1 - Good Company

I glanced out of the window as the carriage under me swept past the beautiful scenery that was France. I hadn't been in years, and it seemed to me that even the sweet scents in the air were different from my home in Spain. I swore I caught a bit of a bird's tune as I leaned back in the darkness of the carriage and closed my eyes, taking in the vaguely familiar surroundings. Sunset was fast approaching and everything was adopting a lovely golden glow. Streams of perfectly orange light streamed through the window beside me, interrupted only by the occasional tree branch hovering above.

My uncle Athos' house was many days away, but my journey was drawing to a close, so I had only one more short day of this familiar process. I wasn't too sure if I was happy at that thought or not. I had always loved traveling, even if carriages would get stuffy and nights would get cold.

Of course, one more day of traveling also meant mere hours until I arrived at the home of my uncle. I hadn't been in his company in a little over a year and a half, and I hadn't visited his home in France in about seven years.

My God... Had it really been that long?

I looked out the window of my carriage yet again. We were getting close, I could tell. I was beginning to recognize more and more things as we passed by briskly.

Suddenly, I heard the horses neigh as the carriage came to an abrupt stop. I furrowed my eyebrows and leaned a bit out the window. What in the world...

And then a knife was in my face, though the hand that held it was shaking.

'Get out of the carriage, and give me your jewels.' The man whispered hoarsely.

Jewels? He had to be joking.

'I have precious little, sir.' I said softly, trying not to anger the man.

'Precious little is better than none at all.' He replied, his voice slowly gaining confidence. He stood a bit to the right so I could see his face. He was young, but his features held more maturity than they should have. He had shoulder length blonde hair and a scraggly goatee that barely clung to his chin. Emerald green eyes shone out with a touch of malice, and yet, there was some innocence. A degree of inexperience.

I nodded slowly and thought back on what I had packed, hoping to be quickly reminded of something I could use as a weapon resting within the luggage that sat comfortably on the seats across from me. As I thought, something caught my eye. In the distance, behind the man with the knife, something had moved. It was brief, but I had seen it.

My eyes darted around the landscape. It was a narrow road, surrounded by trees and brush. In short, it was a perfect place for a rogue to rob a carriage.

I sighed and climbed out of the carriage slowly. As I emerged I saw another man holding a pistol to my driver's left temple. And behind him...

Something moved again, this time coming into the light. Two young men snuck out of the brush with rocks in their hands, one directly behind the other. The one leading had reddish-brown hair that barely brushed his shoulder blades while his deep brown eyes glowed with the heroism of the whole situation. I would have sworn that I recognized that heroic gleam...

The man behind him had short, dark brown hair and shining blue eyes. He didn't seem as excited as his companion by far, but there was a slightly valiant air about him.

The young man in front pressed his forefinger to his lips gently in a gesture for me to hold my tongue. Swiftly, and before any damage could be done, they came up behind the rogues and knocked them over the heads, sending them sprawling onto the floor.

'Are you alright, lady?' The first young man asked after checking that he hadn't killed the blonde rogue.

'Yes, thanks to you.' I said, breathing a sigh of relief.

'We are happy to be of service.' The second replied with a dramatic bow, making me laugh softly.

'I am Raoul, this is Luc.'

'Raoul?' I asked, my eyes widening. Of course I recognized him...

'Yes... What is it?' Raoul replied, his eyebrows furrowing.

'I am Marie.' I said, a smile escaping my lips.

'Marie?' Raoul exclaimed, a look of surprised overcoming his features.

I looked back at the man Raoul called Luc. His face had a bewildered expression painted on it.

'Luc! This is my cousin, Marie.' Raoul called, waving Luc over.

'The one that has come to stay with you and your father?'

'The very same. Good Lord, you have changed!' Raoul stated, giving me a quick embrace and then looking me over.

'For the better I hope.' I said, giving him a playfully scolding glance.

'Oh, of course. Every bit.'

'Good.' I stated finally, lifting my chin a little, 'Would you like to ride to your home with me? I'm sure it's better than walking all the way back, and it's really the least I can do.'

'Yes, I would, actually. Luc?'

