A/N: IMPORTANT MESSAGE THAT LAREE ENGLAND MUST READ!
Fifteen years ago today,
A baby girl was born in the month of May.
She grew and ate batteries and grew some more,
And it was obvious there had never been a girl like this before.
I feel I've gotten to know Laree pretty well
Through our eccentric travels so now I can tell
Her imagination is far too vast for the universe to contain
It never ceases to amaze me all that fits in her brain.
I consider myself as lucky as I could be
To have a true friend like my dear Laree!
Happy Birthday, Laree England!
Disclaimer: I own not the Musketeers of Three.
Are You Challenging Me?
D'Artagnan yawned and stretched as he got out of his bed. The sunlight was streaming in through the window, promising a beautiful day. He would definitely be persuading his friends to practice dueling with him later.
The four men had been granted the morning off, some time to sleep in so they could recuperate after returning home late the night before from a particularly long and grueling mission. Thankfully, they wouldn't have to start their patrol duties until later that evening.
D'Artagnan walked sleepily down the hall on his way to breakfast. As he was passing the stairs, he didn't notice Porthos coming down and ran straight into the big man.
"Woops," said D'Artagnan as he backed up. "Sorry, Porthos."
"Sorry?" boomed Porthos. The younger man did a double take at the angry tone. "A simple sorry isn't going to cut it, lad." The boy looked up at Porthos with a mixture of disbelief and confusion. Porthos had never gotten angry with him like this before.
"Well, what will, um, cut it?" D'Artagnan asked slowly, still trying to figure out why his friend was acting so bizarre.
"A duel." Porthos quickly replied.
"A duel? Like a practice?" questioned the confused young musketeer. Porthos, however, shook his head.
"Nope. A real, all out duel. Twelve o'clock, in the courtyard." with that, Porthos walked away, leaving and utterly baffled boy standing in his place.
D'Artagnan entered the living room to find Aramis sitting at the table reading. The boy grabbed some bread and cheese and sat down across from his friend, eating slowly as he contemplated the incident that had occurred by the stairs moments ago.
"Aramis," D'Artagnan began after a minute of silence. "Have you noticed Porthos acting oddly lately?" Aramis cast D'Artagnan a quick, annoyed glance before returning to his book. "I mean, all I did was bump into him and he challenged me to a duel. I even apologized for it! I have never seen him get-"
"D'Artagnan!" snapped Aramis. D'Artagnan immediately froze. Aramis never snapped. "Will you stop your incessant blabbering! I am trying to read!" The boy's jaw dropped. What had gotten into the usually quiet, polite man?
"Oh, that's it!" shouted Aramis as he snapped his book closed. "The courtyard, twelve-fifteen. Be ready to duel." Aramis got up and quickly walked away, leaving D'Artagnan in a stunned silence. 'What the hell is going on today?' the confused boy thought.
Suddenly, the door opened and Athos strode in. D'Artagnan jumped up and ran over to the man.
"Athos, please tell me that you're normal." Athos looked down at the pleading boy for a moment before suddenly announcing,
"The courtyard, twelve-thirty. Bring your sword." Then the man walked away just as swiftly as how he had arrived.
"What is with you people?" D'Artagnan yelled to the now empty house.
D'Artagnan struggled to come up with any sort of excuse for his friends' strange behavior as he waited for twelve o'clock to roll around. He could think of nothing.
When the clock did strike the midday hour, however, D'Artagnan walked out into the courtyard, sword in hand. He had never been one to forfeit, a duel and he wasn't about to start now, no matter how strange the circumstances.
His three friends were already waiting for him, Porthos standing in the middle of the courtyard, while Aramis and Athos stood off to the side, waiting their turn.
"You know, I still don't know what I did to deserve this," called D'Artagnan as he took his position across from Porthos. "But if you insist."
The two men circled each other for a moment before D'Artagnan lashed out, his and Porthos' swords meeting with a loud metallic clang! Porthos definitely had strength on D'Artagnan, but the boy was much quicker. The two fought back and forth across the grass for a good fifteen minutes when suddenly Aramis joined in.
