Johannes was simply tired. Sitting in the lavish palace, a guest of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, did nothing to stave off his boredom and sleepiness. Right now he could be curled up in his empty bed with a book in hand and a single candle illuminating the room all while dozing off. Instead he was sitting in the very definition of opulence. Gold seemed to plate every surface that it could, contrasting with the white walls and blue drapery. It was beautiful and Johannes would probably have enjoyed his surroundings a tad bit more if he wasn’t tired. Maria, his youngest child, was having a crying spell that was driving everyone to the brink of insanity. The only time she seemed to fall silent was when Johannes rocked her and sang to her. His son, aptly named Johannes, would then grow jealous and demand his attention as well. This left Johannes to deal with one screaming child and a clingy sniffling child. Never had Johannes wished so much for a wife except in those moments when the moon was tauntingly shining in through the window and Johannes had two bratty kids crying in his arms. He could have handed them off to his staff but that would do no good in silencing either of them. Instead he was forced to run off of a handful hours of rest and suffer the presence of so many snobby aristocrats. To make matters even better very few of these aristocrats even wanted him to be at this banquet.
“Johannes are the kids still keeping you up?” A gravelly voice to his right asked.
Turning his attention away from his plate he looked over to his Father-in-law, Franz von Wächter, who happened to be the ambassador. Franz’s position was the primary reason Johannes had married Franz’s daughter in the first place but those were small details. “Yes. Maria has taken to screaming her head off when I’m not holding her. I think the wet nurse is at the cusp of quitting,” he softly said, trying not to draw attention to their conversation. He didn’t want to deal with the surrounding company’s opinions and suggestions right now. Thankfully, all around him were loud conversations going on that helped mask his and Franz’s conversation. Some of the conversations Johannes could hear were about current politics while others were borderline lewd. A whole medley of topics were being discussed in the large ornate room.
Franz let out a soft chuckle as he brought his cup up to his lips. “The trials and tribulations of being a father. She will calm down, eventually,” he reassuringly said before taking a sip of wine.
A dark eyebrow arched in disbelief. At the rate Maria was going Johannes doubted that she would ever stop crying. “I can only hope,” he dryly replied. He was sure the moment he returned home he would find half his staff had quit because of Maria’s screaming. Johannes was already dreading the mere idea of finding anyone new to work in his household. Despite the Austro-Hungary Empire having one of their own in a position of authority in France there were still disdain throughout the population towards his people. The first wet nurse Johannes had hired left only a few days before Maria was born and the one he tried to hire had declined solely because he wasn’t French and was the “enemy”. While he was ready for the pushback from the French people he wasn’t ready for it to happen while dealing with an infant whose mother was no longer alive and who needed to be fed soon. It was a stressful time that quickly ended with Franz pulling some strings and getting someone to take care of Maria and little Johannes. If only Johannes could slip out of this party to ensure he had employees by the nights end.
Resigning himself to his demise he turned his attention to the food. The food and the wine were the only good thing about this party. Everything so far had been masterfully crafted and beautifully paired with the best of wines. Honestly he wasn’t even sure which dish had been his favorite because all of them were great. It was fitting for the King to have the best chef in the world but still Johannes couldn’t help but be jealous. This food was spoiling him and he was pretty sure he couldn’t go back to the normal food his own chef made. “The chef did an amazing job,” he said as he took another bite of something. Johannes wasn’t too sure of what he was eating but he did know it was good which was the only thing that matter.
“He really did. I was told the Chef’s name the last banquet I went to and I fear I can’t remember it right now,” Franz said before getting pulled into a conversation by the lady to his right.
Johannes let out a soft hum in acknowledgement as he took a sip of his wine. He really needed to find out the name of the chef and where this wine was from.
Plenty of people hated, no, [i loathed] the fact there was a foreigner on the throne. To have a Queen who was not even French was an unfathomable idea to many in France. King Louis XVI’s court was bubbling to the brim with gossip, as always, and buzzing with rumors and disbelief when news of his courtship of Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria began to circulate. Seemingly nobody wanted an Austrian woman as their Queen. Some even so boldly proclaimed that their union was a marker of the end of the mighty French monarchy. A few subjects even went so far to say that this was a sly ploy on the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s part to bring an end to France’s power and prestige. It just did not make any sense to a lot of people when there were plenty of eligible French noblewomen who were poised for marriage. But the King didn’t listen to the outpouring of criticism. The marriage was more of a political business transaction than anything else to him.
Charlemagne was one of the royal subjects who did not approve of Marie Antoinette being the Queen of France alongside of King Louis XVI. He did believe that having an Austrian as Queen was ridiculous, but he knew there was nothing that could be done about it now. [#900 [i ‘At least I’m not so paranoid unlike some who cry about it being the end of French society as we know it.’]] the man thought, shaking his head in the palace’s kitchen. He had been told time and time again that he was incredibly biased since he was the Royal Family’s personal chef. However, the case wasn’t so clear cut as bitter subjects thought. Charlie had been personally called upon by the King through a royal order to be the leading chef at the palace after the King and Queen had taken a leisurely tour through France’s wine country. They had stopped by Charlemagne’s family winery in Bordeaux unexpectedly since the King happened to enjoy the sight he saw of organized, but ornate rows of grape vines and the processing building where the actual wines of the Marquis’ business were made. It had been a shock to Charlemagne and his brother Sébastien to receive guards, the King, and Queen. There had been zero notice, but the two brothers were quick to accommodate their guests. Charlemagne had been charged to give the King and Queen a proper tour while Sébastien hurried off to fetch proper samples at the request of the Queen. It was during that tour of the facilities that the King had taken a liking to Charlemagne due to his charisma, honesty, and respectfulness. And it was about a month or so after this meeting that Charlemagne had been called to the Palace of Versailles to work for the Royal Family as their personal master sommelier. But when the King found out Charlemagne could also cook; the man worked in both capacities and was paid accordingly.
It was hard work keeping the royal family fed and satisfied, though. The King, Queen, and their children all had very fine, picky palates. They only wanted the finest cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And this didn’t even account for tea time and relatives of the family who regularly visited. Charlemagne, however, didn’t cower back from the challenge. Instead he put his best foot forward and ran a tight ship in the kitchen to ensure that the food that servers carried out was nothing but delectable perfection. This was always the case, and even more so for the lavish banquets the King and Queen held regularly. The pressure was magnified ten times, at least, because not only were the Royal Family needing to be fed, but so were their guests that included foreign dignitaries and whoever else the King and Queen happened to invite that night.
Tonight’s meal was exceptionally extravagant as no expense had been spared and no detail overlooked. Charlemagne only allowed the finest ingredients into the palace’s kitchen. Those ingredients ranged from cured meats from Spain all the way to truffles harvested in Italy. While Charlie was a chef and master sommelier, he made sure to scout out only the best for the Royal Family. In return the Royal Family paid him handsomely for his efforts as well as invested in his family’s winery. It was a win-win for both parties involved. Life really was much easier being in the favor of the King and Queen. And Charlie was intent on keeping it that way, striving constantly to outshine anyone vying to replace him. And the King had always noted the man’s talent and efforts, keeping him around because of this.
It had been such a long day of preparation that by the time deserts were served, Charlemagne was thoroughly exhausted. But the man didn’t stop there. He had put his apron back on the hanging rack and washed up before taking a few plates with him from the kitchen to serve a table. Charlemagne always liked hearing feedback from the people who ate his food. After taking a moment to collect his thoughts and switch from his strict in-the-kitchen mindset to a friendlier demeanor Charlie made his way out into the expansive dining hall nobles and guests alike were dining in.
Swiftly he weaved through the throngs of tables to reach the one he needed to go to. [#900 [i ‘Austrian folk.’]] Charlie thought. He was amused but still delighted none the less. They were guests of the palace and Charlemagne had a personal rule to treat all guests with respect regardless of their origins. [#900 [i ‘Except Prussians. But thank God they’re not here.’]] he mused while approaching the table with the silver platter of deserts.
[#900 “Bonsoir, mesdames et messieurs. I have a platter of specially crafted marbled cheesecakes for you if you elect to have desert. There is strawberry, chocolate, and blueberry marbled cheesecake to choose from.”] Charlemagne offered, showing off the platter to help the members of the table decide on what kind of cake they wanted. The favorite kind of cake, though, appeared to be the chocolate marbled variety as people made their pick. [#900 “And for you two gentlemen?”] Charlemagne inquired, turning his attention to Franz and Johannes. [#900 “Also, I trust that your dinner has satisfied you?...”]
The main meal, for the most part, was staring to wind down. People were lazily eating the remaining food before them and still happily chatting to each other. Johannes was one of those people who picked at the remainder of his food and sipped on his wine. He was happily full and while he could just give in and over indulged he did not. Johannes was happy and content; ready to go home and sleep.
With a content sigh Johannes turned his attention to Franz who was happily chatting away. Franz was much more use to this type of lifestyle than Johannes. Even though Franz was the second son to a baron Franz and his family spent the majority of their days in the Austro-Hungarian court. He really shined in these instances whereas Johannes didn’t. Johannes was, however, okay with that and let Franz do much of the talking. Eventually the day would come that Johannes was expected to carry on the conversation but that day wasn’t today.
As the conversation between Franz and the lady besides him dwindled down Johannes was about to say something to Franz when a voice cut through the conversations at the table. The new voice commanded the surrounding area and everyone turned their attention to the man. In his hand was a platter filled with delectable items. Johannes was cursed to have a sweet tooth and even though he was full those cheesecakes were exactly what he needed. Especially the blueberry cheesecake. Blueberries happened to be Johannes’ favorite berry, making the cheesecake that more enticing. Whoever this man was he surely descended from the heavens.
Said man’s attention seemed to have shifted from the rest of the table to single out him and Franz. For a heartbeat Johannes considered not giving into temptation but obviously lost that battle. “I think I’ll go with the blueberry marbled cheesecake,” Johannes replied to the stranger while Franz piped in with a chocolate. “Dinner was marvelous. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything as delicious as today’s meal. The King and Queen have chosen their head chef wisely,” he added when the man asked about the food. Johannes was not a man to give out frivolous compliments to just anyone or anything. Nor was he a man to find himself enamored with something as simple as food but the chef had achieved that in the course of one meal. Johannes would marry them if he could. Despite hating parties Johannes was already planning on going to another just so that he could enjoy this food again. Maybe, not another party so soon though because he feared that his waistline wouldn’t be able to take the onslaught of food.
With the cheesecake out of the way Johannes let himself actually look at the man that had brought out such delicious delicacies. The very first thing to run through his mind was that the man was rather handsome. Handsome in a way that was Johannes’ type, to be exact. Despite having been married to a woman Johannes had always preferred men. His marriage was actually a coverup for his extra activities as well as served to give Johannes some sort of position in society instead of sitting in limbo. But those were thoughts he needed to rapidly dismiss. The second thought that came to Johannes’ mind as he shoved the first one away was the man was somewhat important. He was, obviously, dressed nicely but seemed to have the air of command like he had a part to play in this banquet besides serving it. If Johannes was to guess what this man did it was probably coking some of the food. It was even possible this man was the head chef but Johannes was personally leaning against the idea since the man appeared so young. Either way the kitchen staff deserved some praises. “Please send my compliments to the chefs, Monsieur,” he decided on saying. Johannes wanted to ask more about the males’ role in the meal but held back since it wasn’t really the forum to do so. Either way Johannes found himself curious about the stranger.
Charlemagne found himself smiling just a little bit wider when the table he approached saw that he had dessert on the platter in his hand. He found it comical how so many individuals became reinvigorated with excitement after seeing plates of sweets come their way. Sure, not everybody liked deserts, but that was completely understandable. Charlie always had back up desert plans if anyone at a table expressed that they didn’t want what he had to serve at the time. But the members of the current table seemed more than content with the varieties of marbled cheesecake he and the kitchen staff made for the banquet. Regardless, Charlemagne was made happy knowing that he made others satisfied and full of his carefully crafted cuisine.
[#900 “Marbled blueberry; an excellent choice, I do say.”] Charlemagne commented as he served a cleanly sliced piece to Johannes. Upon hearing the man’s comment about the King and Queen choice in a head chef, Charlie genuinely, warmly laughed. [#900 “I certainly hope they did. The Royal Family have an intricate palate that is hard to please. No half rate chef would survive.”] Charlie noted. [#900 “But you flatter me, monsieur. I’d almost believe that you’re trying to get another piece of dessert from me.”] the man teased. [#900 “Though I must say that if that’s the case all you have to do is ask. No harm in a little indulgence, I say. Treat yourself if you would like.”] he added, still looking at Johannes. After a moment of observation, Charlemagne dutifully gave Franz a piece of the cheesecake he requested.
The Frenchman then glanced back at Johannes, intrigued. [#900 [i ‘Hm, he has quite the refined aesthetic. I like that a lot. I could happily observe this all night.’]] Charlemagne thought before his attention was caught by a lady sitting beside Franz. [#00969e “Monsieur, do tell us your name. And you must tell us where this wine is from! It is absolutely exquisite!”] one woman piped up, taking a sip from her crystal glass. Charlie averted his gaze from Johannes and directed it to the woman to address him. [#900 “Charlemagne Marquis at your service, madame. And your drinks tonight are from my family’s winery, Madame. My brother currently owns it and that is his signature blend if I’m not mistaken.”] Charlie proudly responded. [#900 “It just so happens to be a wine that the King ended up liking a lot during his initial visit while on a wine tour going through Bordeaux. But I am greatly pleased to hear that you enjoy it so much. My brother and I really do put our hearts and souls into our work.”] the man nodded, adjusting the dessert platter in his hand. [#900 “Now I must excuse myself. But if any of you need anything during the remainder of the banquet do not hesitate to let a butler or maid know. I will personally prepare the food and/or drinks myself. Plus, I linger around the palace quite often, so if you are around and need something to eat, let me know.”] Charlemagne stated before giving a light bow and disappearing among the people and back into the kitchen. More food still needed to be served and Charlie was ready to pitch in and help the wait staff as needed since his cooking duties for the day were done.
The banquet had gone off without a hitch for the most part. There had been minor hiccups in the cooking line within the kitchen, but malfunctions like that were to be expected. But the kitchen staff took it in stride. And by the end of the night, Charlemagne had pulled together his kitchen staff to congratulate them on their hard work. It is no easy task to feed so many people the quality of food expected to be served at the Royal Palace. So, as the kitchen staff cleaned up the area Charlie had grabbed some food, so he could feed himself. It was very late, and the man was starving so he took a plate and a glass of wine for himself before sitting out on a terrace that the dining hall leads out to. The terrace area overlooked a garden area that was currently illuminated by the moon hanging high in the sky. It was a truly beautiful evening and Charlemagne was relieved to be able to bask in the peacefulness of the night. And while he could think about anything, Charlemagne’s mind kept on going back to the young gentleman he had seen at the table he served earlier that evening. [#900 [i ‘I haven’t seen him around before, though. He must be new. Although the man he was with I’ve spotted several times in the past, but never got a chance to speak with.’]] Charlie thought, figuring that if the man he saw was someone important to the court that he’d be seen more often in coming days…
Johannes felt a small tug at the corner of his lips, a smile threatening to break out on his face all because of such a simple thing as an honest laugh. He would really have to find this man again. If only to talk and that’s it.“Thank you but one slice is good enough for me. I would like to leave with a fitting waist coat,” Johannes said as the piece was laid before him.
He only gave the cheesecake a precursors glance before turning his attention back to the man. Before he had to be the one to man up and ask for a name the lady next to Franz asked.
Charlemagne Marquis. Mentally Johannes said the name, rolling the letters off of his tongue a few times until he was sure he wouldn’t mess it up horribly. Having a name to a face was something he could work with if he wanted to see Charlemagne again. It was also something he was going to commit to memory. He may even look into getting some of the wine from Charlemagne’s family winery.
Sadly, it seemed a Charlemagne’s time had run out because soon he was leaving the area. Johannes, however, was too caught up in the information he just found out to be too sad to see Charlemagne go. He had been wrong. The other man had been the head cook. Damn, there went his chance to marry the cook and steal them away from the King and Queen.
[center [i ~]] The happiness Johannes had felt after the banquet was quickly squashed as he took the first few steps into his home. The door wasn’t even closed and his hated powder wig wasn’t even off as the screeching graced his ears followed by frantic clacks of heels across the floor. Johannes sighed as he slid the accursed item off of his head and handed it over to Hans, his butler. As he turned around he was greeted with a stressed lady and a screaming baby. Behind her trailed a sluggish and sleepy child.
“Monsieur, I couldn’t get her to quiet down,” she said.
Johannes took the last steps towards the stressed woman and easily took Maria from her. “I’ll take her. Go get some rest,” he gently said as he carefully cradled Maria in his arms. His son walked up to him and hugged his leg. “Johannes, you should be asleep,” He added as he began to rock the screaming child.
“Sleepy,” was all the small dark haired child said.
Johannes just sighed fondly at the child. Despite not wanting children before he had to admit that he loved these two brats. Even when they were being little pains in the ass, like now. Nudging his son forward they made their way up the stairs and into Johannes’ room. Almost instantly his son climbed into the bed and curled up in Johannes’ spot. Johannes just rolled his eyes at the child before turning to Hans. “Could you hold her and I’ll change myself,” he said as he offered up the sniffling child. The moment Hans took her Johannes leapt into action. With very little care if the expensive waist coat he shed his clothing and slipped on his sleeping shirt. By the time he was dressed Maria was beginning to fuss and Hans did not look amused.
“Do you know if Maria was fed before I got home?” He asked as he took his daughter.
“She was fed right before you got home,” Hans said as he picked up the clothing.
Johannes laid down in bed and rested Maria on his chest. Almost instantly his son rolled over and attached himself to his side. [i ‘This is really my life now,’] he thought to himself. He could be like his own parents and not even let his son near his room but Johannes wasn’t that heartless. Instead he would silent suffer as one kid laid on him and the other trying to. His last thoughts as he drifted off to sleep were that he hoped to see Charlemagne Marquis again.
[center [i ~ ]]
Johannes’ rest did not last long. After a few hours Maria became fussy again and he had spent the rest of the night rocking her. What little sleep he managed were him sitting on a chair, leaving him with a stiff neck. Needless to say he was not in a rather friendly mood. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of work for Johannes to do at the embassy. There were a few letters he needed to pen and input on details for a banquet where requested but no people to deal with. Well that was until Franz walked in.
“Johannes! Do you think you could pick up my order of wine from the market? I had to send Otto out to send the post and Freiherr Sierakowski decided to visit... Unless you wanted to deal with him. He has been asking about you a lot recently,” Franz said a shit eating grin on his face.
Freiherr Sierakowski was a baron whose wife was French and spent the majority of his time in France. He also only had one surviving child, his daughter Anne, who he wanted to marry off. His wife was also pushing for Anne to marry someone who would be in France so that she could see her daughter without traveling to Austro-Hungary. The person the Sierakowski family set their sights on just happened to be Johannes, who wasn’t in the market for a wife ever again. Franz caught on pretty quickly what was going on and at first was angry because his daughter’s body wasn’t even cold when the Baron started to push his daughter at Johannes. Now Franz found great amusement in tormenting Johannes with it.
“I’ll get the wine. I’m assuming the same vendor you normally get it from?” He said as he rapidly stood up and straightened his waistcoat. There was not enough money and prestige in the world to get him to stay.
Franz smirked, “Ja. Come back in a couple hours. By then he should lose interest.”
Johannes didn’t have to be told twice as he quickly left the embassy and made his journey to the market. Johannes hardly ever went to the market but he had committed the path to memory. The hustle and bustle of the market was something nice and let him slip into the crowd unnoticed. As he walked past several stalls he contemplated what he should do with his last minute freedom. He could find a shop, buy a book (he had Franz’s purse), and find a nice tree to sit under and enjoy the nice weather. Or he could get the wine and return to his home which wasn’t too far. It was in walking distances though he was sure Hans would lecture him for walking instead of taking a carriage. Despite the promise of a lecture the second idea sounded best. Making his way to the stall he saw Jacques who sold wine from his family’s winery. While the wine was good it wasn’t as good as Charlemagne’s wine but it would do.
“Bonjour,” he said to the middle age man. “I’m here to pick up Monsieur von Wächter’s order,” he said, the words a little stiff coming off his tongue at the end. Johannes always made an effort to speak French instead of slipping into his native tongue. Normally he didn’t have too many issues (or so he thought) but it always tripped him up speaking French and then saying a German name.
Jacques nodded. “Give me a moment Monsieur to grab his order,” he said as he left his assistant to man the stall.
“Look what we have here boys! A lost enemy. Maybe we should show him how much we love his kind,” a voice said behind him.
[i ‘Fuck me,’] Johannes thought to himself. He really didn’t want to deal with this.
After Charlemagne finished his dinner the man lingered outside on the terrace for a little while longer. He did not like to rush eating, nor drinking. The man leisurely sipped at his wine glass, watching the moon as it shone so brightly in the sky and the clouds as they lazily rolled on by in the night. An occasional guard would walk by as they went about their patrol, stopping to ask what Charlie was doing outside so late on the terrace. But the man didn’t mind the questioning. It was just the guards do their job. Thus, he kindly explained he had finally been able to eat and was taking his time to savor his wine and enjoy the mild weather of the night. The guards had simply nodded and gone back to doing their rounds, leaving Charlie to his post-banquet relaxation.
Charlemagne certainly did get a thorough night’s rest, though! By the time the man had gotten back to his room and dressed in the applicable nightgown, he passed out cold as soon as his head hit his bed’s pillow. But when the morning time rolled around Charlie had woken up when a maid knocked on his door to retrieve his laundry and bed linens. The man was grateful for the palace staff as their work helped streamlined his own. He didn’t have to worry about frivolities such as making his bed, dusting, and general rearranging of various items. But, he didn’t make the staff do all the work. After all, he was a farm boy at heart and was raised to have a tough, but honest work ethic. Plus, if he had the time between his main duties, Charlemagne especially enjoyed helping the outside staff tending to the gardens. Back when he started working for the Royal Family, Charlie had started a section of the gardens dedicated to growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables to help the palace be more self-sufficient in terms of getting food. Plus, the man was a firm believer that fresh, homegrown ingredients were the absolute best for cooking. However, he did not have everything he wanted in the gardens on the palace’s property. This was why Charlemagne frequented farmer’s markets as he knew those held products and ingredients he could use to better his cuisine for the Royal Family.
And today was a day dedicated for a whole trip to the farmer’s market at the request of the King himself. He was given a very generous allowance, an amount that still made Charlie choke to this day, to buy whatever he deemed necessary for the kitchen’s operations. And while the King insisted Charlie go to the market’s dressed in fine clothes to show he was operating under Royal authority, Charlemagne kindly declined and opted to dress casually for comfort and to not stick out like such a tacky sore thumb at the markets. But Charlie did take the sword that had been bestowed upon him by the King at the beginning of his employment. It was the only ornate thing on the man’s person as he boarded a carriage destined for the markets.
The wind that blew through the window of the carriage was refreshing; it was a fine Spring morning and Charlie inhaled deeply to fully appreciate the freshness it had. As the wind toyed with his long, dark locks of hair Charlemagne gazed out at the passing scenery. He was thinking about what he needed to buy. The banquet the evening before. That one dashing man he had served during the banquet. [#900 “Quite dashing, I must admit… Austrians..”] Charlie chuckled, shaking his head free of the thought. That was none of his business. Besides, Charlemagne was usually so busy with the culinary arts he rarely had time to even consider romancing anyone, man or woman. He did dabble here and there, but nothing as scandalous as some other people in the French Court. [#900 [i ‘At least it’s nothing like what Madame de Pompadour was like. Now she was a real talk of the court, may the good Lord have mercy on her soul.’]] Charlie sighed, almost amused by the stories he remembered hearing about her since he was a mere teen by the time she died. [#900 “The Court is still dramatic as ever, though. There really is no lack of scandalous affairs or anything of that nature.”] he talked to himself, killing time during the trip.
By the time he got to the markets, Charlemagne had a whole mental list of things to purchase to have delivered to the palace. He went around from stall to stall, sampling herbs and wines, putting his chef and master sommelier skills to good use as he did so. For the most part, he was minding his own business, talking to a farmer about putting in an order to have pre-slaughtered chicken, beef, and duck delivery set so the palace could restock on those items. He eventually moved on to a tea vendor, Charlemagne enthralled by the woman’s extensive knowledge of herbs and flowers, different types of teas, and their health benefits. [#900 “I wonder if there is such a thing as a thé sommelier because you definitely are one! I’ll take an order for your mint, jasmine, and green tea, and your chamomile and lavender blend. I think would pair wonderfully with a nice light snack for a tea hour sit down.”] Charlie grinned before he heard some rowdy men trying to start a scuffle a few stalls down from him. He looked over to see some bitter men and that man from the banquet last night! Disgusted with their demeanor Charlemagne immediately walked over and put himself between the man and Johannes. Despite being noticeably shorter than Johannes, Charlie was a fearless man. His stature, or lack thereof, never deterred him. And it didn’t matter to him now.
[#900 “You all need to back off. Who do you think you are? Trying to start a fight in the middle of public in broad daylight! In front of children and families, no less.”] Charlie glared, hands defiantly at his waist. The man that looked like the leader of the small gang of men scoffed at Charlie in response. [b “Who are we? [i Who are you?] Trying to defend the enemy? How can you call yourself French? That should be treason! [i Disgusting!”]] the man jeered, even drawing his sword to point at Charlie. But Charlemagne did not draw his. It stayed in its sheath at his hip. [#900 “Being a decent human is nowhere near treasonous. And it’s not Austrians we need to worry about. It’s the Prussians. Get yourself together! Plus, a man who is so quick to draw his weapon clearly has no use for it other than intimidation. So, I suggest you put that away now. You’re needlessly scaring women and children. Now [i that] is disgusting, monsieur.”] Charlie stood his ground, not budging an inch. And as tense as the atmosphere was for the situation, the group of men simply spat curses at Charlie before ambling away in the opposite direction. There were far too many witnesses and even guards to follow through with their original intentions of roughing up Johannes.
[#900 “Ridiculous. I am so incredibly sorry that happened. Some Frenchmen are overzealous with their patriotism that it blinds them of who the real problem is. But you’re otherwise fine, yes?”] Charlemagne spoke, turning to face Johannes. [#900 “Sometimes people forget what France is and what she stands for. Hopefully, scuffles like that won’t happen again.”] he added, brushing his hairs over his shoulders onto his back as the breeze had been blowing them around. [#900 “What brings you to the market, though? Aside from the bitter lack of hospitality from some fools?”] Charlemagne inquired, attempting to poke fun at those men’s ignorance…
Johannes wasn’t really willing to deal with these men today. They were rude and had the ugliest personalities ever and that was just going off of if their willingness to verbally abuse him for his homeland in front of women and children. It was absolutely a disgusting and unnecessary display and Johannes was not having it. “Monsieur,” he blandly hissed to cut off the tirade. “There is absolutely no need to make a scene in front of so many by standards,” Johannes finished in the iciest tone he could muster.
