STUBBORNNESS AND SURVIVAL


Ten Days Later:

"Oh good, you're awake!" Aramis exclaimed happily, as he poked his head into the sickroom.

"Of course, I'm awake," Athos muttered.

"Excuse me, but you weren't yesterday when we came by," d'Artagnan corrected, entering the room after the marksman. "We stopped in after His Majesty's lawn bowling tournament and you were sound asleep."

"As you can see, there isn't much else for me to do in here," Athos retorted sharply.

"Oi, somebody's grumpy," Porthos quipped.

"You would be also if you were confined to the king's quarters with his staff constantly coming and going," Athos grumbled with annoyance. "I can't get a moment's peace."

"You were sleeping very soundly yesterday, and without disturbance from anyone, not even us," Aramis remarked amiably.

"Aramis, you have to get me out of here," Athos hissed, lowering his voice so the nurses wouldn't hear. "I can't stay here, not another day."

"Now, Athos, we know you're tired of bein' surrounded by His Majesty's staff, but you're in no shape to go ridin' out of here," Porthos countered.

"Pardon me, but who's the medic?" Aramis said, smiling at his large friend. "As Porthos said, you're in no condition to ride out of here."

"I'm sure you can find a carriage," Athos insisted. "I don't care if I have to walk back to the garrison, I want out of here. I want to be back in my own room; I want to sleep in my own bed again."

"Doctor Michel would have to approve your release, Athos," Aramis replied, trading worried glances with his brothers. "Look, Captain Tréville is due here at the palace this afternoon for a meeting," he reported. "Let us talk to him and see if he would agree to having you moved back to the garrison. Besides, it would make it easier for us to take care of you."

"I do not need a motherhen." Athos dismissed the comment. "Need I remind you, mothering is exactly what I am trying to get away from. However, I agree to wait until you speak with the captain," he conceded, having no other choice. "Ever since the king ordered all of you back to work, I've had little to do but counting carved figures on the ceiling."

"Well, watching the king cheating at lawn bowling hasn't exactly been exciting either," Aramis replied with a huff. "Trust me."

"C'mon, you two," Porthos called from the doorway. "We need to get back out there, 'fore the king misses us and thinks we ran off with the competition," he chuckled.

Porthos and Aramis left the room but the Gascon trailed, pausing at the doorway. "So, how many are there?" d'Artagnan asked, grinning at the confusion on his mentor's face.

"What?" Athos asked, clearly puzzled.

"How many carved figures are on the ceiling?" d'Artagnan repeated the question. He quickly dodged the pillow tossed from his mentor and left the room. His giggles echoed down the hallway.

Athos couldn't help but snigger at the giggles of his younger brother, though it made his heart ache all the more. He wanted to be with his brothers, even if their assignment was merely guarding His Majesty as he bowled, but at least they were together. In his room, Athos was alone.

"I can't get out of here fast enough," Athos grumbled to an empty room.


Later:

"The men tell me that you want to return home to the garrison," Captain Tréville said, motioning his head to the three men behind him.

"Yes, Captain, I can heal just as well at the garrison as I can here," Athos deadpanned.

"I do believe it is still too early for you to be moved, Athos," Tréville argued.

"Captain, please…"

"However," the captain interrupted, "I spoke with His Majesty and Doctor Michel about having you transferred to the garrison and they agreed," he paused, "on the condition that you report immediately to the infirmary under Doctor Roux's care."

"Now, Captain…" Athos protested, but the captain stopped him with his raised hand.

"That was the agreement," Captain Tréville said resolutely.

"As you wish, Captain," Athos relented. "As long as I can go home, then I agree," he said, nodding his head with relief.

"Now that the matter is settled, I do have other news," the captain said, hesitating.

"What is it, Captain?" Aramis asked.

"I'm sorry to tell you this," the captain sighed heavily, glancing at the men. "I just received word from His Majesty that the body of Doctor Lacroix was found as workers were removing the rubble from his clinic."

"Oh no!" Porthos and d'Artagnan echoed sadly.

"Damn," Aramis cursed, as he dropped into a chair beside the bed. "Mon Dieu, this is such a terrible loss," he lamented. "He was an excellent, highly skilled physician. I learned techniques that will help me save lives out there," he said, pointing to the window. "Doctor Lacroix saved Athos' life with that chest tube!"

"I know, and the king is also aware of this tragic loss," Captain Tréville replied. "His Majesty will be holding a special memorial service for Doctor Lacroix," he said. "The doctor will be recognized and honored for his service in the army as a surgeon, and for saving the life of Athos."

