Louis kicked the leg of the table savagely, then immediately regretted it as tears sprang to his eyes. He wanted to scream with frustration. He looked down at the letter once again, willing the letters to rearrange themselves into better news.
It seemed that the Sultan of Bijapur had refused to meet with the Queen in his absence. Apparently some stupid foreign custom prevented him from discussing matters of business with a woman. But that could not delay the progress of the vital trade deal, oh no.
Instead, some harebrained minister had the brilliant idea to simply lie to the Sultan, and pass off his brother as the King of France. Wearing Louis’ kingly trappings, Phillipe had bargained his way into a stunning agreement. It was far more beneficial to France’s finances than Louis had dared to hope, and evidently also far more beneficial to Phillipe.
Louis began methodically shredding the paper, as if that would somehow alter the facts. He couldn’t quite explain to himself why he was so upset. Everything he wanted had been achieved- a new source of trade and wealth for France, a heavy blow against the efforts of the Dutch to fund their half of the war, and it didn’t even require him to take a leave of absence from the battlefield. He should be ecstatic.
But something about the idea of Phillipe, sitting in his throne, addressing Bontemps as his own personal valet, enraged him. Even more so, the fact that his brother had neatly extorted a cut of the shipping fees from the Canal du Midi! Louis wasn’t entirely sure whether he was angered by Phillipe’s audacity, or the fact that he hadn’t thought of it first.
Louis paced the room, entirely too worked up to even contemplate sleep. If only there were some way to distract himself. Abruptly, he paused mid-step, turning instead to the desk on which his quill and inkwell sat. He scribbled something on a scrap of paper, hastily sealed it with his customary blood-red wax, and handed it off to a messenger with express instructions that it be read only by the intended recipient.
- - - - - -
William of Orange sat on his cot, watching intently as wax dripped down his dying candle and marred the surface of the wood beneath. He had taken back Orsoy today, as he had told Louis he would, but not without considerable loses. The thrill of victory was as intoxicating as ever, but a more maudlin part of him wondered how long before he tired of their little game. How many loyal Dutch citizens would die in the process?
He was startled out of his thoughts as his guards announced a visitor and a blue-coated messenger entered his tent. The man handed him a scrap of paper sealed with smudged red wax, still warm to the touch, and left before William could even begin to open it.
The paper bore only one sentence. Reading the messy handwriting, William smiled and pulled on his boots. Donning an utterly nondescript cloak with a large hood, he called for his horse and departed for the nearest non-battle-sieged town with a tavern.
- - - - - -
With a creak, the scarred wooden door opened to reveal a tall figure wrapped in a grey woolen cloak. Louis stood at once, stiff from sitting motionless on the lumpy bed for uncountable minutes.
What took you so long?” he asked crossly. His face looked approximately as welcoming as an irate badger, and his posture was tight with tension.
“And after all this time, your manners still manage to astound me,” William snorted. “I came as soon as I got your note.” He pulled off the cloak hastily, leaving his hair slightly disheveled. It looked better that way, Louis thought as he crossed the room and pulled William into a kiss.
“I’m surprised you wanted to see me,” William mumbled between kisses. “You usually prefer to suffer defeat in isolation.”
For a moment Louis wondered how William could possibly know of the mess involving the Sultan already, impressed by the speed of his spies. Then he realized that William must in fact be referring to his repossession of Orsoy. He harrumphed, not keen to be reminded of yet another mishap. Rather than dignify William with a more articulate answer, he simply tugged on his lapels, pulling him toward the bed.
William didn’t seem disappointed by the lack of response. He tilted Louis’ head to the side and began mouthing across his jaw. He was impeded from further progress by the stifling lace of Louis’ cravat. He pulled back briefly to wrestle with the elaborately knotted black ribbon holding it in place.
“Such a dreary color,” he chided, before sinking his teeth into the soft skin where Louis’ neck met his shoulder. Louis groaned and let his head fall to the side, affording William better access. He fumbled with the buttons of William’s coat, then tugged at the hem of his shirt before gliding his hands beneath it.
As always, William’s skin was hot to the touch, as if he were literally burning up with passion. Louis relished the way William shuddered as he ghosted his fingertips along his skin. William’s hand slid into his britches and grasped his cock firmly.
“My brother negotiated a trade deal today, pretending to be me,” Louis said suddenly, the stormy expression returning to his face. William detached his lips from Louis’ neck and looked at him blankly.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I know! It’s absolutely outrageous,” Louis agreed. This was evidently not what William meant, if his incredulous expression was anything to go by.