"Aramis, wait your turn!" cried D'Artagnan in an exasperated voice, the challenge of two opponents demanding a good deal of his concentration and energy.
"It's twelve-fifteen!" Aramis brought his sword forward in a quick swipe, which D'Artagnan hastily deflected. "It is my turn." The young musketeer groaned. This wasn't going to end well.
"Then Porthos," said the boy, jabbing his sword at the bigger man as he said his name, only to have it parried by Aramis. "You leave!" Porthos shook his head and took a few swipes at the boy.
"Neither of us have won yet and I am not going to surrender!" D'Artagnan shook his head, but continued to fight, he being unwilling to forfeit as well.
After another fifteen minutes of mainly just deflecting the other two men's blows, D'Artagnan was feeling about ready to collapse, not having fought this hard in a long time.
Just when he was considering asking for a break, D'Artagnan suddenly found himself facing Athos as well as Porthos and Aramis.
"Let me guess," said the boy between gasping breaths. "It's twelve-thirty." Athos nodded and the four men continued to fight.
D'Artagnan could feel his grip on his sword slipping as the three men rained blows down on him. It was when Porthos gave one last hard whack with his sword that D'Artagnan's weapon went flying out of his hand and landed a few paces away.
D'Artagnan flopped down onto the ground, holding up his hands in defeat as the three men pointed their swords at his chest.
"Alright, alright, you win." he puffed out. "You know, it wasn't vary fair of you to gang up on me, though."
"Do you have any idea what today is, boy?" questioned Athos, who, like his two companions, was still pointing his blade at the young man's chest.
"Uh, Thursday?" said D'Artagnan questioningly. Athos sighed, his dwindling patience obvious in his voice.
"Yes, but the date, what is the date?
"It's the seventh of April, but why-" realization suddenly dawned on the young man and a smile grew across his face. Exactly one year ago today, D'Artagnan had arrived in Paris and challenged each of his now three friends to a duel. It had been exactly one year since D'Artagnan had met the three musketeers. Seeing their young companion's understanding, the musketeers put away their swords and helped the grinning boy to his feet.
"We just thought we would return the favor of you challenging us. Now you know what it's like to receive three duels in the same day rather than dish them out." Aramis said with a grin.
"Oh, you should have seen your face when I yelled at you, lad!" Porthos boomed with a chuckle. "I don't think I've ever seen you so surprised!" D'Artagnan laughed too.
"Well, I don't think I've ever seen you so angry with me!" the young man said good naturedly and Porthos gave him a wry grin and a wink.
"I think the face you made when I snapped at you would take the cake." said Aramis as the four men made their way back into the apartment. "I feared if your jaw dropped any lower, it would have fallen off."
"Well, you can't really blame me!" said D'Artagnan. "I mean, I don't think I've ever heard you snap at anyone. Oh, and Athos," the boy turned the Athos with a raised eyebrow. "You didn't even have an excuse for challenging me." Athos snorted.
"D'Artagnan, you have made my life such a living hell since you have arrived that I have over a hundred reasons for challenging you to a duel already stacked up. I didn't feel the need to come up with some flimsy excuse." D'Artagnan glared jokingly over at Athos as the older man attempted to stop the grin that was threatening to split his face.
The four men entered the apartment and sat down heavily at the table, warn out from their duel. In a flurry of motion and incoherent rambling, Planchet came bustling into the room, bearing a bottle of wine, four cups, and to D'Artagnan's surprise and immense joy, a plate of fruit that had an abundance of apples.
As soon as the plate was put down, D'Artagnan quickly reached for his favorite red fruit, while Athos reached just as quickly for his favorite red wine.
"I hope you like those apples, lad." said Porthos as he grabbed a bunch of grapes. "We got them just for you!" D'Artagnan blushed slightly.
"You guys didn't have to do that."
