A/N: This chapter didn't turn out exactly as I wanted it to, but oh well! I like it all the same. Next chapter up soon, please, remember to leave me comments!
Athos, Aramis, and Porthos watched D'Artagnan's reaction carefully as the young man asked if Marci could stay with them. "It's only for the time being," he assured, "and she'll stay out of the way." The three men answered 'yes' without the slightest hesitation. D'Artagnan looked almost like he wanted to shatter. His world was crashing down around him. He refused, instead removing his hat and placing it back in it's correct place, and telling Marci to go play while he talked with his companions.
D'Artagnan was shaky and pale, suddenly looking gaunt. It added years to his face. Lines Athos didn't even have were sketched into D'Artagnan's skin, expressing the sheer severity of the situation. D'Artagnan gave Marci a quill, ink and parchment and she immediately started to entertain herself with them. D'Artagnan sat at the table and put his head in his hands, staying silent. They didn't dare break his reverie.
After some while, D'Artagnan stirred himself, and perhaps looked a hundred times older than he was. Athos decided he hated this look on the young musketeer- it was absolutely unnatural. D'Artagnan was meant to be this arrogant, cocky, confident, courageous, big hearted young man who was the definition of morality and perhaps the shining beacon of innocence and youth. Not this grim, broken being that stood before Athos.
It was frightening to say the least.
"Well, all is perhaps not lost yet," D'Artagnan said half heartedly. "For perhaps Marci is wrong in her memory of the description of my family, and I cannot be sure. Therefore, I believe a trip to Gascony would prove fruitful, and I shall ask the King's permission immediately." D'Artagnan said this nodding, as if he was approving of his own idea. Athos was hesitant about going to Gascony. What if the Marci girl was right? What if D'Artagnan's family was dead? Surely it would be torturous to see his murdered family. If they did go at all, they shouldn't bring D'Artagnan.
But D'Artagnan needed closure, and Athos could see no other way. "To the palace it is then." Aramis said in an overly optimistic voice, and Porthos nodded determinedly.
"You need not come with me..." D'Artagnan said nervously, as if afraid they would say they wished not to. It was a foolish idea, that they would not accompany him. Of course they would. There was no need for doubt.
"My boy, of course we will come," Aramis said warmly, making D'Artagnan's expression go from one of nervousness to one of relief.
"Aye lad, wouldn't miss it," Porthos added. Athos merely stared at D'Artagnan with an unreadable expression, but inside he wanted to hug the poor child and tell him that everything was going to be alright, just for the white lie to be worth it and bring comfort to him.
D'Artagnan's eyes darted to the ground at his lack of response, and Athos realized his mistake a second too late. "I will accompany you also," he reassured, but D'Artagnan did not try to meet his eyes again.
"What will I do with Marci?" D'Artagnan asked quietly.
"...We'll figure something out," Aramis said calmingly. D'Artagnan didn't meet any of their eyes.
"Come, D'Artagnan," Porthos said, clapping him lightly on the shoulder, "let us go to the palace, ask Louis for your few days leave, yes?" D'Artagnan nodded, and his silence greatly disturbed Athos. It was so...un D'Artagnan like.
"Marci," The boy called to his younger sister, "Come on, we're going...somewhere."
Marci sprang up, saying, "Yay!" and grabbed D'Artagnan's hand as he grabbed his hat again.
D'Artagnan, Porthos, Athos, Aramis, and Marci were kneeling in the main room when Louis XIII came through the door, followed by the Queen Anne and her ladies in waiting. Louis clapped his hands, saying, "rise, my brave musketeers, and tell me why you have come to pay me a visit, shall we say?"
D'Artagnan took a deep breath, and began. "Your Majesty-"
"D'Artagnan, look me into the eyes when you speak," Louis suddenly commanded softly, and paused, as though he'd with to say something else. After a moment of silence, however, D'Artagnan did so, his blue eyes stormy with a million different thoughts swirling in them. Louis, though arrogant and childlike at times, noticed this.
"Your Majesty, my sister has recently arrived," D'Artagnan explained, looking up at him, his eyes flickering only for a moment over to the girl kneeling next to him. She was looking up at her king also; and only then did Louis realize that the two did look incredibly alike, in all but the shade of eye color and gender distinguishment.
D'Artagnan continued. "And she claims that my-my family," he swallowed, and Athos winced as he knew this was painful and that the boy was cursing himself further for his voice wavering. "um, that they are...in a bad state..." The young man's eyes were trying to convey something to Louis, darting from his own to the girl. Then Louis understood.
