DISCLAIMER:- I do not own The Musketeers or its characters and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N:- As promised, I'm venturing back into the modern Musketeers realm with the second story in my "Alpha One" series. As the series is AU, you may find it a little difficult to follow if you haven't first read "The Musketeers – Alpha One." This story starts with our Musketeers in the middle of an ongoing crime investigation, therefore, there's a semi-lengthy narrative to bring you up-to-date. Hopefully, it's not too tedious.
Although I've brought these much-loved characters several centuries from where Alexandre Dumas intended, I hope you will still feel the camaraderie, brotherhood, duty and courage that Dumas instilled in them. It is unbeta'd and all mistakes are mine.
I would love to tell you that this story is complete and will be updated regularly but, sadly, that's not the case. As you will probably notice, I'm really struggling with my writing post chemo, and I'm desperately hoping for your tolerance as I work my way through the quagmire that was once my brain. Though I can't guarantee a timely completion to the story, I will guarantee a completion.
Betrayal Never Comes from Your Enemies
Story Two of my "Alpha One" series
Without so much as a glance at the magnificent interior of the Élysée Palace, Treville strode purposefully toward the security station at the far end of the ornate entrance hall. The MASCAT commander was instantly recognised by the ranking Élysée Guard who gave a curt nod and waved Treville through the gate marked "Strictly No Admittance."
Ignoring the protests from his aging knees, Treville climbed the grandiose staircase to the first floor and proceeded down the corridor toward the Salon Doré. He glanced at his watch and huffed in irritation – he was nearly twenty minutes late for his meeting with President Bourbon and the Minister for the Interior, Armand Richelieu.
Though he had no evidence to confirm it, Treville was certain that his long-time adversary, Minister Richelieu, was responsible for the "administrative oversight" that had neglected to inform him of this meeting until five minutes after it was scheduled to begin.
The dash through the heavy Parisian traffic left him frustrated and short-tempered and he battled to suppress his irritation, knowing that Richelieu would take great delight in his lack of composure.
Entering the outer office, Treville paused to greet the president's secretary. Claudette LeBlanc was an attractive red-head in her mid-forties who ran the president's office like a Swiss watch and guarded his schedule like a lioness would her cub. It was Claudette who had mentored and recommended Constance Bonacieux when the captain was in need of a highly efficient personal assistant.
"Good afternoon, Madame Le Blanc," Treville greeted.
"You are eighteen minutes late, Captain," she censored without looking up from her keyboard.
"My apologies, Madame. I was informed of this meeting only a short time ago."
Stopping her typing, she turned to him and raised a beautifully shaped eyebrow.
"Then you are indeed fortunate that there was a rare departure from the president's schedule while he attended to some important correspondence. Had you arrived as scheduled, as Minister Richelieu did, you would have been forced to wait seventeen minutes."
Treville huffed a laugh realising the change in the president's schedule could only have been brought about by his exceptionally capable secretary, more than likely following a discussion with Constance. Barely suppressing his mirth, he reached for Claudette's hand.
"You are as guileful as you are beautiful, Madame," the captain grinned as he placed a chaste kiss on her knuckles.
"Your roguish charm is wasted on me, Captain Treville," she returned with a twitch of her perfectly painted lips. "Now get along with you, the president is waiting."
The captain nodded his thanks and walked to the door of the president's private study. Taking a deep breath, he knocked firmly on the door before entering. President Bourbon was seated at the head of a large oaken conference table, Minister Richelieu seated to his right. The minister's eyes flashed with surprise and then irritation at Treville's unexpected arrival.
"Good afternoon, Mr President," Treville said as he closed the door behind him. "My apologies for my tardiness, I was across town when I was informed of this meeting."
Before the president could form a reply, Richelieu responded.
"We are all busy men, Treville, however, some of us managed to arrive on time," he remarked with a spurious smile.
"Your reputation for punctuality is well earned, Minister," Treville acknowledged with a nod of his head. "I'm quite certain the heavy elevator traffic from your office on the second floor, made for a frustrating and exhausting journey."