Athos lowered his head and sighed. He had been told about the incredible procedure Lacroix had performed on him to save his life. He knew he owed his life to both physicians, Lacroix and Michel, for their ingenious life-saving efforts.

"He died because of me," Athos whispered sadly.

"No, Athos, Doctor Lacroix died because of Jean-Marc and his twisted thirst for revenge," Captain Tréville corrected gently. "Don't blame yourself for what you had no control over. The doctor's death is not your fault."

"No one is responsible for Jean-Marc's terrorism but him," Aramis reminded Athos. "And don't you ever forget that, my friend."

"Don't forget that you were a victim too, Athos," d'Artagnan interjected. "The ones responsible for the injuries and the deaths of innocent people are now dead... as they should be."

"Exactly," Porthos chimed in, his voice unwavering. "Those bastards got their due justice, mon cher. Let their ending give you satisfaction, but then let the matter drop. It's over."


Garrison Gates, Later:

"Mm, it's so good to be home," Athos said, as the carriage pulled up to the garrison gate.

"How are you feeling?" Aramis asked, eyeing his brother with concern. The medic's brow creased with worry as he noticed sweat beading across the lieutenant's brow, and his face even paler than before their travels.

"I'm fine," Athos lied. In reality, he felt terrible. His chest wound throbbed and his head pounded after the jarring ride. The lieutenant knew the carriage ride was a bad idea as he felt his stomach churn.

"You don't look fine," Porthos retorted as he watched Athos' face turn white.

"I need some fresh air," Athos opened the carriage door, hoping to calm his rebelling stomach.

Porthos and Aramis quickly jumped out to assist Athos from the carriage. Upon his hasty exit, the lieutenant's foot caught and had it not been for his brothers' quick reflexes, he would have fallen to the dusty street.

"Alright, 'at's it," Porthos declared, as he bent down to scoop Athos into his arms. "You're going straight to the infirmary."

"No!" Athos refused sharply. "I will not be carried into the garrison like a damn invalid," he said. He tried to breathe through the nausea, but he couldn't control his rebelling stomach. The lieutenant vomited, retching again and again until he was heaving only air. "My God…" he gasped.

"Athos, just slow your breathing," Aramis quietly soothed. "Look at me, slow your breathing. You need to be mindful of those stitches in your chest," he cautioned.

"Here, drink this," d'Artagnan said, as he knelt beside Athos with a waterskin. "Drink as much as you need, mon ami."

Athos took a few sips and then swished the last swallow around in his mouth before spitting it out with a grimace. "Thanks," he whispered. He breathed slowly, resisting the pain and nausea from pulling him into the darkness. If he lost consciousness, there would no choice but for him to be carried into the infirmary.

"Are you alright?" d'Artagnan asked, as he studied his friend's pale face.

Athos nodded, though he felt drained and weak. The lieutenant remained on his knees in the dirty street, wondering how he would preserve his dignity by walking into the garrison when he barely had the strength to stand.

"Bloody hell, Athos, if you don't want to be carried in there, just how do you propose on gettin' to the infirmary?" Porthos asked, standing up in frustration.

"I'm not going to the infirmary," Athos declared. "I'm walking to my room, though I may need help climbing the stairs." Without asking for opinion, Athos determined to skip the infirmary and go straight to his room. It pained him to ask for help from his brothers, yet he knew he couldn't make it without them. Even worse, he was asking his brothers to knowingly defy the captain's orders.

"Rubbish, you're goin' to the infirmary," Porthos growled. "You need a doctor, dammit!"

"No, you can't go to your room, my friend," Aramis said adamantly. "The captain said for you to report to Doctor Roux in the infirmary," he paused, "as per the agreement at the palace."

"This isn't the palace and His Majesty isn't here," Athos countered. "He wouldn't know where I convalesced unless someone told him."

"The captain is not going to like this," d'Artagnan warned in a low voice.

"You're right about the king not learning where you convalesce, unless he asks, but the captain will know the minute he returns," Aramis stated, looking around nervously.

"If we get extra duty because of this," Porthos warned in a low growl. "So help me, brother, you will owe me a month's worth of ale!"

"Well, Porthos, you did say he was stubborn," Aramis reminded with a grin. "And he's proving just how right you were."

"Wait a minute," d'Artagnan interrupted, nudging Porthos with his elbow. "Didn't you also say Athos was bull-headed and strong-willed?"

