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Milady's Favourite Color

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"Tell me. What's your favorite color?" 

She turned in the doorway, looking back. The Duke stood by his desk, looking--of all things--embarrassed. Interesting. Glancing inward, she turned her mind to the question. 

Did she have a favorite color? Of course, she did. She knew she did. But what was it? She frowned. Then her brow cleared. 

Blue, of course. Blue, like the sky. Blue, like...

But that was a dangerous road to go down. And even your favorite color could be used against you. Why did he want to know? That was the question. Was she taking too long to answer? Probably.  

"Red. Why?" She asked. 

He smiled at her. His face was a blend of so many emotions even she couldn't sort them out.

"I just wanted to see if you were capable of telling the truth."

Oh. 

She forced a smile. 

Ponce, she thought irritably. 

She swept out of the room and down the stairs, pulling herself into the carriage at speed and throwing an instruction to the driver to get her as far away as possible. The carriage jolted and they were off. 

For a while, she kept her cloak settled around her shoulders. A little shiver settled into her bones at the thought of the look the Duke had given her as she left. She earnestly hoped her work would keep her away from England for a while. 

Or better yet, spoke a traitorous little voice in her mind, the Musketeers could kill him. 

She shook her head, dispelling the notion. Buckingham was useful still. She shouldn't wish him dead. 

The Padre wouldn't approve of your reasoning for not wishing him dead, spoke the little voice again. 

She indulged it this time, leaning back in her seat. 

Aramis. Dear kind Aramis. No, he'd give her that frown and little shake of his head if he ever heard her reasonings. 

Porthos would probably approve.

Yes. Jocular, brute strength Porthos, who could crush her in one hand. He would just laugh at ever hearing the Duke pronounced "useful", but he would understand. 

D'Artagnan? What would he think? He was an enigma to her, this boy, this wild card in the ranks of the musketeers. She didn't like enigmas. Or at least, enigmas she'd never had the chance to investigate. 

But there was no doubt he was the new heart of the little group.

Four against forty, the little voice laughed, They haven't had such fun since you left them.

She huffed and fell back in the carriage.

Something chinked around her throat and she raised her hand to undo the clasp. She was far out into the country now, no one would care if she wore the Queen of France's diamonds in her carriage now. She fell back in the seat again, raising a hand and lovingly running it over the lovely, lovely jewels around her neck. 

Oh, to be Queen of France!

And she was, in a way. The queen spy. No one could outmatch her. No one except... 

The carriage rumbled to a stop. 

She huffed again. 

There were rustlings and chinkings from the roof.

Oh, what was happening now!? 

Irritably, she leaned her head out of the carriage door. 

"Driver? What happened? What are you doing?"

"Just following your orders, Miss," spoke a French voice, "You said to get as far away from here as possible!" 

And before she knew where she was, the carriage lifted from the ground and she was flying, and the driver (she recognized him now. Planchet, the fool) laughed his head off as they flew up into the Duke of Buckingham's war machine. 

She gaped as the ground fell away and the trees flew past her until all around the carriage was only blue. Sky blue. 

She huffed again. She seemed to be doing a lot of that today. And flopping back against the seat. Only this time the seat sounded hollow. It reminded her of something.

Of course! She sat forward and felt along the back until she felt the latch just graze her finger tantalizingly. Grasping it, she tugged and pulled out a shelf, on which lay a selection of pistols. She grinned. 

She would have to hurry. The sky was already darkening as the war machine blocked out the sun. 

Her fingers flew, testing the pistol of her choice. Satisfied, she slipped the seat back into place and settled in it again. 

They finally reached the inside of the airship, and the blue left under the carriage slowly started to disappear. 

Boots thumped on the floor in a measured tread. A low voice spoke outside the carriage, congratulating Planchet. 

Not D'Artagnan, then. Not Porthos. Too measured. Too low. 

She tensed as the figure in black rounded the corner. She couldn't quite make out the features and build in the low light. 

Instinctually, her hand flung out with the pistol. 

"Don't." Spoke the voice. 

She fired. 

...

Nothing happened. 

There was no flash of light, no spurt of flame, no deafening noise. 

There was only a well-remembered voice. 

"We took the precaution of removing the powder." 

Ah.

Athos. 

Of course, it would be him. 

He wouldn't trust it to anyone else. 

He wouldn't trust her to anyone else.

She dropped the pistol. 

"What now?" 

"You give me the diamonds or I take them off your corpse. Dealer's choice."

There was a play she could make here. She made it. 

"Anything else you'd like me to take off?" 

The voice that returned cut like a knife. 

"Out. Side." 

It brooked no refusal. 

Her eyes stung. Why did her eyes sting? 

She slowly got out of the carriage and unclasped the necklace, giving it to his outstretched hand in the gloom. 

He took it and turned away. 

She followed him. In her own way, she would always follow him. 

She followed him up the decks and into what, on a normal ship, would have been the Captain's cabin. Aramis was there, pouring over a book. Porthos stood by the table. The boy stood against the far wall. 

Without a word, Athos held out the jewels and dropped them on the table. He cared as little for the jewels as he did for her. 

"Boys. It's been a while." She smiled at them all. Finding no friendliness in them at all, she turned to the boy. "And this must be the young Gascon." 

