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Raised eyebrows of surprise appeared upon Charlemagne’s face upon hearing Johannes mention Bavaria. [#900 “I knew I heard a little bit of Bavarian somewhere in your speech, I just couldn’t tell for sure since you speak so well!”] the Frenchman exclaimed honestly beside himself for having his suspicions confirmed. [#900 “I have a friend who lives in the Bavarian mountains with her family. I’m not able to visit as often as I’d like, but Bavaria is absolutely breath-taking! The mountains and terrain are so scenic. It’s a peaceful place to be, in my opinion.”] Charlie grinned, fondly remembering time he spent in the German region. [#900 “But, yeah. Paris has so many people it is almost ridiculous. However, not everyone is the same and I find that quite interesting! I’ve seen my fellow French people, Spaniards, Germans, Italians, and now Austrians. Paris is a cultural epicenter of sorts.”] he added, honestly proud of his country.
After seating themselves and informing Florence of what they’d like to eat Charlemagne fully directed his attention towards Johannes, quietly observing the man and drinking in his image. Charlie had a positive impression of the Austrian man, if he were to be frank. To him, Johannes was handsome. He was refined. He was charming. These were all qualities that Charlemagne appreciated in a man, although he had never been able to fully express his interest in men without attracting dreaded negative attention. Sure, there had been old, mild rumors floating around the Royal Court when he first arrived. But now Charlemagne had become the subject of conversation because of his culinary skills, not his alleged after-work activities. However, such was life. The Royal Court lived by and thrived on conjecture and drama. When he flirted with women, nobody seemed to bat an eye, though. So, Charlie’s life was a skilled balancing act to avoid any trouble he did not want. While he wasn’t ashamed for his interests, he simply did not want to risk losing such a prestigious job. Charlemagne had grown to love his work in the palace and detested the thought of losing it if someone found out he enjoyed the company of men in his bed as much as he did women.
Johannes’ next question broke Charlie from his thought bubble, though. The Frenchman blinked several times, having gotten distracted by the other man’s image. [#900 “Oh, the palace.”] he echoed, straightening himself up in his seat to avoid becoming flustered from being caught offguard. [#900 “I’ve been working for the Royal Family for about two years now. Which is practically unheard of for someone my age! But I suppose it is a fate I was meant for. Opportunities like this don’t just fall into your lap every single day. At least I know it didn’t for me.”] Charlemagne shrugged his shoulders at the end of his response. [#900 “I will admit, though. I miss Bordeaux. I miss all the farm animals and the winery. I am so used to working outside that it’s fairly jarring at times being in the palace. Although I do not miss the damned rooster waking me up every single morning at home.”] Charlie rolled his eyes. [#900 “I would always tell my brother, [i ‘Sébastien, if this rooster doesn’t stop I will eat him for lunch.’] But I never did, though. I don’t know why since I loathed that bird’s existence up until I moved into the palace. I think my brother would not have been pleased if I cooked that rooster. He actually needed that rooster to raise more chicks that he could eventually sell to other farmers or for meat.”]
After taking another moment to think more about the subject Florence approached with a modest platter with a plate for Charlie’s slice of cake and bowl that contained the crème puffs Johannes requested. [b “I’ll bring tea out for you gentleman.”] Florence mentioned as she set each respective dish in front of Johannes and Charlemagne before disappearing into the kitchen once again to fetch the tea she and her sister steeped for the men. Quickly she did return with a tea tray that had saucers, cups, a kettle, a sugar cube container, and utensils on it. Swiftly she set the table with the tea items [b “Do let me know if you two require anything else.”] Florence offered a small curtesy before taking her leave. Charlie then began to pour himself a cup of tea, mixing in a minimal amount of sugar to sweeten the drink. [#900 “À votre santé.”] Charlemagne nodded before sipping his tea. [#900 “This is honestly refreshing; bright, but not too sweet. Yet it isn’t too subtle either. Excellently made.”]
[#900 “Do you get out of the embassy much, Johannes? What do you actually like to do? Assuming royal politics is as irritating as it comes across to others.”] the Frenchman asked, genuinely curious. [#900 “I really like the arts, if I’m to be honest. Dance, music, theatre, things like that.”] Charlie offered, quietly eating his piece of cake when he was finished speaking…
Johannes listened intently to Charlemagne as he replied to Johannes’ question. He could fully understand his sentiment when it came to how busy Paris was compared to a farm. Bavaria was much quieter than Paris. Or Munich. Or Vienna. In fact everything besides London was quieter than Paris. When Charlemagne asked his question Johannes had to take a moment to think of his answer. When he is need the door he finally had the answer to the question he never thought about. “It’s been a little over a year since I left Vienna work at the embassy here. Paris is...different than what I’m used too. I grew up in Bavaria where the nearest town was a small village outside of my family’s lands, which was filled with my family’s employees. Anyways I thought Vienna was huge and then I moved here and I’m absolutely amazed by the amount of people here. It’s so different,” he replied. Vienna was the third of the population of Paris and at the time Johannes thought that was big. Paris was absolutely huge and there was so much to do. He didn’t even know what to do when he first got here.
He followed Charlemagne into the shop and let out a soft sigh. It smelled absolutely amazing in the shop. “I can’t wait,” he said before Charlemagne greeted the shop owner. Johannes’ eyes were instantly greeted by the most beautiful sight in the immediate vicinity. Several delectable treats laid in the case just begging to be consumed. Everything in that case looked amazing. [i ‘I wonder if I can convince Otto to spar with me. I’m going to need to work this off,’] he thought to himself as he contemplated all the sweets he could consume. Hopefully he had the strength not to eat everything in sight.
“Madame,” he said acknowledging the woman, Florence, “and yes Charlemagne. I would dare say we are friends.” Johannes added. They had only just started talking to each other but Johannes felt that talking to Charlemagne was the easiest thing in the world. He was hoping they would continue to talk and meet up even though this meet up was purely chance. “The pleasure is mine Madame,” he happily said to he as Charlemagne chose a spot. Sitting across from Charlemagne he sat the bottle of wine on the table. The spice vanilla cake sounded heavenly but so did the crème puffs. Too many options and limited space in his waistcoat. Trusting Charlemagne’s judgment, and not wanting to eat everything in sight, he turned to Florence. “I’ll go with the crème puffs since they have such great reviews,” he said with a soft smile.
