Epilogue - Summer 1634

Les Halles market was busy as ever. Porthos had just caught a pickpocket trying to steal from a mother carrying her baby. The woman was young and pretty, so of course Aramis had needed to help too. D'artagnan had meandered off to talk to Constance who he'd seen passing on a street corner. Athos didn't mind. His younger friend knew that he was still on duty; was still poised to take any action required should the need call for it. Athos moved on through the throng of people, ignoring the growl his stomach made when he passed a stall selling sweet pastries. The chatter and laughter of summer markets was always a pleasing sound. It reminded Athos that life was still lovely, still beautiful and still strong.

There was an unmistakable sound that reached his ears as he found himself within the melee of a crowd of stalls that sold fine silks. It was a voice, a laughter that made him think of home somehow. It was not his office at the garrison or his rooms in Paris that he thought of. It was a sound filled with the youth of spring and the freshness of the county. It was the kind of laughter that should have been ringing throughout the fine halls of a house like his in the country. He had not thought of that place in such a long time; had not considered his old life in relation to anyone who he had met in his new one. That sound though, that sound made him feel like somehow he could go back there.

He moved quickly then as the voice began to fade. He ambled around stalls, the rainbow colours of fine embroidered silk dancing before his eyes to obscure his view. The sound was stationary then, and he slowed until he was sure he was very close to it indeed. He reached up to the intricate white lace and with fumbling fingers he pulled it back slightly. A shock of blonde hair met his eyes as the woman laughed again. The sound touched his heart this time. It was full of happiness. She was arm in arm with a tall blond man who looked upon her with a definite fondness. She really had found happiness then. There was a part of him that wanted to shrink away from the sight and leave her to her new life, but there was also a large part of him that wanted to know who the man was, wanted to know if he was of a decent sort.

He watched her for a time as she walked on and he followed. She remained arm in arm with the man, chatting merrily as they meandered through the stalls. Her fingers were reaching out to snag on all of the fine cloths as she passed them. Athos wanted to grab that hand. Then, suddenly another man was at her side, taking that hand and placing it into the crook of his arm. This new man was so alike the first that Athos suddenly realised why she was so happy. The resemblance then was striking as he realised he was looking upon her two brothers.

He could not contain his excitement to see her so happy, and he no longer wanted to. He would make himself known, but he would let her think that she had spotted him fist. He moved away from them swiftly and circled around them so that they might come face to face. He approached her with an indifferent manner as if he had not seen her, but she simply smiled as she caught sight of him. There was no expectation or surprise there. Had she known that he had been watching her?

She extricated herself from her brothers with a few whispered words and approached him as her brothers moved on. She smiled wanly, and he knew she had sensed him earlier when he was following her. "Hello," was all that she said.

"Your brothers?" Athos asked her. Elizabeth nodded and the pearl drop earrings hanging from her ears jangled slightly. "Your mother; is she here?"

Her smile diminished. She shook her head and Athos knew somehow that her mother had passed on. Elizabeth had seen the realisation in his eyes. "My brothers were with her at the end. She was surrounded by people that loved her. That is the best one can hope for in this world."

She had clearly not forgotten how alone she had felt for all of those months when she thought she was going to die. Yet, there was a new found confidence within her that spoke volumes about the last two years of her life. She had found herself. "And yet you look happy," Athos replied. "You are well?"

Elizabeth chuckled. "I am very well Monsieur. I am happy indeed. What about you; are you happy?"

Athos stepped towards her then and grinned. "I am now."

They moved then as one, scurrying towards an alleyway that was gratefully empty. Athos leaned back against the wall and watched Elizabeth. He knew she would see his movement as a challenge. He was not about to repeat the actions that occurred the first time they had kissed. The ball was entirely in her court this time. She stepped closer ever so slowly, emphasising each step with a swing of her hips. He wanted to reach out and grab her waist to pull her towards him, but he resisted. He resisted any act of force until she was pressing herself against him and she placed his lips over his. Then he lost all of his willpower and gave in to rebellion. He pulled her flush against him and kissed her soundly, suddenly not caring if anyone from the street saw.