Note: Hi guys! It's been a while I know... For those of you waiting to see "Prince of a Thousand Enemies" (previewed at the end of Deep Deep Down), I originally envisioned it being five chapters. It's now more than twice that length, so it's just taking a bit longer to get together. It's nearly done though :) In the meantime here's another little angsty fic inspired by "Before I Go to Sleep". My eternal thanks to SirLancelotTheBrave for betaing and being my "angst consult", hee.
"Who… who are you?" His voice was tentative and strange… so unlike the man they knew.
A heavy sigh came before the answer.
"My name is Athos. Your name is Aramis. You had an accident... you hit your head and your memory has been a bit off." The answer felt rigid and rehearsed when it came... it had rolled off Athos' tongue too many times these past weeks.
Slowly Aramis let a stray hand wander to his temple. They had taken the bandages off a few days ago. Though Aramis wouldn't remember...
"Well, that's what happens when you fall and hit your head on a stone doorstep." Again, the answer came as if recited as a matter of routine. They told him it was an accident. That was easier to deal with… easier for them all to deal with.
"I'm sorry, I don't remember you." Aramis' eyes were full of apology.
"No, you never do…"
It seemed a miracle when they found him alive at Savoy. Aramis was curled up in the snow against another long dead. He was frozen to the bone and his lips held an unhealthy blue tinge. When they first found him Porthos had broken down in a way Athos thought was not possible. The man seemed so solid… It turned out he was made of pieces just like everybody else. Hope returned when Athos managed to find a faint pulse. They chased away the lingering ravens and took him home.
Everyone was relieved when Aramis gained consciousness, but relief soon turned to fear.
Where am I? What happened? The first questions were expected, and they answered honestly.
Who are you? What's my name? The rest of his questions were worrying…
The physician assured them memory loss was normal with some blows to the head. He was confident it would return. But the next day the questions came again… Where am I? What happened? Who are you? What's my name?
Day after day, the same questions. It went from being worrying to being terrifying. Aramis couldn't seem to hold on to anything from one day to the next. Every time they told him he was injured in a massacre he reacted with the same raw grief. Eventually they started telling Aramis it was an accident. The lie was repeated so often it almost felt like it was the truth.
"Where am I?"
"A sick room in the musketeer garrison. We're musketeers you see."
Athos watched as Aramis looked about the room as if searching for signs of truth in his words. He always wondered what Aramis expected to see in a sick room… a row of muskets?
The young musketeer licked his dry lips and settled his questioning eyes back on Athos. "Am I supposed to report for duty? What do I do?"
That brought a smile to Athos' face. Even with his memories missing Aramis was eager to get back to action. "Nothing… not until you're well again."
"Oh…" Aramis' face seemed to fall. "So what do I do all day?"
"Rest, read… write a little." Athos waved a hand at a table across the room. It was littered with sheets of parchment and a couple of books. "You seem to have quite a talent for poetry."
"Can you pass me something to read?" Aramis asked tentatively.
With a sigh Athos reached for a book and handed it to Aramis. The young musketeer turned it over in his hands delicately, as if seeing it for the first time.
"Well, unlike you I do have to report for duty. Porthos will bring you something to eat afterwards." Athos got to his feet and reluctantly made for the door. He didn't like leaving Aramis alone, but the young musketeer was well enough now, and he didn't seem to wander from the room.
"Thank you, Athos." Aramis said his name as if he were trying it out for the first time too.
The young musketeer's lost eyes met his with such sincerity before turning back to the book. Athos' hand paused on the door handle... Sorrow tore at his heart on seeing Aramis open the first page. He would always get to chapter five by the end of the day... He started again on page one the next morning.
Turning away, Athos left the sick room and made his way to the courtyard. Every day was getting harder.
Slowly he opened his eyes... there was pain… his head ached, and there seemed to be a mist surrounding everything. He reached out for something… a name… a place… it was all gone. A moment of panic flared, and then another presence registered at his side.
There was somebody there. A ruggedly handsome man.
The man watched him intently. There was a flicker of hope in those searching eyes, but it died quickly…
"Who are you?"
"I'm Athos, you're Aramis... and you've had a little accident. You hit your head and your memory is a bit off."
