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Musketeers Don't Faint, they Pass Out
A Musketeers story by Deana
For the 'Aramis faints on guard duty' prompt.

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Aramis was doomed; he knew it the instant he woke up that day.

Paris was in the middle of an unexpected heat wave, but King Louis had planned a ball and invited scores of people. They would all be arriving that afternoon, and the troupe of musketeers was to stand on either side of the palace entrance as the guests arrived.

Aramis had woken feeling off, and he suspected that one of his headaches was coming...the awful kind that throbbed on the right side of his head that had began after his wound in Savoy. He wasn't hungry at breakfast and only pretended to eat, as his stomach had turned at the sight of food.

"Aramis?"

The sudden touch of a hand on his arm got his attention, and Aramis looked up at his friends as they stood around the table.

"You comin'?" Porthos asked.

Aramis blinked, having not noticed them all stand. "Yes."

"Are you well?" Athos asked, scrutinizing him.

Aramis nodded. "Of course...I was just thinking," he lied.

"That's not good!" d'Artagnan joked.

Aramis stood and followed his friends to the stable, where the whole troupe mounted and rode off. None of the four men were particularly talkative in the excessive heat, so it didn't alarm anyone when Aramis kept quiet on the ride.

Just over halfway there, Aramis noticed a bright spot in his vision that he couldn't blink away, and he saw that his suspicion had been correct. It slowly grew until the right side of his vision was completely obscured by a prism of flashing, shimmering colors, and when he dismounted, he faltered.

Porthos saw and grabbed his arm. "Hey!" he exclaimed with alarm.

"Apologies," Aramis said. "My boot buckle got caught in the stirrup."

"Oh," Porthos said. He had no reason not to believe him, and let go of his arm.

Once standing at attention, Aramis showed no outward sign that anything was wrong...at first. He simply endured the disability of not seeing anything but sparkly colors from the middle of his vision all the way to the right.

The sun beat down on them mercilessly, and each musketeer sipped at a canteen of water kept hidden beneath their cloak when guests weren't entering.

Aramis' stomach didn't feel right, so he drank sparingly.

A sudden nudge got his attention, and since Aramis could see nothing on his right, he momentarily forgot who was there.

"Why aren't you drinking your water?" came Athos' voice.

Aramis had no good answer to that, so he grabbed his canteen. "I am." He sipped a little but his stomach complained, so he simply held it to his lips and pretended to drink it.

Athos was fooled and said no more, especially when Aramis continued to pretend that he was drinking from then on.

Aramis knew how dangerous it was to stand parade in excessive heat without eating and drinking, but when migraines struck him, he couldn't always think clearly. It was something that his friends easily noticed sometimes even before Aramis realized himself that a headache was coming, but on days of 'inactivity', it wasn't always easy to spot.

Eventually, the colors started to fade from Aramis' vision and the pain began. The bright sun right in his eyes quickly made it worse, and sweat dripped down his face from more than just the heat. At one point, he removed his hat and wiped his face with a handkerchief, and was surprised when Porthos elbowed him.

"Put your hat on!" he hissed.

Aramis quickly obeyed, blinking when he realized that another nobleman and his wife were approaching who he hadn't been able to see yet.

"What's wrong with you?" Porthos quietly asked, after they'd passed.

"Nothing," Aramis answered.

Time continued to pass and the pain grew. The colors finally disintegrated completely, restoring Aramis' full vision, but he started to feel weak from the excessive heat combined with not eating or drinking water. His breathing grew labored and the throbbing on the right side of his head intensified.

Athos suddenly raised his canteen to drink, so Aramis did the same. He swallowed a little and it felt so good going down his throat that he gulped some more without thinking. He quickly held his breath as he wondered if he was going to regret it. His stomach felt queasy but most of it dissipated.

"I can't believe all these people came in this heat," d'Artagnan's voice suddenly floated from the other side of Athos.

"Especially the woman," said Porthos. "In all those fancy layers."

"Don't be surprised if someone faints," said Athos.

Porthos suddenly chuckled. "Someone out here might. Those new recruits on the end over there aren't lookin' too healthy. Remember a few years ago, Athos, that really hot week we had, the recruits were droppin' left and right?"

