Summary: After travelling all day in a horrific storm the boys finally stop at an Inn. Cue D'Artagnan angst and plenty of big brother comfort.
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
My heart sunk as Athos signalled for us to stop. We couldn't stop, not here, not now! Please tell me this is a joke…please. We were only a couple of hours from Paris but having travelled most of the day in the pouring rain and freezing cold Athos had finally had enough. Coming across the Inn seemed like a stroke of luck to them but to me it was my worst thoughts come true.
"Thank God for that." Porthos mumbled as we settled the horses in the stable. Just breathe, it's not like before just breathe. A few deep breaths did little to stop the pounding of my heart. Why did we have to stop here? Why couldn't we have just carried on? Of all the Inn's around Paris why did it have to be this one!?
"Oi!" I couldn't help startling at Porthos' yell. "Get a move on, I'm freezing." To punctuate his point he seemed to shiver slightly. I turned round to tell him to go ahead but quickly snapped my mouth shut. I don't want to be alone; I can't be alone, not here. Instead I managed a curt nod and quickly set about getting Aramis' horse settled. Between my shaking hands and the panic building in my chest it took longer than it should have to get the job done. As I finally finished I made to flee the barn, wanting to be anywhere but here unfortunately a large hand grabbed my arm to stop me from leaving.
"You okay?" Truth be told it didn't shock me to see that Porthos had noticed my panic. It had been just over an hour ago that I'd realized with total horror that our route back to Paris would take us straight by here. Part of me wanted to tell them, to say something…anything but I couldn't. Each time I opened my mouth nothing came out. By now it had become obvious that they hadn't realised just where we were and I know I should tell them. If I tell them then Athos will insist that we carry on to Paris, carry on in this horrendous storm freezing, wet and more than likely we'd end up getting sick. I couldn't be responsible for that, my brothers needed the rest and warmth which meant that I'd just have to deal with it. A sharp squeeze to my arm reminded me that I had yet to answer his question.
"I'm fine. Just tired." He frowned, judging for a moment whether or not to believe me, before his expression neutralised.
"Aren't we all lad? Just think, by tomorrow afternoon we'll be back in Paris and with any luck Treville won't have any more missions for us." He quickly dragged me from the barn and into the Inn. My breath caught slightly and I could feel tears pricking my eyes but I refused to let them fall. I'm a musketeer now; I just have to be strong for one night.
"Right they've got two rooms available so we'll be sharing." Aramis' cheerful voice calmed me slightly as it always did. Part of me couldn't help but be relieved at the news since sharing a room meant that I wouldn't have to be alone like I was that night. Before I could even breathe a strong hand shoved me forward as Porthos quickly declared that it was my turn to share with our resident Spaniard.
I couldn't help smirking at this. All of my brothers had totally different sleep patterns. Porthos slept like the dead, but was the early riser of the group. He was the kind of guy that didn't need a lot of sleep to function. Unlike Aramis who was easily the laziest of them. He liked to sleep for as long as he possibly could, how he ever got himself up in the morning I'll never know. However the echoes of his past, the massacre at Savoy, had cost him. He slept fitfully when alone often suffering from nightmares of that horrific day. It was this action that led to him clinging on to whoever happened to be in bed with him at the time. Athos was, if it was at all possible, the strangest of them all. He too suffered from the horrors of his past which is why he felt the need to drink himself into an alcoholic stupor every night.
"D'Art!" Startling at the voice from beside me I dragged myself (quite reluctantly) from the amusing thoughts in my head and back to reality. "We need to go and get changed. Keep those wet clothes on any longer and you'll end up making yourself sick which is not happening. I'm not sleeping next to you coughing and sneezing all night."
Reluctantly I trudged up the stairs praying all the while for this night to end.
Rolling over once again I couldn't shake the nightmares that had consumed my sleep. After convincing three worried brothers that I was just tired and needed some sleep (something which I realised afterwards was actually true) they'd finally gone downstairs. As much as I didn't want to be alone I also couldn't interrupt their night. If I told them the truth then they'd only worry about me. Besides it's not like I'm a child. I can spend one night in this place and cope. Tomorrow we'll be back in Paris and away from here. I could survive for a few hours without someone by my side; I don't need someone to hold my hand. As I lay in bed, trying to force away the memories I realised just how bad an idea this actually was.
Paris will still be there in the morning…
I couldn't stop them…
Squeezing my eyes shut in a desperate attempt to drive away the tears threatening to spill from my eyes I buried my head in the pillow. I could feel myself beginning to tremble as my father's last moments replayed in my head over and over again.
