorous approval. He licked his lower lip and for some reason that gesture, that tiny glimpse of tongue and teeth, the wet that stayed on Philippe's lip afterwards, tipped Chevalier out of control. He threw himself on Philippe in a frenzy of passion, kissing his shoulders, face and neck, breathing in the familiar scent of his cologne, the richness of his laughter. The gentleness of the hand that settled at the small of Chevalier's back to soothe him. 

"We have all day. All night. As long as we-"

Chevalier would hear none of it: he could not yet believe that this might not be snatched from him at a moment's notice, and he needed so very badly to make Philippe tremble for him. Then Philippe's hand wandered down to cup Chevalier's arse and squeeze. Chevalier countered with a swift thrust into Philippe's hip. Philippe groaned and reached down between them to take Chevalier's prick in his hand. 

"Fuck me," Philippe whispered in Chevalier's ear. And, well, it wasn't the most pretty request Chevalier had ever had, but it sent a shot of heat up his spine and put into words exactly what was in Chevalier's heart at that moment. 

"Very well." Chevalier's voice sounded strained and desperate, but he didn't care. He could regain his dignity later; right now he just wanted make Philippe his again. To drive all other men from his head, all the comfort-fucks and bored-fucks and lonely-fucks and who knows, maybe there had been a few affectionate-fucks too. None of them mattered now. He had to remind Philippe what was important. Him. Only him. 

He kissed Philippe until his lips were numb, then went to fetch the oil from the mantlepiece. 

There were two bottles there. One was plain and half-empty, and smelled like musk. The other, with the silver stopper and a rose etched on its front, was full to the brim and smelled of vanilla and happiness. He took it back to the bed, removed the silver stopper with his teeth and poured a generous amount into his palm. He dribbled it over Philippe's cock and his balls and spread it between his buttocks, lingering at Philippe's hole. So pink and tempting, opening for him at a touch so he could slide a finger in and spread the oil inside. Philippe gasped, his head thrown back, fingers clutching at the fur as Chevalier teased and stroked. So. Damn. Beautiful. 

Chevalier knelt between Philippe's thighs, and whispered, "Look at me, my love. Look at me."

Philippe's eyes fluttered open, and he smiled a wicked, devilish smile. 

"Philippe, I-"

"My sweet Chevalier." Philippe sat up and whispered in his ear. "What are you waiting for?"

With a sound that Philippe described later as the roar of a hungry lion, Chevalier pushed the head of his cock into Philippe's arse, while Philippe arched his back and moaned, clutching at the fur with both hands. Chevalier poured more oil and gripped Philippe's hips to keep him steady as he slid the rest in, inch by tortuous inch. Philippe was tight and slick and hot and when Chevalier was finally bollock-deep inside him it was all he could do not to cry.

At last.

A single tear ran from the corner of Philippe's eye towards his ear. Chevalier brushed it away with kisses, murmuring concern, desperately worried he may have hurt this man he loved above all others, above all things.

"You have no idea," Philippe whispered, "how much I..."

"Shhh, Mignonette. I know. I know."

"I thought-"

Chevalier drew back - just a little - and then thrust again. 

There was nothing in the world that gave Chevalier more pleasure than making love to Philippe. He'd fucked a lot of people, eaten the finest food, taken a lot of wine and... other things. They faded to nothing compared with this. Here, Chevalier could lose himself in pure sensation, in the rocking together of his body with its perfect mate. Philippe was indulgence, comfort and rapture rolled into one.

He was already fighting a losing battle with his body not to come, so he took Philippe's cock in his hand to ensure he wasn't left behind. Philippe hissed and grabbed Chevalier's wrist to stop him, but Chevalier ran his thumb over the wet tip of Philippe's prick, and Philippe's grip relaxed. He let out a soft, "oh," and began to fuck Chevalier's fist.

Mere moments later Chevalier was watching Philippe come in copious, thick spurts, that ran down his cock like a dribbling candle. Chevalier brought his fingers to his mouth for a taste, earning a groan from Philippe and a fierce, insistent tingle behind his balls. A few more thrusts and he was done for, giving Philippe all he had. His arms gave way and he fell, everything white and throbbing with exquisite pleasure; Philippe caught him, held him close and kissed his hair, and it was all Chevalier could do to breathe.


Chevalier gazed up at the ceiling of Philippe's bed chamber, admiring the new mouldings. 

Philippe was lying on his front at Chevalier's side, chin resting on his folded arms. "What did you miss most, in Italy?"

"Well, you weren't there." Chevalier kissed Philippe's elbow. He noticed that Philippe took care not to show how much it tickled. All of him was ticklish right now, as if Chevalier had awoken every inch of his skin at once, infused him with a delicious kind of fever. Chevalier felt considerable pride at that.

"Apart from me, what did you miss the most?"

"Food. Decent Wine. Gossip. The Italians take themselves desperately seriously, you know. Oh, and freedom. That's nice."

"I think I should miss the music. Italian opera is torture."

"Darling, you don't know the half of it."

"You went to the opera?"

"It was agony."

Philippe kissed his cheek. "You poor thing."

"It matters not. I am here now. Back in the lap of luxury." He pulled Philippe back into his arms, kissed the nape of his neck and let his hand rest over Philippe's hip, possessive and promising all at once. "Now, why don't you tell me what you missed?"

Philippe pulled Chevalier's hand where he wanted it, and sighed. 

"So romantic," said Chevalier, smiling into Philippe's hair, and let pleasure chase his fears away once more.