Traditionally, the office of the Minister for the Interior had always been located at the Place Beauvau. However, when President Bourbon was elected, Richelieu wasted no time in convincing him that it would be of far greater value if his office was close at hand. The president readily agreed, raising the eyebrows of many cabinet members who believed the arrangement to be both self-serving and an attempt by Richelieu to unduly influence the inexperienced president. It was still a topic of great conjecture and Treville rarely missed an opportunity to poke the bear.
The president sighed audibly and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Whilst he often grew weary of the frosty relationship between the two men, they were his most trusted advisors and a healthy rivalry between Richelieu's highly respected Gendarmerie and Treville's elite Musketeers kept both men on their game.
"Gentlemen, please, we've a lot to discuss," the president said. "Captain Treville, what is the status of your investigation into the Algerian gun-smuggling case? Are you any closer to making an arrest?"
Treville took his seat on the president's left. Taking a deep breath, he cast his mind back over the details of the case in question.
Four months ago, a munitions factory located outside of Avignon was targeted in a military-style strike and a huge stockpile of fully automatic weapons and ammunition was taken. The operation was slick and well-planned – a team of just ten men and not a trace of evidence left behind. The operation could not have succeeded without the assistance of two "inside men" – security guards employed at the factory. Twelve hours later, both security guards were found dead at their homes with their throats cut.
Despite an intensive investigation, Minister Richelieu's National Police and the Group d'intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale had yet to make any arrests in relation to the heist.
Three weeks ago, acting on an anonymous tip from Interpol, the Algerian Maritime Police had intercepted a large consignment of automatic weapons being shipped from Marseille Fos Port to the Port of Algiers. The weapons were traced back to the same munitions factory in Avignon and were bound for rebel coalitions in the Central African Republic. Worse still, they were to be used against French and UN peace-keeping forces.
Over-eager Algerian law enforcement agencies had quickly moved in to confiscate the weapons, rather than waiting for someone to arrive to at the docks to collect them, however, they had detained an Algerian Customs Officer, Farid Nazzar, and charged him with conspiracy to illegally import automatic weapons.
Facing a lengthy stay in an Algerian maximum-security prison, Nazzar had agreed to tell all he knew of the gun-smuggling operation in exchange for a more lenient sentence. But – much to Minister Richelieu's irritation - Nazzar insisted he would only divulge this information to France's finest – MASCAT.
Treville's premier team was two men down. Alpha One's previous assignment had resulted in d'Artagnan and Aramis both requiring surgery. While the two younger men continued their convalescence, Athos and Porthos travelled to Algiers to speak with Nazzar.
Upon their arrival, they had learned that their witness had been found in his isolation cell with his throat cut. With the Algerian government and prison officials in full "cover-up" mode, the Musketeers flew back to Marseille to continue their investigation on French soil.
Hooking up a video conference call to Treville at the Garrison, Athos and Porthos were not surprised to find their younger teammates had cut short their med-leave and were back at their desks - albeit on restricted duties.
They turned their attention to the Marseille Fos Port - questioning and quickly eliminating the owner of the shipping container of any involvement. Then, sourcing a list of customs officers and dockyard employees working from wharf 22 on the day the container was shipped, they set to work.
With Porthos and Athos conducting face to face interviews, Aramis and d'Artagnan had been assigned the arduous task of running background checks and sorting through the banking records of everyone on the list.
The investigation gained momentum when Aramis found three payments of 5,000 euros paid into the account of French Customs Officer, Patric Vasseur. The payments matched those paid to his Algerian counterpart, Nazzar, which led the Musketeers to believe that Vasseur had been paid to oversee the loading of the weapons in France while Nazzar had been paid to arrange the unloading in Algeria.
With their first real lead in 10 days, Porthos and Athos had set off to locate Patric Vasseur, but found his home unoccupied, a build-up of mail in the letterbox and the lawn in need of mowing.
Working tirelessly to trace the source of the funds paid to Vasseur and Nazzar, d'Artagnan found they had been electronically re-routed multiple times via numerous bogus international IP addresses and throwing up complex firewalls and anti-detection viruses. However, the Musketeers were all puzzled when the Gascon found that Vasseur had immediately transferred the three payments directly to the Hôpital Institut Curie in Paris.
