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{Charlemagne Marquis}

Charlie had to admit that when he was squished together with JJ by Johannes, his heart felt a sense of fullness that it never had before. The feeling was almost indescribable. The Frenchman could clearly feel the love Johannes had for his son. And the fact that he got to see the Austrian actually smile in the carriage was one thing. Hearing him reciprocate the love was another. Charlemagne felt so content that he could feel himself tearing up a little bit. He knew he wasn’t going to cry, but damn it sure got his heart racing just thinking about everything that was going on currently. Johannes loved him. His children loved him. And he loved them all back with every fiber of his being. Charlemagne felt complete. And it was an overwhelming feeling. It was a lot to take in and Charlemagne had to use his free hand to wipe at his eyes a little bit.


When the child switched to clinging onto Johannes Charlemagne then used his sleeve to dab at his eyes. JJ was young but not oblivious to this. “Why are you crying??” the small child asked before yawning and settling himself in his father’s arms. Charlie couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m just happy, petit chou. Don’t worry.” the Frenchman replied. Was he really crying? He could have sworn that he wasn’t! But apparently even a child thought that he was. But Charlemagne made sure to follow Johannes inside his estate so they could all settle in for the evening. And it was still as grand as he could remember it despite being in bed for most of his last visit. It was big, but almost understated for a person who was considered a noble. This surprised Charlie. But he also figured that it made sense because Johannes seemed more like a sensible man than an overly ostentatious. He was examining what was clearly JJ’s playroom since he hadn’t seen this room before during his previous visit. It was warm and cozy, decorated much like a library with all of the books and knickknacks. But the toys scattered about the floor indicated it was well used at the same time. It was almost hilarious how the contrast of its disarray was to the rest of Johannes’ home. The rest was neat and tidy. But this room was clearly often occupied by a child. But Charlie’s attention had been captured by portraits of who Charlie assumed was Johannes’ late wife. The Frenchman never thought of himself as superstitious or a believer in the occult or anything like that. But it gave the man an odd feeling tingling up his spine. She was certainly a beautiful woman who had met a tragic end, but Charlemagne couldn’t ignore the weird feeling he got looking at the photos.


Thankfully, JJ had recaptured his attention with his request to be held while Johannes started the fire and retrieved a type of journal from a shelf. It was without hesitation, though, that Charlemagne had been selected to be storyteller of the night with what Johannes had picked out. Thankfully it was in French! He could speak and understand German, but Austrian German was a bit too different for him to feel confident reading. But the different character voices? A piece of cake. Charlie loved acting and knew he could easily pull off reading the story to JJ, character voices included. The man hoisted the child onto his lap and got the book from Johannes. Flipping his braided hair over his free shoulder JJ immediately fixated upon it. “Wow! You have long hair!” the child remarked, immediately playing with the braid in his small hands. “Uncle Maxi has really long hair.” JJ added as he held onto Charlemagne’s hair. Uncle Maxi? That was the cutest thing Charlie had heard in a while! “Well, Uncle Maxi is blond. I have brown hair.” he clarified. “And Uncle Maxi’s hair is very wavy!” “Indeed it is. I have very straight hair.” This made JJ think in silence for a moment. “So men can have hair?” This made Charlemagne stop for a moment. “If they want to.” Immediately JJ turned to his father. “Can I have hair like them?”


“Now, mon petit chou, we must read your story.” he tried to recapture the child’s attention as he began to read, employing unique voices for every character when appropriate. It was a cute story about camaraderie, love, and trust. It was a precious child’s story, that was for sure. Charlie thoroughly enjoyed reading it even after he noticed that the child was fast asleep on his chest. The man was dedicated to his mission and read the whole thing till the end to make suer it was done just for JJ. The child was dead weight on his body, though. So, Charlemagne carefully set the book aside and slowly stood up to not disturb the sleeping child. He could remember where JJ’s room was so he slowly made his way in that direction so JJ could get tucked in for the night. The child clearly needed the rest. Even if he came into Johannes’ room later, Charlemagne didn’t care. But after that he did head over to Johannes’ bed chambers because he was tired as hell too.


The man was practically dressed for bed already so he didn’t have to worry about clothes. But Charlemagne’s mind harkened back to their carriage ride here. It filled his heart with immense joy that he could hardly speak. Turn to the other man, Charlemagne faced Johannes with misty eyes again. As confident as he usually was, love was a complicated subject for Charlie in the way that others treated him. He was used to quick fucks and non-committal relationships. He hadn’t actually heard ‘I love you’ from a partner in what felt like eternity. That was why he felt so emotional over the gesture. “Do you really? Do you really love me?...”

Johannes von Hügel

Once JJ was pulled on Charlemagne’s lap did Johannes get off the ground and settle himself down onto the sofa. During this whole time JJ was amazed by Charlemagne’s beautiful long hair, something Johannes couldn’t fault the boy for. JJ grew up in a household where most of the men kept their hair short. There were a few men whose hair was long enough to be pulled into a small ponytail, but the majority had hair the length of Johannes or shorter. All of which was a personal choice and not some cruel mandate by Johannes. JJ also had the same fascination with Maximilian’s hair, always asking to brush it when the Prince visited them.


JJ then turned to Johannes eyes wide with curiosity as he asked if he could have long hair. Johannes may make his son do many things in his life, such as clean up after himself or go to school, but Johannes would never ever dictate such unimportant things in his children’s life. “Of course, you can,” He gently replied, effectively finishing that conversation especially after Charlemagne drew JJ’s attention back to his story.


Johannes was content to watch his son and Charlemagne as the story began. At first JJ listened to Charlemagne, smiling with each new voice, but as they got halfway through the story JJ stopped watching Charlemagne’s face. Instead, he rested his head against Charlemagne’s chest, his little eyes fluttering in an attempt to stay awake. To no one’s surprise JJ failed at this endeavor and was soon sleeping heavily on Charlemagne’s chest, becoming nothing more than dead weight. Instead of cutting off the story when JJ fell asleep Charlemagne continued which was just as precious. 


This whole experience reconfirmed Johannes’ love for Charlemagne. He never thought he would find a man who would love his kids this much. In fact, Johannes had feared that he would forever be cursed to remain single or settle for men who just wanted sex and nothing else. He felt indescribably lucky to have found Charlemagne, and for the other man to accept him so completely. 


With the story completed, Johannes offered to take his son and lay him down for the night, but Charlemagne said he would do it. Pressing a small kiss to JJ’s head, he told Charlemagne that he would meet the other man in the room, before going about snuffing out the candles.


Once his very minor chores were done Johannes went upstairs to his bedroom, leaving the door opened for Charlemagne, as he changed out of his clothes and into a sleep shirt. Once ready he climbed into bed and opened a book, he had been slowly reading the last few nights. It was in Italian, so the progress was very minimal since Johannes was not the best at reading Italian.


Soon enough Charlemagne returned, saving Johannes from another headache. Sitting the book down Johannes got comfortable in bed with Charlemagne besides him, not expecting the man to turn and ask him if Johannes really loved him. “Of course I love you. How couldn’t I?” He gently asked. Charlemagne was near perfect in Johannes’ eyes and the concept of not loving the smaller male seemed almost foreign.


Deciding his words were perhaps not enough Johannes moved closer to Charlemagne, a hand finding its way to Charlemagne’s cheek, gently cradling it, before he leaned in and pressed a kiss to Charlemagne’s lips. Johannes poured every ounce of love he could into the kiss, making sure Charlemagne fully understood what Johannes meant before parting ways. “I love you, Charlemagne, I love you more than I had ever expected.”

{Charlemagne Marquis}

Hearing Johannes’ words confirming his love sent a shiver up Charlie’s spine. Just the way the Austrian said those words sounded different than they ever had coming from anyone else. These words felt genuine and heartfelt. This is what caused them to pull at the Frenchman’s own heartstrings. He couldn’t believe that one singular man could make him feel so flustered and breathless at the same time. Was this what actual love felt like? Because if it was then Charlemagne sure as hell did not want it to end. But the man was silent with reddening cheeks. He felt embarrassed for acting so out of character for himself. “Because you’re not the first person to say that to me. But you’re the first to seem to actually mean it.” Charlie said, his trembling voice barely higher than a whisper. His throat felt tight with anxiety and that was all he could manage to say in response to Johannes and his inquiry.


Charlie’s dark, emotional eyes stared into Johannes’ hazel ones unwaveringly, but he could tell his vision was getting blurry with tears again. The Frenchman desperately did not want to cry in front of this man after such a proclamation, but the stress of the day combined with this admittance was a lot for the man’s one heart to handle all at once. Charlie felt Johannes’ hand find its way to his cheek, the other’s hand feeling with a tender touch only a real lover could provide. One of Charlemagne’s hands clasped onto Johannes’ wrist, wondering what on Earth the other was doing until he was graced with a kiss from the Austrian man he was sharing a bed with. It felt like time stopped for all but a brief second. Charlie was in shock! But his hand squeezed Johannes’ wrist as he leaned as much into the kiss as he could. He was greedy and wanted everything that the other man had to give in that one kiss. It genuinely made him sad when they parted once again to look at each other.


