A/N: Okay...so, this is one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but after you write it you realize it's not such a great idea after all, but it's already 2000+ words long and you're tired and you've stopped caring long ago anyways, so you post it because why not.
...As such, it might be a little rough around the edges.
Or a lot rough. Advice/Guidance/Criticism is more than welcome, btw.
Disclaimer: I don't own BBC's "The Musketeers" in any shape or form.
When d'Artagnan got shot, Athos' world stopped briefly.
It was so sudden, so quick. One moment they were battling the bandits that had attacked them on the way from Normandy back to Paris; the next, a gunshot rung through the clearing and d'Artagnan fell with all the grace of a sack of bricks.
He did not get back up.
Normally, Athos would have dealt with the situation with his usual unflappable calm, working his way towards d'Artagnan while battling his own opponents, so that he may protect the defenseless man while continuing to fight. Though his heart jumped in his throat upon seeing his protégé fall, he knew that acting solely on his emotions would only end in disaster for all involved. It was better for everyone if he kept his head and behaved calmly.
At least so he thought, until one of the bandits darted over to the prone figure of d'Artagnan and stood over him, raising his sword as if to run him through his chest. A cowardly move, to strike your opponent when he was down, but these bandits had no scruples where combat was involved, as Athos had learned from experience.
Something sparked in his chest at the sight of the sword bearing down on his protégé, a something that felt like anger but wasn't quite so. It started at his heart and spread outward, quickly igniting his blood with a strange fire that he'd only ever felt a few times before, when one of his brothers was in danger.
The next few moments were an incoherent blur of metal clashing and bodies falling. A curtain of red was obscuring his vision, as a thunderous heat coursed and throbbed through his veins. Gone was his self-composure, gone was his logic. All that mattered was to protect d'Artagnan.
It was all over in a few minutes, Athos blinking the red away from his vision as he gazed at the bandits lying about like dead flies. He would have thought them asleep if it weren't for the blood soaking the ground.
Briskly, he strode over to d'Artagnan's prone figure and knelt beside him, gloved hand reaching for the young man's neck as he checked for a pulse. Sighing in relief as he found one, he turned his attention to the man's shirt, which was gradually being soaked by an ever-widening spot of blood. The bullet had gone clean through d'Artagnan's side.
As he unwound his scarf from around his neck before placing it firmly against the wound, hoping that the pressure would help alleviate the bleeding, he found himself wishing he could kill the bandits all over again, this time far more slowly and painfully.
When Marsac lunged at d'Artagnan as if to attack, Porthos was quick to react, swiftly placing himself between the two.
"Don't go there," he growled, surprising himself with how fierce his tone was, "not if you enjoy breathing."
He wasn't sure what exactly had prompted his violent, knee-jerk reaction to defend the whelp. Oh, he knew that it had to do with the fact that d'Artagnan felt like a younger brother to him, but normally Porthos, while strong, was not an overly vicious man. He didn't enjoy hurting or killing people, even if it was part and parcel of being a Musketeer.
This Marsac, though...if the man hurt d'Artagnan, than Porthos would only be too glad to make him suffer. There would be no mercy for him if d'Artagnan was harmed at his hands, and the same went for everyone else who might try to injure the pup.
And, with a jolt, he realized that it would be the same for his two other brothers as well. If Athos or Aramis were hurt, Porthos would seek vengeance, even if it killed him, and would exact it in the most painful way possible.
Somehow, the fact surprised him less than he thought it would.
Aramis was somewhat like a cobra when one of his brothers was in danger, all smiles and charm with an undercurrent of danger hidden shallowly beneath the surface. This time was no different, as he pointed the musket at the man who was inches away from slitting Porthos' throat.
With a sickly-sweet, melodious voice that belied the sharp crackle of anger in his eyes, Aramis spoke. "Let him go, monsieur, and I will maybe consider not killing you."
The man looked at Aramis, then at the musket, than at Porthos, swiftly decided that he wasn't being paid enough to deal with this, and hastily released the larger man.
Afterwards, Aramis took a vindictive pleasure in knocking him out with the pommel of his sword.
