"What do you mean we're going into war against England?"
For a woman that grew sicker and sicker as days went by, she didn't sound like it right now. Her voice roared through the large suite and the occupied room.
Francis winced at the volume and the pure fury that came off her in waves. It seemed to encourage the anger and wilderness that sat in his heart. Not even an hour ago he was in a meeting with the king. If not to preserve an image, he wondered if he too would have reacted this way. The memories of the last few wars were still fresh in his mind. Sometimes they kept him up at nights as the horrors danced across his dreams. The only good thing was that he wasn't expected to go onto the front lines of this one.
"Gabrielle, please, you need to sit down and calm down."
The figure of his wife paced back and forth in their personal library. There were a few stumbles and she was slow but continued. It was as if her ears never picked up his plea. Her brown eyes didn't even look in his direction as they were filled with fire.
"I can't believe this. The king is a complete imbécile! What good will it do for us to aid in the Americas?" The woman muttered out loud her thoughts. "We can't go into another war. The économie won't be able to stand after this. The people can barely-"
The brown headed personification kneeled over and coughed hard into her hand. Francis flew off his chair to her aid. One arm wrapped around her front to prevent her from falling face first into the ground. With the other hand he rubbed her back to provide some comfort for her poor state. Gabrielle heaved heavily after her coughs slowed down. Sweat began to form on her forehead. The nation picked her up and placed her on the loveseat. While she was busy to catch her breath, he turned to make some tea with honey that was left on the table. The gentle aroma was the first thing that hit his senses. However, he couldn't bring himself to enjoy it. Francis walked back to his wife and helped her drink it. Her body shook too much and was weak after that coughing attack. It'd be a horrible idea to leave her to her devices. Even if it was as something as small as holding a cup. Gabrielle took small sips. Her eyes watered a bit at how much her throat hurt. Francis took out his napkin and patted away the sweat on her brows.
"Oh, mon cher…"
He whispered. His blue eyes watched with sadness and pain at her poor state. A part of him told him that he shouldn't have said anything. Yet, he was glad that he did so. The woman was brilliant, and her advice was sound. He'd be a fool if he kept this from her. What he really need was advice on what to do. Personally, he would love to make Arthur lose the war against young Alfred. The two had a strong rivalry after all. But Gabrielle was right about one thing- they couldn't afford doing this. What were they supposed to do now?
Finally, her breathing slowed to a normal pace. Her eyes no longer watery and the sweat slowed down. The tea soon finished and was put aside. Francis sat beside her and held her close. He placed a firm kiss against her head.
"Feeling better, now?"
"Did you say anything?"
She finally asked, her voice no louder than a whisper. Francis sighed and nodded.
"Oui, but he isn't listening. He thinks that, if Alfred wins, we're going to be rewarded. That enough money will come our way to stabilize our économie."
That we might get Matthew back, he wanted to say. However, those words never escaped his lips. Unlike him and Arthur, she had a good relationship with the Englishman. One that was built on mutual love for the children, especially Matthew. She would be in hysterics if he said it.
"Then there is the rivalry…"
The woman shook her head with disbelief. She met young Alfred a few times. The last time was when Arthur came to pick Matthew up. He was a good boy, that was practically a man by now. Sometimes he sent her letters with her responding, since she put in the effort to get to know her son's best friend. However, what could he reward the French with? She heard about the issues of taxation that went on in the Americas. Money won't even be on the table by the end, if they win.
"You have to get him to back out. Please, Francis, we can't allow this to happen."
Gabrielle looked at her husband with pleading eyes. Her hands grabbed onto one of his and held them in a tight grip.
"What would you suggest I do?"
"He's weak with no backbone. Put pressure on him as much as you can without him getting scared off. Get the Ministère des Finances on your side for extra support. I'll help by spreading information on how it's going to hurt the aristocratie. Enough to cause a bit of panic, which will put extra pressure."
Francis frowned at the last part.
"You need to rest, mor amore. Let me deal with the information."
A finger rested against her lips.
The man repeated, but softer this time. Gabrielle huffed but didn't say anything more. She knew that he was only worried about her state of health. After all, she could do now were small things that didn't tax too much of her energy. Even arguments brought her down, much to her frustration. She wanted to be out there, helping her husband and their people. It didn't help when she saw out of their windows the aristocracy doing nothing more than have tea parties and play games. It made her feel nothing but shame and disgust.
