Title: A Restlessness in Common
Chapters: 1 of ?
Disclaimer: I do not own the The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan, their friends or their enemies. If you recognise something, it's probably not mine. I'm just having fun.
Aramis should be doing this, thinks Athos as he lines up the musket, leaning on the decaying wall for balance. He spares the time to glance to his left where he can see Porthos taking careful aim with his own musket. Athos allows himself a brief moment of satisfaction before looking to the wall opposite, where he can see d'Artagnan concentrating on the tableau set out beneath them for their pleasure. Aramis should be doing this, he thinks again.
But Aramis is the reason they're here. Their crack shot, the best shooter in the regiment, is the one down in the deserted courtyard below them. On his knees, hands bound behind his back, head bowed through either exhaustion or some unseen coercion.
Part of Athos wants his younger companion to show some sign that he knows they're there, they haven't abandoned him – would never abandon him. He wants Aramis to climb to his feet and just run. But he knows there's someone, somewhere with his own musket trained on the figure below them. One false move and Aramis will pay with his life.
He catches a glint of light from somewhere in the distance and his attention is immediately taken away from Aramis' predicament. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Porthos has also noticed it. D'Artagnan is still focused on Aramis so Athos assumes he hasn't seen it. In a way he's glad. It means at least one of them is still watching over Aramis.
Porthos is raising his musket, pointing it at something Athos can't see yet. He squints into the dying sunlight, trying to see whatever it is that Porthos has seen. There's nothing, but that doesn't worry Athos. He trusts his comrades and if Porthos has spotted something, he's happy for him to deal with it.
A creaking of rusty hinges distracts him from Porthos' mission and he tenses, looking back down to Aramis.
The ground beneath Aramis' knees is dry and dusty. The evening breeze is creating tiny whirlwinds of sand around his heels. He's not showing anything, but Athos would like to bet the feeling in his toes is numb to say the least. Behind him, old, decrepit stable doors are swinging slowly open. Athos straightens his back, taking time only to check on d'Artagnan and Porthos before watching the scene below him.
Aramis has obviously heard the doors, and possibly something out of Athos' earshot, and he raises his head, defiance rolling off his shoulders. It's the first time Athos has seen his face for four days and he doesn't like what he sees. The time obviously hasn't passed easily for the stricken soldier. He's pale, more pale than Athos is happy with, and his hair is hanging in limp curls around his face. Athos isn't sure from this distance but he's pretty certain the shadows around Aramis' eyes and cheekbones aren't due to the setting sun. He's seen bruises before but for some reason these ones make him feel sick. Probably, he muses, because he wasn't there to stop them happening.
Athos looks across to d'Artagnan and sees a similar reaction to his own in the young recruit's face. Aramis is shifting on his knees and Athos wonders if he's about to do something incredibly stupid. He needs to let the soldier below him know he's no longer alone before it's too late.
But then it doesn't really matter any more as Porthos, clearly no longer able to contain himself, stands up, breaking cover and shouting to his dearest friend to take heart, or something along those lines – Porthos never was the most eloquent Musketeer. Athos watches as Aramis twists his head round, sees the moment he understands his brothers are here for him. He sees determination renewed in Aramis' stance and a twitch of his head to his left, unnoticeable by any but his closest allies, that informs Athos that they are as much the hunted as the hunters.
But Porthos may have jumped the gun, Athos realises with a sinking heart as the sound of a musket shot rings out from somewhere behind d'Artagnan.
Later, Athos will swear blind he didn't scream, but in the failing daylight, he shouts a warning to Porthos, ordering him with controlled panic to get down. He sees Porthos fall, sees dust dance around in the air where Porthos stood only seconds ago and then he sees only red as he turns to where the shot came from and sees the shooter standing calmly behind d'Artagnan, holding a musket to the boy's head.