A Musketeer's Heart - Prologue

A person did a lot for those they loved. Was willing to do about anything to save a loved one. Sacrifice everything they held dear, forsake everything else. Forget about their own safety and put their lives on the line.

Even if it meant pretending to be somebody else, something else.

For Alec that meant joining the musketeers under false pretences, under a false name. The plan had been fairly simple, really. Join the musketeers, befriend them, gain their trust, bid time until they were willing to help. Fight alongside them, drink with them, laugh with them, help them, trust them...

Unfortunately, no plan is perfect. Unforeseen circumstances might occur, throwing even the best laid plans askew.

For Alec’s plan didn’t include falling in love. So utterly and completely the person for whose rescue the plan had been prepared, suddenly wasn’t the only one Alec was willing to do anything for anymore. So utterly and completely in love, that the usually reticent and taciturn novice musketeer spoke out of line, even if it was to tell the truth.

And telling the bloody truth to a bloody idiot got Alec knocked over by a punch.

Whoever said falling in love was beautiful should be hanged immediately.

Aramis flexed his aching fingers, glaring down at the young man sprawled at his feet. He felt like kicking himself for punching Alec, but he’s felt like punching him ever since the boy joined their little tight-knit group. It was either that or—Aramis gritted his teeth. It was unnatural, what he felt, not normal. There was just something about the kid that rubbed him the wrong way.

Yes, he could admit at liking the boy. A lot. Too much sometimes. He was good—very good—with the sword, he could shoot a fly at a hundred yards, he had a wicked sense of humour, and a very dry wit, he fought dirty—he had to, with his tiny stature, he could drink them all under the table, the ladies loved him, and Aramis was convinced the boy cheated at cards, although he had no proof.

But what mattered the most to him, to all of them, was the fact Alec had their backs. From the first day Tréville assigned him to their group, making him an apprentice musketeer as a favour to a friend, the kid has made an impression. With his looks—no wonder he was popular with the ladies, and with his skill and courage.

He, Athos, Porthos and d’Artagnan have debated on the kid’s age, but shy of asking him outright, they couldn’t come to an agreement. And none of them wanted to ask. The excuse was they didn’t want to pry, but Aramis knew the reason lay elsewhere. It was that same reason that prevented them from asking Alexandre Reynaud anything about him or his life.

The eyes.

Those pale green eyes of his.

The kid had a way of looking at them—at anybody, really, when he wanted to—that made it seem as if he was looking straight at their souls, weighing them to see if they were worthy. That almost unblinking stare was very effective and bloody useful at times, when it made whoever stood in front of them or in their way, shift on their feet or in the saddle, or made the suspect they were interrogating spill his secrets without much effort. But it was also a bloody nuisance when Alec turned that steady, all-seeing stare at them. Which usually happened whenever they got too curious about him.

Which should probably make them suspicious. Instead, it made them squirm, feeling as if the boy could read their minds, discover all their secrets, know what lay deep in their hearts. Which was true in Aramis’ case. Although the kid hadn’t read his mind, Aramis had been the one to tell him everything one drunken evening, after an excruciating afternoon spent in the company of the Queen and her infant son. His infant son.

Up until that evening, Athos had been the only one, beside him and Queen Anne, to know the truth. But Alec had suspected it, Aramis had seen it in the boy’s steady gaze whenever they were in the presence of the Queen. And he’d seen it in his eyes that night. Which had spurred him out from their barracks and into the first tavern down the street. That should have been the end of it, but the boy had followed him, sat at the table opposite him...And simply waited, his eyes never wavering from Aramis’ face. He’d felt his stare, despite not looking up from his tankard of ale, and when he’d lifted his head to send the boy to hell, Alec simply cocked his head...Aramis had told him everything, and Alec simply listened, his eyes slowly filling with sadness and sorrow. And something akin to pain. As if he knew what unrequited love felt like.

It was in that moment, Aramis knew the kid would never tell, would never judge.

Only to be proven wrong a few weeks later.

So here he stood, gritting his teeth, waiting for Alec to spring to his feet, and punch him back. Yet the kid only levelled that pale green stare at him, and Aramis felt worse than if the kid struck him back. Those eyes were filled with hurt, as if the punch had been a stab to the back.

Then Alec blinked, and the hurt was replaced with a stony mask, eyes carefully blank. He wiped the blood off his lip with the back of his hand, and slowly gained his feet. Aramis flexed his hand again, waiting for the attack, but Alec merely looked at him archly, making him feel small and insignificant. Aramis remembered his mother had used to look at him like that when he’d done something he shouldn’t have had.

“The first one is free,” Alec said calmly. “Next time you hit me, you better hope you knock me unconscious.”

He turned, and calmly strolled out of the tavern, leaving Aramis staring after him perturbed, his heart hurting at the knowledge that he hadn’t punched the boy for telling the truth—he’d known it was true from the moment the Queen had revealed her pregnancy, he’d hit Alec because punching him was the only possible choice. But what hurt the most was the fact their friendship was over. He’d seen it in Alec’s eyes.

The eyes that have been haunting his dreams since that first day. Eyes that would probably never look at him with sparks of a smile in them.

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