While Johannes was calm and collected on the outside he was somewhat worried about his safety. He was banking on these men not wanting to fight in front of the stalls despite the fact they looked ready to. Johannes, sadly, did not have a sword on him but he did have a decently sized dagger stored away and concealed by his waist coat. He was confident in his abilities to avoid a sword enough to get close and personal so that he could use his own weapon if need be. But he rather not. His skills had come from having two older brothers. He had to learn how to fight early on in life and he wasn’t too shabby at it. He was good enough that he garnered the attention of a few generals in the past. If he hadn’t married his wife he would be in the military right about now.
Obviously those weren’t the right words to say because the men began another bout of verbal abuse and started to move closed. Before Johannes could reply his knight in shinning armor came and saved him. Before him was Charlemagne, looking fierce, despite his smaller stature. His tongue was even fiercer as he ripped into his fellow Frenchmen for being rude. It was a beautiful sight that warmed Johannes’ heart. It was also more beautiful when his attackers huffed and walked away all while spouting countless obscenities.
“Thank you,” Johannes said to Charlemagne once the men left his sight. Johannes’ day was instantly looking better with Charlemagne having appeared out of nowhere. He didn’t fully understand why but Johannes was drawn to Charlemagne. Johannes knew that Charlemagne being attractive did help in the attraction but there was just something else as well. Whatever it was Johannes wasn’t going to ponder it too long. Instead he was going enjoy this near stranger’s presence and thank whatever God he needed to that his prayers were answered.
“Monsieur von Wächter gave me an ultimatum. Deal with Baron Sierakowski or run an errand. I chose the one less likely to annoy me,” he replied as he took in Charlemagne’s appearance. Charlemagne just so happened to be just as handsome in natural light as he was in candle light. If anything he was more handsome. [i ‘Stop it,’] he chastised himself mentally. Johannes had been seconds away from silently serenading Charlemagne and that wasn’t something he felt necessary just yet.
Standing there he realized that Charlemagne most likely didn’t know his name. Johannes was still new enough to the court that very few people knew his name. In fact the only reason him and his wife left Bavaria was because Marie Antoinette had requested his wife’s presence and Franz needed another aid. They had arrived to Paris and the his wife ended up pregnant so she worked very little with the Queen and Johannes had been learning his new job. Now that sometime had passed he was making more outings.
“I feel like I have you at a disadvantage by knowing your name Monsieur Marquis and by you not knowing mine. I am Johannes von Hügel,” He said to Charlemagne in hopes of remedying that issue. “What is the court’s head chef doing out and about? I imagine the King and Queen would have you locked up so that no one could steal you away.”
Jacques had returned just after Johannes finished talked and cleared his throat. “Monsieur, I have the wine. The ambassador has already paid for it,” the man said as he sat out the bottle.
Johannes looked away from Charlemagne for a moment to look at the wine. It was exactly what Franz had ordered and was his normal wine that he kept stashed in his office. It was probably a replacement bottle for the one he completed a few days ago. “Thank you,” he replied as he grabbed the bottle. While the wine wasn’t nearly as good as the wine at the banquet it would do.
With the wine in hand he took a small step to the side not to block the stall turned his attention to Charlemagne.
Charlie's dark eyes occasionally glanced in the direction the group of men ambled off to. He wanted to make doubly sure they wouldn't come back to cause further trouble for Johannes and disrupt the general peace of the markets. [#900 "It's really nothing. There are really only two groups of people we should worry about right now; the Prussians and the English. Plus you were simply minding your own business! And to attempt provoking a fight in broad daylight in front of so many innocents is entirely wrong. Nobody needs to see such violence. Especially children."] Charlemagne nodded, feeling immense indignation towards such an offence. [#900 "If you ask me, Austro-Hungary is a saint in comparison to England and Prussia. Sure, not everything is so clean and simple, but you don't deserve mistreatment simply for being in France."] Charlie heaved a sigh, obviously aggravated by the whole situation. [#900 "Just the audacity of some people! It drives me up the wall."] The Frenchman shook his head, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Such displeasure left a bitter taste in Charlie's mouth and he hated the sensation of such vehement emotions. [#900 "Plus the idiot clearly had no idea how to handle a sword! Yet he thought he could point his at me like I'd be scared. Absolutely ludicrous!"] Charlemagne ranted, exhaling through his nose.
After taking another moment to calm down Charlemagne intently listened to Johannes speak. In the back of his mind Charlie couldn't help but admire just how [i precious] Johannes sounded speaking French. It was not as smooth as a native speaker, but he was eloquent in Charlie's opinion as a native speaker. The small quirks in the taller man's accent was even endearing and Charlemagne found Johannes' voice a pleasure to listen to overall. [#900 "Mon Dieu, ultimatums are so unfair."] Charlie commented, straightening his posture to stand upright as he needed to. [#900 "Sounds like this Baron is an unsavory one."] He stated, an amused eyebrow cocked up above an eye.
But his amusement quickly faded and was replaced with a sinking sense of dread. [#900 [i 'So. Many. H's.']] Charlie thought before mentally running over how the other man pronounced his name. [#900 [i 'Damn! Why is French like this???']] Charlemagne mentally cursed how French specifically made it nearly impossible for him to pronounce such a simply letter in any word outside of French. The Frenchman simply could not wrap his mouth around how to pronounce the word without putting an obscene amount of effort into it and sounding like an idiot. But despite this mild despair Charlemagne smiled. [#900 "It's great to officially meet you, Johannes."] Charlemagne still wanted to be polite of course.
[#900 "I actually was tasked by the King to come here today and spend the day putting in orders to replenish the kitchen's stock of ingredients. Banquets always puts our inventory pretty low despite so much planning going into the event. Sometimes accidents happen and dishes are dropped, or food is burned. Happens to everyone in the kitchen, even me."] Charlemagne shrugged. [#900 "But I have literally all day and I've been really wanting to stop at a local patisserie. You should come with me!"] the man grinned, hoping he wouldn't have to run his errands alone that day. [#900 "Although I'm not sure who would want to steal me away anyway. I literally just cook and am a pretentious wine snob."] Charlemagne laughed, poking fun at his work, especially being a wine sommelier. [#900 "Pretty sure if someone stole me away, they'd return me the same day!"] the man cackled. [#900 "It would be a terrible choice, really."]
Charlemagne then looked over at the wine vendor, recognizing the man immediately as they were practically in the same business. [#900 "Jacques! Always nice seeing you in good health. Busy day today?"] Charlie nodded in acknowledgment at the man. While he had a few critiques about Jacques' wine, Charlie respected his fellow countryman's passion and work ethic. He then looked back at Johannes. [#900 "I really do insist about the patisserie, though. Being so new around here you should know about the best eating spots in the area. So, what do you say, Johannes?..."]
Johannes had forgotten that the French tended to have issues with the letter “H”. It was a letter that Johannes, personally, had a little bit of issues with when it came to speaking French so he couldn’t judge them. Johannes’ issue was depending on where the “h” was in the word determined how much emphasis he put on it even though he should be dropping the letter. He had gotten a little bit better about it but not by much. Progress, however, was progress. When Charlemagne said his name Johannes had been reminded of that pesky “h” and a small smile found its way on his lips. It was adorable how Charlemagne said his name. He wondered if he could get Charlemagne to say his surname one day just to see how he would approach that “h”. Johannes was, however, a hundred percent sure it would sound equally adorable.
Pushing those thoughts away he returned to the land of the living. “You may be able to convince me into joining you at the patisserie,” Johannes replied. In fact joining Charlemagne sounded much better than just spending time at home and it sounded even better than dealing with Sierakowski. There would be very little convincing needed to get him to go with Charlemagne. Pastries and avoiding Sierakowski? He was already sold on the idea to be completely honest.
The next words out of Charlemagne’s caused Johannes to let out a soft chuckle. No one wanting Charlemagne? Now that was an absurd notion; plenty of people probably wanted him. Johannes, personally, wouldn’t mind having him at all but he wasn’t going to say that out loud. That was predominantly because his intentions were a little less innocent. He wasn’t going to pounce on Charlemagne or anything but he wasn’t opposed to something happening. Johannes also wasn’t going to force anything. Instead of saying all of that he responded with “A lot of households wouldn’t mind your added knowledge to their kitchen.” Charlemagne, after all, was an amazing chef and any household he worked in would be at an advantage. Plus they would get the beauty that is Charlemagne.
“Lead the way, Monsieur. I have nothing to do besides avoiding the embassy,” he said once Jacques greeted Charlemagne. Once Charlemagne started walking Johannes followed him. For a few minutes Johannes remained silent as he gathered his thoughts. “I believe you said something about your family owning a winery. How do you like Paris compared to Bordeaux?” Johannes asked as the easily weaved through the crowds. Johannes never had the pleasure of going that far south. The furthest he ever went in France was, sadly, Paris and it’s surrounding area. He hoped to one day got further south and tour France but with a fussy baby and a new job he doubted it would happen anytime soon. On top of everything else Johannes also would like to return to Bavaria some day. His longing for the fresh mountain air may end up trumping his curiosity the longer he stayed in Paris.
No sooner did the words leave his mouth did Charlemagne stop at the patisserie. The smell that wafted from the street was absolutely decadent. While nothing could replace his love for apple strudels they could fill the void in his life just like the cheesecake the previous night. “It smells amazing,” he said as he opened the door for Charlemagne.
Charlemagne’s eye narrows slightly. It was not in a malicious manner, but a playful one. [#900 “I [i may] be able to? What? Do you require convincing of some sort?”] the Frenchman asked, border lining on flirtation with an arched brow as Charlie shifted his weight over to his left side. [#900 “Are you Austrian folk really so stubborn? Shame.”] Charlemagne shook his head, a smirk on his face. He truly was just joking with Johannes, though. No harm meant whatsoever. [#900 “I honestly thought the offer of French cuisine would be enough, but alas. It is not. You make me work so hard, Johannes! Why? I thought we were on friendly terms!”] Charlie continued to give the Austrian man grief before laughing and shaking his head. He really enjoyed being able to joke around with Johannes, though. He was an amicable enough, in Charlie’s mind so far. At least that was the impression he had of Johannes.
After a moment, though, Charlemagne eyed Johannes carefully. [#900 “You really are quite the flatterer, Johannes. Trying to win over my favor, hm? I’m afraid I have nothing for you right now.”] Charlie noted. [#900 “But I appreciate the compliment. I’m glad you’ve taken such a liking to my cooking.”] he beamed proudly. Charlemagne practically worked his ass off to be as successful as he was, so it was always nice to be recognized for such. [#900 “I can most certainly help you to waste time, so you can avoid the embassy if that’s what you wish.”] Charlie winked at the other man before turning to lead the way to the patisserie he had in mind.
The journey was not all too bad in Charlemagne’s opinion. Sometimes the walkways were crowded and made traveling from one place to another rather difficult. But today there was only moderate foot traffic. [#900 [i ‘Hm, probably because of the time of day, I suppose.’]] Charlemagne thought as he waved to a few people he recognized along the way, giving a few greetings while in passing. But the Johannes spoke up, mentioning Charlie’s family winery! [#900 “Yes, currently my older brother owns and operates it. If I’m ever visiting home I pick up and help out around the land as much as I am able to.”] Charlie nodded, fondly remembering home for a minute. [#900 “Goodness, Paris is much busier than where I come from in Bordeaux. I’m, personally, more accustomed to the countryside and farmlands, if I’m being honest. But there’s a lot more opportunity for me here in Paris, which I enjoy. So, it’s a love-hate type of relationship most of the time with Paris. But I guess that bit of culture shock is just a given when you trade in raising animals and making wine for fancy dress and luxurious foods.”] the Frenchman shrugged at the end. He was by no means complaining, though. Charlemagne took the bad with the good in stride. [#900 “What about you? How long have you even been in Paris? What do you think?”] Charlie inquired, wondering ho the city would come across to a complete foreigner.
Upon arrival at the patisserie, though, Charlemagne grinned upon witnessing Johannes’ reaction [#900 “Right? The smell itself is absolutely divine, isn’t it? Wait till you try their foods! Decadent does not even begin to describe the sweets they make.”] Charlie practically sang his praises for the establishment, thanking Johannes when he held the door open. After stepping inside a dainty woman behind the sales counter of the patisserie warmly greeted them as she was cleaning the counters. [#900 “Florence! You look positively radiant today, madame.”] Charlie replied, the woman waving her hand to dismiss his flirtations. Florence and her sister, who was in the kitchen, operated the patisserie themselves, offering an array of baked goods from cakes and cookies to pies and macarons. With family recipes at their disposal, the two sisters did well for themselves.
[b “Who’s your friend, Charlemagne? I don’t think I’ve seen him around before.”] Florence mentioned, curious. [#900 “A new friend of mine, I’d like to think. Aren’t we friends, Johannes?”] Charlie looked over at the other man for a moment before back at Florence. [b “Nice to meet you then, Johannes. Please, do feel free to take a seat at any table you’d like.”] Florence gestured to their left against the wall opposite of the sales counter. Charlie then moved to take a seat before Florence approached them personally. [b “Did you two want anything in particular? Or are you stuck on the spiced vanilla cake, Charlemagne?”] Florence inquired only to have Charlie nod. [#900 “I am quite obsessed with that cake. I wish I had the recipe for it.”] [b “If I gave it to you I would have to kill you!”] Florence laughed, patting Charlie on the back. [b “And you, Johannes? Do you have a taste for anything in particular?”] Charlemagne glanced from Florence to Johannes in the moment. [#900 “I’d have to recommend the crème puffs, if you don’t want cake. They’re so light, but delicately sweet and delicious…”]
Johannes listened intently to Charlemagne as he replied to Johannes’ question. He could fully understand his sentiment when it came to how busy Paris was compared to a farm. Bavaria was much quieter than Paris. Or Munich. Or Vienna. In fact everything besides London was quieter than Paris. When Charlemagne asked his question Johannes had to take a moment to think of his answer. When he is need the door he finally had the answer to the question he never thought about. “It’s been a little over a year since I left Vienna work at the embassy here. Paris is...different than what I’m used too. I grew up in Bavaria where the nearest town was a small village outside of my family’s lands, which was filled with my family’s employees. Anyways I thought Vienna was huge and then I moved here and I’m absolutely amazed by the amount of people here. It’s so different,” he replied. Vienna was the third of the population of Paris and at the time Johannes thought that was big. Paris was absolutely huge and there was so much to do. He didn’t even know what to do when he first got here.
He followed Charlemagne into the shop and let out a soft sigh. It smelled absolutely amazing in the shop. “I can’t wait,” he said before Charlemagne greeted the shop owner. Johannes’ eyes were instantly greeted by the most beautiful sight (besides Charlemagne) in the immediate vicinity. Several delectable treats laid in the case just begging to be consumed. Everything in that case looked amazing. [i ‘I wonder if I can convince Otto to spar with me. I’m going to need to work this off,’] he thought to himself as he contemplated all the sweets he could consume. Hopefully he had the strength not to eat everything in sight.
“Madame,” he said acknowledging the woman, Florence, “and yes Charlemagne. I would dare say we are friends.” Johannes added. They had only just started talking to each other but Johannes felt that talking to Charlemagne was the easiest thing in the world. He was hoping they would continue to talk and meet up even though this meet up was purely chance. “The pleasure is mine Madame,” he happily said to he as Charlemagne chose a spot. Sitting across from Charlemagne he sat the bottle of wine on the table. The spice vanilla cake sounded heavenly but so did the crème puffs. Too many options and limited space in his waistcoat. Trusting Charlemagne’s judgment, and not wanting to eat everything in sight, he turned to Florence. “I’ll go with the crème puffs since they have such great reviews,” he said with a soft smile.
“So how long have you been working for the royal family?” He asked in a soft voice once Florence was off getting their choices. Johannes found himself way too interested in Charlemagne. Like he wanted to know every small thing about Charlemagne from what he disliked to what he looked like when he woke up. Shit, Johannes had it bad for Charlemagne and they just started talking. Johannes hadn’t been that interest in a man since Friedrich, a soldier who Johannes was with before marrying his wife and Friedrich getting sent out of Vienna.
Raised eyebrows of surprise appeared upon Charlemagne’s face upon hearing Johannes mention Bavaria. [#900 “I knew I heard a little bit of Bavarian somewhere in your speech, I just couldn’t tell for sure since you speak so well!”] the Frenchman exclaimed honestly beside himself for having his suspicions confirmed. [#900 “I have a friend who lives in the Bavarian mountains with her family. I’m not able to visit as often as I’d like, but Bavaria is absolutely breath-taking! The mountains and terrain are so scenic. It’s a peaceful place to be, in my opinion.”] Charlie grinned, fondly remembering time he spent in the German region. [#900 “But, yeah. Paris has so many people it is almost ridiculous. However, not everyone is the same and I find that quite interesting! I’ve seen my fellow French people, Spaniards, Germans, Italians, and now Austrians. Paris is a cultural epicenter of sorts.”] he added, honestly proud of his country.
After seating themselves and informing Florence of what they’d like to eat Charlemagne fully directed his attention towards Johannes, quietly observing the man and drinking in his image. Charlie had a positive impression of the Austrian man, if he were to be frank. To him, Johannes was handsome. He was refined. He was charming. These were all qualities that Charlemagne appreciated in a man, although he had never been able to fully express his interest in men without attracting dreaded negative attention. Sure, there had been old, mild rumors floating around the Royal Court when he first arrived. But now Charlemagne had become the subject of conversation because of his culinary skills, not his alleged after-work activities. However, such was life. The Royal Court lived by and thrived on conjecture and drama. When he flirted with women, nobody seemed to bat an eye, though. So, Charlie’s life was a skilled balancing act to avoid any trouble he did not want. While he wasn’t ashamed for his interests, he simply did not want to risk losing such a prestigious job. Charlemagne had grown to love his work in the palace and detested the thought of losing it if someone found out he enjoyed the company of men in his bed as much as he did women.
Johannes’ next question broke Charlie from his thought bubble, though. The Frenchman blinked several times, having gotten distracted by the other man’s image. [#900 “Oh, the palace.”] he echoed, straightening himself up in his seat to avoid becoming flustered from being caught offguard. [#900 “I’ve been working for the Royal Family for about two years now. Which is practically unheard of for someone my age! But I suppose it is a fate I was meant for. Opportunities like this don’t just fall into your lap every single day. At least I know it didn’t for me.”] Charlemagne shrugged his shoulders at the end of his response. [#900 “I will admit, though. I miss Bordeaux. I miss all the farm animals and the winery. I am so used to working outside that it’s fairly jarring at times being in the palace. Although I do not miss the damned rooster waking me up every single morning at home.”] Charlie rolled his eyes. [#900 “I would always tell my brother, [i ‘Sébastien, if this rooster doesn’t stop I will eat him for lunch.’] But I never did, though. I don’t know why since I loathed that bird’s existence up until I moved into the palace. I think my brother would not have been pleased if I cooked that rooster. He actually needed that rooster to raise more chicks that he could eventually sell to other farmers or for meat.”]
After taking another moment to think more about the subject Florence approached with a modest platter with a plate for Charlie’s slice of cake and bowl that contained the crème puffs Johannes requested. [b “I’ll bring tea out for you gentleman.”] Florence mentioned as she set each respective dish in front of Johannes and Charlemagne before disappearing into the kitchen once again to fetch the tea she and her sister steeped for the men. Quickly she did return with a tea tray that had saucers, cups, a kettle, a sugar cube container, and utensils on it. Swiftly she set the table with the tea items [b “Do let me know if you two require anything else.”] Florence offered a small curtesy before taking her leave. Charlie then began to pour himself a cup of tea, mixing in a minimal amount of sugar to sweeten the drink. [#900 “À votre santé.”] Charlemagne nodded before sipping his tea. [#900 “This is honestly refreshing; bright, but not too sweet. Yet it isn’t too subtle either. Excellently made.”]
[#900 “Do you get out of the embassy much, Johannes? What do you actually like to do? Assuming royal politics is as irritating as it comes across to others.”] the Frenchman asked, genuinely curious. [#900 “I really like the arts, if I’m to be honest. Dance, music, theatre, things like that.”] Charlie offered, quietly eating his piece of cake when he was finished speaking…
[i ‘Wow,’] was Johannes’ first thought when Charlemagne said he was working in the palace for two years. Like Charlemagne said it was rare for someone As young as Charlemagne. Most of the cooks Johannes had the pleasure of knowing were much older when working for any important family. Charlemagne, if he was in the Austro-Hungarian court, would probably be an assistant to the Head Chef at best. Not running his own kitchen with the full backing and confidence of the Royal Family. It was really a testament to how good Charlemagne was at what he did. Not only was Charlemagne good at his job but also kind of funny. The rooster story did get a small chuckle from Johannes. He couldn’t relate to it but the imagery was funny. “Well aren’t you a kind brother by not eating the rooster. I’m sure your brother greatly appreciated the empty threats.”
His attention was pulled away when Florence returned with their orders. “Thank you,” Johannes happily said as he looked at his bowl of crème puffs. They looked absolutely delicious and the cake also looked amazing. He may have to return for that cake on a later date. Maybe he would send Hans out to see about getting a whole cake for the entire household. Johannes took the tea after Charlemagne poured his own. Personally Johannes wasn’t a fan of tea, preferring coffee, but he would take what he could get. He added a little bit of sugar before turning back to Charlemagne.
“Recently I’ve been leaving the embassy more. The last three months were rough and I spent most of it at home or fielding papers from home. Things have mellowed out enough that I have had time to leave and Franz has started taking me to events,” he said before taking a sip of tea. It wasn’t coffee but it was alright. Charlemagne was correct about his analysis of the tea though. It wasn’t too sweet and somewhat refreshing as long as he got over the fact that it was tea. “Thankfully I’ve avoided the worse of it when it comes to royalty and politics though that probably won’t last long. When I’m not working I do enjoy reading, riding, and going to the theater. Recently I’ve had very little time for any of those activities. In fact sleep is starting to become a rare commodity,” Johannes said. He liked to keep his family life away from potential partners but with a small needy child it was becoming a difficult to keep it separated. Deciding that it would be better to get it out than tell Charlemagne later he let out a soft sigh. “My wife passed away three months ago during childbirth and my daughter has been increasingly fussy to the point that my staff is on the verge of quitting. To keep my staff sane I’ve taken to watching her at night which ends the crying for longer periods of time but she isn’t fond of letting me sleep for long.”
He looked away from Charlemagne to pop a crème puff in his mouth. It was delicious, just as Charlemagne had said. It was so delicious Johannes had to keep himself from making an indecent moaning sound. Swallowing the deliciousness he looked at Charlemagne with an approving gaze. “You were right about the crème puffs, by the way, they are delicious.” He took another sip of tea before deciding to turn the conversation away from his own life. “Do you participate in any of the arts you mentioned or just an avid fan?” Johannes really wanted to ask if Charlemagne was married but didn’t want to be too forward. Or noisy.
Charlemagne was genuinely proud of himself for his hard work. If it were not for his determination, passion, and his brother’s support, Charlie knew that there was no way he would be able to achieve everything he has achieved so far in his young life. He knew that a man of his age would probably still be groveling below more experienced chefs. But, luckily for Charlemagne, the Royal Family had taken a serious liking to his personality and skill set. Instead of busting his ass for less prestige and respect, Charlie was at a level he was comfortable at being. Sure, feeding people with such picky palates was quite difficult. But the pay and subtle notoriety made all of the efforts and work worth it. Because at the end of the day, all that Charlemagne cared about was the people he served enjoyed his food since Charlie went to great lengths to ensure perfection. [#900 “I sure hope my brother appreciates my mercy. Otherwise, that rooster will be done for. I’d probably put it in a soup.”] the Frenchman shrugged, smugly sipping at his cup of tea.
After rolling his shoulders to help relieve some of the tension that they carried, Charlemagne carefully listened to what Johannes had to say in response to his questioning. With a thoughtful hum, Charlie nodded at the man’s words. [#900 “I am glad that you are able to get out of the embassy more. I personally would hate being holed up in some building in a foreign country when there is so much to explore and experience.”] Charlemagne said intently. However, the Frenchman’s brows did furrow a bit when Johannes mentioned the potential inevitability of getting involved in politics. [#900 “I must say, I do almost pity you. Of all countries to be in with politics. I have to admit; French politics are ridiculous. There is always something going on, I swear!”] Charlie shrugged, sitting back in his chair. [#900 “Next time you’re at the palace you should take a peek in on the libraries. And if I’m not busy perhaps I could convince the stable's staff to let us use the horses for a nice ride through nearby orchards?”] he offered, even more curious about the man in front of him. However, Charlemagne found himself shocked when Johannes told him that his wife had just passed away recently. [#900 “Dear God, my deepest condolences, Johannes.”] That certainly must not have been easy for the man. Charlemagne had watched his brother go through something similar last year and the grief certainly wasn’t pretty.
Figuring it was what Johannes had wanted, Charlie welcomed the subject change with no qualms. [#900 “Of course I was right! Would I ever steer you wrong?”] Charlemagne chuckled, winking at the other man. [#900 “I try to participate when I can. Unfortunately, I find myself so busy that I cannot be a part of productions as often as I would like.”] Charlie sighed. [#900 “I especially miss dancing since it has always kept me so fit. And acting plus singing because it is just so much fun. But it is what it is. I made a culinary career for myself, not an otherwise artsy one.”]
After spending a period of time quietly savoring the slice of delectable cake he was served, Charlie felt like he could go for a nap. But there was still so much to do in his honest opinion! But Florence’s sister, Cécile, emerged from the kitchens to check on the two gentlemen. While Charlemagne found Florence to be polite enough, he was a bit wary of the woman’s younger sister. She was much too naïve for Charlie’s liking since she regularly did try to capture the Frenchman’s attention whenever she saw him. And to make matters worse, the father of the women had been trying to marry off both women. While Charlie liked Florence much more, he did not want to marry either of the women. Marriage, in general, worried the man because it was certainly expected of him, but he was just [i so busy] working for the Royal Family. In addition to a jam-packed schedule, Charlemagne hadn’t been interested in marrying a woman anyway. Just the idea frightened him after watching what happened to his brother’s wife when she was dying of tuberculosis, leaving Sébastien and their young daughter Odette behind. Plus having children was nowhere on Charlemagne’s mind. Again, no time and zero interest.
[#0e3e1b “Bonjour, Charlemagne! Comment va-tu?”] Cécile chirped, clearly more excited than Charlie was to see the other. [#900 “I’m doing quite well, thank you, Cécile. Et toi?”] the man politely replied by offering a smile to accompany his words. [#0e3e1b “Oh, working hard, staying busy here in the shop. Though it is always a better day seeing you around.”] the woman said, Charlie giving a thoughtful hum. He really hoped that Cécile wouldn’t try to push herself onto him now like she had a habit of doing. [#0e3e1b “And who is this gentleman? I haven’t seen you around here before, monsieur.”] Cécile noted, looking towards Johannes with an inquisitive gaze. [#900 “Cécile meet Johannes. Johannes meet Cécile.”] Charlie noted, now hoping she wouldn’t try to pawn herself off on Johannes since he was a dashing individual. But she didn’t seem to have an interest in the other man like that. Cécile did offer Johannes the customary curtsey out of habit and politeness, though. [#0e3e1b “It’s a pleasure to serve you, Monsieur. I do hope Paris is treating you well enough.”] the woman nodded. [#0e3e1b “Everything is satisfactory, though? Nothing out of place?”] Cécile asked. Charlemagne gave a simple head nod of approval. [#900 “Everything is just fine, merci. Although could I receive a copy of the bill, please? So, I can pay it off early.”] Charlie inquired. Cécile curtseyed and gave an acknowledgment of Charlie’s request. [#0e3e1b “Also, Charlemagne, my father’s offer still stands.”] she winked. [#900 “I am sure it does.”] he replied, straight-faced before the woman turned around and moved to fetch a copy of the table’s bill.