Following the money trail, Porthos and Athos returned to Paris and, soon after, found themselves standing in the children's oncology ward at the Hôpital Institut Curie where Vasseur's six-year-old son, Luc, was receiving treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. While there was no sign of Vasseur, his distraught wife was by their son's side.
Kamille Vasseur was an attractive young woman with the tormented and haunted expression of a mother forced to watch helplessly as her child battled a serious illness. The blankets and pillows piled on the nearby recliner chair left no doubt that she had been sleeping at the hospital for days, perhaps weeks.
Porthos' large heart almost broke at the sight of the boy, lying pale and listless and wearing an expression of defeat and resignation that should never be seen on the face of a child. Kamille leaned over to kiss the boy's bald head and whispered reassuringly to him before politely ushering the Musketeers into the corridor.
Quickly finger-combing her hair and squaring her shoulders, the young woman rallied her strength in defence of her husband. With red-rimmed eyes, she determinedly met their gaze and explained that Patric had been approached by a man when he'd been at his most vulnerable and desperately in need of money for life-saving treatments for their boy.
She assured the Musketeers that, until the final shipment was loaded, Patric had been completely unaware they were shipping weapons. Once the payment to the hospital had been made and the treatment had commenced, Vasseur had made the call to Interpol and had gone to ground, fearing that the cartel would learn of his deception and seek retribution.
"He left you 'ere at the hospital?" Porthos had asked.
"Patric left to protect us!" she replied staunchly. "He said we'd be safe here. That they were after him, not us."
Athos and Porthos exchanged a glance, remembering that Nazzar had been murdered in an isolation cell in an Algerian prison. Whoever was running this operation had a long reach. Vasseur's family was his Achilles heel and his naivety had placed them in great danger.
Kamille swore that she did not know her husband's whereabouts. They had no friends or relatives in Paris - no one who would offer lodging to the family. MASCAT had monitored Kamille's phone in the hope of tracing her husband's calls but Patric contacted her sporadically, each time using a public phone from various locations throughout the Paris Metro.
Treville had assigned around the clock protection for Vasseur's family while Athos and Porthos attempted to win Kamille's trust and convince her that it was in her husband's best interest to turn himself in and pledging to do whatever they could to ensure Patric received leniency from the justice system.
Richelieu snorted as his intelligent eyes moved from Treville to President Bourbon.
"Mr President, it is evident that, after three long weeks, Treville and his…Musketeers, have done little more than hand-holding and are clearly no closer to shutting down this operation," he stated. "Might I strongly suggest that you reassign this case back to my authority? My Group d'intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale will expedite a resolution and see that these men are swiftly brought to justice?"
Treville's lips quirked in a humourless smile.
"Perhaps the Minister has forgotten that the GIGN had worked this case for three months before MASCAT's involvement. Remind me again, Minister, how many arrests were made?" the captain asked. "Furthermore, had it not been for Vasseur contacting Interpol himself, we may never have been aware that these shipments were happening right under the noses of the French Custom Services and the Maritime Gendarmerie. These agencies also fall under Minister Richelieu's purview, do they not?"
With his perfectly manicured hands steepled on the table before him, the president considered his senior advisors. This was not the first time they had raised opposing opinions and Louis was quite certain that it would not be the last. He cleared his throat quietly before replying.
"Whilst I agree that the expeditious resolution of this matter is paramount, Treville is quite right. This situation happened on your watch, Armand, and we must, in fairness, allow MASCAT time to work," he said, ignoring the flush of colour that rushed to the older man's face.
"Captain Treville, how confident are you that your men can find Vasseur and that he will cooperate?"
"Mr President, by all reports, Patric Vasseur is a good man caught up in a very difficult situation," he said. "He acted out of fear and desparation for his seriously ill child. My men remain certain that they will find him and convince him to work with them to shut down the operation."
The president pursed his lips before nodding his head.
"Very well," he said. "But if we do not have a resolution by the end of next week, I'm afraid I will have no choice but to reassign the case back to Minister Richelieu."
