11 - Full Moon

I always seemed to forget how warm my uncle's embrace could be until I visited him. I sat in front of the empty fireplace in the early evening light. I had arrived ahead of schedule and only Athos and Raoul were home. After giving me their welcomes, they ducked into the kitchen. I could hear them scrambling around as I reclined casually in my chair. After a moment, they started to bicker and missed the quiet creaking of the door opening.

D'Artagnan poked his head in and smiled.

'Marie!' D'Artagnan said in a voice low enough that only I could hear. He rushed forward and embraced me. After the usual hellos and questions after my family, he sat beside me. 'You have arrived earlier than expected. Am I the first to welcome you besides your uncle?'

I nodded. 'You are the first to arrive. I may say I am glad of it. How has everyone been? I know I can trust you of all people for information, D'Artagnan.'

D'Artagnan chuckled and shook his head.

'Porthos is Porthos. The same as ever. Getting depressed about retirement, as are we all,' he replied, though it was obvious that he would not be retiring any time soon.

'Don't be silly D'Artagnan,' I began with a knowing glance. 'You are nowhere near retirement. You just say these things so that Porthos and the others won't slip further into their melancholy.'

'Yes, but don't let on,' he replied with a wink. I nodded in conspiratory agreement.

'And Aramis?' I asked, noticing through the window that the sky was darkening and a few stars were beginning to shine. D'Artagnan tried to hide his change in expression, but I could just barely make out his face falling.

'Aramis has been a bit distant lately. I don't really know why, he just seems a bit... out of sorts,' D'Artagnan finally admitted, looking up at the mantle before us. I furrowed my eyebrows, a wisp of worry appearing in the pit of my stomach. What could possibly be wrong with Aramis? Then, a thought occured to me and I turned my attentions back to D'Artagnan.

'Do you think he will come tonight?' I asked. The worry must have been apparent on my face, because D'Artagnan immediately threw on his most reassuring smile.

'I am sure that he will. Whatever could be occupying his mind, it must be set aside for this evening. Otherwise, I'm sure Porthos may cause him physical harm.'

As if on cue, Porthos barreled through the front door. I was beginning to doubt his ability to enter a room in any other way besides barreling in.

'Speak of the Devil, and he shall appear,' I joked to D'Artagnan in a hushed voice.

'Marie!' Porthos exclaimed, making Athos poke his head out of the kitchen briefly. Athos shot a surprised look at D'Artagnan as he didn't hear him come in, but just as quickly as he had popped his head out, he disappeared back into the kitchen. Porthos ignored Athos' impression of a groundhog and strode over to me. He picked me up out of my chair and drew me into a colossal hug. I let out a muffled laugh into his rich overcoat.

'I've missed you too, Porthos,' I mumbled through my laugh, trying to be heard through the many folds of fabric that clothed him. Porthos pulled back with the smile that only he could pull off spread across his face.

'I must speak with Spain, I think. They have kept you for far too long,' he exclaimed with mock exasperation. I just smirked pointedly at Porthos in response and sat back down after embracing him once again -this time of my own volition. There was something about Porthos that constantly put a smile on my face. I watched him gesture wildly as he spoke of his latest adventure. Of course, to Porthos, every moment of life was an adventure. Even so, D'Artagnan's words were beginning to ring true. Even Porthos' enthuisiasm seemed a little more sedated than usual.

I was roused from my thoughts as the door opened one last time. I turned to look and I saw Aramis walk in calmly and smile when he saw the scene before him. I heard D'Artagnan's words in my head once again, but as I watched Aramis join the party and move toward me, I saw no change in his manner or countenence. He looked exactly the same as I remembered him. I actually handn't realised how much I had missed him until I saw his smiling face look at me.

'Hello, Marie,' he said as he took my hand, 'Welcome back.' With that, he placed a whisper of a kiss on my hand.

'I am very happy to be back, Aramis. My previous excursion here was cut far too short,' I said with a wider smile than I had intended.

'I couldn't agree more.'