When Cécile disappeared back into the kitchen to speak with Florence, Charlie couldn’t help but just stare up at the ceiling for a moment. [#900 “I wish their family would leave me alone about a forsaken proposal. Because they’re not going to get one.”] Charlemagne groaned, honestly exasperated. [#900 “Marriage is something I’m not worried about right now. But their parents keep on nagging me about it no matter what I say. And I can’t lie about moving away, because I frequent the markets so much that they’d quickly learn it’s a sham.”] the Frenchman shook his head, wishing that marriage proposals were not so petulant. [#900 “Color me ridiculous, but if I ever marry it’d be for actual love. Not for monetary or status gain.”] Charlie huffed, irritated to say the least.
[#900 “I do apologize about that. Just grates on the nerves a little bit, honestly.”] the man ended up apologizing after a minute, not meaning to rant like that in front of Johannes. [#900 “Do you have any plans for the rest of the day, though?...”]
Johannes sent Charlemagne a soft and sad smile as Charlemagne imparted his condolences about his wife. “Thank you,” he quietly replied. Johannes didn’t mention his wife’s passing for condolences but as a reason why he had been so busy for so long. Those three months seemed to have been the longest and shortest months of Johannes’ life. There was always something to do, fix, or someone to see. There had been no moments of peace until recently. This was, perhaps, the first time in a long time that Johannes had actually gotten to do something that wasn’t productive in the more common sense. Even the banquet had been a work trip and not for leisure. As Charlemagne aptly put it French politics was ridiculous.
Johannes took a sip of tea and couldn’t help but smile a little when Charlemagne confidently asked if he would ever steer him wrong. “No. I don’t think you could,” he replied as he sat his teacup down. Johannes wasn’t surprised that Charlemagne had been in productions before. It just seemed right. It also was right that his work was keeping him from being in more productions. His own work kept him from doing the things he liked and his kids made it worse. “Hopefully you will have time to be a part of a production in the future. I wouldn’t mind seeing that show,” he said.
A comfortable silence followed as Charlemagne enjoyed his cake. Johannes enjoyed the rest of his créme puffs and suffered through his tea. He was hoping after the year he had spent in France he could come to enjoy tea and that was a negative. Coffee was such a better drink. He never wanted to thank the Turks but in these moments where he is sipping tea it made him want to. Their comfortable, sadly, silence was promptly interrupted by someone coming up to the table.
Johannes looked up at the woman. She obviously had an interest in Charlemagne if the shining in her eyes were anything to go by. Charlemagne, on the other hand, didn’t seem as fond of her. Sure he was polite to her but he didn’t have the same energy that was exuding from the woman. The only way she could be more obvious about her interest would be if she started batting her eyelashes at Charlemagne. When she looked at him Johannes had to keep him from smiling. She was so obvious about her interest and Johannes found it funny. “Madame, it is a pleasure to meet you,” he kindly said. Her attention turned back to Charlemagne when he took over the rest of the conversation. By the time she mentioned some deal Johannes felt a dark eyebrow making its way up, arching up in surprise that she would mention something personal in front of a stranger. He had gotten too use to backroom deals and actual issues never being discussed in public or in front of a stranger. Charlemagne response was perhaps the best part of the whole conversation. He, obviously, didn’t like what deal she was talking about because his face went from somewhat inviting to serious in a heart beat.
Once she was gone Charlemagne felt open enough to complain about the offer and it all made sense. Ah, marriage offers. It was a thing that haunted Johannes everywhere he went as well. His wife was a marriage offer that was made in some backroom without Johannes or Elisabeth’s input at all. They met a month before they married. Johannes didn’t fight it too much because he could never marry for love. Now that he had two kids he was in no rush to marry. He has done his societal obligations and he should be able to avoid the whispers of society. Too bad he couldn’t avoid marriage pushed . “Don’t apologize. If it makes you feel better I’m here to avoid a marriage proposal. Thankfully, my father got his way with my first marriage so he gets to stay away from the marriage proposals now or else I would be married by now,” he told Charlemagne. Moving to France also kept Johannes’ father’s slimy hands off his life. His father was obsessed with creating the most perfect life where their nobility means something instead of just being laughed at. Since his family were merchants first their nobility was never taken seriously. Johannes father was hoping to remedy that. By trying to do that he could be very controlling. At least him and his father had a deal that after Elisabeth his father would stay out of his life.
“No. I don’t really have any plans. I’ll have to return to the embassy at some point to give Franz his wine. All my work was done when I fled the office. How about you?” He asked as the check was brought out. Johannes took a quick look over the prices and was silently impressed. The prices were fair for such delicious treats. Despite not being fond of Cécile’s attempt to get married with Charlemagne he did intend to visit again. Grabbing is coin purse he dropped the exact amount of money down and turned to Charlemagne. “Shall we?” He said gesturing to the door.
[center Charlemagne heaved an anxious sigh while listening to what Johannes had to say about marriage proposals. [#900 “My goodness, I honestly cannot fathom how that must be like. I feel like the idea of marriage is pushed so hard these days that it has me dreading the thought. I am kind of glad I am not the eldest son, though. My brother has done his part with marriage and having a child since he controls the business and estate now. And since he understands what that stress is like he does not bother me about finding a spouse, especially when I feel so ill-prepared.”] Charlie shook his head before polishing off his cup of tea. [#900 “And adding onto not feeling ready and being too busy, I just have not found anyone I actually liked enough to share my life with. I figure that if I am going to be with someone for the rest of my life that I better enjoy their company enough to make that happen and worth it.”] the Frenchman chuckled. [#900 “Even then, if it does not happen, I won’t be mad about it.”] Charlemagne shrugged, not to bothered by his prospective solitude.]
[center When Johannes moved to pay the bill Charlie moved to stop him, but the Austrian man had set the money down before the Frenchman even had the chance to stop Johannes’ hand. [#900 “You really don’t have to do that, Johannes.”] Charlemagne thoughtfully said. Although the gesture was kind, Charlie felt like it was the right thing to do; for him to pay for his food and Johannes’. Charlemagne wanted to think of as a small ‘Welcome to France’ type of gift, but the man was not keen on arguing about it since Johannes had already been so kind to him. Instead of pushing the subject further Charlemagne stood up from his seat before straightening out his coat. [#900 “We shall. Preferably sooner rather than later.”] the Frenchman simply replied, nodding as he spoke. He personally wanted to get out of the café before Cécile had the chance to talk him into staying any longer. [#900 “I personally still have a few work errands to complete before going back to the palace to make sure those I left in charge did not burn the kitchens down and work on making dinner for the Royal Family.”] While Charlemagne appreciated and admired those he worked with, sometimes the man did not entirely trust them, particularly the inexperienced cooks. But everyone started somewhere in their career.]
[center Upon stepping outside Charlie piped up again. [#900 “I think we should part ways here. But there is going to be another party in a week and a half. Maybe we’ll cross paths there again if I’m not drowning in work?”] Charlemagne stated, a bit of a smirk on his lips. [#900 “And please try to not get targeted again. I cannot always be there to fend off fools for you, Johannes. It is dreadfully hard work.”] the Frenchman teased, gently patting the other man on the back. With that Charlemagne turned and walk away to weave through the throngs of people on the walkways. So much still had to be done and he already forfeited time for some pleasantries with Johannes. Now it was time to get back to work.]
[center At the party in the palace more than a week later Charlemagne was as busy as ever. The man was directing wait staff, cooking, checking the quality of dishes before they were sent out. He was inundated with tasks before he went out into the dining hall where a roasted pig was laid out. Charlie had then tasked himself with carving off pieces for the guests who requested it for a period of time before he got one of the junior chefs to take his place, so he could go back into the kitchen. Honestly, things looked hectic in the kitchen, but it was running like a finely oiled machine. Before the event kicked off, though, Charlemagne had acquired permission from the King to allow him to hand off operation duties to a senior chef, so he could enjoy the party a little bit. Surprisingly the King had agreed, and Charlie simply took the answer and ran with it.]
[center After double checking the kitchen and the status of its operations, Charlemagne smoothly dipped out to visit his chambers and change into more acceptable attire as his chef’s clothing just would not cut it. The man was excited because he knew that his brother Sébastien was in attendance for business transactions, but Charlie also hoped that he would be able to see Johannes again. [#900 [i ‘Even if I don’t get to see him at least I’ll have the chance to dance and not worry about too much. That is a nice change if you ask me.’]] Charlie thought as he did a final comb through his exceptionally long hair. He was deciding to keep it down as it was much more aesthetically pleasing with his ensemble compared to if it were tied up and out of the way.]
[center Soon Charlie found himself mingling among the mixture of people. There was no animosity, simply the regular gossip and trivialities that accompanied life in the French court. Other than that, everyone seemed to be enjoying all of the bells and whistles that the palace had to offer during this week’s party. Earlier in the day, Charlemagne heard whispers of a potential masquerade ball and the man found himself intrigued but was already dreading the preparation it was going to require. At some point Charlie found himself asking his current dance partner if she wanted to get a glass of wine with him from his brother. The woman agreed and followed him to where Sébastien was, casually serving the finest of wines he brought from the family winery back in Bordeaux. All of this gave Charlemagne hope that it would be a good night with good wine and fantastic people…]
“I’m sure the kitchens aren’t horribly burnt. Maybe a little bit crispy from someone’s mistakes while you were gone,” Johannes jokingly said. He doubted the kitchen staff was that incompetent. They were probably all decent if not amazing chefs just not at Charlemagne’s level.
Stepping outside Johannes looked around to make sure his attackers weren’t hanging out in the area before looking back at Charlemagne. He didn’t like the fact that Charlemagne was leaving but he also understood. Johannes had taken enough of this busy man’s time. “I will be there. Hopefully you will be free for a little bit,” he replied as Charlemagne brought up the next party.
A smile twitched on his lips as Charlemagne mentioned his almost attackers. “I shall make it my life goal not to attract any other attackers. At least without you there to save me. I would never know what to do without you, my hero,” Johannes sarcastically said. “Have a good day Charlemagne,” was added as Charlemagne began to leave.
Johannes remained in front of the shop for a few more seconds, watching Charlemagne’s retreating figure, before turning and going his own direction. He might as well return to the embassy since he had nothing better to do.
Johannes didn’t know what was worst the annoying feeling of the wig against his neck or powdering his actual hair. Dinners like these always made him second guess his choices in keeping his hair relatively short. The wig was, as always, a nuisance and felt stiff to him. He knew it was just his imagination and it looked just like normal hair but he couldn’t help be grumpy about it. The wig wasn’t the only thing he was grumpy about either. Freiherr Sierakowski has cornered him the other day and had forced him to escort his daughter to the party. Johannes could have said no but this was one battle he knew instantly he was going to loose so he gave in to his demise.
Currently Anne was holding tightly onto his arm and was looking around the room with wide eyes. All echelons of society were mingling together, talking about all the juicy pieces of drama that occurred in the court. From what Johannes could hear a countess was caught by her husband with the stable boy and the chef. It was nothing remarkable but it was a nice juicy piece of gossip that the court was happily holding onto. Another piece was a masquerade ball that was being planned. Neither topics Johannes cared to discuss especially since he was on a mission to find Charlemagne. After their run in at the market Johannes couldn’t help but hope for a few more minutes of Charlemagne’s time. Even if their relationship didn’t go the direction Johannes was hoping for he could see them at least being friends. Charlemagne was fun to talk to and didn’t seem as stuck up as everyone else.
“Johannes, I see Catherine, I will be back in a moment,” A soft voice said at Johannes side.
He forced a friendly smile on his lips. “Of course, don’t let me keep you from your friends,” Johannes replied. His enjoyment of the party increased significantly once Anne pealed herself from his side. Turning around his eye scanned the room until he stopped on one figure pouring wine from what he could see. [i ‘Charlemagne?] He thought to himself. Taking a few steps forward he finally saw the person’s face and was instantly relieved that he hadn’t called Charlemagne’s name out or rushed over. The man, however, did look like he was related to Charlemagne and if he had to guess Johannes would say it was his older brother. He was a handsome man but Johannes found himself preferring Charlemagne and that was just on looks.
Before Johannes could make his decision on if he should mingle with the group Charlemagne showed up. That took any question out of the equation and he began his approach when he felt a hand on his arm again.
“Johannes, let’s dance,” the person said.
Johannes looked down at the woman at his elbow. She was batting her eyelashes at him and giving Johannes a sweet smile. Anne was a beautiful woman with soft blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. If Johannes didn’t prefer men he would probably be interested in her but he wasn’t. His preference for men was much stronger. However, he simply couldn’t say no to her. “Okay,” he lamely said as he led her to the dance floor. His attempts to talk to Charlemagne was foiled for now but he would talk to the man before the end of the night.
Charlemagne was laughing and having quite a pleasant conversation with his dance partner who he learned was name Catherine, his brother Sébastien, and a few other people who began to congregate because they had wine. Save for Charlie’s elder brother, everyone was sipping on various wines from the Marquis family vineyard and winery. Luckily for everyone in their group, they had two master sommeliers at the disposal to ask any kind of wine-related question to. Some of the members of the group facetiously tried to ask Sébastien and Charlemagne what recipes were used for the production in their business. And both of the men laughed because they would never dare give up family secrets and recipes no matter who asked. Sébastien has even made a remark that the King of France himself tried to asked once. [b “Needless to say, I did not tell him either.”] Sébastien remarked, causing a few of the guests to gasp. They were shocked that he had the [i audacity] to refuse the [i King]!
In the midst of a discussion about the red wine everyone was sharing, a new woman had joined the conversation. She introduced herself with the name of Anne. Charlemagne found his interest piquing because the blonde woman had a soft beauty about her. The Frenchman could tell that Anne was not wearing much make-up at all, not that he minded usage of such products. But he found the subtle rouging of her cheeks coupled with the voluminous curls that framed her pale face almost tantalizing. Casually he offered to pour her a glass of wine whilst she chatted with Catherine. He learned that they were both good friends, a piece of information that he found interesting. But he fetched the woman a glass of wine regardless. Upon receipt of the beverage Charlie struck up a conversation with Anne and Catherine, although he admittedly was more interested in Anne. While he did not feel the overwhelming need to bed a person that night, Charlemagne found no harm in at least wooing the woman. After some chatting he formally introduced himself to her, offering a polite kiss on the back of Anne’s hand. Apparently both Anne and Catherine were socialites in Austro-Hungarian high society, hence why they knew each other so well.
It did not feel like much time passed, but soon Anne excused herself to go back out on the ballroom’s dancefloor. Both Charlemagne and Catherine bid the woman a kind farewell before they finished their glasses of wine, going out to dance as well as the music changed to a beautifully fluid waltz. The two enjoyed the song through its entirety, stepping away from the dance floor as the group of musicians quickly spoke amongst themselves about what else they should play. Charlemagne took this time to scan his surroundings to see who else was in attendance. That is when he saw Johannes with Anne not too far away! Upon this discovery Charlemagne politely excused himself from Catherine to approach Anne and Johannes.
Upon his arrival Charlie greeted Anne with yet another kiss on the back of her hand and a soft, [#900 “Mademoiselle. Rosy cheeks as beautiful as ever.,”] to acknowledge her exquisite presence with a genuine smile. He then turned to Johannes, smile still on his lips. [#900 “I cannot believe you have neglected to tell me of your country’s magnificent women, Johannes. I am truly offended that you selfishly hoard them for yourself, sir.”] Charlemagne spoke, seriously just teasing the other man. Acting as such was just a regular things for the Frenchman because that was simply what his personality was like. He was humorous and sociable, so if Johannes was not able to see that by now, then he must be seriously blind! [#900 “I know we are not fellow countrymen, but please! Do be sure to inform me of these things, Johannes! One cannot simply let such an elegant creature such as Anne go unappreciated.”] Charlie stated. [#900 “To do so would be such a tragedy.”] the man added, carefully adjusting his hair so it rested on his back instead of over a shoulder. [#900 “I see him keeping you to himself over here, Mademoiselle. Do tell me, he treats you well, yes?”] Charlemagne asked of Anne. He truly felt sassy, but he did not want to leave Anne out of the conversation. That would be quite rude…
Dancing with Anne was a rather easy thing to do. She was tuned into her partner and moved fluidly and smartly throughout every single song. By the time the music had stopped Johannes had found himself enjoying his time with Anne and actually sad that the music had stopped. His wife had never been the best at dancing. Elisabeth had been decent enough but when they danced it had never been as fluid and as easy as it had been with Anne. While Johannes had no interest in ever marrying the woman he wouldn’t mind being her dance partner again. He did enjoy the occasional dance or two.
With the music stopped the two of them easily slipped off to the side. Johannes was about to offer to find them wine when Charlemagne appeared besides them. The Frenchman was looking gorgeous now that Johannes could really see him. Anne seemed to agree with Johannes’ assessment because she also was eyeing the man.
“Monsieur,” Anne acknowledged with a bright smile. Her conversation with Charlemagne had been rather pleasant and she found him to be an interesting man. If it wasn’t for her father pushing for her to be with Johannes she would have probably left the Austrian man a long time ago to flirt with the Frenchman. Johannes was okay but there was no connection between them. She understood why her father was pushing for the two of them to get together but it didn’t mean she had to like it. Charlemagne, though, was interesting and she felt as if there was a connection between them even if it was a simple one.
Her smile only brightened as Charlemagne teasingly harassed Johannes. From her viewpoint it seemed that Johannes and Charlemagne were on rather friendly terms which Anne liked. It gave her a better chance of seeing Charlemagne again.
Johannes couldn’t help but slightly grin as Charlemagne came up and feigned offense. “I am so sorry Charlemagne. I didn’t want France to hate me more by informing one of it’s eligible bachelors about the beautiful women that reside in the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” he easily replied. If Johannes was honest he paid no attention to the women at home but he paid plenty of attention to the men and he believed the French had the upper hand there. Well... Charlemagne did at least.
His interest did peak when Charlemagne said Anne’s name. Johannes didn’t know that the two knew each other and was curious if they just met. What also interested Johannes was Charlemagne’s flirty attitude. He rather have Charlemagne interested in him but he could accept his interest in Anne because she also seemed interested. At least interested enough to no longer hang off of Johannes which he greatly appreciated.
Anne softly giggled as Charlemagne asked if she was being treated well. “Of course, Monsieur. Freiherr Von Hügel has been nothing but a gentleman and a great escort. He could stand to smile a little bit more, though. I fear some people are steering clear of us because of the Freiherr’s stony expression,” she happily said.
Johannes feigned offense at Anne’s word. “I don’t have a stony expression at all. I am the most warm and inviting person ever. Isn’t that right Charlemagne?” He asked. He wasn’t inviting at all. Johannes knew that his facial expression, or lack of, tended to scare people away. Which worked rather well for Johannes because he wasn’t the most sociable person in the world. He enjoyed smaller social setting with people he knew. Somewhat like this party with just a fraction of the people.
[center Charlemagne had a moment where he contemplated whether he should pursue wither Anne or Johannes. The Frenchman was intrigued by both, honestly. The two Austrians both had traits about them that Charlie enjoyed. Anne was shorter than himself and was a wonderful conversationalist. She also appeared to have rather angelic features that were not impeded by a seemingly impossible mountain of unblended make-up. From Charlemagne’s guess what rouge she did have on her cheeks happened to also be strategically blended on her lips to provide a cohesive aesthetic. Charlie could certainly appreciate such attention to detail. Plus, Anne did not appear disinterested, which was fortunate enough for the Frenchman. In addition to all of that, Anne’s parfum was delicate, but exquisite! The scent was like an attractive floral with an irresistible warmth to it. He couldn’t quite pin down what exact ingredients were used, but Charlemagne found himself wanting to keep her around, and possibly through the night.]
[center Johannes was a bit of a different story, though. Charlemagne could see why some individuals would be warded off by the other man’s seeming lack of expression. But to Charlie, he perceived Johannes’ alleged ‘stony expression’ as a thing that gave the Austrian man a kind of respectability. That and an air of mystery. It was not every day that one would spot such an attractive specimen with such clearly defined facial features. Charlemagne had a liking for more serious men because he like their company in his bed when he did not feel like being entirely in control. Just by look at such a clean-cut man, Charlie believed that Johannes had his life together and could take the lead without faltering. [#900 [i ‘And he sounds like he is well-educated. That is always nice. Makes for more fascinating conversation.’]] Charlemagne though.]
[center The man had become distracted by his contemplative train of thought. But Charlie quickly snapped back to reality when Johannes actually responded to his previously made comment. [#900 “If there is anything that could quell any spitefulness from us French people, it surely is the beauty of such a fine lady.”] Charlemagne nodded. [#900 “Although, that is probably regarding most men. I cannot speak for the Frenchwoman as I am not one.”] he laughed heartily. He really was quite the jovial type and in settings like their current one made no difference to Charlie. He laughed. He teased. He was just enjoying the great time the party provided.]
[center Watching Anne and Johannes share some banter was amusing to say the least. Charlemagne could not help but smile when Johannes pulled him into the comical debate. [#900 “Absolutely. You are the master of such pleasantries.”] Charlie spoke, a distinct smirk on his own face. For a minute the Frenchman simply gazed at Johannes, drinking in his image where he stood. Charlemagne thirsted in silence before he sighed and looked back towards Anne. [#900 “I am glad that he is treating you appropriately, Mademoiselle. I would hate to have to share some stern words with him if it were otherwise.,”] Charlie began before teasingly glancing over to Johannes, coming back to Anne, [#900 “You deserve nothing less than the best of treatments.”] he nodded. [#900 “How about I fetch us all some wine, hm? I believe my brother did a wonderful job on his selection he brought with him from the South.”] Charlie proposed before he caught the attention of a nearby butler who was going around to offer the attendees of the night’s soiree glasses of wine. The young butler dutifully moved to tend to Charlemagne’s request to see what the man wanted. But as the butler got closer, another noticeably drunken man accidentally backed in the butler. This motion shoved the poor man forward and offed his balance. The crystal glasses of wine on the platter subsequently went flying, soaking Charlemagne’s clothes and also splashing on Johannes’ coat and pants.]
[center Almost immediately the butler began to profusely apologize, frantically attempting to clean up the shattered crystal that now laid on the ground. It took a moment for Charlemagne to process what had happened, realizing that now he smelled like alcohol and his clothes stained. But Charlie was not mad at the butler. If anything, the Frenchman was aggravated by the drunken man who knocked into the butler. Despite this Charlemagne knelt down to assure the young butler, who looked no older than maybe eighteen, that everything was fine and that accidents do happen. After flagging down another individual that was working as a part of the wait staff Charlie turned to Johannes and Anne. [#900 “I do apologize, but I believe that the Freiherr and myself must go change. We simply cannot be walking around like this now can we, Mademoiselle? Perhaps we’ll speak again later, dearest.”] Charlemagne addressed Anne before quietly directing Johannes to follow him.]
[center [#900 “I’ll have to look around my chambers to see if I have anything that would fit you. If I cannot, I’ll have to fetch a maid to help acquire clothing for you.”] Charlemagne spoke so casually whilst walking. Because of the man’s swift pace, he approached the doors to his chambers fairly fast, holding one open for Johannes as a simple courtesy. Almost as soon as Charlie set foot in his chambers the man tossed off his coat and was untying the strings to his undershirt to strip that off as well. Soon that shirt also found itself in a corner as the Frenchman sifted through drawers and the closet to find appropriate clothing for Johannes. Charlie quietly swore under his breath, having a hard time finding anything he thought would fit the other man.]
[center After looking some more the man pulled out a dress shirt that Charlie honestly used as a night shirt for sleep if he hadn’t decided to sleep nude. It was big for Charlemagne, but he presented it to Johannes. [#900 “See if this fits. I’ll have to talk to a maid about fetching you suitable pants…”]]
Johannes beamed at Charlemagne as he confirmed that he was a master of pleasantries. If they weren’t in the middle of a large ball with way too many important people he would have even stuck his tongue out at Anne as a told you so. Instead he took the agreement with absolute grace just like any good Baron would. He even kept himself from saying how much of a delight he was. Johannes was humble.
Anne let out a soft laugh and a smile crossed her lightly painted lips. “You and my father. I think my father trusts the Freiherr more than he trusts me at times. To be fair I don’t think Johannes could ever be rude,” she happily replied. Her ears instantly perked as Charlemagne mentioned wine. She had some earlier and it was just divine. It was something she wouldn’t pass up on any time soon. “That just sounds lovely.”
As the butler came towards them Catherine had appeared from the side and Anne took a step back so that the two could whisper to each other. Johannes paid no mind to it and was actually kind of glad Anne had stepped back with the events that followed. By the time he blinked someone had ran into the poor butler and the glasses of wine went flying towards him and Charlemagne with poor Charlemagne taking the majority of the wine. Behind Johannes he heard Anne let out a soft gasp of surprise for what occurred. If she had been in her original spot she too would have been included in the splash zone and Johannes would be faced with a nightmare. No lady liked their dresses getting destroyed by wine.
As Charlemagne went to help the butler Johannes began to formulate a plan. He could either leave with Anne and go home before the party really began and endure a wet and cold carriage ride home or he could possibly send for Hans. Before he could weigh his options Charlemagne’s attention was back on them and he had his own solution to this slight inconvenience. Before Charlemagne led Johannes away he took a step closer to Anne. “Please stay with Catherine,” he softly said in German before turning and following after Charlemagne. His only concern for Anne was that she would attract a way too large flock of Frenchmen that he would be unable to beat back. She was just too nice and would get eaten up in a heartbeat. He wasn’t interested in Anne at all but he didn’t want her to get chewed up and spit out by these men. Plus Freiherr Sierakowski would absolutely destroy him if that occurred.
Following closely after Charlemagne he made sure to dodge the glass on the floor. Johannes remained silent for a few minute as they made their way through the palace. “Thank you for your help. I wasn’t sure what to do after that incident,” Johannes softly spoke up as they walked down one of the many hallway. Johannes wished the circumstances were a little bit better because normally he would be super stoked to be going to a handsome man’s room. Too bad it wasn’t for what Johannes wanted though removing his wet clothes would be greatly appreciated so it wasn’t all bad.
