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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts (Side thread)- Xmas 1677

Caroline Despanay

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John and Caroline


Caroline laughed at his supposed vices, "Oh my, you are a blackheart, I had no idea. And to be honest, when is church not boring?"


She easily deflected his suggestions as to what they might do instead of participating in that final dance of the evening and made one of her own, take a short jaunt outside in the fresh air, make that cold air of the holiday season. John proved to be more than willing. Before going into the winter scene, she made a quick sidetrip to secure her coat though. She came back with a ready explanation.


"Much as I enjoy your company, I do not enjoy freezing."


A ready servant opened one of the side doors and out they stepped, the chill of the wintry night air hitting them instantly. At least it was not windy, rather it was quite peaceful. They could now stroll in a bit more privacy and she threaded her arm into his.


"I do thank you again for taking me to the ball tonight, I am having a good time. What about you, John?"

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“It’s not always b-b-boring.” Johan said, a little defensively, but a moment later, “It is often.” He admitted. There were a great mass of vicars and priests who were not exactly brilliant rhetors. John liked his own society, but he was still undecided about court.


John chuckled and took a coat of his own when she got hers. They walked out together and John took a moment just to look around at the snow covered garden. “It’s quite b-b-beautiful,” He commented with a grin. He wondered if they would run into anyone drunkenly sneaking about.


He gently took her arm, though with his usual shaking. The cold actually helped clear his head. He smiled at her, “Thank you f-f-for tonight,” He said, with a great deal of weight. He was almost somber, except that he was smiling. He appreciated deeply that she’d come with him, that she’d sought him out now, that she’d thought of him.


He especially appreciated that she’d chosen to spend a dance with him, even if it wasn’t on the dance floor. It made him feel… cared about, included.

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For just an instant, he might have been a bit offended with her frank assessment of religious services but then he practically admitted she was correct. Damn well, she was right! Once outside and protected by their coats, the pair agreed that was not that bad at all outside. Brisk yes, but certainly endurable for a short while so they could stroll a bit.


She was enjoying the ball and told him as much then was most curious to see if he felt the same, dearly hoping her good friend would also agree on that point. Afterall he had not engaged in a single dance and, though he insisted he never wanted to, she had to wonder how much it bothered him not to be able to dance. His answer was not quite what she expected though?


"You're thanking me? It was you who graciously escorted me here. You are always so kind to me, John, it is I who am so grateful to you and that we first met that time in by those rose bushes. I had no idea that chance encounter would lead to such a wonderful friendship."


She then sought to catch his eyes as she continued, "John, do not take this the wrong way for I well know we cannot marry even if we wished to, given the difference in our rank and our situations.....but of all the friends I have made thus far since I have arrived at court, it is you who I value as my dearest friend. I truly hope and pray nothing ever comes between us to change that. I would be simply sick with grief."

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John smiled, reminiscing, “I d-d-didn’t either. But I’m glad too. You are g-g-good to me too, you know. There is what, and there is who you are. However we are d-d-different in the what, you are good for me in the who.” John tried to explain how he felt, though perhaps alcohol was causing him to babble.


She found and held his eyes easily. John shifted to stand across from her for a moment. He wasn’t quite sure what to say and the uncertainty played across his face for a moment. Then he gently pulled her into a hug, “You are very d-d-dear to me. I can imagine being angry with you, but I c-c-can’t imagine not caring about you. A life where you’re n-n-not dear.”


He looked at her, eyes shining with affection. Not the sort of love that led to a bed necessarily, but there could be no doubt he cared about her deeply. Very suddenly he realized alcohol had carried him away and he blushed, “Sorry.” He said. He pulled away. Then, perhaps it was courage or perhaps it was alcohol, “No, I’m not sorry. I meant that.” He was defiant against his own embarrassment.


He was still blushing though.

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"Oh I most definitely agree with you on that point, John, in so many ways we are quite different but despite that we have managed to get along splendidly. God's will or fate or whatever, I reckon," Caroline smiled.


She then declared in all sincerity that of all her friends that he, John, was the dearest to her and admitted she would be heartbroken if this friendship ever fell apart. He met her fervent gaze then and surprisingly took her into a hug. Not that she minded in the slightest, this just wasn't his usual style was all. Perhaps the alcohol? Or....more hopefully, her words truly had touched him. He had kind words for her too, which she certainly appreciated as much as the hug.


