A/N: I don't know how long it's been since I last posted a fanfic, probably at least five years. Sorry, if you thought this might be a miraculous update to another story. Go to my profile page for info on that work. I don't write this sort of work that much anymore, especially not traditional narratives, so I might be a bit rusty, though I was pleased with the result.
Years ago (I'm feeling a bit old with that phrasing) I wrote a series called Those Darn Fanfic Writers. I recently got into The Musketeers and have been avidly reading fanfiction, so I thought I'd give this series the Fanfic Writers treatment. This is meant to be just slightly humorous, not offensive. I really do enjoy all of the whumping that goes on in the stories. It's helping me to keep my sanity as I'm working and finishing up grad school. Think of this as a thank you for the whumping and please write more.
Read, relax, and enjoy.
I'm Not Delusional
Aramis sat down with a heavy sigh. The log of wood moved beneath him, forcing him to shift himself quickly to find the right balance before he toppled over. He sat there, balance found, mentally examining his body, feeling the different aches and rating their severity. How long it took, he wasn't sure. It could've been long as the others hadn't taken note yet. He cursed under his breath. It had happened again.
"Aramis." That was D'Artagnan, probably with his weapons. The lad had made the mistake of getting in too deep in a card game with Porthos and was now stuck collecting their spent weapons after skirmishes for the next month. A week into his lost bet and Aramis was sure he was regretting his cockiness. "Your pistols. I'm sure you'll want to clean and reload them yourself."
Aramis turned to grab the weapons only to have D'Artagnan nearly drop them and gasp.
"You're wounded," he said. Aramis looked down, seeing a dagger stuck firmly in his left shoulder.
"Oh," Aramis said. "I had forgotten about that."
"We need to get that taken care of. Athos, Porthos." He turned his head to call the other men before setting aside the pistols and dropping to his knees to get a better look at the wound. Aramis, for his part, just sighed. How many times was this? The fourth? Fifth, maybe? Perhaps Porthos and Athos would not stop him from finding them this time. His voices of reason, appointed by themselves, quickly joined them. He gave them both a once-over. Disheveled as any would be after taking on bandits at the rate 4 to 1 during the peak of their latest skirmish, but unharmed. Completely unharmed. Even the whelp, brazen and inexperienced as he was, had not a nick on him.
"Anything besides the obvious," Athos asked, looking down at Aramis.
"I haven't had time to check," D'Artagnan answered when the marksman didn't.
"'Mis?" Porthos this time, in that tone that said don't you dare hide anything or I will take you apart the next time we spar in hand-to-hand. That tone was the very reason Aramis never did spar hand-to-hand with the larger man. Too many times had he hidden something and he didn't want to imagine the aches and pains he'd be feeling after going up against Porthos now.
"What," he finally said, his voice low.
"Other injuries we can't see?" Porthos was now kneeling opposite from D'Artagnan, on the other side of Aramis.
"Of course. They wouldn't've let me get away with a simple dagger to the shoulder, don't you know? It's probably poisoned!"
"Poisoned?!" D'Artagnan gasped, while the other two barely blinked.
"This again?" Athos couldn't believe Aramis was going this route now. He'd been doing good at not sinking back into this delusion.
"It's not a delusion." Aramis jumped to his feet, pointing a finger at Athos. "I know you two think it's just some fever-induced delusion, but it's not. They're real and they're out to get me."
"And yet each time you've talked about them you've clearly been incapacitated in some way that casts serious doubt on your mental stability."
"I know what's real and they're real. They're always plotting, can't just leave well enough alone." Aramis pushed past the men, walking a few steps before turning to face them. Each of them, D'Artagnan more closely so, tracked him visually.
"The last time you thought the Cardinal was a time-travelling alien who lived in a blue box," Porthos countered.
"Okay, I'll admit that was probably the fever, but they're not."
"Maybe we should put this discussion aside and take care of that dagger wound before it gets worse," D'Artagnan suggested. "Especially if it's poisoned."
"It's not poisoned," Athos said quickly.
"How do you know," Aramis said. "It's not like they haven't done it before."
"I think I'd remember a poisoned blade."
