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Secrets in Hoarfrost

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Somewhere in Egypt, around 1918

The woman had been waiting for hours, shifting every minute or so as the baby shifted within her and made staying still impossible. She wasn't too bothered, however, for she knew her brother and his tendency to get lost in his explorations. There was still plenty of time for them both to go back home, after all. As abnormally huge as she felt, the babe still had at least three months to greet the world.

The very entrance of the one she'd been waiting for cut short her musings, as Lambert Beauchamp approached with a smile, surprised yet glad, till his mind registered her belly, and he wavered in place a mere meter away. She saw the byplay of his emotions flashing fast through his face, as there for everyone to see as always. This they shared: their faces could hardly ever hide their thoughts.

So hazel eyes met gold, and at last Lambert closed the distance and hugged her, even if to do so he'd had to fall to his knees by her chair.

There was no ring on her finger, nothing at all to show that her love had fulfilled any of his many promises… or were they even promises? As she lost herself on her brother's hug, letting the tears that had been burning behind her eyes fall at long last, Julia Beauchamp had to admit if only to herself that maybe, just maybe, she'd been a fool the whole time, seeing promises of love and loyalty were there had only been fleeting lust.

What could ever come from it all, now? What could she ever say that would being Henry back? If that was even his name. She was left pregnant and ruined for all the world to see, with the only measure of peace being that her parents weren't alive to see it.

"He's gone, Lamb. Gone forever, lost like a mirage after a more discerning sight. I know not what to do…"

Her words came stilted, when she finally managed to draw them forth. There was little she could actually say out loud, for Egypt remained a foreign land, wherein stranger ears could be hiding behind the walls. Lamb had met her eyes, though, and she knew he had understood her troublesome thoughts. Their family lived forever suspended on the edge of a blade, the inherent danger if anyone where to find out what they hadn't a choice in being always hanging like Damocles' sword over their heads.

Without the protection of a husband, of a powerful family to hide behind, who knew what would come of the baby? She'd had no option but to seek her brother's help. It wouldn't do to draw more attention than absolutely necessary to their bloodline, especially when it came to her falling with child in France of all places.

"I'll have everything arranged, dear. Worry not."

Lambert was efficient and discreet. Just as expected, truly. Julia hadn't spent more than a night at the inn room he'd arranged for them before things were arranged for their travel back home and their affairs underway.

She would be married, and a nice home arranged for her in the city, wherein she could more easily blend within the multitude. Where a lonely pregnant woman whose husband seemed to be absent for long periods of time would be less inconspicuous.

Lambert oversaw the whole of it, his contact in the Intelligence Services helping to smooth out the documentation.

He stayed long enough to see his sister settled, now proudly Mrs. Beauchamp, for her husband had been keen to take her name instead of his, owing to the fact that he had several siblings and her only one was a confirmed bachelor who wasn't keen on passing on the family name.

This was sown, quietly and with sufficient discretion, among her neighbours. Thus, when the child was born, a pretty girl, and her mother named her Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, no one pondered why. Or why, if her husband truly had more extensive family, only Lambert Beauchamp was named as next in kin.

After all, rumours grow, and people can quite easily make up a whole satisfactory story to justify any oddities from the slightest hints.


Somewhere within the Fôret de Chinon, France

The man watched intently the water in the stream as it flew, sometimes calmly enough to let him glimpse the very images he was so desperate to observe: a woman, fair of skin and with the most gorgeous red hair he'd ever had the pleasure to see, like a red fox's pelt, and in her arms, a baby, as fair of skin as her mother, sharing her same hypnotizing hazel eyes, but his dark curls, and the very shape of his lips, his nose.

His finger lingered mere inches above the image, longing to reach in and touch them, somehow. To make his words of love enchant their ears, and yet knowing far too well how impossible it was.

"Henry. Henry, you must come back. Your absence will be noticed soon enough."

He sighed, even as he tilted his head towards his valet. Claude was right to warn him, of course, but the last thing he wanted was to go back to court.

"I'll be there in a minute."

The girl was cooing at something outside his purview, tiny pudgy hands reaching towards it as Julia, his beautiful Julia, tried her best to keep her firmly held. The girl kept squirming, however, straining from her mother's arms till half her tiny body was leaning over them, and Henry drifted his fingers just over her reaching ones, with a warm smile on his lips.

"Now, now, ma petite. Don't upset your maman too much…"

As if drawn to his voice, those hazel eyes of hers met his, lips pouting as her hands drifted towards his, so close to his fingers and yet so very far away. Her face had started to scrunch in frustration, lips trembling as her eyes watered and threatened to spill tears, but as he gently played catch with her fingers, singing her the first lullabye he could recall, the girl calmed and started cooing again, letting her mother draw her back fully into her hold, and at last giving up on reaching his fingers to drool all over her own.

Her eyes stayed on his, even as Julia finally was able to breathe in relief and take her tea in peace, the girl blinking more and more slowly as his melody lulled her into a much needed nap.

By the time the girl - Claire Elizabeth - had fallen asleep, Claude was standing fully to his side, not saying a word but expressing his concern regardless by the frequency with which his eyes drifted to his pocket watch.

"Let's go then, my dear friend. Time to go back…"

With a wave of his hand, the image on the stream vanished, and the air hardly shimmered as they both vanished back to their homeland, the only proof of their presence a layer of hoarfrost on the grass, already melting without its source.