"No, Aramis said that he was strong-willed," Porthos corrected. "I said he was bull-headed."

"Gentlemen," Athos paused, "you said those things about me?"

"We said those things when we were in a rather desperate situation," Aramis explained, unequivocally.

"You needed the motivation, and we're not apologizin' for anything… except for goin' along with this hairbrained idea," Porthos argued. "Don't make me regret my words back there at the palace," he threatened, as he bit back a grin.

"You should have heard all the things they said while you were unconscious," d'Artagnan deviously teased. "Their true feelings came out when they knew you weren't listening." The Gascon chuckled at the shock on his brothers' faces.

"Now hold on a minute," Aramis quickly interjected, raising his eyebrows at the Gascon. "Don't you believe him, Athos! We never said anything unwholesome…"

"That isn't exactly true," d'Artagnan corrected.

"Really, Aramis?" Athos inquired with curiosity. "What exactly did you say while I was unable to defend myself?"

"Oi, if you three don't mind, I'd like to get this act over with before the cap'n comes back," Porthos said anxiously, searching for their leader.

"Captain Tréville was detained at the palace," Athos stated coolly. "By the time he returns, I will be resting comfortably in my room." The lieutenant was anxious to get moving, fearing the captain's early return would botch his plan to avoid the infirmary.

"Well, I highly doubt the captain would have Athos moved after seeing him resting comfortably in his own bed," Aramis admitted with a shrug.

"Aramis does have a point there," d'Artagnan remarked.

"Better to ask forgiveness than permission, I always say," Aramis said, clapping Porthos on the shoulder.

"I don't like this," Porthos grumbled. "You're already hurtin'… I can see it on your face," he said pointedly to Athos.

"Porthos is right, mon ami," Aramis replied, returning to medic mode. "You're already sweating, and you haven't even started the walk toward your room. Are you sure you'll even be able to climb those stairs?"

"I'll figure it out when I get there," Athos tersely remarked. Though he worried about how he would maneuver the stairs, he worried more about getting started. If they didn't get moving, he wouldn't make the walk across the courtyard at all in his weakened state. "We need go, now."

"Bloody hell, this is a bad idea," Porthos protested. "I take back the credit I gave you for bein' stubborn!"

"Not too long ago, you were very thankful for that stubbornness," Aramis reminded.

"Rubbish, it had its place, but now is not the time!" The large Musketeer stooped low, preparing to help Athos up.

"Just help me to my room, and I'll go straight to bed," Athos requested wearily. At the tired tone of voice, the three brothers exchanged wary glances but held their tongues.

"Alright, are you ready to stand up?" Aramis asked, hooking his hand underneath Athos' arm in preparation.

"Yes, let's get this over with," Athos said, as he felt himself being lifted off the ground.

The men helped Athos to his feet and then gave him time to adjust as dizziness washed over him, causing him to wobble and sway. Had it not been for the strong grip on his arms, he would have toppled over.

"Let's go," Athos said finally, nodding. There were a few men meandering about the courtyard, but most of the regiment was away on duty, much to the relief of the group. The remaining men were overjoyed at the lieutenant's return, but the trio warned them with stern glares to stay back.

Athos determinedly to put one foot in front of the other, while keeping his eyes focused on the staircase ahead. He was grateful for the trio's help as his strength began to fade; he could feel the grip on his arms and his belt growing stronger as his legs grew weaker.

By the time the group reached the stairs, Athos was utterly exhausted and soaked through with sweat. He panted through his teeth clenched tightly against the pain throbbing in his chest with every beat of his pounding heart. The proud and stubborn Musketeer finally had to admit that he lacked the strength to go on.

"I can't… I can't…" Athos panted. He squeezed his eyes shut as sweat streamed from his brow and blurred his vision; he wiped his eyes dry, only to have more stinging drops add to his misery. His strength was gone, yet his body remained upright as his weight was completely supported by his brothers around him.

"How are we going to get him up the stairs without it being very obvious what we are doing?" d'Artagnan hissed into Aramis' ear. "You know this is only going to make his condition worse!"

"That's it, dammit!" Porthos declared, having run out of patience. The large Musketeer scooped Athos into his arms and carried him up the stairs, caring little about the stares of surprise from fellow Musketeers in the courtyard.

Aramis rushed to open the door and then stood back, allowing Porthos room to get by. D'Artagnan quickly closed the door behind them, shutting out all the curious stares.