"I'm pretty sure they've done it. If not to me, then definitely to one of you."
"Don't drag us into your delusions," Porthos said.
"Damnit, they're not delusions. How many times do I have to explain this. I mean, it all makes sense. All the sudden attacks on normally peaceful trails, the injuries, captures, illnesses. None of it makes sense without them!"
Aramis had started pacing, using his hands to emphasize his explanation. D'Artagnan felt his stomach twinge slightly at the sight of the dagger moving up and down with each movement. How could the marksman stand it? On a turn where Aramis turned his body fully towards the three of them, he spotted a gash on Aramis' right side, mid abdomen. Was that there before?
"Um, Athos, maybe we should just knock him out," D'Artagnan suggested quietly as Aramis continued talking.
"No use," Porthos answered on the other side on D'Artagnan. "Tried it once. He woke up worse."
"Worse than this? He's got a dagger wound and a slash to his abdomen and is that a dislocated shoulder?"
"He has to wear himself out," Athos answered.
"But, he's going to injure himself further."
"He'll be fine."
D'Artagnan could only hold himself for a moment more before he broke rank with the two men to confront Aramis.
"You two may be able to stand here and watch, but I cannot." The two men sighed.
"We did warn him." Porthos looked to Athos as the lad kept moving towards their fourth.
"Aramis," D'Artagnan started gently, unsure of how to approach the man. He didn't really doubt the other two, but he had to try.
"D'Artagnan!" Aramis took a big, wobbly step towards the younger man. D'Artagnan wondered if it was due to a leg injury or if he'd taken a hit to the head. As the marksman drew closer, he saw the trickle of blood coming from the right temple. "Surely, you believe me. I mean, haven't you ever thought about all of things they do to you?"
"Um…" he hesitated. "No, it's a part of the job. We're in dangerous situations. Maybe you want to sit down so I have a look at your wounds. We wouldn't want them to get infected, right?" He hoped appealing to Aramis's common sense and medic side would work.
"Infected?" Aramis laughed and clumsily clapped D'Artagnan on the shoulder. "I guarantee you that not only is the dagger poisoned, but infection has already set in. Within hours I'll have a high fever and be delirious for days. I'll even almost die!" With that, the pacing started again. And D'Artagnan, well, wasn't sure if he could look any more shocked. He looked back at the other men, who shrugged their shoulders and gave each other one of those annoying looks that he didn't understand. He couldn't help the childish huff that came from him. They were talking without talking again.
D'Artagnan didn't have a chance to respond before Aramis began talking again.
"You really haven't been with us all the long, so I suppose it's no wonder that you haven't seen the clues. You'll see soon enough because they really are quite relentless. I have been shot, stabbed, whipped, burned at the stake, strangled, tortured, poisoned, and had more broken bones than I thought possible. It's a wonder I can still shoot straight with as many times as my arm's been broken! Do you realize the dangers of setting a bone properly? You just have to pray that it's done correctly and heals without a problem."
During this rant, Aramis had continued his pacing and increased the gesticulating with his arms. D'Artagnan noted with increasing alarm that the older man's gait, while still quick, almost frantic, was punctuated heavily as he leaned increasingly more on his left leg. The right knee seemed to be swelling quickly, so much that he was wondering if they'd have to cut the trousers off to get a look at it. Aramis pivoted sharply, nearly toppling over. D'Artagnan was prepared to grab him, when he saw the gash on his back, stretching from the left shoulder down to the right lower back. It wasn't bleeding heavily, but he could definitely see that the blade had slashed clean through the doublet and shirt underneath.
"Aramis," D'Artagnan called out when the man finally took a moment to breathe. The younger man moved closer to him. "Why don't we go back over to the log and sit down. You can tell me all about them and we'll see to your injuries." He moved to put an arm gently around Aramis' shoulders, but the man quickly stepped aside.
"I can't, not yet, don't you see? I've had enough of them!" Aramis walked away from D'Artagnan, tripping as his steps faltered momentarily. "I've been ill more times than I can count, and not just with simple coughs and sniffles. I'm talking about high fevers that bring about fits, lungs wet enough that just breathing is a chore, and nausea so bad water won't even stay down. I've been blinded at least a couple times, passed out more times than I thought possible for one person, dislocated more joints than I care to think about, and that's not the strangest of it all!"