“So how long have you been working for the royal family?” He asked in a soft voice once Florence was off getting their choices. Johannes found himself way too interested in Charlemagne. Like he wanted to know every small thing about Charlemagne from what he disliked to what he looked like when he woke up. Shit, Johannes had it bad for Charlemagne and they just started talking. Johannes hadn’t been that interest in a man since Friedrich, a soldier who Johannes was with before marrying his wife and Friedrich getting sent out of Vienna.
Charlemagne’s eye narrows slightly. It was not in a malicious manner, but a playful one. [#900 “I [i may] be able to? What? Do you require convincing of some sort?”] the Frenchman asked, border lining on flirtation with an arched brow as Charlie shifted his weight over to his left side. [#900 “Are you Austrian folk really so stubborn? Shame.”] Charlemagne shook his head, a smirk on his face. He truly was just joking with Johannes, though. No harm meant whatsoever. [#900 “I honestly thought the offer of French cuisine would be enough, but alas. It is not. You make me work so hard, Johannes! Why? I thought we were on friendly terms!”] Charlie continued to give the Austrian man grief before laughing and shaking his head. He really enjoyed being able to joke around with Johannes, though. He was an amicable enough, in Charlie’s mind so far. At least that was the impression he had of Johannes.
After a moment, though, Charlemagne eyed Johannes carefully. [#900 “You really are quite the flatterer, Johannes. Trying to win over my favor, hm? I’m afraid I have nothing for you right now.”] Charlie noted. [#900 “But I appreciate the compliment. I’m glad you’ve taken such a liking to my cooking.”] he beamed proudly. Charlemagne practically worked his ass off to be as successful as he was, so it was always nice to be recognized for such. [#900 “I can most certainly help you to waste time, so you can avoid the embassy if that’s what you wish.”] Charlie winked at the other man before turning to lead the way to the patisserie he had in mind.
The journey was not all too bad in Charlemagne’s opinion. Sometimes the walkways were crowded and made traveling from one place to another rather difficult. But today there was only moderate foot traffic. [#900 [i ‘Hm, probably because of the time of day, I suppose.’]] Charlemagne thought as he waved to a few people he recognized along the way, giving a few greetings while in passing. But the Johannes spoke up, mentioning Charlie’s family winery! [#900 “Yes, currently my older brother owns and operates it. If I’m ever visiting home I pick up and help out around the land as much as I am able to.”] Charlie nodded, fondly remembering home for a minute. [#900 “Goodness, Paris is much busier than where I come from in Bordeaux. I’m, personally, more accustomed to the countryside and farmlands, if I’m being honest. But there’s a lot more opportunity for me here in Paris, which I enjoy. So, it’s a love-hate type of relationship most of the time with Paris. But I guess that bit of culture shock is just a given when you trade in raising animals and making wine for fancy dress and luxurious foods.”] the Frenchman shrugged at the end. He was by no means complaining, though. Charlemagne took the bad with the good in stride. [#900 “What about you? How long have you even been in Paris? What do you think?”] Charlie inquired, wondering ho the city would come across to a complete foreigner.
Upon arrival at the patisserie, though, Charlemagne grinned upon witnessing Johannes’ reaction [#900 “Right? The smell itself is absolutely divine, isn’t it? Wait till you try their foods! Decadent does not even begin to describe the sweets they make.”] Charlie practically sang his praises for the establishment, thanking Johannes when he held the door open. After stepping inside a dainty woman behind the sales counter of the patisserie warmly greeted them as she was cleaning the counters. [#900 “Florence! You look positively radiant today, madame.”] Charlie replied, the woman waving her hand to dismiss his flirtations. Florence and her sister, who was in the kitchen, operated the patisserie themselves, offering an array of baked goods from cakes and cookies to pies and macarons. With family recipes at their disposal, the two sisters did well for themselves.
[b “Who’s your friend, Charlemagne? I don’t think I’ve seen him around before.”] Florence mentioned, curious. [#900 “A new friend of mine, I’d like to think. Aren’t we friends, Johannes?”] Charlie looked over at the other man for a moment before back at Florence. [b “Nice to meet you then, Johannes. Please, do feel free to take a seat at any table you’d like.”] Florence gestured to their left against the wall opposite of the sales counter. Charlie then moved to take a seat before Florence approached them personally. [b “Did you two want anything in particular? Or are you stuck on the spiced vanilla cake, Charlemagne?”] Florence inquired only to have Charlie nod. [#900 “I am quite obsessed with that cake. I wish I had the recipe for it.”] [b “If I gave it to you I would have to kill you!”] Florence laughed, patting Charlie on the back. [b “And you, Johannes? Do you have a taste for anything in particular?”] Charlemagne glanced from Florence to Johannes in the moment. [#900 “I’d have to recommend the crème puffs, if you don’t want cake. They’re so light, but delicately sweet and delicious…”]
Johannes had forgotten that the French tended to have issues with the letter “H”. It was a letter that Johannes, personally, had a little bit of issues with when it came to speaking French so he couldn’t judge them. Johannes’ issue was depending on where the “h” was in the word determined how much emphasis he put on it even though he should be dropping the letter. He had gotten a little bit better about it but not by much. Progress, however, was progress. When Charlemagne said his name Johannes had been reminded of that pesky “h” and a small smile found its way on his lips. It was adorable how Charlemagne said his name. He wondered if he could get Charlemagne to say his surname one day just to see how he would approach that “h”. Johannes was, however, a hundred percent sure it would sound equally adorable.
Pushing those thoughts away he returned to the land of the living. “You may be able to convince me into joining you at the patisserie,” Johannes replied. In fact joining Charlemagne sounded much better than just spending time at home and it sounded even better than dealing with Sierakowski. There would be very little convincing needed to get him to go with Charlemagne. Pastries and avoiding Sierakowski? He was already sold on the idea to be completely honest.