As they stepped into the room Johannes eyes roamed over the place in curiosity. It was a rather nice room and exactly what he would expect out of the palace. His eyes left his inspection and fell on Charlemagne’s bare back that was he in front of it. This was just unfair. The soft pale back in front of him was an enticing sight and Johannes found himself staring at one particular aspect of Charlemagne the most. Once he caught himself staring he forced himself to look away. It would do him no good to lust over the other male in these moments. He would just have to store that memory for a later time or just stop being a creep. Though Johannes’ probably would never stop creeping so that was not an option but he could stop long enough to get through this night.
“Thank you,” He replied as Charlemagne finally found a shirt that could potentially fit him. Johannes had been a little skeptical about Charlemagne finding anything that would fit but figured he might as well try. Unbuttoning his waistcoat he carefully pulled it away from the stained undershirt. The waistcoat looked like it barely took any damage at all but that was because of the dark coloring hid the wine well. If they cleaned up the area and let it dry for a little bit the coat would be serviceable for the rest of the night despite the smell of wine that would linger. Luckily the whole banquet hall smelled like wine so no one would really notice Johannes, at least he was hoping no one did. With his waist coat off he could finally see the damage done and it wasn’t pretty. The side of his shirt was a bright and glorious red. Hans was just going to have a field day trying to remove the stain, that is if Johannes didn’t just get rid of the shirt. Johannes loosened to top strings of his shirt and pulled the shirt off. Using one of the sleeves he wiped off some of the wine from his side before folding the shirt and sitting it down.
“How did you know I was a noble that can dress myself?” He jokingly asked as he pulled the shirt on. It was a little bit tighter than what he was use to but it would work for now. “You know my father refuses to dress himself. It’s rather hilarious and pathetic,” Johannes added. Johannes personally preferred to dress himself. It just never felt right having someone else do the work when it was so simple. Hans normally complained about Johannes not letting him do his job and Johannes was okay with that. It was one job he was willing to do.
He finally looked down at his pants to assess the damage done. Luckily the spill had been centralized to the upper portion of his body so that the pristine white stockings were safe from the wine. His pants did take the majority of the damage, though, and wouldn’t dry as easily as the waistcoat. At least he had decided to wear drawers if it came to him just having to wait for his pants to dry. “That would be greatly appreciated. I think my waist coat can be saved but I think my pants are sadly a little bit too wet to save.” He said after he forced himself to bite back a comment about there being easier ways to get him out of his pants.
“Out of curiosity what will happen to the butler? Will it be brushed off or will he be losing his job? I just ask because at home he would have been unfairly fired right then and there,” Johannes curiously asked as he forced himself to look anywhere but Charlemagne’s perfect form.
[center [#900 “It is really no problem, Johannes. I assure you.”] Charlie replied, chuckling as they moved. [#900 “Sometimes things happen. All you really can do when faced with unexpected circumstances is just deal with them head on to the best of your ability.”] the Frenchman added. [#900 “Besides! I cannot let us walk around looking like soiled fools. That would just be ridiculous!”] Charlemagne honestly could not stop laughing. [#900 “Imagine all of the things that everyone would say! I don’t know about you, but I do not have the energy nor patience for that right now.”] And it was true. Charlie was just too damn busy now to even remotely consider dealing with the drama and rumors that circulated regularly around the French court. [#900 “I have already had insane accusations be made about me, one of which even the King confronted me about. Sometimes people just want to see you fail and burn.”] Charlemagne rolled his eyes, exhaling exasperatedly. The man sometimes just could not deal with the fools that were in the Court.]
[center When Johannes finally decided to change Charlie gazed intently with inquisitive dark eyes. He did absolutely nothing to hide his stare. It just was not in the man’s nature to be ashamed or to hide anything. The fact Charlemagne did not care to avert his gaze was definitely because the Frenchman was a lustful type of person. But Charlie also wanted to see how the shirt would fit on Johannes. The man before Charlie, in his opinion, happened to be incredibly attractive. That fact did entirely nothing to help satiate the Frenchman’s thirst. But Charlemagne stopped for a moment, processing what Johannes had said. [#900 “Honestly, I forget that there are people out there who refuse to dress themselves.,”] he shrugged, [#900 “Which is incredibly pathetic if you ask me.”] Charlie then moved to walk around Johannes, examining the fit of the shirt and the state of the man’s also stained pants. [#900 “Besides, your arms and hands are not broken. And a skill of mine is not in the application of clothing, rather taking them off.”] he snickered before honestly shivering. Being shirtless was fine and all, but the palace also happened to be freezing in the lesser populated areas that evening.]
[center Charlemagne then casually moved to fish out a clean shirt from a dresser against the nearest wall. But during his search Johannes spoke again. Charlie, still crouched with his hands in a drawer, looked over his shoulder at the Austrian with an impish glint in his eyes. [#900 “Nobody said that you had to keep your pants on, Johannes.”] He then went back to rummaging through drawers, finding himself unsatisfied until he happened upon a long night gown he would have slept in. But he just needed to be able to walk out of the room and not look entirely foolish while trying to track down a member of the palace’s staff. Charlie slipped on the night gown and kicked off his pants into the corner his coat and previous shirt were piled in. Flipping his hair onto his back Charlie quickly put on some slippers as he had also removed his shoes before. [#900 “Technically since he is part of the wait staff, he is my charge. But I know that it was not his fault, so he will be fine.”]]
[center [#900 “I’m going to see if I can track down someone to help us get clothing for you.”] Charlie nodded before opening the bedroom door. [#900 “Behave.”] he winked before walking off, although he did find one of his favorite butlers Charlie knew would be able to help. It was only a short wait till the two returned, Charlemagne excited. [#900 “Johannes, this is Francis. You would have to speak French to him because he does not understand German or even English, just so you know.”] Francis was an elderly looking gentleman who gave as polite and distinguished a bow as his back would allow to Johannes. Admittedly, Francis was not a huge fan of Austro-Hungarians, the man was professional and bit his tongue and afforded Johannes the customary respect. Soft-spoken as he was, Francis merely examined Johannes’ proportions to gauge what his sizes were. He had a knack for clothing. Francis even mentioned that Johannes had very long legs and arms, saying that he would do his best to find the right clothing to accommodate. Not too much longer after their arrival, Francis left to go find clothes for Johannes to try.]
[center [#900 “Such a mysterious old man. But he is so hush it is almost precious?”] Charlie chuckled after Francis was gone. Charlie then settled in a plush chair, almost languid with his motions, but he crossed a leg over the other at the knee. [#900 “What do you suggest we do while we wait for Francis to return?”] the Frenchman asked with a raised brow. [#900 “Rather, you still have your pants on. Shame. I think they should come off.”] Charlie sighed, leaning to one side of the chair and propping himself on a single arm. [#900 “Or do you just prefer to bathe in wine every night?”] he asked facetiously, a smirk on his face…]
Johannes couldn’t help but agree with Charlemagne about people who refuse to dress themselves. He always felt that it was silly to demand another to dress you. With women he could somewhat see the need for another pair of hands especially after helping his wife dress a few times but a man needing help? It was a little absurd in Johannes’ humble opinion. What wasn’t absurd was Charlemagne’s self proclaimed talents. Said talents Johannes wouldn’t mind testing out himself. “I’m sure it is a skill that you excel at,” he managed to choke out as he pushed his less than innocent thoughts to the back of his Ming. It was, however, hard to do so with Charlemagne walking around shirtless and his words that suggested that Johannes should remove his pants. Johannes had to bite back his overly witty response and hold his tongue in fear he say something stupid.
Thankfully, Charlemagne pulled on a night gown and distracted Johannes from his less than pure thoughts. “That is good,” Johannes replied when Charlemagne said the waiter would be keeping his job. Johannes had noticed in his short time of being in France that the kingdom’s people were struggling. Jobs were hard to come by and harder to keep and Johannes didn’t want a young man to lose his livelihood because of someone else. It warmed his heart that he would be fine and that Charlemagne was such a level headed man. In fact it made Charlemagne all the more attractive to Johannes if he is being completely honest. This attraction was really getting out of hand quickly.
“No promises,” Johannes responded. He would, of course, behave because he was a gentleman. While he longed to snoop around and gather as much information about Charlemagne as he could his up bringing just wouldn’t allow it. Instead he stood firmly planted in his spot and had to be content with just looking around the place.
Charlemagne was back almost as fast as he left and with another man. “How about Hungarian?” He asked with a small smile when Charlemagne told him he would have to speak French. Johannes always defaulted to French when speaking with new people. It was only occasionally when he accidentally responded in German or when he forgot a word in French and automatically defaulted to German. Those occurrences were growing fewer the longer he was in France but they did occur. Turning his attention over to the older gentleman Johannes gave the man a small nod and a soft greeting. Almost as quickly as it began the inspection ended and the man was off to find fitting clothes. Before he left Johannes thanked him and then he was alone with the incubus known as Charlemagne.
Said handsome man was lounging on a chair looking absolutely gorgeous. This man was going to be the death of Johannes especially after his reoccurring suggestion that Johannes should remove his pants. “I’ll have you known I’m a virtuous maiden,” he began. “You haven’t even began to court me and yet you are already trying to get my pants off. Mother will be mortified to hear about this,” Johannes jokingly replied. Virtuous wasn’t really Johannes but he was stalling when it came to removing his pants. The shirt fit for sure but it was only just long enough to cover Johannes lower half and the chambers were just slightly chilly. The wine was cold against his side but it probably wasn’t as cold as going pants less. “I wouldn’t say I bathe in wine but at least it smells better than some of the perfume that the ladies are wearing. It’s a pity that I’m wearing your family’s wine instead of getting a chance to taste it. Such a waste of good wine.” He grumbled the last part more to himself.
They really needed to move on from Johannes still wearing his wet pants because he may just break down and take them off if Charlemagne kept giving him that look. It wasn’t really a look it was more his unfairly handsome face but still. “I was having a good time up until the incident. The food is, of course, amazing and I think I’ll end up gaining weight if I continue to come to the palace’s parties. As for the wine incident I can’t find myself to be too mad because at least I get to talk to you again and get out of the crowded ball room for a little bit.”
[center Charlemagne had covered his face with a hand as he snorted with laughter at Johannes’ joke of being ‘a virtuous maiden’. [#900 “If you are truly a most virtuous maiden then I am just a silly virgin.”] the Frenchman cackled before running a hand through his hair. [#900 “I am sure your mother would not mind. But then again, what do I know? I’m only French.”] Charlie shrugged. [#900 “I am just saying, though. If it such an issue, though, I can help remove them if your own hands have suddenly malfunctioned.”] the man casually suggested, tilting his head slightly. [#900 “Or will you deny me that honor too?”] he inquired impishly, openly smirking with no fear. [#900 “You noble folk are quite a peculiar bunch, if I may be so bold to say. So many technicalities. How do you live depriving yourself of simple pleasantries?”] Charlemagne also asked. He was genuinely curious, but also having too much fun teasing Johannes. [#900 “Or is it just you Austro-Hungarian men being stubborn?”] Charlie chuckled as he probed. But then he raised his eyebrows, surprised to hear that Johannes had wanted to see him again.]
[center [#900 “Of course you wanted to see me again. I’m a walking work of art that you cannot help but marvel at.”] Charlie boasted with the sliest of grins. [#900 “Tell me, dearest Johannes. Do I have you bewitched yet? Because I would like to believe that I am at least half way there.”] Charlemagne sighed softly. [#900 “Or do you require a little more convincing?”] the man asked carefully propping up his legs over the side of the furniture he was sitting on. This motion greatly exposed his legs, which was what Charlie wanted, just to entice the other man even more. Because the Frenchman could tell Johannes wanted to give in, but it was obvious that the Austrian was a man of restraint. But Charlie felt like he could work within his means and still seduce Johannes for fun. [#900 “And I don’t know about you, but I certainly could use some special company.”] Charlie had the briefest of chuckles before he heard a knock and the bedroom door open.]
[center It was Francis! Charlemagne breathed out, a little irritated about his seduction ploy being paused. But the older man was well aware of Charlie’s preferences, thus he rolled his eyes when he walked in. Making a comment towards Charlie to not be a whore, Francis gently bowed in acknowledgement to Johannes, holding out a carefully folded stack of clothing for the man to take. [#900 “See! Francis is a miracle worker, I tell you.”] Charlemagne exclaimed, honestly loving the man to death like a father. Charlie gathered himself appropriately and stood from his seat and took the clothing Francis presented, thanking the man. While he was thankful, Charlie still wanted to tempt Johannes as much as possible. With that Francis shook his head and bid the two other men farewell before quietly departing once again.]
[center Charlie then found himself examining the clothing closely, occasionally glancing at Johannes simply to gauge how the garments would fit the significantly taller man. Setting the stack of clothes on the dresser Charlemagne turned and approached Johannes. [#900 “Seeing as this shirt clearly does not fit you as it should, you should remove it.”] Charlie stated in a matter-of-factly tone. He carefully tugged on the shirt to see just how much give it had, which was not much at all. [#900 “How about you stay with me for the night, hm? You do not seem to enjoy the bustling excitement of the party. I do admit there are a lot of people, but I mean it could just be you and I.”] the Frenchman suggested, a hand slyly undoing the buttons of the shirt from the bottom up. [#900 “Your decision, obviously. No pressure.”] he chuckled before he stepped away and went back to perching himself on his previous seat. [#900 “Since you don’t need my help, being able to dress yourself and all of that…”]]
“I feel like self deprivation is a very common thing amongst nobles in Austro-Hungary. I think it is the Catholicism that teaches us to deny what we want because it’s a “sin”. Or the rigid structure of our society that makes suffering seem mandatory for the betterment of our family and society. I’ll let you decide which one it is though,” he replied as he eyed the other man. Charlemagne was not making this easy on Johannes.
Charlemagne was making it [b extremely] hard to be a good guy as he moved his legs and more of those milky slender legs were exposed. Johannes heart stuttered at the sight of those gorgeous legs. His mind was going a million miles an hour as he imagined way too many scenarios that were neither pure or good. Taking a gulp of air Johannes looked up for Charlemagne’s legs to his face. “I-I think you are more like three quarters of the way there,” he managed out as he refused to look anywhere but Charlemagne’s face. Which wasn’t much much better because the man was undeniably handsome. Life wasn’t fair at all.
Thankfully, Francis came an interrupted them with some clothes. He thanked the man as he passed them over to Charlemagne and that’s when something else dawned upon Johannes. He would have to change, in front of Charlemagne, who he was a couple seconds a way from jumping. Johannes also wouldn’t put it pass Charlemagne to be anything but less than chivalrous and jump him. Why did this have to be so difficult? Why was Johannes super difficult? He was never the type to just jump into a bed with someone. He liked to know them a lot more before they moved onto pleasurable activities. But Charlemagne was just so damn enticing and such a good guy. The struggle was real.
He took a deep breath when Charlemagne started to circle him and eye the shirt. “You just want to watch me take my shirt off again ,” he jokingly accused. As he tried to think the most pure thoughts ever (it was failing). It wasn’t helping that Charlemagne was propositioning him and was undoing some of the button. “I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” he said finally breaking down. Johannes was about to undo the rest of the buttons of his shirt when he realized something. He couldn’t stay here. If he didn’t return Anne home at a decent time Freiherr Sierakowski would ruin his life. The man was a spiteful bastard.
A soft groan left his lips as he ran a hand across his face. “I can’t. As tempting as you are I can’t stay the night with you. If I don’t escort Anne home myself her father will most likely kill me and I enjoy living,” he softly said as he looked over at Charlemagne it. All impure thoughts were gone with the threat of death looming over him. He really wished that he didn’t have to escort Anne home. The idea of his potential death was somewhat putting a damper on his mood.
“It isn’t fair that you can tempt someone so easily. Are you part Incubus or something? Not that I’m really complaining,” Johannes said as he sadly removed the borrowed shirt from Charlemagne and put the one Francis brought out. The shirt fit so much better than Charlemagne’s but didn’t smell as good. Sure the shirt smelled clean but it didn’t smell like Charlemagne which was a downer. “I’m just asking because no one has tempted me like that ever. Normally I need to be wined and dined before I’m willing to climb into someone’s bed. If I didn’t have my imminent death hanging over my head I would already be in that bed.” He added as he finally gave Charlemagne what he had wanted and peeled off the wine cover pants, careful not get it on the white stockings. Almost as fast as he took his pants on he pulled on the clean pair that fit perfectly, not giving Charlemagne much of a show. Curse you Anne.
[center Charlemagne could not help but huff out a sigh when Johannes mentioned Catholicism in his home country’s society. It went without saying that Charlie was not so happy with the religion, and any religion for that matter. But the man continued to stare at Johannes regardless. Every man had his own beliefs and Charlemagne knew this and respected it as such. [#900 “So you admit that you lot are masochistic folk? Interesting. I can live with that.”] Charlie asked, raising a brow whilst snickering at the same time. [#900 “Just three-fourths??? What is it going to take then? Must I strip naked for you? So incredibly demanding.”] the Frenchman teased, smiling with great amusement. [#900 “And of course I want to see you take off your shirt again. Why would I not, Johannes, with a gentleman as dashing as you.”] Charlie added, gently shrugging.]
[center The Frenchman perked up significantly when Johannes admitted to not minding spending the night with him. Charlemagne could appreciate solitude, but he did not like being alone all of the time. This was especially so at night. But the man’s hopes were quickly dashed when Johannes said that he had to escort Anne home after the party that evening. Charlemagne almost visibly deflated in his seat. [#900 “You got my hopes up there, Johannes. It is a shame that you cannot stay with me.”] Charlie sighed, moping slightly. The man was slightly impatient in that regard; when he [i really] wanted something, he wanted it immediately. And right now, Charlemagne wanted Johannes. [#900 [i ‘It is some sick joke on behalf of the universe, I swear!’]] the Frenchman thought. [#900 “Guess I will have to wait to ravage your clothes then.”] Charlie said, running a hand through his hair in contemplation.]
[center But the mood was lightened up by Johannes’ inquiry of Charlemagne being an incubus. The Frenchman actually laughed out loud at the thought. [#900 “Am I an incubus? I think such a state of being would be for you to find out for yourself. Are you willing to investigate?”] he winked. [#900 “At least when you’re not facing a brutal death for not fulfilling your obligations?”]]
[center Charlemagne then stood back up and approached Johannes in a swift manner. Looking up at the other man Charlie grabbed Johannes shirt to pull the man down to eye level. [#900 “If you want it you know where to find me, Johannes. But do not keep me waiting.”] Charlemagne spoke softly into the other’s ear before pulling back. [#900 “I loathe languishing.”] he finished before finally letting Johannes go. The male then strolled over to his vanity to retrieve a hair brush before running it through his long locks. [#900 “Go on then. Don’t die if you can avoid it.”]]
[center A few days then had passed since the last party. Charlemagne had returned to work as usual around the palace, although he found himself to be miffed from not hearing from Johannes since the night of the party. Charlie wondered if he had scared off the Austrian with his outlandish behavior. But Charlemagne did not pay much mind to it because he was just so busy inside and outside of the palace. The Queen had requested a luncheon/tea party that day for some ladies in her Court. It was impromptu, but Charlie was used to such activities being sprung upon him. This was why he was so busy from the minute he woke up early this morning. From slaughtering fowl for the luncheon to gathering the necessary vegetables from the garden, Charlie was in and out of the palace constantly doing something. He took careful to be clean and presentable as he also helped serve the food and drink in the beginning of the gathering. But Charlie soon allowed other waitstaff to take care of the rest before going back outside to tend to the gardens.]
[center While out there earlier he had noticed that the food patches could use some weeding and sprucing up, so that is what Charlie set himself out to do. In the distance, Charlemagne saw carriages come and go. Inside he hoped that one of them would be delivering Johannes, but with the distance, Charlemagne couldn’t clearly tell the people apart from one another. [#900 [i ‘I really should not be so hung up on a singular man. It’s unhealthy. Besides! He’s foreign and noble. It’s foolish of me, really.’]] Charlie thought, shaking his head.]
[center And after a while of gardening Charlemagne sought refuge from the bright sun in the shade of a nearby tree. Removing his shirt, Charlie wiped his face down and shook his head once more. [#900 “Damn him for being far too charming…”]]
Life just wasn’t fair. Johannes really wanted to give into Charlemagne and find out if he really was an Incubus. To be fair Johannes doubted it but still Charlemagne was really tempting him down the path of sin. It was a path that Johannes was familiar with so it wasn’t too hard to tempt him. Curse Anne. Curse her to the fiery depths of hell. She was ruining absolutely everything.
A small shiver ran down Johannes’ spine as Charlemagne came up to him and whispered in his ear. The handsome man was so close to kiss and his lips looked so tempting but if he fell into that temptation he wouldn’t leave at all. “You aren’t being fair Charlemagne,” he softly said to the other man.
His eyes were on Charlemagne as the cruel temptress sauntered off. “Have a good night Charlemagne,” he said before making his run to safety. [center ~] Johannes was rudely awoken to bright light streaming into his face. With a soft groan he rolled onto his side and buried his face under the plush pillow. Last night was the first night in a long time that Johannes had a kid free bed and he enjoyed every moment of it. No tiny feet were jammed into his ribs and no snuffling baby was crying in his ears for attention. Life was good with the exception of him being woken up by Hans.
“Freiherr, you have several letters that need to be addressed right away,” the man bluntly stated as he moved around.
Johannes wanted to bury his head further under the pillow but knew he also had things to do. For a few more seconds he contemplated his options before his sense of duty won out and he sat up, propped against the head board. Before he could fully wake up he felt something on his lap and he groggily looked down. A tray filled to the brim with breakfast and letters greeted him. “No dining room today?” He sleepily asked as his hand gravitated to a cup that Johannes was hoping to be coffee and not tea. As he brought the glass to his lips he was graced with the bitter sweet smell of coffee a content sigh left his lips before he took a sip.
“The maids are cleaning the dining room today. Maria and Johannes have already eaten and are playing in the garden. Freiherr Von Wächter sent a runner and requests your presence at the embassy once you are free. He wants you to deliver some letters to the Queen,” Hans replied.
Johannes let out a hum of acknowledgement as he began to eat his eggs. “Did my packages get sent out this morning?” He asked between bites. For the last few days Johannes had been tossing the idea around to sending Charlemagne something as a thank you and to show his interest. It was only the other day did he finally decide on what to send to Charlemagne. Recently Johannes had bought a sleeping shirt that he rather enjoyed. It was the softest thing in the world and it was the perfect size for Johannes. For Charlemagne it would be more of a sleeping gown than a simple shirt but Johannes liked that idea a lot. Since Johannes was slightly territorial he liked the idea of Charlemagne wearing something that was his even if Johannes hadn’t really made a claim in the Frenchman. Along with the shirt Johannes had sent a letter apologizing for his recent absence and asking if Charlemagne would be opposed to going to a newly opened play with him in a couple of days. Johannes hoped Charlemagne would say yes so they could kick start their relationship. Johannes also sent off were the cleaned clothes that he borrowed but that was sent off to Francis with a small note of thanks.
“Yes sir we sent them out this morning as you insisted,” Hans said as he went to Johannes wardrobe and began to pull out the man’s clothes for the day. Johannes may be able to get dressed by himself but that didn’t stop Hans from laying out Johannes outfit for the day.
Johannes let out a small hum as he continued to eat his breakfast. Hopefully he didn’t wait too long and Charlemagne didn’t lose interest in him.
[center ~] “Mr. Marquis,” a voice asked. Antoine had been on the hunt for Charlemagne for the last hour and was finally thankful that he had finally found Charlemagne. This man was a master of hiding. It took Antoine harassing the staff to finally be sent out to the garden where he caught sight of the described male sitting under a tree. “Sir, there is a parcel for you from Mr. Von Hügel.” The man said as he approached who he was hoping was Charlemagne Marquis.
[center Charlemagne had spent a lot of time thinking about Johannes, honestly. Out of all the people the Frenchman knew and got to meet, rarely did he ever get stuck on one particular person. While Johannes’ denial of his advances frustrated Charlemagne, he also found them endearing and funny in a way. The cultural differences around Europe never failed to intrigue Charlie. Although, he had to admit that he was definitely outside of the norm to begin with, so the rigid structure and discipline that Johannes came from definitely perplexed Charlemagne. But this did absolutely nothing to soothe the unresolved tension that was created a few nights ago. At least it was clear that Johannes was also interested. It would have been immensely awkward if the other man had no intentions of actually getting into bed with him too.]
[center The Frenchman couldn’t help but linger on the thought more as he ended up watching the clouds in the sky roll on by at their own leisure. The gentle white fluffs of cotton were at the mercy of the winds which happened to be delightfully mild that day. Charlemagne shook his head, though. While he was not one to deny himself such pleasures, Charlie also did not want to get stuck on fantasizing about a person, let alone a foreign nobleman. Johannes had a life and duties, and Charlemagne understood that entirely. It was different to pursue him instead of fellow palace staff members or other royal subjects outside of the palace.]
[center But the man was taken out of his reveries when another individual approached him with something in his hands. Charlemagne’s gaze directed itself upon the man whom he recognized as Antoine. They hadn’t been friends, per se, but Charlie had seen him come and go with duties as a postal runner. The Frenchman stood up to face Antoine, filled with curiosity. [#900 “He sent something to me?? Interesting.”] Charlemagne had perked up. Upon receiving the parcel Charlie opened the carefully sealed box. It had been wrapped in simple, but luxuriously smooth paper and tied with a golden colored ribbon. Charlie couldn’t help but smile as he undid the packaging to find a note on top of what appeared to be an expertly folded shirt. The man quietly read the note and felt a new-found sense of excitement when it turned out that Johannes hadn’t lost interest. Charlemagne smiled back at Antoine, though. [#900 “Thank you very much, Antoine. I’ll need to send something back to him, so I’ll go prepare it and find you when I’m done.”]]
[center Going back into the palace Charlie made a beeline to his room to start writing a letter in response to what Johannes sent him. Thoughtfully Charlie made sure to pen a loving letter, but one that still has the other man to linger on; something satisfying, yet still teasing because Charlemagne never liked to play his whole hand in one go. Part of the letter read as.]
[center [#900 [i It was torturous, you leaving me to my devices like this over the past days, Johannes. That is quite rude and unbecoming of you, sir. Thus, I accept your invitation to see the play with you. I look forward to seeing you once again. Think of me as I surely will think of you especially with the nightshirt you so generously gifted me. Never in my life would I have thought that an Austrian could simply smell so divine! I do not think anyone can compare.’]]]
[center Then Charlemagne signed at the bottom before spritzing the paper with his favorite parfum scent. The man waved let the paper sit for a moment, allowing it to soak in the scent before folding the note and inserting it into a regular looking envelope. He then carefully closed said envelope with a wax seal that signified it came from the French palace. Other than the seal it had no identifying marks on it. Yes, Charlemagne did want to charm the man, but it irked Charlie that he could not openly seduce Johannes without potentially risking both of their lives. Despite this inconvenience, Charlemagne was set on at least flirting with the man and making it his while.]
[center Once the letter was in order Charlie worked on tracking down Antoine so the man could deliver the response to Johannes. As fate would have it, finding the man was much like a game of cat and mouse; Antoine was hard to find. One palace staff member would tell Charlie where Antoine was, and then the man in question would be gone by the time Charlemagne arrived. It took some running around, but Charlie did manage to find Antoine and give him the envelope intended for Johannes. [#900 “Be sure that this gets into Monsieur Von Hügel’s hands, please. I would greatly appreciate it, Antoine.”] Charlemagne spoke, giving a kind head nod before going back to business he needed to attend to around the palace. But despite having things to do most of what was on the Frenchman’s mind was the play he would go see with Johannes in just a few short days.]
