A/N: This is just a stupid, crazy, pointless idea my muse came up with that wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it.
Sorry if there are any errors (which I'm sure there are). I haven't run this by my beta because it's, quite frankly, sheer garbage and I feel kind of ashamed. I'm basically just throwing angst at d'Art for no reason. It's stupid. Plus, it's rushed and badly written. I'm glossing over all the angst. Why am I even posting this idk.
I don't even know why I bother with angst. People have told me I suck at writing it and I still don't have the sense to stop.
I promise future stories from me will be better. It's just...It's been a while since I posted something and I'm kinda desperate and this idea wouldn't leave me alone, so yeah.
Anyway, enough with the rant.
Disclaimer: I don't own BBC's "The Musketeers" in any shape or form.
He is seven when his mother dies.
A lingering disease, the doctors say. Nothing we can do, the doctors say. All you can do is keep her comfortable until the inevitable happens, the doctors say.
So he does. He helps his father with the chores and his mother with her medicine and his older sister with her grief and terror. He does what he can to make their shattering lives just a little more bearable. He tries to stay strong for himself and for his family, because if he breaks than he becomes nothing more than a burden, and Charles d'Artagnan of Lupiac is many things but a burden he is not and will never be, especially with his family as frail as it is now.
He stays strong as his mother slowly fades away, as his father fades with her, as his sister withers into a shadow of her former self. He stays strong as his family gradually breaks apart, hairline fractures spreading out from the shriveling form of his mother, reaching out to try and destroy those close to her. He stays strong as his mother breathes her last, as the light dims in her eyes, as she finally ceases the fight she's already lost long ago.
At the funeral, he watches them lower the makeshift coffin into the makeshift grave, watches them shovel dirt into the hole like moles, watches them place the frail wooden cross that is all his family can afford in terms of grave marker, and all he can think is, this isn't fair.
It is only after the funeral is over that he cries.
His father is dead long before his last breath leaves his body.
They all suffer when Lucia dies. Charles misses her warm arms that used to hug him close, her bright, merry gray eyes, her musical voice that used to call him piccolo lupo and laugh at him when he did something silly. He even misses her fondly exasperated voice when he did something dangerous, her scolding tones that used to admonish him when his own recklessness got him into trouble.
But Charles moves on. Brigitte, his older sister, does too.
Alexandre does not.
The man died in spirit the same day that his wife died in body. Losing her broke the man, wearing him down to shreds, stamping out his Gascon fire until he's barely recognizable. Before long, he's no more than an empty shell, a fractured man that breathes without living. He continues with his work, maintains the farm and takes care of his children, but the living, strong, kind man Charles used to know is gone forever.
A part of him hates his father for that, hates that he allowed himself to fall apart when he still has a family to take care of.
The rest of him just feels empty.
He is twelve when Brigitte falls in love with a man.
They court. They kiss. They get engaged. They marry. They leave, and Charles is left alone at home with his father's shell, and he feels vaguely betrayed.
He doesn't like romance, he decides.
He is thirteen when his father shoots himself in the head.
Charles finds him at his desk one morning, slumped over it, the hole in his head dripping blood all over the worn wood. The pistol, smelling of freshly-discharged gunpower, is still held loosely in one wizened hand, the index finger clamped firmly around the trigger.
It causes a small scandal in the tiny village of Lupiac. In a town where everyone knows everyone else, word soon spreads about Alexandre's suicide. Charles becomes the subject of all their gossip, no one passing up the opportunity to prattle about that poor little boy, left alone, his mother died when he was a child, you know, and his sister's gone off and married a man, and now that his father's dead he has no one.
Poor child. Poor, poor child.
He's all alone, now.
(Except he's actually been alone for years already, but none of them realize that)
His father's funeral is similar to his mother's. Still with a wooden coffin, still with the people shoveling dirt like moles, still with a shabby wooden cross laid next to his mother's own.
He doesn't mourn him, because he already has. His father has been dead for years. The funeral is only a formality.
After the funeral comes the question of who will take care of him. He doesn't know where his sister is or how to get there, and he doesn't know of any other family members that could help him. His mother has a brother back in Italy, one Andrea Cavallo, but Charles doesn't even know in which city or town the man lives.
Just when he thinks that he will have to be reduced to a beggar, a man offers to help him.
His name is Marcel, he says. He is Alexandre's long-estranged half-brother, he says. He is sorry for Charles' loss, and would Charles like to stay with him for a while?
Charles naively says yes.
Marcel is an...interesting man.
He's nice enough during the first few weeks. His house is comfortable and spacious, his garden is flourishing, and he has horses. He even offers to teach Charles how to fight and how to ride, skills that his father-Alexandre, he hasn't been his father since he lost himself to grief-never bothered to teach him after Lucia's death.
The longer that Charles stays, though, the more unnerved he becomes. Marcel is friendly, but he's strange. He keeps watching Charles out of the corner of his eye, as if sizing him up, and sometimes he mutters to himself. It's somewhat unsettling.
Charles ignores it, though.
(Later, he'll wish he didn't)
It takes almost a month for the first signs of Marcel's insanity to finally manifest themselves.
Charlie, he says (and he knows Charles hates that nickname, but the man never really cared), Charlie, what are your views on pain?
