Note: I've always wanted to do one of these challenges, and the prompts for this were drawing me in. I was mad to even contemplate it though. I just don't have the time :( Still, I've got a couple done, and I've sketched outlines for a few others. I thought it was better to post than not. I make no promises on ever getting these finished (too many other WIPs on the go!).
We're in a modern AU for this first chapter. It's entirely the fault of an incredible video by Muse of Music set to Ólafur Arnalds "Only The Winds". Alas, this site is not link or copy paste friendly, you can find it on Youtube!
I watched it and caught the feels. I highly recommend giving it a watch and catching the feels too. Of course I had to make things a bit more angsty. Enjoy!
It was getting dark. The world was cast in a half light where neither the sun nor moon held sway. Stray smoke drifted over the rooftops from dotted chimneys. It tainted the cold taste of the air. Aramis smiled as he took it in. He had found the perfect gift amongst the rows of rings on display. The jewellery shop had caught his eye when they stopped at the restaurant across the road. And she caught his eye in the reflection of the window.
His breath caught in his throat. She was everything. There was nothing he could say to her beauty, her grace. Words cheapened everything that she was. She was his world. Unfortunately she was wed to a powerful man of means, and Aramis was just a bodyguard. He looked over the trinkets. A small gift, a ring, it would not be noticed. Her husband was inattentive, he didn't see what he had. She was little more than a possession to him, he wouldn't notice. Aramis couldn't fathom such blindness, he was so in love he thought the whole world could see. Athos certainly had, and he warned Aramis off. He didn't want Aramis to guard Anne today, but with Porthos and d'Artagnan away on another job he had nobody else.
So Aramis had followed Anne around as she ran errands. And in the bright sunlight of a crowded city they seemed more a couple than a woman and a man in her employ. Perhaps they had forgotten who they really were. He wouldn't have let his guard down otherwise. He wouldn't have left her and wandered across the street. He had a job to do. This was his job. But it was getting late, he would have to buy the ring before the shop closed. He would be quick.
Aramis gave Anne's reflection one last look before going in. She was watching him. Delicate fingers wrapped around a wine glass. She must have known what he was doing, this wouldn't be a surprise. Maybe he should have come back another day. He was just seized with a need to do this now. While they were still in the moment. While she was…
Two shadows marred the reflection and reached out. Anne shot to her feet. The glass dropped and smashed against the table. Aramis whipped around and everything seemed to slow down, a strange quiet fell. Their eyes met across the road. And suddenly nothing mattered more than getting to each other. Two men grabbed Anne's arms, but she pulled forwards against them, her eyes locked on to Aramis. He stepped out into the road. Water shot up from a puddle he charged through. The drops seemed to take an eternity to fly around him. One arm slipped away from her captor and Anne reached out towards Aramis. Her fingers straining, desperate.
And he knew it was there. It almost seemed like it didn't matter. He saw it out of the corner of his eye. The car. It went into his legs and crumpled around him. The windshield shattered and sprayed a rain of glass. The car bucked upwards, while Aramis was jarred sideways. He closed his eyes and stood firm. But he couldn't bear not to see her, not even for a moment. Shards of glass flew around him, and he looked to her again. The car fell back, forgotten. She slipped free and moved forwards. Both untouched. They reached out amongst sparkling glass. Their hands met, and they came together. Their eyes closed and lips…
Aramis came to with a harsh gasp. A darkened room and the steady beeping told him he was in a hospital. He lay there letting the numbness of grief and medication wash over him. He was alone. Beyond his room was the muffled noise of a nurse going about her rounds, but here there was nothing. Aramis closed his eyes against a tear. It still fell. He clumsily wiped at his face, not taking too much care over the drip in the back of his hand. His eyes cast about the room, but he took none of it in. He just wanted to go back to the place where he had been. The place where they had met in the middle of the road. Aramis wanted to return to the moment he had been snatched away from. His eyes closed and he willed himself back. But there was no gentle touch. There was no meeting of hands. He couldn't go back there. It was lost to him. Something else took its place.
