Part 9

Jacqueline stirred, woken up by the silence after the pounding night rain. She was sore, and the memories of the night before came rushing back. Tears filled here eyes and she suddenly felt immensely alone. The door of the cottage opened, and Jacqueline sat up quickly, ready to defend herself if it was one of the Cardinal's men. She was relieved to see it was only D'Artagnan however. Her breath let out in a whoosh and a smile came over her lips.

D'Artagnan, upon seeing her sitting up, leaning against the wall beside the fireplace immediately put down the bucket of water he had been carrying and rushed to her side. He tried to cover his haste however by making a flippant remark. "Good of you to finally wake up lazy bones," he said.

Jacqueline smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder, nuzzling her way even deeper into his heart, but spoiling the moment when she elbowed him in the side. "Don't bug me," she said, closing her eyes.

D'Artagnan put his arm around her shoulder and held her, taking comfort in her warm body and her pulse. She had scared him going into labor like that. And knowing that she had been carrying his baby and never told him….D'Artagnan closed his eyes and pushed the image of his dead son out of his mind. "I'm glad you're okay Jacqueline," he said quietly, putting a kiss on the young woman's temple.

Jacqueline smiled and snuggled closer against his side. She reveled in the kiss that he gave so freely, one that she had wanted for a long time. "I'm glad that you came for me," she whispered.

"So am I," D'Artagnan said, not wanting to even think about what it would have been like for him and Jacqueline if he hadn't found her. She could have died, trying to give birth to her still born baby in the rain and he...if she had died, he would have been devastated. It still made D'Artagnan shake to think of not having Jacqueline in his life. To think that she had come that close to dying just yesterday….D'Artagnan wrapped his arm tighter around the young woman. "Why didn't you tell me Jacqueline?" he asked.

Jacqueline shifted, drawing away, the moment broken. "I was afraid," she said quietly, laying her hands on her stomach, tears coming to her eyes as she remembered her baby's death. "You weren't interested in me, not that seriously. The past few months, you have been in more relationships than I have been in my entire life. I felt…inadequate. I mean, all the girls that you have liked have all been feminine, simpering, beautiful girls. They wear dresses and go to parties and flirt with men. I…I'm nothing like them," she said, her back to her friend.

D'Artagnan's heart ached for the brave young woman. She had been through so much and she was afraid of his rejection.

"I don't want to be though," she said, turning to glare at D'Artagnan. "I am proud of who I am…most of the time. But I was afraid," she repeated. "I lost my mother, my father, my brother…everyone who was dear to me. I couldn't bear to tell you how I feel and have you reject me. I can't lose you D'Artagnan, not even as a friend! I would be happy just to be friends with you if that's all I can ever have. Just…please, don't treat me differently when we get home. I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear to lose you."

D'Artagnan reached out, touching Jacqueline gently on the shoulder. She had said that she was coming back! "Jacqueline, I would never leave you, never reject you. I love you. You are the woman that I want. I don't want any of those simpering girls who just like my uniform and my smile. I want a woman who can think for herself and who isn't afraid or too awed of me to tell me when I'm wrong. You keep me sane Jacqueline. Without you, I don't know what I would do. I was so…hurt when the captain came out and said that you had left. I didn't understand why you left without saying anything. I had to find you. Jacqueline, that was the only thing in my mind yesterday, to find you. I couldn't just let you go without telling you how I feel."
Jacqueline turned to face the man that she had come to love over the past year and a half. Tears were shining in her eyes as she leaned forward, into his embrace. "I love you too D'Artagnan," she whispered. "I'm sorry I ran off. I just…I was too afraid of rejection to tell you about the baby and now-and now it's-it's too late," she cried. "I'm sorry D'Artagnan, I killed our baby. It's my fault. It's my fault."

D'Artagnan held her in his arms and squeezed the crying woman gently as he stroked her hair. "That's not true Jacqueline," he said fiercely, keeping his own tears at bay. "It's not true at all. You did not kill our baby, do you hear me?" he took her by the shoulders and shook her, looking her in the eyes. "Our Lord brought our baby into this world to bring us together. We were simply not ready to accept the gift of a child. There was no soul in that body Jacqueline, it was never alive. The body was a shell created to help us to talk to each other. I am glad that we had the baby Jacqueline, whether he was alive or not. I can live without a child Jacqueline, but I could not live without you."

Jacqueline turned her tear stained face up to D'Artagnan. "I love you D'Artagnan," she repeated, lifting her face up to his and kissing him gently. "I love you."