AN: I actually wrote this after "The Homecoming" aired, but since it's set post-season I decided to wait until the season was actually over to begin putting it up. It's more or less finished, but it needs some editing to work in some additions from recent episodes. I'll try to post chapters every day or two. This is the longest fic I've written so far so I'm not sure how it will be received. Hopefully it won't get boring. If you like it, let me know so I can stop worrying! :)
"You three!" Captain Treville called from overhead, glaring down at the group in the courtyard. Athos and D'Artagnan looked up from where they were leaning casually against the stairs, watching Porthos and Aramis do their best to bash the other into pieces in what was meant to be a friendly fencing match. Aramis paused at Treville's call, and with a shout of victory Porthos slashed at his head, neatly slicing through the feather in his hat. As it wafted to the ground, Aramis howled in outrage and physically threw himself on Porthos, who tossed his sword to the side with a laugh. Treville swiped a hand across his face with a groan. Children. I'm the captain of a bunch of children.
He gave it a few minutes before he dared look down again. Porthos was now sitting squarely on Aramis's back attempting to push his face into the mud, which wasn't really surprising. No one beat Porthos in a fistfight. Though looking at Aramis, Treville noticed a distinct grin on his face. They're all mad.
"You three! My office, now!" he called again, and as Porthos clambered up Treville noticed he was missing his hat, which Aramis was pulling out from beneath him, covered in mud.
As they sauntered up to his office, Treville could hear them bickering happily. "You ruined my best hat!"
"Well, that feather was a gift from a dear friend of mine!" Aramis cried, his tone wounded.
"You mean it was from one of your mistresses," Athos interjected calmly as they entered the office. Aramis grinned easily at him while Porthos scowled. D'Artagnan brought up the rear.
"I thought I said you three," Treville said in a tone of great exasperation. D'Artagnan shrugged. Deciding it was best to pick his battles, Treville ignored him. He was a Musketeer now, after all. And a damn good one.
"I've got a job for you," he said gravely, and Aramis and Porthos finally stopped shoving each other to look at him, grins sliding off their faces as they adopted more professional attitudes. "I need you to go up to Calais. The Cardinal has been receiving reports from his contacts there that are… disturbing."
"Why are we helping the Cardinal, after everything that happened?" Athos asked blandly. "He's no friend of the Musketeers." The others nodded their agreement.
Treville sighed. "Believe me, I know. But from what his spies are telling him, this may be a matter of the king's safety." He could see that they were all listening intently now, determined to protect the king. "Some time ago, one of the Cardinal's most trusted scribes turned traitor and ran off with some maps of the palace, maps that showed the secret passages leading to the king's chambers and the Cardinal's rooms, among other things. We never found him. Now there's word that he may be in Calais with some unsavory, criminal underworld types, trying to sell the plans to the highest bidder. I need you to go find him and retrieve those plans. His name is Philippe Aubert. It's a week long journey to Calais. You leave at once."
"Can't you set a guard on the secret passageways?" Athos asked.
"Yes, and reveal their existence to even more people in doing so. Even if we did set guards on all of them, the risk to the king remains too great to condone. Aubert and the plans must be found."
The four men nodded and turned to leave. Before they were out of sight Treville called after them, "And try to bring him back alive! We need to know if he's sold any other secrets to our enemies." Down in the yard, he could hear the bickering begin again. At least they waited until the briefing was over, he thought mournfully.
They left as soon as they were packed, traveling light so they could make good time without killing the horses. It took them a couple of days to reach Calais, and when they arrived it was already dark. They clattered into the courtyard of an inn, hoping for a good night's sleep before beginning the search for Aubert. While Athos went straight to the corner to start drinking, Aramis went to find the innkeeper.
"There're only two rooms with a bed apiece," the older gentleman told them. "You can sleep in th' stables, or you can share." Behind him, he heard D'Artagnan yell something about not wanting to sleep with horses, while Porthos just shouted, "I'm staying with Aramis!"
He ducked his head so the innkeeper wouldn't see the flush of pleasure that rose to his face with those words. Naturally Porthos would share with him. They both knew Athos would be tossing and turning all night and hell in the morning. They never bunked with him unless they had to. D'Artagnan, though… he didn't know about Athos's restlessness yet. Porthos caught his eye and grinned wickedly, clearly thinking along the same lines. Again Aramis had to fight to keep the blood from rising to his cheeks. It had become much more difficult lately to keep his thoughts hidden.
"That's settled then," he said, trying to sound jovial so no one would notice his momentary silence. "D'Artagnan will share with Athos, and Porthos will stay with me." The others nodded and moved into the bar, calling for drinks. Aramis followed, trying not to think about Porthos at all.
It was late when he and Porthos finally left the bar and headed up to their room. D'Artagnan had gone up some time before, and no one cared to guess when Athos might leave off his drinking. Aramis wished he was drunk, but he didn't want to risk it tonight. Strangely, Porthos wasn't either. They were almost to the room when Porthos spoke suddenly, making him jump. "I'm surprised you didn't bring that pretty barmaid up with you."
He managed to smile as he replied, "My friend, that would have been most unfair. Had I taken her to bed, you would've had nowhere to sleep until she left. And besides," he added with a wink, desperately hoping Porthos wouldn't push the issue, "We'll be staying here again tomorrow night, I believe."
"Love will be the death of you, my friend," Porthos told him, shaking his head. "At least you have given up on the Queen." The words sent a stab of pain through Aramis, but he forced a laugh., fighting the urge to grab her gift where it still hung about his neck. Porthos could not know about Anne.
Porthos chuckled as he pulled off his shirt, getting ready to go to sleep. Aramis's mouth was suddenly rather dry. The thoughts he was trying desperately to contain sprang back into his mind, driving the memory of Anne away.