He's dead lad. He's gone…
Paris will still be there in the morning…
As another yawn escaped from my mouth I finally decided that maybe it was time to get some sleep. Porthos had already gone upstairs after practically being ordered to by Athos. The man was dead on his feet but still insisted he wasn't tired. Of all the men I've ever known he's the only one who reverts to a naughty child when he's exhausted.
"There's something wrong with D'Artagnan." Athos' words surprised me somewhat. He'd pretty much said nothing all night. Since finally taking care of Milady and the Cardinal I had seen a change in him. From the moment I'd met him there had been a dark shadow cast over him and it was obvious that the man had some viscous demons chasing after him. Most had seen him as a stuck up drunk but I'd seen through that. The man drank to chase away something from his past. I'd seen it before, hell after Savoy I'd spent several months doing just that. Thankfully I'd had Porthos to drag me from the depths and pull me back up. It had taken a long time but we'd finally been able to do that for Athos. He was still haunted by his past, still blamed himself for his brother's death, but he was no longer tortured by it. For now it seemed he could live with his demons and I must say his liver was probably doing a celebratory dance. He still drank, some nights needing to escape, but his drinking had curbed (which for Athos was a miracle).
"What makes you say that?" I didn't really have to ask. Since he'd protested about going to bed early I'd known that something was wrong. Quite what it was I didn't know but there was definitely something not right with him.
"He's been…quiet." Athos finally said after several minutes of silence. It was true that D'Artagnan had been fairly quiet for the last leg of our journey, something that could easily be explained by the lad being tired but knowing Athos there was more. "Earlier tonight he had this look in his eye. When he was protesting for us to let him sleep there was something else there. I can't place it."
At least now I know what had kept our stoic leader so quiet tonight. I couldn't quite place the look that Athos had seen but our little Gascon had been out of sorts without a doubt. Stretching I stood from the table and headed over to the stairs.
"I'll have a word with him in the morning." The nod I received in return said his thanks. Usually the lad wouldn't hesitate to speak to Athos about what was bothering him. It was strange but Athos was the kind of person who you could confide anything to and know full well that he wasn't going to judge. I'd learnt this on the anniversary of Savoy when I'd broken down and confessed the guilt that lay in my heart. For a long time I'd kept my feelings secret, not wanting people to see the weakness that lay within me, but he'd somehow drawn them out. It was then I'd realised that I had someone to confide in. Porthos was great, he could easily cheer me up, but I felt wrong burdening him with my sorrow so much and so often. From day one D'Artagnan had looked up to us all but Athos was his mentor. Athos was the one he looked up to. He hadn't hesitated to confide his thoughts to any of us, even if those thoughts weren't exactly pleasant, I can't help my mind wandering to his doubt over Porthos all those months ago. He hadn't hesitated to speak his mind that day despite knowing the anger it would cause. Of course the lad had apologised profusely the next day for doubting him. The lad never hesitated to talk to us, to question us…to confide. The fact that he was trying not to now set worry in all our hearts.
Tomorrow morning I'll drag the truth out of him before we set off. I thought to myself as I climbed the stairs. My intentions however went out of the window as soon as I opened the door.
"D'Artagnan?" The lad was sat on the edge of the bed with tears dripping from both eyes, trembling from head to foot. I sat beside him and pulled the young lad into my arms. After what seemed like an age he pulled away and settled his eyes on the floor. "What's wrong?"
He shook his head and for a while we sat in silence before he finally spoke. "I just can't get it out of my head." Knowing he would continue I forced myself to stay put. What I really wanted to do was wrap the kid up and never let go. "That night just keeps coming back to me…running through my brain over and over and over…the rain, the cold…my father-" He broke off at that as he trembling began once again.
"Come here." I held him closer this time, cradling him tight to my chest. There were no tears but from what I could see it was a close call. Something told me that it was only sheer force of will that kept the tears at bay. "I thought the nightmares had stopped."
For months following his father's passing the poor lad had the most horrific nightmares. But as he'd found his place among the musketeers that terrible night had slowly escaped from his dreams. Of course it would always be there, much like Thomas would always be with Athos, but it no longer stalked his sleep.
"It's this place." Had he not been so close to me I would have failed to hear the words.
"This place?" He stilled completely in my arms as I spoke and pulled away. As he stood by the window I realise that I wasn't supposed to hear the words. "What do you mean?"
Shaking his head he refused to look at me. This place? What did his mean by that? This was just an Inn, what was wrong with an Inn? My mind flashed to his nightmares for a moment and another question flashed into my head. Why would being at an Inn cause nightmares of his father's passing? It's not like-
My mind cut off as realisation finally dawned in my mind. Oh God! How could we have been so stupid? How could we have forgotten? This Inn. This is where his father died.