Only God knew that Charlemagne would never tire of hearing Johannes actually say ‘I love you’, though. This type of vulnerability was not something he was accustomed to at all, but it did not stop Charlemagne’s eyes from pouring over with tears. Initially, Charlie turned away and onto his back to hide his face with his sleeve, trying to dry his face the best he could. But that just made it worse. The streaks quickly turned into streams and Charlemagne then resorted to hiding his face his Johannes’ chest to seek comfort and support, but to also help hide his crying. Charlemagne thought that he was quite hardened from life and its experiences, but there he was. In bed, crying on a man who admitted that he loved him. It wasn’t just some silly expression of affection. Charlemagne took this quite seriously as evident by his hiccupping and sniffling. The smell of Johannes’ cologne was warm and inviting and he loved it as he could still smell it on the man through his tears. “I’m sorry I’m ruining your shirt, Johannes.” Charlie mumbled through what air he could breathe. He just laid there and cried his heart out to this man. It was as much of a catharsis as it was an expression of surprise. The man didn’t know how long he was there sobbing, but things eventually went silent when Charlie had fallen asleep out of sheer physical and emotional exhaustion.




The next morning, it was much later than Charlie was used to waking up. But the man needed all the sleep he could possibly get. When he finally stirred, he felt a pounding headache and burning eyes. For a moment he wondered what they hell happened to make him feel such a way, but then it all came flooding back to Charlemagne. He scrambled off of Johannes in a hurry, cursing up and down at God in French for the embarrassment and the horrific headache. Strands of hair had fallen out of his braid over the night and fell in his face. Staring at Johannes once more Charlie just spewed a torrent of apologies for crying how he did the evening before. “I can’t believe that even happened. I ruined your nightshirt and fucking slept there, I’m so sorry.”


In the kitchen of Johannes’ estate stood a ruffled and sleepy JJ, scouting out Tibor for food since his hunger was his number one priority. “Vatti came home with Charlie.” the boy noted, planning on invading their bedchambers after receiving food. Indeed they did come home together. And much, much later so did Matt and Maximilian who were good and drunk upon their arrival home the night before. Elizabeth didn’t want to deal with it so she kicked him and Matt out for the evening since they were as rowdy as drunk men could get. Besides, Max had been trying to get handsy with her, thus exiling him to Johannes’ estate until he sobered up enough to go home. “I heard Uncle Maxi and Matti later.” because JJ did wake up to get a maid to help him get something to drink because he was thirsty before being put back down for bed. The small boy looked at Tibor with much tired curiosity. “I think Vatti really likes Charlie…”

Johannes von Hügel

Johannes honestly didn’t expected Charlemagne to grow so emotional after the kiss. He also didn’t expect the other man to swiftly roll over and to start crying. Johannes was seconds away from plastering himself to Charlemagne’s back wen the man rolled over and buried his face into Johannes’ chest. Already Johannes could feel the tears soaking into his shirt and he didn’t care.


Instead, Johannes wrapped his arm around Charlemagne and buried his face into Charlemagne’s hair as he listened to the other sob. Soft words of reassurance leaving Johannes’ lips as he held Charlemagne. “Do not worry about the shirt, you aren’t ruining anything my love,” he reassuringly replied as he pressed a few kisses to the top of Charlemagne’s head.


Eventually the crying did stop and eventually Johannes fell asleep right after Charlemagne. The next time Johannes was aware of anything else was when he felt the comfortable weight on his chest move. In that moment Johannes’ brows furrowed and the man frowned as his still sleep addled mind tried to figure out who moved. Maria would have smacked him in the face instead of moving and JJ was a much lighter and would have also woken him up instead of moving. It could be Matt, who would sometimes stumble into Johannes’ room, but the man normally just collapsed on the bed and didn’t lay on Johannes. Which left Charlemagne. 


The moment Johannes realized that it was Charlemagne that moved off of him Johannes finally opened his eyes. Charlemagne was slightly blurry, but Johannes could see how much of a mess the other man was. His hair was all over the place, eyes slightly swollen from crying, and clothes rumpled. While Charlemagne was all the things, he was still handsome as ever and Johannes still adored the other man. 


Sleepily pulling Charlemagne back over to him Johannes pressed a kiss to Charlemagne’s forehead. “Please stop apologizing about my shirt. It is fine, schatzi,” He said, voice still a little hoarse with sleep and his French slightly more accented than normal.  Johannes held onto the other male for a few moments as he finally let himself wake up. 


Only when Johannes was fully awake did he speak against, “We probably should freshen up and go downstairs. I’m sure JJ is up and he will be up here any minute if we don’t meet him downstairs.” With that said Johannes finally released Charlemagne from his grasp and got out of bed, stretching a little as he did so before eventually going into the bathroom to make himself presentable for the day, leaving the door open if Charlemagne wished to join him.




Tibor had just returned from the nearby pâtisserie with part of breakfast when he saw JJ sleepily walking into the kitchen. The child was absolutely adorable with his dark hair all over the place, and eyes half closed as the boy tried to wake up. If Tibor was being honest with himself, he had stayed with the von Hügel household because of the soft spot he had for JJ and even Maria. They were such great kids. 


Setting the box on the counter he went up to JJ and picked him up, easily resting the small child on his hip. “Is that so bogárkám?” Tibor asked as JJ mentioned that Charlemagne came back with Johannes. This information he already knew because Carola had informed Hans last night and Hans had informed the staff to be prepared for their guest. It was also the reason why Tibor went to the pâtisserie. Johannes preferred his breakfasts to be cold cuts, cheese, coffee and sometimes even a breadroll which was a very boring meal and just not fit for Johannes’ future spouse. While Tibor liked to give Charlemagne a hard time, he did know that the Frenchman had won over Johannes’ heart and there would be nothing Tibor would do in ensure that Charlemagne stayed which means making sure the other man enjoyed his meals. 


With JJ on his hip Tibor went over to the cabinet and grabbed a plate. “Don’t tell your Vatti that I’m giving you a pastry,” Tibor said to JJ as he brought the plate over and hefted the boy up to look at what pastries Tibor had bought. “Which one do you want?” He asked. Once JJ picked Tibor plated the pastry and carried JJ to the small table in the kitchen and sat him down.


“I heard them too,” Tibor replied when Maximillian and Matthias were mentioned. The two of them were not quiet at all when they were stumbling through the house. 


Tibor left JJ at the table as he went to grab some of milk that had been recently delivered for JJ’s breakfast. Tibor couldn’t help but smile when JJ mentioned that Johannes may like Charlemagne. Despite Charlemagne’s few visits even the kid could see how much Johannes liked Charlemagne. The Austrian man was obviously enamored by the smaller male and Tibor adored it. Johannes deserved to be happy. 


Bringing back some milk for JJ, Tibor took a seat right across the boy. “I think you are right, just don’t mention it to anyone outside the household. A lot of people believe that your Vatti shouldn’t like Charlemagne because Charlemagne is a boy, and they are wrong for their belief, but they think it is wrong. Your Vatti and Charlemagne could get in a lot of trouble, so you have to keep it a secret. Okay?” Tibor knew that JJ wouldn’t go around telling the whole world about Johannes and Charlemagne, but Tibor needed to cover all bases.

{Charlemagne Marquis}

Charlemagne was surprised but accepted the motion of being pulled back towards Johannes in the bed. The other was clearly still addled with sleep, but the affection Johannes still showed made Charlie’s aching heart feel slightly at ease. Charlemagne went back to using Johannes’ chest as a warm, comfortable pillow as the other worked on waking up more. If the Frenchman were to be completely honest he was about ready to fall back asleep right there until Johannes spoke up again about JJ and breakfast downstairs. Charlie did frown slightly when the Austrian man let him go, but the idea of sitting down for breakfast with Johannes’ eldest child like a family erased that frown. The Frenchman also made a mental note to check on Maria as well to make sure she was well and fed that morning. These thoughts reminded him of how his brother Sébastien always commented that Charlie was like a mother hen with children, always checking on them and making sure they were okay. Charlemagne knew that his brother spoke mostly to tease him, but a mother hen was something the Frenchman took with pride.


But Charlie did end up following Johannes into the bathroom to freshen up for the day. Hairs all over his braid were out and his eyes felt sore and dry from crying so much the evening before. He looked truly a mess and Charlie even felt a little bit embarrassed about it! First the man splashed his face with some water from the filled wash basin to at least try to clean his face. The coolness of the water felt like relief against his sore eyelids and a refreshing splash against what was once stained with tears. He then went about combing out his long hair by taking it all out of the braid that it was in. Once shaking it out, the waves in Charlemagne’s hair were very pronounced. He noticed on the counter that the wooden comb he last used during his previous visit was still there. “You kept my comb.” Charlie casually mentioned as he worked through sections of his hair to comb it all out. “How thoughtful.” he hummed while brushing out his waist-length hair. It was a chore in and of itself to brush out his hair, but Charlie expertly finished the job and tied it back into a ponytail to keep it out of the way.