The next words out of Charlemagne’s caused Johannes to let out a soft chuckle. No one wanting Charlemagne? Now that was an absurd notion; plenty of people probably wanted him. Johannes, personally, wouldn’t mind having him at all but he wasn’t going to say that out loud. That was predominantly because his intentions were a little less innocent. He wasn’t going to pounce on Charlemagne or anything but he wasn’t opposed to something happening. Johannes also wasn’t going to force anything. Instead of saying all of that he responded with “A lot of households wouldn’t mind your added knowledge to their kitchen.” Charlemagne, after all, was an amazing chef and any household he worked in would be at an advantage. Plus they would get the beauty that is Charlemagne.
“Lead the way, Monsieur. I have nothing to do besides avoiding the embassy,” he said once Jacques greeted Charlemagne. Once Charlemagne started walking Johannes followed him. For a few minutes Johannes remained silent as he gathered his thoughts. “I believe you said something about your family owning a winery. How do you like Paris compared to Bordeaux?” Johannes asked as the easily weaved through the crowds. Johannes never had the pleasure of going that far south. The furthest he ever went in France was, sadly, Paris and it’s surrounding area. He hoped to one day got further south and tour France but with a fussy baby and a new job he doubted it would happen anytime soon. On top of everything else Johannes also would like to return to Bavaria some day. His longing for the fresh mountain air may end up trumping his curiosity the longer he stayed in Paris.
No sooner did the words leave his mouth did Charlemagne stop at the patisserie. The smell that wafted from the street was absolutely decadent. While nothing could replace his love for apple strudels they could fill the void in his life just like the cheesecake the previous night. “It smells amazing,” he said as he opened the door for Charlemagne.
Charlie's dark eyes occasionally glanced in the direction the group of men ambled off to. He wanted to make doubly sure they wouldn't come back to cause further trouble for Johannes and disrupt the general peace of the markets. [#900 "It's really nothing. There are really only two groups of people we should worry about right now; the Prussians and the English. Plus you were simply minding your own business! And to attempt provoking a fight in broad daylight in front of so many innocents is entirely wrong. Nobody needs to see such violence. Especially children."] Charlemagne nodded, feeling immense indignation towards such an offence. [#900 "If you ask me, Austro-Hungary is a saint in comparison to England and Prussia. Sure, not everything is so clean and simple, but you don't deserve mistreatment simply for being in France."] Charlie heaved a sigh, obviously aggravated by the whole situation. [#900 "Just the audacity of some people! It drives me up the wall."] The Frenchman shook his head, shifting his weight from one foot to another. Such displeasure left a bitter taste in Charlie's mouth and he hated the sensation of such vehement emotions. [#900 "Plus the idiot clearly had no idea how to handle a sword! Yet he thought he could point his at me like I'd be scared. Absolutely ludicrous!"] Charlemagne ranted, exhaling through his nose.
After taking another moment to calm down Charlemagne intently listened to Johannes speak. In the back of his mind Charlie couldn't help but admire just how [i precious] Johannes sounded speaking French. It was not as smooth as a native speaker, but he was eloquent in Charlie's opinion as a native speaker. The small quirks in the taller man's accent was even endearing and Charlemagne found Johannes' voice a pleasure to listen to overall. [#900 "Mon Dieu, ultimatums are so unfair."] Charlie commented, straightening his posture to stand upright as he needed to. [#900 "Sounds like this Baron is an unsavory one."] He stated, an amused eyebrow cocked up above an eye.
But his amusement quickly faded and was replaced with a sinking sense of dread. [#900 [i 'So. Many. H's.']] Charlie thought before mentally running over how the other man pronounced his name. [#900 [i 'Damn! Why is French like this???']] Charlemagne mentally cursed how French specifically made it nearly impossible for him to pronounce such a simply letter in any word outside of French. The Frenchman simply could not wrap his mouth around how to pronounce the word without putting an obscene amount of effort into it and sounding like an idiot. But despite this mild despair Charlemagne smiled. [#900 "It's great to officially meet you, Johannes."] Charlemagne still wanted to be polite of course.
[#900 "I actually was tasked by the King to come here today and spend the day putting in orders to replenish the kitchen's stock of ingredients. Banquets always puts our inventory pretty low despite so much planning going into the event. Sometimes accidents happen and dishes are dropped, or food is burned. Happens to everyone in the kitchen, even me."] Charlemagne shrugged. [#900 "But I have literally all day and I've been really wanting to stop at a local patisserie. You should come with me!"] the man grinned, hoping he wouldn't have to run his errands alone that day. [#900 "Although I'm not sure who would want to steal me away anyway. I literally just cook and am a pretentious wine snob."] Charlemagne laughed, poking fun at his work, especially being a wine sommelier. [#900 "Pretty sure if someone stole me away, they'd return me the same day!"] the man cackled. [#900 "It would be a terrible choice, really."]
Charlemagne then looked over at the wine vendor, recognizing the man immediately as they were practically in the same business. [#900 "Jacques! Always nice seeing you in good health. Busy day today?"] Charlie nodded in acknowledgment at the man. While he had a few critiques about Jacques' wine, Charlie respected his fellow countryman's passion and work ethic. He then looked back at Johannes. [#900 "I really do insist about the patisserie, though. Being so new around here you should know about the best eating spots in the area. So, what do you say, Johannes?..."]
Johannes wasn’t really willing to deal with these men today. They were rude and had the ugliest personalities ever and that was just going off of if their willingness to verbally abuse him for his homeland in front of women and children. It was absolutely a disgusting and unnecessary display and Johannes was not having it. “Monsieur,” he blandly hissed to cut off the tirade. “There is absolutely no need to make a scene in front of so many by standards,” Johannes finished in the iciest tone he could muster.
