A/N: While I try to write a story where no character is neglected this story is purely [my gratuitous indulgence] Aramis&Athos based and inspired by the friendship of Athos and Aramis that went through the entire spectrum in season two. So this is set somewhere in the middle of that season when they were not in a good place and sort of explains the behavior at the end of the season, because they just let Aramis go too easily - just accepted his seemingly abrupt decision.

Other than that, the title and the tone of the story is inspired by the song "Lie" by David Cook. Give it a try and the story will make a lot of sense.

Happy reading…


"He is my most beloved friend and my bitterest rival, my confidant and my betrayer, my sustainer and my dependent, and scariest of all, my equal."
Gregg Levoy


The night is still and dark beyond the arched top windows.

The air is thick and warm, taking up too much space in his leathers.

His hair are damp under his hat and a bead of sweat rolls down the side of his face as his eyes scan the empty corridor. His boots hardly make a sound on the polished floor as he walks the entire length, one hand on the hilt of his rapier in his belt as he turns the corner to stop just short of running into Aramis.

"Athos," the man smirks as he rolls back on his heels, "the chambers assigned to Lady Solange are secure; everything is as it should be."

He nods and bites back the urge to note that of course his friend would know all about a lady's chambers. Wiping his forehead with his sleeve he readjusts his hat and reins in the ire that is a staple these days whenever this man is in his sight.

Aramis takes off his own hat and flaps it in an effort to lighten the cloying air.

"It's about time we get some rain in Paris," he says, "can't wait for it to wash away this clinging heat,"

"Not everything that sticks can be easily washed away,"

Aramis looks to him, smooths away Athos' barbed tone with a smile of his own.

"Not everything that sticks is wished upon to let go,"

And his eyes widen at his own declaration.

Athos has a feeling there was something there under the words that his friend had not wanted to slip out. But before he can pursue that thought footsteps from the corridor he had left behind reach them; and they turn the corner as one just as His Majesty laughs at something Lady Solange had said. The King is clearly delighted by the company of his distant cousin's widow, besotted enough to accompany her to her chambers it seems while Rochefort slithers after them. Athos is thankful that the Queen hadn't made it up to the corridor and casts a sideways glance towards Aramis.

If his friend notes the absence he does not show.

And Athos looks back to the nearing group to catch the way Lady Solange's eyes keep drifting towards them. Aramis shifts on his feet, the lady's gaze lingers and Athos feels his blood boil in his veins.

"Don't," he says, lips barely moving.

"Of course," but the impertinence is there.

Halfway down the corridor Lady Solange is openly staring. Her inquiry about the musketeers rings clear over to where they stand and His Majesty, despite his recently acquired distaste for the regiment of his elite guard, leads the way towards them with unchecked pride.

"These men are among the best of the best in France," he says, "nothing less could be demanded to guard the King,"

"Of course Your Majesty," she smiles, "I've heard stories of their valor and loyalty,"

Rochefort's nose wrinkles, lips pursing like he had accidently stepped into a pile of manure.

"Your Majesty is too kind," Athos bows, so does Aramis.

"Ah! But you have always been vigilant in defending the crown," a broad smile breaks over their King's face, "Treville has trained his men well,"

"Your Majesty it seems Lady Solange would wish to retire for the night," Rochefort speaks up, "the excitement of today would have taxed her delicate disposition,"

Athos finds nothing delicate about the way the first minister had cut off the direction that the King's thoughts had taken.

"Yes, yes ofcourse," His Majesty moves along, "tell me my lady how are things at your estate, I've been told the farms around it haven't been faring well,"

And even as they leave Lady Solange glances back over her shoulder, once, twice and in the flickering lights of the hallway Athos catches her smile. His eyes slant sideways to catch a responding grin on Aramis' face and his jaw twitches.

"Stop it," he says.

"I was merely being polite,"

Athos turns to him fully, fists clenched at his sides in an attempt to smother the angry flame burning white hot in his chest.

"It is not your place to show such politeness," he says, his voice steady even though it is lowered to a whisper, "for once think of the consequences your actions can bring or is it that you simply don't care who you drag down with your recklessness,"

There is a flash of something in the brown eyes, a gleam of something that whisks away as soon as it shows and leaves his friend's gaze softened. Aramis presses a hand to his heart in a gesture both mocking and sincere though Athos be damned if he knew which to hold onto.

"I give you my word Athos, I will not pursue Lady Solange," he smiles.

"Aramis! Aramis come and see the lady to her chambers," the royal command rings out from the other end of the hallway.