"That will not be necessary, Sir," Treville said, hoping he was right. "I have my premier team on it. They will not let us down."
Aramis' vision momentarily whited out as he landed hard on the broad of his back. His chest heaved as he desperately tried to draw breath into his oxygen-starved lungs. He sensed, rather than saw, the menacing approach of his attacker and just managed to roll out of the way before the larger man dropped his entire weight onto the now vacant space. Regaining his feet with none of his usual grace, Aramis staggered a few steps and groaned internally as the larger man leapt to his feet. The aggressor was deceptively agile for a man of his size and determined not to allow the marksman any respite.
"Come on, Powder Puff," he said with an infuriating smirk. "Is that all you got?"
Knowing he couldn't match the man's bulk or strength, Aramis utilized his speed. Ignoring the painful protest of his left thigh, he feigned a move to the left but quickly moved to his right; successfully wrong-footing his attacker long enough to get behind him. Jumping on the other man's back, he wrapped his right arm around the man's throat in a stranglehold as his attacker thrashed beneath him.
The larger man bellowed like a wounded bull, thrashing wildly to break Aramis' desperate grip. Then, unexpectedly, the man threw back his head – his skull colliding sickeningly with the marksman's face. There was an explosion of pain as Aramis' vision grew dangerously dim. Without missing a beat, the larger man leaned forward to gain momentum, before launching himself backward - his considerable bulk landing heavily and effectively pinning the smaller man beneath him. This time, Aramis didn't move.
Watching from the bleachers a few yards away, d'Artagnan and Athos winced in sympathy of the marksman's predicament.
"Porthos," Athos drawled. "He is not yet cleared for active duty. Damage him further and you will answer to Treville."
"And don't forget the PSG game starts in two hours," the Gascon added. "If he has to watch it from a hospital bed, he'll never forgive you."
Porthos rolled off his friend and climbed to his feet. He offered his hand and assisted Aramis upright, holding on for a moment until the younger man had regained his equilibrium. The marksman swiped his arm across his face, staining the sleeve with the blood flowing freely from his nose.
"You alright?" Porthos asked, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder.
"I'm fine," Aramis replied, shrugging off the gesture. "Do you need to hit so hard?"
"Yeah, sorry 'bout that," Porthos grinned unrepentantly as he handed the marksman a towel.
Aramis scoffed, holding the towel to his nose to stem the bleeding.
"Your apology would appear more sincere if you didn't look quite so pleased with yourself."
The larger man chuckled amiably.
"You know, I've 'eard that some nosebleeds can last for days," Porthos said, stroking his beard thoughtfully. "Be a shame if I 'ad to give those VIP tickets to someone else."
"You wouldn't," Aramis replied with mock indignation. "They were a gift for my birthday, were they not?"
"Well, sure," Porthos shrugged. "But look at all that blood. Can't 'ave you faintin' on me…"
"There's a med kit in the locker room," Aramis told him as he turned on his heel and headed for the facilities. "I'll attend to this and be right back."
Porthos was joined by Athos and d'Artagnan. They watched as the marksman walked toward the locker room; altering his gait in an effort to conceal the fact he was still favouring his left leg.
"What do you think?" Athos asked. "Is he ready to return to active duty?"
"Nah," Porthos said with a shake of his head. "At least another week, maybe two."
"I concur," the lead agent replied. "Although he'll argue to the contrary, he needs more time."
"With all due respect, that hardly seems fair," d'Artagnan said. "If beating Porthos at hand to hand was a requirement for active duty status, we'd be a regiment of one."
"Which is why Aramis' performance was gauged not on whether he beat Porthos but on how he attempted to beat Porthos," Athos explained.
"I gave 'im several opportunities to get the upper 'and," Porthos said. "A fully fit Aramis would've tried to knock my block off…today, he didn't engage. He aint ready."
"He's not going to like it," the Gascon remarked. "He's been complaining of boredom for weeks."
"He has no choice," Athos replied. "Nor will you when you complete your own fitness evaluation next week."
