Hi again! So, here's the beginning of my next one, more of a teaser as I don't have much else written and will (as always) be busy competing all weekend, away from my computer. I'll still have my phone so please bug me with reviews and feedback, and ideas are always welcome. It's not been beta:ed, all mistakes are my own. Please go ahead and write constructive criticism, English is not my first language and I'm happy to improve it. Just, please don't be mean! :)
The title, and text following it, is _very_ roughly translated from a song called "Be mig" (Beg me), written and performed by Nordman. His music is fantastic, it's all in Swedish but you should youtube it anyway even if just to listen to the Swedish harp and his voice.
And no, unfortunately I don't own the Musketeers. Wish I did.
Ask Me, I Will Remain.
Do you think loneliness can disguise your emotions?
Hide, and you'll receive nothing.
How many days have I wasted,
Due to cursing their existence?
Ask me, I will remain
Do you want to know who I am?
"Good morning! What a day!"
Porthos raised his nose tiredly out of the cup of water in front of him on the table, as someone was sounding way too cheery for the early morning call. He only ever knew one person who could be so bright and shiny before the sun had risen properly.
"Something must be wrong with you." Porthos mumbles as Aramis sits down on the bench opposite the table. "No man has the right to be so… gleeful… before the world has even woken up."
"Oh, my dear Porthos! If you kept your head out of the bottle now and again, I'm certain you would enjoy the mornings as well."
"I doubt it. I enjoy my nights far too much." Porthos grinned. This had been an endless banter for years, and it seemed to never end. It would be a cold day in hell before Porthos became a morning person, and it would be even colder the day Aramis wasn't. Although Porthos had a feeling that if he spent most of his mornings the way Aramis did - entangled around a woman's body - instead of puking his guts up through the window, he would be a lot more merry as well.
"So do I my friend. I just believe my nights leave me feeling a little bit more… alive, than your alcohol ever has. But please share - how many Red Guards did you not duel last night?" Aramis asked, grinning as he tore a piece of bread away from the loaf on the table.
"I did not duel four Red Guards. I'd never duel - that would be illegal, y'know?" Porthos grinned, before continuing with a dull yawn. "Athos always says that duelling is 'an arranged engagement in combat between two people, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.' So I am certain I was not duelling."
Aramis peaked his eyebrow in curiosity.
"Ey, we did not seem to be 'aving any rules. And it wasn't all that arranged, and we played four to one. And those matched weapons… They had swords, and I 'ad a table cloth."
Both Aramis and Porthos were widely grinning. It must've been a nice sight for the eyes.
"Speaking of Athos, where is he hiding?" Both Porthos and Aramis looked up as they heard the voice belonging to their youngest recruit, and smiled as d'Artagnan sat down by the table, looking all cheery too. Porthos didn't understand it. He hated mornings.
"Sleeping it off somewhere?" D'Artagnan mused. It wouldn't be the first time Athos arrived later than any of them, but he would still always be there before morning practice.
"He wasn't with me last night." Porthos said with an eyebrow going upwards. "He said he had matters to tend to."
None of them liked the sound of that. Last night Porthos had just brushed it off, but considering Athos wasn't here now, that made him uneasy. It wasn't like Athos. Their leader might be the heaviest on the drink out of them all, and he could spend most parts of the nights up and drinking. But he would never be late for the morning sparring, no matter how bad he got. His honour wouldn't let him neglect his duties to the regiment.
"Well, let's go find him then!" Aramis exclaimed, throwing his arms out and jumped off the bench. Porthos and d'Artagnan followed suit, as the trio walked over to Athos' lodgings, not far from the garrison. They marched up to the small flat Athos held, knocking on the door without getting a reply. Aramis tried the handle and found it unlocked, which wasn't surprising to them because Athos never bothered locking his door. Aramis swung the door open, never one for doing anything half-heartedly, and was prepared to drag Athos out of bed – only to find the small one room flat completely empty.
Aramis turned around to look at his friends, who seemed just as surprised to this fact. And worry was growing within them. Where is he hiding?
The three men looked at each other for a while before heading down the stairs again, and made their way back to the garrison, entering the stable with Aramis leading the trio. Their own mounts greeted them with soft whinnying, and the men couldn't help but to give their horses a good pat before turning walking a bit further inside. They all came to a stop by a stall, the one where Athos' big, black stallion Roger would usually hold residence. Now, the stall lay empty. Fresh hay and water had been placed in there waiting for the horse's arrival, and the box had been neatly mucked out.
Porthos caught a glimpse of Jacques, their young stable boy, and he immediately whistled him over.
"Do you know where Athos is?" Porthos asked, motioning for the empty stall.
"Monsieur Athos came in last night, just as I had readied the horses for sleep. I asked if I could tend Roger for him, but he did it himself, telling me there were matters he had to tend to, but he would be back before sun-up. He seemed rather distressed last night, and I haven't seen him return yet."
Porthos clamped a big hand over Jacques shoulder, which almost sent the small lad to the floor. Porthos barely noticed, as he had turned to his friends. They both looked as worried as he felt.
They walked back out into the yard of the garrison, and just stood there for a moment. Most of their fellow Musketeers were there, some of them eating around the tables, some already sparring with each other, while others were standing or sitting along the walls cleaning their leathers or weapons. The mood seemed to be a merry one, the warmth of the sun and the birds singing being contagious on one's spirit.
