A/N This author's note will be pretty long, so please bear with me. First, this story, as "Have I threatened you before?", has been written for the challenge on the 3M discussion forum. The idea was to randomly pick a word from the dictionary and write a story centering around. The first word I picked was conflict, the second hammerhead and the third influenza. Seeing as all things I wrote regarding "conflict" appeared shallow in my point of view, I decided to turn my attention to the third word.
Now, regarding this story: although they were not massive pandemics, in the first half of the 17th century France was hit by both plague and influenza epidemics, followed by a massive outbreak of plague in 1668. I was unable to find out what kind of influenza broke out at that time and I feel that it does not truly matter. Seeing as I was not accustomed to the treatment of this disease in the 17th century I asked my mother who studied History of Medicine in College and she gave me the treatments mentioned in this story. My father was more cynical and said death was the only remedy. As far as the last treatment goes, it is something that has been used on my grandfather's brother, in his childhood, by his mother when he was suffering from a harsh case of flu. I have no idea whether that particular treatment was used in France in the 17th century, but seeing as it was a common practice in the 19th and 20th century, I feel that it may had been used then as well.
Disclaimer: All recognizable things belong to Dumas and Maquet.
The epidemic had broken when no one expected it to… the country had just started recovering from the first bout of plague when this new disaster struck. Doctors called it influenza… they said there was no real cure and that everything depended on the patient. The first sings were the chills that ranked the bodies of those infected. Even the warmest room was not warm enough and there was no such thing as a warm enough room in Paris. The fever came next, coupled with coughs, headaches and body pains. Everything hurt… the joints, the throat, the eyes… in the end abdominal pains settled in. There was no escaping it… if the first symptoms settled in the only thing that you could do was pray to the Lord to survive it.
They never expected one of them to fall victim, especially during one of the few times when they were separated. Planchet had left to the countryside in order to help his family take care of their ill mother, while Athos and D'Artagnan had been sent by the King on a secret mission in Spain. Only the two of them had remained and none believed the influenza would strike in their midst.
It started with the chills, but seeing as the whole damned room was drafty both of them were cold. Therefore they paid no heed to the chills and blamed them on the cold autumn weather. They pitied their two friends, riding in this weather, then lit a fire and drank a glass of brandy to warm themselves up. However, when the chills persisted despite the drink and the fire he started worrying. His worry turned to panic when he saw his friend pale and rush to a bucket to empty the contents of his stomach. They had blamed it on the bad vintage of brandy, but he could not stop the claw of fear that gripped his heart when he saw his chilled form huddle under the blankets and still shiver.
He hoped it was only a stomach virus and went to sleep as well, ignoring the trepidation in his soul. In the middle of the night an anguished moan woke him up; opening blurry eyes he squinted, trying to see something in the darkness and understood the moan had come from his friend. Rushing to his side, ignoring the darkness of the room, he placed a hand on his sweaty forehead and felt the fever burning.
"Oh, no, you're not doing this to me, Aramis. I have no idea how to take care of a sick person."
The words were muttered in a soft whisper, yet the other musketeer heard them. Opening his eyes, he groaned in pain, trying to ignore the pounding headache he had. His lips were cracked and his throat felt perched.
"Water," he murmured in a pained whisper.
Porthos went to the jug of water and brought a small cup of water. He placed the object near Aramis' lips and helped him drink as the man seemed too weary to manage this small task by himself. Minutes later the musketeer had fallen asleep under the concerned gaze of his friend.
The fever continued raging up until the morning when Porthos was able to slip away for a few minutes and return with a physician. The man had managed to find Aramis awake and barely coherent. He poked and prodded him, asked question and turned his grim eyes to Porthos.
Influenza… the musketeer had never thought he would come to hate a word as much as this one. No cure… other words he loathed and felt like shoving down the physician's throat. What good was it to be a doctor if you were unable to treat your patients, he wanted to rage, but refrained from doing so in order not to burden Aramis.