While Johannes was calm and collected on the outside he was somewhat worried about his safety. He was banking on these men not wanting to fight in front of the stalls despite the fact they looked ready to. Johannes, sadly, did not have a sword on him but he did have a decently sized dagger stored away and concealed by his waist coat. He was confident in his abilities to avoid a sword enough to get close and personal so that he could use his own weapon if need be. But he rather not. His skills had come from having two older brothers. He had to learn how to fight early on in life and he wasn’t too shabby at it. He was good enough that he garnered the attention of a few generals in the past. If he hadn’t married his wife he would be in the military right about now.
Obviously those weren’t the right words to say because the men began another bout of verbal abuse and started to move closed. Before Johannes could reply his knight in shinning armor came and saved him. Before him was Charlemagne, looking fierce, despite his smaller stature. His tongue was even fiercer as he ripped into his fellow Frenchmen for being rude. It was a beautiful sight that warmed Johannes’ heart. It was also more beautiful when his attackers huffed and walked away all while spouting countless obscenities.
“Thank you,” Johannes said to Charlemagne once the men left his sight. Johannes’ day was instantly looking better with Charlemagne having appeared out of nowhere. He didn’t fully understand why but Johannes was drawn to Charlemagne. Johannes knew that Charlemagne being attractive did help in the attraction but there was just something else as well. Whatever it was Johannes wasn’t going to ponder it too long. Instead he was going enjoy this near stranger’s presence and thank whatever God he needed to that his prayers were answered.
“Monsieur von Wächter gave me an ultimatum. Deal with Baron Sierakowski or run an errand. I chose the one less likely to annoy me,” he replied as he took in Charlemagne’s appearance. Charlemagne just so happened to be just as handsome in natural light as he was in candle light. If anything he was more handsome. [i ‘Stop it,’] he chastised himself mentally. Johannes had been seconds away from silently serenading Charlemagne and that wasn’t something he felt necessary just yet.
Standing there he realized that Charlemagne most likely didn’t know his name. Johannes was still new enough to the court that very few people knew his name. In fact the only reason him and his wife left Bavaria was because Marie Antoinette had requested his wife’s presence and Franz needed another aid. They had arrived to Paris and the his wife ended up pregnant so she worked very little with the Queen and Johannes had been learning his new job. Now that sometime had passed he was making more outings.
“I feel like I have you at a disadvantage by knowing your name Monsieur Marquis and by you not knowing mine. I am Johannes von Hügel,” He said to Charlemagne in hopes of remedying that issue. “What is the court’s head chef doing out and about? I imagine the King and Queen would have you locked up so that no one could steal you away.”
Jacques had returned just after Johannes finished talked and cleared his throat. “Monsieur, I have the wine. The ambassador has already paid for it,” the man said as he sat out the bottle.
Johannes looked away from Charlemagne for a moment to look at the wine. It was exactly what Franz had ordered and was his normal wine that he kept stashed in his office. It was probably a replacement bottle for the one he completed a few days ago. “Thank you,” he replied as he grabbed the bottle. While the wine wasn’t nearly as good as the wine at the banquet it would do.
With the wine in hand he took a small step to the side not to block the stall turned his attention to Charlemagne.
After Charlemagne finished his dinner the man lingered outside on the terrace for a little while longer. He did not like to rush eating, nor drinking. The man leisurely sipped at his wine glass, watching the moon as it shone so brightly in the sky and the clouds as they lazily rolled on by in the night. An occasional guard would walk by as they went about their patrol, stopping to ask what Charlie was doing outside so late on the terrace. But the man didn’t mind the questioning. It was just the guards do their job. Thus, he kindly explained he had finally been able to eat and was taking his time to savor his wine and enjoy the mild weather of the night. The guards had simply nodded and gone back to doing their rounds, leaving Charlie to his post-banquet relaxation.
Charlemagne certainly did get a thorough night’s rest, though! By the time the man had gotten back to his room and dressed in the applicable nightgown, he passed out cold as soon as his head hit his bed’s pillow. But when the morning time rolled around Charlie had woken up when a maid knocked on his door to retrieve his laundry and bed linens. The man was grateful for the palace staff as their work helped streamlined his own. He didn’t have to worry about frivolities such as making his bed, dusting, and general rearranging of various items. But, he didn’t make the staff do all the work. After all, he was a farm boy at heart and was raised to have a tough, but honest work ethic. Plus, if he had the time between his main duties, Charlemagne especially enjoyed helping the outside staff tending to the gardens. Back when he started working for the Royal Family, Charlie had started a section of the gardens dedicated to growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables to help the palace be more self-sufficient in terms of getting food. Plus, the man was a firm believer that fresh, homegrown ingredients were the absolute best for cooking. However, he did not have everything he wanted in the gardens on the palace’s property. This was why Charlemagne frequented farmer’s markets as he knew those held products and ingredients he could use to better his cuisine for the Royal Family.
And today was a day dedicated for a whole trip to the farmer’s market at the request of the King himself. He was given a very generous allowance, an amount that still made Charlie choke to this day, to buy whatever he deemed necessary for the kitchen’s operations. And while the King insisted Charlie go to the market’s dressed in fine clothes to show he was operating under Royal authority, Charlemagne kindly declined and opted to dress casually for comfort and to not stick out like such a tacky sore thumb at the markets. But Charlie did take the sword that had been bestowed upon him by the King at the beginning of his employment. It was the only ornate thing on the man’s person as he boarded a carriage destined for the markets.
The wind that blew through the window of the carriage was refreshing; it was a fine Spring morning and Charlie inhaled deeply to fully appreciate the freshness it had. As the wind toyed with his long, dark locks of hair Charlemagne gazed out at the passing scenery. He was thinking about what he needed to buy. The banquet the evening before. That one dashing man he had served during the banquet. [#900 “Quite dashing, I must admit… Austrians..”] Charlie chuckled, shaking his head free of the thought. That was none of his business. Besides, Charlemagne was usually so busy with the culinary arts he rarely had time to even consider romancing anyone, man or woman. He did dabble here and there, but nothing as scandalous as some other people in the French Court. [#900 [i ‘At least it’s nothing like what Madame de Pompadour was like. Now she was a real talk of the court, may the good Lord have mercy on her soul.’]] Charlie sighed, almost amused by the stories he remembered hearing about her since he was a mere teen by the time she died. [#900 “The Court is still dramatic as ever, though. There really is no lack of scandalous affairs or anything of that nature.”] he talked to himself, killing time during the trip.