And Athos wonders if he should brush up on long forgotten prayers, not for himself but for the man beside him because temptation is to Aramis what a battle is for a soldier; the allure of a challenge and the thrill of survival.

Something must have shown in his eyes because his friend grasps his elbow and meets his gaze again.

"You have my word," he repeats before turning away.

Athos can do nothing but watch him walk down the hallway, bow to the royals and follow the Lady Solange around the other corner. He knows Aramis in the palace is a dangerous thing, Aramis unchecked in the palace even more so. It dawns on him a little belatedly that his friend had said nothing about not pursuing the Queen.

Gritting his teeth Athos stalks off for another round of the hallways.

He does not see his friend again that night.

Come morning he is fuming.

When Aramis stumbles out through the door of Lady Solange's room with tousled hair, hastily buckling close his coat with his hat tucked under his arm, Athos is there.

There is a moment when disbelief reigns supreme, tinged with guilt for one and fury for the other. The hands on the buckles give up their task and reach for him but Athos grabs the front of his friend's coat, hauls him forward with the leather crunching in his grasp as he drags him around the corner and slams Aramis back against the wall.

"I can expl –"

"You gave me your word!"

Aramis' eyes dart around as though afraid of being discovered and isn't that amusing Athos thinks bitterly.

"I know but she –"

"I don't care what she said or how lonely she was or how beautiful she is," he gives the man a shake, cannot keep the disappointment from his eyes as he looks at him, "I thought us – our brotherhood, it meant something to you."

"Athos…"

He shoves the man back. Feels the hard thump of it in his hands still clenched in the coat before he releases his grasp and steps back from Aramis; turns away to face the end of the hallway and forces his back straight, his shoulders squared.

"Athos I –"

He raises a hand and cuts the excuse short into silence.

It is only half an hour after dawn and already the sunlight is bright where it shines into the hallway through the line of windows. So bright that his eyes sting and his view blurs as he wonders what possessed him to voice what he just had.

They were comrade in arms, nothing more nothing less.

"Athos –"

"Porthos and d'Artagnan would be here by now," he says, "it is time for the change of guard,"


He gives his report to the Captain.

Aramis stands by his side, fingers tips pressed white over the rim of his hat in his grasp.

Athos is succinct and bland in the retelling of an uneventful shift; he cannot bring himself to voice the error of the man besides him. It was dereliction of duty, a disregard of the safety of his fellow guards and the crown itself but he cannot say that. He had kept the secret of high treason after all, what is one more event lost into the folds of silence.

And why he thinks that way Athos does not wish to dwell on that.

What he wishes is for a bottle of wine or an entire keg if he could get one.

"Very well," says the Captain, "get some breakfast and rest. You will be needed for duty tonight,"

He nods and walks out of the room.

He can feel Aramis behind him but the man only makes it as far as the door to the Captain's office when Treville calls him back.

"There's a mission I need to discuss with you," he says.

There is no room to argue in the not-quite order and Athos doesn't turn back to catch the way his friend's hand lingers midair, fingers curling on empty space where Athos' shoulder had been.

Instead he stomps down the stairs, through the yard and out into the busy street. By the time he reaches his rooms outside of the garrison there is a n invisible band tightening around his chest and his breathing is ragged. Tossing his hat on the bed, he pulls at the collar of his doublet even as his other hand reaches for the bottle on the table left open from last evening. He downs the contents in one go.

It's bitter and warm and does nothing to sooth his parched throat.

His mind wanders back through the halls of the convent again and not for the first time he retraces the events, looking for that point where he could have stopped the inevitable that night.

Wiping a hand over his face Athos slumps onto his bed.

The wine left by his bedside tastes no better. It sticks to the back of his throat, burns against the salty lump rising there and his eyes water. Athos draws a sleeve over his eyes and berates himself for the show of weakness even if the witness is an empty room.

For the first time in a long time he had believed in something. In the company of the two most stubborn, brave and rowdy men of the regiment he had found that warmth of being a brother again.

Unexpectedly, unknowingly, unwillingly.

Until it had been threatened that night.

The bottle is empty in his hand; the glass is a cool empty shell in his grasp.

Athos throws it against the wall with all his might.

And breathing heavily he watches the shards of glass scatter like stars over the dusty floor.

With a tired groan he reaches for the bottle rolling just inside the front edge of his bed. The room tips and his boots scuff against the floor in an attempt to find purchase. Athos lands on his folded knees, ignores the pain reverberating in his bones and pulls out the cork from the bottle with his teeth.

The wine brings no comfort.

He convinces himself otherwise.

Even when in sits like sloshing fire in his gut and rises back up past his lips.

