Athos watched his friend sleep with some trepidation. He was dreading the moment Aramis woke up… He feared hearing those same questions again. After everything they had been through it would break him. Athos felt they had taken the first step towards recovery, and if it had all been for naught…
Athos looked up suddenly as Porthos came in. He opened the door carefully, not wanting to wake Aramis, and went to set down some items on the table. Books, clothes, and all the other things they had taken to the sick room for their friend. And then Porthos went to stand before the fire with a handful of parchment.
"What's that?" Athos could guess.
"His notes." Porthos' voice was abrupt but gentle. His eyes skated over the first page… Athos recalled the words - 'You are Aramis'... and then the pages were tossed into the hearth without a second look.
They both watched the paper curl and blacken as it was eaten by the flames. Athos felt a certain amount of satisfaction at seeing Marsac's name turn to ash. After a few moments there was nothing left.
Porthos swallowed heavily. "Do you think he'll remember…"
"We can only hope." Athos answered quietly.
Porthos joined Athos by the bed. It was a stark reminder of the time directly after Savoy, when Aramis lay with his head bandaged and his face nearly as pale as the sheets that covered him. They had waited and watched then, fearing he would never wake up. It was a joyous moment when Aramis opened his eyes… and then the questions came. Their joy quickly turned bitter in the days that followed. Aramis had never really woken up… not their Aramis at least. Now here they were again, watching and waiting for Aramis to wake up.
"If he looks at me like a stranger again…" Porthos tailed off.
"I couldn't bear to get him back only to lose him."
At that Athos made no answer. He always kept his pain inside, close to his heart, where it could torment him in the quiet moments at night. He didn't need to talk it through, he would rather silence it with a bottle. But if Porthos wanted to talk, he would listen.
"He wanted to die, Athos… He lay on the grass like he'd found his own grave. I want him back so badly, but am I being selfish? Would he be better off not knowing?"
That question drew Athos from his silence. "Would you have him forget everything every day? We have already suffered through that, and it is no way to live… We have to show him that he can live again. We have to get him to see that he has a life worth living."
It was hard… putting one foot in front of the other when all you wanted to do was collapse and give in. Athos knew this… He also knew what kept you going was reaching for something. You had to stumble on towards something worth reaching for. Athos just hoped they would be enough.
"Aramis would fight... Our Aramis would fight."
"That was our Aramis out in the graveyard. There are some things even the strongest of men cannot fight... But we'll give him a reason to try."
Porthos scrubbed a tired hand over his face. "That's if he remembers any of this..."
At that Athos went quiet again.
They sat and watched in silence. Minutes swept by into hours. And then Aramis began to twitch slightly.
The two musketeers sat forwards in their chairs, hardly daring to breathe.
Slowly Aramis' eyes opened. He blinked heavily. Once he had taken in his surroundings his eyes settled on Athos, and then Porthos, for a long moment. They searched his gaze for any sign of recognition. It was like dredging through mud. Athos felt those familiar words ready to roll off his tongue…
'My name is Athos. Your name is Aramis. You had an accident…'
Aramis' brow furrowed. His words came slowly.
Such relief blossomed in Athos' heart at hearing their names. Porthos beamed beside him, near ecstatic at Aramis remembering them.
"You remember?" Athos asked, a little excitement crept into his own voice.
"I remember you… I remember them, and I remember him." Aramis sighed and looked to the ceiling. "I don't recall my neighbour, nor the way to get to the garrison. The last woman to share my bed has gone, save for the scent of a handkerchief… and for some reason the taste of an apple eludes me."
His manner was quite subdued, and understandably so, but there was something of the old Aramis beneath it all.
"That's good. You have to start somewhere, there are bound to be holes and things missing, but it will come back… We've come back."
"My dear Athos, I don't know how I managed to forget you in the first place." Aramis sounded so tired, but he managed a wan smile. "Nor you Porthos."
There was still a wide grin plastered over Porthos' face. "Don't worry, I'll get you an apple. I've got you something else too."
Porthos delved a hand into his pocket and pulled out a small book. Aramis took it delicately and flicked through the pages. There was no title and they were all blank.
"A diary. It'll help your memory to write things down, just… not like before, okay? We're starting again."
"Thank you…" Aramis looked at Porthos with something more than appreciation for the book.
When he looked to Athos he could near enough feel the young musketeer's gaze running over the bruises his own hand had inflicted. Guilt seemed to come off him in waves.
"Don't you dare say you're sorry." Porthos cut in.
Athos leaned forwards to squeeze the young musketeer's arm. "It's all forgotten Aramis… all of it. Let's just start again at page one."
Aramis' fingers grazed the book. A small smile pulled at his lips. "I think I can do that."
Note: Thanks to my reviewers, followers and favouriters, you're all awesome :D
And I've got lots more deliciously angsty stories in the works... life is crazy busy right now, but I'll do what I can :)