Finally, she gave in, and nodded.
"Good" Francis smiled, happy to have won this argument. "Now, I heard Matthew sent us a letter?"
At that, Gabrielle brightened up.
The minute Francis was alone, he punched the wall nearest him. The white wall cracked from the center of his fist and spread outwards. Pain shot through his fingers, to his wrist and up his shoulder. Yet, he didn't care.
Months, months, he worked on negotiations, getting people on his side, spreading information and putting pressure on the king. In the end, it was worth for nothing. Louis sent ships upon ships towards the Americas before the final discussion could take place. The discussion was supposed to also provide the final decision. Everything rested upon that one meeting.
And yet, Louis went behind their backs.
The preparation for the war was done in silence. They didn't know that. They finally got Louis to agree to have meetings. Ones where they presented evidence of why getting into the war was a bad idea. While Francis did his business at the side, the Minister worked hard on getting the information needed. The nation managed to get some people onto their side. They helped by spreading the information faster, but that was about it. The others didn't care and brush everything off as propaganda.
He and the Minister were shocked into silence when the truth came out. All Louis did was shrug everything off at the last meeting and told them to be on their way.
What were they supposed to do now?
"We won but the Americans aren't going to pay us back."
29-year-old Louis one day told Francis and Gabrielle during a meeting between the trio. They were in the private suite of the couple so that the brown headed woman didn't need to walk too far. She couldn't stay on her feet for too long.
The human man sat in the armchair while the couple took their spots in the loveseat. Tea and snacks were made and placed on the table in the middle. Three cups were filled, and already half drank from. The meeting started out pleasant enough. The king started it by asking of Gabrielle' health. They talked about how his two children were doing. His wife was never brought up, which was more than fine for different reasons from each party. After that was when he dropped the bomb.
Silence filled the space between them. Francis' jaw stiffened as his hand on his wife's waist tightened. Gabrielle showed no reaction.
"Pardon, may you repeat that?"
Her voice was low, slow and calm. It was rather eerie and made the king shiver involuntarily with fear. Her husband, recognizing what was to come, watched the duo with weary eyes.
"We won but the Americans aren't going to pay us back."
Not once did anything on her persona change. Louis gaped at her at the way she spoke to him.
"Pardon, Madame Paris, you can't just-"
Gabrielle cut him off once more, as if she didn't hear him.
The king looked at her then at her husband to ask for his reaction. Francis nodded in agreement with his wife.
"Please, leave us be."
Louis shuffled in his seat with discomfort. It was clear that he was never spoken to in such a manner. After hesitating for a moment, he left without another word. Once the door clicked behind him, they were left alone once more.
Gabrielle fingers turned into fists and they shook. Her skirt's fabrics were caught and wrinkled as result. Larger hands gently untangled them from her skirt and held them in his warm pair. Neither said anything. Too many emotions ran through them. With that came many thoughts. Neither were sure what their partner thought for sure, but they knew one thing. They felt disappointed and angry but not surprised. They have dealt with many kings and queens in the past with different capabilities. They've met other monarchs that weren't any better from their current one. Yet, they never found themselves in this situation. One where their very existence was now threatened.
Gabrielle finally broke the silence. Her eyes in daze, but she spoke with clearness. She didn't want to live under the same roof as a man that had no honour. One that was their king, at that. Francis didn't say anything. Instead, his hands tightened around hers. Enough to let her know that he heard. One of her hands broke free from the grip. Long, unnaturally pale fingers brushed away the long piece of blond hair that fell into his handsome face. Blue eyes closed as he took in the warmth, kindness and strength that belonged to the woman he loves.
"You tried your best."
She comforted him. Francis shook his head. When he opened his eyes, they looked old and tired.
"I will go and pack. Go and write to Matthew. Let him know of our situation. Make… make sure to let him know that we love him, one last time. In case… we don't live through this."
Something formed in the woman's throat. It felt heavy and made it harder to swallow. Her eyes began to water, and she nodded.
By next day, with all their things packed, they left the Palace of Versailles. Their carriage took them to one of their older homes that was far away. Where no one knew of its existence nor would be able to get to them. It was a place where they would be safe. Nobles watched and gossiped about the reasons behind their departure. Scandalized that they dared to leave the home of their king. Marie Antoinette didn't care. Louis only watched in silence through one of the windows. He watched as their carriage drove off into the horizon and disappear.
It would be the last time that they saw them.