One corner of Athos' mouth lifted slightly. "You placed bets on who would be next."

"It wasn't just me, I seem to recall you makin' a bet yourself!" said Porthos. "And winnin'!"

D'Artagnan looked at Athos with surprise.

Athos inclined his head slightly. "I was slightly inebriated at the time."

Porthos chuckled. "So who do you think it'll be? The one on the end?"

Athos nodded. "Perhaps."

D'Artagnan said, "It might be the one next to him."

"He's a possibility too," said Porthos. "Aramis, who do you think it'll be?"

The voices didn't even sound like a decipherable language to Aramis, so he didn't answer. His vision had turned fuzzy around the edges and his ears were full of the sound of his own breathing. His sweating had decreased to nothing as his body ran out of fluid to excrete and his head was throbbing mercilessly. The landscape suddenly spun around him and he squeezed his eyes shut in distress.

Before anyone had a chance to react, Aramis' knees buckled and his body hit the ground with a thud.

Every musketeer was shocked at the sight, and Athos, Porthos, and d'Artagnan instantly knelt.

"Aramis!" Porthos exclaimed.

"Get him out of here, quick!" Athos hissed, as another carriage pulled up.

Porthos slid his arms under their friend and easily lifted him, hurrying around the side of the palace where no one would notice. He brought Aramis into the shade and sat him against the side of the building, finding him unconscious. "Aramis?" he exclaimed, patting his cheek. "Aramis!"

Footsteps could suddenly be heard, and Captain Treville appeared from a different direction. "What happened?!" he exclaimed. "I looked out the window and spotted you carrying him!"

"He fainted!" said Porthos. "Out of nowhere, he just dropped to the ground without a sound!"

Treville knelt and put a hand on the side of Aramis' face, finding his skin to be hot and dry. "The heat got to him." He reached for Aramis' canteen and frowned when he found it three-quarters full. "Why wasn't he drinking this?"

Porthos shook his head, having no idea.

Treville took Aramis' hat off before opening the canteen and pouring water right over the unconscious musketeer's head. "Get his belts off."

Porthos obeyed, before undoing Aramis' sash.

A moment later, Athos and d'Artagnan came around the side of the palace and joined them. Together, they got Aramis out of his pauldron and jacket, while Treville tried to get some water into him.

Athos took his own canteen and poured water right onto Aramis' shirt.

The water hitting Aramis' chest seemed to bring him around, for he suddenly gasped and squeezed his eyes shut tighter.

"Take it easy, Aramis," Treville said. "The heat is affecting you and you need to drink. Here." He placed the canteen to Aramis' lips and slowly fed him a little.

Aramis wasn't completely coherent and obeyed. Almost instantly, his face paled and he made a sound of distress.

Treville pulled the canteen away and Porthos quickly grabbed Aramis by the shoulders and tilted him to the side, assuming that he was about to be sick.

Aramis slapped a hand over his mouth and breathed through his nose, eyes still squeezed shut. The pain in his head grew and he moaned behind his hand, curling towards the ground as if in terrible pain.

The others watched him nervously. They'd seen many people suffer from the heat before—including themselves and Aramis—but he seemed to be in excessive distress.

Porthos held him up, murmuring words of comfort.

The water in Aramis' stomach managed to stay put, but he groaned again and hung his throbbing head as his hand dropped away from his mouth.

"Aramis," said Treville. "What's wrong?"

Aramis lifted his head slightly, breathing heavily from his body's overheated state. "Headache," he whispered.

Everyone looked at each other with dismay before looking back at Aramis.

"That explains much," said Athos.

Treville sighed. "He can't ride back to the garrison in the sun like this." He looked at d'Artagnan. "Fetch a bucket of water and drench him with it; he needs to cool off."

D'Artagnan nodded and left.

"Can you try a little more water, Aramis?" Treville asked.

Aramis knew that his condition would only worsen if he didn't, so he let Treville feed him tiny sips. His brain continued to send stabbing throbs through his head, and he couldn't prevent himself from groaning again and lifting a hand to it.

Treville sighed. He'd never stop blaming himself for what Aramis had gone through in Savoy, and every time he watched Aramis suffer through one of his agonizing headaches, he was riddled with guilt.