JJ was excited about the pastries that Tibor had gotten that morning for breakfast and was quick to accept one upon presentation. He promised to never tell his Vatti, swearing to Tibor to not give away their secret. Upon being brought milk, JJ happily swung his little legs back and forth while sitting in his chair at the table. But then Tibor stopped to look at him and tell him about his Vatti and Charlie. In as low a voice as he could muster JJ said, “But I think they kissed? Why would that be bad? Uncle Maxi kisses Aunt Liz all of the time. That’s okay, right?” JJ was immensely confused but also agreed to not speak of his Vatti and Charlemagne. The child’s trust in Tibor was unwavering. The child didn’t understand why his Vatti being happy with Charlie was a bad thing, though. “What about Uncle Matti and Vincent? Uncle Matti talks about him a lot.” the child stated between bites of his pastry and sips of milk.


Speaking of the devil, Matt shuffled in with Maximilian close behind. The two had clearly seen better days, but Max looked worse off than Matthias did by far. Taking a seat next to JJ, Maximilian could immediately feel one of the child’s hands grab at his long, golden blond hair. Gently Max patted JJ on the top of his head, honestly having one of the worst headaches of his life at that moment. Matthias was fine other than being extra tired from their night of drinking and partying with Elizabeth and a bunch of other people. “Elizabeth has banned Max until he sobers up. Poor man.” Matthias said to Tibor. Maximilian was definitely the lightweight of the group, but he had done his best to keep up, but ended up having to get carried out by Matt who was just as drunk, but more coherent the evening before. “I don’t need the reminder, please.” he said as JJ continued with his constant amazement at the man’s long hair.


Soon, Charlie was to follow, carrying a swaddled and well-fed and burped Maria, her cheeks rosy as ever. The man was carefully bouncing the child who was awake, but clearly milk drunk from her wet nurse that handed the child off to Charlie. Taking a seat next to Tibor to leave some room for Johannes, Charlemagne looked over at Tibor and was showing off the sleepy child who was fighting stubbornly to remain awake despite her full stomach. “She’s definitely a fighter, isn’t she?” the Frenchman commented with a gentle laugh. Charlie’s arrival with Maria drew JJ’s attention away from Max’s hair. “Why can’t you tell people about Vatti?” the child asked, still confused from Tibor’s explanation earlier. In JJ’s head if another boy made his father happy, then it should be okay. This confused both Charlie, Matthias, and Maximilian. “What do you mean, petit chou?” Charlie asked. “Uncle Tibor says that people don’t like two boys together. I don’t know why.” he admitted, feeling small in his chair. He certainly wouldn’t tell a soul outside of the house, as promised. But the child just couldn’t comprehend why others would hate his Vatti and Charlie so much when they were clearly very happy together.


Matthias looked over at Tibor with a familiar look of ‘what did you tell him?’ But it wasn’t an unfamiliar conversation. “Because Uncle Matti has his Vincent and that’s okay.” the child said, pointing at Matthias lightly. It then struck Matthias what the child was trying to figure out. Taking the lead of conversation Matthias cleared his throat. “You see, sometimes people are mean for just no reason, little one. There is no real reason why that I know of.” JJ furrowed his brow. “That’s stupid. You know everything.” the child said so absolutely. Matthias couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. “Unfortunately, Johannes, I do not know everything. In fact, I know very little since there is so much to know.” Matthias replied. Now JJ was grumpy. Apparently his Vatti wasn’t allowed to be happy, and Matthias didn’t actually know everything. The only good thing that the child knew in that moment was the pastry Tibor allowed him to have before everyone arrived for breakfast…

Johannes von Hügel

Johannes had his own surprisingly elaborate morning routine. His wife use to tease Johannes about it, but it was never something that bothered him. Getting ready in the morning was the closes Johannes ever got to willingly pampering himself. Normally, the morning started one of two ways; either he needed to use the chamber pot, or he would clean his teeth. This particularly moment he thankfully didn’t need to relieve himself, so he washed his hands before picking up a clean sponge. Dipping it into a special mixture of ethanol and water Johannes went to cleaning his teeth, using the mirror to make sure he covered every tooth. One visit with a tooth puller was all Johannes needed as a child to religiously follow Monsieur Fauchard’s instructions from his book, The Surgeon Dentist.


As Johannes carefully cleaned every tooth Charlemagne had made an appearance into the bathroom. The man looked like a disheveled mess, hair astray and eyes still red from crying, but most importantly he looked gorgeous. Johannes’ heart swelled with happiness as he watched Charlemagne wash his face before Charlemagne’s attention was drawn by to comb that rested on the counter. After Charlemagne’s first visit to the house the comb had found its home on the counter. Every time Johannes saw the comb it brought an immeasurable amount of joy to Johannes. 


Rinsing his mouth and spitting out the water in a cup nearby, Johannes responded with a slight smile “Of course I did. I couldn’t even fathom getting rid of it.”  A part of Johannes itched to take the comb from Charlemagne and brush out Charlemagne’s tangled mane for him. While Charlemagne had been stuck at the house and at Johannes’ mercy the Austrian had found that he really enjoyed doing those small tasks for Charlemagne. The only thing staying Johannes’ hand was the fact he knew his son and if they didn’t get downstairs soon, they would have a little ball of energy intent on attacking them.


So, while Charlemagne worked the comb through his hair Johannes took his chance to wash his face and even ran a cloth across his chest. Once finished Johannes made his way back into the bedroom, grabbing a dressing gown and slippers, before waiting for Charlemagne.




Tibor was going to bash his head into the table. He knew that asking JJ to not mention Charlemagne was going to be a pain because JJ, in all his innocence, wouldn’t understand why people are so hateful. Shit even Tibor didn’t fully understand why people were so against such couplings, but they were. 


“People are okay with your Uncle Maxi and Aunt Liz kissing because it’s a boy kissing a girl. Sadly, people don’t think boys should kiss boys like your Papa and Charlemagne or your Uncle Matti and Vincent. They don’t like it so much that they may get your Papa in trouble,” Tibor carefully tried to explain before Matt and Maximilian stumbled in. 


Tibor got up as the two other men took a seat next to JJ and went over to the box of pastries. If Johannes or Charlemagne were sad that their preferred pastry wasn’t in the box after he offered, it to the other two men then it was their fault for not being downstairs. Placing the box in front of the hung-over men Tibor asked, “Tea or coffee?” as he took his seat back.


While Charlemagne went to check on Maria, Johannes had been stopped by Hans with two letters that were pressing. One was from Franz asking if he intended to come in and deal with Karl today, which was promptly answered with an ‘absolutely not’ and the other was from Florimond informing him that Karl had requested his presence for lunch tomorrow. Johannes didn’t know why the hell Karl would want to talk to him, besides to be a dick, but there was no wiggling out of that one, so he accepted the invitation. 


With the pressing matters addressed Johannes made his way downstairs and was right outside the kitchen when he heard JJ’s question, pausing at the door Johannes gave it a moment, curious to hear if Tibor tried to back pedal or if Charlemagne was going to explain it to JJ.


Tibor mouthed, ‘Johannes and Charlemagne’ in hopes that it would spark some insight and let Matthias take the reins on this conversation. The Doctor was quick to figure it out and it was clear that JJ was not happy with any of the answers. 


Johannes on the other side of the door could practically hear his son pouting. The boy always needed everything explained to him in detail so Matthias not answering would not have satisfied his son. It may have ended the inquires at best, but he knew JJ would eventually come seeking answers. Pushing the door open he joined everyone in the now crowded kitchen.


“Morning,” He said as he approached Maria and pressed a kiss to the top of her head before going over to JJ and picking him up so that when Johannes sat down the boy was on his lap. “What did Tibor tell you, Bärchen?” Johannes asked in a soft voice, displaying a tender side that was really only reserved for his kids.


Only when JJ repeated what Tibor has said Johannes finally tried his best to explain Tibor’s words. “You know that horribly boring place I make you go with me early on Sunday mornings?” He slowly began, “Well they are the ones who told people that a boy should only like a girl and that it was bad if a boy liked another boy or if a girl liked girls. Those people are also super important, more important than your Uncle Maxi, so their beliefs hold a lot of power and people agree with them. The reason why they think I’m bad for loving Charlemagne is because we can’t have babies. In their eyes a couple should only be together to have children and only a man and a woman can have a child together. They think any other relationship is the work of the devil.” 


Johannes paused for a moment, having not been prepared to have such an important conversation with his son so early in the morning, but it would have to be done eventually. “They are silly to think that of course, but they just don’t understand how someone like me can only like boys, since the majority of people like the opposite gender. Them not understanding why me or your Uncle Matti are different and lack of willingness to accept things is why Tibor was trying to tell you to not mention Charlemagne and me. People who think we are wrong for who we love are quick to punish us because that horribly boring place said our love is bad. Does that make sense?” He asked as he peered down at his son for a moment before looking out to the table. “Did I miss anything, or does anyone want to add something?” Johannes added.


{Charlemagne Marquis}

The group at the dining table within the kitchen all nodded their acknowledgement at Johannes when he greeted them at the table. Some of them had too much of a hangover, others were just tired in general. But Maria squirmed in Charlemagne’s arms when Johannes came over and gave a kiss on her head. This made the Frenchman cradle the small baby in one arm so he could use a free hand to stroke her fine hairs as a comforting gesture. While cooing at the child, Johannes’ son simply made himself at home on his father’s lap after being picked up. JJ’s sparkling hazel eyes gazed intently at Johannes when he asked him about church, otherwise known as ‘the boring place’ to the toddler. However, JJ did nod is head to tell his father he knew of what was being talked about.