Luc only nodded in response, showing his obvious approval.

Within less than twenty minutes we had arrived. The house was just as I had remembered it, right down to the color of the shutters and the flowers planted in the small garden out front.

'Go on ahead,' I heard Raoul say, 'We'll bring in your bags.'

'Thank you.' I said, after a soft nod.

I walked up to the front door of the house and knocked quickly, waiting for the door to open. After a few moments passed, that's exactly what it did, and I was greeted with the ever cheerful face of my uncle, Athos.

'Marie!' Athos exclaimed happily, bringing me into a warm embrace.

'How is France, uncle?' I asked when I pulled back to look at him, a large smile spread over my face.

'Ever happier now that you have come,' He replied, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear, 'And how is my dear sister, Joslyn?'

'In good health, as always.'

'That is excellent news! Come, I have a small surprise for you.' Athos said, leading me away from the still open door as Raoul and Luc brought in my bags.

'Oh, you didn't have to do that.' I said, linking my arm with his. To this he replied with a soft laugh.

'I don't think I could have avoided it.'

As I turned into the next room, the small dining room, I saw three familiar faces. My uncle's closest friends, and fellow Musketeers, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan.

'Dear friends!' I greeted warmly. Although I hadn't seen them in years, they still had a special place in my heart.

'Marie, how nice to see you again! It has been too long.' D'Artagnan stated, coming up to me and taking hold of one of my hands.

'I don't think I could agree with you any more if I tried, D'Artagnan.' I said as Athos let go of my arm. My uncle was not the only one that wanted to catch up, and he did have the most time to do so.

'Ah, Marie, the only name that will always trap my heart.' Porthos said dramatically, placing his right hand over his heart as he took a bounding step forward.

'You think my name that pleasing, Porthos?' I asked, holding back a laugh.

'I always have, my dear. A name fitting to it's owner.'

I couldn't hold back my laughter any longer, and allowed myself a lapse of control before responding.

'It's very amusing that you say that, considering the fact that my name means 'bitter'.' I said, smiling up at Porthos and earning a slight laugh from Aramis, who had taken a few steps forward. But Porthos hadn't been caught off his guard.

'It is amusing, because I have yet to know one whose presence is sweeter to me than yours.' He stated, grasping my hand and placing a soft kiss on my knuckles.

'Porthos, you have not changed one bit.' I said, laughing whole-heartedly now.

'Nor will he ever.' Aramis threw in, walking up to me and embracing me gently.

'Ah, Aramis. How good it is to see you again. How good it is to see you all.' I said, not able to wipe the smile from my face. I had always found good company in these good and dear friends of my uncle's, even when I was a child, but now that I had matured I appreciated it all the better.

A/N: Another fic. How unbelievably shocking. Note the heavy sarcasm. Anywho, this is AU for a couple of reasons... First of all being that since this starts out about four and a half years before the events of the film, I'm writing that Aramis is still a Musketeer, in which case he wouldn't be a man of the cloth. From what I understand he bounced around a lot between the two professions. (I really wouldn't know, I've never read any books concerning the character. I'm just going by what I've heard)

Also, this fic goes from four and a half years before the film to the end of the film and possibly further, so it covers quite a bit of time. But here inlies a hitch. If this is an Aramis fic, where he falls in love before he becomes a priest (yet again), he wouldn't be the General of the Jesuits. I ran a web search, and apparently the Order of Jesuits was a group made totally of priests. See? I told you there was a hitch... So, drumroll, here's where the magic of AU-ness works it's power.

I have replaced the Jesuits in the plotline with another rebel group. Thankfully, this one's completely fictional, so I can mess with it if needed. It's called La Societe qui oppose l'ogre roi. La Societe for short. It means 'The Society who oppose the ogre king,' apparently... The rest of the plot should tie in nicely to the film, hopefully. So, just clearing that up for future reference. Anyway, now that I've finished the longest Author's Note in history, I'll just send out extremely grateful shout-outs to Nerds and Rio, who helped me come up with major chunks of the plot. Hola, guys! Cookies to thee! Anywho, please R&R and have a loverly day.