D'Artagnan gave him an incredulous look. On the one hand, he couldn't believe the way Aramis was talking, but he also wondered exactly how the man was still standing. Blood was now seeping from the dagger wound, the limp was more pronounced and complicated by an unseen wound on the other leg, and despite the animations of his arms, Aramis was most definitely leaning inwards, unconsciously protecting his ribs. This had to end soon. Each step, movement was only serving to cause further injury, he was sure.
"But that's not enough for them!" Aramis threw his arms up, not realizing apparently when the left one didn't follow through. "They don't like just the here and now. No, sometimes we're thrown into the future and that's when it gets really strange and bad. I get shot, stabbed, poisoned, beat up there too. Sure, the medicine is better, but that just means they can do more! Everything's always the same then, just worse. And with so many fancy names for things, for conditions and illnesses."
Maybe Athos and Porthos were right about Aramis. The marksman did have him going for a bit, but this future talk? Perhaps the dagger really was poisoned.
"Do you know how many times I've been hit in the head and lost consciousness? Why sometimes I don't wake up for days because of it. It's a wonder I haven't become brain addled from all those hits."
"I'm beginning to think you might be a bit touched," D'Artagnan said quietly.
"I heard that!" Aramis rounded on him quicker than D'Artagnan thought possible for the injured man. "They're real. You'll find out soon enough. Maybe you can help me go after them. I don't know where they are, but I know they're around here somewhere."
"Why?" Perhaps feeding into the delusions might help as casting doubt had only served to aggravate the marksman.
"To stop them!" Aramis clasped his hands, well hand on D'Artagnan's arm. "I can't take it anymore. I spend more time recovering in bed than standing hale and hearty. It's like they coordinate it all, or something." Was that a touch of paranoia D'Artagnan detected? "Just when I'm recovered, able to stand on my own two feet, they strike again!" Aramis attempted to clap his hands together, not noticing when only the one hand flailed awkwardly in the air. How was the man still moving? Still unaware of this?
"They? How do they have such control?"
"They're fanfic writers, that's how. Whatever they write comes true."
"Fanfic writers?" He gave Aramis a look of disbelief and perhaps a step back, but could anyone blame him? Aramis had to be seriously ill, perhaps was even before the skirmish. Thinking about it, the marksman was a bit pale during breakfast.
"They write stories about books, movies, television shows. That sort of thing."
The fever must've taken full hold. Movies? Television shows? What were those things? There was no way any of this was real. He looked back to Porthos and Athos. They gave him their customary smiles. Athos gestured for him to continue trying to solve the problem. Was this a test of some sort? Did Treville know about this? He took a deep breath. He had to find a way to end this. Aramis was growing weaker, limping heavier, bleeding more, and close to bending in half at the waist.
"Alright," he said without thinking. "We'll go after them."
Aramis stopped in his tracks, several steps away from the younger man. He turned to face him.
"Really? You believe me? You'll help me?"
"Yeah…" D'Artagnan hesitated, the reality of his words only then sinking in. He muttered a curse. What had he gotten himself into? "But not now. You're injured. You don't want to face them wounded as badly as you are, do you?"
"You mean all of this?" Aramis clumsily waived his hands at his body. "This is nothing. Doesn't even hurt, see?" He poked the side of the dagger and paled even more when it shifted a good inch then moved back into place. D'Artagnan heard him gasp. The pain finally registered. "Porthos? I think they got to me again," Aramis said weakly.
"'bout damn time," Porthos said. D'Artagnan stood frozen as Aramis finally began succumbing to the wounds. Athos and Porthos were there to catch him before he fell, carefully laying him on the ground in well-practiced motions. D'Artagnan shook the shock away and joined them in time to see Aramis lose consciousness and to hear Athos speak.
"Those damn fanfic writers," the swordsman muttered so quietly that D'Artagnan wondered if he'd properly heard him.