His throat is raw and torn as he grasps the edge of the cot to keep from keeling over. He had not expected the grounding pressure that alights on his back and the hand begins moving in an even rhythm between his shoulders. His hair are gathered back from his face as his stomach doubles the effort to get rid of the wine he had so enthusiastically consumed.

"Alright, it's alright you're done, c'mon now Athos up you go," and hands on his arms haul him back onto the bed.

He coughs and groans.

A gentle touch rests against the side of his face and water, blessed cool water touches his lips. He drinks with the abandon of a man left behind in a desert, desperate in his eagerness and splashing half of it on himself. But he is only offered more until he jerks his head away.

The same hands that had picked him up ease him down onto his side on the bed. Athos curls forward around his stomach and blinks away the bleary haze in his eyes; wincing against the glare of sunlight cutting in through the window.

There are footstep and a rustle and the light dims.

He finds a Musketeer blue cloak hung over the window that is still open in a wish to keep the still air moving.

He looks back to the man crouching by his bedside and shivers lightly at the wet cloth that wipes over his face. Aramis looks somewhere between worried and exasperated but the brown eyes fixed on him are filled with warmth.

"Well what else did you think would happen after getting drunk on an empty stomach?" his voice is low in deference to the headache Athos is sure to be visible on his face.

"And you have the right to lecture me about consequences?" he rasps.

"If you would listen to me and let me explain it might just help you,"

"Explanations after the deed is done help no one Aramis,"

He rolls onto his back and closes his eyes, throws an arm over them for good measure.

"They won't if you've already made up your mind," the words are sharp but the cool cloth that settles on his forehead is soft.

Athos ignores the rattle of bucket and the splash of water on the floor, the world falls away for a few minutes and when he opens his eyes the room is considerably darker. The evening light has not enough strength to push through the heavy blue cloak that still hangs over the window. And yet he squints as he stumbles his way over to pull away the make-shift curtain.

The room is clean.

There is a plate of bread and cheese on his table with a note in Aramis' writing.

It says to eat because the Captain has a mission for them.


"You will leave your horse and belongings at the Red Guard outpost here, I have ordered Marcoux to wait there for you on his return from his assignment," the Captain taps the point on the map where the outpost is, "he will bring Joie back to the garrison as you leave to meet Vargas' agents here,"

"That will be tomorrow afternoon," Aramis nods.

"Your place of contact is about an hour's ride away, northwest of the outpost,"

"But it would take us longer since we'll be short of a horse because Aramis here will be my prisoner," Athos refuses to look at the man at his side, it's an intelligent plan – he hates it.

It takes all of the reserve instilled in him from an early age to stand there and hammer out the details of the mission. The mission that requires him to act as an unlucky Comte looking to restore his riches by selling off a Spanish spy he had caught. The Spanish spy here being one of his best friends.

"Vargas is a Spanish spy master, I cannot send in the number of men I want to; he would see them coming from miles away," the Captains says, "you two will have to be discreet, when his men will find him missing they will come after you."

"So we snatch him up and make for the outpost," Aramis adds, "you will have reinforcements waiting,"

"Exactly, any questions?"

It is a sound plan, as much as it can be given the circumstances. Vargas is stirring trouble for the crown and it is their duty to bring him to justice. Athos knows all about duty, he knows all about effective strategies. The assignment makes sense on both these levels.

He absolutely hates it.

Athos grits his teeth and changes out of his uniform into the rich, if a bit weathered set of clothes the Captain had presented him with. The doublet hangs loose slightly but Athos clinches it with a belt and forgoes the bejeweled rapier that came with the clothes for his own blade. He is not leaving behind his pistol and ammunition either.

They are preparing their horses in the stables as the evening sets in completely. Athos checks the saddle and smooths out the edges of the saddle blanket as Aramis adjusts the girth on his ride. His friend is smiling as he talks to his horse, as he is usually inclined to do and Athos who is used to the man's chatter finds it grating.

"Did you ask the Captain to bring me along for this mission?" he asks.

Because he knows how artfully the man can bend a situation to suit his needs.

"Yes,"

"Why?"

And there are so many questions in that one word.

"Why not ask for someone else?"

Because at the moment they are not exactly at ease in each other's presence.

"Porthos and d'Artagnan are still on duty and I need someone I can trust on this assignment," Aramis draws a hand over his horse's flank and looks Athos straight in the eyes, "Someone who could watch my back and can hold his own too, if Vargas is a friend to Spanish spies it goes without saying that he is an enemy of Frenchmen."

This confidence in him is a jarring thing.