[center [b ~~~]]
[center When the day of the outing with Johannes Charlie couldn’t help himself. He was just so excited to finally see the man again! Their work had been keeping them apart, much to Charlemagne’s dismay. But Charlie made sure to plan accordingly so he could go see the play with the Austrian man. During the day Charlemagne did his best to have his duties completed as soon as possible so he could spend a proper amount of time preparing. [#900 [i ‘I do not want to look like trash! That simply will not do!’]] the man thought while digging through his wardrobe. He compared different outfits meticulously. Charlie contemplated the texture of the fabrics, the colors, even the hassle of getting in and out of the outfit. The Frenchman wanted everything to be coordinated. No detail was left unconsidered. The cuffs on his shirt to the buckles on his shoes, Charlie demanded perfection!]
[center In the end, though, Charlemagne chose a dark red and black ensemble. It was a fairly typical choice on his part, but Charlie felt he was a creature of habit more than anything. The outfit was comfortable and looked quite fine, in his opinion. He even got Francis’ opinion on it; he thought it made Charlie appear quite bespoke. Charlemagne then carefully combed through his incredibly long locks of hair before tying it all back with some matching ribbon. As much as he loved letting his hair down to do whatever it wanted, Charlie did not want to look unkempt in the slightest.]
[center With a careful dab of parfum Charlie set out to get his short carriage ride out of the way. Thankfully the theatre was not so far away, but a lot of people were out that night, so the time it took to get there was a little longer than Charlemagne had initially inspected. But upon arrival Charlie carefully exited, not wanting to break his leg, swiftly straightening his coat out. He proceeded to thank the carriage driver before sending him on his way, finding himself among the many pedestrians and theatre patrons coming and going as time went on. [#900 [i ‘Hopefully this will go well. I know the company putting on the play, they are quite magnificent! I’m sure Johannes will like it.’]] the Frenchman thought, sighing softly. Now it was just a waiting game to see when the other man would arrive…]
Johannes was anxious about his package as he got ready for work. What would Charlemagne think? Would the man think him to forward to send a sleeping shirt? Or would he love it? A multitude of questions ran through his mind in rapid succession as he walked into the embassy. All thoughts rapidly came to a halt as he was greeted with the sight of Franz standing there with an annoyed look on his face.
“Herr Von Wätcher?” Johannes asked. It was rare that he ever saw his father-in-law so angry and quiet honestly it was frightening.
“Johannes. I need you to deliver these letters to the Queen. Comte de Mercy-Argenteau left them on his desk before storming off,” Franz said.
Franz and Florimond Claude’s relationship were frigid at best. While Franz agreed with being there for the Queen and act as a support for the Queen but not to meddle into French politics. Florimond on the other hand was meddling in Franz’s opinion. He was whispering words in to the Queen’s ear and had too much power in the French court. What Franz absolutely hated was that it wasn’t helping their cause with Florimond being so powerful in the court. The French hated then, and Franz had no interest in causing a bigger divide between the people and their Queen. But it wasn’t Franz’s place to say a thing because ultimately Florimond was in charge since he had the Queen’s ear. Normally to avoid having to interact with each other they tried to deal with different duties of the embassy. Franz worked predominately as an ambassador for his people that lived in France while Florimond played a very political and dangerous game. Sometimes their duties overlapped like today, where Florimond wasn’t in and things needed to be done in the Palace.
“I’ll take them right away,” Johannes replied as he took the letters. He didn’t want to be here when Florimond returned because there would just only be yelling. Especially if he had stormed off.
Franz, still heated from his argument, just nodded and let Johannes leave.
Johannes walked through the palace gates in a hurry. His thoughts on his own letter far from his mind when he heard a voice call out to him. Spinning around he saw Antoine rush over to him.
“Monsieur Von Hügel! Monsieur Marquis responded to your letter,” He said as he went through his bag and pulled out a plain letter. There was nothing spectacular about the letter with the only remarkable thing being the seal. The seal was, also, the only distinguishing feature of the letter with the palace’s seal on it.
“Thank you,” Johannes said as he took the letter and reached into his coin purse and gave the man a few coins. His services were invaluable. Slipping the letter into his breast pocket he approached the palace, the pocket burning a hole in his chest pocket, making him anxious. He wanted to read it. Only when he eventually gave the Queen her letters did he step out into a secluded corner and read the letter.
A small smile played on his lips as he read the words on the page. Charlemagne said yes to going out with him! Johannes heart did a small tumble every time he re-read the letter. And the smell… it was like Charlemagne was in the same room as him. Letting out a soft sigh he slipped the letter back into his breast pocket and went back to the Embassy, ready to write his reply.
Johannes was anxious as he stood outside of the theater. He had spent the last four hours getting ready for Charlemagne. Normally he didn’t put such effort in getting ready. His wife never received such treatment and his last lover also never received anything close to the amount of time Johannes had spent for Charlemagne. Johannes had gone through every article of his clothing and carefully picked the best pieces that didn’t flaunt his wealth but still looked good on him.
He had eventually settled on one of his favorite waistcoats. It was burgundy with beautiful gold detailing across most of the coat but especially on the collar. Johannes jumped back and forth on what to do with his hair after finding his chosen outfit. It was too short to pull up into a ponytail but too long to leave down without some manipulations. Eventually Johannes, and by Johannes it was really Hans, decided to push his hair back with pomade which took the biggest part of Johannes’ time. It almost made Johannes wish that he wore wigs more often than just for work because the pomade wasn’t going to come out any time soon especially if Hans had his way. Then there was the parfum. Johannes really didn’t like parfum, but he had a large amount of it. Most of it was from his wife and all of them were scents that she loved on him. Johannes was about to spend an unforgivable amount of time trying to figure out the best smell to wear was. This time it was Han’s wife who saved them from a choice and Eleonore picked a parfum that smelled like cedar that Johannes liked. After that debacle they sent him off on his way.
Now Johannes was nervous. It had been a long while since he had shown interest in anyone and even longer since he had taken someone out. Johannes ran a hand across his face when he saw an older lady struggling to get out of her carriage. Deciding that action would help his nerves he approached her. “Excuse me Madame,” he began, “May I help you?” He asked after noting that there was no one else in the carriage to aid her. A smile crossed her ancient face and she accepted his help. Johannes helped her out of her carriage and into the theater which took him longer than expected. Rushing back out he was greeted with the sight of Charlemagne. The man looked handsome as ever.
Fixing his coat, he approached the man. “Charlemagne,” he gently called out. “Have you been waiting long?” Johannes asked as he forced himself to not ogle at the handsome man before him. Johannes was about to say something else when he noticed the crowd was starting to thin. “If you will follow me, I can take us to our seats. Ambassador Von Wätcher was kind enough to let us take his box seats since he was unable to come,” He said. The true reason why Franz refused to go to the theater was because Florimond was going to be there. Which worked well for Johannes since he was originally going to weasel his way into tickets before he found out that Franz was going to just leave his spot open. “Have you heard anything about this play? I’ve only heard good things,” He said as he went up the stairs to the box.
[center Charlemagne spent a good minute just observing pedestrians as they just passed by him on the sidewalk while carriages ambled along the streets. Sometimes it surprised the Frenchman just how much there was outside of the palace. This did not mean that Charlie did not get out of the palace. But sometimes the man did get enveloped so much by his work that he was not able to leave the palace as much as he would have initially liked to. However, work was work and Charlemagne understood the importance of it, and even the privilege of having been chosen over countless other chefs when the King and Queen could have easily chosen another individual for the coveted job he currently possessed.]
[center But as the Frenchman was getting lost in his thought his attention was then quickly captured by the familiar sounding soft lilting voice of another man. Charlie turned to see Johannes approaching him. [#900 “I have been waiting here [i all] day!”] Charlemagne exclaimed sarcastically as he rolled his eyes. [#900 “Honestly, I just arrived here only a few minutes ago. Looks like we are both on time!”] The Frenchman could not help but smile when looking at Johannes. Quietly Charlie followed the other man to the theater box that they would be seated in.]
[center [#900 “I heard nothing but good things as well! The lead actor is actually one of your people. He is quite popular here and is very nice from the exchanges I have shared with him.”] Charlemagne nodded. [#900 “I am pretty excited as it’s a drama about a king and his mistress and family. I do look forward to seeing what happens!”] the Frenchman noted before settling into his seat, adjusting his coat. Charlie’s face held a soft smile as he waited for Johannes to seat himself by his side. Carefully did Charlemagne reach over with a single hand to gently take hold of the Austrian man’s hand. Tenderly so did he do this even Charlie felt like he developed goosebumps on his skin! Even though he liked to think of himself as a confident man, Charlemagne could not help but feel a sense of anxiety in addition to his initial excitement. He hoped that Johannes did not mind.]
[center The play was quite the spectacle in Charlie’s opinion. The drama, the scandal, and the emotional torture each character went through was beautifully portrayed throughout the play. The Frenchman admired the lead actor, Maximilian von Eisenbach, for his innate ability to translate the grief of the King in the play into real life emotion to make the theater patrons feel what the King feels. The fresh tears of agony upon seeing his mistress dead by the command of the Queen and then the rage he felt before condemning her to death was raw and real to the audience. The King’s ensuing spiral into insanity and suicide was shocking and practically tangible! Maximilian had come from a wealthy family who was not too pressed on the strict laws and etiquette of Austro-Hungarian nobility, thus allowing their only son to do whatever it was he wanted. It just so happened to be acting that Maximilian loved to do! Charlemagne believed the performance from everyone was spectacular and was glad they had been able to see it with each other. [#900 “Your country certainly does produce some of the most exquisite actors, I must admit.”] Charlie murmured to his Austrian companion. [#900 “Thank you for inviting me out tonight, too. The play was absolutely thrilling!”] he added as the actors all lined up for the final bows on center stage. [#900 “What did you think?...”]]
“I’m glad I didn’t keep you waiting for long,” Johannes said once Charlemagne informed him that he had actually just gotten to the theater. “An older lady needed help to her seats so I decided to help. If she hasn’t needed help I would have been here to greet you and save you from such a long wait,” he jokingly said as they walked into their box. It wasn’t the best view in the theater but it was pretty darn close to it. Johannes was actually surprised by that fact, having expected Franz to chose a cheaper seating arrangement.
“I’m going to be honest, I didn’t even know it was a drama. I just heard everyone raving about how good it was and two tickets just happened to be for the taking,” Johannes said as he closed the curtain behind them and took a seat after Charlemagne.
The seats were close enough to border on intimate. With Charlemagne in such proximity Johannes was very aware to his presence. The best reassuringly radiated off Charlemagne’s body and Johannes found himself get comfortable with Charlemagne’s presence. He was so comfortable that when Charlemagne slipped his hand into his he stiffened for a short second. He had, honestly, not expected Charlemagne to be so bold. They were in public! But then again no one could see their hands behind the bannister. Johannes glanced behind him as well, double checking that the curtain was pulled shut. Happy that no one would bother them and that they would have time to part did he relax. A small smile played at the corners of his lips as he turned his attention over to the play that was about to begin all while holding onto Charlemagne’s hand.
The play was absolutely riveting. Johannes really did enjoy every second and did have to give the lead actor some credit. The anguish that man displayed was astonishing. Johannes had been so enthralled with the play he had even forgotten that he was loosely holding Charlemagne’s hand in his own. With the play over, and the actors and actresses taking their bows, Johannes had returned to reality.
Looking down at their joined hands for a split second he then looked up at Charlemagne as he asked Johannes what his opinions were. “I very much enjoyed it,” he began. His thumb started to rub small circles on Charlemagne’s hand as he continued. “The full cast did an amazing job throughout the whole play but I think their shinning moment was the end. They portrayed the betrayal and anguish so well it felt real. How about you? What are your opinions?” He asked.
Johannes silently listened to Charlemagne. It was only when people started to leave that he tore his eyes away from Charlemagne’s handsome face. “Do you need to go back right away? I know a decent cafe nearby that is open late if you wanted to maybe continue tonight. If you can’t I completely understand,” Johannes nervously asked. He didn’t want to end the night at all but he did understand that work came first and if Charlemagne has to be up early then Johannes didn’t want to keep him up.
[center Charlemagne had found it thoroughly amusing Johannes’ reaction to his hand being taken to hold. The Frenchman had said nothing as the play was happening, but he did smirk a bit to himself. Charlie already knew that he was going to have the time of his life making Johannes absolutely [i squirm]. If something as simple as a gentle hand holding shocked him, then just about anything else was fair game in Charlemagne’s eyes. He wanted nothing but to reduce Johannes to a blushing, breathless mess that begged for more attention. [#900 [i ‘Now that would be interesting to see. I guess that will be my goal for now.’]] Charlie thought, trying to not erupt into a full blow mischievous smile right where he sat.]
[center [#900 “I’m glad to hear you liked it! I think it was a nice first date night out.”] Charlemagne winked at the other man. He then found it endearing, Johannes’ small token of affection, bestowed by rubbing gentle circles on his hand. [#900 “For an Austrian man, I never would have known you could be so soft.”] he smirked. [#900 “But I think I like it this way.”] the man admitted, sighing softly. After the two talked more about the play itself Charlemagne shook his head. [#900 “Oh, no. I can stay out as long as I would like. Question is, what about you?? Do nobles have their own curfews?”] Charlie asked with an inquisitive arched brow. It would have been comical if nobles did, but the Frenchman figured that if you were rich enough nobody would care to tell you what to do with your time.]
[center [#900 “But we should get going to that café, though. I’d like nothing more than to spend the whole night with you.”] Charlie was sure to be careful of how loudly he spoke. It made him sad that they had to be so secretive, but it was what had to be done, unfortunately. Charlemagne reluctantly let go of Johannes’ hand before opening the curtains to their viewing box. But then a familiar voice sounded off at the end of the hall around the corner followed by a few surprised gasps. [#c2a900 [i “Where is he?? Johannes.”]] Charlie immediately became concerned, looking back towards the taller male. But it did not take long for that voice to be matched to a person as it was quite distinctive because it belonged to the lead actor from the play that the audience had just watched. Maximilian was still in costume, but he was swift with his search.]
[center After sighting Johannes, Max zeroed in on the man automatically. [#c2a900 “Johannes! I heard that you were here! Where’s the Ambassador? Usually, he is a patron of the arts based on what he told me!”] Maximilian huffed, but still happy to see one of his own countrymen so far from home. Meanwhile, Charlemagne was starstruck in Maximilian’s presence. The other man was such a fantastic actor, in Charlie’s mind, and wished to be as talented as the Prince with the art of theater. However, Charlemagne wasn’t sure how to address Max not because of his ranking, but because of how casual the other was with his greetings. [#900 “Your Highness??”] Charlie sounded confused, which only made Maximilian laugh and pat the Frenchman’s back. [#c2a900 “Please, just Maximilian or Max. Sounds less responsible, which is how I like it. And nobody cares about titles unless in Court. And it’s not like I’m the crown prince or anything, thank god.”] the man laughed. Flustered, Charlemagne nodded in acknowledgment.]
[center Maximilian then turned back to Johannes with a wide smile on his face. [#c2a900 “What did you two think of the show? I hope it was as exciting for you as it was for me! Are you two busy tonight?...”]]
Johannes had been called many things in his lifetime but he had never, ever, been called soft. For a second he thought about it and considered if Charlemagne was right about his assessment. He was. For such a cold exterior that he had been trained into showing he really was soft especially emotionally. His wife use to call him a woodland creature and he never thought much on the meaning of her words until Charlemagne called him soft. Maybe in the past he would have been a little bit annoyed with the observation that Charlemagne made and try to argue otherwise but now it didn’t matter. Also Charlemagne said he liked it so that was a plus. “Hopefully you mean that in all the right ways,” he jokingly said, feeling a little ballsy.
He listened to Charlemagne’s opinion about the play and gave his own but eventually it was time to leave and Charlemagne answered him about the curfew. “Only the nobles with spouses at home waiting for them have curfews. For you, my good sir, I have none,” Johannes responded with a small pause afterwards. “Well that is slightly incorrect. I do have a curfew that is 10 in the morning. Someone had to keep the embassy functioning.” Did Johannes need to really be at the embassy by ten? Probably not but he was going to go to make sure the two hard headed ambassadors don’t murder each other. Johannes tended to act like a buffer between the two of them.
Charlemagne’s response about the cafe caused Johannes’ heart to flutter and joy fill him to the brim. He was so happy that they would be spending some more time together and with them being at the cafe gave Johannes a chance to learn more about the handsome French man. While the play was nice there wasn’t much leeway in talking to each other. “Hopefully by the end of the night you won’t be singing a different song,” he said as they got up. Sadly, they had to let go of each other’s hands as the went to leave the small sanctuary they had been graced with. Johannes actually felt sad that they had to let go of each other. If one of them had been a woman the world really wouldn’t care, they would just think of them as immodest.
As they were about to leave he heard a loud voice and all of a sudden something clicked on Johannes head. The lead actor was [i Maximilian]. The beloved, but really hated by most nobles, prince that was far enough down the line to not be as visible as some of his family members but everyone knew about him at least. Johannes had actually met Maximilian a few times but it hadn’t clicked that the lead actor was actually the well known Prince. “Maximilian,” he calmly said, addressing the man without a title because he knew the other man’s preferences. “Ambassador Von Wächter sadly couldn’t make it today. There was some issues with, and I quote, ‘unsavory’ characters. He plans to see the show tomorrow. I know he has been looking forward to it. If you want Comte de Mercy-Argenteau is here,” he informed the Prince.
Johannes glanced over to his date and was surprised that the other man was somewhat starstruck. He, however, didn’t say anything about it. “Maximilian, this is my friend Charlemagne Marquis,” He said deciding to introduce the two of them. “I enjoyed the play. You did a splendid job portraying such strong emotions,” Johannes said, carefully complimenting the Prince. “Charlemagne and I aren’t really busy. We were about to head to Café Procope,” he informed the Prince, hoping the Prince wouldn’t invite himself to their next date spot. Johannes had a feeling that he wouldn’t get any time with Charlemagne if the other man came with them. He also didn’t want to compete with Maximilian for Charlemagne’s attention because he knew he would lose.
[center Upon hearing Johannes’ retort Charlemagne’s brow automatically cocked itself up upon his face in intrigue. The gall of the Austrian before him was so astonishing, but Charlie was indeed pleasantly surprised by such a development. [#900 “Only in the right ways.”] the Frenchman winked impishly. [#900 “Soft enough for affection, but not too soft that I cannot do anything fun.”] Charlemagne chuckled. The man felt fairly lustful, so he was not too sure how Johannes would deal with this sudden influx of demand. And on top of that, Charlemagne also felt frustrated because all his previous attempts to bed the man were thwarted in some way that forced him to wait even longer. The Frenchman was not accustomed to waiting very long, if at all when trying to sleep with someone. But Charlie did not think it was too bad because he was genuinely enjoying Johannes’ presence and company by itself, no sex required.]
[center Regardless, Charlemagne was pleased to hear that Johannes could confirm that he had no curfew to strictly abide by since he was a man of rules and order. At least that was the impression that Charlie had been given this entire time. [#900 “Ten in the morning?? So,”] Charlemagne began to muse, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, [#900 “Theoretically, I could keep you for a sordid night of delightful debauchery?”] the man inquired, probably a little more excited than he should have been. [#900 “Or would you rather I be lonely and even more frustrated, Johannes? I do not like going to bed alone. Would you really do me like that?”] Charlemagne asked, although most of it was in jest. But the man was honest in saying that he did not like going to be by himself, though. Charlie much preferred the presence and warmth of another person, even if it were for only one night. Just the feeling of having another person with him was relaxing and soothing to his soul.]
[center But, when Maximilian inserted himself into the conversation Charlie felt his lust for Johannes turn into being starstruck by the Austrian prince. The Frenchman could feel himself staring, honestly. But Charlemagne was just such a huge fan of Maximilian’s work and could not help himself! Luckily, though, Maximilian’s attention seemed to be on Johannes for the moment. [#c2a900 “Unsavory characters…”] the man huffed and rolled his eyes. [#c2a900 “Drama. He seems to have nothing but drama surrounding him no matter what.”] Max shook his head disapprovingly. [#c2a900 “Such is life, I suppose.”] he then shrugged. [#c2a900 “At least there are several showings this week for the play so he can come whenever he is able if he would like to.”]]
[center Running a hand through his hair, Maximilian grunted lightly in frustration. Before he came to France to live and work the prince had well-groomed short hair, often skipping on wigs as he often found them too uncomfortable to wear. But since arriving in France the culture rubbed off on the man. He had grown out his hair and truly immersed himself into the arts. His immediate family did not mind so much, although some thought he looked foolish with his long blond curly hair. With an arched brow, the prince looked between both Johannes and Charlemagne. The man smiled widely, always loving the opportunity to personally meet new people! [#c2a900 “It is a great pleasure meeting you, Charlemagne!”] If the Frenchman was not already flustered enough, the man could muster nothing more than a nod of acknowledgment. The prince genuinely chuckled and patted the shorter man on the back. He could easily tell that Charlie was all types of awestruck. Maximilian found it hilarious, honestly. [#c2a900 “Thank you so much for your kind words, Johannes. You know many of the other nobles do not approve of my interests and activities, so I am thrilled to hear that somebody appreciates the effort it requires.”]]
[center [#c2a900 “That café is an excellent choice if I dare say!”] Maximilian exclaimed before thinking about the location for a split second, [#c2a900 “I am quite famished myself… Would you mind if I came with you? My treat.”] he added. [#c2a900 “I would have to clean up really quick, but it wouldn’t take too much. I will meet you two outside.”] the man explained before disappearing back into the bowels of the theater. The prince knew the workings and passages of the building like the back of his hand! After Max has disappeared Charlie looked over at Johannes. [#900 “I surely was not expecting that at all.”] he chuckled, straightening out his posture while he recovered from his case of being starstruck. [#900 “But it looks like we have an addition now.”] Charlemagne mentioned. [#900 “Shall we get moving then?”] Charlie then turned to begin leading the other man down the hallway so they could meet Maximilian outside as suggested by the male.]
[center In what felt like record time to Maximilian, he had cleansed his face of any makeup he had on and changed into his regular clothing which was fairly plain by the standards of nobility. The one thing that Max did not like to do in public was flaunting his wealth around in other people’s faces. The French public had been very kind to him and he did not want to betray that trust or make anyone feel terrible about their status. That was not what Maximilian was there for. He knew that he was there by his own choice as an actor. But he was quite excited to see Johannes around along with Charlemagne, a familiar face along with a fresh and new one. After doing one last check of his attire Max pulled all of his long curly hair back into a typical ponytail secure with a ribbon. He then bid his fellow co-stars farewell before hurrying outside to prevent Johannes and Charlemagne from waiting too long.]
[center [#c2a900 “Hopefully I did not keep you two out here for too long! The café is not too far away so I figured it would have been ridiculous to summon a carriage for us. Is that okay with you two?”] the man asked, not wanting to put the two into an odd position is they had not planned to walk themselves…]
Charlemagne’s little comment about a night of debauchery had caused Johannes to lightly blush. The thought playing in his mind as he talked to Maximilian, hoping, if not praying, that the man would leave so that he could reply to Charlemagne. His prayers, however, were ignored and it appeared that Charlemagne’s attention was now on Maximilian instead of Johannes.
[center There was still hope though! ]
[center [i Until there wasn’t.]]
What little hope Johannes had felt about being alone with Charlemagne was harshly destroyed by Maximillian excitedly saying that the Café was an excellent choice and that he was hungry. A part of Johannes really wanted to suggest that Maximilian not come with them but as he glanced over at Charlemagne, who was obviously starstruck, he couldn’t find it in his heart to squash this one thing. Perhaps later he would have some time alone with Charlemagne to respond to his inquiry. “Of course. We will be waiting for you,” Johannes plainly responded before the Prince up and left to change. Just like Charlemagne the Austrian hadn’t expected their night to go like this either. “So, it seems, and we probably should go. It appears the staff is anxious to clean up the theater,” Johannes said as he eyed the group of men and women that were peaking around the corner; ready to swarm the theater and clean it.
Following Charlemagne, and moving through what lingered of the crowd, Johannes did his best to be a gentleman and keep his eyes on Charlemagne’s back. His earlier words about keeping Charlemagne lonely and frustrated made a grand reentrance into his thoughts. Slowly, his eyes trailed down Charlemagne’s figure. Johannes was just as frustrated, and he knew that it was all his fault. There was a hang up where Johannes just couldn’t let go and be as open as Charlemagne. He wished he could be though. Charlemagne’s proposition during the banquet had nearly broken Johannes and his return home was filled with regret for not taking up the offer. At the same time Johannes knew he wouldn’t have been able to just give in. He liked knowing his bed partner, courting them, the best a man could with their own gender, before sleeping with them. On the small list of bed partners that Johannes had only one of them had never been courted and that had been near disastrous. It was only the fear of Johannes father, the true Freiherr von Hügel, that stayed his bed partner’s lips from spilling their deeds. Did Johannes believe that Charlemagne would do the same thing? Absolutely not. Still he liked the idea of courting Charlemagne and leaving him wanting because when, not if, they fell into bed together the reward would be that much sweeter.
Once they were outside Johannes basked in the night air and he considered just abandoning Maximillian and whisking Charlemagne away but squashed that thought. While he was peeved that Maximilian was ruining his date, he couldn’t be that rude to the Prince though he did find that he could tease Charlemagne a little bit. Shifting a little bit closer to the handsome man Johannes softly said, “There was a chance that I wouldn’t leave you alone and frustrated tonight but then Maximilian came along. He will hardly want to leave us any time soon.” His words were a little bit unfair to Charlemagne and Maximilian because Johannes had planned to leave Charlemagne frustrated anyways but the other man didn’t need to know that. With Maximilian’s intrusion Johannes was given a scape goat.
As Johannes moved away from Charlemagne Maximilian reappeared, void of all makeup, and looking nothing like the Prince he was supposed to be. “We just got outside. That was impressively fast of a change,” Johannes commented, “And I wasn’t intending on taking a carriage. The weather feels amazing tonight, so I had full intentions of taking advantage of it and walking the short distance.” Johannes had only been to Café Procope a handful of times, but he knew the path well enough to lead their group through the last of the people lingering outside the theater.
The walk to the Café was rather uneventful and only took a few minutes. The moment they approached the door it was clear that the Café was busy and filled with people that had come for a drink after the show. Johannes opened the door for his two companions while scouting out a spot to sit. The back part of the Café was devoid of people, with everyone centered near the door and open windows, loudly talking about the play. Johannes had full intentions on taking a seat towards the back though he feared that they may be harassed by the other patrons since Maximilian was with them. That was a bridge that Johannes would cross later.
