Charles used to say, back when he was still alive, that he could never tell what Henri was thinking about.
"It seems, my dear Henriot, that you are never with us as we speak to you." he often said, his mouth twisted in his peculiar smile."Your mind is probably ten years ahead, plotting elaborate schemes to get you where you want."
The king was not the only one thinking that, Henri knows, and the thing is that this is true most of the time. But there are moments he surprises himself pondering on less ambitious, more down to earth subjects. His wife is one of them.
Truth is, when he has first been noticed he would have the opportunity to marry Marguerite de Valois, he couldn't care less what kind of woman she was. She was Charles IXth sister, no less, and the good catholic that would bring his camp the court and the people's approval. As far as he was concerned, she could have been a pretty lamp, he would still have agreed heartily to marry her. The fierce determination in her eyes when he takes her hands in his at their wedding ceremony tellshim otherwise, though. She soon turns out to be witty, cunning, and just as ambitious as he is, and Henri thanks the fortune for granting him such an admirable wife - not the love of his life, because that would be ridiculous, but the best political ally he could have ever found. Sometimes he is asked whether he actually loves her -he usually answers she is the person he admires the most. He does not lie when he says this. And he doesn't mean it in a mere intellectual, abstract way either.
People think he doesn't notice Marguerite's beauty. They are wrong, obviously. He is not blind - he is able to see the way his wife's sight take de la Mole's breath away, the debilitating look it sparks in le Duc d'Alençon' eyes. He understands why is it so. It's just that his admiration of Marguerite is more aesthetic than anything else. Seeing her does not spark the same impulse of want than seeing Mme de Sauves does. It doesn't make it less worthwhile.
He sometimes wonder, in some dark, removed corner of his mind, if they are not soulmates, anyhow. If their - platonic- bond is not the kind that transcends time and space. He usually stops himself quickly when he steps on this train of thought.
They are retired in the country these days, in a place which reminds him the wild mountains of the Béarn.
It is peaceful, and if Henri didn't know better, he would think that France is a safe kingdom to live in.
Marguerite doesn't seem to enjoy the quietness of their retreat though. She has been moody for months now, the wound caused by De La Mole death still painfully healing. Henri is affected by the same ill theses days - it has only been a week since Mme De Sauves's murder. Both of their lovers are dead now, and Henri would bet his future crown than Catherine was as much involved in her beloved's departure than she was in De La Mole's. His and Marguerite's destiny seem to be not only tied, but also frightfully symmetric at times. There are moments Henri thinks of Rene's constellation deciphering and he wonders if the Florentine perfumer can see this too, in the pattern of the stars. Henri hopes that if he does, he is also able to see the beauty in it.
He turns his head. As it happens, the subject on his mind is sat five feet away, the book she was reading currently on her lap, abandoned. There is no doubt on the fact she noticed her mind wandering away.
She doesn't ask him what he is thinking about. She never does. She merely sets her calm eyes on him.
"Did you need help for anything, sir ?" she asks, her voice distant but assured.
"No." he pauses, then adds, quietly. "But I would like you to stay with me tonight.”
He catches her delicate wrist, listens to her fluttering pulse. She lets him be. Maybe she feels lonely too, even though she will never admit it.
They lie together, as husband and wife, that night. It doesn't change anything between them. Maybe it's for the best.