Work Header


Chapter Text

1863 - France

The air is cold and wet when Nathaniel Wesninski steps out of the train car, father and mother directly ahead of him. There are puddles all around, and grey clouds over head threaten to open up at any second. It’s much like home. The winters in Poland could be very cold, very rainy, and very gray, though this past January has been more bloody than usual with the most recent uprising against Russia’s hold.

Nathaniel pulls his coat tighter as a breeze blows through, shivering and stepping out of the way of his family’s stewards as they set their luggage down on the Parisian streets. A carriage is waiting nearby, the coachman waiting patiently on the seat, dressed in much warmer clothes, a scarf, and a cap to cover his head and most of his shockingly blond hair.

Nathan sees this and sneers, calling out to him with an order to put the first of the newly deposited trunks in the back. The coachman doesn’t even look over, instead pulling his cap down over his eyes. Before Nathan can get any madder, Nathaniel picks up his trunk and takes it himself, sliding it into the storage rack on the back of the carriage.

The coachman watches him as he does it, but Nathaniel keeps his gaze lowered.

Most wouldn’t expect it of him – he’s from a rich family, Polish aristocrats who only left their home for the safety of France. Too many uprisings and revolutions have happened for Poland to still be safe, especially when Nathaniel knows his father has helped the Russians keep their control. If the people in their town were to find out, and really, it was more of a when than an if, Nathaniel and his parents would be in danger. Instead of letting that happen, they packed up and moved within three days, making it to France before January was even over.

The coachman hops down behind Nathaniel and comes over, ignoring how Nathan is spewing angry words about his laziness and disrespect. He hauls up Nathan’s trunk while Nathaniel takes his mothers, and when they get back to the carriage, gestures for Nathaniel to leave his on the ground.

Nathaniel sets it down gently, and the coachman, after a moment of pondering, opens the carriage door and offers his hand. Nathaniel, though he is surprised, takes it, letting the coachman help him into the carriage. His mother and father are still by the train, waiting for the rest of their luggage to be brought out to them, so they don’t see as the coachman stays at the door, watching Nathaniel curiously.

“Is there something else?” Nathaniel asks politely in French. He’s glad his mother had insisted on language lessons in his youth, otherwise his life would have become even more difficult than before. The man only shakes his head.

“Je ne parle pas Français” He says. I do not speak French.

Nathaniel takes a moment and ties to remember back to his geography lessons. “Sprichst du Deutsch?“ he tries instead. Do you speak German?

Understanding subtlety lights up his eyes and he nods. Nathaniel repeats his question. This time the coachman shakes his head once.

“You are… interesting,” he finally says, before closing the door to the carriage and returning to the trunks in the back.

After a short but bumpy ride to where they would be staying, Nathaniel is surprised when the coachman ignores his parents once again, only to help Nathaniel out. His parents are already halfway up the steps, but the coachman holds onto his hand until he turns to look at him.

“Teach me French and I’ll keep your father off your back,” he says, and Nathaniel is stunned to silence for a moment. He considers the offer once he has a hold on his surprise – the coachman is perceptive to have picked up on the tension between Nathaniel and his father, and he doesn’t seem to be afraid of him in the slightest. Teaching someone a language isn’t exactly what Nathaniel would call fun, but there’s really nothing else for him to do here, and to be perfectly honest, he’s a bit lonely. He never had friend back in Poland, and now that he’s in a new strange land, he feels more alone then ever. Nathaniel isn’t sure if he believes that this man will keep his promise per say – he doesn’t know him enough – but even if he doesn’t keep his end, Nathaniel will have still gained a little.

“What’s your name?” Nathaniel asks.

“Andrew,” the coachman replies.

“Nathaniel,” he says, then adds, “or… Neil. You could call me Neil too.”

Andrew finally drops Nathaniel’s hand and takes a step back. Nathaniel takes it for the dismissal it is and begins to follow after his parents. He only makes it a few steps before he’s turning around.

“That was a yes, by the way. I’ll teach you French, and any other language you want to learn if I already know it. Just…” Nathaniel shrugs. He can speak six languages yet still can’t put his thoughts into words.

Andrew understands anyway, so Nathaniel once again follows after his parents, leaving Andrew to carry the luggage.