By the time he got to the markets, Charlemagne had a whole mental list of things to purchase to have delivered to the palace. He went around from stall to stall, sampling herbs and wines, putting his chef and master sommelier skills to good use as he did so. For the most part, he was minding his own business, talking to a farmer about putting in an order to have pre-slaughtered chicken, beef, and duck delivery set so the palace could restock on those items. He eventually moved on to a tea vendor, Charlemagne enthralled by the woman’s extensive knowledge of herbs and flowers, different types of teas, and their health benefits. [#900 “I wonder if there is such a thing as a thé sommelier because you definitely are one! I’ll take an order for your mint, jasmine, and green tea, and your chamomile and lavender blend. I think would pair wonderfully with a nice light snack for a tea hour sit down.”] Charlie grinned before he heard some rowdy men trying to start a scuffle a few stalls down from him. He looked over to see some bitter men and that man from the banquet last night! Disgusted with their demeanor Charlemagne immediately walked over and put himself between the man and Johannes. Despite being noticeably shorter than Johannes, Charlie was a fearless man. His stature, or lack thereof, never deterred him. And it didn’t matter to him now.
[#900 “You all need to back off. Who do you think you are? Trying to start a fight in the middle of public in broad daylight! In front of children and families, no less.”] Charlie glared, hands defiantly at his waist. The man that looked like the leader of the small gang of men scoffed at Charlie in response. [b “Who are we? [i Who are you?] Trying to defend the enemy? How can you call yourself French? That should be treason! [i Disgusting!”]] the man jeered, even drawing his sword to point at Charlie. But Charlemagne did not draw his. It stayed in its sheath at his hip. [#900 “Being a decent human is nowhere near treasonous. And it’s not Austrians we need to worry about. It’s the Prussians. Get yourself together! Plus, a man who is so quick to draw his weapon clearly has no use for it other than intimidation. So, I suggest you put that away now. You’re needlessly scaring women and children. Now [i that] is disgusting, monsieur.”] Charlie stood his ground, not budging an inch. And as tense as the atmosphere was for the situation, the group of men simply spat curses at Charlie before ambling away in the opposite direction. There were far too many witnesses and even guards to follow through with their original intentions of roughing up Johannes.
[#900 “Ridiculous. I am so incredibly sorry that happened. Some Frenchmen are overzealous with their patriotism that it blinds them of who the real problem is. But you’re otherwise fine, yes?”] Charlemagne spoke, turning to face Johannes. [#900 “Sometimes people forget what France is and what she stands for. Hopefully, scuffles like that won’t happen again.”] he added, brushing his hairs over his shoulders onto his back as the breeze had been blowing them around. [#900 “What brings you to the market, though? Aside from the bitter lack of hospitality from some fools?”] Charlemagne inquired, attempting to poke fun at those men’s ignorance…
Johannes felt a small tug at the corner of his lips, a smile threatening to break out on his face all because of such a simple thing as an honest laugh. He would really have to find this man again. If only to talk and that’s it.“Thank you but one slice is good enough for me. I would like to leave with a fitting waist coat,” Johannes said as the piece was laid before him.
He only gave the cheesecake a precursors glance before turning his attention back to the man. Before he had to be the one to man up and ask for a name the lady next to Franz asked.
Charlemagne Marquis. Mentally Johannes said the name, rolling the letters off of his tongue a few times until he was sure he wouldn’t mess it up horribly. Having a name to a face was something he could work with if he wanted to see Charlemagne again. It was also something he was going to commit to memory. He may even look into getting some of the wine from Charlemagne’s family winery.
Sadly, it seemed a Charlemagne’s time had run out because soon he was leaving the area. Johannes, however, was too caught up in the information he just found out to be too sad to see Charlemagne go. He had been wrong. The other man had been the head cook. Damn, there went his chance to marry the cook and steal them away from the King and Queen.
[center [i ~]]
The happiness Johannes had felt after the banquet was quickly squashed as he took the first few steps into his home. The door wasn’t even closed and his hated powder wig wasn’t even off as the screeching graced his ears followed by frantic clacks of heels across the floor. Johannes sighed as he slid the accursed item off of his head and handed it over to Hans, his butler. As he turned around he was greeted with a stressed lady and a screaming baby. Behind her trailed a sluggish and sleepy child.
“Monsieur, I couldn’t get her to quiet down,” she said.
Johannes took the last steps towards the stressed woman and easily took Maria from her. “I’ll take her. Go get some rest,” he gently said as he carefully cradled Maria in his arms. His son walked up to him and hugged his leg. “Johannes, you should be asleep,” He added as he began to rock the screaming child.
“Sleepy,” was all the small dark haired child said.
Johannes just sighed fondly at the child. Despite not wanting children before he had to admit that he loved these two brats. Even when they were being little pains in the ass, like now. Nudging his son forward they made their way up the stairs and into Johannes’ room. Almost instantly his son climbed into the bed and curled up in Johannes’ spot. Johannes just rolled his eyes at the child before turning to Hans. “Could you hold her and I’ll change myself,” he said as he offered up the sniffling child. The moment Hans took her Johannes leapt into action. With very little care if the expensive waist coat he shed his clothing and slipped on his sleeping shirt. By the time he was dressed Maria was beginning to fuss and Hans did not look amused.
“Do you know if Maria was fed before I got home?” He asked as he took his daughter.
“She was fed right before you got home,” Hans said as he picked up the clothing.
Johannes laid down in bed and rested Maria on his chest. Almost instantly his son rolled over and attached himself to his side. [i ‘This is really my life now,’] he thought to himself. He could be like his own parents and not even let his son near his room but Johannes wasn’t that heartless. Instead he would silent suffer as one kid laid on him and the other trying to. His last thoughts as he drifted off to sleep were that he hoped to see Charlemagne Marquis again.