"I knew this was a bad idea, mon cher, but you didn't have to prove it to me," Aramis said, as he began unbuttoning the leather doublet. "All that exertion couldn't have been good on your chest wound—which is still healing by the way."

"Don't… don't say… say it," Athos gasped for air. The Musketeer slumped backward but strong hands held him upright as they continued undressing him. Setting his weapons and accoutrements on the table, Porthos and d'Artagnan pulled off the boots while the medic removed the doublet.

"No, I will say it, dammit, Athos," Aramis scolded, as he set aside the leather jacket. "I told you so!" The medic pulled apart the sweat-drenched shirt to examine the chest wound; he removed the bandage then let out a relieved breath at seeing no blood. "It appears the stitches held—and you better be grateful that they did—because I was going to have Porthos carry you right down to the infirmary if I saw even one droplet of blood!"

"Grateful… for your fine… stitching," Athos said weakly, his eyes drooping closed.

"This isn't my stitch work in your chest," Aramis corrected, his voice soft. "The credit belongs to Doctor Lacroix mostly, but Doctor Michel closed you up once he removed the drainage tube. They both did very fine work… and then you want to reverse all your progress because of your damned pride!"

"Easy now, mon cher," Porthos said, calming the medic's temper. "There'll be plenty time for scoldin' later, but right now we need to get 'im bathed then changed into fresh clothes."

"I'll go get some water and towels," d'Artagnan offered. "I'll stop by the kitchen to ask Serge to bring something up later. Looks like it's going to be another long night."


Later:

"What do you mean, Athos isn't here in the infirmary?" Captain Tréville shouted at the regiment physician. "Just where in God's name are…" the captain stopped short as he realized where his lieutenant and three missing men were located.

The captain climbed the stairs to Athos' room intending to give the group a scathing lecture on deliberately disobeying his orders, but as soon as he opened the door and spotted the pale, still figure on the bed, his anger left him.

"My God, what happened?" the captain asked, his jaw dropping open with surprise.

"Captain, he knows what he did was foolish, and so do we for going along with it," Aramis sighed. "Please, save it for now and let him rest. We'll stay and keep an eye on him tonight."

"Aramis," Captain Tréville started, but decided it could wait. "Dammit Athos, why did you do this to yourself?" The captain anxiously rubbed a hand down his face as he stared at the pale face, glistening with sweat. "What happened to him?"

"He exerted himself to near exhaustion, but he didn't tear any stitches or cause any permanent harm," Aramis reassured the captain. "Rest is what he needs now."

"Fine, just take care of him," the captain instructed Aramis. "I'll be back with the doctor in the morning," Tréville sighed. "See that he recovers."

"Yes, sir," Aramis replied, nodding with relief.

"Thank you, Captain," the three men said gratefully.

"Oh, don't thank me yet, gentlemen," the captain replied firmly. "After I give you the time necessary to help Athos, you will be reporting for duty at the stables… where you will be helping Jacques clean the stalls, fix the broken beams, shoe the horses, shine the saddles…"

"Aw, Captain," the men groaned.

"… shovel the waste, wash and brush the horses, gather food and water…" Tréville continued listing the chores he had planned for the trio as he left the room. He smiled as he stood outside the closed the door, listening to Porthos growl with complaints.

"I told you what would happen if we got extra duty 'cause of this!" Porthos grumbled unhappily. "Oi, Athos is goin' to owe us."

"Those boys will be the death of me yet," the captain said, as he walked to his office and shut the world out for the evening.


EPILOGUE:

It was a lovely morning; the air was warm and pleasant for early autumn. Dust from the dry garrison courtyard swirled on the breeze as dozens of Musketeers dueled in a regimental sparring match. The declared winner from each match was paired with another winner, until the pool of participants was whittled down to two in the ultimate match for Best Swordsman of the Garrison.

The Musketeers took advantage by having the tournament during a time in which the finest swordsman in France would be unable to participate, as per medical restrictions. Without Athos, even the most mediocre swordsman had a shot at advancing, though it was all in fun and there was no dishonor in losing. Captain Tréville applauded the competition, as it brought out the best skills in every participant.

While it had been almost two months since the near-fatal shooting, Athos still had not been cleared for unrestricted duty. The lieutenant was relegated to watching the match on the sidelines, much to the relief of most participants.

"You need to pay attention to your footwork," Athos called out to d'Artagnan. "He's anticipating your moves by watching the direction of your feet," the lieutenant instructed as he watched the dueling pair.