At first JJ found himself to be puzzled. “How are they more important than Uncle Maxi?” he quietly asked. Maximilian sucked in his lips trying to not laugh at the question. He knew the child held him in very high regard. Obviously the man knew exactly where he stood within the line of succession and with the church. The Catholic church really had a death grip on a lot of Europe at that time it was almost scary. And upon hearing that people actually agreed with the Catholic church’s stance in same sex relationships, a frown formed upon JJ’s face. “That does not make sense. Charlie makes you happy. Uncle Vincent makes Uncle Matti happy. Why would anyone not like happy people?” the child was quite perturbed. Matthias felt touched by the sentiment, although there wasn’t much he could do to try to convince the child it was just how things were.


In the doctor’s opinion he didn’t believe that such vile thinking against people like him and Johannes would change anytime soon, if ever at all. He wasn’t quite as religious as some thought he would be because of his parents being so strictly Catholic. He felt that as a scientist he was obligated to question everything around him. And so, he often questioned if God, the angels, the devil, and demons were even real. But the Austrian man knew better than to ever dare voice his questionings. He knew that would inevitably lead to exile and even torture or death for being considered so sacrilegious to the faith. But despite these threats, Matthias always did a lot of reading and thinking to try to come up with some type of answer. Why were people so dedicated to a higher power that was not even tangible? How could it have so much power? These were all questions that Matthias couldn’t help but ask. But he was stubborn. He always asked questions and constantly strove for answers even if it took him years to figure it out. That was why in his study in Johannes’ estate was filled wall to wall with books and journals. Matthias was always on a quest for more knowledge, but currently he was on a quest to eat breakfast to hopefully cure the mild hangover he was being plagued with.


JJ was still aggravated about the situation regarding his father and Charlemagne. But he huffed in defeat knowing that he had to listen to his father due to the potential consequences that would come if he talked to anyone outside of the estate about the relationship. Plus, it was a lot for his young mind to process. So, instead of dwelling so much on the negative the child was easily swayed with food that he tried his best to eat as neatly as possible. Even despite his best efforts, though, Charlie leaned over while still cradling Maria to tuck a napkin into JJ’s sleeping gown so there would be no real soiled linen. He would much rather let the maids have an easier time doing laundry than spending extra time trying to get stains out of JJ’s clothing.


Other than having to explain to JJ why he had to be careful with who he talked to about his father and Charlemagne the breakfast was uneventful that morning. But soon after things started to wrap up, Maria was getting fussy, and Charlie excused himself to change her nappy after checking it to find that she needed to be cleaned up. Several maids offered to take her to change Maria’s nappy, but Charlemagne declined everyone saying that his hands were not broken and that he could do it themselves. This surprised the maid staff, not expecting to be told ‘no’ by the man when offering their assistance. They talked amongst themselves when Charlie entered Maria’s nursery to take care of her soiled nappy situation. It was nothing new to the Frenchman. He had often cared for his young niece Maude when she was a similar age. Because of this, dirty nappies were the farthest from a thing that could actually faze Charlie. But when Maria was clean and redressed, Charlie swaddled her against his chest before hunting down JJ who had since moved on to the playroom with Matthias and Maximilian who were entertaining the child. And by play with the child, they were just letting JJ comb and decorate Maximilian’s long golden mane of hair.


That in itself was a comical sight, in Charlemagne’s honest opinion. But he politely interrupted the activity to bring JJ to his room to change into proper clothing for being outside in the daytime. This came as a welcomed relief for Max because while he loved the child to death, having a million tiny flowers and various other decorations were a pain to all get out of his hair. Charlie had informed the two men that he was taking the children to go apple picking in the nearby orchards on Johannes’ property and to please tell Johannes that was where they were going. They would make for great jam and pies. But Maria was cooing as she rested against the Frenchman’s chest while he helped JJ choose what to wear for outside time. Charlie wanted to make sure that JJ would be comfortable when they went apple picking because he did not want to be stuck carrying two whole children back to the estate home if he didn’t have to. But the maids were kind enough to fetch woven wicker baskets for Charlie and JJ to use during their adventure. The man was also given a stick with metal claws on the end to make it easier to pick apples higher up in trees. Charlie just wanted to get out of the house with the children and hopefully give everyone else some peace and quiet even if it were only temporary.


Once the trio made it outside Charlie listened to JJ gab on about how Matthias was teaching him so many languages and how it was really hard to keep track of which ones were which in his head. Charlie felt sympathetic to the child’s cause because he grew up in a similar way because he was taught French, Spanish, and English at the same time alongside his older brother. The French was for obvious reasons, the Spanish made sense because their family wine business had a lot of transactions with Spaniards, and English god forbid they ever found themselves in a standoff with the English. Charlemagne talked about this with JJ. “Then how many languages do you speak now?” Charlie had to take a second to count but he quickly came up with an answer. “I speak five in total now. French, Spanish, English, German, and Italian.” JJ couldn’t help but blink in amazement. “That must have been super hard!” the child exclaimed, unable to believe Charlie could use so many different languages. The Frenchman found this immensely endearing because he loved the childlike innocence JJ had. “I simply learned because I had to. And it actually really helps me now that I am an adult. So, it is important you listen to what you Uncle Matti teaches you, okay?” JJ sighed but did end up nodding his head.


There was a light breeze outside that allowed the weather to actually be quite tolerable. The sun peaked through the gaps between the treetops of the orchard. The shade was quite nice since Charlemagne did tend to burn easily in the sun if he wasn’t careful. And he honestly wasn’t trying to go back to the Royal Palace looking like a cooked lobster. But Charlie was preoccupied with helping JJ retrieve the apples he wanted so the child could carry them in his basket. And Charlie grabbed a few for his own basket as Maria dozed away on his chest. The Frenchman was super excited to make jams and pies because he really wanted Johannes to try them. Because if there was any goal that the man had, it was to make sure Johannes was fed no matter what. While Charlie did enjoy his man as he was, he also found it funny how Johannes always commented how he would have to get his clothing mended if he kept and serving him such food. But the Frenchman knew that Matthias made sure to exercise with Johannes to keep him in shape because Matthias was in a similar situation whenever Vincent was around. The doctor swore that his lover was purposely trying to make him fat despite the Swiss man denying such accusations. But knowing a bit of Matt’s military experience, there was no way he would ever let himself or Johannes get fat.


Charlie was amused, but he continued to enjoy the fresh air as he picked apples with the children. JJ made sure to point out every animal he saw too. Rabbits, birds, and even a deer in the far distance grazing on grass. The child’s fascination was precious and honestly Charlie was thrilled to be a part of the experience thanks to Johannes…

Johannes von Hügel

Once JJ accepted Johannes’ explanation, albeit grudgingly, breakfast went smoothly. Tibor did try to kick them out of the kitchen, but the party stubbornly remained sitting around the kitchen table sipping their drinks and eating whatever Tibor brought over. It was peaceful and Johannes loved every minute of it.


Of course, because Johannes had the worst luck ever, his day did not remain very peaceful. As Charlemagne went to change Maria, Hans came in to tell him a coworker was waiting to speak to him. It had something to do with the pompous asshole whose name happened to be Karl, Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  With a small groan Johannes excused himself, dropping a quick kiss to the kids and Charlemagne’s head before vacating the kitchen.


After leaving his small family Johannes quickly got dressed, wearing a very simple navy suit with very little embroidery. The moment Johannes stepped foot into his office, setting eyes on his coworker, a young man named Jakub Graf, Johannes regretted getting dressed so quickly. The younger male looked to be on the edge, jumpy at every noise.


“What happened?” Johannes simply asked as he walked around his desk and took a seat. Once seated he gestured for Jakub to also sit, but the younger man just fidgeted in front of him. 


“Freiherr… the prince is unhappy. He is mad that the King’s chef wasn’t there this morning to punish for his ‘insolence’. He then became mad when the Queen said that he would not be allowed to punish the chef. Afterwards, in his chambers, he threw a fit and started destroying the schedule that you set up for him. He demands you redo it.” Jakub nervously said, wringing his hands as he avoided Johannes’ gaze. Very few people in the embassy were willing to meet those harsh hazel eyes and even fewer were willing to meet them when they were presenting bad news to Johannes. His stony face only became harder and more intimidating when faced with bad news. 


If there was one man Johannes wished, he could smack it was Karl. The man was such a baby and Johannes dreaded the day the man took over the Empire. That would probably be the day Johannes moves to Italy, or perhaps he would stay in France with Charlemagne. Whatever his future plans were though they did not matter. What mattered was creating a whole new schedule for the spoiled prince and trying not to off himself in the process. 




A few hours later Johannes had sent Jakub on his way with a new schedule and well written apology to Karl for creating such a ‘substandard’ schedule for the prince. Of course, Johannes had to write the apology a half a dozen times because the first few were bordering on treason, and one even told Karl to go fuck himself. With this pent-up frustration and anger Johannes needed a balm to his seething soul. Thankfully, Hans informed him that Charlemagne was still out and about with the kids, picking apples. 