It was just the three men who had just excited the stables who were not feeling very vivid right now. They were worried about their friend, wondering where he had gone and why he hadn't told them, but hoped it would all be well upon his return. They would scold him and he would apologize, they would hug it out and then proceed the rest of the day as if nothing had happened, and then when the garrison laid quiet at night, they would push him onto a bench, hand him a bottle of wine and force him to tell them everything. If he refused, they would threat to shave off his beard as he was sleeping. That would usually do the trick.
That's how they imagined the day would proceed, because that's how it usually happened. It was not the first time Athos needed to be alone with his thoughts, but he usually told them to bugger off before he left. It was unusual for Athos to leave in the early hours of the night without even letting them know.
Their thoughts were pushed aside as they heard the sound of hooves on cobblestone, and all three let out a conjoined breath of relief as they watched gallant black stallion walk his way into the garrison. Their smiles didn't last for long though, as they saw Athos on his back. His hands were white from holding onto Roger's mane as if his life depended on it, his face ashen and his eyes didn't seem to focus on anything. His body was bent forward, slumbering over the pommel of the saddle, and he looked like he was about to disgracefully dismount at any moment. Roger was walking more carefully than he usually did, his high knees that would swing widely, sometimes almost bouncing Athos out of the saddle, were literally tiptoeing forward, gently and carefully, helping his master the saddle to stay balanced as he swayed dangerously with every step.
The three friends were at his side in an instant, d'Artagnan grabbing a hold of Roger's reins, the horse immediately stopping as if he knew his master was now in safe hands, his mission in bringing him back here was done. D'Artagnan's focus was on Athos, but he did let his hand find its way to Roger's forehead, gently scratching it, thankful for the clever animal that brought his friend back home safely. Aramis and Porthos moved to each side of Athos, putting their hand on each of his knees, without getting a reaction from him.
"Athos? Please talk to us." Aramis nudged, squeezing his knee, and all of a sudden, Athos' eyes turned to stare at him. Aramis felt like backing a step, Athos' otherwise so stern eyes was filled with panic, tears welling up in them, and he angrily blinked them back, forcing the wetness back into the sockets of his eyes. He was not going to cry in front of anyone, not right now. But he didn't let go of Aramis' eyes, and Aramis could see Athos pleading by just the look he was getting.
"Please don't… let me fall." Athos whispered, his voice harsh and ragged, as if he fought for every word. He let go of Aramis' gaze and looked back up, his eyes darting around the garrison.
It took Aramis a moment to realize what was going on, and when realization hit, he sighed, looking around. The garrison was at its usual self – crowded with Musketeers and friends of them, everyone busy with a task, and more people were arriving all the time. The only thing odd about this moment was that every single one in the yard had stopped with the task at their hand, and was staring at Athos.
Athos was known to every single one within the regiment, and to a lot of people outside of it as well, and everyone knew him to be a man of great honour and stoic nature. He had never shown himself weak in front of them, casually brushing off a bullet wound or a cut of a sword as if it had been a fly. He was unbreakable in their eyes, and he had earned great respect due to it.
Aramis knew better, he knew that Athos would put that image up, at the heat of it all he would brush it away and make sure everyone else was dealt with first, making sure all wounded would be tended to and all criminals put safely behind bars. He had a talent of pushing his own pain and hurt aside – that was until he came knocking Aramis' door, requiring his services as a seamstress. He would never let anyone but his three friends see him hurting, and right now, as he was sitting in the saddle, he could feel all eyes on him, not sure how to go on about this.
It was Treville who saved him, walking out onto his balcony and seeing his best soldier on his horse, visibly ill. Athos was just sitting there, safely on Roger's back, his three comrades close to him, steadying him without making a fuss about it, trying to draw as little attention to their helping hands as possible. But Treville could see that Athos would soon succumb to darkness, and he did not want to do it in front of his men.
There was a battle going on within Athos – a battle between pain, and pride. And he wasn't sure which side would be cleared as the winning one.
Treville was a man who could think fast on his feet, and he suddenly came up with an idea.
"I want every single one of my Musketeers to meet up at the grass field behind the Palace. We will have sword practice over there, and I will even throw in a reward for the best swordhand. This is an order, and everyone will obey. I will walk into my office and grab my hat, and by the time I come down the stairs I want this entire garrison cleared. By the time I reach the field, I want everyone to have paired up and begun fencing. Is that understood?"
His voice was booming through the garrison, and it was a voice that immediately caught the attention of everyone, drawing the attention away from Athos. Everyone immediately scrambled to their feet, grabbing their weapons and without a word, the garrison emptied out within a minute. No matter how curious everyone was to what had happened to Athos, no one would disobey Treville. By the time Treville came back down the stairs, holding his hat under his arm, the four men by the gate were the only ones left.
"I am assuming you don't expect our attendance, Captain?" Aramis asked carefully, while looking over at Treville, but his main focus still set on Athos.
"Of course not, I just wanted this place empty. They don't need to see Athos like this." Treville said as he walked up next to Aramis, placing his hand on Athos' thigh. The man in the saddle had closed his eyes, but still appeared awake. Treville threaded carefully, nudging his soldier gently. "Athos? What has happened?"
Athos' eyelids cracked open slightly, wet from stinging tears, meeting the eyes of his Captain.
And that was all he managed to whisper before his eyes rolled back into his head and he ungracefully fell backwards, straight into Porthos' awaiting arms.