[center Charlie did quickly glance around to see the theater staff lurking about. [#900 “It’s a shame we have to leave.”] he sighed. The man had wanted to be sly and tease Johannes more out of the sight of others just to torture him. But unfortunately, this idea just was not feasible. Especially since Maximilian was now going to be expecting them outside. Charlemagne knew the struggle all too well of needing to tidy up an area after an event, so he definitely didn’t want to cause any unnecessary problems for the staff at the theater.]
[center Silently, though, Charlemagne brooded over his frustrations about Johannes, but at least it was not all too painful thanks to awe of having actually met Maximilian. For a prince he truly did not seem all that bad! He was surprisingly normal for a man of such high status, and Charlie felt pleasantly shocked by that revelation. Once outside, though, the man felt the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand up when Johannes closed some of the distance between them. Although they weren’t visible thanks to his clothing, Charlemagne could definitely feel goosebumps tickling his arms. [#900 “Why must you play with my heart like that?”] the Frenchman responded quietly, huffing out a sigh. He then looked at Johannes, examining him briefly. [#900 [i “One of these days I will get what I want, Johannes.”]] The man then straightened himself up when Maximilian had reappeared to meet up with them.]
[center The man only laughed at Johannes’ remark about the speed in which he had changed. [#c2a900 “After so long in theater and dance one has be to quick at changing for the sake of the performance!”] Maximilian patted Johannes’ shoulder. [#c2a900 “I’m pretty sure waking around with tear-smeared makeup and ripped clothing would not be appropriate for public outings with men such as yourselves.”] he added, gesturing lightly towards both Johannes and Charlemagne. [#c2a900 “Although I will have to admit this outfit is particularly plain, so I might even be [i underdressed] compared to you two! But at least you don’t try to tell me it’s ‘disgraceful to the crown’ like some people we know, Johannes.”] Max rolled his eyes. The nerve some nobles had were far too much in Maximilian’s opinion. And rarely did they ever had the audacity to try and say it to his face. But the prince was all too aware of what others thought of him. The disrespect angered Mac, but c’est la vie. He tried to not let it aggravate him too badly.]
[center The subsequent stroll to the Café was not all that bad. Maximilian was careful to match the paces of Johannes and Charlie to stay with them as he had a bad habit of not paying attention to just how fast he was walking. While the outside of the Café was not too crazy with foot traffic, the inside was fairly packed with hungry theater goers and casual night owls. Maximilian politely held the door open for his two companions, though, taking a deep breath as the warmth of the café enveloped him and the delectable smells teased his senses. [#c2a900 “I don’t know what that smell is, but it is to die for!”] Maximilian remarked as he got settled down with Charlie and Johannes. He could already see looks being thrown their way, but the prince honestly hoped that they could at least eat and lounge in peace.]
[center Charlemagne was starving, but also stoked beyond belief. He could not believe that he was actually sitting down with Maximilian to share a dining experience with him and Johannes. He knew he probably looked like an overexcited child on Christmas. Did Charlemagne care about that? Absolutely not. He was living in the moment and loving every single second of it. And to share all of this with Johannes made it feel even better! Charlemagne did look over at Johannes, attempting to hide his growing smile despite feeling so incredibly starstruck.]
[center Despite this awe caused by Maximilian, Charlie felt as if time suddenly moved in slow motion as he gazed at Johannes. The Frenchman felt like his heart was threatening to beat out of his chest and onto the table! The Austrian sitting on the opposite side of the table look so radiant in the warm lights within the café. Charlie felt like he was staring at a masterpiece that could easily be on display at prestigious art gallery. So captivated did Charlemagne feel, he felt a distinct warmth spread over his cheeks. [i A blush!] Almost immediately after Charlie’s realization he averted his gaze.]
[center Maximilian raised an eyebrow at this behavior. While he had never directly asked Johannes, he had heard of his escapades with other men. He then wondered for a moment if Charlemagne was suddenly flushed for similar reasons. While he could not relate to those kinds of feelings, Maximilian honestly didn’t care all that much. He felt that what a man did on his time and in his own bed was his own business. Max honestly felt that he wasn’t even in a place to judge anyway as he used to have awfully high levels of promiscuity before becoming engaged to a wonderful Hungarian princess. Initially, their relationship was honestly to continue strengthening Austro-Hungarian bonds within the empire, but over time Maximilian had grown quite soft for his fiancée, Elizabeth. She was a fierce woman who refused to be trifled with. And Max respected that fiery passion greatly as it only made him love her more. He was super excited for there wedding that was to take place in the following Autumn! Maximilian truly couldn’t wait, but he knew that the time would come soon enough.]
[center [#c2a900 “Are you okay, Charlemagne? You look awfully flushed there.”] Max inquired. This caused the poor Frenchman’s posture to stiffen. [#900 “[i Flushed???] I’m not flushed! I feel just fine.”] Charlie quickly objected although he felt like he was only turning more red. [#c2a900 “It almost looks like that is a lie… Are you [i lying to me, Charlemagne??] And to think! I thought we were going to be such great friends!”] Maximilian teased, a hand of betrayal grasping his shirt for the dramatics. Charlie probably looked as though he had seen a ghost after that exclamation, though, because Max patted Charlie’s shoulder whilst cackling. [#c2a900 “I’m not being serious in the slightest, Charlemagne. Please don’t pass out in your chair.”] Heaving a sigh of relief Charlie tried to relax some as a kind enough looking waiter approached them.]
[center [#175612 “Welcome, gentleman! Were you all ready to order your food and refreshments?”] the kind man greeted, Maximilian giving a thoughtful hum. [#c2a900 “How about your finest wine for us here? And I will take anything that has shrimp in it. Maybe with noodles? I would like to try something new.”] Max was not much of a picky eater despite growing up as a royal. [#175612 “Understood. I believe we have just the thing for you tonight! And you, monsieur?”] looking over at Charlie. [#900 “I could go for a hearty chicken soup.”] [#175612 “An excellent choice! And for you?”] the waiter asked Johannes.]
[center But the warm jovial atmosphere soon turned sour, however, when a glass cup was hurled across the café. The glass narrowly missed the waiter’s head before it shattered against the wall behind Charlie. [b “You think we came in here wanting to see your disgusting face in here too???”] a voice yelled. Many patrons began to scurry out the door as to avoid any trouble as an angry man stormed to the back of the café. It was the same man from the other day who threatened to attack Johannes, but he was followed by a different henchman friend of his this time. Charlie immediately grew angry as the poor teenage waiter was roughly shoved off to the side. The kid was clearly confused and frightened. Maximilian was immensely confused as well as Charlie tried to shake of as much broken glass off of his body as he could. [#900 “Are you seriously trying to come in here and restart an already unnecessary argument??”] Charlie hissed, swiftly standing up from his seat. Unfortunately, this triggered the bigger grunt of a man to snatch Charlie by the collar to drag him across the table to pin him against a wall. This was followed by much shouting before Maximilian stood to at least attempt to negotiate. But the man from the original conflict was livid and not willing to talk, thus throwing a pretty hefty fist at the prince. Despite his usually open and kind personality, Maximilian was not an easily stunned man. He was hardened in the sense that his pain tolerance was quite high thanks to his father demanding he serve time in the empire’s military for the sake of experience.]
[center Maximilian was quick to dispose of the man right out the back door into the alleyway, though. A very colorful string of expletives coming from both men as their squabbled continued outdoors. Max did come back soon enough though, but only quick enough to see Charlie get tossed like a rag doll right back into the same table he had been dragged across. At times like this he cursed being of such small stature, but there was little he could do as he fought to catch his breathe among the pieces of broken wood. [#c2a900 “Johannes, take Charlie and get out of here. I’ll handle this situation and see to it that they are properly punished.”] Maximilian didn’t mean to make it sound like such a strict command, but he was furious that his night out and dinner were ruined because of some xenophobic fools. But the man knew he would have to check up on Johannes at the embassy soon to make sure Charlie was okay…]
The Café did smell absolutely amazing. Johannes, in his anxiety, had hardly eaten anything because he was so focused on his and Charlie’s date. Now sitting down, with a Prince and the man he wanted to court, surrounded by the delicious aromas his hunger made it’s presence known and his stomach grumbled.
For a moment Johannes worried that the growl was too loud and alerted his companions but as he pulled his eyes away from his surroundings to look at Charlemagne, he noticed the man staring at him. A few seconds later a blush spread across his cheeks and he was quickly pulling his gaze away. Johannes couldn’t help the faint smile that fell on his lips. Charlemagne’s attention was all Johannes wanted and he was so happy to receive it. Even his heart did a little flip from the small interaction.
[i] ‘I’m doomed,’ [i] Johannes thought to himself as he glanced over to see Maximilian’s reaction. Johannes had a feeling that the prince knew on some level that Johannes was attracted to men. It was never discussed and there was only one rumor that had been floating around the palace around the time Johannes had gotten married so not many knew. Maximilian, however, was rather observant in Johannes’ opinion and probably picked up the subtle looks Johannes had shared with men in the palace. All Johannes saw was a raised eyebrow from Maximilian and that was it though that just couldn’t be enough for the Prince. No, he had to ask Charlemagne if he was flushed. Charlemagne only got more flushed as Maximilian teased him over the flush and obvious lie. Johannes was about to jump in and save Charlemagne from Maximilian’s teasing when Maximilian finally told him that he wasn’t being serious. Instead Johannes rolled his eyes at Maximilian and turned his attention away to the waiter.
He listened to the other two order as he thought over his options. Shrimp sounded delicious but you couldn’t go wrong with a chicken soup. Or he could get the pot roast that he saw on a few tables. Such a hard choice. After a few moments he decided on the roast, wanting that delicious mix of tender meat and vegetables. “I will have the roast. Thank you,” he replied.
With their orders in the waiter began to leave and Johannes turned towards Maximilian to ask him how he was doing. It had been awhile since he had last seen his favorite—not that Johannes will admit it—Prince. Before the words could fall from his lips a cup went soaring across the room and into the wall, dangerously close to Charlemagne’s head. Johannes spun around quickly to see who the angry patron was only to see the men from the market. “Seriously?” Was the only thing Johannes said.
The men seemed happy enough to ignore Johannes, this time angry at their fellow countryman, but that didn’t mean Johannes was spared from their anger either. As the larger man pulled Charlemagne across the table Johannes was standing up. His chair slammed into a solid mass right behind him. Only two men had come up to the table, so Johannes was confused at first about why his chair ran into something until he realized there had been a third party, lurking on the sides. Before a fist could come down on Johannes he ducked out of the way. The fist only met empty air as Johannes crouched behind the chair. He had no plans on a fair and honorable fight especially with Charlemagne being attacked. He just needed a way to end this one quickly.
Then an evil, cruel, idea popped into Johannes mind.
The plan was a simple one and something he would normally not do but they threatened not only a member of the Royal Family but the man that Johannes wanted to be with. Neither of those things were acceptable in Johannes opinion so he took a cheap shot. The first thing he did was pick up the chair, throwing the other man into a loop of confusion, before sing the chair as a weapon and jamming a leg of it into the man’s nether region. Almost instantly the man went down, vomiting all over himself as he fell into fetal position. Johannes, only adding insult to injury, tossed the chair at the man and spun around to check on Charlemagne only to see Maximilian having the situation in control.
For a moment Johannes almost argued with Maximilian. It felt wrong abandoning a Prince in favor of his love interest especially when it had been ingrained in Johannes brain that the royal family came first. But as he gazed over to Charlemagne, trying to catch his breath, Johannes knew they had to go and Maximilian could handle himself. “I’ll send you a letter tomorrow,” He simply said to Maximilian as he approached Charlemagne.
“Charlemagne,” Johannes softly said as he crouched next to the man who still just trying to breath. “Let me help you up.” He offered up a hand and when Charlemagne finally started to get up Johannes gently helped him to his feet. An arm wrapped around Charlemagne’s waist to keep him steady as he led the man out into the cool night. For a moment Johannes was at a lost on what to do next. Did he take Charlemagne back to the palace? This time of night Johannes wouldn’t be admitted in but they would let Charlemagne go. But would he get the care he needed? Johannes wanted Charlemagne checked over to make sure nothing major happened. So did he take Charlemagne to his home? These circumstances were not how he wanted to take Charlemagne home with him. He always thought Charlemagne’s first visit would be either because of a party or because a date led to fiery passion. Instead it was because some xenophobic asshole beat the shit out of Charlemagne and Johannes was worries about the other man. With his decision made he flagged down a carriage.
“Faubourg Saint-Germain, 105 rue de Grenelle,” Johannes awkwardly said. It felt weird giving his address to someone who didn’t know it. He was so use to drivers knowing where he lived that the words almost felt foreign. This thought, however, got pushed to the side as he helped Charlemagne into the carriage.
[center Maximillian’s stare sharpened immensely when he saw Johannes’ gaze stay on him for a moment. Their current situation did not afford them the luxury of time to just stand around and play staring games. The prince also did not want to waste time by arguing with Johannes about what he needed to do. Maximillian was quite relieved in that moment when he saw that Johannes was relenting by turning his attention towards Charlemagne. The poor man truly looked like he was going to be in need of some serious assistance. Max nodded, though, at the other’s statement. [#c2a900 “Please do. Now hurry up and get him out of here.”]]
[center Still on the ground with broken pieces of table, Charlemagne was struggling to catch his breath. Everything from the waist up hurt like hell. The man was trying to move as little as possible to prevent further suffering. He also felt hot tears well up in his eyes, Charlie cursing to himself. He really hadn’t been able to focus on what anyone else around him was saying. But, through the mental fog he could hear Johannes trying to talk to him. Charlie felt like he couldn’t entirely understand, but he did feel a sense of calm knowing that Johannes was still there. But [i help up]? Then it registered what Johannes was trying to do when the Frenchman felt his hand being gripped by the other man’s. [#900 “I can’t!”] Charlemagne coughed, grimacing in pain. He just wished he could detach his arm when Johannes began pulling his body up onto his feet. But Charlie could feel himself relying heavily upon the bodily support Johannes was providing with the arm around the waist.]
[center Once they were outside Charlemagne had just focused on trying to breathe more deeply. The coolness of the night air was refreshing, but Charlie still felt great pain in his back and chest while respirating. He simply just followed Johannes’ lead. He appreciated the assistance, although Charlie had no idea where they were going once they were seated inside of the carriage. The bumps in the road shot jolts of pain up his spine. During the ride Charlie had attached himself to Johannes’ arm to steady himself. The man could only hope that nothing too serious had happened to him. But then a sensation of panic consumed him. [#900 “The King and Queen are going to be furious if I’m not back at the palace in the morning!”] he stressed, worried about how they’d react to his predicament. Charlemagne knew he could easily be dismissed over not being in attendance at the palace as it would be viewed as an inconvenience to the royal family. [#900 “Christ, how am I going to tell them?”] Not only would his livelihood, but also his brother’s could be at stake. The royal family had invested heavily in their family’s winery that if they no longer had that patronage, it could seriously threaten their ability to survive. Charlemagne knew that he was skilled in his art with food, but the man also knew that the king had made it a point to the entire staff of the palace that they were expendable. They could all be fired and replaced at a moment’s notice. Charlie did not know where else he could go if the royal family decided he was inconveniencing them.]
[center The tears that had been threatening to spill over from the pain finally began to roll down Charlemagne’s face from the sudden increase of stress. The man just wanted the carriage ride to be over with already. Charlie forced himself to stare out of the carriage window. While watching the scenery move by outside was a welcomed distraction, Charlemagne was drawn out of his bubble when the carriage came to a halt. While he had most of his wits about him at this point, Charlie was surprised when the door was opened by a man dressed as a butler. Charlemagne had made eye contact with the butler before that other man made a hasty mention about something with a doctor. The Frenchman couldn’t really tell as the butler had spoken too quickly for his rattled head to decipher.]
[center After that it hadn’t taken very long for another man to come outside. He looked like he had just been sleeping since he was dressed in the appropriate shirt and pants for such an occasion. [#1a7584 “Johannes?”] the man spoke, as he approached the carriage. He had been immediately called out of bed, but he hadn’t quite heard what for. All Matthias had heard was the butler mention Johannes and a carriage, so he immediately assumed that Johannes was injured or ill. But then he had seen Charlie, who clearly was not in the best of shape in the slightest. [#1a7584 “Let’s get this gentleman inside, yes?”] Matthias mentioned as he assisted in extracting Charlie from the carriage. For the Frenchman, this was not a fun affair as he could still barely stand on his own two feet by himself. [#900 “Who even are you??”] Charlie mustered as he tried to walk while leaning on Matthias. [#1a7584 “Dr. Riedl, at your service.”] Matthias replied calmly. He had been the family doctor for Johannes’ family for a few years now. Before this position he had served in the capacity of a military doctor for men wounded out in battle. It was by no means an easy or glamorous job as it had included a lot of messy surgeries, amputations, infections, and casualties. To simply work for a wealthy family had been a fantastic change for Matthias. While he was more invested in the specialty of bones and their relation to the musculature of the body, Matthias didn’t quite care if he did not have to be in bloody war zones anymore. Caring for Johannes and his family allowed for more time to dedicate to research and literature.]
[center [#1a7584 “What on Earth happened to you?”] Matthias asked before Charlie rolled his eyes disdainfully. [#900 “Idiots. That’s what happened.”] he had replied sharply. Dr. Riedl certainly didn’t take offense, though. [#1a7584 “I would imagine so. But I need to know what actually happened to you to help.”] Charlemagne then tried to explain the best he could that he had been thrown against a wall and through a table. Matthias then looked at Johannes before going back to Charlie. The doctor had known about Johannes’ preferences ever since he began working for the von Hügel’s. Matthias knew of this because he was also of the same orientation, although he did have a partner from Switzerland that he tried to see as often as his schedule would allow. But with urgent need to privately examine Charlie’s physical condition, Matthias directed that Charlie be taken to Johannes’ chambers. Initially Matthias was instructing Johannes to wait outside of the room, but Charlie had given the Austrian men the sharpest glare. [#900 [i “Don’t you fucking leave me.”]] Charlemagne had said before allowing Matthias to remove his shirt.]
[center On Charlemagne’s back were a collection of splotchy bruises in their early stages of development. Another concern of Matthias’ was about Charlemagne’s spine. He had found a spot towards the lower portion of the Frenchman’s back that felt out of place. A few times he had seen colleagues use physical manipulation of a patient’s body to ‘reset’ certain bones in limbs and vertebrae in the back. And that is what Matthias wanted to do for Charlie here. But God was it wretched! Charlie had let out a string of colorful expletives shortly after Matthias adjusted his lower back. But other than his back being banged up, Matthias had decided that the only other issues were a minor concussion and contusions on Charlie’s ribs as nothing felt broken or out of place there. [#1a7584 “I’m going to step out for just a moment. I will bring you some medicinal tea and medication to assist with pain management. Otherwise I’d advise you to lie down in bed so you can rest and begin to heal.”] Matthias stated before Charlie voiced his concerns about his work at the palace. [#1a7584 “I can send over a letter, so they at least will know. But I cannot guarantee how they will interpret that information.”] Charlie deflated slightly. He just didn’t want to lose his job over what some idiots did to him. [#1a7584 “We just need you to rest for now. We will take this one step at a time. Johannes, if anything changes please let me know. You know where I am, okay?”] Matthias nodded before putting Charlemagne to bed himself. [#1a7584 “Fair warning, though. The tea will likely taste horribly bitter. So, I suggest you drink it as quickly as you can with the medicine.”]]
[center As if it weren’t one thing after another, Charlie did detest the flavor of the tea Matthias brought back. He felt like he was gagging trying to down the medicine too. It was all just purely disgusting. But it didn’t take very long to feel the effects of whatever Dr. Riedl had given the Frenchman. Charlemagne felt more fatigued than anything. He had been examining the room a bit before he found himself staring at Johannes. [#900 “Lay with me, please? Don’t leave me alone. I’m really cold.”] Charlie said, his voice much softer and quieter now the medicine was kicking in. He simply reached out with a single hand in hopes that Johannes wouldn’t deny him. [#900 “I promise I won’t hoard all the blankets.”] a whisper of a plead. Charlemagne just really didn’t want to be left on his own, at least while he was still awake. He just hoped that Johannes would afford him the privilege…]
The carriage ride was making Johannes nervous. He knew that Charlemagne was in pain and the umps in the road couldn’t be helping at all. Sadly, this was the fastest route to get Charlemagne the help he needed. There was something that Johannes hadn’t even thought about and that was Charlemagne’s job. Royalty was rarely known for being understanding and in this economy, everyone needed to hold onto their jobs as tightly as possible. The only problem was that Charlemagne was not in a good shape to go back and work. Charlemagne was holding onto Johannes’ arm like his life depended on it. There was absolutely no way that Johannes would be letting Charlemagne leave. If the King and Queen did fire Charlemagne then he would offer Charlemagne up a job or even find one for him if need be, but he wasn’t letting Charlemagne leave without Matthias checking on him.
“Charlemagne,” Johannes softly began. He reached up to the hand that was tightly gripping onto his own arm and stoke Charlemagne’s fingers. “I’ll send the Queen a letter. There is no guarantee that she will care for what I have to say, but it is worth a try. What is more important is that we get you help.” Johannes hoped that his wife’s friendship and dedication to the now Queen would at least let Johannes put his foot in the door and get her ear. Worst case Johannes would use underhanded methods and use his kids, the kids that the Queen had demanded to see upon birth, to get her to listen.
Thankfully, they pulled up to Johannes home and Hans was instantly out and opening the door for them. Hans only needed to look at the sorry state that Charlemagne was in to say he was getting Matthias and spinning on his heel to get the family doctor.
The wait wasn’t long and soon Matthias was approaching the carriage. “It isn’t me,” Johannes quickly assured, hoping to alleviate any concern his friend and doctor had. Not that it helped Johannes. He was hopelessly worried about Charlemagne. Once Charlemagne was extracted from the carriage Johannes followed, leaving Hans to pay for the carriage.
“I’ll tell you the story later,” Johannes said after Charlemagne pitiful attempt to explain what happened. All Johannes really cared about was Charlemagne getting check out as soon as possible and it seemed lie Matthias agreed because soon enough they were making there way to Johannes room. A small smile twitching on his lips and Charlemagne glared at him and told him not to leave. “Don’t worry, ‘ll be in the room with you,” Johannes replied, leading Charlemagne to his bed.
While Johannes had plans on Charlemagne being in his bed this wasn’t the situation Johannes had imagined. He would court Charlemagne until the man was frustrated and finally demanded that Johannes bed him. Johannes would happily oblige, sweeping up Charlemagne, and taking him to his room where he would utterly destroy the smaller male. After there time rolling around the bed Johannes and Charlemagne would cuddle, and everything would be great. Too bad some idiots had to ruin everything and Charlemagne’s first time in Johannes home and bed was not going to end in anything spectacular.
Johannes took a few steps back, giving Matthias free reign to loo over Charlemagne. The whole time Johannes did his best to keep his face impassive, knowing that his worry wouldn’t help Charlemagne. Hs efforts weren’t that great, and his concern shone in his eyes and posture as he catalogued every bruise. Thankfully, Matthias was there to help Charlemagne and soon he was passing Charlemagne a tea that Johannes knew from experience tasted horrendous. “Thank you, Matthias,” He said as he finally began to hover over the side of the bed.
Once Charlemagne took his tea Matthias took his leave, leaving the two of them alone. Johannes heart even broke a little as Charlemagne reached out to him, asking him to lay down with him. Johannes had planned on sleeping in a chair, but he really couldn’t deny Charlemagne this little request. Taking Charlemagne’s hand Johannes pressed a chaste kiss to it. “Give me a few minutes to write that letter and then I will lay down with you,” Johannes gently said, needing to at least get the letter to the Queen done in hopes of ensuring Charlemagne’s job.
Pressing one last kiss to Charlemagne’s hand he laid it down on the bed and moved away. As he took a moment to look over Charlemagne he noticed that his shoes were on and so were his stockings. While neither bothered Johannes, especially since Charlemagne was in pain, he doubted he would be comfortable. At least Johannes wasn’t when he had occasionally fallen asleep in feel dress. Going to the foot of the bed Johannes took off Charlemagne’s shoes before deciding to remove his stockings as well. “This isn’t how I imagined I would be undressing you,” Johannes light heartedly said as undid the bottom buttons of Charlemagne’s breeches so that he could remove the man’s stockings. Once the leg of the pants were open Johannes gently removed the white stockings, exposing Charlemagne’s beautiful legs. Johannes had to stop himself from thinking about what Charlemagne would look without his breeches and instead carefully laid the stockings down next to Charlemagne’s shoes.
With some of Charlemagne’s comfort seen to Johannes went over to the desk and true to his words it only took him a handful of minutes to compose the two letters he needed to write. Maximillian’s letter was nothing more than a quick, we made it home and Matthias looked Charlemagne over. The Queen’s, that took the longest to write and was filled with so many apologies and promises to bring the children over. Once Johannes was done with both letters he sealed them and took the time before dropping them off to change into his night shirt. The last time he had changed in front of Charlemagne he had been cautious, but this time he threw caution to the wind and carefully stripped and changed into his night shirt.
When Johannes was done he gathered the letters and was a foot out of the door when Hans materialized with Maria.
“She was starting to fuss again and was waking Johannes up. I know that you have someone in your room with you but you are the only one that calms her down,” Hans whispered. As if n cue Maria shifted and started to let out a small whine, her precursor to full out crying.
“I will take her. Could you please see these letters delivered,” Johannes said as he handed over the letters before taking his daughter. Almost instantly her sniffles stopped, and her little head found its spot on the small portion of bare chest.
“Of course, Freiherr. Maria has been fed and changed; she should be good for the rest of the night.”
Johannes nodded as he walked back into the room. “And it looks like we will have to share the bed with someone else,” Johannes stated as he went over to the bed. He was a pro when it came to getting comfortable with Maria passed out on his chest. With ease he slid underneath the covers, a hand pressed to Maria’s back to keep her in place. Maria, content to finally be laying on her papa, had instantly fallen asleep.
Johannes watched her for a few moments before rolling his head and looking over at Charlemagne. A part of him growing worried that Charlemagne wouldn’t be okay with their intruder. A lot of men that Johannes knew wanted nothing to do with the kids. If Charlemagne didn’t like children, then Johannes wouldn’t know what he would do. “Are you okay with Maria being here? If not, I can go lay down somewhere else. She gets fussy when she doesn’t sleep with me.”
[center Charlemagne’s expression of pain and fear softened considerably when Johannes had taken his hand and placed a gentle kiss on the back of it. The man couldn’t help but grip onto the other man’s hand just a little bit tighter. While Charlie knew Johannes was right beside him, he really did not want Johannes to let his hand go. But still, the Frenchman’s gazed begged the man to not let him go. However, Charlemagne understood that Johannes had to write the letter to the Queen about their predicament. Charlie hoped that God himself would have mercy on him and allow forgiveness to be granted by the royal family. Maybe even Maximilian could assist in explaining what had happened. The Queen would likely believe Max over anyone else relating to the situation that went down at the café.]
