Content summary: centers on the themes of miscarriage, postpartum depression, and disordered eating.
Anne loses the child in late August, a week before Louis' eighth birthday, while Aramis is in the Holy Roman Empire with her sister on a diplomatic mission.
"You must eat, Majesty," her ladies cajole to no avail. The queen turns her head away and commands them to let her be.
"Your Majesty, your body needs sustenance," the court doctor pleads. "Won't you please eat?"
"I tire of your babbling," she sighs, and has him escorted out of her chambers.
Already a slender woman, Anne becomes nearly ethereal, pliant and translucent in her mourning. Louis wants to know where his Mamá is; she refuses to see him, commanding his governesses to take him away. Philippe cries for her for a week and she shuts the doors and weeps.
She sleeps fitfully, wracked by dreams of a giggling baby with her hair and Aramis' warm brown eyes that leave her aching and hollow inside.
The queen appears for the first time in court after a week of near-seclusion, almost ephemeral in a gown of darkest gray. The nobles treat her with care as if approaching a dangerous animal and her ladies murmur behind her back. The royal seamstresses start taking in the bodices of her gowns.
(Still she doesn't eat, only picking at the barest portion of her meals. The cooks prepare their most delicious recipes to tempt her appetite and she smiles at their kindness and pushes her plate away.)
(Her heart is empty, after all, and no delicacy will fill the gaping wound in her soul.)
Louis frets and Philippe misses his mother and Anne can't even look at them.
After three weeks of the queen's fading into sylphlike shadow, the doctor sends for Aramis.
Her beloved's voice echoes in the stillness of her chamber. She turns her head slightly from where she's curled in the window seat, basking in the afternoon sun.
(She's always cold these days.)
She startles back to attention. "You've returned."
"Why have you abandoned your sons?" Aramis asks. His voice is colder than it's ever been when speaking to her. "Your children need you. You must come back."
The sun is so warm on her cheeks and she closes her eyes, turning her face up to the window. "I can't."
"Ana," and he's there, crumpling at her side, dropping his head to her lap. She runs a hand through his soft hair, still dark despite the threads of silver. "You must."
"Come back to them. Come back to me." He holds her hands to his lips as if in prayer. "Ana, I'm begging you. You are dying here. Please. Please, live."
"My son is dead," she says.
He tilts her eyes to his. "Your sons live."
"I can't forget," she chokes out, "and I feel so empty without him, Aramis. I already loved him so much." And then Anne is sobbing out the agony she's been holding back in public into his arms, soaking his hair with her tears, and Aramis trembles and cries with her, for the child was his, too. They sit in each other's embrace for a long while, sharing their pain and loss. Finally, she sniffles into his throat and wipes her eyes. "I should see Louis and Philippe."
"You should," he agrees. "But first, I'm starving. Let's have dinner."
She closes her eyes. "I don't—"
"We are having dinner."
"Vale," she snaps. "Pendejo."
He smiles, a little watery but so warm. She smiles tentatively back. "That's my girl."
"Queen," Anne corrects him out of habit, straightening her shoulders out of the slump she thought had become part of her.
"Queen," her beloved says. "Reina querida mía." The doors to the room crack open; the maids slip in holding hastily-made dishes from the kitchens. They don't blink at the sight of the kneeling First Minister and the queen tucked into his arms. Aramis pulls her to her feet at their entry. "Now! The big event." He purses his lips and chooses a sweet scone. "Eat."
"Dessert before dinner?" she jokes weakly, vaguely nauseated at the thought of a full stomach.
He's unamused. "You will eat this or I will force-feed it to you."
Bossy bastard. She obediently takes it and pops the corner into her mouth. Chew. Swallow.
It doesn't taste like dust.
Aramis nods at her approvingly. "Tasty?"
She narrows her eyes. "Don't push it." Her voice is stronger, less strained. She takes another bite at his pointed glare. Chew. Swallow.
He bows, kisses her hand, tugs her close to nuzzle her head with his lips. "We're going to be okay, querida." Drawing back, he smiles at her, eyes still liquid but filled with warmth. "Now, let's see your sons."