Author's note: Thank you to everyone reading, reviewing and liking this story. I really appreciate it and I do love to hear what you think… (keeps me typing )
Special thanks to Enigma TM for letting me know I needed to update this story… actually needed that! So here it is! Just for you :D
Also I don't own anything and this has not been beta'd.
Chapter 6 Reunion
His smile and his dark eyes, which were full with emotion, were unmistakable Aramis… But the rest of him was almost unrecognizable. Aramis was gaunt and pale, his beard long and unkempt. He was wearing commoners' clothes instead of his usual leathers and he was without his hat.
'It's me,' Aramis stated and before he could say another word two strong arms hugged him tightly; holding him for a long time.
'How is this possible?' Athos asked finally, pulling back. 'You could never have survived that fall! And you were hurt… I saw you get hurt… We… we thought you were dead!'
Aramis grimaced, scratching his beard with his free hand, 'Yes well, I cannot tell you exactly how I survived, because I was unconscious for most of it… A woman, Agnetha, found me and with help from her nephew they got me to her home in the woods and took care of me there. It took me a while to get better and well, there is still this cane I have to use otherwise I will fall flat on my face…' he ended bitterly.
Athos took another step back from his brother, still unable to believe that he was alive. 'We searched for you!'
Aramis nodded, 'Of course you did.'
Suddenly an awkward silence fell upon them and Athos didn't know what to say. He had given up the search first. He had convinced Porthos and 'd Artagnan to stop looking because, like he had said before, surviving a fall like that and being hurt was next to impossible. He should never have given up… He should never have given up on Aramis. 'I… I am sorry, brother… for giving up on you,' Athos said, clearing his throat because suddenly it seemed impossible to talk in a normal voice. He felt his eyes go wet… which was impossible… he, the Comte de la Fere, never cried. 'I am so sorry, Aramis,' he whispered, hanging his head.
He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, 'It is alright, my friend. I know it is a miracle that I survived… I know you did everything you could… I don't blame you… or anyone for that matter.'
After a few moments Athos was able to compose himself; clearing his throat softly. 'Why didn't you let us know you were alive? We would have come…'
'I intended to, of course,' Aramis said with a sigh. 'When I had recovered enough I wanted to get to Paris as soon as possible… which was weeks later… but without a horse I wasn't getting very far and with my leg… The people who had rescued and cared for me, needed my help…' Aramis explained. 'I could hardly decline helping them…'
Athos nodded understanding.
'Are 'd Artagnan and Porthos with you?' Aramis asked.
'Yes, we are escorting the Duke of Orléans to Paris on orders of the King. Apparently, he wants his brother to be present when he makes an announcement,' Athos answered, in his normal curt manner.
'What announcement?' Aramis asked, looking at his brother.
Athos shrugged, 'I do not know… nobody does, except the King… and the Queen, I imagine.'
There was a moment of silence before Aramis asked silently; shifting his weight on his leg, 'How is she?'
Athos didn't need to ask who Aramis was asking about and answered, 'I have not seen her since the day she found out about your… accident. She has been keeping to her rooms.'
Aramis nodded, his head down, accepting this answer.
'Rumour has it… she has been ill,' Athos added. Although he didn't like to gossip and usually didn't believe the various rumours going around at court (when he payed enough attention to hear them) he decided to share this rumour with Aramis because he believed there was some kind of truth to it.
Aramis looked up at Athos, but before he could say anything they were interrupted.
'Athos, what is keeping you? We were worried when you didn't come b…' the voice of 'd Artagnan trailed away when he got close enough to see that Athos was talking to someone. 'Is everything alright?' he asked not recognizing Aramis.
Athos turned around towards 'd Artagnan, 'Something came up,' he explained.
'd Artagnan frowned.
'Or rather, someone…' Aramis said stepping forward, again leaning heavily on his cane.
It would have been a comical sight if the situation wasn't so serious. Emotions ran over 'd Artagnan's face starting with confusion followed by surprise, unbelieve, happiness, sadness and again confusion. 'Wha… I… Wha… A… Aramis?!' he asked, finally finding the right words to say. Tears immediately wet his eyes… 'Aramis?'
The man in question nodded, but before he could say anything they were again interrupted. This time it was Porthos. 'He's not at the tavern anymore. Bartender said he left right after the duke left.'