After all they had been through, of the secrets shared between them, Athos is not sure he understands this trust. Without a word he hooks a foot in the stirrup and swings up into the saddle, guiding his horse out into the yard. The dark inky blue is spreading across the sky and already the lanterns are lit in the courtyard.

Athos does not wait as he rides out through the arched gateway and out into the streets of Paris. And yet there as an echo of hooves against the cobblestone right behind him, his friend has no problem keeping up. It spurs him to dig his heels in the sides of his horse as he expertly guides the animal out of the narrow lanes of the city and away from the dwindling crowd until they are outside of Paris.

The moon sits high in the sky and lights the way for them with an eagerness that stands in contrast to the dread coiling in his gut. There is something that pricks at Athos and demands that he pay attention. A feeling like he is missing something crawls up his spine even as he slows down the horse.

The other man pulling alongside him instantly is not a surprise

"Tired already?" Aramis grins from beside him.

Athos raises a brow.

"The road is empty and the night is young," the flourish is over dramatic, "I propose a race up till that bend,"

Athos looks far where the dirt road seems to dip amidst the tuft of green. Displeasure pinches the corner of his eyes and he glances at the man who gives a petulant huff. Aramis' horse nickers in the reflection of his rider's impatience.

"I don't suppose the Captain had that in mind when he asked us to make haste,"

"I don't remember him forbidding it either," Aramis winks at him and looks down the road, there is something starkly different than mischief in his eyes when he looks back at Athos, "Why not enjoy this while it lasts?"

And then he is off.

Leaving dust plumes in the moonlight in his wake.

Athos rolls his eyes and follows.

They don't stop at the designated finish line. Through that unspoken language they share it's mutual to just keep thundering on. Even when they slow their rides to a canter there is no conversation, just this intense focus on moving on and Athos spares a glance towards his friend as their horses move neck to neck. Every line in the rider beside him seems intent, streamlined towards a point only the man can see.

This fervent stubbornness frightens him and Athos is glad to spot the stream ahead. That is where they stop, beyond a copse of trees that hides them from the road as the fresh water gurgles past them. There is no need for a fire, the night is beyond warm and the moon in the clear sky provides enough light to get by.

Having taken care of his horse Athos retrieves a bottle of wine from his saddle bag and finds himself sitting against a tree. He watches his friend tie up his own ride and plop down across him with another tree at his back. Aramis produces two apples from the bag at his side and tosses one at him.

Athos would rather have the wine but catching the fruit is simply reflex.

His friend flashes him a smile and bites into his own apple.

"Tell me that didn't lift the gloom off you," he says.

Feeling just a bit lighter Athos indulges him with a nod.

"See I knew it would do you good, the freedom of nature and the fresh country air – Well not that fresh, it is rather thick and too warm…"

Athos lets him carry on the one-sided conversation and decides to eat the apple since they would be riding on again soon enough, better he ate now than on a fast moving horse.

"…I'll miss him you know," Aramid says, "leaving him behind doesn't feel right,"

Athos follows his line of sight towards the horse; Joie seems oblivious to the attention though and he glances back to the man who had taken out a rag to wipe down his musket.

"It has to be done," Athos says.

"That doesn't make it easy," Aramis shrugs, his eyes fixed on his task although he could probably do it in his sleep, "it's hard to walk away."

Athos sits upright with a jerk. His blue eyes scan the features of his friend's face that are shrouded in the play of dark and light under the silver glow of the moon. His heart beats fast in his chest and he does not let go of the scrutiny, it is there just under the surface, something that he can put a name to but won't. Athos pulls away and sinks back against the tree.

"You don't have to be so dramatic about it," he says.

And Aramis picks up the levity he is offering.

And laughs like he is a man with no troubles.

"Oh you know me, what's a romantic hero type without a touch of flair?"

"A man with common sense?"

"You can only wish Athos," the other grins.

"I do in fact," he finds it slipping past him without thought, "but like you said it is only a wish,"

The hand with the rag pauses for a second and he knows that the touch of bitterness in his words hadn't been overlooked. Still the other man smiles and resumes his task.

"Love makes a fool out of us, even out of you mon frère,"

"I rectified that mistake, I didn't know she would survive," he snaps.

"There are other forms of love than a romantic one,"

It's like they are running around a pole, having no idea who is chasing whom but with each turn the tether that ties them to the pole keeps getting short, Athos knows he would eventually have to hear what he had thrust back into silence just now.

But not this night he tells himself and gets to his feet.

"We should keep moving," he says.