"Hush, Athos, you're not supposed to be helping the enemy!" the medic teased. Aramis whirled, easily parrying the strike of his opponent. Again, the medic sidestepped an attack but then pivoted on his heels to swing around the Gascon, catching the younger man off-guard; he finished the match with his sword at d'Artagnan's throat. "Match over, you're dead!" he declared with a snicker.

"That leaves you 'n me, brother," Porthos said with exuberance. The large Musketeer stood ready, "En garde."

"I think the winner of this match should duel Athos," Aramis said, attempting to distract the larger man.

"We could but…" Porthos replied, momentarily letting his guard down.

Aramis took advantage by swinging his blade left of his opponent and then pivoting to the same side, only to be blocked with the crashing of steel on steel. "You do realize that I'm not really your enemy, mon ami," the medic said through clenched teeth.

"Rubbish, I thought this was a match to the death," Porthos retorted with a hearty laugh. "I say we include Athos in our match," he said, as he parried a clever strike from his opponent. "I could take on both of you at the same time."

"Any one of us could take on Athos," Aramis taunted. The medic lunged with an attack, but was blocked with another crashing of blades. "We can take advantage of his disadvantaged condition."

"Really, Aramis?" Athos drawled, rolling his eyes.

"What a wonderful idea, Aramis!" d'Artagnan exclaimed. "For once, I could actually best my mentor!"

"Oi, with one arm tied behind your back!" Porthos added, laughing heartedly.

"Now, you're pushing it," Athos said, glaring at his brothers.

"Ah, come on, Athos, let us relish the thought of beating you." Aramis danced around Porthos, striking and lunging as their swords gleamed in the sun. "Let us revel in the fleche attack that has our blades at your chest, beating the best swordsman in France—with one hand tied behind our back," he added before folding over with laughter.

"And now you're dead!" Porthos announced, holding his sword to the medic's back. "I win," he laughed with delight. "I am the best swordsman in the regiment. You 'ave been replaced, Athos," he said, clapping the lieutenant on the shoulder.

"I work with a group of children," Athos remarked wrly. The lieutenant lowered his head, allowing the brim of his hat to hide the grin spreading across his face. "Well done, though I hardly believe it was a fair triumph," he said, lifting his head.

"That's right," Aramis agreed. "You took advantage when I was having a conversation with Athos."

"Rubbish, I won fair 'n square!" Porthos countered. "You made yourself vulnerable, so I took advantage… as any good Musketeer would do," he clapped in celebration.

"You wound me, brother," Aramis said to Porthos, holding his hand over his heart. "I thought I could count on you; I thought you had my back."

"I did 'ave your back… least my sword did," Porthos responded whimsically. "That's why I won, mon cher."

The group of three burst out in laughter as Athos watched. He couldn't help but smile as his closest friends laughed at the gentle ribbing they gave each other. The brothers enjoyed this moment of togetherness, as though old times had returned to the garrison.

The last two months had been physically hard on Athos, but he knew the emotional suffering endured by his brothers was every bit as difficult, if not worse.

Athos knew well the burden that had weighed so heavily on his brothers' hearts; he understood the emotional anguish of waiting for him to take his final breath. He thought he heard voices—as though calling out to him through a thick, heavy fog—pleading for him to stay and fight.

The lieutenant wanted to continue on his way and be free of the crushing pain in his chest. But then he heard the question of what would they do without him… and he froze in his tracks.

Would he dare be so selfish to walk away, even while hearing their pleas and cries for him to stay?

He remembered the captain imploring him to stay, ordering him to fight as a soldier… as a Musketeer. Long ago, Athos had given up his title of nobility, but he never gave up his sense of duty and honor.

Athos heard the captain's command to stay and fight. With the exception of the captain's order to report to the infirmary, the lieutenant was duty-bound to obey his superior officer. How could he disobey Captain Tréville at such a time?

Though his pain was difficult to bear, and he wished for sweet relief from such agony, Athos knew the suffering would be hardest on those he left behind. His own pain was just temporary, but his brothers' pain would be permanent, enduring for the rest of their lives.

Looking at his brothers, as they laughed together, it was as though the last two months had never happened. Today, it was all about enjoying the carefree days of light duty, good friendship and brotherhood under the watchful, but proud, gaze of Captain Tréville.

Athos was glad he had decided to fight. He was proud to be a part of this camaraderie; this special bond; this brotherhood of Musketeers. When it would have been easier to give up and just slip away, he was glad he fought like a soldier and stayed.