The younger man's hand unconsciously moved to his right hip, near the site of the newly healed appendix scar. He gulped audibly as his eyes met Porthos' predatory stare.
"More fresh meet," the larger man grinned ominously.
A voice called out from across the other side of the gymnasium.
"Some things never change."
Porthos' eyes darted toward the entrance where two men were leaning against the wall watching the proceedings with interest. His face lit up with a wide grin.
"In the flesh," the man smiled.
The two men strode quickly toward each other - their handshake transforming into a backslapping embrace.
"Why didn't you tell me you were in Paris?" Porthos asked. "What are you doing 'ere?"
"For the last ten minutes, I've been watching you do your thing on the mats."
Rémi Fontaine, a member of Alpha Two, had escorted Charon into the secure building and now stood awkwardly nearby. He cleared his voice to speak.
"I take it you know him, Porthos," Fontaine said.
"Know 'im," Porthos replied. "We grew up together…as brothers."
"Then I'll leave him with you and return to duty."
"Yeah, thanks, Rémi," the former Marine replied before addressing his old friend. "Why didn't you tell me you were comin'?"
"A good operative never gives up the element of surprise," Charon laughed.
"As strong-willed and independent as ever," Charon replied.
"Did she make the trip with you?"
"No. The trip came up suddenly and she wasn't able to get away."
"Next time then, yeah?" Porthos said. "Come…meet my friends."
Porthos slung an arm around Charon's shoulders and led him to where Athos and d'Artagnan were watching the reunion take place. Still grinning from ear to ear, Porthos performed the introductions.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Athos said with a customary nod of his head as he shook the man's hand. "Porthos speaks of you in the highest terms."
"It's good to finally put a face to the legend of Charon," d'Artagnan teased his large friend as he, too, shook the visitor's hand.
With a bloodied towel draped around his neck, Aramis walked from the locker room.
"You see? The nosebleed has been taken care of and now there is nothing to keep us from-" the marksman stopped abruptly when he noticed the stranger standing among them. "My apologies," he said with a quick nod of his head. "I didn't realise we had company."
"Charon," Porthos said. "I'd like you to meet-"
"Powder Puff, is it?" Charon grinned.
Porthos snorted a laugh which he extinguished quickly when he found himself on the receiving end of the marksman's glare.
"Only to that big lug," the younger man replied with a grin. "I usually go by Aramis." He extended his hand in greeting then awkwardly dropped it by his side when Charon didn't acknowledge it.
"Porthos didn't mention that you were in Paris," Athos remarked.
"I flew in from Africa this afternoon and thought I'd surprise him," Charon explained. "Might have known I'd find him putting the recruits through their paces."
Aramis' eyes lost their natural warmth and he felt the muscles in his jaw tightening.
"Aramis is no recruit," Porthos defended. "He was one of the agency's first commissioned Musketeers."
"I meant no offense," Charon told Aramis. "My observation was based purely on your performance on the mat."
Aramis replied with a smile that looked more like a grimace.
"Well, we all know how easy it is to call the play from the bleachers," he replied with forced-politeness.
"Charon's one of the best exponents of hand to hand I've ever known," Porthos enthused. "He really used to put me through my paces."
"Of course he did," Aramis muttered under his breath.
"You don't mean…" d'Artagnan's eyes shifted excitedly between Porthos and Charon. "You actually beat Porthos at hand to hand?"
"Once or twice," he replied nonchalantly.
"He's bein' modest," Porthos told them. "Charon taught me everything I know."
"Then before you leave Paris, you must share your secrets," Athos said. "Porthos has been crushing Musketeers and cadets into the mats like grapes for far too long."
"And enjoying every moment of it, I'm sure," Charon laughed, clapping his friend on the back before returning his attention to Aramis. "I must say, I expected a much higher skill-level from the infamous Musketeers."
Aramis felt his stomach clench and a rush of heat coloured his cheeks as he tilted his chin defensively. Sensing the marksman's growing irritation, Athos placed a calming hand on the younger man's arm and turned to Charon.
"Aramis was recently badly injured," he explained. "That bout was part of his fitness evaluation."