"I'm getting tired Athos,"

The words are just a rustle in the air, a barely there sigh in the night, but it is enough. He stops in his tracks and turns around to find the dark eyes looking his way. And Athos silently denies what he had heard, stares blandly at his friend to force him to change his words. The grove of trees echo with the song of night bugs and Athos still maintains a stubbornly blank look.

Aramis runs a hand through his hair and leans back; a smirk curls at the corner of his lips.

"Let the horses rest for a while captain tight-reins," he says.

And Athos lets it be.


They make it to the outpost early next morning. It is set up in a house large enough to accommodate twenty men easily and the stables are well kept. They meet Marcoux who had stopped their last night and after breakfast the three men convene outside of the stables.

"…and he hates being led around by another horse – just don't yank on his reins if he gets too upset." Aramis says as he scratches the horse between the ears.

"I understand," Marcoux looked to Athos with an exasperated smile, "I'll be gentle,"

"Thank you, it's just that he's a bit temperamental and prone to fidget –"

"I understand Aramis,"

"And if he starts chewing on his bit too much –"

"Aramis please stop acting like an overbearing parent," Athos says.

His friend looks to him in wide eyed shock.

The hurt there makes his heart ache.

Of course his friend knows what's it like to leave his child in another's care, the magnitude of that worry would be so much more than the concern Aramis is showing over a horse. And Athos tells himself that he does not care that he's the one person his friend would have expected not to make such a remark. It is about time that the other man bury such thoughts and expectations, they would only bring him closer to the noose.

He does not retract his words and when his friend looks away, Athos refuses to acknowledge the knot tightening in his stomach.

Once Aramis is satisfied that his ride would be properly taken care of his weapons and uniform follows. He's petting his pistols like one would their faithful hounds and folds them in his blue sash with care. Something constricts in his chest as Athos watches his friend unbuckle the pauldron on his shoulder. He knows it's silly because it's not like they live with the pauldron always on their shoulder. But Athos doesn't miss the way his friend slides a palm over the leather that's embossed with the pride of a soldier and carved with the battles he had seen.

The look in his friend's eyes has Athos glancing away.

They watch Marcoux bundle the items and begin his journey back to the garrison. Athos takes the reins from the stable-hand and leads his horse out of the low gates and onto the road. Aramis doesn't point out that he has a ride he can get onto and they walk on in a silence that is deceptively comfortable.

A few hours later they stop at the side of the road when Athos feels like they are near the place where they are to meet Vargas' men. Taking a drink from his canteen Aramis surveys the road left before them and closes the cap as he hands over his water to Athos for keeping. He nods towards the loop of rope hanging from the saddle.

"Let's make this look believable," he says.

Athos takes care in tying up the wrists offered to him, making sure they are tight enough to be credible but not too much. The smile on his friend's face isn't lost on him, nor is the fond look in his eyes. Athos blinks at the sight of it, feels his throat tighten at what he sees behind the compassion – something that had been there when Aramis had looked at his pauldron in his hand.

And Athos does not want that look.

The look that speaks of farewells.

"I was thinking that after we're done with this –"

Athos steps back and punches the man across the face.

Hard.

He tells himself that it was not the force but the surprise of it that had his friend dropping to the ground.

Aramis pushes himself to sit up and spits blood, a frown breaking on his face. His lower lip is split near the corner and already there is a purple stain spreading out from the spot. He raises his bound hands and gingerly touches the spot before drawing his fingers away with a hiss.

He looks up at Athos and the brown eyes suddenly gleam with mirth from under the loose curls as a smirk pulls at his lips regardless of the damage.

"Is this the part where I beg you to kick me?" he asks.

Athos cannot stop the smile this time as he reaches forward to grab the bound hands. He finds himself reflecting back that bright grin as he pulls the man back to his feet.

"You insisted it look believable," he says, "A spy couldn't have been caught without a fight you know,"

"Of course, though a warning would have been nice,"

"I thought to fight honourably was to die young," Athos tied the rope through the one bound around his friend's wrists, "but if you wish I suppose I could warn you next time,"

"Your compassion is astounding,"

Blue eyes seek brown and whatever that had been lurking in the latter is gone.

For now.

Pulling in a bracing breath Athos reaches out to grasp his friend's shoulder and gives it a squeeze. His friend's smile softens and Athos turns away to swing up in his saddle. His heart still racing in his chest, blood rushing against his hearing like an instinctual defense mechanism against where he knows that statement from earlier was headed.

Forcing himself to bury what he had seen, to deny what he had heard, Athos nudges his horse into a walk. The end of the rope is slack in his hand, the other end of which is tied to Aramis' bound wrists.

And together they make their way to meet Vargas' men.


TBC

Thank you everyone for reading this, let me know what you thought of it…