The physician left a mix of herbs that was supposed to rein the fever and prescribed leeches. Had Porthos not seen what had happen to those who used leeches, he may have brought them for his friend. He was no doctor, but all those who had been leeched had died… he was not going to risk the same thing happening to Aramis.
He managed to keep Aramis comfortable enough during the first three days. The symptoms appeared to be milder and the fever did not spike anymore. However, it didn't break either. His friend was able to stomach only warm liquids so he made sure to ask his lady to help him out in this situation. When everything seemed to be on the mend, Aramis took a turn for the worst. The pains in his body and legs which had left him after the first two days returned with a vengeance and the fever spiked dangerously high. The physician returned and stated that everything was in the hands of the Lord.
That night found Porthos wetting cloths to place on his friend's forehead… Aramis was shivering despite being huddled under three blankets and the fever refused to go down even with the elixir prescribed by the doctor. His face was gaunt, a clear sign of the fever taking a toll on his body. His eyes were glassy with delirium and dark shadows stretched beneath them. Porthos did not fare better either… he had been barely able to sleep the past days between looking after his sick friend and running across Paris to bring medicine and broth. The giant seemed to wither as fast as his religious companion…
"Don't you dare die on me, you hear me?" the giant growled ferociously towards his feverish friend. "Athos and D'Artagnan are going to return any day now and they're going to skin me alive if I let you die on my watch. We're musketeers! We're supposed to die valiantly, in battle, not crippled by a God forsaken illness."
The ex-priest made no sign of understanding what was being said to him… his eyes were vacant, glazed with fever and staring into nothingness. His teeth were chattering so loud that Porthos felt the entire Paris was able to hear them. And the shivers refused to stop…
Suddenly Porthos dropped the cloth in shock… a memory, mostly forgotten from his childhood was fighting to surface to the front of his mind. A woman, melodious voice, smelling of citrus, cooing incomprehensive words to a small child… strong, yet tender hands grasping the child in an embrace before lowering him in water cold as ice… ice that dulled the terrible burnings in his body and made him able to sleep again…
He had been a small lad at that time and had caught whatever disease had been flowing around at that time. The fever had raged and raged until he mostly wasted away despite the many concoctions shoved down his throat by doctors. His mother had been the one to dunk him in cold water… he knew not who gave her the idea, but seeing as he was alive it clearly worked.
"Well, if it worked on a wee lad then it has to work on Aramis as well," Porthos grumbled to himself as he started preparing the buckets of cold water. "You're lucky you're light enough so I can carry you.
As he prepared the tub and dumped their water resources in it, Porthos could not help thinking about the past. As far as he could remember, there had always been the three of them. One day a whirlwind called D'Artagnan barged in their lives and they became four. He'd be damned if he let the count drop back to three. After filling the tub half with water, he undressed Aramis and carried him to bath. The musketeer's face was flushed red with fever and Porthos prayed that his mother's old method worked… otherwise he did not know what he would do.
He unceremoniously lowered his friends in the water, ignoring the stifled cries that erupted. He took another bucket of water and tossed it over Aramis, then a second one. Porthos could not remember how long his mother had left him in the tub, therefore when he saw a blue hue settled on his friends' lips he carried him away from the tub and huddled him in a large towel. Porthos observed with a hint of surprise that he did not seem as feverish as he was before, but he did not know whether the effect would last long. He settled his friend back in the bed, burying him under the three blankets and returned to his vigil.
Sunlight streaked through the cracked shutters of the window… a persistent ray of light started dancing on his eyelids and Porthos found himself waving his hand around to chase it away. Seeing as the ray did not leave, he blinked blurrily and wondered when he had fallen asleep. His back hurt like blazes and he noticed the world of dreams had claimed him while he was resting in a chair.
Sleeping in a chair… why would he… Wait! Snapping to attention he darted a desperate glance at Aramis wanting to see how his friend fared. His froze upon seeing the former priest so still in his bed… cautiously, he stretched his hand forward and smiled upon seeing the soft rise of his friend's chest. His large palm settled on Aramis's forehead and he sighed happily… the fever had broken.