I stirred in my bed and opened my eyes. I had been lying there for over an hour, unable to sleep. I looked out the window for a moment and sighed. Maybe a walk would help me sleep.

I wrapped a shawl around my shoulders and snuck out of my room. I crept along the hallway carefully, making sure not to step on any particularly loose or creaky floorboards. As I walked out the back door, I was greeted by a full moon. It shone down confidently, bathing the entire meadow in silver light. My shawl draped loosely around my shoulders. In the summer night, I barely needed it. I took a few steps forward, feeling the cool grass beneath my bare feet.

I was only a few steps into the meadow when I heard a noise in the small wood just west of my uncle's house. I couldn't tell what it was, but my first instinct was to go see. The next moment, my lifelong lessons of propriety told me to walk back inside the house. Something inside me said that if I had been back home in Spain, I probably would have just gone back to bed. But I was not in Spain. I was not in my parents' house where I was expected to do as I was trained.

And so, I walked toward the wood.

I followed the sound, walking as briskly as I could while still remaining quiet. As I arrived at the brink of the wood I paused for a moment and glanced back at the house. The moment was soon over, though, and I dove into the wood determinedly. After a few steps, I heard the noise again. It sounded like leaves rustling and this time I swore a twig snapped. I urged myself forward.

Suddenly, the wood fell away to a clearing. Toward the center, there was a lone tree stump surrounded by some wild flowers that shone in the moonlight. There was a small portion of wildflowers leading from the far side of the wood to the stump that had been trampled. On closer inspection, however, I realised that those tracks were not made by any animal, but by a large pair of boots. My eyes widened and darted around, looking for the man who made the tracks. I started to step back toward the wood slowly, until I heard another twig snap and I broke into a sprint back to the house.

The next morning I was awoken by the door closing. I hadn't gotten very much sleep the night before, and it seemed as if I had been jolted out of my dreams as soon as I entered them. I groaned softly as I lifted myself from the bed and slipped on an old dressing gown.

I expected to see Athos as I stumbled sleepily down the stairs. As I came to the landing, however, I saw the main room empty except for a bundle on the table. I came down the last few steps and jumped at a dark figure that I saw out of the corner of my eye. After whipping around, I saw that it was just Aramis walking out of the kitchen with a mug of tea. He looked surprised at my reaction.

'I was just getting some tea,' he said simply, gesturing at the mug in his hands. I laughed nervously and sat down at the table.

'I'm sorry, Aramis, I supposed I'm just a little shaky today,' I replied, rubbing my eyes. Aramis walked over to the table and placed his mug in front of me.

'I'm sorry you couldn't sleep last night,' he said casually, turning back toward the kitchen -presumably to get himself another cup of tea. I look up at him and furrowed my eyebrows.

'How did you know I couldn't sleep last night?' I asked him. As I watched him, I saw him just barely pause in the kitchen doorway for less than a moment and turn. He smiled compassionately.

'Well, you look a bit overtaxed. I thought that your traveling must have worn you out.' And then he turned back into the kitchen. I shook my head and turned back to the tea Aramis had given me. I didn't have the energy to think about anything at the moment.

I sipped my tea and shifted my attention to the bundle beside me. I drowsily poked at it with the same hand that held my tea as I rested my head on the other hand. After a few pokes I noticed Aramis looking at me amusedly.

'What is it?' I asked, taking another sip of my tea. I wondered for a moment how Aramis knew I liked my tea sweet. He sat across from me.

'D'Artagnan sent it for you. I don't know what it is.'

I looked at the package curiously and set my tea aside. I brought the bundle of burlap before me and started to unwrap it. Under the string and rough, brown fabric was a mass of black cloth. I fished through and laid the garments on the table: a loose black shirt, a fitted pair of black pants, and a high pair of black leather boots. Underneath all the clothes was a short note that made me groan in exasperation.

I hope you have been practicing - D'Artagnan

A/N: Phew, I'm tired. But I knew I had to get this chapter done in one good shot, so I stayed up late, haha. I hope you guys like it! We're getting a little more into plot now. :) Anyway, please R&R and have a loverly day! :D