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The Queen always speaks French.

It's very wise of her, of course; it would not do to flaunt her Spanish heritage in Paris, or to remind everyone just how heavy her accent was when she arrived here as a bride. French has been her language for half of her life, Aramis tells himself with an appropriate eyeroll, and she speaks it ridiculously well. He wouldn't be doing her any favors if he spoke to her in any language other than French.

And yet when she gives him her cross, and he bows his head in acceptance, a Spanish thank you sticks to his tongue like a vice. It makes him feel like an overeager schoolboy to think just how much he wants to say it, so he swallows it whole.


Things he never expected to learn in a nunnery: the Queen of France really does not speak Spanish in bed. He has her gasping, naked and close, and he calls her Anne, God damn him, but even when her hand is in his hair, and she speaks to him in whispers, a little to the left, a little to the right, she doesn't slip a single vowel.

Aramis wonders, vaguely (once he has enough blood in his brain to wonder), if this is because she doesn't know he speaks Spanish. It makes sense that she doesn't – why would a simple musketeer speak any language but his own, let alone one from a land so far away? He could tell her, of course, but dawn is quite close now, and light robs him of the right words until all he's left with sounds clumsy and foolish and tactless.

They don't speak of it again.


(He does speak of it, once – sneaks into the Dauphin's nursery, leans over the cradle, and gives the boy his story, just a few sentences in simple, rapid Spanish.

He does it quickly, to make sure he has no time to feel ridiculous.)


Like everything else in his life, Spanish catches up with him on the road.

Since the Dauphin stayed back in Paris, probably taking his first steps under the eye of his governess, the Queen is traveling without much fuss, no chests and no carriages. Against all reason, she only took a few ladies and a small escort, and Aramis suspects she mostly did this for the hell of it. It's not like Anne of Austria has a lot of opportunities to entertain herself.

He keeps his thoughts in check as he rides behind her, all very neat and proper, his face polite and blank, straight mind and straight eyes. Aramis might be just a soldier, but he knows how to be a courtier.

That is, until Her Majesty's horse stumbles.

Aramis shoots forward, ready to catch her, but there is no need. She regains her balance on her own, and Aramis is greeted not by a shout of distress, but by a quite creative string of whispered words that would do any Sevilla sailor proud.

He probably shouldn't laugh, but he can't help himself.

The Queen looks up quickly, and for a second Aramis is terrified that he offended her, but then she smiles like a girl she probably never was, young and free and mischievous.

“Don't tell anyone,” she demands in a whisper. “My ladies would be scandalized.”

“Where did you learn all this?” he asks, still grinning.

“I'm a good listener.”

It's only after she rides ahead when he realizes that they never switched back to French.


There is no secret message or a note, no lady slipping a key into his palm and no jewel passed from hand to hand as a sign that he's expected.

So Aramis feels silly waiting outside the door, sure and unsure at the same time. It's no risk, really – he's standing guard, immoveable and armed to the teeth, a picture of a soldier ready to give his life for his queen. Shame on him who thinks evil of it.

(The “him” would be Athos, who is neither blind nor stupid, and who very much does think evil of this, but, well. Aramis will listen to him in the morning.)

It feels like hours, the time he spends waiting outside the Queen's door, and listening for every noise. She won't call for him unless she's alone, and there's no guarantee she will be alone tonight, even with her entourage so small.

There is no guarantee she will call for him, even if she is alone.

Ladies leave one after the other, one, two, five, and everything in the castle slowly settles down until it goes completely quiet. Everyone, Aramis hears in passing, is tired after the day in the saddle, and the queen will sleep like a newborn after the fright she had.

Constance leaves the Queen last, slips out of the chamber like a shadow without as much as a word. The door, Aramis notices as his throat suddenly goes dry, is left open behind her.

It feels wrong to step into her room like this, whole and unbruised, not chased by fear for her or need to save her when he was covered in blood he spilled for her every time he as much as kissed her hand. Aramis knows all too well that there is a price for loving the Queen, and if now he comes to her empty-handed, there will probably be a hell to pay.

Well, that's for later.

The Queen is sitting on the bed, still wearing the same smile she gave him on the road, but this time she speaks to him in French, beckoning him to come closer. Aramis remembers, vaguely, how silly he used to feel whenever he approached her with Spanish words stuck in his head; how clumsy, and childish, and ridiculously eager to please. He remembers, because he feels all that again as he walks slowly across the chamber, eyes glued to the Queen's smile, Anne's smile, sweet Lord in Heaven, Anne's smile.

“I missed you,” he whispers when he's so close that their knees are almost touching. Anne reaches for him, her fingers resting lightly on his wrist, and she looks at him with strange focus, as if she was trying to place his accent.

“You're French, aren't you?” she asks quietly.

Aramis nods.

“You don't have to do this for me,” she says as she looks up again, and obviously she means speaking Spanish, but also she doesn't mean speaking Spanish at all.

There is nothing he can say for this, nothing he can do but laugh and shake his head. Maybe he should be more somber about this, bare his heart and lay everything in the open, but it's not what he needs today, and it sure as hell isn't what she needs today.

When he kneels before her, there is nothing courtly about it.