"Let me guess," Charon said, eyeing Aramis appraisingly. "The injury was to his upper left thigh…if I had to guess, I'd say the flexor muscle…either a knife or a gunshot wound."
"You could tell that from watching?" d'Artagnan asked.
"Of course. Whenever he circled Porthos, he did so from the right to protect his left and weaker side. Porthos offered him several opportunities to sweep with his left leg and he refused them all. And towards the end of the bout he reached his hand to his left thigh several times; no doubt trying to massage his cramping muscles."
Aramis bit down on the stern words that were trying desperately to escape and plastered a fake smile on his face.
"Well, fortunately for me, you aren't the one signing off on my evaluation."
Athos cleared his throat quietly.
"Nevertheless, Charon's observations are accurate," he said.
The marksman turned his pleading eyes to his lead agent.
"You're not serious."
"Another week," Athos told him.
"No arguments. You are not yet ready for active duty and you know it. We will schedule another evaluation in a week. Until then, you will continue your physiotherapy and restricted duties."
Aramis gave a curt nod in response and averted his eyes. He straightened his spine when d'Artagnan threw a companionable arm around his shoulders.
"We've already endured three weeks at home and two weeks of desk duty, what's another week?" the younger man said hoping to lighten the mood. "Besides, in a few hours you'll be enjoying watching your beloved Les Rouge-et-Bleu. You won't give work a second thought."
Aramis sighed in resignation.
"You're right, of course," he conceded, quashing his disappointment and offering a strained grin. "It is but another seven days."
Nodding his head at Aramis' apparent acceptance, Porthos turned back to his childhood friend.
"How long will you be in town?" he asked Charon.
"A few days. I have some meetings and appointments. I was hoping we could have dinner."
"I know its short notice but I find myself in need of your counsel."
"I already 'ave plans with Aramis tonight," Porthos explained. "We're going to the PSG game at Parc des Princes."
Charon sighed audibly.
"I know I should have called first but…I just wanted to surprise my closest friend," he said before turning hopeful eyes to Aramis. "Surely you wouldn't begrudge two old friends reacquainting tonight. After all, it's just a game of football, right?"
Once again, Aramis found himself uncommonly irritated.
"The decision is not mine to make," he replied, the smile on his face contrasting with the hardness in his eyes. "How Porthos chooses to spend his time is entirely up to him."
"Porthos?" Charon said. "What do you say? Dinner with an old friend or greasy galette-saucisses at some football match?"
Porthos looked decidedly uncomfortable. He cast his mind back several weeks, to Aramis' birthday. Despite hours of gruelling physio sessions, the marksman's recovery was not progressing as quickly as he would have liked - he was frustrated and in more pain than he was letting on. Knowing his younger friend was a die-hard PSG fan, Porthos had tried to get tickets to an upcoming game but found it was a complete sell out. Unperturbed, he contacted Jacques Moreau, the Parisian millionaire stock-broker whose son, Julien, had been kidnapped and then safely returned home by Alpha One during their previous case. Moreau's company was a major sponsor of the Paris St Germaine Football Club and Porthos had asked the man if he could arrange a couple of tickets for the marksman's upcoming birthday. The former Marine had been gobsmacked when two VIP tickets arrived the following day. Aramis had been thrilled; he threw himself into his physio with renewed vigour and, as the game approached, it had been all the marksman had spoken about.
Porthos' dark eyes then flicked to Charon – the man he'd known since he was five years old. They'd grown up together - even joined the Marines together. For many years, Charon was the closest thing to family that Porthos had. Though he hadn't seen the older man in over four years, Charon was in need of Porthos' advice and the former Marine felt compelled to help in any way he could.
Sensing the larger Musketeer's conflict, Aramis sighed; although Charon had quickly got under his skin, he couldn't, in good conscience, force Porthos to choose between them. Carding his fingers though his sweaty hair, he conjured up a smile for his friend.
"It's fine, Porthos," he said. "Perhaps d'Artagnan would care to accompany me to the game in your stead?"
D'Artagnan's eyes widened in disbelief.