'He was right,' Athos answered.
Porthos looked up, taking in the three men before him. Not recognizing Aramis immediately, he asked, 'What kept you?'
Before anyone answered, 'd Artagnan made a strange noise and pulled Aramis into a tight hug; crying. Whispering, 'You're alive! …You're alive!'
'What is going on?' Porthos asked, still not recognizing his best friend. To be fair 'd Artagnan made it hard for Porthos to even see his fellow brother.
'It's Aramis, Porthos…' Athos explained, 'he… survived.'
Aramis looked up over 'd Artagnan's shoulder and it was then Porthos recognized him. Porthos stood still as a statue, processing this news, while maintaining eye contact with Aramis. But when the shock wore off he pulled both 'd Artagnan and Aramis into a bear hug, he roared, 'I knew it! I just knew it! …I just knew you couldn't be gone!'
'Can we go somewhere and sit down… I don't think my leg feels like supporting me much longer,' Aramis said when Porthos and 'd Artagnan had finally decided to let him go and they kept asking him questions of how he had survived and why he hadn't contacted them.
'Come inside,' Athos offered.
Aramis smiled, 'I happen to know that this inn is a very fine establishment and I doubt they will let me enter…' after getting confused looks from his fellow musketeers he added, explaining, 'I know how I look…'
'You look fine,' Porthos exclaimed.
Aramis gave him a look that said really?, 'A moment ago you did not even recognize me and now you are saying I look fine…'
Porthos conceded, but said, 'they'll be dealing with me if they don't let you in.'
Aramis chuckled, 'I'm sure.'
'Let's get inside,' Athos said, 'don't worry about getting in…'
Aramis shrugged and let them lead the way; Porthos not leaving his side, 'd Artagnan looking over his shoulder every three seconds to see if Aramis was still there.
When they entered the Inn, the owner had indeed made objection, but Porthos had positively growled at him, towering over him, making sure the man backed off. They settled near the fireplace; it was already well into the night and most of the guest staying at the Inn had gone to their rooms for a good night sleep.
Porthos and 'd Artagnan kept asking Aramis question about his survival and how he had gotten here and why he hadn't send them a message that he was still alive. Aramis answered them all. Athos had gone to see if Bonnet was still keeping watch for the Duke.
When Athos returned he asked, 'What does this Agnetha need help with?'
Aramis sighed and told them about the situation his rescuers were in. 'Agnetha lives in the woods with her two nephews and her daughter. They run a small orphanage. They do good work but life is hard and they hardly get funds… they need help in sustaining the children…' He stretched his bad leg, rubbing it, trying to keep the circulation going. 'Word on the street was the Duke was coming this way and they asked me to see if it was true and to ask him if maybe he could help them… I told them that the Duke was not the kind of man to help others, but I went anyway… That's why I was in the tavern...'
Athos nodded but said, 'You did not approach him…'
Aramis smiled, 'No, because I saw you enter… couldn't believe my luck actually… also I don't think the Duke would have spared me one look looking like this… Should have worn my pauldron.'
'Yea, where is it anyway? And the rest of your clothes for that matter,' Porthos asked.
'It's being fixed… it had to endure a lot as you can imagine…' Aramis explained and with a sigh added, 'But, my brothers, I should be getting back… Agnetha will worry…'
'Tough luck,' Porthos snorted, 'If you think I'm letting you out of my sight ever again, think again…'
Aramis just looked at him.
'Same here, Aramis,' 'd Artagnan said, supporting Porthos. 'You don't know what it's been like without you…'
Athos snorted, 'We had to keep that one from picking fights left and right… you really do not know what it has been like…'
Aramis smiled but then sighed, 'I am sorry I caused you troubles, my brothers… I wish it would have been different…'
'At least you're alive,' Porthos growled.
'I'll escort you back,' Athos said. 'Porthos can relieve Bonnet so he can get some sleep. 'd Artagnan you get some rest and relieve Porthos in four hours.' He just gave him his usual stoic look when both Porthos and 'd Artagnan started to protest. 'We still have our duty to get the Duke back to Paris. Tomorrow we'll see what we can do for Agnetha and her children…'
'We're not leaving Aramis behind…' Porthos started.
'Of course, we are not,' Athos stated, looking rather offended at the suggestion.