"But it's a special occasion!" countered the bigger man. "We had to repay you somehow for all the excitement you've brought!" D'Artagnan's blush deepened, but he smiled as Porthos gave him a quick wink.
"Trouble he brought is more like it." mumbled Athos, although the remark lost some of it's bite from the fond tone that had slipped in.
"Oh, Athos, you know you would be bored out of your wits if the lad wasn't here to mix things up." Porthos said with a smirk.
"If by 'mix things up' you mean constantly getting in and out of trouble and nearly killing himself every time, and is by 'bored out of my wits' you mean that I would be infinitely less stressed, then yes, I wholeheartedly agree." Porthos contemplated this for a moment before his smirk grew and was joined by a spark of mischief in his eye.
"Well, you wouldn't be so stressed if you weren't so worried about the boy all the time." Porthos gazed over at Athos triumphantly as the slightly embarrassed man tried to hide his reddening cheeks in his wine glass.
"I do not worry about him. I worry about the trouble he will make that we will end up having to fix." said Athos stubbornly, to which Porthos rolled his eyes. D'Artagnan made to replay, wanting to say that he didn't cause all that much trouble, but Porthos beat him to it.
"Athos, if you were any more of a mother hen to the lad, you would be laying eggs." At this point, Aramis and D'Artagnan could no longer contain the laughter that had been threatening to burst out since the ridiculous argument had started. Their uncontrollable mirth earned each of them a withering glare from Athos.
"I am not a mother hen!" exclaimed Athos as the three men continued to laugh.
"You know, Athos," began Aramis after he had regained a semblance of control over his chuckles. "If I recall, your hair wasn't quite this gray at this time last year, was it?"
That comment, combined with the face that Athos subconsciously reached up to put a hand on his apparently graying hair, only fueled the three men's amusement, causing Porthos to fall off his chair and land on the floor, where he continued to laugh as though nothing had happened.
After several minutes, the three musketeer's laughter finally subsided and Porthos rejoined his companions at the table. Athos gave each of his friends a steely glare before reaching for the wine bottle to refill his glass.
"I propose a toast." said Porthos as he took the bottle of wine when Athos was finished with it. The big musketeer filled Aramis and D'Artagnan's glasses before filling his own and raising his cup.
"To the reckless, arrogant, and impetuous lad who has officially become part of out odd little family." D'Artagnan blushed deeply, but nodded in thanks at Porthos as the men toasted and took a drink of their wine. Aramis next raised his glass and spoke up with a smile.
"To D'Artagnan, I can honestly say that I have never been so happy to have such a strange boy in our lives." Aramis smirked and D'Artagnan gave a snort of laughter at the good natured teasing.
The men clinked their glasses and took a sip of the wine before looking expectantly at Athos.
"What?" asked Athos. Porthos once again rolled his eyes at his friend. Did this man's stubbornness know no bounds?
"Come on, Athos, make a toast." Porthos' smirk reappeared on his face and he said in a sing songy voice, "We know you want to." Athos glared at the bigger man for a moment before sighing in defeat and raising his glass.
"To D'Artagnan," he began slowly. "the boy who, despite having no sense of self preservation, being overly cocky, having trouble follow you around like the plague, having a devil of a horse, and turning me gray well before my time," D'Artagnan raised an eyebrow as Athos took a breath and continued. "Despite all of that, you have shown me that there are still things in this world that I believe in, and for that I am eternally grateful."
The men clinked their glasses and took another sip of their wine when D'Artagnan leaned forward and raised his own cup.
"I would like to make a toast too." the three men focused their attention on their young friend. "When I first arrived in Paris, I was, well, more than a little lost. I honestly had no plan, other than to join the musketeers, which, considering they were, at the time, disbanded, that plan probably wouldn't have panned out too well on my own." At this Porthos scoffed and Athos rolled his eyes. "Still to this day, I'm not quite sure how I came to be so lucky that I ran, quite literally, into all three of you. What I do know, however, is that meeting you three is quite possibly the best thing that has happened to me. You all have accepted me into your home and have become my closest friends, for which I am unendingly grateful. With that said," D'Artagnan turned to face Porthos.
