"Ouf!" she exclaimed as she plopped down on the bed. Nothing in her rigorous training as a musketeer had prepared her for the exhaustion after a grand ball.

For starters, her feet pinched and ached in places she never even knew existed. She tossed a glance at the silver pair of feminine shoes that landed in opposite sides of the room when she hurriedly hurled them off of her feet the moment she entered the room, out of fear that she would have to amputate her foot if she wore them even a second longer. They shimmered innocently at her. They were certainly elegant and in keeping with the latest fashion from Paris. Oh, but they were instruments of torture in disguise. She groaned loudly as she massaged her feet. She never thought she would miss her boots so much!

But it wasn't entirely the fault of the shoes. She did not get an opportunity to sit down once during the ball. Whether it was dancing, greeting guests or standing and conversing, she had been on her feet the entire night. It was not an arduous feat for a musketeer of her rank and training, but in those shoes and in that dress and in that corset… She groaned again.

Renée never cared for balls all that much. She enjoyed the preparations for a ball, but she always felt out of place. She hated the way men looked at her or sized her up for marriage. Balls gave her an icky sensation at the pit of her stomach: she felt exposed and vulnerable, as if she was a mule on sale at a market.

But then things changed when she met him. She began to look forward to these balls, to the discrete glances impregnated with love and desire, to the heated stolen kisses afterwards*, to the anticipation and excitement until their next meeting. She sighed deeply. How strange! It had been eight years and she still felt butterflies in her stomach as if she was sixteen all over again. She let her thoughts drift with this feeling of utter bliss, thinking of the man who stole her heart. François…Francthos… Athos…

Athos?!

She shot up like a bullet from a musket. Athos? Her comrade-in-arms, Athos? She could feel the sweat starting to creep through the thin fabric of her nightgown. She exhaled and hugged her knees to her chest.

"Don't worry. I'll come for you as soon as the first dance is over." He had told her when the Marquis whisked her away. He kept to his word. They danced together for the most part, as he discretely gave her subtle instruction on her dance technique. He remained with her as the Marquis introduced her to the numerous guests. Cousins, uncles, relatives, friends… The Marquis – with Renée's permission – introduced her as the widow of his son. Everyone present was looking forward to meeting this mysterious woman who had captivated François de Montsorot.

In spirit of keeping a low profile in this predominantly Protestant setting, Athos – to the grand surprise of his comrades – reverted to his own real identity, introducing himself as the Comte Olivier de la Fere. The Marquis later thanked him for his consideration. D'Artagnan was introduced as a nobleman from Gascony and Porthos remained, well, Porthos. But people, notably women, were too taken with his charm and personality that no one bothered to inquire further into his occupation nor his heritage.

She had never seen Athos like this before. He was almost a stranger to her; a man from another world and another time. Everything about him gleamed with nobility. His dress, the way he carried himself, the manner in which he addressed others, the way he inclined. He was soft-spoken, yet firm. His features exuded intelligence and grit. In a way, he was the same Athos she knew; her comrade-in-arms, her brother, her leader, her mentor, the man she looked up to. But this night brought her to a whole new level of awe in regards to this man. Every one was impressed by him and all the women had eyes on him.

So every time this magnificent man looked at her, she would instinctively blush. When he smiled at her, she felt her knees become weak. And when he held her hand or had her by the waist in a dance… well, thank God he had held her, otherwise, she would have melted right into the floor.

Until now, her nerves hadn't had the chance to recover, for he never left her side all night long.

She smiled despite herself, bringing her hand to her flaming cheeks, as she replayed the events of the ball. Alas, the moment would only last a few seconds for a sudden feeling of guilt crept up on her like a snake in the dark. The last time she felt like this was almost a decade ago. Back in her bedroom, after a ball, dreaming of this man she was going to marry. François… Yet here she was, eight years later, in the house where her fiancé had grown up, surrounded by his family, sitting on the very bed they were supposed to share as husband and wife… thinking of another man. Shame on you, Aramis!

She rested her head on her knees and let her tears flow freely until she fell asleep.

Aramis stared at the room around her. It was a spacious and luxurious room, more so than her childhood bedroom at the house of her uncle's. It would naturally be so, since this was no mere provincial manor, but a chateau of a Marquis. A fire burned in the fireplace, warming the room and giving it a soft orange hue. The bed was made up in the most elaborate and decorative sheets she had ever seen. The room looked exactly the same as it had when she first saw it, except that the bathtub was not there anymore.

She could have sworn it was there when she returned from the ball… She had specifically requested that for it not to be removed. She looked around her again in confusion. The paintings on the wall were different than they were this morning. The drapes around the bed were certainly different. They were white now, as opposed to the subtle red. How could there have been so many changes? The servants had been busy with the ball… How long was the ball?!

She looked down to find herself in her nightgown. One thing she remarked, however, was that the nightgown was slightly more…elevated at the bust. She furrowed her eyebrows and brought her hands to her breasts. Dear God! They were considerably bigger than usual! She rushed to the looking glass and there she was…

There she was: Renée.

Before she could contemplate this any further, a soft knock sounded from the antechamber.

"Come in," she heard herself say, with a more feminine and younger voice. Suddenly, she was outside of herself – reduced to a mere observer in this bizarre play.

She didn't see him come in. She only heard his voice, which was enough to make her heart stop.

"How beautiful you look, my sweet Renée!"

No… it can't be. Her whole body froze in place as her heart dropped to the floor.

The stranger finally made his appearance into her line of sight.