He smiled, at least. But he was uncomfortable. As if he knew he shouldn't smile on the woman who betrayed his mentors. 

"We've met before," he admitted. 

"Ah yes! Small world." She remembered. The pretty boy she saved that fool, Rochefort, from killing. She may be merciless, but she didn't believe in going out of her way to take innocent, if rather naive, lives. 

He reminded her. There was another card to play here. Almost mindlessly, she played it. 

"I didn't let Rochefort kill you. You do remember that, don't you?" 

A gun cocked ominously. Porthos handed it to Athos, and she knew then. She was about to die. 

"Did you kill Buckingham?" A part of her that could still be was morbidly curious as to that fact. Ponce, her little voice spat again. 

"No." 

Pity.

"But you're going to kill me." 

"Yes." 

"You would spare him, but kill me?" That... hurt more than she thought it would. 

"Yes. I don't hate Buckingham."

Ah. Well, if that's how it was... she reached under her chin for the paper she had forced from Richelieu. 

Three guns instantly trained on her head. 

No, they wouldn't let her live, regardless. But maybe... she slowly reached again and pulled it out. 

"Here. You may have use for this." She threw it to the table. There was no reason to let such a valuable tool die with her. And Athos may as well have it as anyone.

"Move." He shook the gun, motioning outside. With his back to the light, she still could not get an accurate reading of his face. But the voice was flinty.

She sighed. Somehow, against all hope, she'd hoped that would change things. That with a new tool, they would be able to turn it to their advantage, together. 

Her step was firm as she walked out onto the deck. They were over the water by now, and among the clouds. It was brighter out here. What little she could see of the clear sky was a brilliant blue. 

That's almost it. My favorite color. But not quite. 

She hadn't intended to face him. If he was going to kill her, let him do it in the back. Let his hatred of her fuel them both and keep them strong. 

But the wind tugged at her hair the way that color tugged at her mind. 

And if she was to die, she would die having one last look at her favorite color. 

She turned to face him. And it almost broke her. 

It wasn't there. 

That brilliant clear blue, refreshing as a cool drink on a summers' day, was no longer in his eyes. Instead, they were dark. Grey and cloudy as a storm, covered over by anger and hatred and misery. No longer indifferent, but seething with restrained wrath. 

His hand raised the gun, and those eyes looked down the barrel, straight at her. 

No, no, no. She was not going to die like this. She had to see it again. She had to see him again. The Athos who loved her. 

She held out her hand to him. Pleaded with him with her eyes. 

Come back to me. Come back. One last moment. Please come back.

"Athos." She breathed his name like a prayer. 

There. 

There was a slight hesitation. A tremor. A gleam of brilliant blue shone in his eyes. 

That was enough. 

She didn't wait to see if he would follow through or not. She knew he would. 

It will kill him far more surely than your betrayal. 

With a quick step, she fell backward. 

Blue instantly engulfed her. 

Blue of the sky. Blue reflected from the clouds. Blue blue blue, everywhere. 

The boat drifted away, a dark spec rapidly growing smaller. 

She began to tumble and twist in her fall, pushed this way and that by winds. 

Her breath was sucked from her lungs. 

As she twisted, she could see the blue of the channel, rapidly approaching. 

She never loved blue more. 

She hit the channel with a resounding splash. 

By some miracle, she wasn't crushed by the impact. Nor was she immediately knocked unconscious. 

There was no difference between the chill of the air and the chill of the channel. If anything, the channel was warmer. Above her, the war machine was a spec, flying away. 

They didn't come to look for her. The time was pressing close now. They could only hope and pray that she was dead. Aramis might even say a prayer for her soul. And she? She could only hope and pray she would die soon. 

Water lapped around her ears and came up to her eyes, and then her mouth, and then her nose. 

She had no breath left to fight it. 

The blue surrounding her slowly became darker and darker as she slipped away.

Her eyes fluttered closed. 


"In case you're wondering," the voice echoed in her ears, "this isn't the afterlife. I'm not dead. And neither are you."

Her eyes fluttered open. It was Buckingham. 

ponce... her little voice whispered, half-drowned, like herself. 

"What? How did you...?" She raised a weak hand to her head, but couldn't keep it up and fell back against the cannon. 

"Followed Athos. We fished you out of the channel." He motioned and two guards raised her to her legs and held her there. She was too weak to do anything but fall against them. They had blue shoulder capes on. Not her blue, though. Nothing would ever match her blue. 

Her senses were rapidly coming back to her, even if her legs didn't agree. 

"So, where are we going?" She asked, raising her eyebrow. It was as natural as breathing to fall back in her role. Almost more natural at the moment. 

"To France, of course." 

Ah. She could work with this. 

"To get back what's mine, and pay back, with interest."

The guards tugged her arms and led her away. As they led, she could just catch sight of the rows upon rows of warships and air war machines. She craned her neck as they dragged her and caught one last look at the sky. 

She had always loved the sky. 

Buckingham wouldn't keep her down here for long. He was too proud, too arrogant.

He was brown, not blue. Mud, not air. The clay in her hands, not the breath in her lungs.

A foundation for her to work with. She would always get her hands dirty with the mud. 

And as long as she lived, she would always love the sky. 

After all, Blue always was her favorite color.