[center Johannes’ last kiss on the hand made Charlemagne heave a sigh, as painful as it was to do so. The man also appreciated how gentle the Austrian had been putting that same hand back down to rest on the bed. [#900 “I will hold you to your word.”] Charlemagne responded with a slight chuckle. He was certainly is no position to be persuading anybody to do anything. When Johannes turned to make way to the desk in the room, Charlie felt his body sink just a little bit further into the bed. The medicine was truly taking effect since he began to feel drowsy, Charlemagne yawning quietly. Despite being without a shirt now, thanks to Dr. Riedl’s examination, Charlemagne simply allowed his body to relax as much as it could on the sheets.]
[center It took a minute, though, to register what Johannes was doing. Charlie was just a second away from asking what the man was even doing because he clearly was not writing any letters. In response, the Frenchman had a furrowed brow as he just stared at the other man. Then for a split-second Charlie could feel his face flush slightly. [#900 “I can’t say this is what I imagined either. I pictured it as less one-sided and with a lot more debauchery.”] Charlie retorted before thinking for a moment. [#900 “You strike me as more of a leg man, anyways, so this makes sense regardless.”] the Frenchman couldn’t help but laugh, although that led to a forsaken coughing fit. After taking a minute to catch his breath again Charlie cursed for being injured in the first place. [#900 “I already didn’t have a shirt anyway. I don’t mind nudity, though. The pants can come off if you want them to. I can’t promise I’d be the most energetic, though.”] Even in recovery, Charlemagne was as audacious as he would have been under normal circumstances.]
[center When Johannes went to his desk to write the necessary letters Charlemagne found himself dozing in and out of consciousness. He was trying to battle sleep, but it was winning by quite a large margin. But Charlie did not want to go to sleep without ensuring Johannes was beside him. He had not been paying a whole lot of attention to the man when he himself changed into appropriate sleepwear. Charlemagne the tiredly watched as Johannes made his way out of the room, letters in hand. He heard Johannes speaking with another person in the hall. The Frenchman was confused, but too tired to really care all that much until Johannes walked back in while carrying a small infant!]
[center This captured Charlie’s attention almost immediately, the man feeling a pang in his heart. He had always had a very soft spot for babies, especially after his brother had his daughter. Charlie’s niece was his everything in the realm of children. He then gazed at the other man as he carefully got into bed with the baby on his chest. [#900 [i “Am I okay with Maria being here?”]] Charlemagne echoed, almost incredulous. [#900 “[i She’s your baby.] Of course, I’m okay with her being here, Johannes!”] his voice no higher than a whisper. The last thing he wanted to do was disturb the sleeping child. Going from looking at Johannes to Maria, Charlie was already smitten. [#900 “I would have been significantly more offended if you refused to bring her in.”] being honest, Charlie felt that it was the responsible thing to do. [#900 “She is absolutely precious.”] he added before glancing back at the sleeping Maria. [#900 “Get all the sleep you need, petite fille.”] Charlie softly said, lovingly even.]
[center He then tried to move his body over as much as it would allow him to get closer to Johannes. As much as Charlie wanted to kiss the man goodnight, he settled for bestowing the kiss upon Johannes’ shoulder. [#900 “You too. You need to rest as well.”] Charlemagne mumbled before finally drifting off to sleep himself. He felt comfortable, warm, and safe. And he couldn’t thank Johannes more for that.]
[center Throughout the night Charlemagne slept like a rock, not moving a single inch. Waking up, though, was not as pleasant. Charlie’s body was [i sore]. It definitely did not hurt as bad as last night, but the man winced as he tried to stretch the drowsiness away. Compelled by habit, Charlemagne rubbed his eyes and carefully shimmied himself out of bed to avoid waking up Johannes and Maria. Charlie just knew that his bruises were going to be nasty for a while. But the man forced himself upright to at least compose himself enough to walk out of the room. He wanted to find the kitchen, but where was it? Charlie was still drowsy and bleary-eyed from his night’s sleep. So, lazily he wandered around the estate. He had passed by a few people, but most of them had been speaking Hungarian from the sounds of it. At least that is what it sounded like to Charlie. He had such little experience with the Austro-Hungarians that he had to focus extra hard to understand their German. But Charlie was hopeless with Hungarian. He did not know a single word!]
[center Eventually Charlemagne did begin to smell pungent spices as he walked along an open hallway, figuring he was finally nearing the kitchen. But when he walked in all he saw was the kitchen staff stopping to stare at him and shouting at him in Hungarian. They were wondering who he was, but Charlemagne had no idea on how to respond! The man Charlie assumed to be the head chef kept on shooting rapid fire Hungarian at him, and in response Charlemagne responded in what became equally annoyed French. Then one of the staff said something in German about French arrogance. That really ticked Charlie off! While the French and Hungarian were already explosive enough, the German getting thrown in brought it to a whole new level. Constant piss-taking out of one another and defensive protectiveness of their equally sized egos and prides.]
[center [#900 “There is no way that Hungarian cuisine can be better! You clearly don’t understand the complexities of flavor and how to manipulate them to your will!”] Charlie exclaimed, aghast that someone truly thought that there was cooking out there better than what his country had! [#900 “You might as well just stick your face into a fire with all of those peppers! You cannot even enjoy what you’re eating because you might as well just be acquainting your mouth with the pits of Hell.”] the man rolled his eyes heavily. It just made no sense! He didn’t even care if this man was clearly his senior. Pride and honor were at stake! And Charlemagne was not about to let someone just trample all over it…]
Johannes never sought a partner out for something as simple as sex. The few men he had sought out had all been with the intention of becoming something more than a one-night stand. Johannes never expected forever with these men, but he did hope for months and years with every single one of his bed partners. He had the same feeling for Charlemagne. He wanted a relationship that wasn’t built solely on the foundation of sex or lust which was why Johannes was so insistent on this courting and dodging Charlemagne’s advances. And Charlemagne almost made Johannes break down and put everything on the table. The way Charlemagne looked at Maria, not in disgust but adoration, melted Johannes heart. Never before did he think he would find a man so openly accepting of his children. Even men who were normal seemed to have a dislike for Children being seen and heard.
Not Charlemagne though. Defying all odds Charlemagne turned his attention to Maria and looked upon her with true kindness. While Charlemagne looked upon Maria, Johannes looked upon the other male with his own brand of awe and adoration. He actually wanted a forever with this man. Two dates in and knew that months or years wouldn’t be enough. No, he wanted a lifetime or two to be with Charlemagne. This handsome Frenchman who was kind, intelligent, and a pure sin had officially won Johannes over.
“I would have never sent her back. No one here would have gotten any sleep from her screaming plus I do love her despite her best attempts to gross me out,” He softly said as he pulled his gaze away from Charlemagne to look at the little bundle of joy sleeping away on his chest. She was cute when she wasn’t screaming her little head off or getting poop all over herself.
Feeling a kiss to his shoulder Johannes looked away from his little demon and at Charlemagne. He longed to roll over and press a kiss to Charlemagne’s lips but the slight weight on his chest made it impossible. If Johannes moved too much she would wake up and be grouchy, something Johannes didn’t want to deal with. So, instead Johannes settled with Charlemagne’s kiss to his shoulder, a faint smile finding it way on his lips. “Good night,” He softly replied as he settled in for the night.
Johannes slept like the dead. The odd warmth to his side did not bother him and Maria had been content to sleep through the night. It was only after Charlemagne had left the bed did Maria stir. When Maria was fully awake, and ready to start her day, she let out an ear piercing cry which woke Johannes from a dead sleep.
“Maria,” he groggily said as he opened his eyes to peer at the crying baby. It took a few seconds for him to figure out what she wanted, and the smell to creep up. Hungry and wet. Sadly, Johannes didn’t have any nappies for her in his room. The last having been used the previous night and were awaiting to be brought back up. Normally Johannes wouldn’t leave his bed in sleepwear but what Maria had released in her diapers was foul. Getting up from the bed he softly hushed his crying daughter as he slid a dressing gown and a pair of slippers before making his way downstairs.
The wet nurse was out of the children’s room the moment Johannes stepped foot in the hallway and was offering to take Maria right away, not even blinking at how rumpled Johannes looked.
“I can change her,” Johannes offered, hesitant to hand off his daughter just yet.
“I have it, Sir. There is some commotion in the kitchen that you should see to.” She simply said as she took the baby from Johannes arms and went back into the room.
Johannes sighed, but went to go check in on the kitchen, not putting two and two together and realizing that it would most likely be Charlemagne in the kitchen. To be exact Johannes had forgotten about Charlemagne staying the night especially since he had more pressing matter on his mind.
So groggily Johannes made his way to the kitchen only to hear a litany of curses in Hungarian, German, and French. He was still tired enough that it took him a moment to understand what was being said amongst the two parties or even figure out who was talking. It was only when he got closer did, he even remember that Charlemagne had stayed the night and of course the man found the kitchen. Johannes then came upon the horrible realization that Charlemagne was about to see him… like this. Johannes hadn’t yet shaved and his hair was standing up in some places. He looked like a mess compared to his normal put together self and for a short moment he considered turning tail and getting ready for Charlemagne. The only thing that kept him from not leaving was Tibor, his cook, loud booming voice calling Charlemagne a dick hat with no taste and has a whore mother who was sleeping with Satan. Which made Johannes really hope Charlemagne didn’t know Hungarian at all.
In fear that he did, and fear for Johannes’ household, he hurried up and burst into the kitchen to see a stand off.
Tibor was the first to see Johannes, arms crossed and a scowl marring his face. “Freiherr, please remove your man from my kitchen he knows nothing about cooking. He insulted paprika!”
Johannes just wanted to groan. It was too early for this. Of course Charlemagne would insult a central spice in Hungarian cooking and therefore insult a large group of people. “Charlemagne isn’t my man…yet and he does know a thing or two about cooking. He is the head chef for the king and queen,” Johannes replied back in Hungarian.
“That means nothing. The French have no appreciation for spices. They are bland people,” Tibor grumbled.
Johannes did everything in his power not to roll his eyes and instead turned to Charlemagne. “How are you feeling? You shouldn’t be out of bed yet. Matthias hasn’t even checked up on you.”
[center Charlemagne did not even hear the doors to the kitchen open because he was busy telling Tibor to [i ‘go fuck a chicken with your burnt shrimp dick’]. There came a point where Charlie was going off strictly in just French, even the comment about violating a poor chicken. The yelling kept on going back and forth, although it was essentially between just Tibor and Charlemagne. The rest of the kitchen staff had merely stared at the two men borderline threatening to skin each other alive. The collective gaze of the kitchen staff shifted, though, when Johannes suddenly arrived. They figured that he had been alerted to the argument in the kitchen by other estate staff members.]
[center The Frenchman had turned around, though, and spotted Johannes standing there in all of his fresh out of bed disheveled glory. Charlie had paused for a minute blinking, staring at Johannes. He then found himself looking back and forth between Johannes and Tibor. Charlemagne could not understand a lick of what they were saying to each other, though. The man heaved a sigh, making a hand gesture at Tibor to go up one. But Charlie’s exasperated demeanor had then directed itself towards Johannes. This morning was just not shaping up well at all! [#900 “You’re telling [i me] that I shouldn’t be out of bed yet? Who am I to you? Your wife???”] Charlemagne crossed his arms. He was just mad as hell at Tibor. [#900 “I woke up feeling hungry and I figured I could make some breakfast so you wouldn’t be bothered. Then I walk in here and this [i asshole],”] Charlie began as he pointed at Tibor, [#900 “Told me to piss off out of his kitchen! So naturally I told him to go shove his head in a stone oven and now here we are. A total fucking disaster!”]]
[center Charlie inhaled deeply before he had heard another snide quip from Tibor, which then restarted the whole cycle of a shitshow that this kitchen had turned into. Charlemagne was just so pissed off by Tibor’s arrogance, that he had ignored the injuries his back sustained the night before at the café. In the moment he had completely forgotten about them and only cared about defending his own personal honor since Tibor wanted to be an instigative prick. God did Charlie already hate the other man with a fiery passion! And this only fueled the argument between the two. And as they continued with their screaming match of hideous insults, Matthias slipped into the kitchen, having heard the commotion from all the way down the hall. The doctor was horribly confused at the sight and at how Charlemagne was not doubled over in pain like he had been the evening prior.]
[center Matthias looked at Johannes for answers, having also just rolled out of bed at the request of one of the maids who came to him with her concerns about the commotion in the kitchen. But clearly nothing was being done to resolve the problem. With a furrowed brow of pure aggravation Matthias put himself in front of Charlie so he could not try to get in Tibor’s face anymore than he already had. Unfortunately for Charlemagne, he had the audacity to try to sidestep around Matthias. And practically being a mountain in height, Matthias easily blocked Charlie’s motion and even pushed him back a little since he was clearly not calming down anytime soon. It was then that Charlemagne scooped up a freshly sharpened kitchen knife and pointed it at Matthias to try and get him to move the hell out of the way.]
[center Anyone who knew Matthias knew that he was usually a calm, reserved man who was not an advocate for trouble. But it was also well known that Matthias had a very short fuse for nonsense. Without a second thought, Matthias swiped the knife from Charlemagne’s possession and swiftly planted the blade into the wooden cutting board on the counter beside them. The taller man’s expression was deadly serious which seemed to throw off Charlie a bit. Matthias glared at the Frenchman pretty harshly before saying, [b “[i You] will shut your mouth.,”] before turning to point at Tibor, [b “And [i you] will cut out your bullshit.”] Matthias then looked back to Charlie before locking eyes with Johannes. [b “And [i you] will grow a backbone and figure out how to direct your own staff.”]]
[center Charlie then moved like he was about to say something before Matthias closed his eyes for just a moment, praying to God to give him the patience, before moving to toss Charlemagne over his shoulder. This was humiliating in Charlie’s mind. But also excruciating as it jostled his back more than anything. But if this was how Charlemagne decided to act, then this was the consequence he would receive. [b [i “Out of our way, Johannes.”]] Matthias demanded plainly as he carried Charlie out of the kitchen. Saying that Matthias was pissed off was clearly an understatement.]
[center But Matthias carried Charlemagne is dead silence back to Johannes room before setting the smaller man back on his feet. But Charlie did not dare to move at that point as Matthias went to rifle around in the room’s closet. Having pulled out one of Johannes’ sleeping gowns the doctor ordered Charlie to strip down and dress properly for bed. Initially Charlemagne protested because he did not want to be naked in front of Matthias. But did the doctor care about that? [i Absolutely not]. While he was angry at the childishness of the whole situation, Matthias still cared about Charlie as a patient. He was still quite injured and had no business being out of bed like that. After short insistence Charlie, red in the face form embarrassment, stripped down and changed into the sleeping gown he was given. Shortly thereafter Matthias made sure that Charlemagne was promptly put back into bed regardless if the other man wanted to be there or not.]
[center After ensuring that everything was right again, Matthias left the room to assign butlers outside of the door. He had given them the instructions to make sure that Charlie did not leave that room under any circumstances. Matthias then went about his daily list of duties. There was just way too much to do that day for something like the kitchen squabble to happen. The man really did not have patience for that at all. But it was resolved for the time being. And if anyone had a problem with him then they can personally take it up with Matthias. Although the doctor really could not be bothered at that point to care about their idiotic qualms.]
[center In the bedroom Charlemagne indignantly lied again in Johannes' bed. None of this was any fun and now his body was becoming sore once again as the energy from the argument wore away. Developing a headache, Charlie draped an arm over his face. He was embarrassed and humiliated. To have his pride kicked down in such a way in front of Johannes? It felt horrible. He must have looked like the most ridiculous fool. On some level, Charlie wished he could just sink into the bed and temporarily disappear. He did not want to be seen like this. But what choice did he have?...]
Johannes was not expecting Charlemagne to snap at him. What Johannes had said was true. The man had been injured and Matthias, the doctor in charge of Charlemagne’s care, hadn’t even seen to the other man. Johannes, however, did not take offense from Charlemagne’s words. He could understand the frustrations of being injured and out of one’s element. So, instead of returning the favor and snapping at Charlemagne, Johannes let out a soft, “You are injured. That is why I am concerned about you being out of bed.”
Charlemagne continued to explain that he was looking for food and upon finding kitchen was promptly being verbally abused. Johannes wished he could say that his staff would do no such thing but it was right up Tibor’s alley, The larger Hungarian man didn’t like his domain invaded, especially by strangers, and as an ex-pirate the man’s manners were more or less nonexistent. In all honesty Charlemagne was just lucky that Tibor didn’t throw a knife at him. Tibor had done that once in anger when a guest had taken it upon themselves to complain about the quality of his cooking.
Before Johannes could say anything, in an attempt to salvage the situation, Tibor decided to open his big fat dumb mouth. Johannes didn’t even catch what the man said but the tone was enough to realize it wasn’t anything good. Charlemagne seemed to come to the same conclusion because soon the smaller male was bac at it again. Yelling filled the kitchen and rattled in Johannes brain. By the end of this shitshow Johannes was going to have an impressive headache.
Johannes decided to take a moment for himself, before he separated Charlemagne and Tibor, yet it became completely unnecessary with Matthias’ appearance. For a whole second Johannes had hope that this incident would end with no issues and Matthias wouldn’t be furious. That feeling was killed the moment Johannes saw the look on the doctor’s face. There were three people in Johannes household the people should not piss off. Matthias and Hans were the two that’s anger hurt the most while Tibor was just more likely to get physical. Between Matthias and Hans, Matthias’ anger hurt the most to Johannes and he knew that he was going to be at the receiving end of it.
They didn’t even need to wait a whole minute for everything to go to shit. One moment Charlemagne is unarmed, the next Matthias is taking the knife and putting it in the cutting board. Matthias was officially done with the shenanigans. All three of them were called out, but Johannes’ verbal lashing hurt the most. He flinched at Matthias telling him to learn how to deal with his staff and to grow a backbone. Johannes also couldn’t help but flush with embarrassment from such a talking down to in front of a man that he had been trying to court. His embarrassment only continued when Charlemagne was thrown over Matthias’ shoulders and Johannes was, not so kindly, to move. Of course Johannes stepped out of the way and let Matthias take Charlemagne bac to the room.
Once the two males were gone the kitchen was left in an awkward silence for a few minutes. Only once Johannes was able to shove his embarrassment into the mental closet where he kept most of his “unsavory” emotions did he break the silence. “We will talk later about how you treat guests, Tibor. Prepare breakfast for Charlemagne and myself as well as coffee an tea,” He calmly said as he spun on his heel.
Instead of going to Charlemagne right away Johannes went and checked on his children. Maria was full, clean and happy while Johannes Jr was a little bit grumpy. Sadly, Johannes couldn’t hide out with them in their room because they were on their way out to have breakfast with one of Johannes Jr’s friend’s family before playing. Johannes was at least able to kill some time until he returned to the kitchen where Tibor was putting the last of the food on the tray. Breakfast consisted of bread, cold ham slices, boiled eggs, grapes, and some pastries. It wasn’t anything fancy and didn’t require a whole lot of skill to create but Johannes had never been big about pulling out the stops for breakfast.
Johannes took the tray with a small thanks grunted out before going up the stairs and to his room. When he arrived Matthias was gone, leaving only the awkward air between Johannes and Charlemagne. Both of their prides had taken a beating and Johannes was going to pretend it never happened. “I brought breakfast. It isn’t anything amazing though that is mostly my fault. I’m not very invested in breakfast so Tibor just put down what I normally eat. I can have him make you something else if you want me to,” Johannes said as he brought the tray to the bed and laid it down next to Charlemagne while taking a seat on the edge of the bed.
From his position he could pick at the food while easily talk to Charlemange. Food, however, was not the first thing on Johannes mind. Coffee, sweet, bitter, and delicious coffee was the first thing on Johannes mind which led him to pick up one of he glasses and carefully take a sip out of it. “I take it Matthias has confined you to bed,” Johannes began, knowing that they needed to talk about what happened but as Matthias Said, Johannes didn’t have a backbone so this conversation was going to be like pulling teeth.
[center Charlie felt gross and knew that he probably looked like a pitiful piece of trash in that moment. He swept his hair over to the side as he relaxed into the bed and pillows. Although it felt like his back wanted to pop anywhere and everywhere Charlie had to admit that the bed was very comfortable. It was likely his only saving grace, honestly. Well, that and Johannes’ nightgown that Matthias had instructed him to wear. The material was quite smooth. Silk, perhaps? It was a funny thought, such a steely looking man indulging in something so extravagant. But why wouldn’t Johannes do that? He was literally a part of the nobility. The man could probably do just about whatever he wanted. At least that is how Charlemagne perceived the upper class from any nation. Because it did not appear that the Austro-Hungarians were no different than French high society in the sense that they enjoyed their privileges whenever possible. [#900 [i ‘Restrained, my ass.’]] Charlie rolled his eyes. Nobility really did not differ between empires and kingdoms.]
[center The Frenchman then peered from under the billowy sleeve of the nightgown when he heard the door open again. At first, he thought it was Matthias. Charlemagne knew that the doctor meant well and was only doing his job, but Charlie really did not want to see him more than he had to in that moment. But to Charlemagne’s surprise it was Johannes! The man’s expression was soft but appeared to be bordering on exasperation and embarrassment. Carefully, Charlie propped himself up into a sitting position to inspect the platter that Johannes brought along with him. [#900 “The last thing I really care about right now is food presentation, Johannes.”] the man admitted. Sometimes simplicity won over decadence. However, Charlemagne was not too sure of his own person appetite. But he did feel that it would be best that he tries to eat something even if it were sparsely so.]
[center Otherwise Charlemagne was quiet, occasionally picking at most the grapes and eggs. His dark gaze then looked up at Johannes when he mentioned Matthias. [#900 “Apparently I am not to leave this room, hence the guards outside the door.”] Charlie shook his head. God, it was thoroughly embarrassing to be relegated to bedrest like this! [#900 “There is definitely no way I could fight my way out of that one.”] the Frenchman managed a small chuckle. As confrontational as he could be, Charlemagne could at least gauge when he was at a less than desirable disadvantage. [#900 “Although that would certainly be a duel for the books, huh?”] the man sighed before taking a pastry and tearing it into two pieces, offering Johannes a half. [#900 “I’m sorry about making a commotion in your house.”] Charlie said, quiet. He did feel bad for Johannes. Although he would never be remorseful about telling Tibor to fuck off. [#900 “Although I’ve had my scuffles with Spanish pirates all over the Iberian Peninsula. Tibor is of no concern to me. The English too. If the English Navy does not faze me, neither will he.”] the man took a moment to scoff. While Charlie himself had never participated in piracy, he did protect his family’s wine trade with his life. Business was important, and their winery was everything to the Marquis family.]
[center [#900 “And I didn’t mean to snap at you like that in the kitchen… But make no mistake I am no wife.”] Charlie asserted, trying to straighten out his posture. [#900 “Unless you somehow decided to use me like one.”] he added before winking at Johannes. Eating his half of the pastry Charlie contemplated what it was that they could do in the meantime without Matthias losing his mind. [#900 “He did mention no nefarious activities, which is a mood killer. He said he’d ban you to another room, like you’re a threat.”] Charlemagne mentioned facetiously. With how conservatively Johannes acted, Charlie believed that it would have been him that was the ‘threat’ since the Austrian had continuously denied him. [#900 “But I don’t think that completely rules out kissing and caresses? There is no way he’s [i that] unreasonable.”] the Frenchman smirked. [#900 “Because I yearn for nothing but your touch, Johannes. Why must you make me wait?”] he was honestly just messing with Johannes, but Charlie genuinely was an affectionate person. He enjoyed touching other people, and feeling their touch upon himself.]
[center [#900 “So what do you suggest we do since I’m apparently on lockdown like a child?...”]]
Johannes let Charlemagne’s comment about food presentation go in favor of sipping at the hot tea. He may hate the Ottoman Empire, but he was grateful that their failures brought coffee to Vienna. The few sips he had managed so far was warming Johannes belly an easing Johannes into a happiness that could only be achieved by fulfilling his coffee addiction.
As Charlemagne began to explain his predicament Johannes couldn’t help but agree with the man. There was no way out of bed rest especially with Matthias as the doctor. As Johannes placed his mug back down on the tray so he can take the offered pastry, he said, “While I am sure you are a splendid dueler between your back and Mathias own skills I don’t think it would last long. Sadly, I don’t even think the duel would make it in any books though when your back is healed I wouldn’t mind watching that much fairer duel.” Johannes took the pastry from Charlemagne and took a bite.
“You do not need to apologize Charlemagne. I was concerned about your injuries and less over the commotion. Tibor lives for chaos and commotion; I think it is the pirate in him.” Johannes grabbed a piece of meat and was enjoying his food until Charlemagne had to suggest some rather sinful things that Johannes wasn’t opposed to. He was just not expecting such a comment from Charlemagne, causing him to choke on his food. Johannes looked away as he coughed, a blush crossing his face. Charlemagne was going to be the death of him.
When Johannes finally could manage to speak was when Charlemagne mentioned Matthias’ threat, a small smile found its way on his lips. That was a punishment that his friend would actually carry out. Matthias was a sweet, almost carefree, guy but he was not to be messed with. His words were law and Johannes had learned that the hard way. Johannes also knew that Matthias didn’t think Johannes to be the threat. Johannes had admitted to the other man many months ago, while drunk, that he always had a problem making the first moves. Johannes could court someone for days but the moment it got physical, while Johannes wasn’t opposed to the actions, he wasn’t the one to make the first move. This hesitance could be from countless things like Johannes Catholic upbringing, to the fact that Johannes didn’t have the most affectionate household. So, Matthias knew who the real threat was. “Charlemagne… he knows you are the real threat here. Like you said, I am not the threat.”
Johannes finished up the food he had in hand before returning to his coffee. Charlemagne had to ask the dreaded question on why Johannes was making this handsome man wait. Johannes could go into the real reasons, but Johannes didn’t want to go down that dark a depressing road with such a new relationship. “Because I am Catholic and us Catholics like to suffer by denying ourselves.” His response wasn’t too far off the mark from the truth.
“I need to write to Freiherr Von Wächter to inform him that I won’t be able to come into the embassy today. I doubt he will have much to say about my absence so I should be free all day. What entertainment I can offer you is chess, or my horrible poker skills, a wide variety of books, and if you are very good and don’t get me in trouble with Matthias, I may even offer some cuddling.” Johannes was pretty sure at some point of the day the kids would be invading the room. Maria tended to get fussy by noon and when Johannes was home, he tried to care for her. With Maria also came Johannes’ son who would tend to just play on the floor, content to just be near his family. With the kids having a busy morning they probably wouldn’t see them until afternoon.
Johannes stood up and made his way to the desk he had utilized the previous night. Unlike the Queen’s letter, the letter that his father-in-law received had been quick, concise, and completely in German. All it said was that Johannes was hosting an injured friend and will be back to work when his friend felt better. Very little thought went into this letter, so it took him a minute to write it. As he waited for the ink to dry, he turned his attention back to Charlemagne, openly appreciating the man. The Frenchman looked so handsome. Johannes didn’t understand how he for lucky enough to be in the presence of this man. Johannes also was making a note to get Charlemagne a silk nightshirt because he just looked gorgeous in it.