D'Artagnan returned with the bucket of water and looked at them as if not knowing what to do with it.

"Pour it on 'im!" said Porthos.

D'Artagnan hesitated for only a second before he obeyed.

Even though Aramis knew it was coming, he gasped and his eyes opened.

"Sorry," d'Artagnan said.

Aramis was still breathing heavily as his heart and lungs fought his dehydrated condition, and gave no reply.

For the next few minutes, Treville continued to make him drink, until his breathing slowed down and he seemed more alert.

"I'm...fine," Aramis eventually said.

His words were met with three wordless stares.

"Why didn't you say somethin'?" Porthos asked.

Aramis fought not to wince as his migraine pounded to the beat of his heart. "Was fine...this morning."

"Were you?" said Athos. "Did you eat?" It wasn't really a question.

D'Artagnan piped up. "I didn't see him take a single bite."

"You were playin' with your food," said Porthos. He sighed, feeling guilty to have not realized. "Your stomach usually doesn't get involved unless it's really bad."

"The heat probably contributed to it," said Treville. "How are you feeling now?" he asked Aramis.

Aramis sighed, knowing that he wouldn't get away with lying. "Not good."

"Are you still nauseated?" Treville asked.

"A little."

"Do you think you can stand?"

Aramis sighed, knowing that standing was not going to agree with him. "I don't have a choice."

"Of course you do," said Porthos, before he reached over to lift him.

"No!" Aramis exclaimed. He was mortified to know that he'd already been carried once, he certainly didn't want anyone else to witness such an indignity.

"You know that you'll regret this," Athos commented.

Aramis sighed again before holding out his hands.

All three of them pulled him to his feet, holding on tightly when Aramis reeled with dizziness and his knees buckled. The pain in his head worsened, beating like a drum. He groaned and his stomach spasmed, making him clamp his hand over his mouth again.

D'Artagnan tried to lower Aramis to his knees, but the others didn't let him.

"It'll just be harder to get him back up again," Treville explained, tightening his grip.

Aramis groaned miserably and someone let go of him. His hair was suddenly pushed back and a wet cloth was patted over his face and held to the back of his neck.

"Just breathe," said Athos. "It'll pass."

He was right; the dizzy nausea soon calmed and Aramis succeeded in shakily locking his knees. He opened his eyes and looked right into Athos' face.

Athos' expression was concerned, but he gave his friend a rare smile.

Smiles from the stoic Athos always lifted Aramis' spirits—as Athos knew—and Aramis gave him a weak smile in return, squinting from the bright sunlight.

Porthos took charge of Aramis from there, pulling one of his friend's arms around his shoulder and helping him get to the stable where they sat him on a bale of hay.

Aramis sighed in relief to be sitting and leaned back against the wall.

Treville looked at the rest of his men, knowing how worried they were. "I can't let you all leave. The king will likely find out, and I can't excuse all four of you." He sighed. "Louis told me that he plans to put you on display inside once all the guests arrive." He looked at Athos and Porthos. "The two of you and Aramis are the ones who know the most about what he'll expect from you all, and with Aramis out of action..."

"You plan to take him back to the garrison yourself," Athos deduced.

Treville nodded. "It makes the most sense."

Porthos sighed, wanting to be with his stricken friend.

"Go now, before someone notices my best musketeers missing," said Treville.

"I'll be fine," Aramis suddenly whispered. "As always."

The other three reluctantly obeyed, after patting Aramis' arm or squeezing his shoulder.

After they were gone, Treville sat beside Aramis on the hay bale and studied him. "How bad is it?"

Aramis glanced at him and saw the 'you'd better not lie' look, so he told the truth. "Bad."

Treville saw that Aramis still wasn't sweating in the oppressive heat. The bucket of water had cooled him off on the outside, but he still was dehydrated on the inside. "Drink," he said, raising the canteen.

Aramis obeyed, taking small sips as not to aggravate his stomach. Moving his head increased the pain and he groaned once he was finished, raising a hand to the right side of his head.

Treville patiently sat with him and continued to feed him the water until he finally saw sweat beading on Aramis' face. "Feeling any stronger?" he asked.