"To Porthos, the man who never fails to bring me out of the foulest of moods with his never ending antics." Porthos grinned from ear to ear as the men chinked their glasses and D'Artagnan turned to Aramis.
"To Aramis, there has never lived a better man who will listen to my problems and give me wise, if not occasionally cryptic, advise." Once again, the men toasted as Aramis smiled and gave the boy a nod in thanks. D'Artagnan raised his glass one last time and faced Athos.
"And finally, to Athos. Despite being over protective, perpetually grumpy, unnecessarily stubborn, and drinking way too much," Athos huffed as the boy mimicked his own toast and deliberately took a long swig of his wine. "Despite all of that, you have taught me what it means to be a musketeer and I can only hope to one day live up to the example you have set for being a good musketeer and an even better man."
Although he would never admit it, Athos inwardly glowed from the boy's praise. The men clinked their glasses for a final toast and settled back to enjoy their fruit.
As the minutes grew into hours, the four men passed the time by reminiscing about the multitude of adventures that had taken place over the past year. They definitely had had their fair share of them. None of the men missed the way that Athos would visibly cringe, although he tried his best to hide it, whenever any of their stories involved D'Artagnan getting injured, which tended to happen an alarmingly frequent amount of the time.
After finishing another story, Athos once again cringing at the mention of a particularly nasty gash D'Artagnan had received during that specific adventure and Porthos teasing the mother hen mercilessly, the clock on the wall struck five, signaling that it was time for the musketeers to leave for their patrol duties.
"Well, lads," Porthos said as he stood up from the table. "It has been an absolute pleasure, but duty calls."
The four men each left for their separate patrols, the memories still playing through their minds, causing their content smiles to grow even wider.
Five hours later, four bone-tired musketeers trudged through the door of their apartment. Porthos and Aramis cast their companions a "goodnight" and a "happy anniversary" to D'Artagnan before trudging up the stairs to their rooms.
As was his custom, Athos grabbed a bottle of wine and settled down by the fireplace. D'Artagnan, still not quite ready to go to bed yet, sat down in front of the hearth next to Athos.
"How was your patrol?" asked D'Artagnan as he sat down. Athos shrugged.
"Same." D'Artagnan sighed and then the two men sat quietly for a few moments before D'Artagnan broke the silence.
"I can't believe it's been a whole year since I've arrived in Paris." he said in an incredulous tone. Athos hummed in agreement. "So much has changed," D'Artagnan paused. "You've definitely changed, Athos." The older man sat down his wine glass.
"I have not," he said stubbornly. "There is no way I have been changed by some obscure Gascon boy."
"Oh, come on, Athos!" the boy argued. "You absolutely hated me when I first arrived and now-"
"I still hate you." D'Artagnan raised an eyebrow. "I've just gotten used to you."
Athos heard the boy mumble something along the lines of "stubborn idiot" as he turned and gazed thoughtfully into the fire.
"You've changed during the past year too, boy." Athos admitted after a moment of deliberation. D'Artagnan leaned forward in curiosity.
"How so?" he asked and Athos picked back up his wine glass and intently studied its contents.
"Well, you've definitely gotten more cocky, for one," D'Artagnan huffed in disagreement, but allowed the older man to continue. "And if it's possible, you've become more stubborn."
"Well, I have learned from the best." the younger man cut in with a smirk and this time it was Athos who huffed.
"Apparently, you have also become more smug." the man said, attempting to convey a dark tone through the smile that was threatening to spread across his face.
"Only around you, Athos." said D'Artagnan with a sigh as he settled back into his chair, closing his eyes as he did.
Athos studied the boy's young face and suddenly couldn't help himself as he said,
D'Artagnan opened his eyes and looked at Athos in surprise. "What?"
"Insightful," Athos repeated. "You have become more insightful since I have first met you."
D'Artagnan paused for a moment, letting Athos' words sink in.