“I’ve got your cock in my hand, and you want to talk about your brother?”
Suddenly William’s hands were on his hips, pushing him back toward the wall. He pined Louis in place and attacked his mouth, possibly to make sure Louis didn’t say another word. He slotted a thigh between Louis’ legs, pressing against the growing bulge there. Louis’ hands wound into William’s hair, pulling him impossibly closer.
Then William was pulling away, strands of hair yanking out against Louis’ fingers as he dropped to his knees. He looked up at Louis as he unfastened his britches, pupils blown wide in the dim light.
William took him entirely into his mouth, causing Louis to throw his head back in pleasure. He gasped as it slammed into the rough wooden boards, sending a jolt to his cock. William’s fingers dug into his hips, tight enough to leave bruises. Louis’ mind went mercifully blank as he gave himself to the sensation.
William pulled off to suck in a breath before diving back down. One hand pined Louis’ hip to the wall while the other reached down to fondle his balls. Louis reached down, tugging William’s hair in warning but William ignored him. He swallowed around Louis, pleased to see Louis’ legs tremble in response.
William’s own cock twitched as Louis made an obscene noise, back arching away from the wall as he came down William’s throat. He leaned against the wall on unsteady legs, panting slightly. Eyes still closed, Louis sighed and slid down the wall to land on the floor beside William.
Too impatient to wait for Louis to recover, William unlaced his britches and fisted his own cock. His knees were sore from pressing against the hard stone floor, but he didn’t shift from his kneeling position. This wouldn’t take long; he had been hard ever since receiving Louis’ letter.
Eventually Louis nudged his hand out of the way, replacing it with his own. He rasped his tongue over one of William’s nipples before stretching up to kiss him. Soon, William was panting against his mouth as his stomach tensed in anticipation. Louis ghosted his tongue along the shell of William’s ear and tightened his grip.
Then William was coming, short choked moans forcing their way past his lips as he lost himself in pleasure. Louis continued stroking him through his orgasm until William’s hand closed vice-like on his wrist, dragging Louis’ hand away from his oversensitive cock.
They sat, in a huddled mess of limbs, on the cold stone floor until William regained his breath. Louis stood up, pulling William along with him as he collapsed on the previously forgotten bed. He could feel his sweat-dampened clothes sticking to his skin as he shifted, trying to get comfortable with his head resting against William’s ribs.
“I don’t want to go back,” he admitted. He contemplated the consequences of simply not moving, of spending the night in a shitty tavern, wrapped up in William.
“Have you not found the field of battle to be the refreshing retreat you expected?” Louis could hear the smile in William’s voice.
“On the contrary, it is the happenings back home at Versailles that bring me the most concern. It seems the whole place has gone mad in my absence.”
“From what I hear, that place has been a madhouse from the start. Perhaps you only required a shift of perspective to see it as such.” William sounded uncharacteristically earnest.
“Or perhaps the right company,” Louis countered. “I find I am less vexed than before, though the situation remains unchanged.”
- - - - - -
The next day, an orange-clad messenger arrived at the French camp. After surrendering his weapons, he was shown into the main tent to address the King.
“A missive, from Lord Stadtholder, William of Orange, Your Highness,” he said, handing over a thickly folded bundle of paper sealed with forest green wax.
Louis turned it over in his hands and dismissed the messenger, smiling to himself. However, he returned to his own tent before opening it. Delicately peeling the wax seal off the paper so as not to tear it, Louis unfolded the paper. To his surprise, an orange velvet ribbon came sliding out of the package, fluttering to the ground before he could catch it. He hastily retrieved it before beginning to read the letter.
To The Sun, it read, in William’s spiky scrawl. You seemed terribly distressed as of the last time I saw you. Such anxiety is truly a tax on your health- you should attempt to lighten your mood occasionally. Perhaps a touch more orange? – W
Louis worried the ribbon between his fingers, chuckling to himself. Of course William would remember his taunt from their meeting at the Abbey, and choose this moment turn it back on him. Admittedly, the color orange had proved a tonic for his mood as of late.
Then again, William’s teasing did not obscure the fact that he had sent Louis a gift. More specifically, a brand of sorts- a ribbon emblazoned with his own signature color to remind Louis of their bond even when apart. The thought of wearing it in public, even without others’ knowing its source, made Louis’ stomach jolt.
He walked to the mirrored bureau in the corner of his tent and removed the royal blue ribbon that adorned his cravat. In its place, he carefully wound the orange strip, securing it with a golden brooch in the shape of a sun.