Pairings: Athos/D'Artagnan (gen)
Summary: D'Artagnan returns home in the wake of his father's death - but does Athos mean it when he says he should stay there, and will D'Artagnan pay him any heed? (Or, in which D'Artagnan is stubborn and Athos is a bastard.)
AN: Set between episodes 1 and 2.
D'Artagnan stood in the stable yard, making a final adjustment to his saddlebags. Given that he'd arrived in Paris with barely more than a change of shirt, he hadn't had a lot to pack, and he intended to return with considerably more.
He had sent ahead to warn his mother of his imminent arrival - it had been Aramis who gently suggested Madame D'Artagnan might appreciate a letter, having presumably by this time received both her husband's body and the news her only son had gone chasing after his killer.
About to leave, he looked round to find Porthos, Athos and Aramis walking across the cobbles towards him. D'Artagnan lifted a hand in greeting.
"Ready to go?" Aramis asked, patting the neck of D'Artagnan's horse.
He nodded. "I'll stay for the funeral, if they've not had it already, then come back," he said.
"Perhaps you should give that decision some thought," Athos said quietly, and D'Artagnan looked at him in surprise.
"What do you mean?" The last couple of days had been the most exciting of his life, if you ignored the odd moments when he'd thought he was going to die, and even they'd held a horrible sort of appeal after the fact. It was now firmly his intention to become a Musketeer by any means necessary, and could imagine doing nothing else with his life. But Athos was looking even more solemn than usual, and shaking his head dismissively.
"Your father's dead. You should stay at home now. Give your mother someone to lean on, not someone else to grieve for."
"Grieve for?" D'Artagnan echoed indignantly.
"You're impetuous, hot-headed and untrained. You'd be dead within a week if you stayed here," Athos told him. "And like as not get us killed alongside you."
"Then train me!" D'Artagnan retorted. "I'm willing to learn."
"You think we have time to hold your hand?" Athos said scornfully. "Being a Musketeer is in the blood. It's not a life for a moon-faced farm-boy."
D'Artagnan glared at him. His family held considerable lands and a bloodline that would have allowed his father at least to attend Court, if he'd ever bothered. The fact that Athos was by now fully aware of this made his words sting all the more.
To the side, Aramis imperceptibly shifted his weight into a better balance in case he had to move fast. He wasn't entirely sure what Athos was up to, but he knew enough of D’Artagnan by now to realise he was entirely capable of challenging Athos to a fight to the death over the perceived insult.
D'Artagnan though, was too full of surprised hurt to give the anger room to take hold.
"Go home, D'Artagnan," Athos said coldly. "And stay there."
Not trusting himself to speak, D'Artagnan turned his back on them, mounted his horse and spurred it on, clattering out of the courtyard in silent fury and humiliation.
There was a pause.
"That was harsh," Porthos said, giving Athos a look that was half rebuke and half puzzlement.
"If a few hard words put him off, he's got no business being here in the first place," Athos said blandly.
Porthos' expression cleared. "You were testing him. You want him to come back!" he accused.
Athos tilted his head noncommittally.
"Do you think he will?" Aramis wondered, staring at the empty gateway.
Athos sighed. "Honestly? I have no idea."
A week and more passed uneventfully, and the three of them were gathered in the courtyard having just departed Treville's office when Porthos spotted a familiar figure walking in at the gate.
"Well look who it is," he muttered.
Aramis followed the line of his gaze and smiled. "Well I'll be. He came back."
"Athos." Porthos nudged him, and he looked round to see what they were talking about. Said nothing, but Porthos could tell there was a certain satisfaction in the set of his mouth.
D'Artagnan spied them all looking at him and swallowed nervously. He'd half-hoped to be able to sneak in and petition Treville before they knew he was back. Still. If facing up to them was the hardest thing he had to do in his life then he wasn't doing badly.
He set his shoulders and strode towards them. The whole time he'd spent at home, and all the way back to Paris he'd been rehearsing speeches in his head, pithy and incontestable words he would lay before Athos in proud defiance.
Naturally, all of these went clean out of his head as soon as he was face to face with them, and he found himself blurting "I'm going to become a Musketeer and you can't stop me!"
Athos almost smiled. "I wouldn't dream of it," he murmured.
"There's nothing you can say that - what?" D'Artagnan faltered, realising what he'd said.
Athos gave him a nod of approval. "Welcome back," he said.
Suddenly D'Artagnan found Porthos had an arm round his shoulders and Aramis was thumping him on the back and both were greeting him with cheerful enthusiasm.
He looked at Athos in some confusion. "But you told me not to come back!" he accused.
Porthos grinned. "Oh you never want to listen to him," he said.
"Last thing you want to do," Aramis agreed. "Get you into all sorts of trouble."
Athos held D'Artagnan's gaze. "Being a Musketeer can be a hard life. You needed to really want it," he said calmly. "And more than that, you needed to want it knowing we might not be there to watch your back."
D'Artagnan let out a breath, mind reeling with a combination of joy and indignance. Joy won out, and to everyone's relief he laughed.
"Well then. I'd better go and see Treville before you change your mind again," D'Artagnan said with a rather dazed smile.
"You'll need a sponsor," Porthos said.
"It's customary for those wanting to become a Musketeer to have someone to recommend them," Aramis explained. "Either someone from the Court, or - an existing Musketeer, perhaps."
"Oh. Right." D'Artagnan nodded slowly. "I don't suppose one of you would do me the honour?" he asked hesitantly, looking firstly to Aramis and Porthos on the grounds they were more likely to be sympathetic to his cause. But Aramis looked at Porthos, who looked at Athos, and D’Artagnan realised they were leaving the decision up to him.
He faced Athos again, trying to school his features into an expression of polite respectfulness, something that was fairly alien to him.
Athos left him hanging for an uncomfortably long time, before finally smiling.
"How about all three of us?"