Authors note: thanks for all the reviews, I hope you enjoyed it.
This time Aramis was happy to admit he needed some help, although he had been truthful about the injuries being superficial, his hands were throbbing with pain. He had persevered to start with, helping Athos who was quite unsteady but holding the swordsman up had caused him quite a lot of pain. When Athos had started walking on his own Aramis had been glad. The further they walked over the rocky uneven ground the more the wound to his leg had complained. He had checked it before they started off and found it to be a nasty scratch, which had bled a bit, he did not think it would need stitching. But the position of the injury, over his knee, had made it difficult to ignore as he walked.
As they had been walking along the ravine he had felt compelled to apologies to Athos for his reaction when he had fallen. He had not been able to focus on his injured friend, his mind kept replaying the fall and distracting him. Athos had assured him it was fine. They had all been in the same position at some point, but it had still left Aramis feeling a bit pathetic.
D'Artagnan reached the ravine floor, and crossed to where Aramis and Athos had sat on a ledge on the opposite side.
'Who's first?' he asked.
Athos stood up, 'he will insist that I go first and I am not in the mood to argue,' he said glancing around at Aramis.
Aramis nodded his approval, 'if I am honest, it will probably take me longer to climb up anyway, so it makes more sense for you to go up first, you and Porthos can start walking back to the camp.'
D'Artagnan and Athos made their way to the bottom of the rocky ravine wall. With d'Artagnan following behind him Athos managed to climb up quite easily until they had nearly reached the top.
He wavered as he clambered up a large flat rock, but d'Artagnan was there, a hand on his back, steadying him. It was obvious Athos was suffering from more dizziness. Aramis wished he could help his friends as he watched helplessly from the bottom of the ravine. Athos swayed again, d'Artagnan kept one hand on his back, Athos had his eyes screwed shut, obviously fighting to remain conscious. After a tense few seconds Athos managed to compose himself enough to continue forwards.
At the top, Porthos had helped Athos to gain his footing, careful to use his good arm to do so.
Aramis watched as they spoke for a few seconds, but he could not hear what was said. Porthos and Athos glanced back down at Aramis then started to walk back towards the camp, Porthos had his good arm wrapped around Athos waist. D'Artagnan started back down towards Aramis who wandered over to the bottom of the ravine.
'Porthos said he intends to strain his arm by pushing Athos around a bit to agitate his concussion,' he said with a grin.
Aramis shook his head smiling, 'just wait until he's getting his stitches later, he won't be quite so jovial then.'
D'Artagnan dropped down beside him, 'they also thought you probably wouldn't want an audience.'
Aramis knew he was going to have trouble climbing up and would need a lot of help to do so safely. He was grateful for his friends' foresight. Aramis looked at the rocks with trepidation. They were not sharp and lose like the ones he had fallen down, they were larger sturdier rocks, but he was not looking forward to climbing up them.
He stepped forward, as he put his right foot on top of the first rock and leaned forward to step up he found d'Artagnan beside him, his hand at the small of his back steadying him. With a slight wobble he reached the first rock.
'This one's bigger, if I climb up first I can pull you up, the less you have to use your hands the better,' said d'Artagnan as he jumped up to the next rocky step.
D'Artagnan grabbed Aramis' wrists to avoid the injured hands and took the marksman's weight as he pulled himself up. They swapped places so that d'Artagnan was behind again. The next few rocks were close together, Aramis was able to climb up them quite easily, using his forearm a couple of times when he wavered slightly.
Nearing the top, they paused, 'this is probably going to be the most difficult bit, I don't see how you can do it without using your hands.'
Aramis examined the large flat rock in front of him. There was dimple in the rock about a third of the way up that he could use as a foothold but he would have to haul himself up the rest of the way and he would have to use his hands to do so.
'You go first,' he said.
D'Artagnan pulled himself up on to the top of the big rock and turned around, he got down on his knees and leaned forward.
'Getting you up here is more important than how neatly we manage it,' said d'Artagnan with a smile.
Aramis reached up as far as he could, d'Artagnan grabbed his wrists. He watched as the injured man put his right foot into the dimple in the rock. Aramis pushed up with his left leg. D'Artagnan pulled his friend up, he had to make an effort not to react when Aramis hissed in pain as he was forced to use his hands, palms down on the top of the rock. D'Artagnan changed his grip from Aramis' wrists to the back of his doublet, fisting the leather to get a better hold.
It was certainly undignified, but it was the only way d'Artagnan could get Aramis up onto the rock. As Aramis brought his left leg up, the cut to his knee was stretched causing him to pause in pain. D'Artagnan knew they could not stop in the position they were and continued to force his friend up, despite the obvious pain it was causing. He reached forward and grabbed Aramis' left leg behind the knee and pulled him onto the top of the rock.
Now that he had manhandled his friend to safety he allowed the marksman time to catch his breath. Aramis was breathing hard, his eyes shut. The bandages on his hands were stained red where the cuts had been agitated by the climb.
After a few minutes Aramis managed to push himself up to sit, his legs dangling over the awkward rock.
'Thank you,' said Aramis shakily, 'I'm glad we were alone, I don't think I would ever live that down.'
'It wasn't our best manoeuvre,' agreed d'Artagnan, 'but it had the desired effect.'
They were sat around the fire, Athos observed his friends as he settled back against his saddle. Porthos was dozing on the other side of the fire. He had complained bitterly when d'Artagnan had stitched his arm. Despite his own concussion, Athos had been forced to hold the big musketeer's arms at his side to prevent him pushing d'Artagnan away. Porthos had not quite passed out but was pretty close by the end of the stitching.
Aramis had sat quietly as d'Artagnan had cleaned and dressed his injuries. The worst part for him had been having his hands cleaned, he had become quite pale and Athos was convinced he was going to keel over at one point. The injury to his knee had not needed stitching but would leave him with a limp for a few days and riding a horse was going to be quite uncomfortable for him.
D'Artagnan had finally sat down beside Athos and after eating some bread and taking a few gulps of wine had settled back and fallen asleep quickly.
'Considering we are all injured, he seems to be the most exhausted,' said Aramis from across the fire. He was sat next to Porthos, his hands resting in his lap, he still looked pale.
Athos smiled for a moment then said, 'I'm sorry you were injured because of me.'
'You didn't fall down there on purpose,' replied Aramis, 'and we weren't going to leave you down there.'
'Well thank you then.'
'Our pleasure,' replied the marksman.
'I'll keep watch for a couple of hours, I cannot see me sleeping well tonight anyway,' said Athos as he noticed Aramis trying to hide a yawn.
'OK, but wake me or d'Artagnan when you do need to sleep, we don't want to have to carry you back to Paris if you fall off your horse tomorrow,' replied Aramis with a grin as he settled back.
With all his comrades asleep Athos silently thanked them again, wondering what his life would be like without them.