Aramis opened his eyes, still breathing too fast. "A little," he answered, recognizing the improvement in his overheated state.

Treville was relieved. "I know the last thing you want to do is ride, but we can't sit in the palace stable forever and you need some herbs and your bed."

Aramis sighed. "I know." He closed his eyes against the stabbing throbs in his head and tried to gather more strength.

"I'll get the horses saddled," said Treville. He stood and fetched the stable workers, who had both horses ready quickly.

Getting Aramis mounted wasn't easy; every movement he made caused his head to throb even more, as if someone was repeatedly stabbing the right side of his head with an ice pick. Treville was careful as he pulled him up and walked him over to his horse, and he helped adjust Aramis' boot into the stirrup.

Grabbing onto the saddle, Aramis took a deep breath and tried to propel himself up, but his head responded with a stab so sharp that he gasped and stopped. He tried not to voice his pain, but couldn't prevent the groan that passed his lips.

Treville placed both hands on the younger musketeer, squeezing his arm gently. "Slow down, wait till you're ready."

Aramis leaned his head against the saddle, breathing heavily until the flare-up lessened.

Someone suddenly cleared their throat from behind them, and Treville turned to see one of the stable workers holding the steps that King Louis frequently used to mount. He let go of Aramis slowly, making sure he would stay upright, before heading over and taking it. "Thank you," he said.

The servant nodded.

Treville placed it down on the ground and took Aramis' arm again. "Use this," he said.

Aramis slowly pulled his head away from the horse and blinked at it.

Treville was afraid that Aramis' pride might get in the way and he'd say 'no', and was relieved when his good sense won out and Aramis obeyed. He kept hold of Aramis' arm as he walked up the steps, and helped him get situated once he was in the saddle.

Aramis felt off-balance once mounted, and swayed slightly.

Treville kept hold of him until he saw him steady himself, and then he mounted his own horse. "Let me know ahead of time if you plan to fall off."

Aramis tried to give him a weak smile, but it was too hard to do while wincing. "That's never my plan," he answered.

Treville nodded. "Try to keep it that way?"

"I'll try."

"Good."

They slowly rode out of the stable, back into the blinding sunlight.

Aramis raised a hand to cover his eyes, holding the reins in a white-knuckled grip. He felt Treville take hold of his arm, but he didn't stop his horse, wanting to get home as soon as possible.

It was a slow and painful journey; Aramis kept his head lowered with his hat pulled down, trusting his horse to simply keep pace with Treville's. By the time they finally arrived, the pain was worse from riding, and he couldn't dismount on his own.

Treville reached up, holding Aramis tightly as he slowly swung his leg over the horse and stepped down. Once upright, Aramis groaned and leaned his throbbing head against the saddle again.

Treville sighed, hating himself for the role that he'd played in the Savoy massacre. He waited for the younger man to make a move before he pulled one of Aramis' arms over his shoulders and helped him slowly get to his room.

Aramis winced as his head gave an extra throb from the motion of lying down, but he was glad to feel the pillow under his head.

Treville grabbed the basin of water off the dresser and brought it over, dropping a towel in and wringing it out before placing it over Aramis' forehead. "Herbs in the chest?"

Aramis sighed with relief at its coolness, raising one hand to lay on top of the cloth. "Yes; the crushed ones in the jar."

Treville fished it out and poured them into the canteen before gently raising Aramis' head and helping him drink.

Aramis drank slowly, making sure his stomach would accept it. He was relieved when it did, and practically started counting the minutes until the herbs would begin working.

Treville brought a chair over and sat down, dismayed to see how fast Aramis was breathing; that was always an indication of how bad the pain was. "Anything else you need?" he asked.

"No," Aramis answered, eyes closed.

"Let me know if that changes," Treville told him, shifting to get comfortable.

Aramis cracked open his eyes. "You don't have to stay."

Treville gave him a surprised look. "I do if I want to avoid Porthos' wrath."

Aramis smiled slightly before closing his eyes again.

At first, the pain grew worse before it got better. Aramis tried so hard not to keep groaning, but it felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing his head with a knife.

