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Title: Falling
Fandom: Versailles
Rating: Teen
Genre: Drama
Word Count: 1502
Chapters: 3/4
Characters/pairing: Fabien Marchal/Sophie de Clermont.
Warnings: Pregnancy, if you feel that warrants a warning.
Summary: Sophie’s relation with Fabien has consequences. A sequel to A Bewildered Heart

If Sophie had felt there was a new closeness between her and Fabien, she soon had to think otherwise. Fabien's visits were few and brief, and over time he grew more and more distant and quiet. He hardly even looked at her even when he greeted her, and Sophie felt both confused and upset, as she could not understand why. Worried she stared at herself in the mirror, wondering if her changing body repulsed him. But it had not seemed like that before, and though she grew bigger and heavier, her reflection told her she was still beautiful. Her features had grown slightly more rounded, but her skin was still white and smooth, her eyes bright and her hair seemed to grow thicker and glossier by the day. No, she didn’t think her form was the reason to Fabien’s coolness, but she could not imagine what else it could be.

Gradually she became aware that Fabien and his mother were not on good terms anymore. Sophie had always had the impression they got on well with each other, but now something had come between them, and she had an uncomfortable feeling she was the reason. There were arguments behind closed doors on more than one occasion, but nothing was ever said in Sophie’s presence. Her curiosity and unease grew, and when she found herself outside the parlour when Fabien and his mother had another exchange, she couldn’t resist eavesdropping. With some difficulty as she was getting close to term and had grown quite big, Sophie kneeled at the closed door to listen through the keyhole. When she pressed her ear against the door, she could hear Madame Marchal speaking, her sharp voice easy to discern.

“No, I don’t see that. You know I wasn’t pleased when you took her here, but I’ve grown very fond of Sophie. She has been a good company and I would like her to stay with me. Marriage would not shame either of you.”

“It is not possible.”

“Why not? It would be better for Sophie, and if you deigned to look at her when you are here, you would see she is in love with you.”

“I can assure you, Mademoiselle de Clermont is not in love with me. She cannot.”

“If you cared for her-”

“I care enough! Sophie’s place is at Versailles, and she will return as soon as it is possible.”

His voice came closer to the door as if he was moving to leave, and Sophie made an ungainly flight before she was discovered. In the safety of her room she sat down on the bed, her head buzzing from what she had overheard so she hardly knew what to react to first. She had never imagined Madame Marchal wanted her to stay, and now she knew why Fabien had grown so distant; he must think she was in league with his mother. And she could not tell him she had known nothing about it.

So Fabien and his mother quarreled because Madame Marchal wanted her to stay. It was the first time in Sophie’s life she could recall anyone wanting her to be around for no other reason than for being herself. Not a pawn to gain access to the King, not a spy to gather useful information, but only because she was Sophie. The knowledge made something inside her, something which had felt frozen all her life, melt and fill her with warmth.

Sophie had never considered marriage when it came to Fabien. For all intents and purposes she was a noblewoman, and he was a commoner. The King might bestow a dowry on her one day; she would not be the first impoverished young lady who would receive one. But it was very unlikely he would allow a marriage which would be considered a scandalous mis-alliance. And even if it had been possible, Fabien would not want to. He did not love her though she had thought he had grown to like her. And to trust her, he would not have brought her here if he had not. She could have been waiting for her child to be born in a rented room, cared for by hired and indifferent strangers, but he had taken her to his mother instead who was kind and caring despite her often brusque manner. But for all that, Sophie was still only a commodity for Fabien, useful and convenient. There were no reasons to why he should think Sophie could care for him either, and now, more than ever, she was happy she had never told him her feelings for him had changed.

Knowing Madame Marchal liked her, made Sophie’s already warm feelings for the older woman to deepen into love. Sophie’s education had under her mother’s tutelage been aimed to be pleasing, under Fabien’s understanding politics. From Madame Marchal she learnt all the practical niceties in running a household, like doing the accounts and planning meals. It made her understand how narrow Beatrice’s schooling had been, for this was useful knowledge for any woman, no matter her status. Her mother must have known them, but neglected to teach them to her daughter. It made her wonder if Beatrice had ever imagined Sophie to have a future beyond her mother’s goals for her.

With Madame Marchal’s help, Sophie prepared clothes and linens for her child. The closer she came to term, the baby she would have became more and more real for her. She could sit for long periods, just holding her hands over her belly and marveling at the kicks and movements inside her. A nursery was prepared, and Madame Marchal engaged Marie, Jeanne’s sister to come and live with them for a while, so she could nurse Sophie’s child along with her own baby.

“Marie is a good-natured girl with clean habits. She will be ideal; it’s important to choose a wet-nurse with good character, or bad traits may carry over with the milk. Her little boy is sturdy and thriving and she has more than enough to feed another small one.”

Sophie briefly allowed herself to wish she could nurse her baby herself before agreeing. A noblewoman didn’t nurse her children, she knew, and the sooner she was ready to return to Versailles after the birth, the better.

Sophie went into labour in the mid-summer. She had been told many times of how painful labour was, but she had never imagined it could be like this, and she found it very frightening. Despite Madame Marchal’s assurances everything progressed in a perfectly normal manner for a first birth, Sophie feared she would not survive. She asked for Fabien, but though a message had been sent as soon as it was clear the child was coming, there had not been enough time for him to arrive yet. As the contractions grow stronger and closer together, she grabbed Madame Marchal’s hand and squeezed it hard.

“You must tell Fabien I forgive him. For everything. It’s important you tell him I forgive him for everything.”

“Don’t talk like that. If there is anything needing to be told, you will say it yourself.”

For a long time it felt like Sophie’s body tries to turn her open from the inside, but then, when she felt she could not stand it much longer, something changed, she pushed one last time, and suddenly it was over. Exhausted and sore she fell back on the bed, but when the baby screamed she tried to sit up again.

“Lay down,” Madame Marchal told her. “It’s a fine little girl, and you will get to hold her as soon as she has been cleaned and swaddled.”

The baby was perfect. Red and wrinkly and with a tuft of black hair, and perfect. Sophie stared down at the tiny human in her arms in amazement.

“She looks like her father”, Madame Marchal said. “As she should. All newborns take after their fathers. Have you thought of a name yet?”

“I will call her Henriette, after the Princess.”

“You don’t want to name her after your mother?”

“Sophie shook her head. “No. I will never name a child of mine after her.”

Madame Marchal raised an eyebrow at that, but didn’t press the question.

Fabien came in the early morning. Sophie awoke to see him standing at her bed, still clad in his mud-stained travelling cloak and carrying a scent of wind and rain with him. She smiled, and he sat down at her bedside, softly touching her hair.

“Have you seen her? Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Yes. And you should rest.”

He leaned down to kiss her brow and Sophie slipped back to sleep as he took her hand and held it very gently.

When she woke up later, Fabien was still there, but he had once again reverted into perfunctory politeness, showing little apparent interest in Henriette, and barely more for Sophie. Bewildered, she wondered if the tenderness he had showed her had happened, or if it had only been a dream.

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