"under lock and key"

Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: G
Time Frame: 1772, (1793 mentioned)
Characters: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette

Summary: He crafted for her a music box, once; the gears and the mechanics within more beautiful than the artificial beauty atop it.

Notes: The first of five viggies that I am uploading today, all of which were written in Paris. I found that visiting the Conciergerie was as moving as visiting a Holocaust memorial, and Versailles was made both opulent and touching by the stories of those who lived within. This vignette is a result of that.

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.

He crafts her a music box, once.

It was something she would favor – bight and pale in pastel tones, with a girl in ribbons and pearls dancing along on top to one of the waltzes she was so fond of. The little figure was blonde and sweetly smiling, dressed in blue (something that his wife would have fun naming 'sky's blush' or 'winking eyes' or something equally ridiculous as she did for the rest of her fashions), with arms raised and eyes tilted upwards it was a wistful, delicate pose.

If he were eloquent, and less of the fumbling man he was (Dauphin sounds like a curse at the best of times; and so he hides from it as often as he can. In his woods, in his works – gears and nature all operated so much smoothly than the fierce Court of Versailles. Sometimes, he thinks that if he can apply the gears to the movements of his Grandfather's rule, then he would understand it enough to triumph over it one day. The thought of that was enough to turn his hands clammy.), he would have compared the figure's beauty and grace to her. If he were smooth with words as he was with the gears of clock and key, he could tell her that the box's true beauty was not in the outward shell . . . but on the intricacy of the mechanism within.

He is able, instead, to blush, and mumble: "For you."

Marie smiled prettily – the same smile that had enchanted him and put him slightly at ease compared to how he viewed the rest of the general populace. There was something disarming about her; and for a moment he wished that his tongue could trip cease tripping over itself to tell her so.

As always, she took pity on him; seeing his awkwardness if not the reason it held. She took the figurine gently, and traced one very white finger over the girl's dress. Her hands were very soft, he knew, and he felt his cheeks stain red as he thought so.

"She is lovely, Louis," she breathed over the gift, cooing as she did over her dogs or a new shade of silk for a gown. "I absolutely adore her."

The praise washed over him, letting him stand just that much straighter before her. Next, he passed her the key to the music box – of which he prided himself on the craftsmanship even more so than the box itself. The key was bronze, intricately shaped and beautiful to behold even without the lock it fit.

"Here," he stammered softly. "This will make it play."

She was giddy with a girlish delight as she turned the music box. As it played, the little figure danced, and he had the feeling that she would have clapped her hands together in glee had she not been holding the box. She tilted her head back and forth to the melody, as if she wished she were the one dancing herself. She always did have a restlessness about her; thrumming fingers and dancing feet . . . She was meant to be a lady of the court, if not the court's leading lady, and he feels pity that both of them should have been so miscast in their roles . . .

She handed the music box to her lady, and kept the key in her hand. When it disappeared in one of the folds of her gown, he caught her gaze and dared to lift the corner of his lips in the beginning of a smile. She met and matched it as she always did – looking at him with something like curiosity in her gaze.

Years later, she would press the very same key into his hand as he was taken from her for the last time. The key was warm from her hands; they had trembled as she clutched it as she did her rosary beads. Her eyes were filled with a sorrow – and he answers it with his own. His another time, another place was filled with a different kind of wistfulness . . . at least, in this life, he was given a chance to learn to adore one such as her. In any other life . . . she never would have been his.

At least . . . at least he had been able to see her dance. It is the vision of her – young and smiling at his gift as she couldn't quite hold herself still - that keeps his eyes straight and his mind calm as he walks his final steps. He could feel the key, warm in the wrist of his sleeve, like a talisman until the blade fell.