[center Charlemagne watched Johannes carefully as the other seemingly tried to bribe him with affections in exchange for good behavior. [#900 “I am just thinking about loud here, but I believe that you should offer cuddling, period.”] the Frenchman shrugged. [#900 “I don’t know about you, Johannes. But I just like touching others and being touched in return.”] Charlie added before turning his attention back to the food as Johannes went to write the letter he needed to at his desk. Out of his peripheral vision, Charlemagne saw when Johannes moved away from his desk. However, Charlie also noticed how he stood in one spot for a bit longer than expected. Looking up from the remainder of the breakfast platter he found himself arching a brow at the Austrian man he caught staring. Charlemagne did not say a word, though. Instead, he just shot a wink and an accompanying kiss Johannes’ way. If the man was not going to sleep with him any time soon, then Charlie was going to have to express his affections in other ways in the meantime.]
[center After a few days of being meticulously looked after at Johannes’ home by Matthias, Charlie had been allowed to go back to work at the French palace. Realistically, Charlie’s bruises were going to take weeks to fully dissipate, but the doctor made sure that the Frenchman could walk around and otherwise perform his duties with minimal impairment. The King and Queen were not all that happy about Charlie’s situation, but the combination of Maximilian, Matthias, and Johannes’ letters quelled their frustrations enough to not outright fire him after his first day of absence. The chef was immensely grateful for this, honestly, and had made a point to make sure the meals were nothing short of absolute perfection as his way to apologize to the royal family.]
[center And while Charlemagne was thrilled to be able to get back to work, he was less than pleased about having to leave Johannes’ home when Matthias finally gave him an ‘all clear’. He had enjoyed bundling up in bed with Johannes, occasionally getting invaded by the Austrian’s children. This had not fazed Charlie in the slightest. He adored children and felt like Johannes’ kids made his predicament of being injured a little less shitty. Charlemagne also made a point of consistently writing the Austrian man sweet love letters to linger on. With every letter Charlie signed off on it with as much love as he could muster before packing it in a sleek envelope with a delicate spritz of his favorite parfum. Charlie wanted to love the other man. But he also wanted to tease Johannes. To seduce. He wanted Johannes to have to deal with an overwhelming sense of yearning that made him [i squirm]. If Johannes was going to hold back like he did, then Charlemagne was going to make it as painful as possible if he had any say about it.]
[center At Johannes’ home, though, Matthias requested to sit down with the other man a day or so after Charlie’s departure. It had been later into the night because Matt did not want to worry too much about the children interrupting these discussions, although Matthias was ready for that just in case. For said meetings with Johannes, Matt made sure to bring over a fine cask of whiskey to share. Having stoked a fire in one of the sitting rooms Matthias carefully poured two glasses of the whiskey. He set Johannes’ glass upon the table before taking a seat on the couch next to it. Matthias was very curious, thus he stared at Johannes for a solid minute while sipping his whiskey. He was mostly wanting to know about what was going on with the other man and Charlemagne.]
[center [#12561c “I can only draw conclusions based on inferences, but I would like to know the true facts.”] the male mused, casually swirling his glass. [#12561c “It is very clear there is something with you and this Charlemagne character. But, knowing you and hearing Charlemagne bitch, it’s not just for sex.”] Matthias hummed with intrigue. It was funny just how much reservation Johannes had with his partners, but Matt knew he couldn’t say much. Usually he was out and sleeping around because he could. But after finding his Vincent in Switzerland, Matthias had to control himself so much more than he was used to. [#12561c “So, what is going on? You have not said too much, which is interesting to me. Are you having second thoughts? Charlemagne is quite… needing. Does this bother you?”] He didn’t even mean it in a rude way either. Matthias figured that was the most likely reason, although it wasn’t the only one. And he knew that his assumptions could be entirely wrong too. [#12561c “I’m just curious, that’s all.”]]
[center It felt like that it was not very long after Charlemagne’s return to work that the palace was hosting yet another soiree. Charlie had last track of how many parties there were a very long time ago. He thought that it was far too much, but whatever the royal family wanted, they got it. However, Charlemagne was [i not] ready for the virtually back breaking work that went into catering for such a large-scale event. Instead, he relegated his other kitchen staff to carry out his pre-planned directions. In all honesty, Charlie had just wanted to attend the party for once instead of being one of the people who was behind the scenes for a majority of the event. It wasn’t often that he got the opportunity to do so, but Charlie was quite excited. The only downside of the arrangement was trying to decide if he wanted to attend as himself or as [i Charlotte].]
[center People close to Charlemagne knew that he had a lovely female alter ego name Charlotte. He was not able to dress as Charlotte as often as he would have liked, but the evening’s soiree was better than never. It took extra time and effort, though, to dress and primp himself up accordingly. But that was what Charlie enjoyed about being Charlotte. The process was soothing in a way, minus the borderline torturous waist cinching of lacing corsets. But Charlie took great pleasure in just being able to be beautiful and express the elegance of femininity that he found so alluring about women. There was something bewitching and powerful about the female form and Charlemagne was always tickled pink to be able to have that for himself as Charlotte despite it only being temporary. Everything was a delicate affair to prep and put on, from clothing to makeup. For himself, Charlie greatly preferred softer, natural makeup as Charlotte purely to avoid looking garish and unappealing. Considering this, Charlie made sure he wore an appropriate dress of the occasion and accessorized accordingly.]
[center And at the party Charlotte felt like she was having quite a nice time, all things considered. Of course, a lot of the people were quite snobbish, but she appreciated being able to dance and mingle with people so care-free. To those at the party she was Lady Charlotte of Bordeaux. It was quite funny to have people try to guess who her family was, but since Charlotte was but and alter ego, she was purposely vague although she had plenty of stories to entertain with. At one-point Charlotte found herself standing and chatting with a small group of women, all of them sharing their gossips whilst fanning themselves. The one benefit of having worked plenty of parties before is that Charlie could use all of the gossip he acquired to better blend in with the other women when dressed as Charlotte.]
[center But Charlotte spotted Johannes, who was not all that far away. For a minute, Charlotte contemplated if she should approach Johannes under such circumstances. Ultimately, she didn’t see anything wrong with some socialization, thus excused herself from her gossiping posse to grab wine for herself and Johannes. Trying to hide all hints of a smirk, Charlotte approached Johannes to offer him the wine before delivering a kind curtsey. [#900 “I am sorry to be bothering you so suddenly. But I couldn’t help but notice you and thought that I just had to introduce myself. I’m Lady Charlotte.”] Her smile was quite bright, but that was entirely because Charlie was entirely too giddy to be sneaky like this. Would Johannes recognize him? How would he react? These were all questions in the back of Charlotte’s head, but she was not all that concerned since her attire was quite convincing so far. [#900 “And who might you be?...”]]
Johannes hated to admit it but when Charlemagne caught him staring and winked at him, Johannes blushed. Charlemagne’s words left much for him to think about and he decided to try and remedy his own words by crawling back into bed with the gorgeous man. [center ~] Charlemagne was missed. The few days that Charlemagne was bedridden were some of the best days Johannes had the pleasure of experiencing in recent years. After the first day Johannes had put in more effort to be tactile with Charlemagne by adding more cuddling and Johannes had even started pressing soft kisses to Charlemagne’s cheek or forehead every now and then. These steps weren’t big steps in most people’s books, but they were large strides for Johannes.
There was a part of Johannes that was embarrassed at the fact he was acting like a fool and shying away from touch. All of Johannes’ relationships were lacking when it came to affection that wasn’t sex. With his wife they only touched for appearance sake, those touches were chaste, and the two times they did sleep with each other Johannes had been dunk and was a disappointing lover. Leopold Leitgeb, the last man he was with prior to his marriage, was more of a ‘hurry up and get out of bed’ type of lover and the man before him was very much the same. Even the incident with Matthias was spurred on by alcohol or else nothing would have happened. With Johannes prior relationships and his upbringing, small gestures of affection were a challenge for him. Johannes knew that how he showed his affection was gift giving and he also knew he would have to try to show Charlemagne that he is trying to be more tactile.
After those bedridden days Johannes REALLY liked Charlemagne and would love to keep his interest. Which Johannes believed he did if the letters he had been receiving were any indication. Finely written letters, smelling like Charlemagne, were making their way to Johannes home on a regular basis and Johannes would be lying if he said he wasn’t looking forward to them every day. Each letter was read, and read again, until the words were burned into Johannes mind before being carefully (and lovingly) stored away. Johannes replied to those letters as quickly as he could, and while there wasn’t as many sweet and honey words on the page Johannes managed to at least include some of his yearning for Charlemagne. Writing love letters happened to not be Johannes forte.
Johannes had actually finished his first, somewhat awkward letter, when Matthias asked to speak to him. A part of Johannes felt that the request was weird because Matthias, his only friend, was free to speak to him at any time, but Johannes went with it and made sure his schedule was clear from any gatherings. Thankfully, it was one of those rare nights where Johannes was not expected to socialize with others.
After finishing the household finances and setting out the money to pay the staff, which Hans would do in the morning, Johannes made his way down into the sitting room as Matthias stoked the fires. Johannes took a seat in one of his favorite chairs, accepting the whiskey with a small thank you. As the silence continued Johannes arched a dark eyebrow at Matthias which seemed to be enough to get the man to speak. And the topic was Charlemagne. Johannes wished he could say he was surprised that Matthias was asking about the Frenchman, but he wasn’t. It was something Johannes had expected since Charlemagne was injured.
Taking a sip of his whiskey Johannes took a moment to form his words. Johannes was rather eloquent when it came to his work or the family business, it was when he spoke of love or emotions that his words seemed to fail the most.
“You would be correct in saying that there is something between Charlemagne and I that isn’t just sex. Our relationship is still in its infancy and we haven’t discussed it, but I do find myself caring for him,” Johannes admitted as he took a moment to just stare at the whiskey in his hand. Charlemagne was needing as Matthias had called it. “I am not having second thoughts about pursuing Charlemagne. I am just simply…” Johannes paused a moment trying to think of how to say what he was feeling. “stuck? All my previous relationships haven’t been like this. I think the most affection Leopold showed to me was when he would rest his hand at the small of my back. Now that I am thinking back on it, I think all other contact and affection was reserved for our intimate moments.” Johannes shook his head at that thought and took another sip of whiskey. If it had been anyone else asking these questions Johannes would have said nothing, but this was Matthias, his unofficial therapist and best friend who wanted to know about his love life so he would keep trekking forward. “I do not think the affection bothers me. When Charlemagne would curl up against me, I was happy with his presence. I just never think to initiate contact and I do not want sex to be the foundation of our relationship. I do, however, worry that I won’t make Charlemagne happy. As you said Charlemagne is needing and I fear I won’t be able to give him what he wants. Which is why I haven’t mentioned my fledgling relationship.”
Johannes wanted a long-term relationship where the relationship wasn’t built on sex. He wanted to find a partner to live out the rest of his days with and have people unwittingly acknowledge his relationship by calling him and his partner greatest of friends and other terms that really meant they were gay. He wanted someone to be there while the kids grew up and be another parent to them because his partner wanted to. Johannes didn’t want countless flings where any hard surface was an acceptable place to fuck and the person to walk out right after. He also didn’t want a relationship where his partner pretended his kids didn’t exist. Now Johannes did know what he wanted was hard to find, but he could see Charlemagne being the one. Charlemagne, despite their brand-new relationship, treated the kids with a kindness that is rare, and Johannes really did like the man. Johannes would forsake his own home if that meant staying with Charlemagne.
Johannes didn’t want to go to this party. Freiherr Von Wächter had demanded Johannes presence because his father-in-law did not want to go and was delegating this duty to Johannes. The only good thing about the party was that Freiherr Sierakowski had to return to Budapest and Anne had left with him. This meant Johannes wouldn’t have to entertain the lady. The bad parts, however, were numerous. In the last letter Johannes had received from Charlemagne he was informed that he wouldn’t be seeing the other man. That information alone had ruined Johannes day since it had been so long since he had seen Charlemagne. The letters, while loved, had cause Johannes to miss Charlemagne so fiercely that Johannes was purposely volunteering to go in the palace to deliver letters for the queen or to Comte de Mercy-Argenteau when he was with the queen. So far all of his attempts were in vain and he hadn’t seen Charlemagne since the injury.
With a glass of wine in Johannes’ hands he made his rounds around the room. Johannes was not a social creature. He preferred being at home, book in hand, and his kids snuggled up to him. Parties like these were a drain on Johannes but his upbringing had taught him how to go through these event as if they weren’t torture. The tricks he learned was to float about the groups, finding people he could tolerate, until the party ended.
He was with a group of French noblemen, whose names escaped Johannes mind, when he saw her. While Johannes was not attracted to women, he wasn’t blind and was willing to admit that this woman was beautiful. There was something about her that Johannes couldn’t fully place, and it was in the face. She looked painfully familiar, but Johannes just couldn’t place where he had seen her before.
It seemed that his staring was noticed (or so he thought it was) because the woman was approaching him with two glasses of wine in her hands. He carefully sat his empty glass down upon the table before she came over and offered the glass. “Thank you, My Lady,” he said as he accepted the glass. With her this close he could really spend some time examining her face. What make up she wore was well done and not smeared on like some of the other ladies in the room. She somewhat looked like Charlemagne, there was something in her features that reminded Johannes of the man he was trying to court. Maybe she was a family member of Charlemagne’s such as a sister or cousin? Or maybe it was just Johannes’ longing to see Charlemagne that made him think that Charlotte and Charlemagne shared some features. Either way he decided that he wouldn’t try to skirt away from Charlotte’s attention like he tended to do.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Charlotte,” He said with a small bow, “I’m Johannes von Hügel.” At random meetings like these Johannes tended to drop his family’s title. Saying he was a Baron created an assumption that wasn’t fully correct. Was his family Barons? Yes. Was Johannes considered one? Yes, because the title was applied to all his Father’s children. Would he receive any of the land that made them Barons? No. His son was also not styled as Johannes Freiherr von Hügel II, because the title did not trickle down to him. Explaining that he wasn’t a Baron in the traditional sense was tiresome, so Johannes tended to not mention it. That didn’t stop his companions from saying something.
A few of the men had been leering at Charlotte, before one of them spoke up. “Excuse me Baron,” One of the men said as he inserted himself between Johannes and Charlotte, “I am Claude Henri, comte de Pontécoulant.”
Johannes was pretty certain that the Comte was married, and his wife was pregnant which would make Johannes nose scrunch up in disgust if it wasn’t for the fact they were in public. So instead Johannes did the one thing he could do. With the music having stopped moments ago and the orchestra about to start another piece Johannes manage to give his wine to Claude while not taking his eyes off of Charlotte. “May I have this dance, Lady Charlotte?”
Meanwhile Claude looked shocked at the audacity of Johannes while Johannes was okay with that.
[center Charlotte could easily tell that Johannes was examining her. It was clear to her that this man was trying to figure out who she was and honestly? Charlotte desperately wanted to laugh and confess who she truly was. But there was no way she was going to do that right now so publicly. Especially in front of Claude Henri and his companions. Despite their presence, Charlotte chose to not pay them much attention at all given that she was there specifically to talk to Johannes. And so formal Johannes was! He truly was a man of formal procedure it seemed like no matter the circumstances. This was endearing in its own way, but Charlotte still found it quirky. [i Austrians.]]
[center [#900 “You are more than welcome, monsieur von Hügel. Hospitality tends to be my specialty.”] she smirked but remained polite enough. Good God above, Johannes really had to be blind! Charlotte did not think that Johannes knew who she actually was. And if he did, then he was doing a spectacular job at hiding it. [#900 “I say, though. The pleasure is all mine.”] she smiled before taking a delicate sip of her wine. But that was also when Claude had decided to try and interject with his own introduction. This did not stop Charlotte from enjoying her wine in that moment though. Purposely taking her sweet time to savor the sip, Charlotte glanced at Claude. Looking him over as if he were in an inspection. [#900 “Oh, I know who you are, Claude. You and your friends.”] she noted calmly. Charlotte knew all too well just how slimy the Comte and his friends were. And to be frank, she wanted nothing to do with them beyond brief formalities. Charlotte was all too aware of how they were all looking at her. And usually this would not bother her. But they were all married with wives! And if there was anyone Charlotte refused to be involved with it was married men and women. The idea of such infidelity made her skin crawl.]
[center Thankfully, though, Johannes offered her a dance! Taking a final sip from her glass Charlotte nodded. [#900 “I would love nothing more than to have this dance with you, Baron. I adore dancing!”] And given that Claude had a free hand, Charlotte also gave him her glass. [#900 “Do give your wife my sincerest regards. I hear that pregnancy can be quite taxing on the mother-to-be.”] she nodded. Charlotte knew of the Comte’s wife, Anaïs, and happened to be decent friends with her. However, as Anaïs’s pregnancy progressed she had been coming out less often due to sickness and pains she experienced. Charlotte knew that Claude regularly had affairs on the side, and she would take every opportunity she had to remind that man of the actual wife he had. It saddened Charlotte to see Anaïs being taken advantage of in such a way. But there was not much she could do other than support her as much as possible.]
[center But Charlotte swiftly left with Johannes, though, just as the music began playing throughout the hall. While preferring ballet than ballroom, Charlotte still loved dancing all the same. But she felt torn. She wanted to tell Johannes who she was because she teased him then he would likely feel put off instead of excited. However, Charlotte wanted to ruffle his feathers just a bit. So, she didn’t know what exactly she wanted to do. Besides. How would Johannes even react? While Charlotte was not too worried about that part, there was always the possibility that Johannes would be disgusted and cut off contact. But she had a feeling that Johannes was not the type of man to do that to a person, though. [#900 “Claude certainly is a piece of work, isn’t he? I would act surprised by his leering, but everybody knows he likes to bed just about anyone that walks. He is revolting, honestly.”] Charlotte rolled her eyes, thinking back to Claude. He truly was a sly bastard. If there was anybody in the French court that was a manipulative and conniving asshole, it was him.]
[center [#900 “Aside from that, monsieur…,”] Charlotte began, moving on from talking about Claude, [#900 “Do you think that you’re missing something, though? Maybe you haven’t noticed something you should?”] she asked, curious as to just how oblivious the Austrian man was. [#900 “Or would the incident of Matthias knowing that I am more of a threat than you help jog your memory? I know sometimes I have some trouble remembering things.”] she casually mentioned. But she lowered her voice some so just her and Johannes could hear. [#900 “Where have you been, though? I haven’t seen you in over a month, Johannes!”] Charlotte stated with a mix of sadness and aggravation. [#900 “Although, I have to admit, your ability to write letters to me have improved. I love them very much. Schatzi is quite a precious nickname for being a German one.”] Charlotte admitted. While she found that nickname a little odd, she absolutely loved it because it was from Johannes for her and nobody else.]
[center [#900 “I hope you don’t mind, though? I’ve missed you a lot…”]]
If this wasn’t a formal gathering Johannes would have snickered at the look on the Comte’s face as he got called out by Charlotte. Due to the social nature of this gather Johannes just had to accept the fury that marred the Comte’s face. That was the one thing Johannes liked about France; the French people were quick to wear their emotions. This made instances, like this, a whole lot more enjoyable for Johannes. It wasn’t like Lady Charlotte said anything untrue. The Comte did have a pregnant wife at home and he was lecherous in how he was acting. Even in an unwanted marriage Johannes had never dreamed of insulting his wife like the Comte was doing now. The only reason why Johannes was suffering the Comte’s presence was because the man had inserted himself into the group Johannes was talking to, just like he was trying to do know.
Charlotte, however, also seemed to be done with the Comte’s act and handed over her own wine glass before taking Johannes’ offered hand. Johannes led them to the dance floor, something nagging in the back of his head, but he just couldn’t place it. [i ‘Her hands feel familiar,’] Johannes thought to himself as they made it to the ballroom floor. His thoughts and the nagging feeling Johannes had kept buzzing in his mind and Johannes kept pushing it off as longing. He really did miss Charlemagne. Maybe, after this dance he could slip into the palace and search for the elusive man.
Johannes was already beginning to devise a plan on how to slip away from the party when Charlotte mentioned Claude. “As one of the King’s favorites he likes to believe he can get away with anything,” Johannes replied. Claude was the favorite of the King for now. The King went through favorite nobles like undergarments. Within a week Claude will most likely lose favor, scramble to regain it by pretending to be a dotting husband and gain it again in a never-ending cycle all while only changing a few despicable habits. His poor wife really did deserve better than some cheating asshole.
Thankfully, they did not stay on the topic of Claude because if they did Johannes knew he would end out airing his grievances in public to a near stranger. What he didn’t expect was what came out of Charlotte’s mouth next. If it wasn’t for pure muscle memory Johannes would have stopped in shock. What Johannes couldn’t suppress was the look of surprise that crossed his face as he looked over Charlotte. Johannes somewhat felt dumb now for not realizing that this was Charlemagne, cleverly dressed to appear as a woman. Even though Charlotte’s makeup was impeccable the more Johannes stared the more he realized small details that should have tipped him off that it was the man he had come to cherish and not some trick of his brain that was longing for Charlemagne.
“I-I’m sorry Schatzi,” He said as he tightened his grip on Charlotte. Johannes still didn’t know how he felt about Charlemagne and Charlotte being the same person. On one hand he was happy that he was able to see Charlemagne and be able to dance with him. On the other Johannes didn’t find women very attractive, pretty sure, but they weren’t a preference. While he knew Charlotte was actually a male the dressing up was confusing to Johannes. What Johannes did know was that he was happy to at least see Charlemagne again. The last month had been miserable without the presence of the Frenchmen. “If it is any condolence, I have tried to seek you out, but you have remained elusive to me for the past month.” Johannes had really tried to search for the other male and every time he had failed in finding Charlemagne in this vast palace.
Another thought crossed Johannes mind, causing the male to slightly frown. “You lied to me. You said I wasn’t going to see you today! Do you know how miserable that made me? I had to talk to Claude Henri because I didn’t have any excuses when it came to avoiding him,” He said in a soft tone, only for Charlotte’s ears.
As soon as he said that the music came to an end. Johannes went through the proper movements of bowing to his partner before offering his arm for Charlotte to take. The gardens right outside the ballroom were open for guest to mingle in. Not many people bothered to go outside, hoping to catch the King and Queen’s attention inside, but Johannes wanted neither of their favors. “Let’s talk about your deception outside, where I can’t feel Claude Henri’s glare burning in my back,” He suggested.
[center Charlotte’s face lit up with a wide smile as she laughed upon witnessing Johannes’ realization of who she [i really] was. It was absolutely rich! [#900 “I can only imagine the struggles you have had. I have just been so incredibly busy I have not truly had a chance to stop and rest. There are always places I have to go and parties I have to cater. It truly is a lot to juggle over time.”] she mentioned, letting out a tired sigh. As much as she enjoyed her work, it was exhausting to constantly have to handle it day in and day out. [#900 “And I know! I had to err on the side of caution. I did not know if I would actually catch you or not tonight, so I did not want to get your hopes up, my dearest.”] Charlotte admitted. She did feel a little bad about the lie, but it was a necessary one. [#900 “Claude is an asshole, though. We all know that.”] she rolled her eyes while following Johannes’ lead as they danced. She did enjoy the other’s firm, yet tender touch. It was nice to be able to experience it so openly. And as nice as it was to converse with the Austrian without too much of a worry, Charlotte was miffed that she had to be dressed in such a manner for their contact to appear as acceptable.]
[center Looking over her shoulder, Charlotte could see Claude fuming and glaring murderous daggers at Johannes. The Frenchwoman did want to stay inside to laugh at the nobleman’s frustrations, but instead she accepted Johannes’ arm of an invitation and followed him out onto one of the garden’s terraces. It was refreshing weather outside, so the choice was not all that arguable. Carefully taking a seat in one of the terrace chairs, Charlotte opened her fan for use. Thinking quietly to herself for a moment she looked at Johannes with a look that was akin to worry. [#900 “I know it’s likely jarring to see me like this, so I wouldn’t blame you if you feel conflicted.”] she began, feeling some anxiousness. [#900 “It’s something I like to do for fun. But it would also make it easier for us to see each other and not stress about the judgement of others.”] Charlotte proposed. [#900 “But I hope that this does not change how you see me as a person because I truly do enjoy your company and want it to be easier for us.”]]
[center Inside the ballroom, the party was still steadily going on with no signs of truly ending anytime soon. Much to his behest, Maximilian soon arrived with his fiancée by his side. The man had not wanted to attend the party because he felt that his time was better spent practicing his lines for local productions that he was involved in. But his fiancée, Elizabeth, had to coax him into agreeing to go to the party, for the sake of appearances back home. As comfortable as Maximilian was on stage, he was not quite as comfortable to be out so publicly in his formal dress. While he was not ashamed to be a prince, Max did not want to be associated with the Queen of France, his aunt. He did not outright hate his aunt, but Maximilian did think she was a terrible person both on a political and familial level. She was always very kind and doting to him and Elizabeth. However, Max knew exactly how she treated her people and anyone of a lower class. He thought this discrepancy was disgusting at best. Prince Maximilian felt that the French people deserved better. But unfortunately, there was nothing he could honestly do about it.]
[center But since Max had to be at the party, he mostly paid attention to Elizabeth who was going around and merrily mingling with other attendees. There were many comments and compliments on her dress and tiara. It was one of Elizabeth’s favorite tiaras because of the delicate metal work accented by lustrous pearls. It was not her most sparkly tiara, but it was still dazzling regardless. But while chatting with a group of ladies, Elizabeth sent Max off to acquire a glass of wine for her. He figured that this was code for her wanting a moment alone with the women, so he obliged her request. It also gave him an opportunity to be on his own even for a minute. Unfortunately, he had been caught up in conversation with another gentleman who happened to recognize him for his work as an actor. It was a pleasant conversation, but Max’s attention was stolen by a commotion in the direction of where he left Elizabeth to her party friends.]
[center A little bit drunker, but still carrying all of the audacity in the world, Claude was shouting at Elizabeth after she slapped him across the face with a full hand. He had been making some very lewd comments towards one of the younger women, to which Elizabeth put herself between Claude and the woman he tried to touch. Turning his attention towards Elizabeth he had asked if she wanted to take the other woman’s place in his bed. This is what earned him a bright red spot on his cheek for the disrespect. Maximilian had abandoned the wine to wade through the crowd to see what happened, processing what the hell Elizabeth and Claude were yelling at each other about. To say that he was furious was an understatement. The fact that Claude felt it was acceptable to be not only predatory but to also [i touch] Elizabeth blew Maximilian’s mind. Rarely was the male serious about much, but he interjected to break up the argument. As badly as he wished to break Claude’s hand, he tried his best to restrain himself. But Max felt like he’d be damned if he didn’t at least defend his fiancée. What kind of man would he be if he did not?]
[center Outside on the terrace Charlotte’s brow furrowed in confusion, wondering what the problem inside was. Standing up to try and get a look from afar, she glanced back at Johannes. [#900 “Is that Maximilian?? Who’s the woman with him?”] she asked, concerned. Looking back onto the scene she saw Claude who appeared to be shouting at Maximilian. [#900 “Should we help them before a fight breaks out?..."]]
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