"Oh, I am glad to hear it," she beamed when the hug broke up.


More like John though, he suddenly seemed to have need for an apology.


"John, you need..." she just started when he had changed his mind in an instant and asserted he had no regrets about the hug.


"You have nothing to be sorry for. I appreciated the gesture. It was sweet of you," she replied.


"I'm not sure I deserve someone as nice as you in my life....but I shall take it!"

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For John, touching someone at all was a sign of intimacy. Not necessarily physical intimacy or romantic love, but trust. He had some issues over how he was, so bringing someone into physical closeness… it required trusting that they would not prod one of his deepest wounds. That was why Sophia pulling away from him had hurt so much. And it was why he was touching Caroline more than he had before.


John smiled, a bit sheepishly, as she reassured him the gesture was sweet and well taken. He hugged her again, more briefly this time, with a wide, happy smile.


But Caroline’s sense of humor had John laughing at her proclamation, “Life is unfair. Take advantage when you c-c-can.” He gripped her arm just slightly, and his tone turned back to seriousness, “You’re k-k-kind, you know. And loyal. Considerate. You t-t-treat me very well." And from his tone, he obviously appreciated it.


He paused for a moment, still not bold enough to seize the moment effortlessly. Yet after that moment he leaned in and returned the teasing kiss she'd given him when they first met. A pressing of lips, an easy smile, "Merry Christmas, my dear Caroline." He said.

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Her expressed appreciation of his hug not only seemed to relieve him of mayhaps a bit of embarrassment but he followed up with a second hug. Though she liked this side of John, she was also quite certain much of it might be attributed to the drinking he had in engaged in this night. Nothing wrong with being loosened up by liquor though in her considered opinion.


He did declare one thing that was certainly not to be argued, life was not always fair. You had to struggle to make of it regardless and she felt she had done so. Caroline smiled.


"I like to take advantage," she grinned then.


He was back to tossing her compliments, each of which she did appreciate for John was not the sort who merely said such things without him meaning them, he was far too genuine, she had learned that much about him quite early in their friendship. There was a bit of hesitation then he actually kissed her and on the lips too. A fond kiss not a romantic one though followed by his wish for her to have a Merry Christmas.


"Thank you John, and a Merry Christmas to you too. My but you are becoming the bold one, no mistletoe even. I like it though, I will make a libertine out of you yet if you don't watch yourself," she giggled, "I'm dangerous that way."

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“Do you?” John said with a short laugh. “I’ll n-n-need a chaperone… to make sure you d-d-don’t steal my virtue.”


John laughed as she threatened to make him a libertine. “I shall endeavor… to m-m-make my corruption satisfying.” Though she might know one of his weaknesses now: John enjoyed drinking and it, like with almost anyone, lowered his inhibitions.


More seriously, he said, “I f-f-feel comfortable with you.” It was as close as he could give to an explanation for his change. It was also the highest compliment he’d paid her tonight.


John thought he heard the ending strains of the last dance, “P-p-perhaps I should flee back to safety?” He indicated they might head back.

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"No chaperone will save you, John, from my clutches," Caroline laughed.


"I'm fairly new at it myself but from what I've experienced so far and heard too, corruption is usually satisfying. It's being good that is so hard," she regaled him with her somewhat tipsy philosophy.


John took this all in stride and in fact assured her he felt comfortable with her. Caroline took it the way it was meant, she knew he was complimenting her in a fashion.


"And I with you. I feel....I feel that I could talk to you about anything...reveal...well almost anything without qualms," she declared.


Was it mayhaps time to return to the ball? John seemed to think so, suggesting they make a retreat then. He probably had a good point too, for it was cold out and even dressed as warmly as they were, she would welcome the inside of a room.


"Very well, though I do not know if I like your use of the word 'flee'. That word assumes we are in the act of being defeated and I never admit to defeat. In fact our friendship is nothing less than a signal victory, do you not agree?" she beamed.


Even so she turned to steer him back toward the nearest door. These few minutes had been as enjoyable to her as any of her other dances.

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John laughed as Caroline declared herself to be better than any chaperone. And he laughed harder at her tipsy philosophy, which was perhaps the best kind. But he smiled, and very warmly indeed, at her declaration.


And though it was time for them to return, “Well then, l-l-let us attack the ball! They won’t know what hit them.” John headed back through the door, heading for where he’d left Anna when they’d last spoken.

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