CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

Everything felt right.

Athos cleared his desk and his appointment book the following week. He was taking three months off, renting his office to a psycho-sexual counsellor, who would not, he thought, be short of clients in London. In the interim, the rest of the business could operate without him, he had no doubt.

Milady had gone, he was sure.

Appeased, perhaps, through karma; a life past needing to fulfil its purpose through another's later existence.

She had sought him out, her modern-day Athos. Her confession all those many, many years ago had not been heeded for some reason, and she had remained unfulfilled; the creature she could bear no longer.

Until a fateful day in 2005 when a sudden burst of explosive battlefield energy and his near death had thrown her onto his path once more and given her a second chance;

To be as she once was with him;

To feel hope; instead of deadness in her heart."

Perhaps now Clarisses's involvement and her positive energy could serve as a guiding light to keep them safe from their original path to destruction.

In warm sunshine, he walked the three miles back to Chelsea, where Porthos and Aramis were cooking a meal before seeing him off at the airport the next day. He was heading off to Geneva to stay with Constance for a few weeks. From there it was a one hour flight to Paris, and onward to the crash mansion for a break where Porthos and Aramis would be joining him. D'Artagnan was hoping to meet up with them as well, if it all went to plan. And for the first time, Treville would be there too, as thanks for his support.

"This is gonna be great," said Porthos gleefully as he carefully wrapped pastry around a large pate covered beef fillet.

He looked up and they were all watching him;

"Not this; the trip!" he laughed, sealing the edges of the pastry.

"I am sure your Beef Wellington will be great too, Porthos," Athos solemly assured him, looking at the pastry Regimental badge that Porthos intended to fix in place. He was obviously feeling sentimental.

"The only downside is that I am not fond of airports. This plate in my head seems to set off their detectors on a frequent basis." Athos murmured.

"Well, mon ami," said Aramis, "I have just taken possession of a 3D printer so we will soon be using plastic instead of metal; I can schedule you in, if you wish?"

Athos looked horrified.

"Well," said Porthos, "You've got the inside of your head sorted out, you might as well get the outside done as well," he laughed, tossing the dish into the oven and slamming the door shut with aplomb.

"As much as I trust Aramis," Athos replied, at his most imperious, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I submit my head to his hands again!"

Aramis suddenly lost his grip on the two plates he was carrying to the table, juggling them helplessly before losing the battle as they crashed loudly to the floor at his feet.

"Why ever not!" he asked in mock indignation.

oOo

The SWISS aircraft touched down at Geneva Airport ninety minutes after take-off, half an hour ahead of its estimated arrival time. The lake in the near distance sparkled in the bright sunshine. Fifteen minutes later, Athos walked through the automatic doors into the Arrivals Lounge, looking for Constance.

Instead, he saw a familiar face behind the barrier, smiling.

Ninon.

She leant forward and kissed his cheek, and then stepped back, her eyes on his, a smile on her lips.

"Hello Athos, welcome to Geneva. Constance asked me to collect you."

She looked...softer. Not a word he would have normally used for the self contained persona she usually exuded.

He smiled. Suddenly, he felt as if a weight had been lifted off him. It was such an unusual feeling he felt rooted to the spot. She saw he was still smiling, and held out an elegant hand.

"You're early; shall we go for a drink?"

"Yes," he said, his smile broadening. "I would like that."

He raised her hand to his lips and placed a light kiss on her fingers.

Constance was upping her game, he thought to himself.

He approved.

oOo

Meanwhile, as Athos was enjoying reacquainting himself with Ninon - on the other side of the world, Clarisse Villiers sat on a wide balcony, overlooking a magnificent blue bay.

She was feeling very pleased with herself.

Of course, there had been other items in George Villier's safe that he would not now need where he was currently residing.

When she had handed d'Artagnan the file he so desperately wanted, she had also taken the black velvet pouch that contained a variety of gems. That pouch now sat on the table in front of her – the precious stones spilling out on the small table, glittering in the Caribbean sun.

She was, after all, a jewel thief. And a very good one, she smiled to herself.

The pardon had been nice, but these gems had always been her goal.

"Here's to you Anne," she murmured, picking up her champagne.

"And to you Milady," she smiled quietly to herself.

And to me, she added, silently.

Always; to me.

The End

A/N

I do hope you enjoyed my nod to the Dumas novels in Part Three; two diamonds out of six given to the Queen were stolen and had to be retrieved before the King discovered them missing.

Franz Liszt – the term "Lisztomania" was a term coined during his time to explain the actions of his overzealous fans. Way before The Beatles, then.

The piano piece by Liszt "Un Sospiro" translates as "The Sigh." I thought it an appropriate piece to include as I am sure Athos would have heaved a sigh of relief when his adventure with Clarisse was finally over.

Please listen online and see if you enjoy the image of Athos playing this piece. I hope it brings the scene to life for you: Please let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

All over the world, in towns and cities, Clinical Hypnotherapists have been working away for decades, helping people overcome their fears and phobias, and changing lives. Hypnosis is a force for good. And now, self hypnosis has a new, modern term: mindfulness. Always choose a therapist carefully; who knows what dark secrets and deep emotions you have!

Finally, sincere thanks to all of you who have read, reviewed and sent me messages (you know who you are) for this, my first AU story. I trust everything resolved to your satisfaction. I appreciate every one of you.

I may bring Athos the Hypnotherapist out to play again one day, if inspiration strikes. Promise to leave his head alone.

Best wishes to you all.