"So, I've become more insightful and you've become more gray?" Athos' hand once again unconsciously traveled to his silver streaked hair. "It hardly seems fair."
"Well," Athos began, scrutinizing his cup once more. "I'm not sure if I would say that."
"No, it's completely unfair." D'Artagnan said after a moment, his voice growing in strength in preparation for the rant that was undoubtedly about to follow.
"No, Athos!" the boy cut in. "I don't know how I didn't see this before. You've given me so many great things in the past year; a house, a job- and as a musketeer, no less,- friendship, support, advice, and how do I repay you? What do I give you in return? Nothing!" D'Artagnan was edging on panic now. The more he said, the more revelations he made. "I don't deserve any of this! I don't-"
"D'Artagnan!" the boy froze, his mouth still hanging open and the guilt still pooling in his eyes as Athos called his name. He wouldn't tolerate his young friend feeling that way any longer.
"D'Artagnan," he started again, softer this time. "Don't you dare think that you don't deserve to be here. Don't you think it for one second."
"Shut up and let me finish." the younger man hesitated, but after a moment he forced down his stubbornness and complied. "Yes, we gave you a home, but may I remind you that you now help to pay the rent. And you earned your position as a musketeer, no one got it for you. Of course I- we- offer you friendship, support, and advice. We're a family and that's what families do."
D'Artagnan's guilty expression lessoned somewhat, but some remorse still lingered in his eyes.
"But I still don't see how I have repaid you in any way." Athos had to resist the urge to roll is eyes. Yep, the boy's stubbornness had definitely gotten worse over the past twelve months. "I may have earned my keep, but I haven't really done anything for you." The boy's guilt returned in full swing as he hung his head, his mahogany hair obscuring his shame ridden face.
Athos leaned forward and gripped D'Artagnan's chin in a firm, yet gentle, hold, forcing the young man to look him in the eye.
"D'Artagnan," he said firmly, his tone conveying his conviction. "You have done more for me than you will ever know. Before you came along and after the incident with… well, I was drinking myself into an early grave to say the least. I honestly didn't have much to live for." Athos got a slight glint in his eye as if he was remembering something pleasant. "Then, exactly one year ago today, you barreled, quite literally, into our lives and, although at the time I didn't realize it, you were exactly what I needed at that point in my life. You saved me in every way a person can be saved. So, don't you even think for the slightest of moments that you have never given me anything in return. You have given me something to fight for and believe in again. You have given me my life back."
The two men were still for a moment, both Athos and D'Artagnan shocked at the truthfulness of the older man's words. D'Artagnan, being the first to come out of his shock, startled Athos quite a bit when the boy suddenly lunged forward and wrapped his arms tightly around Athos' waist. After a moment, however, Athos recovered from his surprise and found himself fiercely returning the hug, his chest still swelling with the emotions from his speech.
They stayed like that for a moment, D'Artagnan reveling in the warmth of Athos' fatherly embrace until, without breaking the hold, the boy spoke up.
"Thank you, Athos." he said in a sincere tone that was just above a whisper. Athos was surprised.
"Thank me?" the older musketeer asked. "Why are you thanking me? Did you not just hear the little speech I gave?" D'Artagnan gave a slight chuckle as the two men pulled apart and Athos playfully ruffled the boy's hair.
"I did hear your speech. That's why I'm thanking you."
Athos cast D'Artagnan a rare smile before standing up and giving his friend's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
"You should get some sleep, it's been a long day."
D'Artagnan nodded and stifled a large yawn. "Alright. Goodnight, Athos."
Athos turned and watched D'Artagnan walk into his room and out of earshot before he said,
"Goodnight, my boy."
A/N: Well, I hope you all enjoyed! I tried very hard to have the characters stay in character, so I hope that was alright. Oh, and virtual cookies for anyone who can find the quote from Titanic! (Laree, you are excluded because I believe I have already told you. If you want virtual cookies anyway, however, you may have them since it is your birthday.) Thank you so much for reading!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAREE ENGLAND!