"Oh D'Art…you stupid boy you should have told us." Once again he shook his head, still refusing to look at me. Taking hold of his chin I tilted his head up and forced his eyes to meet mine. What I saw in them all but broke my heart. That look Athos had seen, that look that he hadn't been able to pin point…I know now what it was. It was heartbreak. Placing my hand on his cheek seemed to tear down the walls and he finally broke down. Wrapping my arms around his waist I pulled him close, his head falling onto my shoulder as he sobbed.
"It was raining that night that." He whispered many hours later. By now he lay on the bed, cuddled close to my side. Athos' sixth sense had kicked in shortly after the poor lad had broken down, followed by Porthos who Athos had woken in his misguided attempt to leave the Inn. After D'Artagnan had pointed out that it was now dark and the storm was worse than ever he'd conceded that leaving wasn't an option.
Porthos was sat on D'Arts other side, his large hand coming to rest on the boys shoulder attempting to convey his support. Athos had pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and was now silently blaming himself for this. Ignoring the fact that he had no idea this is where the lad's father had been killed. Porthos and I should have known, we should have realised where we were.
"Why didn't you say something?" Porthos sighed.
"Because we'd have left." Apparently he'd caught our confusion so he continued. "You guys needed to stop, you needed to rest and eat. So did the horses."
"We would have waited until Paris. You are far more important than an early night." At Athos' words we descended into silence once more. For a moment I thought he was falling asleep until he spoke once again.
"It was raining that night." He repeated. He'd never said much about the night his father had died. We hadn't pressed him on it since it was so painful for him to think about. "I was dealing with the horses…I should've…" He trailed off clearly not wanting to voice his thoughts.
"It wasn't your fault." His head snapped up at Athos' words. "You can't blame yourself for it."
"Coming from you?" Got to admit he's got a good point. Athos has spent years blaming himself for something that he couldn't have prevented.
"It's different. I brought Anne into his life." Sharing a look with Porthos we both couldn't help but sigh. None of us had been able to convince Athos that his wife's actions were not his fault; then again he's spent so long blaming himself for everything that went wrong I doubt we could change his mind now.
"He didn't want to stop. He said we should carry on but…I convinced him to stop. I was worried about him riding in the storm." The trembling had started once again as he spoke. How had we been so blind to his pain? "His horse spooked easily."
"You were trying to keep him safe. There could have been no way of knowing that Gaudet and his men were going to attack." The shake of his head easily told me he didn't agree with our leader's words but thankfully he said nothing more. Athos however wasn't pleased.
"Look at me D'Artagnan." When the lad made no move to lift his head from where it was buried in my side our leader finally snapped. "Look at me!"
To anyone else it would seem like Athos was being hard on the boy but we knew differently. He sounded harsh at times, like he didn't care and that he wasn't interested. That was far from the truth. It was just in his nature. He was cool, calm and very rarely lost his temper. He showed his care in other ways, it was in his actions, the smallest of movements. The man was surprisingly easy to read when you knew how.
"You cannot blame yourself for your father's murder and yes I know that's a bit rich coming from me. There was nothing you could have done. Torturing yourself like this will do you no good, you'll destroy yourself and you'll never be able to move on." And that right there is why Athos is one of the best men I've ever met. Like everyone else on this earth he has his issues but he has a way of knowing what to say and just when to say it. It's like he can see right through people.
"He's right lad." Porthos said pulling the trembling boy in for a hug. For many minutes there was no sound in the room save for the shaky breaths coming from D'Artagnan. Eventually he pulled away from the hug and returned to his position cuddled against my side. I couldn't help but smile as he did.
Despite everything that happened I still couldn't help but think of him as the young boy I'd first met. He'd changed a lot since then, lost some of that wide eyed innocence of youth for one. Over these last few months I'd seen the lad prove himself time and time again. Athos was right. He truly was going to be the greatest Musketeer of us all. At his young age it would seem like a strange statement to make but it was true. He was young and impulsive with a temper that could put many men to shame. Although his sword technique wasn't as good as Athos there was no doubt that the lad would get there. Even in the short time he'd been training with us his technique had improved greatly. His hand to hand needed work but he had decent aim.
There was one thing however that would ensure that he would be the best. He had us. There was no way that lad was going to be anything but the best. Let's face it; he's got the best teachers possible. There was no one better than Athos with a sword, Porthos could easily best any man in hand to hand combat whilst (and I'm not being big headed here) I was a damn good shot.
As the young lad beside me finally closed his eyes, settled for the first time, I share a look with my brothers. That night we make a silent promise to our little brother. No matter what we're going to protect him and God help anyone who tries to hurt him.
Really hope that you like it. Let me know what you think. Next oneshot will be called Protective Instinct. TTFN!