Disclaimer: Not mine etc.
Summary: It reminds her of Jesus and the story of the loaves and fishes. If this was all she could ever have, then she prayed it would be enough... 5+2 genre of largely stand alone vignettes, in different POV's, that arc into a complete story.
Notes: Sequel to "Fait Accompli" Unlikely to make sense if you haven't read that.
Glimpses of Summer (and Winter)
Five Days of Summer at Bourbon-Les-Eaux (and Two Nights of Bitter Winter)
Moonlight lit the eerie blue waters of the pool at Bourbon-Les-Eaux and cast the surrounding forest into ominous shadow. Anne shivered in the bitter chill of the night so violently that her maid, Constance, stepped forward and draped another cloak around her shoulders. She tried to smile in thanks but the terrible churn of nerves in her belly kept it from her face.
Behind them, on the ridge above, she heard the approach of horse's hooves, cantering ever closer. They came to a stop and then there was soft talking and finally silence.
The voice came from behind her. She had not heard him approach.
Aramis looked tired as he bowed to her. All four of the musketeers had borne the marks of exhaustion on their faces the last time she'd seen them at the palace. She knew that Rochefort's campaign of hatred had worn them down over the last year. She wanted to go to him, pull him into her arms, hold him against her heart until he could feel her love as a physical thing. But she dared not.
If they were observed, they could not claim this was the King's musketeers offering to guard the Queen while she took a medicinal midnight bathe in the waters.
"Aramis." His name always felt so right on her lips.
Constance broke from her side, laying a hand on Aramis' arm as she passed him, before moving back into the trees and offering them some measure of privacy.
"Where is she?" The question came before she could stop it. It was all she thought about.
A terrible well of desperation threatened to sweep her away. "Is she far from Paris?" She could not bear the thought of her child being any further away.
"You know I cannot tell you." Aramis said and stepped forward, closer than propriety would allow. She could feel the warmth of his body, the caress of his breath on her skin. "It is safer for you both if I do not."
Hot anger rushed up. "I would never betray her location! Not even to save my own life!"
"I know that." He touched her arm and she could see the sincerity in his eyes. "But the temptation, if you knew where she was, for just…one glimpse… If I were in your place, I know I could not resist." There was a terrible sadness in his voice, like a confession. Perhaps it was. Their places were almost reversed after all, her with daughter at the palace and Aramis as the barest of outsiders, destined for a life of whatever he could snatch of their child's life: a momentary flicker of her through crowds at most.
The thought of him enduring such hurt almost as much as enduring it herself.
"Do you see her?"
He smiled fondly. "As often as I can," he said. "As often as my duties allow."
"Is she well?" Each answer was a strange torture, giving as much pain as comfort.
"Well and happy and as beautiful as her mother."
"What did you call her?"
He looked down, avoiding her gaze. Surely it was not a danger to know that? She was about to promise him that if she heard the name in court she would stay strong, she would force herself not to react, would not look twice, when he spoke.
A chill ran through her. The nun, the girl from Aramis' past…
"The name… It does not mean what you think it does."
"That you named my child after your lost love?" She heard the anger in her voice and didn't regret it.
"I spent my life believing that the future I should have had with the person who became Sister Helene was the only one in which I could be truly happy. But that was not the truth. It was just a pleasant dream, nothing more." His fingers moved against the skin of her arm. She'd almost forgotten he was still touching her. "Perhaps I should have accepted those wasted years but as I rode out of Bradonne with our child in my arms, I found I could not."
He finally raised his eyes and she saw only honesty in them. But she still didn't understand him.
"Even as I held her, I knew she too was a future that I cannot have, because it is not safe." Aramis said. "Perhaps Isabelle…our Isabelle…was really the one in my heart all those years and I just did not know it."
She wanted to hate him for his explanation and call it weak and feeble but she could recall all too clearly Helene's kindness towards her, could still feel an echo of the jealousy she had felt when she had walked in on them talking and she remembered the look of loss on Aramis' face at nun's death…and found only a reluctant acceptance.
She turned away from him and the chill of the night without his heat made her shiver.
"At least you have some time with her," she said. Bitterness filled her in the absence of his warmth. "There are days I do not think I can bear to be apart from her for another second. I pray to God every day that there will come a time when I can see her again."
"That is…part…of why I came."
Anne went still. Her traitorous heart beating suddenly faster.
"Your visits to the waters are regular and would not be questioned, this pool is secluded, guarded by musketeers hand-picked by Captain Treville and you are attended only by your most trusted maids…" He stepped closer. If she leant back, just a fraction, she would press against his chest. "I could bring her here."
She found herself shaking, trembling with a joy she didn't dare give into in case it was snatched away. "In the summer?" Months and month away, but she would bear it; she would make herself bear it…
"Perhaps not this coming year," he said regretfully and she turned quickly then, stifling a cry. "She would be too young," Aramis explained, "and the cardinal has not forgotten. We must give him time to relax his guard."
A whole year. More than a whole year. Her heart ached, pounding so hard she could hear its rush in her ears. How she would withstand the agony of the slow passage of time, she did not know. But she was the Queen of France and she had endured much already. She trusted to her own strength and heart that she would.
She became aware that he was waiting for an answer. "I would like that."
"I'm sorry I cannot do more."
She reached up and touched his cheek. She remembered the feel of his skin against hers, had kept the memory safe and precious inside her even as her husband grunted and laboured over her in his attempt to rid her of it. "You have given me hope, Aramis."
His face melted softly into a smile. The sight of it stole her breath.
"I came to give you more than hope, your majesty." As he spoke, he tugged at the necklace she'd given him, so long ago now, until the cross was freed from his clothes. Wound around the fine gold was a locket and chain, fashioned in silver. He untangled it and held it out. She took it, laid it in her palm. It was a fine piece, elegantly crafted. A bitter thought passed through her. Which of his many lovers had gifted him with this?
"It was my mother's."
She looked up and wondered if she'd spoken the question aloud.
He reached out and opened the locket. Inside was a small lock of hair. Baby's hair.
"Is this -?" She stroked it reverently. Finally touching something of her child after so very long.
"Yes." He put his hand on hers. "You must not wear this."
"I'll keep it hidden."
"No. Keep it with your other jewellery, those that you do not wear very much." His fingers tightened. "Do not make it seem precious to you."
Leaving those tiny, tiny strands of hair where anyone could touch them filled her with dread, but she would do as he said. "I understand."
"I should go." He stepped away, bowing, but keeping his eyes on her all the same. "A midnight bathe would not last long."
"Thank you, Aramis."
She pressed the locket against her as she watched the blackness of the night take him from her sight.