"Are you serious? I'd love to go…but…are you sure you wouldn't rather take Athos?"
Aramis and Porthos exchanged a sly grin and d'Artagnan's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"What am I missing?" he asked.
Athos placed his hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Whilst I'm grateful for your generosity," the lead agent told him. "You should know that the level of enjoyment I derive from attending a sporting fixture is equalled only by the level of enjoyment I derive from having root canal."
Surprised by Athos' statement, d'Artagnan turned wide eyes to Porthos who nodded in confirmation.
"Then d'Artagnan and I will attend the game while you and Charon…catch up," Aramis said.
Porthos met the younger man's gaze.
"You're sure you don't mind?" he said. "This was supposed to be your birthday celebration and all."
"As Charon has already pointed out, there will be other football games...and other birthdays."
"I'm gonna make this up to you, yeah?" the former Marine told him.
"There is no need," Aramis insisted. "Go; enjoy. We will see you for breakfast tomorrow."
"Oh, wait," Porthos said reaching for his wallet. "I promised young Luc Vasseur that I'd bring him a PSG beanie. Turns out he's a fan, too. Don't suppose you'd mind-"
"Put your money away," Aramis told him. "It would be our pleasure."
"Then that's settled," Charon said before Porthos could change his mind. "I have a suite booked at Le Meurice. I'll go check in and make a reservation for dinner in the restaurant downstairs."
"Le Meurice? The security consultancy business must be thrivin'," he chuckled.
"I made Junior VP a few months back," the older man grinned.
"What? You never told me!"
"I wanted to make sure it was working out before I made it known."
Porthos met the other man's gaze.
"I'm so proud of you, brother," he told him with a voice thick with emotion. "Tell you what…cancel the booking and come stay at my place."
"I wouldn't want to impose."
"Don't be daft. My guestroom isn't as flash as a suite at Le Meurice but it's big and it's clean and as long as you don't expect breakfast in bed, we'll be fine," he said turning to Athos. "We finished for the day?"
"I have a meeting with Treville but the rest of you are free to go," Athos replied.
"You 'eard the man," Porthos said to Charon. "I'll grab my bag and we'll leave right now."
Both men took several steps toward the exit before Porthos stopped and turned back.
"Eh? You keep your eye on 'im, yeah? Keep 'im outta trouble."
D'Artagnan huffed a loud sigh and crossed his arms over his chest indignantly.
"Just so you know…this over-protective, big-brother thing you all have going on is touching but totally unnecessary. I may be relatively new to Paris but I am over twenty-one and quite capable of attending a football game without Aramis having to watch over me."
His three teammates stood silently for a moment until Athos cleared his throat.
"I believe Porthos was suggesting that you should watch over Aramis," he stated flatly.
D'Artagnan looked stunned as he turned to Porthos who nodded his head emphatically.
"Last time 'Mis went to a game without me, he started a ruckus with opposin' fans and spent the night in a holding cell. I thought Treville was gonna 'ave his 'ead."
"You're kidding?" d'Artagnan uttered.
Aramis stepped forward, placing both hands on the younger man's shoulders.
"Do not listen to them, my young friend. They both have a propensity for false truths and elaborate exaggeration."
"So…none of that happened?" d'Artagnan asked.
"Oh no, it happened," the marksman replied. "But, for the record, I did not spend the night in a holding cell…it was only four hours."
"And the fight?" the Gascon asked.
Aramis placed both hands over his heart.
"On my honour, I did not start that affray," he replied with a mischievous smile and a casual shrug. "I merely ended it."
Porthos shook his head and chuckled.
"Like I said…keep an eye on 'im and keep 'im outta trouble," he told the Gascon before pointing a finger at Aramis. "And you…be'ave yourself and enjoy the game, yeah?"
"I have VIP tickets and d'Artagnan by my side…how could I not?" Aramis replied.
As they said their goodbyes, Aramis felt an inexplicable stirring in his gut as he watched his best friend leave the gym with Charon by his side.
A/N: I dearly hope that all made sense. If I've left you totally confused, feel free to PM me. Thank you, so much for taking the time to read it. Gabby