~§~


An Extra Glimpse:

"Where are we going?" Athos asked impatiently, shifting uncomfortably in his saddle. The Musketeer still felt an occasional twinge nipping at his chest, but pain wasn't what bothered him. When Aramis had insisted that they go on a ride without disclosing a reason, he knew the medic had a secret scheme.

"A cemetery, Aramis?" Athos asked, as the group finally arrived at the gates of the resting place, dotted with gravestones. "What purpose would you have in bringing me to a cemetery?"

"Now, come with me and you'll see why," Aramis explained, as he dismounted. "Please, just trust me."

"Do you want us to wait?" Porthos whispered, as he leaned over in his saddle.

"Yes, stay here," Aramis answered. "I'll be right back." The medic waited for Athos to dismount and then motioned his hand toward the cemetery gates. "Follow me," he instructed.

The marksman led the wary lieutenant past the many stones to a more recent grave, where the dirt was only beginning to settle on the surface. Aramis smiled at the bouquets of flowers decorating the grave, thankful the departed had not been forgotten.

"And who is this?" Athos asked, without looking at the name. "Why would you bring me here?"

"Athos, look at the name," Aramis whispered softly. "I thought it was time that you finally met," the medic said, watching as Athos' eyes widened at the name etched in stone.

Alexandre Lacroix
Soldier
Physician
Healer

"But why…?" Athos asked, his voice drifting away on the breeze.

"I figured you might have some things you'd like to say to him," Aramis said, squeezing his brother's shoulder. "Take all the time you need," he added, "we'll be right outside the gates, waiting for you."

Aramis stayed a moment beside his brother before turning away. He stopped to glance over his shoulder, pausing as Athos removed his hat and then kneeled beside the grave.

"Talk to him Athos, and let him help you… one last time," Aramis whispered, as he walked away.

~§~

"Are you sure bringing Athos here was such a good idea?" d'Artagnan asked. The Gascon exchanged worried glances with Porthos as he noticed the medic's quiet, solemn mood upon returning.

"Yes I do," Aramis replied. His gaze wandered back toward the grave where he hoped his friend would find resolution and healing. "Athos has healed physically, but inside he's still hurting."

"If anyone can help him, it's the good doctor," Aramis continued quietly. "I think talking to Lacroix will help ease his self-reproach, though guilt is a burden our brother had no cause to bear. I think Athos can come to an understanding here. He can begin healing."

"But we brought 'im to the doctor's grave," Porthos said regretfully. "How will this ease his guilt?"

"It's closure, Porthos," Aramis said with resolve. "I think closure is exactly what the good doctor would have prescribed. It's stitching up an old, open wound. It's putting these last two months to rest, then leaving the cemetery ready to live again."

The men grew quiet as they sat on the grassy hillside, mulling over the words still fresh in their ears. The Musketeers knew that the death of Athos would have permanently altered their circle of brotherhood. Yes, they would have gone on with their lives, but with an irreparable chasm ever present in their hearts.

But over these last two months, the Musketeers learned that while hate and vengeance was strong, love and brotherhood was stronger. Their brotherhood was a powerful bond not easily broken, not even by the forces of one so skewed, so repugnant as Jean-Marc Dubois.

Loved extinguished hate.
Strength overpowered weakness.
Unity repaired division.
Hope and life won out over fear and destruction.

One brother's physical and emotional struggle linked the four Musketeers as family. Aramis snorted with a huff of satisfaction and couldn't help but smile. Their strength had brought Athos though death's valley.

Athos had fought to survive… and survive he did!

Fin


A/N:

I want to thank each and every one of you for your tremendous and incredible support on my story! There were times when this story was a genuine struggle to trudge through, but we finished together.

I want to thank all of you for your kind reviews, favorites and follows. I want to thank Debbie, and all my dear guests, for their awesome reviews and support on every chapter! Love you guys! Christina, I hope you enjoyed your birthday story! Again, I apologize that it was so late... but I hope you found it was worth the wait.

I cannot say when I'll be back for an update, as I am quite unsure at this point. While writing for the leather-clad Musketeers is a fun distraction, I must get back to my own original work. I would love to do a celebratory story, as my update to you, dear readers, who remain so loyal to my work, and so I promise you, that as soon as I have good news (staying postive!) I will be back with a new story.

Until then,

God bless and take care!

LaDene (Buckeye01)