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Not even if I were the last...|25th brunchtime- Xmas 1677

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... Nicolette would never make the mistake of trying to kiss Lucas again.


Barn Elmes is located a few miles from Whitehall on the northerly loop of the River Thames between Barnes and Fulham in a quiet and rather clean stretch of river. The park and garden are expansive in the style of a country estate, and it is a frequent location of picnics and walks to the ladies and gentlemen of court. It is well-known for the outside to be open to such visitors. On any pretty afternoon punters can be found floating on the water and blankets spread out with laughter rising.


Once the home the Duke of Buckingham provided for his boon buddy, Abraham Cowley, and a place of secret retreat for the King and some of the literary sect, the Duke has once again decided to place those who have his patronage here. Although a far cry from the splendor of his other residences, Barn Elmes is a generously spacious three-story home with many sets of rooms, parlours, a music room, and a small hall for entertaining.


Nicolette had no doubt that Lucas abhorred her, their brief and intense friendship had ended quite as suddenly as it had begun. Perhaps that was her fault, she'd admit some of the blame, but then he'd been rather beastly too.


But London was a small place, and Whitehall smaller still. Right from the seasons onset the Composer was thrust in her face (what with the Opera), she decided some manner of peace pact needed to be made. A setting of terms they might work within.


Barn Elms was as ever impressive, awing the senses of a visitor seemed to be a prerequisite of any of Buckingham's houses. It had been a long time since she'd last visited, though she smiled to the doorman as though it was just yesterday. "Bonjour my friend, is Master Cole in please?" her eyes slid past the man towards the foyer, off which was the reception room that had been the Composers sick bed when he'd been mending broken limb.

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  • 1 month later...

Lucas was indeed at home.


Specifically, he was sat upon the floor in the drawing room, before the fire, attempting to dry the fur of a puppy who had spent a happy hour bounding about in the snow, and had now decided that drying off was no fun at all when the cloth could be thoroughly bitten.


"Hah, eich bod yn drafferth, Arth-bach..."1 The composer murmured affectionately, disengaging the tiny, needle-sharp puppy teeth and and laughing as the little dog yipped. "Dim ond drafferth, mm? Brathiad y brethyn os ti moen, ond rhaid ichi cnoi dodrefn y Dug, ydych chi'n deall?"2


He did not seem to notice Nicolette's arrival at all. Not that he would have thought much about it either way. If there was some sort of acrimony between them, he was wholly unaware; he'd thought their misunderstanding cleared up some time ago, and... whatever else had passed between them was merely a matter of ordinary loyalties. He'd not seen her in some time, true... but there were a great many people he'd not seen in some time. There was nothing the least bit surprising about that.




1. Hah, you are trouble, little Arth

2. Nothing but trouble, mm? Bite the cloth all you wish, but you mustn't chew the Duke's furniture, do you understand?

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Nicolette knew no Welsh, but she did recognise the sort of sounds Welsh made, they were very Lucas type sounds.


As the guard mumbled something vague and pot particularly helpful, Nicolette took the moment to step in and past. "Master Cole," she kindly spoke, a fresh bout of nerves hit her, but she really thought this meeting needed to be done. If what Lord Maldon had told her was true, she needed to make peace with the Composer. "I have hoped to see you." she stepped into the doorway and brought her offering into his view, folded it looked nothing more than a sheet.


Unfolded it was a St. Georges cross union flag. "I want to make peace please." She had no idea that he'd be caught by surprise at her request.

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"Ah, Mademoiselle Vauquelin," Lucas glanced over his shoulder, the briefest flash of a smile, his hands still full of tussling puppy. "One moment, if you would." He freed the tongue of his court shoe from Arth's jaws, ruffled the puppy's ears affectionately, stood, and turned to find...


The Frenchwoman brandishing a flag.


To his credit, Lucas managed to close his mouth after a moment or two, though he still looked rather bewildered. He did not even notice Arth's renewed attack upon his shoe. "Peace?" he repeated, faintly, in the vain hope that this single word would somehow explain everything, if said out loud. "I... don't understand. Why do you have an English flag?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"I could not find a welsh flag." He was acting confused, she did not imagine it was the flag really, but the bluntness of her request. Courtiers would usually politely dance around such a topic for months, perhaps years, never addressing the proverbial elephant. But Nicolette had enough uncertainty in her life without any thing else teetering in the balance.