He was tall and elegant, dressed in tailored pantaloons and a simple white chemise that hung loosely about his torso. His hair was slightly dishevelled, evidently from hurriedly removing some of his clothes. The light made him look surreal. His hair glowed rich in its reddish-brown hues and his grey eyes appeared a darker color.

She could hear the air coming out of her mouth, as every breath became heavier. He was there before her, standing in her bedroom, flesh and blood. François…

How she ached to reach her arm out and touch him… To caress his face, run her hand through his hair, to bring her body close to his, revel in his warmth and in his love. How she ached to tell him how much she had missed him, how lonely she had been since he departed… Oh, François! She could feel the fresh tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

But before she could react, seeing as how paralyzed she was, she could only watch as the younger version of herself rushed across the room and embraced him with such ardour – a gesture she would have envied to death were it not for the strange sensation that it was really her embracing him. She could feel every part of him on her; his chest, his arms around her, his loving gaze and then… his fingers as they suggestively caressed her lips, paving the way for his moist lips that landed delicately onto hers.

She let out a sigh as he kissed her, a sound that became louder and more urgent as their embrace gained in passion.

"I can't believe we were able to hold out this long," he chuckled in between kisses.

Renée giggled.

"I can tell you, there were so many times when I thought I might lose control…" he added, as his lips found her neck and began to devour it. Renée closed her eyes, drew him to her closer and sighed under the weight of his kisses.

"Mmm… François! How I wish you had," Renée playfully reproached him. Aramis, who was watching, couldn't help but smile. How she did wish he had! They had explored each other, pleasured each other – or rather, it was mostly he who had pleasured her*. He had been too much of a gentleman to allow her to risk her honor, despite her numerous pleas and attempts at seduction. "On our wedding night," he would promise the disgruntled Renée with a wink. How adorable his fiancée was and how lucky was he!

Aramis' attention was drawn back to the two lovers by a gasp from the young woman, whose night gown glided down to the floor, courtesy of her new husband. He paused to admire her. Renée looked down, embarrassed at her utter nudity, her face a flaming red. But his eyes were alit with a desire she had never seen before. A desire, it became evident, he had carefully kept in check all those times they had been alone together. Aramis' heart began to pound. Yes… yes… take her, make her yours… make me yours…François…

The next few moments passed in a blur: she was no longer sure if it was her or if she was watching the scene unfold. It could have been both at the same time, if that was even possible. Their tongues danced ferociously, his clothes fell off, his grip on her waist tightened as he hoisted her up and dropped her onto the massive bed, not once taking his lips off of hers. He then proceeded to explore her with his tongue, with his hands; she could feel his hair caressing her skin as he moved up and down her body. He let himself loose on her like a wild animal who had been caged for so long. And she relished every bit of it! She could barely catch her breath as every touch, every lick, every kiss produced a new and more profound wave of pleasure that kept leading up to a dangerous point until finally…. She was in full ecstasies!

Without knowing how, he had positioned himself on top of her and, as if that moment, that very first moment of their bodies uniting was entirely skipped – to her disappointment – she was placed right in the middle of their lovemaking rhythm as he came and went inside her. She could hear his breath become more laborious with every thrust.

"Oh François… François!" she heard herself cry out.

"Renée… my Renée…" he answered her in between kisses.

"I love you, François," she breathed.

He looked down at her, smiling, slowing down his pace to kiss her, to reassure her of his love in this vulnerable moment.

"I love you, Renée…"

Their sighs and moans alternated between "François" and "Renée"…

"Mmm… oh God, yes, yes!" she cried out, feeling his rhythm change, intensifying, becoming stronger and faster.

"Do you like that?"

"Oh yes… don't stop!"

"Oh, Renée!"

"François!"

She opened her eyes to him once more when she suddenly noticed that his eyes had changed… the grey in them had turned into a dark blue. She traced her hand on his cheek. It felt rounder, the moustache was darker, and around his face, his hair fell in long damp strands of black.

But the gaze remained unchanged: there was that love in his eyes that gave birth to this carnal and ravaging desire. He let out loud grunts as he gave her a thrust that was hard and strong, which sent a most pleasurable vibration from her very inside to the rest of her body.

"Aramis!" he called out.

Then, she heard herself cry out his name as her body tensed jealously around his:

"Oh yes, Athos…Athos… ATHOS!"

….

Aramis woke up with a violent start forcing her to sit up in bed, clutching her nightgown tightly around her neck. With panic, she brought her hands to her breasts and breathed a sigh of relief. She looked around her. The room was bathed in the dim morning light that made its way through the heavy curtains.

The bathtub was still there. Her shoes and her dress from the ball were casually strewn around. She brought her hand to her forehead. Disgusting! She was drenched in sweat, as if she had gone out for a swim and come back to bed.

There was no question of going back to sleep now. She splashed some water from the basin onto her face. She dried herself with a towel as she gazed into the looking glass, trying hard not to think of her dream. There was one thought, however, that she couldn't get out of her mind:

The poor Renée… how she had longed for her wedding night, how she had longed to make love with François, to unite herself with him. She never thought she would belong to anyone else, nor that she would share her body with anyone else. How ironic that, with all the events that had happened after his death, from her disguise, her revenge and everything she had done for him, for François… after everything, the first man to see her breasts was none other than her comrade-in-arms. And not just Athos, but Porthos too.

She shook her head and went to call the maid for a bath. Her eyes flit wide open as she saw a big stain of a colorless fluid on the bed, right where her crotch was. She blushed uncontrollably and covered the bed. Was that from François… or Athos? Either way, a bath was definitely warranted after this.

* I encourage you to read Joelle-Sama's story "Le péché de Noël " for an exciting story with Renee and Francois (:

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