Aramis… that was his name. Aramis. It somehow felt familiar and right. But Athos… Athos? He reached into the mist, hoping to find something to grab onto... there was nothing but a gaping hole.
Aramis ran his fingers over his head, finding the rough skin of a healing gash. "An accident?"
"You fell and hit your head on a doorstep." The man… Athos… replied.
Suddenly Aramis felt bad at not being able to remember this man. He was here, he must mean something...
"I'm sorry, I don't know you."
Athos offered a half smile. "Maybe tomorrow."
"Where am I?"
"A sick room in the musketeer's garrison. You're a musketeer."
Aramis looked about the room. So it wasn't his… Something about that made him glad. The room was plain with a few items of furniture and little else. Aramis began to wonder what his own room was like. Did he have paintings? Keepsakes? Tokens from lovers?
"I'm afraid I must report for duty, Treville doesn't appreciate tardiness." Athos got to his feet.
"Our Captain. Here, you can pass the time by reading."
A book landed in Aramis' lap. He took it carefully and ran his fingers over the cover. In elaborate lettering it read 'Lives of the Saints'. While Aramis took in the musty pages Athos kept talking.
"If you wish to write there is ink and paper on the table. Porthos will be along with some food shortly."
"Thank you, Athos." Aramis tried to give the stranger who wasn't a stranger a reassuring smile.
He turned to page one, just as Athos left.
For a while he sat reading quietly, but after a few pages Aramis suddenly felt restless. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. It took a moment for the light headedness to pass… Gingerly the young musketeer stood and went to the table Athos had pointed out. The young musketeer took a seat and flicked through the papers scattered about. An intricate hand had written a poem… was it his writing? He didn't recognise it...
'You who weep for pleasures fled
While dragging on a life of care
All your woes will melt in air
If to God your tears are shed
You who weep!'
The words felt foreign, they weren't his… why would he have cause to write of weeping? Of pleasures fled? Yet when he took up the quill to put pen to paper the only words that came were sorrowful… the world is a sepulchre… friends are shadows.
His friends were faceless and nameless. The world out there was a black hole. The mist in his mind was frustrating. He wanted answers, not meaningless verses.
Aramis screwed the piece of parchment up and threw it across the small room with a quiet growl. It hit a chest of drawers and skittered into the corner… That drew his attention to a drawer that wasn't properly shut. The young musketeer went to investigate. Maybe he would find something else to do in that drawer…
It was stiff, but the wood gave way with a couple of hefty pulls. Aramis' heart sank at seeing more parchment covered with the same intricate writing… He nearly shut the drawer without a second look, but three words caught his attention amongst the scribble.
'You are Aramis.'
He read on.
'Your friends are Athos and Porthos.'
With his interest piqued Aramis took the piece of paper over to the table.
'You hurt your head. An accident? They say you fell and hit a doorstep.'
He seemed to be writing to himself… There was nothing new so far.
'Every night you forget, the next morning you won't remember. Write this so you remember. Keep it hidden.'
And then there was an unfamiliar word at the bottom of the page… It stood out in capital letters.
A sudden knock at the door made Aramis jump. He scrambled to hide the piece of parchment at the bottom of the pile on the table.
A large man walked in with a bowl in hand.
The man smiled and set the bowl down in front of Aramis. "I am, and this is your broth. Enjoy."
Porthos took a seat and looked at him with searching eyes as Athos had. "Nothing's come back then?"
"No… I'm sorry." Aramis picked up his spoon and took a grateful sip of the broth.
"Stop saying that. You've got nothing to be sorry for." Porthos sat back with a dark look.
"Do I always apologise?" As far as Aramis was concerned that was the first time he'd said those words to Porthos.
"Then I'm so…" Aramis just managed to stop himself from saying that word. He gave a heavy sigh. "I just feel like you're expecting me to know you, and I don't... I don't want to be a disappointment."
"A disappointment? Aramis, you could never be a disappointment. You and Athos are my closest friends, you mean everything to me. I'm glad to have you back, even if it's only like this…"
"Have me back?"
"You almost died." Porthos leaned forwards on the table and fixed him with a serious eye.
Aramis ran his fingers over the healed up gash again. "It doesn't feel that bad… I didn't realise."