Johannes was more than happy to find Charlemagne with the kids; the man even humoring JJ as the boy pointed out every little thing he saw. For a few minutes Johannes just simply watched the interaction before deciding to finally intrude on the adorable scene before him. Coming up behind Charlemagne, he made sure to make some sound, so he didn’t spook the Frenchman, before standing next to him with a hand finding it’s way to Charlemagne’s lower back.


“You three managed to pick a lot of apples,” Johannes said as he peered into the basket. “I’m sorry I couldn’t come out sooner to help. His Royal Highness had an emergency that needed to be addressed,” He added, trying to keep his annoyance from leaking into his voice and miserably failing.


Not that JJ caught on to his father’s tone because the moment he heard his father’s voice the energetic boy whipped around and barreled into Johannes’ legs. “Vatti!” He happily cried out, rushing over and crashing into Johannes, before lifting his arms up in the universal sign of wanting to be lifted.


Letting go of Charlemagne, Johannes easily picked his son up and rested him against his hip. “Have you been good to Charlemagne?” He asked, already knowing that his well manner son was. 


“Uh-huh! Charlemagne can speak five languages!” JJ excitedly informed his father.


“Well of course he can, he is amazing after all,” Johannes replied as he turned his attention to said amazing man. “What delicious plans do you have for those apples?” He asked. Already Johannes could tell that he was going to need his tailor to come visit because there was a lot of apples and Charlemagne is such an amazing chef that Johannes won’t be able to stop eating whatever the other man has planned for them.

{Charlemagne Marquis}

Charlemagne couldn’t help but laugh at how quickly the smaller Johannes abandoned his basket of apples when his father came onto the scene. He watched as the child demanded to be picked up and held. The boy was certainly a chatterbox too as he informed Johannes that Charlie could speak five whole languages. “But you must understand, child, that I don’t understand a lot of Austrian German. I was only taught hochdeutsch. You might as well say I’m a fool if you ask me to speak to someone from Switzerland.” the Frenchman mentioned lightheartedly. JJ furrowed his brows at this. “No wonder you sound so funny in German.” the boy teased. Charlemagne took it all in kind though. “I am French; thus, I will always have an accent. However, I can imitate a really good posh English accent.” the man noted while readjusting his apple basket on his arm and little Maria in her swaddle on his chest.


JJ then proceeded to beg Charlie to do the accent to see if it was true and at first Charlie resisted because he didn’t know if he could pull it off with a straight face. But the small boy’s bright hazel eyes corrupted the man’s train of thought and eventually Charlemagne caved. “You know what? These are a lot of apples, no? We will have to have the servants wash them to prepare for cooking because dirt does not belong on our hands.” Charlie spoke like he was straight from the high-class streets of England. But that was as far as he was able to get before breaking out into uncontrollable laughter because of how ridiculous it sounded. At least it did to him. “That is as much as you’re going to get out of me like that.” reverting back to his moderately French accented English. JJ was just laughing his little heart out in the meantime, though, so the attempt at the accent was worth it. Charlie knew fully well he was going to have to gently scrub each apple clean before he did anything with them in the kitchen. There were going to be so many jars of fresh jam, pies, tarts, the works! Maybe he could even get Tibor to help him prep and peel the apples if the other man felt agreeable enough.


The Frenchman than looked at the taller Austrian for a moment. “I’m mostly thinking of jams, pies, and tarts, but you never know. I might try something new, probably a decorative pastry type of situation.” There were a million ideas running through his head as to what he should do with the apples he and JJ picked together. Maria was snoozing soundly against Charlie’s chest, not making a peep of sound except for occasional whimpers in her sleep. Charlemagne then gave Johannes a once over look before giving a slight nod of approval. “Navy looks very good on you. It brings out your eyes.” the Frenchman commented as he adjusted to carry both apple baskets in his hands with Maria on his chest. “It looks like we are all finished out here for now. I may come back later when the children are napping.” As much as the man loved Johannes’ children, he also liked his space alone from time to time. Charlemagne then turned on his heel and started walking back towards the Austrian’s estate home to get started on prepping the apples for their final delicious forms.




Every day off Charlemagne had he tried to spend it with Johannes and the children and today was one of those days. He had been spending more time at the other man’s home and much to his surprise a group of seamstresses from the town over had visited to take his body measurements for dresses as Charlotte. The team of women even had a book of fabric samples and sketches of dress ideas to present to Charlie for his thoughts and approval. One of the women made a comment about how they could make an illusion of a womanly shaped bust with lace ruffles. Initially Charlie wasn’t keen on the idea since he didn’t mind presenting flat-chested as Charlotte. But they convinced him to try it on at least one dress and that if he didn’t like it then the lace could be taken away. But the overall experience was fun as they all got to talk about style and fashion. Charlemagne made his selections on several dresses before the seamstresses went on their way to work on the order.


A couple of weeks after that meeting the seamstresses came back with the made dresses, all different styles for various occasions. And ironically enough the favorite one was a baby blue dress with layered lace on the chest that matched the elbow cuffs and skirt frills. It was light and airy enough for a nice day time look paired with a coordinating shoes, fan, and jewelry. As Charlotte, she never was one for wearing a ridiculous amount of jewelry, but she did like earrings and rings quite a bit. But this dress was perfect because she had overheard Johannes reading over his letters and heard that the Queen mentioned wanting to meet her and that Prince Karl wished to have a hunting match with him and Prince Maximilian. Charlotte was a bit nervous about presenting herself to the Queen, but she figured that the hunting match between the men would be enough of a distraction so that that Queen wouldn’t pry too much.


So, Charlotte dawned her favorite baby blue dress with coordinating pearl jewelry that compliment her over all ensemble. She then swept up her long dark hair into a bun with matching pearl pins to keep everything in place. After applying her usual rouge, Charlotte stared at her reflection in her vanity mirror. She was Lady Charlotte and she held Johannes’ hand the entire carriage ride back to the palace to face the Queen, Karl, Maximilian and the rest of the palace. Charlotte didn’t feel too overdone for such a gathering, but she was also paranoid since she’d be conversing with the Queen who personally requested her presence. But Charlotte knew that she would have to suck it up and deal with the situation at hand the best she could.


At the palace she and Johannes were given a warm welcome by the butler and maid staff, directing them to the back garden area that bordered the forest. The Queen was already there, chatting with Matthias and Karl while Maximilian was nearby counting off his bows for their holding quiver. Maximilian chose archery as his method of hunting whereas Karl had already chosen a rifle. Josef stood like stone by the prince with the readied weapon to make his hunt as seamless as possible, sure that the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne would win this trivial contest. But he didn’t dare mouth such words near Matthias who had already given Josef approximately five glares of death that day alone. Matthias had his money on Johannes, despite wanting to support Prince Maximilian as well. Hell, if either one of the two one Matthias would be happy to rub that in Prince Karl and Josef’s face until the end of time.


Upon being directed to the Queen, Charlotte curtsied out of respectful habit. “You must be Lady Charlotte! I’ve heard so little about you. How do you not talk about her more often, Johannes? That’s a real shame.” The Queen mentioned, her gaze switching from Charlotte to Johannes. “Exactly. You deserve a man who spends his waking time talking all about you.” Prince Karl spoke to Lady Charlotte before giving her a wink. “I am quite confident in Johannes’ affection.” she said in response, her posture straight and proper. Matthias couldn’t help but roll his eyes into oblivion at Prince Karl’s leering. Charlotte began fanning herself to avoid fidgeting. “You should probably go pick your weapon, Johannes. Maximilian is getting antsy with anticipation over there counting his arrows. I’ll keep Her Majesty and Lady Charlotte company.” Matthias spoke, taking control of the situation swiftly, yet gently. Prince Karl eyed Matthias for a moment, although he did nothing to unnerve the significantly taller man. The doctor was already annoyed at the prince since he tried to say he had a hand injury earlier that morning when it was merely a sprained wrist. He hated being popular amongst the royals deeply and much preferred his research, teachings, and Johannes’ company at the estate. But the heir to the throne demanded care from Matthias claiming that he was the best of the best. So, Karl’s complaint was both an ego stroke and an inconvenience.


Eventually Prince Maximilian made his way over to Johannes a bit somber more than usual. “I wish Elizabeth were here. But she had to stay at our estate since she is feeling unwell. But she’s being stubborn and refusing Matthias’ help. She says she has herbal remedies for her stomach but doesn’t want to inconvenience Matthias for something she claims is trivial. I don’t know what it is about Hungarian women. Every single one I’ve met is tough as nails.” the prince talked, worried about his fiancé. “She adamantly insisted that I attend today’s hunt instead of stay home with her.” he spoke while shaking his head. There were just some things he would never understand about that woman he loved so dearly. “But you should be careful. Prince Karl is looking rather predatory at Charlotte.” Max advised, gesturing over his shoulder at the two and the Queen. “Which weapon do you choose, though? Rifle or bow and arrow?...”


Johannes von Hügel

Johannes couldn’t help but laugh with his son and Charlemagne at his high-class English accent. “Top marks Charles,” Johannes responded in accented English. He didn’t bother trying to drown out his own accent when he spoke English like he did with French. While he didn’t hate the English, they didn’t deserve his efforts like the French did.