"My Queen," Louis said, glancing over to her with a faint smile on his face, "why don't we show-erm-"
"Marcelle," D'Artagnan offered.
"Yes, Marcelle, around the castle a bit, hmm?"
The Queen Anne, fully understanding, smiled and bowed. "Of course, my lord," She said politely, gesturing to the girl who stood up.
Marci looked to D'Artagnan though, eyes shining with hope, and asked, "can I?" D'Artagnan nodded, smiling. She flung her arms around his neck for a second before skipping happily towards the Queen, who smiled nicely at her.
Nodding her head towards the King and then at the musketeers, Queen Anne departed the room.
Anne knew from experience how to handle small children. So she was surprised when Marcelle did not question her about anything. "So Marcelle," Anne tried, "How do you like D'Artagnan as a brother?"
Marci turned sharply towards the Queen when addressed, from where she had been looking at the designs on the walls in the hallway. "Uhm, well, I like Marci better than Marcelle," She said uncomfortably, before brightening. "D'Artagnan's great!" Her ladies in waiting tittered, and Anne couldn't help but notice that Constance's eyebrows quirked with interest.
"Really? What does he do?" Anne asked, generally intrigued. D'Artagnan was cute and sweet, but arrogant at times, and did not strike her as good with children-much less, with little girls.
"Well, he taught me how to climb trees and sword fight and ride a horse," she said, and the Queen raised her eyebrows now. "And he tells me stories, and helps me pick apples, and sometimes does my chores for me."
Does her chores for her, Anne thought. Naughty, naughty, D'Artagnan. Although dueling and climbing trees were not the ideal definition of fun for women, Anne found herself smiling in spite of that. It was something the two of them shared together, and perhaps the only things D'Artagnan could teach Marcelle about. Certainly, Gascony did not have extravagant women just walking about.
"Why do you prefer Marci over Marcelle?"
"Well, when I was born, D'Artagnan was second to hold me," Marci retold the story like she had heard it thousands of times."And when they told him my name, he thought it was too long, so he shortened it. My parents say he shook his head and declared that Marci was much more suiting. And when they asked him why, he told them he thought Marcelle was too formal; meant for a grown up and not a little girl."
"Tagnan!" Marci squealed, running at D'Artagnan full speed when she spotted him at the end of the hall. He smiled broadly, reached down and scooped her up, spinning her in a circle. She giggled wildly as she was rotated, hair flinging itself around as the arms at her waist supported her. "S-stop Tagnan, you're m-making me d-dizzy!" She managed through her peals of laughter. He chuckled, slowly coming to a halt and gently setting her back on her feet.
"Did you enjoy yourself?"
Marci nodded enthusiastically. "Oh yes! Queen Anne showed me all around the palace!" D'Artagnan looked up briefly at the Queen, eyes flickering from Anne to Marci as he mouthed, "thank you."
And he truly looked grateful.
Out of the corner of her eye, Anne saw Constance blush and turn her head towards the ground. The young man was still staring at Anne, as if asking if she had understood what he had mouthed. She only nodded in return, and he gave her a small smile, turning his attention back to the little girl clutching his hand and jumping up and down.
"Tagnan," Marci exclaimed, tugging on his sleeve in her excitement, "Tagnan, Tagnan, Tagnan!"
D'Artagnan grinned, asking quickly to stop the ongoing flow of exclaimations, "what- what, what-"
"What are we going to do now?" She asked, ceasing the jumps. He smirked.
"Well, what do you want to do now?"
She paused, eyes upturned and brows scrunched. D'Artagnan's lips turned upwards slightly at her expression. "Colors? Make me colors?" She asked, eyes glinting.
He laughed softly, eyes alight with amusement. "Alright," he agreed, "as long as you don't make a mess, yeah?" She nodded vigorously, her long hair bouncing with the movements of her head. He grinned at her, looked back again once at Anne, and nodded his head slightly. Then he was gone, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Marci with him, and Anne felt just a little disappointed for some reason.
Suddenly, there was the clacking sound of boots on marble, and skinny arms were encasing her waist. Marci beamed up at her, squeezed Anne one more time, before skipping off to a waiting D'Artagnan and grabbing his hand. The two made their way across the courtyard, Anne smiling at them from the nearest window.
Well, leave me a comment if you get the chance and hope you liked the chapter!