[center [i ~ ]]
Johannes’ rest did not last long. After a few hours Maria became fussy again and he had spent the rest of the night rocking her. What little sleep he managed were him sitting on a chair, leaving him with a stiff neck. Needless to say he was not in a rather friendly mood. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of work for Johannes to do at the embassy. There were a few letters he needed to pen and input on details for a banquet where requested but no people to deal with. Well that was until Franz walked in.
“Johannes! Do you think you could pick up my order of wine from the market? I had to send Otto out to send the post and Freiherr Sierakowski decided to visit... Unless you wanted to deal with him. He has been asking about you a lot recently,” Franz said a shit eating grin on his face.
Freiherr Sierakowski was a baron whose wife was French and spent the majority of his time in France. He also only had one surviving child, his daughter Anne, who he wanted to marry off. His wife was also pushing for Anne to marry someone who would be in France so that she could see her daughter without traveling to Austro-Hungary. The person the Sierakowski family set their sights on just happened to be Johannes, who wasn’t in the market for a wife ever again. Franz caught on pretty quickly what was going on and at first was angry because his daughter’s body wasn’t even cold when the Baron started to push his daughter at Johannes. Now Franz found great amusement in tormenting Johannes with it.
“I’ll get the wine. I’m assuming the same vendor you normally get it from?” He said as he rapidly stood up and straightened his waistcoat. There was not enough money and prestige in the world to get him to stay.
Franz smirked, “Ja. Come back in a couple hours. By then he should lose interest.”
Johannes didn’t have to be told twice as he quickly left the embassy and made his journey to the market. Johannes hardly ever went to the market but he had committed the path to memory. The hustle and bustle of the market was something nice and let him slip into the crowd unnoticed. As he walked past several stalls he contemplated what he should do with his last minute freedom. He could find a shop, buy a book , and find a nice tree to sit under and enjoy the nice weather. Or he could get the wine and return to his home which wasn’t too far. It was in walking distances though he was sure Hans would lecture him for walking instead of taking a carriage. Despite the promise of a lecture the second idea sounded best. Making his way to the stall he saw Jacques who sold wine from his family’s winery. While the wine was good it wasn’t as good as Charlemagne’s wine but it would do.
“Bonjour,” he said to the middle age man. “I’m here to pick up Monsieur von Wächter’s order,” he said, the words a little stiff coming off his tongue at the end. Johannes always made an effort to speak French instead of slipping into his native tongue. Normally he didn’t have too many issues but it always tripped him up speaking French and then saying a German name.
Jacques nodded. “Give me a moment Monsieur to grab his order,” he said as he left his assistant to man the stall.
“Look what we have here boys! A lost enemy. Maybe we should show him how much we love his kind,” a voice said behind him.
[i ‘Fuck me,’] Johannes thought to himself. He really didn’t want to deal with this.
Charlemagne found himself smiling just a little bit wider when the table he approached saw that he had dessert on the platter in his hand. He found it comical how so many individuals became reinvigorated with excitement after seeing plates of sweets come their way. Sure, not everybody liked deserts, but that was completely understandable. Charlie always had back up desert plans if anyone at a table expressed that they didn’t want what he had to serve at the time. But the members of the current table seemed more than content with the varieties of marbled cheesecake he and the kitchen staff made for the banquet. Regardless, Charlemagne was made happy knowing that he made others satisfied and full of his carefully crafted cuisine.
[#900 “Marbled blueberry; an excellent choice, I do say.”] Charlemagne commented as he served a cleanly sliced piece to Johannes. Upon hearing the man’s comment about the King and Queen choice in a head chef, Charlie genuinely, warmly laughed. [#900 “I certainly hope they did. The Royal Family have an intricate palate that is hard to please. No half rate chef would survive.”] Charlie noted. [#900 “But you flatter me, monsieur. I’d almost believe that you’re trying to get another piece of dessert from me.”] the man teased. [#900 “Though I must say that if that’s the case all you have to do is ask. No harm in a little indulgence, I say. Treat yourself if you would like.”] he added, still looking at Johannes. After a moment of observation, Charlemagne dutifully gave Franz a piece of the cheesecake he requested.
The Frenchman then glanced back at Johannes, intrigued. [#900 [i ‘Hm, he has quite the refined aesthetic. I like that a lot. I could happily observe this all night.’]] Charlemagne thought before his attention was caught by a lady sitting beside Franz. [#00969e “Monsieur, do tell us your name. And you must tell us where this wine is from! It is absolutely exquisite!”] one woman piped up, taking a sip from her crystal glass. Charlie averted his gaze from Johannes and directed it to the woman to address him. [#900 “Charlemagne Marquis at your service, madame. And your drinks tonight are from my family’s winery, Madame. My brother currently owns it and that is his signature blend if I’m not mistaken.”] Charlie proudly responded. [#900 “It just so happens to be a wine that the King ended up liking a lot during his initial visit while on a wine tour going through Bordeaux. But I am greatly pleased to hear that you enjoy it so much. My brother and I really do put our hearts and souls into our work.”] the man nodded, adjusting the dessert platter in his hand. [#900 “Now I must excuse myself. But if any of you need anything during the remainder of the banquet do not hesitate to let a butler or maid know. I will personally prepare the food and/or drinks myself. Plus, I linger around the palace quite often, so if you are around and need something to eat, let me know.”] Charlemagne stated before giving a light bow and disappearing among the people and back into the kitchen. More food still needed to be served and Charlie was ready to pitch in and help the wait staff as needed since his cooking duties for the day were done.