Each groan stabbed Treville's heart. Seeing the young musketeer like this brought back the awful memories of Aramis' slow and painful recovery after Savoy. The pain had been agonizing then and had taken too many weeks to fade...and then the terrible migraines had started. They happened less often as the years passed, but when they struck, they usually knocked him flat.

Desperate to provide comfort, Treville smoothed Aramis' sweaty hair away from his forehead. His hand unwittingly brushed over the scar from the old wound, and he sighed.

Aramis moaned, shifting his head slightly.

"Take it easy," Treville quietly said, smoothing his hair again. "Give the herbs a chance to work."

"More," Aramis whispered.

Treville lifted the canteen to his lips again and helped him drink.

Aramis kept his eyes closed, the wince not leaving his face.

Treville stayed with him throughout the entire day. The herbs eventually helped Aramis' pain enough that he dozed off a few times, but he never slept long.

It was well after midnight when the musketeer regiment finally returned to the garrison. Athos, Porthos, and d'Artagnan immediately headed for Aramis' room, opening the door quietly and peeking inside.

Treville looked towards the door before getting up from his chair and heading over to them. "He's asleep," he whispered.

"Is he better?" Porthos asked.

Treville sighed. "It was bad, but his herbs helped and he's been sleeping for the past fifteen minutes, which is the longest stretch so far."

The musketeers came further into the room, tiptoeing as quietly as they could.

"We can take it from here," said Athos.

Treville knew that his words were a dismissal; Aramis' closest friends wanted to help him now. "Wake me if you need me," he said.

They all nodded at him, and Treville left, hoping that this was Aramis' last migraine attack.

Aramis slept for an hour before he woke, and he was relieved to find that his head wasn't throbbing as badly.

"Hey," he heard.

Aramis blinked bleary eyes to find that it was Porthos. "You're back."

Porthos nodded, reaching over to pour his friend some water. "That's right. How do you feel? Any better?"

Aramis sighed. "A little."

Porthos was relieved. "Good!" He raised his friend's head slightly and held the cup to his lips

Aramis drank thirstily, finding that his stomach felt fine now.

Porthos was glad to see it, and smiled when Aramis drank every drop. "Good boy," he joked. "Now go back to sleep."

Aramis chuckled and obeyed.

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The next morning, Aramis felt slightly confused when he woke. The night had passed faster than expected and he didn't recall waking after seeing Porthos.

"You look better," said a voice.

Aramis smiled at d'Artagnan, who was sitting in a chair beside his bed along with Athos and Porthos. "I feel it," he said. "The pain is almost gone."

D'Artagnan sighed. "That's a relief."

"The next time this happens," said Athos. "Please warn us before you plan to faint."

"Yeah," said Porthos. "I had no time to catch you!"

Aramis frowned. "I fainted?"

Everyone nodded.

Aramis thought for a minute, before he remembered growing lightheaded with his vision clouding over. "In front of everyone?"

"All the musketeers, at least," d'Artagnan told him.

Aramis covered his eyes with one hand. "Wonderful."

"And you were the only one, too," said Porthos. "I dunno if you remember the conversation, but we were throwing guesses at who would faint from the heat. I asked you for your opinion, and you answered by dropping to the ground like a rock."

Aramis peeked out from under his head. "You're jesting?"

Everyone shook their heads.

Aramis sighed again.

"You should have said something," said Athos. "Treville would have excused you from duty. You only made your condition worse by allowing yourself to grow overheated."

"It wasn't like that," Aramis said.

"You didn't eat," d'Artagnan reminded him.

"My stomach didn't feel right," Aramis told them. "But I didn't have a headache at the time."

"Were you seeing the flashing colors?" Athos asked, sounding like he didn't believe him.

"No," Aramis told him. "That didn't start until we'd almost reached the palace."

No one said anything, knowing that they might not've said anything either by then if it was one of them.

"Well next time, say somethin'," said Porthos. "So I can at least know to catch you when you faint."

"Musketeers don't faint," said Aramis. "We 'pass out'."

"When your brain loses the ability to function, then," Athos commented. "Therefore shutting itself down so you lose consciousness and fall to the ground."

Aramis blinked. "Accurate way to explain it, actually."

"Are you hungry?" d'Artagnan asked, glad to hear that Aramis felt well enough to jest. "You missed breakfast but I'll go get you something."

