Disclaimer – 3 Musketeers and the characters belong to Alexander Dumas.

This is 2011 movie-verse. The aftermath of Milady's betrayal.

When the Mask Falls

It was an unmitigated disaster. The plans they had risked both life and limb to obtain, taken by their enemy. The crème de la crème of the Musketeer Corps hoodwinked by a common harlot! Athos regarded his wine bottle sourly before draining the last dregs. The bottle shattered to a hundred shards on the far wall, joining its fellows on the floor. He wished he could silence that woman's voice, wipe out from his memory the sight of her with that infernal Duke of Buckingham.

They had regained consciousness well into the next day, Buckingham and the traitorous Milady long gone. They could be anywhere by now. There was nothing the trio could do but return to France in disgrace. Monsieur de Treville would shake his head, no doubt soundly tick them off for involving a civilian in their mission, a civilian whose very loyalty was suspect. Milady claimed to be a niece of the cardinal's once. Later she would identify herself as a pious widow wronged by the same man. She was born in Lorraine of a noble family. No, she hailed from a Florentine convent on which doorstep she had been left as a child. Her father was a glass merchant in Venice… Like the famed storyteller Scheherazade, she had a thousand and one tales to entertain him with. No doubt all were false.

She always wore an aura of mystery and danger, her every smile an invitation to seduction. Yes, Comte Olivier de la Fere had fallen for the temptress' charm. Was she an agent of the Cardinal's? Did her loyalties lie with France? Or had she been in the pay of the Duke of Buckingham all this while? He did not know. Nothing mattered when he had her in his arms. The roof could be blown off by cannon fire, bandits could be overrunning his estate and all he would be worried about was her. The wine felt sour and heavy in his mouth.

He had failed them- Porthos and Aramis. Porthos had been badly beaten up during his capture by the Doge's soldiers. He was sporting a nasty purple bruise on his face still. Aramis had an adverse reaction to the drug Milady slipped in their cups. He awoke feverish and puking with a bad case of the trembles. He was so weak they had to tie him into his saddle for fear he would fall off. The Doge's soldiers were crawling all over Venice and it was a miracle they did not awake in a dungeon. It was only when they reached Lombardy two days later did they manage fetch a doctor to see to their friend. The physician prescribed a foul-smelling concoction which had poor Aramis even sicker than he was initially. Violent retching sounds came from above. Porthos was tending to the patient in their room while Athos drowned his sorrows.

What next? Will they be discharged from the Musketeers in disgrace? And it was all his fault! Athos uncorked another bottle and filled his cup. Aramis would probably run back to the church's embrace. The ever-cheerful Porthos would probably find some other form of employment, if not wed some rich widow. And Athos? Return to his estates and be a laughing-stock till the end of his days. And he would be wondering about her despite her betrayal, imagining her with other men… He gulped down a mouthful of his wine.

"Athos, stop that," Porthos said quietly as he stepped downstairs and saw the pile of broken bottles. He was holding a basin of fouled water in his hands.

"Leave me be, Porthos. See to Aramis."

"I'm changing the water. The good news is that his fever has broken. He's lucid enough now, but still puking like a baby. Aramis asked me to check on you."

"I said leave me be, both of you!" Athos snarled. The inner demons of guilt and rage were closing in.

"Not if you are going to drink yourself into a hangover tomorrow. You're insufferable as a riding companion then! And don't come crying when you fall out of your saddle."

"I messed up the mission! I almost got you and Aramis killed! I failed thanks to my blind infatuation with a woman…"

"The fault's not all yours, Athos. We were fooled too…" Aramis whispered in a hoarse voice. He was still shaky on his feet. The dark circles below his eyes were awful and he was gaunt from being unable to keep his food down for the past few days.

"Damn you, Aramis! Are you trying to kill yourself? You shouldn't even be up!" Athos growled and stood up to support him. The room swam around him. He had imbued more wine than he normally did.

"Go to bed, Athos," Aramis advised.

Athos rubbed his eyes. He could not stand looking his comrades in the face, not with Porthos all concerned about him… And that pity in Aramis' eyes.

"That woman used me…" he forced the words out through gritted teeth. "And I never suspect a thing! You, Porthos… you mentioned her meeting some masked man on the day of the carnival! You, Aramis, you told me that there was no Convent of St Anne in Tours, where she claimed to be schooled. I should have suspected her then. I never even thought to ask her… Damn that woman! I'm going to kill her if I ever get a hold of her… I believed her…" Defeated, he sat back down on his stool.

Porthos' eyes met Aramis'. He loves her still. The silent thought conveyed instantaneously. Their comrade was in agony because the woman he had given his heart to had betrayed them.

Porthos nodded and motioned for Aramis to return to his bed but Aramis shook his head. Instead the younger musketeer sat down beside Athos. Porthos emptied the basin of fouled water out a window and joined them at the table.

"Wine?" Athos sighed. He knew he was not going to get rid of them so easily. He stared at his cup. Aramis wordlessly took the wine bottle from Athos' hand and emptied the remaining liquid onto the dirt floor.

"Rest. You need it," Porthos half-dragged his friend onto his feet and steered him to the stairs.

"If you wish to talk, we'll be there for you…" Aramis added as he brought up the rear.

"I'm sorry… and thank you," Athos replied. He didn't know how he was going to survive this blow, but knowing his friends will be there for him made him feel that much better.

Author's Notes:

Poor Athos. He's really devastated here after Milady's betrayal.