"Anne!" He screamed her name and shot into the road, adrenaline overriding all sense.
Two men held her back by the arms. She cried out for him. And then a knife drew towards Anne's throat. The fear in her eyes, he couldn't bear it. Aramis had to get to her.
And he knew it was there. It almost seemed like it didn't matter. He saw it out of the corner of his eye. The car. It went into his legs and he crashed up over the hood. The windshield shattered under the impact of his body. Pain exploded all through Aramis. As the car came to a screeching halt he rolled back down and hit the road. His cheek grazed the tarmac, but his only thought was for her. His eyes threatened to close against the encroaching darkness, they still sought her out.
"Aramis!" Anne screamed.
And he found her, just in time to see the knife come down.
She was gone.
And he lay alone, broken, in a hospital bed.
His legs were a mess, he knew that much. The rest of him ached fiercely from the impact. He didn't care if he never walked again though. She was gone. There was nothing left to him apart from the fragmented memories of stolen moments.
Aramis' mind searched through them. Between the concussion and the drugs it wasn't that easy, but one shining moment came through - The day they first met. It was a job like any other. Athos and Aramis went along to speak with a new client. "The King" he was known amongst the people. He was a powerful man with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies, and not all of them legitimate. Still, he had the money and they were in desperate need of it. Louis entered the room with his wife on his arm. They sat down and Aramis was instantly enraptured. She looked to Athos, concentrating on what he was saying, but then her eyes flicked to Aramis. A polite gesture, but then she seemed to look at him, really look. And they were lost. The world outside ceased to exist. Time slowed. Conversation flowed on around them, distant and inconsequential. They were the only two people in the room, in the world. The longing, the need to be there right next to her, it was overwhelming. He wanted to reach out to her, but he kept his hands neatly folded in his lap.
The meeting ended. Athos and Louis got to their feet. Aramis and Anne followed suit. The moment shattered. But hands were being shaken, and finally he could touch her. Palm to palm, it was all they were allowed. He would give anything for more. But they broke apart. Athos took his arm and propelled him to the door, Louis offered an arm to Anne. Their eyes lingered over their shoulder as they were torn asunder. The door closed. Aramis could breathe again.
"No." Had been Athos' first word when they got back to the car.
"What?" Athos mocked. "Don't take me for a fool. I know you've got your eye on her and I'm putting my foot down before you even start."
"We've only just met!"
"I can tell! You think I could work with you all these years and remain blind to your way of falling for women left, right and centre."
"This is different."
"As you've said - you've only just met. How can you tell? God, don't answer that. Whatever this is, whatever that was in there. It stops. I'm drawing a line."
"As you wish."
But he was powerless against it. For she was ensnared as he was. This thing between them burnt brightly and if it wasn't acted on it would consume them both. But she was still a married woman and he was a bodyguard in her husband's employ. If they lived different lives, if they were different people, maybe they could have been something.
And ifs were also consuming Aramis. If he hadn't left her to look at the rings, if he hadn't run in front of the car, if he had reached her in time… Maybe she would be here.
The longer he lay there the more his thoughts tortured him.
If he hadn't fallen for her. If he had stayed away.
Maybe his love had killed her.
He stared blankly at the ceiling as nurses flitted in around him. They made adjustments. They spoke. But he wouldn't respond. The doctor came in to talk to him. Aramis heard the words, he just couldn't take them in.
"There'll be more surgery, and extensive physiotherapy. You'll need to learn to walk again at the very least, but I'm hopeful you will walk again. Only time will tell I'm afraid."
It didn't matter. He didn't care.
"Oh, I'll check on you later, you've got a visitor."
Still he stared at the ceiling through blurred eyes. He didn't want to see anybody.
There was the squeak of a wheelchair and then a soft voice.
A gentle touch met his hand, and finally he canted his head to one side.
He wondered if it was his mind doing this. Was he twisting reality to make everything alright again? Just as he stood firm while a car crumpled around his body. Was this the impossible?
She squeezed his hand and met his eyes with a look that pulled at his very being.