Glancing down at the giggling child on his hip Johannes pressed a kiss to JJ’s head. He adored that his son was happy enough to laugh at such silly things. There had been a period, right after his wife passed, that JJ barely let out a smile. He had been getting happier before Charlemagne came into their life, and now JJ was practically back to his previous ways of being a happy and carefree child. Charlemagne was a god send and Johannes couldn’t wait to spend his life with the man, if Charlemagne wanted that.


“All sounds delicious, but then again anything you make is delicious,” he responded as JJ continued to giggle in his arms. He didn’t expect Charlemagne to complement him though, which only caused Johannes to blush a little bit. “Thank you. I can help carry basket, schatzi,” He offered as he followed after Charlemagne to the kitchen.


True to his words Johannes ended up hiring a small team of seamstresses to provide Charlotte with new clothes; all of which were courting gifts. The seamstresses were all known to be discreet and had worked with all type of clientele. They didn’t ask questions, nor did they even bat an eye when Johannes has told them what he needed from them. Instead, they arrived ready to do everything they could to make Charlotte the most beautiful dresses ever.


During that session, Johannes was happy to sit by and watch Charlemagne be spoiled. It was funny considering when it was his wife, he had no interest in the seamstress’ visits. Now he was curious about the fabrics that Charlemagne chose, and dress styles. At the end of the visit, when Johannes was escorting the ladies back to their carriage, he put in his own order of a few matching suits, easily rattling his measurements off to them before sending them on their way.


That is how Johannes found himself, in the carriage, in dark blue coat and trousers, with baby blue piping along the edges. While it wasn’t a blatantly matching outfit, anyone with eyes could tell that Johannes planned his outfit to match his partner’s. Purposely, making a statement that while they weren’t married, he was openly courting Charlotte. If that wasn’t obvious enough for the people who saw them arrive in the same carriage.  


Johannes helped her out of the carriage and led them to the group of his friends who were talking to the queen. “Your majesty,” Johannes softly said as he bowed to the woman. A small smile twitched on his lips as the queen complimented her, but of course Karl had to appear. “Your highness,” he said acknowledging the prince before turning back to the Queen. “It’s because I am a selfish man. If I talked about Lady Charlotte all the time, I would have to duel countless suitors. I may be decent at the sword, but not decent enough to win every duel. A hunting match on the other hand… well we will see.” He said explaining why he didn’t speak about Charlotte during every waking moment, while making a very pointed comment towards Karl who was ogling the woman who would have nothing to do with him.


“Thank you, Matthias,” Johannes said as he took Charlotte’s hand and left a very public and pointed kiss on the back of it before leaving Charlotte in the safety of Matthias. Johannes didn’t have to wait alone at the weapons for long. Soon enough Max was beside him. “I’m sure Charlotte would have enjoyed her presence. It would have saved Charlotte the awkwardness of being with the Queen with very few lifelines. And you know she was right. If you didn’t come to the hunt Karl would have used your concern for your fiancé as a weakness. If that could even be considered a weakness,” he said as he glanced over the offered weapons.  “Prince Karl will be leaving Charlotte alone after he loses the hunting match. He will be too embarrassed to do anything. If he isn’t then I’ll always bring up his fiancé. Not that Charlotte can’t defend herself. Her tongue is more biting than mine.”


Johannes easily picked up the bow. The rifles were alright, but the accuracy wasn’t good enough for Johannes. He was, however, a beast with a bow. Archery was something Johannes had picked up easily as a child and excelled at it. He was so good at it that he had been banned from several royal hunts because he made other participants feel bad about themselves. It wasn’t his fault that his competition tended to suck. Plus, the majority of the people that joined in on hunting competitions tended to chose rifles. While the rifles had devastating powers, the accuracy wasn’t great, and the other ‘hunters’ tended to destroy the meat and fur with them. Johannes, however, always had very clean kills and had intentions of continuing the streak so that Charlotte could have fresh meat and pelts for her stores.


Johannes pulled his glove archery glove and slid it on before grabbing the rest of his gear. He even doubles the number of arrows that Maximilian had grabbed, confident in his own ability to use almost every arrow for a kill. Once ready he approached Karl. “Are you ready your highness?” he asked. The sooner Johannes got done with killing enough animals to feed his home and the palace the sooner he could go home with Charlotte.


{Charlemagne Marquis}

The Queen cocked an eyebrow at what Johannes had to say about Lady Charlotte. But she couldn’t help herself when she let out a light laugh while partly covering her face with her fan. “I can see what you are saying about the dueling. I would be quite sad if something did happen to you, I will admit. But we certainly shall see about this hunt. I do have great hope for you.” she spoke while fanning herself. Charlotte felt her cheeks heat up lightly with a blush when Johannes spoke of her. She definitely felt lucky to have such a man by her side. Karl huffed a bit because he was confident that he would win the hunt that day. But he felt like his biggest competition was Matthias. But Karl was interested in trying to capture Charlotte’s attention despite how little she was showing him at that time. He believed that he had the charm to do it too.


But Charlotte found herself to be thankful that Matthias had decided to step up and keep her company while Johannes went to prepare for the hunt with Prince Maximilian. However, Max adjusted his quiver of arrows on his back, trying to get it to sit as comfortably as possible. “I know. Elizabeth is often right about what she talks about. But I’m more concerned about her wellbeing than a pissing match with a man child like Karl.” the male muttered, still quite salty that he was here without his fiancée. “The man is the most apathetic fool. I don’t understand how he can be like that and think it’s okay.” Max simply shook his head. He knew that he needed to focus on the hunt at hand. He was not aiming on winning with bagging the most game. He instead was focusing on precision and quality. But the prince was also keenly aware of just how scarily affective Johannes was with a bow. Maximilian felt kind of foolish stepping up to the plate with a bow and arrow knowing that Johannes could easily wipe the floor with him, no question.


But Johannes’ comment about Charlotte’s wit was quite funny. “She does have quite the attitude, doesn’t she? No wonder she gets along with Elizabeth so well.” Max sighed. A part of him wanted to get this hunt over with. But he was glad to at least have Johannes and Matthias in attendance despite knowing the two men would be battling for supremacy in today’s bought. “Do you think you can beat Dr. Riedl, though? I know he’s using a rifle, but he is quite intimidating, is he not?” Maximilian inquired before glancing over at the man in question. Matthias looked like he was having a grand old time conversing with the Queen. From an outside perspective it was obvious that the doctor had strategically placed himself slightly in front of Charlotte to separate her from Karl’s hawk eye stare. “He is quite the strategist.,” Max remarked, “I believe it will be between you and Matthias for the win.”


Following behind Johannes, Max tried to not laugh at the side eye that Karl gave them when Johannes spoke up. “Question is are  you ready to lose, Johannes?” Karl responded. Charlotte rolled her eyes before Matthias did a final check of his equipment he was carrying with him. The Queen squinted at Karl, though. “I think it would be wise for you to show some sportsmanship, Karl.” the Queen spoke, her aggravated tone making Karl actually shut his mouth for once. “But as a reminder to all of you gentleman, I will be the final judge of who wins today’s hunt. It’s not about how many animals you down. It is about the cleanliness of the kill. Precision matters, gentleman. Use your equipment wisely.” the woman advised before sending the gang on their way.


The Queen beckoned Charlotte to follow her to sit under a gazebo, ladies in waiting standing a few paces back in case the Queen needed them. The Queen had snacks and tea prepared for herself and Charlotte while they waited on the men during the hunt. They were having quite pleasant conversation, most of which surrounded either Johannes’ children, her children, or whatever else the Queen wished to speak about. Between the occasional pops in the distance from Karl and Matthias using their rifles, Charlotte found conversing with the Queen quite easy and even pleasant. The Queen even complimented Charlotte on her light yet beautiful ensemble. That brought Charlotte back to talking about Johannes and how well he treated her. The Queen nodded approvingly when told all about how the Austrian man brought in a personal seamstress team just for her. “So, would you say that he spoils you?” she asked to which Charlotte nodded. “He does. A lot of the time he refuses to let me brush my own hair out in the morning, instead insisting that he do it for me.” “As he should. He is a good man.”


As time passed by Charlotte and the Queen watched as the men all came back to drop off their kills that were too big to carry on their own. The two ladies both inspected each animal the men hauled back, the Queen awarding a set number of points for Charlotte to keep tally of. It truly was a close match between both Matthias and Johannes. But the kill shot on the doctor’s animals were messier because of his use of a rifle compared to the clear wound from Johannes’ arrow. Maximilian was doing well with his bow and arrow set. But what set him back as that one of his kills had to take two arrows. Then the meat on Karl’s kills were noticeably more mangled than anyone else’s even though he was also using a rifle like Matthias. But eventually the Queen did decide to end the hunt to give out scores and celebrate the hunt so the meat could be processed by the kitchen staff.


