He had always wondered, and now he finally knew. The moment he felt their lips connect, he backed away. Jacqueline was flustered, and she blinked several times trying to shake her mind from the momentary daze she was in. He could see her cheeks flush red, and when she realized he was staring at her, she ducked her head down. He couldn't help but realize that her eyes had watered as though tears were forming. "Are you…" he asked quietly.
She shook her head and inhaled deeply. When she looked up at him again, the façade of Jacques Leponte was reinforced, stronger than ever. Swiftly, she wiped at her eyes, and soon there was no trace that she had let her guard down. "It's difficult," she said, stepping away from him, putting more distance between their bodies. "Sometimes, I wonder how long I can keep this up." She grabbed the lapel of her uniform. "And I wonder what the consequences will be if I'm caught." Her hand rested on the hilt of her rapier. "Though no matter what happens, I don't regret my decisions. I don't regret meeting any of you, and yes, that includes you." She let out a nervous laugh. "Maybe it's easier to talk to you because you don't look like yourself." She waited for him to respond, but he didn't know what she expected from him.
He was always patient when he was searching for answers, and he was grateful that he waited this long to find this particular one. Deep down in his heart, he knew that what she had said was probably the most precious words he had heard from anyone. Here was a woman sacrificing her life, giving up any possible future she had with a husband and children. Living her life to the fullest each day because tomorrow could be her last. And at the bottom of it all, she was grateful to have the musketeers, to have him, in her life. He now found solace and a deeper respect in his relationship with her. They both had their own demons, but it was comforting to know that she relied on them just as much as he relied on her to keep the demons at bay.
He heard a knock at the door. Ramon was standing at the doorway with a worried look on his face. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"D'Artagnan was thrown from his horse a few minutes ago. He's fine," he said quickly before they could bombard him with questions. "He's resting in his room. But it's strange…" the poet trailed off.
"What's strange? It's not like it's the first time," Jacques said.
Ramon shrugged and head back out of the lab. "Well, he suddenly yelled that he was d'Artagnan, and then he was thrown. I just wanted to let you two know… Aye, I tell you, you crazy French and your wine. I told him she shouldn't have gone drinking…" then the Spaniard was gone.
Jacques almost collapsed, but she caught herself at the last moment. "You-!" she whipped around and looked at him with fearful eyes. "When did-?"
Siroc held his hands up in defense. "When the mirror broke. I had a feeling that since it was the cause of the switch, then destroying it would reverse the effect. Though I would have much rather it happened outside."
Jacques took in a few breaths, unsure what to say. She looked like an abandoned child, afraid and lost. She kept her eyes downcast and wrapped her arms around her chest. Out of respect for her, he kept his silence. "Why did you kiss me?" she asked meekly.
"I didn't mean to cause you harm or fear. I had my suspicions long ago, and I only wanted to know if you truly were Jacqueline," he said gently. He knew that wouldn't be a sufficient answer, but it was the truth. The moment and the opportunity presented itself, and he risked finding his answer. He saw her shrink away from him, and he did something unlike himself. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her gently. "Don't worry," he said as he held her. "Both of your secrets are safe with me." He was glad to feel her relax against him. The shock of her secret being revealed was vanishing, and her trust in him was surfacing again.
She pulled back, but not enough to break the embrace. "Both?" she asked.
Siroc smiled and let her go. It would likely be the last time he ever held her in such a way, but it would certainly not be the last time he offered her support or encouragement. "That you're Roget, and that your heart truly lies with d'Artagnan."
She snorted at his answer which caused him to chuckle. Her lips turned up into a smile, and soon she was laughing with him. "Me? Love him?" she said and playfully punched him. "I think all that witchcraft got to your head." She began making her way out of the lab, probably intent on visiting her fallen musketeer. She stopped under the doorway and turned to smile at him. Her gaze was something he could only identify as endearing. It was warm and comforting; he wished one day she was free to smile like that more often. "You're a blessing. Thank you, Siroc," she said sincerely.
He nodded and bowed as a gentleman would. "My lady," he said. She smiled once more, and then she was gone. Siroc brought his attention back to his partly destroyed lab. It was going to be a long day. He looked to the doorway, hoping that he relieved some of the pressure Jacqueline had been feeling. He was only a small part of the puzzle, but he would try to do his part. She was family, after all. 'A long day, but hopefully a brighter future,' he thought then turned his attention to the debris in his lab.