Authors note: I still don't know nothing about medical things.

Chapter Six

D'Artagnan stepped up onto the lower ledge and helped Aramis to stand, he kept hold of the marksman's arm as Athos helped him down to the cave floor. He watched as Athos used his good arm to slide around Aramis' waist as he pulled the marksman's right arm around his shoulder.

Porthos said quietly to d'Artagnan, 'the blind leading the blind?'

D'Artagnan chuckled as he turned his attention back to Porthos who was easing himself off the ledge. The big musketeer was not putting any weight on his injured leg.

He struggled to stifle a cry of pain that had both Athos and Aramis turn back to look.

'D'Artagnan can look after me,' said Porthos sternly.

Athos nodded and forced Aramis to continue walking out of the cave.

D'Artagnan helped Porthos up and slowly they began to make their way out of the cave. Porthos was forced to put some weight on his injured leg as they progressed and once or twice they both lost their footing. But d'Artagnan managed to prevent them from falling completely on each occasion.

As they emerged from the cave Porthos squinted as the setting sun shone directly at them. D'Artagnan allowed him a few seconds to catch his breath. The exertion was proving tiring for the injured man.

Athos was slowly guiding Aramis back across the beach. They were not much further ahead as Aramis was showing clear signs of fatigue and Athos was struggling a little with his own tiredness.

'Do you think it would be better if I helped them first and came back for you?'

Porthos smiled, 'I was thinking the same thing. I can't see how Athos is going to get Aramis back up the cliff without some assistance…maybe you could find me something to use as a walking stick…might make it easier.'

D'Artagnan helped Porthos over to a boulder and lowered him down to sit on it. He waited for Porthos to nod that he was going to be fine before he hurried over to Athos and Aramis who had just reached the bottom of the cliff.

'You go up,' he said to Athos as he took his position holding Aramis upright. He realised that Aramis was struggling to stay conscious now.

Athos slowly made his way up the cliff pausing to help haul up the suffering marksman where necessary. Between them they got Aramis to the top. Athos looked a little better after being relieved of his burden for a few minutes.

'OK, I should be able to get us back to the house from here,' said Athos as he resumed his position by Aramis' side, 'go and get Porthos.'

D'Artagnan nodded and began to make his way back to the beach for the second time. He had spotted a piece of drift wood that would work as a makeshift crutch for his injured friend.

MMMM

D'Artagnan and Porthos had made good time once they had reached the top of the cliff, using the stick to help him Porthos was moving with much more ease. They caught up with Athos and Aramis as they reached the house. Aramis was limping slightly. Aramis said his hip was hurting from where he had hit the side of the cave wall when he was fighting with Jourdan.

Athos helped Aramis up the three steps at the front of the building and pushed the door open with his foot.

'Do you think you could manage to get upstairs?' he asked, 'it will be easier to heat the room we used last night again.'

'We've come this far, I think we can managed a flight of stairs,' replied Porthos with determination as he hopped over to the grand staircase and proceeded to make his way up one step at a time.

Athos felt d'Artagnan gently pulling him away from Aramis, 'I'll help him up the stairs.'

Athos was grateful, he had not been looking forward to manoeuvring his friend up the stairs. He moved across and walked up beside Porthos who appeared to be enjoying a brief spell of energy, he stayed close by but was not needed. They made it to the bedroom Athos helped Porthos to sit on the side of the bed.

He turned to help d'Artagnan with Aramis who they manoeuvred around to the other side.

'We need to get out of the wet clothes first,' Aramis said as they sat him down.

Athos stood back and said, 'we are capable of dealing with you both, it is not the first time you have been injured and we have looked after you.'

Aramis looked up at him with tired eyes and smiled, 'sorry.'

D'Artagnan, went back to Porthos and helped him get his boots and wet clothes off as Athos did the same with Aramis. Athos was shocked to see just how bad the bruising was to Aramis' arm and hip, it was no wonder the marksman was pale. The cut across his shoulder was still bleeding, but not too badly.

'I do not think that needs stitches,' said Athos as he straightened up, Aramis sighed with relief. Athos could understand, 'I'll clean and dress it then you can sleep.'

Aramis was still shivering but appeared more focused than he had earlier. He sat patiently as Athos used strips of cloth to clean away the blood and dirt then bandaged the wound firmly. Athos made short work of cleaning the rest of Aramis' assorted cuts and scrapes. He helped the marksman to lie down. Aramis was asleep in minutes. Athos covered him in two of their cloaks.