Both Maximilian and Matthias came back with any of their bare skin covered in dirt. First, Matthias had done that to blend in, but he bumped into Max and gave him the camouflage tip before going their separate ways. Karl did not return in such a fashion. The most dirt was on his shoes and pants from wiping his hands on them. Charlotte was fanning herself as the weather had gotten quite warm, although there was a generous breeze moving through the area. Karl looked awfully confident in his odds of winning, although Charlotte knew he had the fewest points. Charlotte looked over at Johannes, although she said nothing. The Queen had asked her to keep the final scores a secret until everyone had reassembled in the gardens. But Charlotte had been put in charge of telling the men who won.


When given the permission Charlotte stood and straightened out her skirts. “Gentleman. The Queen believes you four have all done an excellent job today with your efforts, however there is a man here who has clenched the win.” Charlotte spoke, seeing that Maximilian was pretty relieved the hunt was done. Matthias seemed excited to hear of the results. “In fourth place is Prince Karl. The Queen believes that while you did have a high number of catches, your execution was messy and that a lot of the meat may not be salvageable for the kitchen’s use.” As soon as Charlotte announced that Karl was in dead last, the man’s jaw dropped. He was shocked. Prince Maximilian stifled a snicker to avoid receiving the other man’s ire. “In third is Prince Maximilan. Your kills were fewer in number, yes. But were done with more precision. However, that one animal you used two arrows for did hurt your standing today.” Maximilian only nodded. He didn’t care that he didn’t outright win. He just cared that he did better than Prince Karl did.


In that moment Matthias looked over at Johannes, elbowing his slightly. It was between the two of them now. Charlotte had cleared her throat, though, to bring back the doctor’s attention. “In second place is Dr. Matthias Riedl. You had just as many kills as first place, but they were simply not as clean. That means that first place goes to you, Baron Johannes von Hügel. The Queen congratulates you on your exquisite skill and efforts today.” Charlotte spoke, trying to keep her expression neutral, although she was immensely proud of Johannes coming out on top of the pack for the hunt. Karl was seething where he stood, being in dead last whereas Johannes got first place. Karl firmly believed that the Queen was playing favorites with the baron. The prince couldn’t fathom the idea of not being number one. "I cannot believe this! How is it possible that Maximilian scored higher, let alone Johannes actually winning in front of Dr. Riedl?” Karl finally spoke incredulously, exasperated even.


“Are you blind? You absolutely ruined the game you caught.” Matthias gave a retort. “How dare you speak to me like that! If Josef participated I’m sure he would have beaten all of you.” Karl was furious, but Matthias remained calm as ever. “Your Highness, your guardsman has not even taken me up on the sword dueling challenge. Besides, knowing Josef, he cannot shoot to save his life.” Matthias responded, looking at the prince with his infamously stone-cold expression. But the Queen quickly grew tired of the squabble. “Enough with the argument, the two of you! The scores are final. End of discussion. Go clean yourselves up at once.” the Queen spoke, gesturing at the men with her folded up fan. Karl stomped off, likely to freshen up and complain to Josef about what had happened with the hunt. Maximilian quickly made haste to clean up himself to avoid anymore trouble with the Queen. Matthias followed suit, not at all sorry for what he said to Prince Karl about him and Josef.


Even though Johannes did also just come out of the wilderness after a successful hunt, Charlotte still moved to take the man’s hand to guide him inside to get cleaned up. “You did such a good job! The Queen and I suspected that you would win. Looks like we were correct. But Karl’s ego is so fragile! I didn’t think he would throw a fit like that in front of Her Majesty.” Charlotte said softly. “But how about we get you cleaned up and something to eat? How does that sound to you?...”


Johannes von Hügel

Karl’s question almost caused Johannes to roll his eyes. The prince was disgustingly cocky since he never experienced true failure. It was going to bring an abundance of joy to Johannes to destroy Karl in this hunt. The only true competition was Matthias, but even Johannes wasn’t too worried about the doctor. Sure, the man was a great shot with the rifle, but Johannes was very certain he could get the cleanest kills.


The Queen seemed unamused with Karl, which only added to Johannes’ joy. A slight twitch of his lips was the only show of happiness over the Queen’s correction of Karl. Afterwards, Johannes turned all his attention to the queen, listening as she explained what she expected. Every hunting competition was different, so it was important to listen. Some demanded the biggest game, the most animals, or in this instance the cleanest kill. All of the different variations were something that James easily exceled at, but it was extremely important to know what was expected.


As they were dismissed, Johannes gave Charlotte a soft smile, before following the rest of the men to the edge of the forest. Several servants were there to help bring the game back. While the other three men had just jumped into their hunting, Johannes had a quick conversation with his team as he removed his waistcoat. After his team knew what he wanted from them, Johannes stepped into the forest.


Johannes had basically designated two servants to carry big game, and one to carry two bags for small game. When the big game was taken over, the bag would be taken with them. Johannes also asked them to keep their distance, not wanting to spook any animals. Thankfully, the servants listened to him, which made Johannes’ hunting much easier.


The first few kills were small, a few rabbits and a couple quail. Johannes didn’t expect to rack up many points with the smaller game, but he didn’t care. He was, after all, on a mission to make sure Charlotte had plenty of meat for the palace stores. The variety would also be helpful, because Johannes was sure Karl was only hunting down deer.


When the first bag was about to be full of small game, Johannes finally found a buck. He had seen a few does and fawns but being an ethical hunter, he didn’t kill them. The buck, however, was free game. Taking a moment, Johannes lined up his shot, and took his shot at the opportune moment. The kill was clean and effective. After that shot, James had quiet a few more lucky kills, his servants quickly growing busy lugging kills back to the queen. Eventually the hunt was called to an end.


Johannes was only slightly dirty. There was some dirt on his neck, rubbed there on purpose to minimize his scent, and his boots were filthy, but otherwise he was fine. At the edge of the forest, he slipped his waistcoat on, so not to offend anyone, and then inserted himself between Matthias and Karl, even though it required him to stand very close to Karl. It was, however, intentional. Johannes’ goal was to annoy the prince, and from the look he got he succeeded.   


Hearing that Karl was in last place caused Johannes all the joy in the world. At Maximillian’s ranking announcement, Johannes gave the prince a smile and a soft good job. It was just Matthias and him now. It could go either way. If Matthias aimed for the head for his kills, like Johannes, then there was a good chance he would do better than Johannes. If Matthias aimed for the heart, then Johannes had the better chance. Thankfully, Charlotte didn’t let them wait forever.


Johannes had won. More importantly, Karl was absolutely furious. This anger caused Johannes to give a faint smile, as the prince argued the scores. Johannes didn’t feel the need to defend himself and the Queen was quick to end Karl’s little squabble with Matthias.


Unlike the other three men, Johannes didn’t scatter instantly. He hesitated for a moment to see if Charlotte was going to be following him. Thankfully, she did, taking his hand to guide him inside. “I didn’t get banned from hunting in Austria-Hungary for no reason. I’ve been told I have a way of showing how fragile men’s egos are,” He responded, squeezing Charlotte’s hand.


“Though we should talk about how you are about to start a whole scandal. An unwedded woman, going with a widowed man to a private room, unescorted. The scandals,” Johannes lightly, and jokingly said, the hunting having put him in a great mood.


Despite his words, Johannes wasn’t too concerned about the scandal. With the hunt having been a very limited amount of people, there weren’t enough people out and about to gossip about their activities like there would have been if it was a massive hunt. Also, the palace staff knew how to keep silent.


Bringing Charlotte into the room with him, the moment the door closed, Johannes stole a quick and chaste kiss. “Thank you for not verbally eviscerating Karl again. I am fairly certain if you did he would have been more interested in you and I wasn’t joking when I said I would like to avoid a duel. I’m pretty sure that duel would end so poorly for Karl that he somehow gets me banned from Austria-Hungary.” Stepping away, Johannes went behind a screen that was erected. A full bathtub sat on the other side, as well as a change of clothes. It seemed like the Queen was prepared to have a bunch of dirty men post hunt.


Johannes easily slipped out of his clothes and slid into the warm tub. An appreciative groan came from Johannes as he spent a moment soaking in the tub. “What did you and the queen talk about?” He curiously asked.


{Charlemagne Marquis}

For a moment, Charlotte was looking around as the other men went their separate ways to get cleaned up after the hunt. She also saw the Queen be followed inside by her ladies in waiting, maid and kitchen staff come out to clean up the lunch and tea that was had while waiting as the men completed their hunt. Charlotte’s attention was then redirected to Johannes when the man had gently squeezed her hand. The comment the man had made about being banned from hunting back in his homeland got a laugh out of Charlotte. “And soon maybe France as well. But maybe I should have Dr. Riedl regale me with stories of how you got banned in the first place back home. He is quite the storyteller from what I’ve been able to hear.” she teased. But Charlotte knew that Matthias was very calculated with his words, at least while sober. In the back of her mind she made a note to have a wine tasting night and see what kind of memories the taller of the Austrian men would divulge. “He is quite the character anyway. The Queen seems to like him very much when they do have the chance to speak to each other.” Charlotte noted as the two of them began to make their way inside so Johannes could wash up.