"You were out in the cold for hours before anybody found you."
A sudden flash of snow… Ravens calling… Splashes of red…
He was staring. He should say something.
"I suppose I'd better watch where I put my feet next time."
The worried look slipped away from Porthos' face and a smile took its place. "Too right. You put me through that again and I'll kill you myself."
He felt shaken… there was something wrong… there was something else. It wasn't the news that he nearly died that threw Aramis off. He didn't remember anything, he couldn't feel anything. It might as well have happened to someone else. But there was something… it floated just out of reach like a butterfly on the breeze. What was that word?
"Porthos… what is 'marsac'?"
"He's a man, and he's not important." The answer was abrupt.
"How do I know him?"
Porthos shifted about uncomfortably. "You were friends with him in the regiment… not like me and Athos mind."
"Where is he? Can I see him?" If he was important enough to write down he was important enough to see. This Marsac might have more answers.
"He's away on a mission right now."
"Oh… maybe when he gets back then."
"Yeah, I'm sure he'll be looking forwards to seeing you." Porthos' smile had turned sad. "Look, I've got to go. I'm supposed to be on guard duty at the palace in twenty minutes. I'll come and see you afterwards."
Porthos clapped a friendly hand on Aramis' shoulder as he left. But the young musketeer's heart felt suddenly hollow. As soon as Porthos' hefty footsteps faded away Aramis fished out the paper he had hidden. He took up the quill and started writing… Not knowing the date he put a line to indicate day one against the writing already there. Two lines for day two, and then…
'Marsac is your friend. He's away on a mission. Porthos said he's not important, but that's not right. There's something hidden. You were out in the cold for hours before anybody found you. Snow, ravens and blood. Ask to see Marsac.'
It cut Porthos up to see Aramis like this. But as he had said, he was glad to have the man back, even if Aramis wasn't really Aramis. Still, it was painful to sit across from his friend and look into the eyes of a stranger.
Porthos found Athos in the stables, readying his horse to ride out to the palace. His own horse stood by quietly, waiting.
"He's asking about Marsac again." Porthos tried his best to speak casually.
"And what did you say?" Athos matched his tone, he was well practiced at keeping emotion in hand after all.
"That he's not important. Aramis kept asking though, so I told him Marsac was a friend in the regiment. He wanted to see him…"
"Well that's not going to happen." Athos couldn't keep a scowl from his face.
"I told him Marsac was away and he'd visit when he got back."
"What? He won't even remember who Marsac is tomorrow. He'll just be a name and I'll tell Aramis the same thing again..." Porthos watched Athos carefully, wondering whether to broach the next subject. "... why don't we tell him a bit more though? It might help his memory come back."
Athos sighed, his hands paused midway through tacking up. "We tried that before remember? It didn't work out…"
"And living this lie is? He's doing better now, he might be able to handle it."
"No Porthos… not yet, give him some more time. If he's remembering Marsac maybe something else will come back. Maybe we'll come back…"
"And maybe that will come back. What if he remembers when we're not there? What if he has to deal with it alone? It's better for us to break it to him isn't it?"
"Is it better for him to grieve the fallen anew each day? You would put him through that?"
"If it doesn't help we don't have to tell him again… not for a while at least."
"He's holding onto more than I think we realise. He might not remember you or me, but I wouldn't want the sensation of sleeping next to a dead body linger…"
"I just don't like lying to him."
"And you think I do?" Athos hissed. "It's for his own good. He wakes each morning in a foreign land filled with strangers. Until he remembers us - until he knows he's not alone in this - it is merciful to keep him in the dark".
Athos' head bowed as he finished, when he looked up again he seemed tired and worn. He spoke more quietly. "Porthos… would you be there for him tomorrow morning? I can't… I just need a break, it's wearing me down… the same questions over and over… If I see him turn to page one in that damned book again I'll scream."
"Of course I'll be there. You can bring his broth then."
"A fair trade… Come on, we're going to be late."
As they rode out of the courtyard Porthos looked to the small window of the room Aramis was in. For a moment he thought he saw a face pressed up against the glass… but between one blink and the next it was gone.
Note: I've got to credit the verse to Dumas, it's from book!Aramis.