"I wish for peace between us, I do not want any more conspiracies against me at court." she simply said. "As a friend I told you that I had been asked to spy, apparently this you then told to the Duke of Buckingham as a certain thing. Embellishment and dramatization is the courtiers art yes. I understand the impulse. But it was a terrible thing to tell the Duke I had accepted the job, and could not be trusted." she held up her hand to prevent her interrupting her, she wished to be heard.


"The Duke went on to tell everyone at the park on the Kings walk, that I am a French spy. He arranged them all to plot against me. The game that I was playing with the king, a simple game of catch and kiss was interrupted by screams and running men with swords."


"So there I stood, Master Cole, caught by the King and about to give the prize of a kiss - when their plot exploded and the King rushed off. Ah, all the who used to be my friends plotted very successfully. I would be proud of them if it was not me who they turned against. Your words turned everyone against me, I am scared you will do that to me again."


Again she offered him the the flag. "They told me that this was a flag for peace. Please accept it, please tell me that you will end your plot against me. I do not seek friendship, I understand that is impossible, but I want neutrality. Live each separately, without fear."


'Without fear' was a relative thing. She was not sure that everything that the Duke and Francis now did was part of the same plot to keep her away from the King, but it was the only course open to her after what had happened at the park. Perhaps Lucas knew the truth to the current situation, if she had actual potential, or was the laughing stock of court.

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As Nicolette's little speech forged ever more deeply into the thickets of paranoia, Lucas found himself regarding the curl of hair that fell to the left of her temple, without particularly seeing it.


Who would have guessed our Mademoiselle is so thoroughly mad?


He couldn't bring himself to even become angry; it was all too patently bizarre for that. Rather like being accused of sprouting wings, and flying to the moon.


"I did all of that, did I?" Lucas raised his eyebrows slightly as though he found this very surprising; he bent to scoop up Arth with leisurely ease, rather more worried about the condition of his shoes. "With just one conversation, too. My, my. I'm more devious than I thought, apparently... so very devious that even I was unaware. How novel."


He paused, regarding her rather pityingly. "I rather doubt there is some vast conspiracy woven purely to entrap you, Mademoiselle. You give yourself rather too much credit, I fear," Lucas noted, calmly, his voice soft and level and entirely without malice, as though explaining the obvious to a rather stupid child. "Believe me, I have far more important things to do with my time than contrive plots against you. My dear lady, staring into space would be the more profitable endeavor. The very notion is entirely absurd."


He waved one hand, vaguely, at her peace offering. "You may keep your flag, if you please. Peace? Yes, that marvellous peace afforded us when Edward the first overran our lands and put our King to the sword. Who wouldn't want to base a friendship on such? Thank you, but I'll decline."

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Nicolette nodded, gave a shrug and a sigh, "Even back in Autumn, words at court are like a snowball, from the smallest thing grows a great deal." At least Lucas seemed surprised of it. That made her feel a bit better, in fact simply getting it off her chest felt a lot better. "It is the stuff of a Moliere play." she agreed.


So he said he was not out to get her, which was the main thing she was concerned over.


"This I hoped, for though I am not an artist, I have a patron in Buckingham. I have a loyalty to the Great Duke, and so do not wish to present him with a bicker between his peoples." she explained.


"La, the flag was wrong in that case." she understood this upon his explanation. "Yet my sentiment remains as it is, I have no plans for retaliation Master Cole. Bygones are bygones."

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She began to speak of retaliation, or lack thereof, and the composer could not help but roll his eyes. Such a shallow view.


"Mademoiselle, you must be aware," Lucas began, in tones of infinite patience, "That my first duty is always to the Duke. I am his man, sworn to be so. Thus my loyalties lie. I can't imagine you were unaware of this; such an arrangement is a simple fact of court life."


Arth, in his arms, wriggled restlessly, and Lucas bent to place the dog upon the floor once more, ruffling the floppy ears affectionately. He straightened up, and added evenly, "If this does not please you, perhaps, in future, you might be more careful with whom you share your secrets." It was quite clear Lucas did not intend to take any blame whatsoever for his actions. He did not see that he had done anything wrong. Certainly, there was no war between them that he could perceive; so why should there be retaliation?


It was a ridiculous idea.

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