Johannes’ follow up comment did catch Charlotte off guard, though. But she could not help herself with a smirk that worked its way onto her lips. “Or we could give scandalous rumors actual substance.” she quipped. “Yet you still stand to reject me. Quite tragic, I might say. You make me suffer so needlessly.” Charlotte added, all in jest despite her pent up frustrations being very real. “But it could be argued that you are my escort to this private room, could it not, Johannes? Or are you going to pose the Austro-Hungarian values argument again?” Charlotte really could not get enough of teasing Johannes, but what she loved about him was that he took these moments in stride. That and the fact he was hers. At least Charlotte would defend that with her life.


She was content in the stroll back to the room that had been designated for Johannes’ clean up efforts, But she was surprised by an unexpected kiss. However, Charlotte was not one to not savor the tenderness of the fleeting moment. She was going to say something in response to the kiss, but instead Charlotte found herself listening to Johannes thank her for not tearing into Karl. “I don’t even understand why he has such an interest in me anyway. He’s far too arrogant for my liking anyway. I like my men with confidence. Kind of like Dr. Riedl.” she said facetiously. In reality, Charlotte appreciated the doctor’s expertise and vast knowledge. But he seemed far too obsessed with his work than Charlotte could handle. She respected the man’s commitment to research, learning, and discovery. “He’s always reading a book or discussing some new scientific thing from what I have overheard. That’s nice and we need people for that.” Charlotte noted but was trying to be respectful of the doctor who truly was just doing his best. “But you know when to simply step back and enjoy the moment. And that’s what makes you perfect.” Charlotte admired Johannes; her hands held together at her waist. This wasn’t to just look proper, but more so to curb her from ripping Johannes’ clothes off herself.


She watched him with a thirsty eye as he disappeared behind the partition to bathe. Charlotte and pulled up a chair’s ottoman to take a seat on not too far from the screen that separated her from Johannes and his bath. She sighed softly before she perked up at Johannes’ question. “Honestly, some of it was about her children and your children. I’m sure you know she loves them dearly. But she also asked me a lot about you. How you treat me. How you care for me. I told her that you often refuse to let me brush out my own hair because you want to brush it out for me.” Charlotte chuckled slightly towards the end. “She says you’re a good man. A kind man, Johannes.” she smiled as she spoke. “And honestly? I could gloat about that to everyone for hours. The gossip amongst the courtesans of who’s having an affair with who gets old. But that’s simply the culture here. But I know that in my heart I can rest assured that at the end of every day no matter what that I’m loved wholly by the only person I have eyes for, Johannes.” she mentioned. “However, I do find it increasingly difficult to keep my hands to myself. I do implore you to thank God today that I have a full day gown on right now. Otherwise, I would be jumping into the tub with you. I would love to help you clean up, but I know myself enough to know I wouldn’t even pay attention to that task.” Charlotte rolled her eyes. But her tone of voice while soft to not disturb the room’s peace, was salacious to say the least.


She then fell silent, contemplating. Charlotte then began to pull out all of the hair pins and pearls from her hair, and there were seemingly a million pins keeping all of her hair up on her head. “What I would give to be able to wake up in the mornings every day by your side, Johannes. To just lazily doze about, innocently feeling each other’s skin with our fingertips. Spending just an extra few minutes savoring that silent sweetness before getting up for the children, if they’re not already invading the bed.” Charlotte spoke quietly, but there was much longing in her voice, although she was very amused at the children waking them up as kids tend to do. “I know you have Tibor, but I would also like to cook for us. And of course, make sure plenty of snacks are ready for the children. To be there for them, through tantrums and all, because growing up is hard. And honestly, I do enjoy getting my hair brushed every now and again by you.” Charlotte continued to muse.


“I don’t know what your thoughts are about it. But I wish it were easier to simply have our lives together, Johannes. You have your duties, I have mine. Even if I weren’t involved with the Court here I would likely be back home in Bordeaux helping my brother with our wine business since it has been a Marquis family profession for so long now. Of course, my brother owns everything since he is the eldest, but he focuses mostly on the agriculture and bookkeeping. I am the master sommelier of the vineyard, but then I was brought here to work for the royal family… But I’m just rambling at this point.” Charlotte shook her head lightly to let her hair fall after taking out all of the pins in her hair. “But after you’re done cleaning up, could you help me out of this corset so I can get out of this dress? I would very much like to take an afternoon nap with you, please. No funny games, I promise. I do have a proper slip on underneath.” Charlotte thought it was comical to admit that she wanted Johannes in every possible way, but to also assure him that she did not have the intention of jumping him as soon as he finished his bath. “However, I must warn you that I am liable to steal proper kisses from you. You bless me when you can, but they’re far too quick for my liking, Johannes.” a proper warning.




And as the days passed by, Charlemagne did prefer the idea of a more domestic life because he was being spread entirely too thin back in the palace kitchens. He loved to cook and craft things that were beyond people’s imaginations. But the sheer scale on which he and his kitchen staff were working was absolutely mind boggling. Less than a week prior he had been notified that more Austro-Hungarian nobility would be visiting the palace and that the King and Queen had told them all about Charlemagne’s work in the kitchen. He would have been flattered in many other circumstances because his name was coming to be known all over for not just his family’s wine, but also his very own food. His patience was wearing thin with Karl around. Maximilian was completely fine. But the Frenchman really did not have the patience to cater his work to more foreigners. He dared not say it out loud, but in his mind he constantly thought about how he would rather cook for the English than more incoming Austro-Hungarian princes and princesses. And Charlemagne really did not have any hope regarding their behavior. But yet here he was scrambling to make sure they would have enough supply deliveries to supply the palace with enough food, because knowing the King and Queen they were going to want to have an insane number of parties. He was truly working overtime to make it all happen.


When Maximilian had heard the news he immediately had a feeling of impending doom. He sure as hell did not get along with Karl. His other relatives were questionable at best. More often than not he was criticized for choosing to work, let alone in entertainment. And they thought it was so strange that he didn’t seem repulsed to walk around beside the lower classes of people in France. God forbid they found out about his philanthropic efforts particularly towards the Arts. Maximilian was of the belief that if he was spending a majority of his time in France and enjoying what his privilege did afford him, the least he could do was uplift the French voices that were around him at any given time. For instance, in Paris he was a patron of the Paris Opera Ballet since he knew a lot of the dancers relied on their personal patrons to sustain themselves and their families. But instead of being a proponent to the system of men exploiting young girls and women he simply tried to help those who he and Elizabeth visited with things like securing proper lodging, food, and pointe shoes among other things. He also went out of his way to support theaters that he didn’t even act for.


Maximilian sure as hell did not have to do any of this had he not chosen to do so. But he did the exact same thing back home. He was an avid supporter of the historical arts that the Austro-Hungarian empire had to offer. Sure, there was going to come a day that Maximilian wasn’t going to be in France with Elizabeth forever. They were going to have to go back home at some point. He actively worked to avoid disclosing his and Elizabeth’s royal lineage while out and about in France. He tried to pass themselves off as philanthropic businesspeople from central Europe. And after he became established as an actor in France that was the story that stuck in the minds of the common people. Conversely, Max’s family knew damn well what he was doing. But no matter what they said or tried to do to him, Maximilian stood firm on the idea that they had a duty as royals to be philanthropic and that substantial greed was looked down upon by God. His relationship with his relatives, as they were all technically in line to the Empire’s throne, was strained to say the least.


But on what was supposed to be a beautifully bright and breezy late morning, Maximilian found himself practically rushing to Johannes’s estate via carriage ride. And the entire time the man was damning himself and the carriage feeling like it was taking forever to get to Johannes’ home. To say that the prince was stressed to his wits end was an understatement. This was compounded by the fact that he was dressed in full regalia, sash, badges, ropes, the works. He even had his usually free flowing golden main expertly tied back with his respective coronet on the top of his head. The man was not mentally prepared for the arrival of his relatives from home. He already felt foreign enough wearing his dress uniform. The coronet felt heavier than it usually did. Maximilian's mind was racing endlessly. He just knew he could not handle the pomp and circumstance alone. And Elizabeth had already departed earlier that morning for the palace since the Queen requested a number of noblewomen for a gathering before the arrival of fellow Austro-Hungarian royalty.


“Johannes! Where are you, Johannes? I am not messing around right now. I need you and that is and order and not request!” Maximilian called out once bee-lining past Hans into the home. The house staff that saw the man instinctively bowed or curtsied out of habit, but the man dismissed this as politely as he could with how stressed out he was in the moment. The prince even practically ran right past Matthias who had stepped out of his study to see what the commotion was. But even the doctor’s existence was practically ignored. “Johannes, this is absolutely not a joke! Where are you??” the man called again before making a stop by the other’s office space. No knock. No warning. Maximilian practically threw open the heavy solid wooden doors.


Standing there in all of his jewels and gold made the man feel absolutely ridiculous, but he was much relieved to find the exact man he was looking for. “Johannes, I swear to the good lord that I am going to die from the stress of this visit. Why the hell do they all have to flock this way? Now I have to look like this and play stupid fucking politics for however long their insufferable bullshit decides to stay. I thought Karl was bad enough, but Johannes. The other princes before me in the line? They are absolutely terrible together. I am at the point of pulling out my hair. Please help me!” the man word dumped as he let the doors shut behind him before plopping down in a plush chair.


“You know how Matthias always talks about how stress can make you feel like your heart is going to explode? That what it feels like right now and I don’t know what to do…”


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