Stop it, you fool, he thought furiously. You know how the world works. Stop wanting what you can't have! Trying not to stare, he glanced away, towards the corner of the room. And then he drew his sword, discomfort forgotten. "Who are you?"
A figure stepped from the shadows, wearing a hooded cloak. He could hear Porthos drawing his pistol behind him. The figure stepped forward, raising its hands in a gesture of peace. Aramis almost dropped his sword when a woman's voice issued from within the hood.
"I'm not here to hurt you. I came to talk to Porthos." But Porthos was already striding forward, gun forgotten, to wrap the cloaked figure in an enthusiastic hug. "Flea!" he cried happily as the hood fell back to reveal the grinning young woman.
Aramis lowered his sword, feeling his stomach twinge at the obvious joy on Porthos's face and the way his arms were still wrapped around Flea's waist. "What're you doing here?" Porthos demanded, still grinning.
"I heard you were coming here. I followed you. I'm afraid I have some information to give you, and it isn't good," Flea said seriously. Porthos stepped back, smile fading as he looked at her curiously. "Just me?"
"Actually, it may concern all of you. Perhaps you should call the others." Porthos glanced at Aramis, and he knew what they were both thinking: who's fetching Athos? Porthos was staring at him pleadingly, clearly hoping for a few moments with Flea alone, so Aramis sighed and said, "I'll get them," trying to ignore the feeling in his stomach as Porthos grinned and hugged Flea again.
Down in the bar, Athos was still drinking, but he didn't seem to have reached the unmanageable stage yet. Athos was a highly functional drunk, probably because he spent so much time in that state. It only took a few minutes to explain to him what was going on and send him up to the room, and a few more to wake D'Artagnan, who promptly punched him in the face for his troubles.
"I thought you were a thief!" the boy exclaimed as he rushed to collect his clothing.
"A thief that says D'Artagnan, please, you must wake up?" Aramis asked, wincing as he prodded his cheekbone. "That's a very polite thief." D'Artagnan apologized sheepishly and they both headed down towards Aramis's room.
Inside, they found Flea and Porthos sitting together on the bed while Athos slowly dunked his head in a bucket of water that he'd found somewhere in an attempt to sober up. D'Artagnan and Flea both stared at him until Aramis assured them that this was perfectly normal behavior. After shaking out his hair like a dog, Athos gestured for Flea to speak.
She glanced at Porthos, who gave her a broad smile, before standing up and looking around at them. "You all know that I'm Queen of the Court of Miracles now," she began, and Aramis winced internally at the reminder that he had killed Porthos's childhood friend, leaving the power vacuum that Flea had filled. "And lately, there's been some whispers on the street. Not the normal kind," she added, glancing at Porthos.
"There's talk of English spies, and murders covered up, and some kind of secret plans. It's like nothing I've ever heard, and I've never heard as much from the folk of the Court. We're too poor to get mixed up in big things, and this sounds big. I didn't think much of it until I started hearing the king's name, and then I thought I should tell Porthos, just in case, but when I went to your lodgings you were gone. The landlady said you were off to Calais. And once I got here, it was a simple matter of asking the beggars at the gates where the Musketeers had gone."
"Have you anything for us other than rumors?" Athos asked, voice steady. "You wouldn't have come all the way out here for that."
Flea nodded. "I did some digging in the Court. The talk was all of secret plans, and English spies who wanted them for some Duke or another that wanted to make a move against the king. I couldn't get much information, because few knew and even fewer would talk about it, even with the Queen."
"You did good, Flea," Porthos rumbled reassuringly. Athos was nodding.
"I'll give you a letter for Treville. You can pass your information along to him. We've already got an assignment," he said. Aramis moved to fetch some paper and ink as Athos asked, "Are you sure there's nothing else?"
"No, I don't think so… wait. There was a name. Aubel? Auclair?"
"Aubert?" D'Artagnan asked urgently.
"Yeah, that's it," said Flea, nodding. "Something Aubert. He's in league with the Renard Noir."
"The who? What good is a fox going to do him?" D'Artagnan asked, looking confused.
"The Black Fox is the king of thieves among the northern ports," Porthos explained, looking thoughtful. "It's said he can gut a man faster than you can blink. If he's working with Aubert to sell secrets to the English, it's not good."
"We need to get to work as quickly as possible. Thank you for your assistance. You should return to the Court now," Athos said to Flea, turning to leave.
"Wait a moment," said Flea angrily, moving to block the door. "I came here to help you! You can't just go charging off, devil-may-care, into the mouth of the Black Fox. How exactly do you intend to get to this Aubert if he's being protected by a king of thieves?"
"We'll think of something," Athos said dismissively.
"Well, I've already thought of something," Flea said, her voice determined. "If you're going to go running off into the underworld of Calais, you'll need a guide, someone with you who speaks the language. Someone that can go where Musketeers can't."
"If we just take off his badge, we can send D'Artagnan," Aramis pointed out, earning a withering glare from both Flea and the boy in question.
"He's got Musketeer written all over him, badge or no. You need a real thief. Porthos, you know I'm right." She glanced back at him.
Porthos rubbed a hand along the back of his neck before sighing and looking up at Athos. "Flea's right. If Aubert really is with the Fox, we'll need some way to infiltrate his court without arousing suspicion. Flea could do it."
Flea and Athos stared each other down for a few long moments before at last he sighed. "Fine. But if you slow us down, we leave you behind. And you'll obey orders same as the others." Flea nodded and stepped aside, her face grave. As soon as Athos looked away, however, she grinned broadly at Porthos, who smirked in response. Aramis's stomach dropped sickeningly and he turned away, unwilling to watch their happiness consume his own.
So what do you think so far? Good? Terrible? Let me know in the reviews :)