Well... I never imagined that I would be able to write a story that ended up being 12 chapters! And now it is done and I am so sad :(.
Thank you all so much for reading this and hopefully enjoying Between Two Thieves.
3 months later...
Aramis raced down the stairs of the inn he was staying at, in the small village near the Douai Monastery. He'd given his monk brothers a fond farewell three days prior and had traveled to the village for the remainder of his stay in this part of the countryside. He'd spent the majority of his days here tending to the ill and ensuring that the small town would remain healthy until he could next visit.
He'd known that day when his friends had left the monastery, that Douai wasn't his home any longer. When he'd opened the letter from the King later that evening, ensconced in Brother Thomas' office, he had been floored at the information it contained. It stated that he would be recommissioned as the regiments priest and physician. He was to be made one of the Society of Jesus, a Jesuit, one of God's Soldiers. Thomas and he had debated long and hard over what to do, but Aramis knew he was just delaying the inevitable. He was always going to go back to his friends.
Brother Thomas had explained to Aramis that the man serving as the Black Pope had been looking for someone to serve in Paris, close to the King and Queen. Since the Cardinal's untimely death, there had been a distinct lack of the church's presence among the King's court. The position itself wouldn't be without its downfalls, however, as Aramis was required to venture out to the smaller villages and aid them in any way he could. Specifically as a physician, but he was assigned to Athos and would largely follow his orders.
After that night, it was as though all the puzzle pieces fell into place. He knew he needed to seek out any remaining family Tobias may have and offer condolences. He was pretty sure Porthos was to blame for him remaining a Musketeer despite his desire to retire four years ago. And he was positive that the late Abbe Michael and the Queen had something to do with his elevated position amongst the Jesuits. But he chose not to question it. He was a soldier, serving God and he would be with his friends.
"Athos!" He said breathlessly, as he hit the bottom of the stairs and entered the tavern area of the inn. His friend was seated at one of the tables in the far corner, a decanter of wine and two glasses sitting on the table before him. "You are a sight for sore eyes, my friend." Aramis sat in the closest chair to Athos, reaching over to embrace him in a hug, earning him a wary glare from the man.
"You called me here, what is it that you need?"
Aramis didn't say anything to start, instead pulling a letter out of the folds of his leather jacket and pushed it across the table. "Remember that letter from the King?"
Athos straightened in his seat and stole a look at Aramis, the man looked well and extremely happy. Athos would even go so far as to say unburdened. They hadn't had much contact in the three months since they had returned to the battlefront, but what correspondence they had, was positive. Despite Athos acting as though it didn't matter why Aramis had called him here, he was terribly nervous. Athos hoped that Aramis was going to return home, he was nearly vibrating, trying to hold himself back from literally hauling the younger man over his shoulder and carrying him back to Paris. Athos blinked a moment later when Aramis cleared his throat, he'd been staring longer than he had meant to. He picked up the letter and opened it, and his eyes widened in surprise. "How?" He asked.
"Apparently I have more guardian angels than I know what to do with."
"So you are returning then?" Athos asked, hopeful.
"I am," Aramis said, smiling proudly. "I haven't found my forgiveness, but I believe that I will. There are always going to be a few loose ends to tie up in life. And I've come to understand that this could be a life-long endeavor, but I am determined. And who better to achieve this with than my closest friends?"
Athos smiled then, happier than he could have imagined. "Then I welcome you back into the ranks of the Musketeers, under my command."
Aramis and Athos stood up and embraced each other, the former laughing and the latter gripping his friends' shoulder tightly, afraid if he let go this would turn out to be a cruel dream.
"You need to know something Athos," He pulled out of the embrace and placed his hands on his hips glancing down as if afraid to speak. "I forgave you for forcing me to leave, long before I left. I need you to not hold yourself accountable for these past years, I had lost sight of myself if you will. I know that now."
"Thank you Aramis, it is good to hear those words." There was a hint of emotion lying underneath Athos words, and Aramis looked up sharply into Athos' eyes.
"You missed me didn't you?"
Athos rolled his eyes dramatically and responded with the most tedious sounding voice he could manage, "I am not sure how I ever lived without you."
Aramis laughed again, his laughter warmed the room, despite it nearing winter. They both sat down again and Aramis grabbed the decanter of wine, pouring them both a glass of the liquid.
"What became of Bernadette, if you don't mind my asking?" Aramis questioned, as he took a long drink from the cup.
"She was tried and found guilty of conspiring against King and Country and of capturing and torturing one of God's servants. I mean, it wasn't much of a trial in the end, she was hung the next morning."
Aramis' eyes widened in surprise at the news of Bernadette's death. "They moved fast!"
"The King is dying, Aramis." Athos said he swirled the remainder of his wine in the cup before swallowing the rest. "Louis is scrambling to leave his mark in history and Treville is doing everything he can to end this war with Spain. Paris is in upheaval, everything is moving fast these days."
"Where are Porthos and d'Artagnan? are they still on the battlefront?"
"No, the troops have been recalled in a cease-fire. They both wanted to join me here, but your letter suggested that you wanted me to come alone."
"I wanted a chance to speak with you alone," Aramis smiled. "Wait for me Athos, I am coming back with you immediately." He pushed his chair back and stood up, making his way towards the stairs to his room.
Athos set his glass down and stood up, preparing to go to the stables and ready the horses. The peace treaty between France and Spain was well on its way to fruition and Les Inseparables were back together. Athos couldn't wish for anything more, except...
"What is the story with the ladle, Aramis?"
Aramis' shoulders drooped and he sighed long and suffering. "Cooking instruments should not be weapons. It was part of her story to get me out of the catacombs. Bernadette was a clever woman and I am not surprised that she found a secret entrance to the catacombs. What does surprise me is that she managed to find me in that maze. Luck wasn't on my side that day, my friend."
"She was Carlos' wife, did you know that?"
"No one said as such, but I suspected." Aramis had turned around and frowned. "If I ever see a ladle again, though, it will be too soon." He spun around again and went towards the stairs to grab his things.
Yes, things were back to normal, Athos thought.