His heart was beating in his chest like the wings of some terrified bird, his palms growing sweaty and his breathing speeding up due to the potent mix of worry, fear, and rage that filled his mind. His blood was stifling hot and rushing through his veins, bringing with it the legendary fire and spirit which Gascons like him were known for. By all rights, he should already be drawing his sword and advancing on the fiend who had dared to hurt his friend, his brother.
And yet, by some miracle which he could not fathom, he did not yield to the madness of anger that beckoned to him like a siren's call. Though he could feel with agonizing clarity the fury that threatened to consume him, his hands remained steady and his mind clear.
Head over heart, d'Artagnan. Each and every time.
It seemed like his mentor's teachings had finally stuck, allowing him to react rationally to the situation. A part of him, though, felt that there was more than Athos' words keeping him glued in place, voice icy calm and pistol trained on the man who was currently holding Aramis captive.
"Step away from him and throw your pistol aside."
The man was staring at him, gaping like a fish, his own pistol held loosely in his hand which was dangling by his side. He was making no attempt to defend himself, and if d'Artagnan wanted to, he could shoot him easily, killing him on the spot.
The idea of shooting him suddenly seemed very alluring, and d'Artagnan blinked in mild surprise. He was not one to balk at the idea of extinguishing another human life, but before it had been more of an impulse decision on his part, a quick reaction to the situation presented to him, and he'd only killed when it had seemed that no other options were open to him. Now, however, he was in perfect control of himself, with no actual need to kill another human being, and yet here he was, entertaining ideas of gunning down the man in front of him in cold blood, all for the sake of his brother.
Well, you live and you learn.
The man still hadn't moved, still was gaping stupidly at him, and d'Artagnan spoke levelly and with grim purpose behind his every word. "I will say this one last time: step away from him and throw your pistol aside. If you make one false move, I will not hesitate to shoot you down where you stand."
The man seemed to come to his senses at that point, glancing first at d'Artagnan, then at the Musketeer he was holding prisoner. Aramis was tied up and kneeling helplessly on the ground, powerless to help his friend, and the man smirked slightly as he realized that he had a certain amount of leverage at his disposal, if he cared to use it.
However...there was still the possibility of being shot. The man didn't want to be shot, and d'Artagnan seemed surprisingly serious about it. Although there was always the possibility that the Gascon was either bluffing or simply stupid, the man still didn't want to run any unnecessary risks.
He didn't want to yield either, though. That way led to prison, and quite possibly a death sentence. There would be no escape for him if he went down that route.
The beginnings of a plan forming in his mind, the man licked his dry lips before he spoke, still not moving. "Now, let's just discuss this calmly like gentlemen, shall we?"
D'Artagnan gazed at him but remained uncharacteristically silent, and the man found himself slightly unnerved by the pallor of the Gascon's face, the glimmer of lethal brown eyes that shone brightly like two cold stars. There was something dangerous about the farmboy-turned-Musketeer, something that warned the man of some approaching and inevitable disaster.
Shaking off the feeling, the man offered a small smile that looked more like a grimace, his voice forcibly calm as his mind raced. "Let's just...let's just keep calm."
"I am calm," d'Artagnan said, expression impassive but eyes still blazing fiercely.
Dangerously so, Aramis mused as he eyed d'Artagnan with interest. They all had a tendency to lose their minds slightly when one of their brothers was in danger, but he hadn't expected d'Artagnan to react like this. With a fiery temper like his, he'd have thought the young man would already be attempting to kill the man, instead of simply standing there with a pistol in his hand and a strange and slightly terrifying gleam in his eyes.
Perhaps, though, there was merit in the Gascon's methods, for the man was looking more rattled by the second. With an odd gulping sound, the man swallowed nervously before speaking. "Yes, I can see that...Look, just-just listen to me for a moment, will you? Just a moment."
"I am listening," said d'Artagnan. His voice was oddly stilted, and the normally loquacious young man seemed to be reduced to remarks as short and terse as Athos'. His hands did not stray, the pistol still aimed at the man.
The man was shivering ever so slightly, sweat beading on his brow. "All right, all right..." he seemed to hesitate briefly, but suddenly his face settled into a look of desperate determination as he flung himself recklessly into the next sentence. "What exactly are you fighting for, huh?"
