Disclaimer: I only own my minor OCs and the plotline and Alexandre Dumas is probably rolling in his grave at the moment, but...

D'Artagnan allowed himself a moment of exhaustion, eyes half lidded as he peered at his adversary. His sword was raised in front of him in what was supposed to be a threatening manner, but the only real concern D'Artagnan had at the moment was remaining upright. He forced his eyes, which were blurring and closing against his will, to focus once again on the fight going on around him.

Louis stood behind him, watching anxiously from over the Gascon's shoulder. D'Artagnan didn't have time to be concerned for the king at the moment, too preoccupied on his opponent's movements. The man facing him was probably around twenty five, only a few years older than himself, but he appeared infinitely more experienced and weary. There was a malicious scar that stretched from his left temple, over his eye, and to the edge of his jawline on the right, making his face appear as if it had been cut and sewn back together by an amateur surgeon. Despite this, the man was handsome, with bright blue eyes and soft chestnut hair that barely brushed his shoulders.

He barely had the time to jump backwards as the man took a swing at his middle, nicking him and slicing the skin of D'Artagnan's torso.

He chastised himself silently, aware that if he was to come out of this alive he needed all of his senses alert. The man had the advantage of size and speed over the tiny and exhausted Gascon, and he knew it. "Oh come on, Gascon, can you not keep your focus?" He jeered, a snarl twisting his lips.

"I'm a little distracted by your obscene appearance, actually," D'Artagnan retorted as he parried and blocked the man's downward slash. "Do you kiss your wife with that face?"

The man's face flushed a dangerous shade of red and D'Artagnan couldn't help but feel terribly pleased with himself.

Zagris- for that was the man's name- sneered at the young man, another malicious looking grin lounging on his lips.

D'Artagnan took a deep breath, glancing down. He took another breath, slowly exhaling, willing his hands to stop shaking. He didn't even know they'd been trembling. Straightening his back and standing a little taller, D'Artagnan set his jaw. This monster would not win, would not get his king; D'Artagnan would make sure of it.

But before he could react, before he could even blink, before he had time to do anything but part his lips and widen his eyes- the man was gasping for breath, a blade protruding from his chest.

And Zagris gasped for breath, all at once losing his height and size and looking very much like a lost soul. He turned to D'Artagnan, his eyes pleading for help, opening and closing his mouth as he tried to get air that wouldn't come. A gurgling noise at the back of his throat made something in D'Artagnan crack a little, and before he could say anything, Zagris was on the ground.

Lifeless eyes stared back at him.

Athos wiped his blade on a handkerchief he had pulled from his pocket, his permanent scowl in place. Rolling his eyes, he grabbed D'Artagnan's arm in a harsh grip, firmly but not unkindly sitting him down in a chair (where'd they get a chair?) and pushing him back against it, manhandling him into a convenient position.

God, D'Artagnan was tired.

Now that the adrenaline of battle was wearing off, D'Artagnan also became aware of how warm and sticky he was feeling. And that his middle hurt like fire.

D'Artagnan hissed when someone prodded at the gash, opening his eyes to glare at them. Athos was crouched in front of him, gently poking at his wound and wrapping it with strips of his shirt- wait, when did he get D'Artagnan's shirt off?- to staunch the bleeding until a physician arrived. Athos met his eyes, something softening his features for half a moment, before he was scowling again, his brows pulled low over his eyes.

"You lost focus," Athos scolded. "You let him get too close!"

D'Artagnan made no response at first, unsure of what to say. Athos's eyes flashed but he said nothing further on the matter, instead reaching up and brushing D'Artagnan's hair away from his face to check on a gash in his cheek that D'Artagnan had forgot about. Now that he'd remembered it, though, it made him whole face begin to throb.

"Tsk, those look bad," Louis spoke, and frankly Athos had forgotten about the king's presence until he'd spoken. "I'll call my personal physician."

"Your Majesty, that really won't be necces-" D'Artagnan tried, hands wringing together, but Louis silenced him with a wave of his hand and a raised eyebrow.

"Tut tut, I insist."

Athos sent him a look that clearly said, 'don't do anything stupid, boy' so D'Artagnan just sighed, saying, "thank you, Your Majesty."

"Of course, D'Artagnan." Louis's voice was filled with something akin to fondness as he ordered the servant to send for the physician, eyeing D'Artagnan's injuries with a timid expression. "You will be alright, won't you, D'Artagnan?"

D'Artagnan's eyes darted from Athos to Louis, and back again before he settled on a slow nod. "...Yes, Your Majesty." Louis seemed pleased with this, clapping his hands together.

"Well then, no reason to worry. Right, Athos?"

Athos had been lost in thought, eyes narrowed at his young companion, but his response was automatic and immediate. "Of course, Your Grace."

D'Artagnan was looking at him, but when Athos turned to return to gaze, D'Artagnan's eyes flickered away and to the ground. That was when Athos realized that D'Artagnan thought he was in trouble for something.