The banquet had gone off without a hitch for the most part. There had been minor hiccups in the cooking line within the kitchen, but malfunctions like that were to be expected. But the kitchen staff took it in stride. And by the end of the night, Charlemagne had pulled together his kitchen staff to congratulate them on their hard work. It is no easy task to feed so many people the quality of food expected to be served at the Royal Palace. So, as the kitchen staff cleaned up the area Charlie had grabbed some food, so he could feed himself. It was very late, and the man was starving so he took a plate and a glass of wine for himself before sitting out on a terrace that the dining hall leads out to. The terrace area overlooked a garden area that was currently illuminated by the moon hanging high in the sky. It was a truly beautiful evening and Charlemagne was relieved to be able to bask in the peacefulness of the night. And while he could think about anything, Charlemagne’s mind kept on going back to the young gentleman he had seen at the table he served earlier that evening. [#900 [i ‘I haven’t seen him around before, though. He must be new. Although the man he was with I’ve spotted several times in the past, but never got a chance to speak with.’]] Charlie thought, figuring that if the man he saw was someone important to the court that he’d be seen more often in coming days…
The main meal, for the most part, was staring to wind down. People were lazily eating the remaining food before them and still happily chatting to each other. Johannes was one of those people who picked at the remainder of his food and sipped on his wine. He was happily full and while he could just give in and over indulged he did not. Johannes was happy and content; ready to go home and sleep.
With a content sigh Johannes turned his attention to Franz who was happily chatting away. Franz was much more use to this type of lifestyle than Johannes. Even though Franz was the second son to a baron Franz and his family spent the majority of their days in the Austro-Hungarian court. He really shined in these instances whereas Johannes didn’t. Johannes was, however, okay with that and let Franz do much of the talking. Eventually the day would come that Johannes was expected to carry on the conversation but that day wasn’t today.
As the conversation between Franz and the lady besides him dwindled down Johannes was about to say something to Franz when a voice cut through the conversations at the table. The new voice commanded the surrounding area and everyone turned their attention to the man. In his hand was a platter filled with delectable items. Johannes was cursed to have a sweet tooth and even though he was full those cheesecakes were exactly what he needed. Especially the blueberry cheesecake. Blueberries happened to be Johannes’ favorite berry, making the cheesecake that more enticing. Whoever this man was he surely descended from the heavens.
Said man’s attention seemed to have shifted from the rest of the table to single out him and Franz. For a heartbeat Johannes considered not giving into temptation but obviously lost that battle. “I think I’ll go with the blueberry marbled cheesecake,” Johannes replied to the stranger while Franz piped in with a chocolate. “Dinner was marvelous. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything as delicious as today’s meal. The King and Queen have chosen their head chef wisely,” he added when the man asked about the food. Johannes was not a man to give out frivolous compliments to just anyone or anything. Nor was he a man to find himself enamored with something as simple as food but the chef had achieved that in the course of one meal. Johannes would marry them if he could. Despite hating parties Johannes was already planning on going to another just so that he could enjoy this food again. Maybe, not another party so soon though because he feared that his waistline wouldn’t be able to take the onslaught of food.
With the cheesecake out of the way Johannes let himself actually look at the man that had brought out such delicious delicacies. The very first thing to run through his mind was that the man was rather handsome. Handsome in a way that was Johannes’ type, to be exact. Despite having been married to a woman Johannes had always preferred men. His marriage was actually a coverup for his extra activities as well as served to give Johannes some sort of position in society instead of sitting in limbo. But those were thoughts he needed to rapidly dismiss. The second thought that came to Johannes’ mind as he shoved the first one away was the man was somewhat important. He was, obviously, dressed nicely but seemed to have the air of command like he had a part to play in this banquet besides serving it. If Johannes was to guess what this man did it was probably coking some of the food. It was even possible this man was the head chef but Johannes was personally leaning against the idea since the man appeared so young. Either way the kitchen staff deserved some praises. “Please send my compliments to the chefs, Monsieur,” he decided on saying. Johannes wanted to ask more about the males’ role in the meal but held back since it wasn’t really the forum to do so. Either way Johannes found himself curious about the stranger.
Plenty of people hated, no, [i loathed] the fact there was a foreigner on the throne. To have a Queen who was not even French was an unfathomable idea to many in France. King Louis XVI’s court was bubbling to the brim with gossip, as always, and buzzing with rumors and disbelief when news of his courtship of Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria began to circulate. Seemingly nobody wanted an Austrian woman as their Queen. Some even so boldly proclaimed that their union was a marker of the end of the mighty French monarchy. A few subjects even went so far to say that this was a sly ploy on the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s part to bring an end to France’s power and prestige. It just did not make any sense to a lot of people when there were plenty of eligible French noblewomen who were poised for marriage. But the King didn’t listen to the outpouring of criticism. The marriage was more of a political business transaction than anything else to him.
Charlemagne was one of the royal subjects who did not approve of Marie Antoinette being the Queen of France alongside of King Louis XVI. He did believe that having an Austrian as Queen was ridiculous, but he knew there was nothing that could be done about it now. [#900 [i ‘At least I’m not so paranoid unlike some who cry about it being the end of French society as we know it.’]] the man thought, shaking his head in the palace’s kitchen. He had been told time and time again that he was incredibly biased since he was the Royal Family’s personal chef. However, the case wasn’t so clear cut as bitter subjects thought. Charlie had been personally called upon by the King through a royal order to be the leading chef at the palace after the King and Queen had taken a leisurely tour through France’s wine country. They had stopped by Charlemagne’s family winery in Bordeaux unexpectedly since the King happened to enjoy the sight he saw of organized, but ornate rows of grape vines and the processing building where the actual wines of the Marquis’ business were made. It had been a shock to Charlemagne and his brother Sébastien to receive guards, the King, and Queen. There had been zero notice, but the two brothers were quick to accommodate their guests. Charlemagne had been charged to give the King and Queen a proper tour while Sébastien hurried off to fetch proper samples at the request of the Queen. It was during that tour of the facilities that the King had taken a liking to Charlemagne due to his charisma, honesty, and respectfulness. And it was about a month or so after this meeting that Charlemagne had been called to the Palace of Versailles to work for the Royal Family as their personal master sommelier. But when the King found out Charlemagne could also cook; the man worked in both capacities and was paid accordingly.
It was hard work keeping the royal family fed and satisfied, though. The King, Queen, and their children all had very fine, picky palates. They only wanted the finest cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And this didn’t even account for tea time and relatives of the family who regularly visited. Charlemagne, however, didn’t cower back from the challenge. Instead he put his best foot forward and ran a tight ship in the kitchen to ensure that the food that servers carried out was nothing but delectable perfection. This was always the case, and even more so for the lavish banquets the King and Queen held regularly. The pressure was magnified ten times, at least, because not only were the Royal Family needing to be fed, but so were their guests that included foreign dignitaries and whoever else the King and Queen happened to invite that night.
