“Come here.” Reaching for her, he pulled her in close. Wrapping his arms around her, he kissed her head as he murmured into her hair, “You must be exhausted.” She laughed softly.
“It’s not so bad. We did bring Shirley and Rivalz with us after all.”
“All the same…”
“And it’s not as if you had an easy time of it today either. From Alexander’s stories, you nearly capsized, didn’t you? From the size of the fish that Marie caught.”
“I’d say the boat almost capsized not because of the fish but because of Julius’ excitement. He kept jumping up and down and yelling. Very fitting behavior for the crown prince.”
“It’s not anything worse than what we did when we were younger.”
The shadows from the fire danced around as they both smiled and giggled to themselves in the near dark. Leaning close, the queen rested her cheek on her husband’s chest as she sighed. She felt him run his hand through her hair, careful untangling the odd curl in her waist-length hair, as his chest rose and fell steadily. She smiled to herself drowsily; it was almost enough to forget about the politics they had been born into that always troubled them.
She looked up to see him peering down at her. Pulling herself up so that they were more eye-level, she set her chin down on her hand. The fingers of her free hand lightly tracing his faint peach fuzz, she carefully outlined the silhouette of his jaw before quietly asking in an unusually melancholy voice, “Will you make me some hot chocolate please? I don’t want the servant’s. I want yours.”
There was a pause – she understood why; he was trying to figure out the reasoning behind the sudden change in mood – before he slowly sat up. “Of course. Would you like to come with me?”
Already missing his warmth, she nodded. He nodded in return before kissing her forehead.
. . .
Holding her hand with one hand and the candle with the other, the king led his wife down the empty halls of the small cottage until they reached the kitchen. Setting the candle down, he filled the kettle with water before shoving another log into the fireplace. Squinting, he reached for another when he felt arms slip around his waist and then a muffle voice.
“Do you ever think about her?”
His heart nearly stopped. Eyes wide, he swallowed hard. The fire danced around and made him age several decades as he stood silently. The hold around his waist tightened as she buried her face in his back.
“Because I do.”
“Of course I do.” His voice slightly breaking, he whispered, “How could I not?”
There were three beats of silence and then a muffled sob. “What did I do wrong, Lelouch? And what did she do wrong? Why did God take her away from us? If He’s so kind, why would He do that to her?”
“My dearest…” Sighing, he twisted around and held her tightly. He embraced her so tightly that he nearly stole her breath away. He held her head close as she sniffled, not particularly caring that she was dirtying his shirt. “Dearest, you’ve done nothing wrong. Nor did Charlotte do anything wrong. And while I’m not sure why God took her away, did He not give us three beautiful children? Are we not going to receive another come 8 months? Have you not been a good and beautiful mother to our children?” The kettle’s whistling was lost to him. Swaying gently, he tilted her chin up so that she was looking at him. “I know of no other who so loves their mother as our children love you. They are so very happy to have you, my love. You’ve been nothing but a loving and caring mother. You’ve done nothing wrong. Not now, not then, never.”
“But how do you know?” She hiccuped through her tears. “How can you be so sure? If I were really so loving and caring, Charlotte would be here with us today. She would have gone on the picnic with us, she would have picked wildflowers and have gone fishing with you and have stuck her finger in the pudding and she would have been here. With us. Today. And not there.”
The brief image of the stone coffin only a foot long flashed behind his eyes. The king wiped it away with his wife’s tears as she broke down. He made soothing noises as she clung to him and wept, sorry only for not noticing how deeply her scars ran.
. . .
Rivalz had been getting another blanket when she had heard a faint whistling. Confused – had Shirley left the pot on the stove? – he stumbled towards the shrill screaming when he quickly backpedaled into the recesses of the darkness. From around the corner, he tentatively blinked in the faint light of the kitchen’s fire, wondering if he were just dreaming or if what he was seeing was real. Were their Majesties really in the kitchen? Why? Why didn’t they get one of the servants to do it? He knew that the royal family preferred to do things in a manner that deviated from conventional society, but what were they doing in the kitchen so late…
When Rivalz realized that what he was looking in on was in fact an extremely intimate moment – so intimate in fact to the point where it just seemed inappropriate to stand there for a second longer – he immediately ceased his snooping around. He liked to joke around and all, and he was always in search of the latest piece of juicy gossip (as that was what the Duchess Ashford liked, and God knew he was always looking for an excuse to talk to her), but this was just… He liked his king and queen like any other good subject. They were good and kind and caring to all, and very fair and just. But what was happening in the kitchen didn’t seem anything like that that concerned the state or the subjects. Not at all, in any way whatsoever.
So, Rivalz quietly gathered up the blanket and ran back to his room, all the while swearing that he’d never speak of what he had just glimpsed: his king and queen’s humanness.
. . .
“Are you feeling better?” he softly said. She opened an eye, the rest of her face hidden by the white sheets of their bed.
“Good…” He kissed her hand. “I’m glad to hear that. I can only be at ease when you are. Remember. For anything that may weigh on you in the future, I can only be at ease when you are. So lay upon me all your troubles. Trust in me; let me become your confidante for your fears. Use me to forget your nightmares.”
She nodded. He kissed his fingers before laying them on her lips. Leaning closer, he whispered to her.
She closed her eye before faintly smiling.
Je t’aime aussi, mon chéri.