Porthos was not being quite such a cooperative patient. Athos had glanced over to d'Artagnan several times and even offered to do the stitching himself at one point, but d'Artagnan had persevered. Porthos was doing his best to remain still but was struggling not to push d'Artagnan away. Athos moved around the bed and perched next to Porthos. He grabbed the big musketeers' shoulders and held him steady, hiding a wince as the effort pulled on his own injury.

'This seems oddly familiar,' said Porthos through clenched teeth as another stitch went in.

Athos chuckled, 'yes, although it is not a favour I wanted to return.'

'Aramis?'

'He's badly bruised, but nothing is broken, he just needs sleep and food when he wakes up.'

D'Artagnan looked up after cutting the thread from the last stich, 'I'll get the fire going again.'

Athos took another strip of cloth and wrapped the wound on Porthos' leg. The big musketeer was clearly in pain but seemed to be fairly focused and was showing no signs of passing out, Athos guessed he would sleep when the energy he was enjoying wore off.

'You've pulled your stitches,' said Porthos who was looking at Athos with concern.

D'Artagnan walked over from the hearth and was about to pick up the medical bag to deal with Athos when Porthos said, 'you carry on with the fire, I can put his stitches back in.'

D'Artagnan looked at Athos who nodded, 'we need the warmth and hot food.'

'It's all been a bit of a disaster,' said Porthos as he helped Athos to take off his doublet and prepared to stitch the wound again, 'this mission. Three of us are injured and we have no spy to take back to Paris with us.'

Athos agreed, they had gone to a lot of trouble chasing Jourdan and they had nothing to show for it.

MMMM

The smell of hot broth had Aramis opening his eyes, he groaned and turned on his back. He regretted the move instantly. As his injured shoulder touched the bed he gasped.

'Careful,' said Porthos who was lying next to him on the bed, 'do you want to sit up?'

After a couple of breaths Aramis managed to reply, 'please…how long was I asleep for?'

'Not long,' replied Porthos as he helped Aramis to sit.

The fire was now burning and the room was warm. He realised he was no longer shivering. He could barely remember the journey back from the cave, only that he had felt tired and cold and disorientated. He was covered in a couple of cloaks, he saw his clothes and various other garments hanging on chairs in front of the fire. All their boots were lined up as well. The room was reminiscent of a laundry he thought.

Athos walked across and perched on the edge of the bed, he held out a cup, Aramis took it. The smell of the broth was glorious, he knew it was a simple meal, but he was glad of it. He still felt weak but knew that he would be OK.

'Where did Jourdan get the dagger from?' asked D'Artagnan.

A sigh from the man next to him had Aramis looking across, Porthos looked guilty, 'I think that might have been my fault. I must have missed it when I took his weapons off him when we caught him. He probably had it slipped into 'is boot.'

Porthos looked at Aramis who said, 'it's OK.'

D'Artagnan had been stood lost in thought for a few seconds, 'so I should have taken better care of the key, Athos should have woken us before investigating the noises when Jourdan escaped from the cupboard and Porthos should have searched him more thoroughly before locking him up.'

'And Aramis should not have rushed after Jourdan without a weapon,' finished Athos.

Aramis looked a little hurt by the remark but did nod his head in reluctant agreement.

'The key?' asked Porthos.

'He thinks he dropped it and Jourdan managed to get hold of it.'

'The key is on the mantelpiece,' said Porthos pointing at the shelf above the fire, 'I found it in the corridor during the night, popped it up there for safe keeping.'

'So, it wasn't my fault that he escaped?'

'No, it was mine, for not taking all his weapons off 'im. He must have used the dagger to cut his bindings and pick the lock.'

'…and attack me.'

'Yes…sorry.'

'The King will be annoyed that we failed,' said Aramis as he put a reassuring hand on Porthos' leg.

'Probably lock us up,' said Porthos, 'me for not searching him, Athos for not waking us up, and you for going off without a weapon.'

D'Artagnan grinned, 'I'll come and visit you all in the chatelet.'

'Careful, or we'll make something up to get you blamed as well, maybe tell the King that you gave him your gun rather than him taking it from you,' retorted Porthos with a grin, 'we have a long journey back to Paris…we'll think if something, if we are going down, you are coming with us.'

The End