A/N: This is a fic from A Song for Arbonne. I absolutely adore that book. One of hte very few that can make me cry. It's a bit slow at first, but the politics are amazing, the characters are realistic and the landscape is beautiful. I only wish it can with a map (I know, a fantasy novel without a map? Shockgasphorror!).
This is just Thierry and Ariane. Ariane is the Queen of the Court of Love, which (seems to me) was originally set up to give the wives of nobles something to do and to encourage the troubadors but went on to be a real source of political power. Theirry is Ariane's husband, and he's gay. So she's off shagging the other male leads, wihle he turns out to be an amazing general and earns everyone's respect. He's not exactly in the book much.
Disclaimers: A Song for Arbonne and all related character belong to Guy Gavriel Kay, and I'm making no money from this.
Warnings: References to homosexuality. Well, Theirry is canonically gay.
Thierry de Carenzu positively beamed as his pregnant wife entered his room. She had been with child eight months, and she hadn't accepted the situation gracefully. Each day she seemed to find another aspect of the pregnancy to complain about. Currently it was food cravings, though last week she'd been upset about the mood swings.
Thierry slipped from his bed and walked over to her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her tenderly on the mouth.
"Thierry," Ariane laughed. "I swear by the goddess ever since this child was conceived you have been more attentive to me than any man."
"We're going to have a child," Thierry kissed her ear. "A child."
Ariane sighed and grew heavy in his arms. "You haven't even asked who the father is," she said softly.
"I don't want to know," Thierry said firmly. "As far as I am concerned the child is ours."
"You want that, don't you?" Ariane smiled at him. "I never even meant to get pregnant."
"I am glad you did," Thierry said, though the firmness of his voice wavered.
"Every one else wants to know who the father is," Ariane said quietly.
Thierry released her. "I know," he said, voice strained.
"Do you think I am too old for my first child?" Ariane asked. "That is the other thing everyone seems to be discussing."
"Of course not," Thierry told her. "After this one, we will have more."
"We will?" Ariane arched an eyebrow at him.
Thierry's mouth worked without sound for a moment, and Ariane could see how strongly he felt about this. "I want us to have a child," he managed.
"How will that work, Thierry?" she sighed. "This is why I always worked so hard not to get pregnant. I know you hate them talking about us."
"I'll close my eyes and think of Blaise," Thierry said, eyes sparkling wickedly. "I will think of Bertran. And if that fails, I hear there are things that can be done with needles and slender brushes."
"I don't think I would like that at all," Ariane told him tartly.
"They'd still talk," Thierry said sadly. "Sometimes I wish I could just silence them all. I wish there was no grounds for them to talk at all." He walked over to the window and leant on the stone, staring out across the castle grounds.
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that," Ariane said, sitting on the bed. "You are the way the goddess made you, and you are a good man."
"I am," Thierry agreed vaguely, "but that's not what people see."
"Don't be ridiculous," Ariane scolded him. "You have proven to the world that you are one of the most competent leaders, in war and peace, that has ever lived."
"One of the most competent catamites," Thierry corrected her bitterly. "That is always the first thing people see when they look at me: a catamite. Not the King of the Court of Love, or the leader of an army, or any other thing I might have accomplished. I am not a man, Arriane," he said, turning to her, "I am a lover of men."
"Does that matter?" she asked desperately. "They still respect you."
"If they respected me they would not be discussing who the father of your child is within my hearing," he snapped. "They would not write bawdy ballads about myself and En Gaufroy. They would not treat me differently!"
Ariane sighed and lay back on the bed. She pressed one hand to her distended belly, willing the agitated child within her to still its kicking. Thierry had his moods, she knew. The pregnancy had upset him in ways he wasn't willing to admit to himself. She had never known someone so entirely comfortable with who they were and at the same time so desperate to be something else.
"What do you want, Thierry?" she asked him.
He sat beside her on the bed, lifting her heavy skirts above her waist so he could touch the stretched skin of her stomach. He caressed her for several moments before he spoke.
"I want this to be a love match," he said eventually. "I want all marriages to be so. I hate to think of so many people sleeping outside of their marriage beds. I hate to think of both of us taking men to our beds to satisfy needs we can not satisfy in each other. We're going to be parents. I look at the peasants and I see them happy. They marry for love, and their children blossom for it."
