Title: A Restlessness in Common
Chapters: 14 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.
d'Artagnan feels Descarte's words reverberate round the stable block. Men have died for less echoes in his head as he watches the older man with trepidation. Somewhere along the line, d'Artagnan thinks, this man has lost his compassion and, quite possibly, his humanity. His words are cold but well chosen and d'Artagnan is quite sure at this point he is meant to be cowering beneath the weight of the threat.
But d'Artagnan isn't a man to be intimidated so easily. As Descarte continues to invade his personal space, his hand still resting uncomfortably on d'Artagnan's cheek, the young Gascon straightens up and attempts to stare him out.
Descarte notices immediately and laughs, patting d'Artagnan patronizingly before pushing him aside. d'Artagnan tries to maintain his balance, and his poise, but fatigue and temper get the better of him and he loses his footing, stumbling slightly. It's undignified but d'Artagnan doesn't care. Descarte lets him falter before stepping forward again.
"You're nothing here, boy," he hisses, spittle covering his chin. He swipes it away brusquely, leaning up close to the musketeer, so close d'Artagnan can smell the decaying odour of his last meal. "Do you have any idea what I'm going to do to you? To Aramis? To Athos?"
d'Artagnan freezes as the man utters the names of three of the most important people in his life. The honest answer is no, he has no idea. But conversely he doubts Descarte has any idea what he intends to do to him when he gets free, because d'Artagnan has no doubt that he will get free and when he does Descarte will regret the day he set eyes on Aramis.
In the meantime, though, it's his job to stay alive but the look in his tormentor's eyes are making that option look like it may not be that easy. Somewhere in the depths of his eyes, d'Artagnan can see a hatred, a personal hatred for him, that he doesn't understand.
Descarte shakes his head and shoves d'Artagnan hard in the chest. The soldier stumbles backwards, hitting the wall with his back, and comes to an uncomfortable stop there. Descarte has fallen back into silence and d'Artagnan isn't sure what he prefers – the veiled threats or the ominous silence.
He doesn't have long to reflect on his preferences however as Descarte kicks out and sweeps d'Artagnan's legs from under him. He falls unceremoniously to the floor and topples over on to his side. Having his hand bound behind his back is becoming tiresome and more than a little inconvenient. He wonders what Athos would be doing in this situation and decides he would probably be talking his way out of it with diplomacy or threats of violence.
d'Artagnan's not a diplomat though, never has been, never will be. His reaction is instinctive, animalistic and heartfelt. He kicks out blindly at his antagonist, neither knowing nor caring where his foot will fall. As luck would have it, he lands a solid blow against Descarte's booted ankle and he allows himself a modicum of satisfaction at the surprised grunt he elicits from the older man.
His triumph is short lived however. d'Artagnan belatedly wonders if it had been such a smart move after all as Descarte's grunt quickly becomes a howl of rage and the man lashes out at him, becoming a blur of fists and feet aimed at the fallen man's body. Descarte is indiscriminate in his aim and d'Artagnan feels the full force of his fury in his ribs, over his legs, across his shoulders and finally a glancing, ill aimed blow to the side of his head which has the power to knock his vision sideways. For one mortifying moment d'Artagnan thinks he's going to throw up again as a brutal kick connects solidly with the soft flesh of his stomach.
As d'Artagnan rolls over, gagging and coughing and desperately trying to regain some composure, Descarte bends over him and grabs hold of the collar of his jacket, pulling him up until their faces are mere centimeters apart.
"Do you know why I don't just kill you here and now?" he demands.
d'Artagnan shakes his head, regretting it the instant he does it. "Why don't you?" he spits.
Descarte grabs his chin and forces d'Artagnan's head up until the Gascon has no choice but to meet his eye. What he sees chills him to the bone but he cannot bring himself to look away. The older man's face is a tableau of loathing. d'Artagnan hasn't been in Paris long enough to make many enemies, although he will admit to one or two so far, but the face he's looking at right now is truly one of a man who wishes him nothing but harm.
"What exactly are you to Athos?" Descarte ponders and the question takes d'Artagnan by surprise. He had been expecting more abuse, more intimidation and threats but the question sounds absurdly genuine. He frowns, his face aching where Descarte's final blow landed.
But it seems Descarte does not wish to wait for an answer. His grip on d'Artagnan's face tightens and the boy cannot help but wince as his fingers dig remorselessly into his jaw and cheeks. There will, d'Artagnan acknowledges, be bruises there by morning.
"I had a brother once," Descarte whispers, and d'Artagnan's confusion grows further. "He was younger than me by four years and yet his wisdom and compassion was an example to all of us. I looked up to him more than any other man." He stops and closes his eyes, seemingly lost in memories d'Artagnan can only guess at. Opening them again, he fixes a cold glare on the boy's face. "Do you have any idea what it's like to lose someone like that? How it feels to have that ripped away from you because someone thinks they are better than you? That your place in life is worth less than theirs?"
d'Artagnan feels his blood run cold. The description Descarte is putting forward of Athos is so far from his own experience of the man that he genuinely fears for his assailant's sanity. And that makes him even more dangerous than he originally thought. Athos, as far as d'Artagnan is concerned, has never put himself before anybody in terms of self worth. If anything, he muses, the man does himself a great disservice by forswearing his past and rightful position in life.
The musketeer jerks his head in an attempt to dislodge Descarte's painful grip on his face. He succeeds long enough to glare at the man before him and hiss, "You're wrong".
Descarte laughs and pushes d'Artagnan away from him roughly. He stands up and looks down on the musketeer at his feet.
"Youth has many advantages," he sermonizes, "but it also has many disadvantages. Blind faith is one of them." He moves to d'Artagnan's side, just out of sight and d'Artagnan turns his head as far as he can in order to keep him in view. As Descarte moves completely out of his line of vision, he can hear the sound of chains being dragged along the cobbled floor of the stables.
"You know nothing of life yet, child, and you know nothing of Athos." The words are gentle and d'Artagnan has to strain to hear them over the scraping and clanking of chains. Descarte reappears, dropping an ominous looking bundle heavily to the ground. He regards d'Artagnan coldly before pulling a knife from his belt, twirling it casually between his fingers. "I, on the other hand," he continues, "know everything there is know about him. About him and his companions – you included."
He grabs hold of d'Artagnan by his hair and pulls him roughly forward before leaning over him and slicing through the ropes binding his hands together, carelessly nicking the flesh above d'Artagnan's wrists. This, d'Artagnan thinks, is his opportunity. All he needs to do now is grab Descarte and a swift clash of heads would end this here and now. Unfortunately his arms simply fall to his side, limp and heavy. Hours of being bound in an unnatural position have numbed his nerves to the point where the rope is no longer needed.
Frustration vies with the cold, hard realisation that his chances of escape are diminishing by the minute as Descarte grasps his sleeve and yanks his arms forward. The numbness is fading only to be replaced by sharp, stabbing pains in his shoulder as sensation returns to his muscles. The cold, hard shackle Descarte snaps around his wrist is heavy and even if the older man hadn't attached the other end to an iron ring in the floor d'Artagnan knows he wouldn't be able to go far with it.
Descarte surveys his work and moves backwards, out of d'Artagnan's reach. d'Artagnan considers it a pointless manoeuver on his part but watches him warily anyway. The older man smiles at him and sits down opposite him. It's almost, d'Artagnan thinks wryly, as though he's about to tell him a bedtime story.
"Athos isn't the man you think he is," Descarte starts. "Let me enlighten you..."