"Excuse me?" Again the artificial ring to his words, as if it were not really him speaking, as if someone else had replaced him and was attempting clumsily to mimic him.
"What I mean is this: how can you protect others against something if you're exactly what you're trying to protect them against?"
Aramis suddenly looked up and pinned the man with a glare as he realized where this conversation was going. Although the gag lodged in his mouth was preventing them from speaking his mind, his gaze conveyed adequately his thoughts on the matter, which were less than complimentary.
The man licked his lips again before continuing. "I mean, when you look at it a certain way, we're not that different, you and I. We're both desperate. We're both fighters. And," here he flashed a nervously smug smile at the Gascon, "we're both murderers."
Silence. There was a complete lack of reaction from d'Artagnan, who continued to point the pistol at the man while watching carefully for even the slightest hint of a movement that could mean danger for either him or his brother.
"I mean, think about it. How many people have you killed, d'Artagnan? How many have you murdered? Hm?"
"Ten? Twenty? Fifty? How many men have you murdered?"
"And all for what? The king? Your country? Patriotism? Was that really worth the murder of so many people?"
"Or maybe you killed them for the sake of your friends. Murdered people with lives, with families, just to keep a few men safe, and damn the consequences. How selfish is that, eh?"
"You've been hunting me down for days, for weeks, because I murdered people. But you killed as well. You're as much of a murderer as I am, d'Artagnan of Gascony. Do you realize that? Do you realize that you're a murderer?"
Silence. The pistol was starting to shake in d'Artagnan's hand, a small tremor that started at his fingers and slowly crept towards his elbow.
The man licked his lips again, a frenzied look in his eyes. "I'll bet you don't even think about it, do you. You probably think you're a hero. A saint. Some kind of angel sent down to protect people. Is that what you think?"
Silence. The pistol was still shaking, ever so slightly, blurring a little around the edges.
The man smiled grimly, content in the knowledge that he was winning. A few well-placed words and d'Artagnan was already falling apart like a house of cards. With a small sneer, the man continued. "Well, let me tell you: you might be on the side of the angels, d'Artagnan, but you are very far from being one of them. And sooner or later, that will come back to haunt you."
His sneer widened as the tremors in the Gascon's hand amplified. With a brisk movement, the man grabbed Aramis by the hair and placed the muzzle of the pistol to the side of the Spaniard's head, fully intending to take advantage of d'Artagnan's momentary distraction to kill the Musketeer. His finger mercilessly applied pressure to the trigger, and Aramis closed his eyes.
The hand in Aramis' hair tightened its grip, then turned lax, before slipping out of his hair entirely. Surprised, Aramis reopened his eyes just in time to see the man fall limply to the ground, the glassy look of death in his eyes, blood leaking from a hole in his chest. The pistol fell out of his hand and skittered a few inches along the ground, and Aramis could see that it had never been fired.
"Are you all right?"
Aramis blinked. D'Artagnan was looking at him, still with that strange look in his eyes, still with a curiously stilted voice. The hand that held the pistol was now hanging relaxed by his side, no longer shaking.
He shot him. D'Artagnan shot him.
The realization had Aramis blinking again.
"Aramis? Are you well?"
There was a note of concern in the boy's voice, and Aramis could see that the peculiar hardness to his gaze was slowly fading away, to be replaced by worry for his wellbeing. With an effort he managed to nod, and the worry was gradually replaced by relief.
Then d'Artagnan was walking towards him, drawing a small knife from his belt as he knelt in front of Aramis so as to cut his bonds, and the spell that had entranced d'Artagnan for so long was shattered like a pane of glass.
A/N: I am not happy with this. But eh, hopefully there were a few scraps that were not so terrible.
Porthos' portion is taken from episode 1.04, "The Good Soldier," when Marsac lunges at d'Artagnan as if to attack him.
Bonus points to whoever gets the reference I made in d'Artagnan's portion (which I know is criminally long compared to those of the others, but the one-shot just. Wouldn't. End. Argh.)
Au revoir, and sorry for this pathetic story. I'd try to improve it but it's so bad I don't see how I can. Maybe I'll rewrite it sometime.