Tonight’s meal was exceptionally extravagant as no expense had been spared and no detail overlooked. Charlemagne only allowed the finest ingredients into the palace’s kitchen. Those ingredients ranged from cured meats from Spain all the way to truffles harvested in Italy. While Charlie was a chef and master sommelier, he made sure to scout out only the best for the Royal Family. In return the Royal Family paid him handsomely for his efforts as well as invested in his family’s winery. It was a win-win for both parties involved. Life really was much easier being in the favor of the King and Queen. And Charlie was intent on keeping it that way, striving constantly to outshine anyone vying to replace him. And the King had always noted the man’s talent and efforts, keeping him around because of this.
It had been such a long day of preparation that by the time deserts were served, Charlemagne was thoroughly exhausted. But the man didn’t stop there. He had put his apron back on the hanging rack and washed up before taking a few plates with him from the kitchen to serve a table. Charlemagne always liked hearing feedback from the people who ate his food. After taking a moment to collect his thoughts and switch from his strict in-the-kitchen mindset to a friendlier demeanor Charlie made his way out into the expansive dining hall nobles and guests alike were dining in.
Swiftly he weaved through the throngs of tables to reach the one he needed to go to. [#900 [i ‘Austrian folk.’]] Charlie thought. He was amused but still delighted none the less. They were guests of the palace and Charlemagne had a personal rule to treat all guests with respect regardless of their origins. [#900 [i ‘Except Prussians. But thank God they’re not here.’]] he mused while approaching the table with the silver platter of deserts.
[#900 “Bonsoir, mesdames et messieurs. I have a platter of specially crafted marbled cheesecakes for you if you elect to have desert. There is strawberry, chocolate, and blueberry marbled cheesecake to choose from.”] Charlemagne offered, showing off the platter to help the members of the table decide on what kind of cake they wanted. The favorite kind of cake, though, appeared to be the chocolate marbled variety as people made their pick. [#900 “And for you two gentlemen?”] Charlemagne inquired, turning his attention to Franz and Johannes. [#900 “Also, I trust that your dinner has satisfied you?...”]
Johannes was simply tired. Sitting in the lavish palace, a guest of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, did nothing to stave off his boredom and sleepiness. Right now he could be curled up in his empty bed with a book in hand and a single candle illuminating the room all while dozing off. Instead he was sitting in the very definition of opulence. Gold seemed to plate every surface that it could, contrasting with the white walls and blue drapery. It was beautiful and Johannes would probably have enjoyed his surroundings a tad bit more if he wasn’t tired. Maria, his youngest child, was having a crying spell that was driving everyone to the brink of insanity. The only time she seemed to fall silent was when Johannes rocked her and sang to her. His son, aptly named Johannes, would then grow jealous and demand his attention as well. This left Johannes to deal with one screaming child and a clingy sniffling child. Never had Johannes wished so much for a wife except in those moments when the moon was tauntingly shining in through the window and Johannes had two bratty kids crying in his arms. He could have handed them off to his staff but that would do no good in silencing either of them. Instead he was forced to run off of a handful hours of rest and suffer the presence of so many snobby aristocrats. To make matters even better very few of these aristocrats even wanted him to be at this banquet.
“Johannes are the kids still keeping you up?” A gravelly voice to his right asked.
Turning his attention away from his plate he looked over to his Father-in-law, Franz von Wächter, who happened to be the ambassador. Franz’s position was the primary reason Johannes had married Franz’s daughter in the first place but those were small details. “Yes. Maria has taken to screaming her head off when I’m not holding her. I think the wet nurse is at the cusp of quitting,” he softly said, trying not to draw attention to their conversation. He didn’t want to deal with the surrounding company’s opinions and suggestions right now. Thankfully, all around him were loud conversations going on that helped mask his and Franz’s conversation. Some of the conversations Johannes could hear were about current politics while others were borderline lewd. A whole medley of topics were being discussed in the large ornate room.
Franz let out a soft chuckle as he brought his cup up to his lips. “The trials and tribulations of being a father. She will calm down, eventually,” he reassuringly said before taking a sip of wine.
A dark eyebrow arched in disbelief. At the rate Maria was going Johannes doubted that she would ever stop crying. “I can only hope,” he dryly replied. He was sure the moment he returned home he would find half his staff had quit because of Maria’s screaming. Johannes was already dreading the mere idea of finding anyone new to work in his household. Despite the Austro-Hungary Empire having one of their own in a position of authority in France there were still disdain throughout the population towards his people. The first wet nurse Johannes had hired left only a few days before Maria was born and the one he tried to hire had declined solely because he wasn’t French and was the “enemy”. While he was ready for the pushback from the French people he wasn’t ready for it to happen while dealing with an infant whose mother was no longer alive and who needed to be fed soon. It was a stressful time that quickly ended with Franz pulling some strings and getting someone to take care of Maria and little Johannes. If only Johannes could slip out of this party to ensure he had employees by the nights end.
Resigning himself to his demise he turned his attention to the food. The food and the wine were the only good thing about this party. Everything so far had been masterfully crafted and beautifully paired with the best of wines. Honestly he wasn’t even sure which dish had been his favorite because all of them were great. It was fitting for the King to have the best chef in the world but still Johannes couldn’t help but be jealous. This food was spoiling him and he was pretty sure he couldn’t go back to the normal food his own chef made. “The chef did an amazing job,” he said as he took another bite of something. Johannes wasn’t too sure of what he was eating but he did know it was good which was the only thing that matter.
“He really did. I was told the Chef’s name the last banquet I went to and I fear I can’t remember it right now,” Franz said before getting pulled into a conversation by the lady to his right.
Johannes let out a soft hum in acknowledgement as he took a sip of his wine. He really needed to find out the name of the chef and where this wine was from.
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