Athos looked up at the sky, a plethora of emotions in his eyes and Sylvie's arm tightly wrapped around his, as they walked away from the remains of the Garrison, and his Musketeer brothers. He didn't look back, he walked towards his future-the Musketeers always in his memories.
Sylvie felt her love's eyes on her as she packed her belongings at her lodgings in St. Antoine. Athos hadn't taken much from the Garrison, but she had seen him rummaging through the rubble, as if looking for something. All of the sudden it came back to her; the printing house and the mysterious woman who had seen her-somehow known her name. That day in the printing house, she had never mentioned the encounter to Athos, but felt that she had to; that is was important. "When it really counts, he won't be there," was all she had said. The words frightened and haunted Sylvie, for Athos had already put distance between them and they were still estranged when the woman had uttered those words. But, her Musketeer reassured her without even realising he had done it. His words she would never forget: " I'm here. I'll always be here." She had not thought about that day until now, she wondered why that memory returned, especially now. She had to tell him.
Knowing his attention was fully on her, she turned around, faced her beautiful Athos and asked, "Why did you search for your bronze chest at the Garrison?" Athos, taken aback by the sudden question responded, "Pardon?" She repeated her query. "Erm...it held personal items that I needed to go through. I have and that is all," he answered. Sylvie knew her Athos could be a man of few words, but she'd also heard him be a great source of insight and inspiration; this, however, was one of the former. She was going to have to force the subject further.
The former Musketeer had gone back to packing items for their trip when he felt her gentle touch on his shoulder. He turned and she took his hands. " I need to tell you something," she said. The look on her face and tone of voice Athos already knew well. He stopped and focused his attention. "When you were searching for Grimaud and Constance was helping in my efforts with the refugees she took me to the printing house," she began. Athos nodded in understanding, " Yes, I know," he said somewhat impatiently. She continued, "A woman. Beautiful. Intriguing. Mysterious. She asked me to fetch my 'master' and when I told her I had none, came to linger over the work I had begun with Constance."
She could see Athos's expressions change ever so slightly as she told her tale, but still unsure of his thoughts she continued, "She mocked my work and the Queen's support for it saying that 'Her Majesty always has a weakness for noble causes' to which I then asked her if she considered compassion a weakness." Sylvie paused and remembered; she would never forget the stranger's reaction and look she received as the woman uttered those four words and nodded as if she understood something to which Sylvie had no clue. Athos could see Sylvie get lost in her haunting memory and, beginning to worry, placed his hand gently on her cheek bringing her out of the trance.
"What then," he asked. " How did she respond?"
"You must be Sylvie," she replied.
Athos closed his eyes and pulled her into an embrace. He quickly put it all together.
"I'm sorry," he said, keeping her close.
" She didn't frighten me. She only puzzled me. I wondered how and why she may have known me."
"I'm so sorry," he said finally letting go and kissing her head.
Sylvie continued, "Then she said, 'When it really counts, he won't be there.' I couldn't understand to what she was referring, but those words haunted me. Then she left as mysteriously as she came. Not too long after, the Red Guard came."
Athos took her hands. There was one final way to put Milady DeWinter behind him forever. "Now it's time for me to tell you something." He proceeded to tell Sylvie all about himself, Milady, their past and connection. Now Sylvie finally understood: the remarks by Aramis when they first met, even chatter in the camp and pubs, it all became clear.
This time she embraced the man she loved. " Thank you Athos. It all makes sense now."
"I need to tell you the rest of my story," he continued. "The bronze box. I told you it held things from my past. Some of it, well most of it, was from my past with her. I needed to see that my past was truly finished before we could start our future."
"Athos, you don't-"
"Please let me continue," he insisted. "Milady came to see me when we returned from rescuing Aramis. Brûjon had tried to warn me, but it was not enough. Upon seeing her, I strode towards her and…" He stopped, unable to continue. Suddenly afraid that with his next words he could lose Sylvie. At the sudden loss of words, she knew it was up to her to urge him forward; she would not give up on him, no matter what the words followed. "Go on," she urged.
Athos smiled. He knew she was there to stay as well. "We embraced." Sylvie took in a sharp breath, but Athos looked straight and deep into her eyes. "We embraced," he repeated. "And I knew it was over. I couldn't and wouldn't be with her. She brings out the worst in me-perhaps we bring out the worst in each other. But you, you make me better, make me want to be a better man." Sylvie let out the breathe she didn't know she had been holding and kissed Athos firmly, passionately.
" I knew she had seen you," he continued, needing to finish. "She mentioned you and that was all it took. I was suddenly afraid for your life and needed to know that you were safe. I did not trust her when she said that you were."
"Lucky for me you didn't," she smiled.
Athos let out a small laugh, but kept on as if trying to make her understand, "I stopped trusting her a long time ago. I realised it only at that moment."
" And then you came and saved me."
Athos smiled this time, "Yes, I went looking for you and Rochelle showed me the leaflets. Not even the King himself stopped me once he said the Red Guard had their orders."
A comfortable silence and ease passed between the couple.
After a few moments, Sylvie admitted, "I was scared Athos." She unconsciously placed her hand over her abdomen, but Athos noted the movement.
"I had only just found out about my condition. I had told no one; only the midwife knew. I thought I was alone."
"No. You'll will never be alone," Athos reaffirmed. "I'll always be here. I mean it."
"I know you do," she could feel the hot tears reaching her cheek and in that instant Athos held her. "Ok. That's it. That's all," he said. A man of few words, but Sylvie knew they meant so much.
Returning to gather and pack her worldly belongings, Athos once again watched. He was uncertain of his future-their future. As uncertain as he was before he became a Musketeer and met his beloved brothers, but, he told himself, that turned out fine and he was sure this next adventure would be even better.