I don't know, sir, he answers honestly. I suppose it's unpleasant, but necessary.
And why do you think it is necessary?
Without pain, we wouldn't be able to tell if we were injured, sir.
Marcel seems somewhat disappointed. You speak of physical pain, though. What about emotional?
At first, he is about to say that the same reasoning applies. But then, he thinks.
He thinks of evenings spent comforting Brigitte as she cried. He thinks of tears flowing down his father's cheeks. He thinks of the hollowness in Alexandre's eyes, the betrayal he felt when Brigitte left, the crushing loneliness he felt for so long.
The suffering he and his family endured, all for nothing.
I suppose emotional pain isn't as necessary, sir, he at last says carefully.
And Marcel smiles, his grin crooked and twisted like a shark's.
It's a few more days before they return to the subject.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to not feel, Charlie?
What do you mean, sir?
To not feel emotions, Charlie. To not be hindered by them.
He considers. Boring, I'd imagine, sir.
Marcel seems surprised. Why do you say that?
Alexandre always said that one of the only things that made life worth living were feelings, sir, he says, wincing slightly at the memory of his father. He said that a life without feeling was an empty life.
There is merit in what he says. And yet look where his feelings brought him, Charlie. His own love for your mother turned him into a husk.
So? He can't help but bristle at the statement, resenting the insult directed at his father-Alexandre.
Marcel, for his part, remains calm. So, wouldn't you prefer not to fall into the same trap?
Marcel took a sip of his wine. One day you'll have a wife and children, Charlie. One day you'll have a family. What if the same thing happens to you that happened to my dear brother? If someone close to you dies and you lose yourself to your grief, you'll condemn your loved ones to the fate of watching as you slowly fade away. Is that what you want?
Then wouldn't it be better to protect yourself against this? If you can't feel, you can't be hurt, yes?
I suppose so…
Marcel took another sip. In addition, you won't have to deal with any further pain. Imagine that, Charlie. You'll be invincible, untouchable. Nobody would be able to hurt you again. No painful lover's spats, no bothersome family feuds. Just peace. Doesn't that sound wonderful?
...Yes, sir. It does.
You know, physical pain can be quite bothersome too.
It's a remark that is totally out of the blue, and it takes Charles a while to respond. Eventually he settles on a polite Really, sir?
Marcel nods. Yes. Physical pain tell you when you're injured, it's true, but it also distracts you. It can cloud your mind and prevent rational thinking. Worse, showing pain will alert others to your weakness.
Charles considers. You can't get rid of pain, though, sir. It will always be there.
Maybe you can't, but you can learn to ignore and hide it. Then it won't be a weakness anymore.
It sounds appealing, but Charles has his doubts. Is that really a good idea, sir?
Why wouldn't it be? Weakness, after all, leads to you and your loved ones being hurt. Alexandre's weakness led to your suffering. Weakness is an evil. To destroy weakness is to ensure safety.
But if it is a good idea, sir, why aren't more people doing it?
Because they're too weak to do so, Charlie. They can't bear the thought of not whining about every little scratch and bruise. But you're not weak, are you?
A few days after this latest conversation, Marcel goes well and truly mad, not that Charles realizes it.
For several months, the two go over strategies for suppressing pain, ignoring pain, hiding pain. Over and over again, Charles has it drilled into his head that pain is nothing more than a weakness that can and must be conquered.
Pain is a weakness. Are you weak, Charlie?
At the tender age of fourteen, Marcel chains him up in the basement, obstinately to "proceed to the next stage of training".
Somehow, Charles doubts that's entirely the case.
What follows are the most hellish years of Charles' life. Every torment that Marcel can possibly conceive is inflicted on him.
When Marcel tires of the knife, he uses the whip. When the whip bores him, he switches to fire. When he's exhausted fire's potential, he exchanges it for his own fists. And when even that fails to amuse him, then he forces a bleeding and agonized Charles to endure long hours of training with all sorts of weapons, from knives to pistols to swords.
Complaints are treated with scorn. Begging with derision. Cries of pain with mockery. Threats with laughter.
And over and over again, the madman asks: Pain is a weakness. Are you weak, Charlie?
No. No, he isn't. And he'll prove it if it kills him.
He is nineteen when he finally escapes from the basement.
It's simple enough to steal some weapons from the armory: a sword, two pistols, and a black-handled dagger decorated with gold. It's even more simple to steal a horse from the stables.
He steadfastly ignores the pain of his injuries as he gathers his stolen cloak around himself, mounts his horse, and canters away without looking back.
He is nineteen, a few days shy of his birthday, as he travels the long road to Paris.
He is nineteen as he is attacked by bandits along the way, and slays them without hesitation, leaving four dead bodies on the road.
He is nineteen as he starts to succumb to fever, and still continues his journey.
He is nineteen as he pushes away the pain of his wounds and the sting of Marcel's betrayal in favor of putting as much distance as possible between himself and Gascony.
He is nineteen as he does what he can to survive.
He is twenty as he finally enters Paris.
A/N: I don't know. I just don't know. Why did I write/post this I swear to god.
The worst part is...I kinda want to continue it. I have a whole storyline in my head where the Inseparables and Constance help put d'Art back together again. I know I should just burn this story and walk away, but...
Oh god, I think I actually want to continue writing this mess.
Someone kill me now.