It Athos sighed, bringing a hand to his brow before pinching the bridge of his nose and exhaling slowly. Gazing at the young man another long, piercing second, he noticed...D'Artagnan's hands were trembling.

His shoulders slumped and he was caught in the fact that he didn't know what to do. He knew he had to correct D'Artagnan on his life-threatening mistake, but didn't want to experience the look on the boy's face, which would probably be one of shame and embarrassment. Athos hated seeing this, and wished there was another way to go about critiquing the boy. Of course, if there was another method, it eluded the older musketeer shamelessly, taunting him with its distance yet teasing him, just out of reach.

"D'Artagnan, you need to keep your head in battle, you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times!" It was a growl, and Athos's eyebrows were plastered low on his forehead, trying to imply the seriousness of the error.

"I kno-"

"And you need to understand the importance of focus, boy! You are dimmer than most, but a fine swordsman, and I'd like to keep you uninjured for three days at most! Seeking fights and overconfidence is a weakness and it is most unwise, even for a half wit like yourself! Do you never think?"

Silence met the rhetorical question, so Athos continued. "You need to use your opponents weakness, and never let your guard loose! You are arrogant, cocky. Sloppy."

"Hey!" D'Artagnan protested, eyes aflame and hands balled into fists. He mere notches from rising to his full height to go against the older man. Only Louis orders and presence kept him sitting. "I have been trained finely, thank you very much Athos, and I know what I can and cannot accomplish, I do not need your lectures in sword adequate!"

"You very well do, if it will peg you down! Your head is nearly as big as an airship, D'Artagnan, and do not talk back to me!"

D'Artagnan growled, glared at Athos, and set his jaw. "I-"

"Athos, D'Artagnan, that is enough!" Aramis interjected, becoming peacemaker between the two clashing heads once again, as was an action on many occasions.

"Do not!" Athos roared at Aramis, who glared at him with a ferocity seemingly incapable for the religious man.

"I do not-" D'Artagnan tried, but Aramis silenced him too with a look.

"Now, I expect this matter to be rested for the night. Enough." D'Artagnan looked at his feet, cheeks rosy with anger and embarrassment, but Athos and Aramis stared at each other coldly, both waiting for one to back down. Their staring contest was interrupted by a loud, extremely original curse from D'Artagnan's direction where they turned their attention. The physician was cleaning out the boy's wounds with a wet rag and doing rather well to ignore D'Artagnan's fluent original cusses.

"D'Artagnan!" Aramis scolded lightly, but said country boy did not hear him over his monologue. He was staring at the ceiling of the courtroom where the fight had originated, head back and hands clenching the under sides of the chair. Athos glanced around the room, preparing an apology to the king on D'Artagnan's behalf, but Louis was no where in sight. Athos, taking a step back and his eyes widening, looked about the room once more, before dismissing the thought. Louis was out of immediate danger, and had probably just gone back to bed.

Aramis sighed, shaking his head, and turning his gaze back to his older companion, who had walked away without his notice. D'Artagnan had asked not to be helped with the intruder, but he had just been so exhausted and hardly had his head in the duel- it was lucky Athos stepped in when he did. But Aramis realized it had made D'Artagnan feel useless, weak, and it had thoroughly embarrassed him; that was something Aramis never wanted the boy to feel, but in all fairness, without Athos...

D'Artagnan could have died.

The dawn was barely creeping across the horizon by the time they made it back to their little house, D'Artagnan dragging his feet more than usually from tiredness, but otherwise bandaged and alright. The four made their way through the door and shut the cold, dewy morning air out and entered the warmth of the small yet cozy building. D'Artagnan collapsed in a chair, leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Mere moments later, his brows relaxed from their furrowed state, his whole face grew slack, and his body slowly went limp. Aramis listened for the last telltale sign- there, that was it.

D'Artagnan's breathing had evened out. He was asleep.

Aramis snapped his fingers in Athos's direction, who turned towards him, a question on his lips. When he caught sight of his young charge, however, he sighed, running a hand over his face. Opening his eyes again, he gazed at D'Artagnan with a certain degree of fondness, before approaching him as quietly as possible.

"D'Artagnan?" No response. "D'Artagnan?" Athos spoke in a hushed whisper, gently shaking D'Artagnan's shoulder. "D'Artagnan."

The boy's bright blue eyes fluttered open. "'thos?" He murmured in his half- aware state, and the older musketeers coaxed D'Artagnan up out of the chair, and up the stairs. He gently eased open the door to D'Artagnan's room, before guiding the still half-asleep D'Artagnan to his bed. The young man smiled at him before laying back and closing his eyes.

He was asleep in seconds.

Athos changed the shirt, removed the shoes, drew the blinds to block out the morning sun, and muttered, "Goodnight, D'Artagnan" before closing the door. He did not miss the returned, albeit slurred response of "Goodnight, Athos" on his way out.

Please comment on what you think and thanks for reading- chapter two up soon!