Chapter 9

Armand awoke for the second time that morning, this time to Gabriel covering his face with tiny kisses and whispering sweet things. "What happened?" the cardinal inwuired, looking up at his blue-eyed lover and trying to blink away the daze. The younger man chuckled. "You fainted with pleasure, my dear Armand. He placed a light kiss on the other mans lips and looked quite happy and proud. Well, he had a right to be. Nothing even remotely like this had ever happened to Richelieu, who now understood the term 'petit mort', little death, better than ever. This earth-shattering orgasm had indeed been a little dead, but pleasant enough to make one suicidal, so Armand wasn't about to complain.

"Only because you're such a great lover, Gabriel." The blonde man beamed down at him in a way that made Armand suspect that he didn't receive such compliments often. Good. No other man, or woman for that matter, should be able to touch this beautiful angel. Richelieu was a little taken aback by the possesiveness of his own thoughts, he barely knew his young lover... and yet he couldn't stand the mere idea of losing him. He'd never felt like this with somebody in his entire life. Living for the Lord didn't permit it. Maybe that was why a lot of people barely saw him as a human being of flesh and blood, but rather as a statue carved out of cold stone with a heart made out of ice to match it.

But Richelieu wasn't cold and heartless. He wasn't made out of stone! What he felt right now confirmed that. He was very well equipped to love... and be vulnerable. That was what he felt when he looked into those intense blue eyes, besides love, a deep vulnerability. Gabriel was the only one who could see him the way he was. The man, not the name or title. It was a startling thought that this didn't bother him in the slightest. He liked the way his armor cracked and his mask fell off. He liked the way his lover didn't expect him to be the strong man the rest of France, and the world, expected him to be. He always had to portray strength in contrast to Louis' weakness, but not here, not now. Not with Gabriel. And for the first time since childhood, Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu cried openly, oviously startling his lover who didn't hesitate a second to take him in his strong arms.

"Armand, what's wrong?" His voice was full of love and concern. Richelieu wanted to reply, tell him his tears were of happiness. For the first time in his life, everything was perfect. Gabriel was perfect, love was perfect, sex was perfect... absolutely everything was perfect. But he couldn't say a word. He just sobbed into Gabriels chest and allowed the younger man to hold, soothe and love him.

It was only after a long time that Armand looked up into the eyes that seemed not only to mirror Gabriels soul, but also his own. The younger man was still patiently comforting him. "Better?" Richelieu nodded and managed a weak smile. "Sorry." He felt a little embarresed for losing control like that, but Gabriel merely smiled. "Don't be, I'm glad you trust me." He gently kissed away the last tears on the cardinals cheeks, making butterflies go crazy in the older mans stomache. "Smile for me?" Armand obliged and snuggled up some more into his lover.

"So..." Gabriel broke the silence after a while. "How are we going to make this work without raising suspicion?" Armand grumbled, he'd been enjoying the comfotable silence. But there would be enough time time for that later, importand matters first. "Actually, I've already thought that over." The younger man kissed his cheek affectionately. "Of course you have, you're a smart one." He chuckled. "What did you come up with?" Armand felt proud and flattered. Even though he'd been speaking in a joking manner, it was clear Gabriel was serious about the compliment.

"You're going to be my apprentice." Gabriels eyebrows raised quite comically at that. "Your apprentice?" He sounded as if Armand had just suggested to dress him up as a dog and convince people he was a pet. "Yes, my apprentice. You can be around me a lot, sleep in my rooms and the like, without people suspecting anything." The younger man seemed to be thinking this over for a moment before he smiled broadly. "Yu're a genius, Armand!" The cardinal laughed. "I know." The blonde man raised an eyebrow. "And arrogant as Hell sometimes." The older man chuckled. "I know." Gabriel seemed satisfied. "Good, no knowledge like self-knowledge." "I kno..." The younger man whacked him with a pillow before he could finish the last word.

Of course, Armand couldn't allow such brutality... so he grabbed another pillow and whacked Gabriel right back. Within minutes, they were rolling on the bed, pillowfighting like there was no tomorrow. Their laughter rang trough the room. After a while, the younger man, the younger man pinned his lover, straddling his hips and holding down his arms. "Mercy?" he panted, grinning. "Do I have a choice?" Not that he really cared, he knew what would happen. "No." Gabriel kissed him. Completely predictable, but Armand wasn't going to complain.

The older man sighed as the kiss broke. He'd have loved to stay here and cuddle with Gabriel for the rest of the day, but duty called. "We have to get up, there's work to do." The younger man nodded and rolled off Armand after giving him another quick kiss. The older man started donning his robes, telling Gabriel to dress normally for now. He'd get a servant to make robes for his 'apprentice' later.

The day started pretty uneventful. Of course, people shot curious looks at Gabriel, but they were too intimidated by Richelieu's presence to dare approaching him. Armand couldn't help but like it that way. He wanted to have his lover all to himself. The younger man didn't seem to mind that either, since he was giving Armand his full attention, barely sparing the others a glance and sneaking in a touch wherever he could. Of course, he also tried to pick up something on Catholicism. He was one of the few without a real religion, so he needed to pay attention.

It wasn't until noon before somebody did approach them. His royal empty-headedness, king Louis XIII. The monarch stood in sharp contrast to Gabriel and Armand, being relatively short and not looking like he had the power to crush even a fly, let alone rebels. The man was a pest, unable to produce an heir and even less able to rule a country. In truth, it was the cardinal who ruled, using his talent to make people thing things were their own ideas to its full extend. He couldn't allow the Huegenots to get things their way. France was a catholic country and it would remain that way until the end of time. Richelieu wasn't about to let that weakling Louis change that. It might be manipulation, but it was for the good of France.

The brat stared at Gabriel as if the blonde man was a purple flying elephant. "Cardinal Richelieu, who's your friend?" he inquired as the two other men rose from their bow. "This is Gabriel, your majesty, he's my apprentice. A very promising young man, France could use more like him." Armand watched his lover take another bow, mumbling something respectful. The king nodded, not even bright enough to ask why he hadn't been informed. "Fine then, down to business cardinal."