Aramis nodded slightly. "Yes, thank you."

D'Artagnan nodded and headed out.

Athos and Porthos studied Aramis for a moment.

"How do you really feel?" Porthos asked.

"Much better," Aramis told him. "Truly." He pushed himself to sit up, and they could see that he was telling the truth.

D'Artagnan came back with a tray and they watched him eat. Afterwards, Aramis felt even better and moved to get off his bed, but the others stopped him.

"What do you think you're doing?" Athos asked.

Aramis blinked. "Getting up?"

Porthos and d'Artagnan exchanged glances.

"You were in agony yesterday," said d'Artagnan.

"And you fainted," said Porthos.

"Passed out," Aramis corrected.

"You were severely ill," Athos told him. "It isn't prudent to rise so quickly. If the roles were reversed, would you let one of us up this soon?"

Aramis sighed. "No, but—"

"Well then," said d'Artagnan.

Aramis started to raise a hand to his head in exasperation but lowered it again, not wanting them to think that he was in more pain than he was. "It's obviously not as hot as yesterday."

"And?" said Athos.

"I need fresh air."

Athos rose, walked over to the windows, and opened them.

"That's not what I meant," Aramis commented.

"Rest, Aramis," Athos told him as he returned to his seat. "You know it's too soon; the pain might return if you exert yourself."

Aramis knew that he was right, and gave in.

Treville was at the palace for most of the day, returning in time for supper. He headed to Aramis' room and met d'Artagnan and Porthos along the way carrying trays. "How is he?" he asked.

"Fine, if he can be believed," said d'Artagnan.

Porthos nodded. "He woke much better and eventually wanted to get out of bed but Athos won't let him."

"Good," Treville said. "To both."

Once they reached Aramis' room, Treville opened the door for them and they all headed inside. Treville was glad to see Aramis sitting up on his bed looking well...much different from the previous day. "You're a sight for sore eyes."

Aramis smiled. "I'm nearly fine now, but my jailers won't relent."

"As they shouldn't," said Treville. "Your condition was serious; not just because of the pain, but because you were badly overheated."

Aramis nodded. "So I've been informed...I admit to lapses in my memory."

"Not surprising," Treville said.

"I don't remember much of what happened at the palace, but I remember nearly everything after," Aramis said. "Thank you for your care."

Treville nodded with a smile. "Of course."

All five of them ate together and spent the evening playing cards—even Treville, who stayed long enough for one hand before leaving to get some paperwork done before bedtime.

Aramis slept well and woke feeling like his usual self. No one stopped him from getting up and he was relieved to find that the heat wave had apparently broken. After breakfast, his friends followed him outside and he headed to the stable to visit his horse.

Bella neighed as soon as he walked in.

"Were you worried for me, Bella?" he said, reaching out to pet her.

Bella stepped forward to shove her nose against his stomach.

Aramis smiled and leaned his forehead against hers as he stroked the sides of her face. "I'm fine, see?" he said.

Bella gave another soft neigh.

The others watched with amusement as their friend held a conversation with his horse as if she could understand and respond.

"If she could talk," said Porthos. "She'd be scoldin' ya to say somethin' next time too."

Bella neighed as if agreeing.

D'Artagnan chuckled. "Looks like she just did."

Aramis looked at them. "Of course she can talk, you mean that you three can't understand her?" He looked at Bella. "Isn't that right, my love?"

Bella nickered and bumped her nose into him.

"Yeah, you're makin' her do that," said Porthos.

Aramis turned towards him and held his arms out to the side. "How? I'm not doing anything. You can understand me, right Bella?"

The horse nudged Aramis with her nose and nickered again.

"See?" said Aramis.

The other three exchanged glances.

"Yeah...I'm outta here," said Porthos. With that, he turned and hurried out of the stable. D'Artagnan followed after throwing an uncertain look at Aramis, and Athos followed them too after shooting Aramis an, 'I know this is a trick' expression.

Aramis shrugged at him, looking innocent. As soon as they were gone, Bella nudged him again with a nicker and Aramis turned. "I know, I know; here." He took an apple out of his pocket and fed it to her. "I won't tell them if you don't!"

THE END