"You know I love you," Ariane said tiredly. "And we shall both love our child. As much as I would will all marriages to be love matches, you know perfectly well that among our class it is simply impossible."
"I know," he sighed. He kissed her stomach reverently. "I just wish I could be the man you ought to have married."
"You are the only man I could bear being married to," she told him warmly. "And if we are speaking of love matches, I should tell you that I have invited Bertran and Rosala to spend the Spring with us. Rosala wrote me last month saying that Cadar had been asking after his uncle Thierry."
Thierry couldn't fight the smile that spread across his face then. "I will be glad to have them," he said warmly.
"Which other troubadours ought we to have this season?" Ariane asked, eyes sparkling. "Alain of Rousset has written some particularly beautiful melodies, I feel."
Thierry laughed, but there was a hint of sadness in it again. "You would tempt me when I would remain chaste," he told her. "I do not want to be courting men when we have a child."
"You can't deprive yourself of company forever," Ariane shook her head. "You've been alone through this entire ordeal of mine. Are you going to force this single life on yourself forever? I know you are fond of him, and he has every justification to be here as a troubadour. Would you prefer him to spend the season with En Gaufroy instead?"
It was a cold jab, and intentionally so. There was bad blood between the two Dukes since Thierry had rejected Gaufroy's advances. That alone would not have caused much offence, but Gaufroy had gone on to get roaring drunk and beseech Thierry from beneath his window like a love struck teenaged troubadour. And if that embarrassment hadn't been enough to leave both men mortified, shortly after an anonymous song began circulating entitled "A man's love". As tradition insisted it changed the names, and even softened the blow by keeping the subjects of opposite gender, but the world knew well who the joglars were singing of. It upset both men; Gaufroy for it's depiction of him ass a drunken fool and Thierry for it's depiction of him as a frigid woman.
"Fine, you may invite Alain," Thierry scowled.
"Oh, don't start again," Ariane rolled her eyes at him. "Poor Gaufroy was heart broken," she teased.
"Man's a fool," Thierry sniffed. "Do you want Lisseut as well? She still sings his songs beautifully, and her own are simply amazing."
"I heard," Ariane said conspiratorially, "that she's with child."
Thierry frowned. "She's unmarried," he said.
"And she spent the winter in Gorhaut," Ariane murmured. "She's not touring this Spring. Officially she's working on new music, but she's secluded herself entirely."
"Is that the evidence you are basing these rumours of childbearing on?" Thierry asked sceptically.
"Not at all," Ariane laughed. "I base it on the recognition of a fellow burden bearer when I saw her a few weeks ago."
"It will all be over soon," Thierry soothed. "We will have a child of our own. Maybe a daughter to marry Cadar?" he smiled at her. "It will be a love match," he said firmly.
"I was hoping for a son," Ariane admitted. "Beatritz was going to tell me, but I made her keep her peace. I want it to be a surprise."
"So do I," Thierry smiled. Somewhere in the dark of the castle a bell chimed. He sighed. "Dinner," he commented.
"Ugh," Ariane said. "Food that I have to fight to hold down, courtiers frowning at smells I can't help, and needing to leave every ten minutes for the privy. Can't we just stay here?"
"You would have me fetching fish and honey again," Thierry chuckled, "or chicken pate and summer fruits."
"I can't help my cravings," Ariane told him. "Really, I think men ought to bear children every once in a while. Find out just what a wondrous, blessed time it is for themselves."
Thierry helped her from the bed and rearranged her clothes around her. She pouted at him. He smiled and kissed her on the lips.
"I love you," he said sincerely.
"And I you. I would not have you any other way," Ariane told him, one hand on his cheek. "I would change no thing about our marriage, Thierry. I could not be as happy with any other man."
He smiled softly. "What we have works for us," he agreed.
"You must not wish any change upon yourself," Ariane said solemnly. "You never know what wishes the goddess might grant. Now, come," she went on imperiously. "I must go and break wind in front of the Valensan dignitaries."
Thierry laughed with her and they went to dinner, arm in arm. Theirs was a love match.