A Musketeer's Heart - Chapter Five

Aramis has been nursing the same drink for the past two hours. It has lost its taste after only a sip. The scene in Tréville’s office has been replaying on a loop in his head, and he knew there was something he’s missed. There’d been something off, something was still missing from the big picture. Alec was still hiding something. The fact he’d joined their ranks in order to save an English diplomat wasn’t the only secret the boy was keeping. He’d seen it in his eyes, just a flash when he’d told him he didn’t lie to his friends.

And he’d seen the pain in those pale eyes when he’d told him he wouldn’t help him.

Aramis winced at the memory. What had gotten into him to say that? The boy had gone to the line more than once for them, he’d protected the Queen and the Dauphin. He’d helped them more than they could’ve expected in these past few weeks, watched their backs, fought alongside them. He kept their secrets—Aramis knew he hadn’t been the only one spilling his soul out to the boy—he didn’t judge.

Hell, he owed Alec his life. The boy had almost gotten shot the other day, when he’d pushed Aramis out of a bullet’s path. His friends had saved his life before, and he’d always have their backs. Alec had saved his life, and how did Aramis repay him?

By stabbing him in the back.

No matter what feelings the boy invoked deep inside him, no matter the turmoil he’s been in for weeks, he should’ve stuck by the kid. He should’ve listened to reason, thought with his head, not with his ego. He should’ve offered to help Alec in his quest.

He smirked. It’s what musketeers did best. Engage in foolish quests, putting their necks on the line for complete strangers. It was even easier to do when it came to friends. There weren’t four of them anymore. There were five. And it should be “one for all and all for one” all the way. No matter what.

When he saw the other three enter the tavern, Aramis knew the motto had applied this time as well. Only not in the good way, the right way. Athos, Porthos, and d’Artagnan had decided if he wasn’t in for the quest, they wouldn’t be as well. And because they were also smarter than him at the moment, and, unlike him, were thinking straight, he also knew they’d come to change his mind.

One for all. And all for one.

Aramis fought a grin, as he motioned his three friends to sit. Tomorrow morning they’d find Alec, apologize, and ride with him to Château de Roquetaillade.

Their mood was much improved a few hours later, after imbibing heavily from the owner’s best selection of wine, and enjoying the supple company of the wenches. Although in the end all the women had flocked only around Porthos. D’Artagnan was still nursing a broken heart due to Constance Bonacieux, Athos was being Athos—all dark and broody, keeping everybody at a distance, and him...No matter how much he wanted to, there was no appeal. There hadn’t been in while. In the beginning, he’d tried to exorcise his demon—yes, singular—with the pleasures of the flesh, to no avail. He felt even worse afterward. It felt like betrayal.

It had worked before, after that interlude at the monastery, after learning of the Queen’s pregnancy, he could forget for a while in the arms of a willing woman. And those periods of forgetfulness have grown longer and longer...But it didn’t work this time, nothing did. Nothing could make him forget this disgusting and unnatural desire deep inside.

He was thankful to Tréville for walking into the tavern, and coming to stand by their table.

“Before you say anything, sir,” Athos lifted his tankard. “Let us inform you, we’ll go with young Reynaud to Roquetaillade.”

Tréville scowled. “You might want to sober up quickly, then, and hope to catch up with him before he gets into trouble.”

Aramis’ head was instantly clear. “What do you mean, sir?”

“He rode toward Bordeaux a few hours ago.”

“Who’s with him?”

“His horse.”

Aramis shot to his feet. “He’s alone?! You let him go alone?!”

“He wouldn’t be alone if you didn’t hold a grudge,” Tréville growled. “You’ll have to explain yourself, Aramis, but let’s postpone that discussion until you all return. Alive. And in one piece.”

“Why didn’t you send others with him?” Athos looked sober as well.

“Because he said he didn’t want anyone following orders to die for a personal mission.” Tréville shrugged. “And I knew you’d change your mind. I just didn’t know it would take me this long to find you.” He looked around. “You always seem to find a tavern as far off the beaten path as possible.”

Aramis joined Athos in an exaggerated eye-roll, then inclined his head toward Porthos and d’Artagnan. “Shall we?”

They were mounting their horses, when Tréville joined them, his eyes inspecting them. “Bon courage, gentlemen. Remember, come back in one piece. All of you. I can’t afford to replace you.”

He watched them ride away, listened to the pounding of the horses’ hooves, and murmured. “Un pour tous, tous pour un.

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