Title: A Matter of Inconvenience
Size: ~1,400 words
Plot: Seasonal depression can be very inconvenient, especially when one's friends have to deal with its consequences! Porthos and Aramis deal with a sudden onslaught of Athos-times.
Thanks to: Rio, who not only inspired this, but also sleeplessly betaed it.
A Matter of Inconvenience
It may have been mentioned previously that the summer months had the most lachrymose of effects upon the psyche of Athos, but in the year 1624, the melancholy shroud of funereal doom descended upon him as early as the month of May. This became evidenced in the only way that would have alarmed his two friends, namely that, one day, he failed to report for duty.
“This is profoundly unorthodox,” Porthos announced, chewing on the corner of his own mustache. “He was in perfect health yesterday, and we did not stay out late; he was no drunker than usual, and certainly he did not retire with anyone that I could observe.” Porthos smirked.
“Oh, you mean you with your all-seeing eagle eye?” Aramis accompanied this statement with a doubtful look.
“And when I sent Mousqueton to his house to enquire after him,” Porthos continued, oblivious to the jab, “he came back with the following reply.” The towering musketeer produced a small sheet of paper out of his glove and handed it to Aramis with a satisfied twitch of his eyebrow.
The young man retrieved the communiqué from his friend’s overwhelming hand and opened it with a bit of apprehension.
Fuck right off.
Aramis smiled. “It is decidedly his penmanship and concise style, there can be no doubt about it.”
For the time being, the two friends had chosen to shrug this peculiar occurrence off, but much to their mutual confusion, the gentleman in question did not appear either at the Louvre or the Hôtel de Treville, and the only sign of him still being among the living was the hurrying figure of Grimaud seen ducking in and out of the rue Férou, laden like a mule, carrying absurd amounts of wine up the stairs.
“It’s been almost a week! He hasn’t even responded to the Captain’s summons!” Porthos threw his hands up in desperation. “What could be causing this obstinacy?”
“You mean this idiocy?”
“Whichever you prefer. But, truly, what is the matter with him?”
“Perhaps he’s got his courses,” Aramis shrugged.
“You know. His monthly friend.”
At this, Porthos, who had been slowly nursing a glass of cheap wine, spat the contents of his mouth across the entire table, nearly missing the face of one of M. des Essart’s guards.
“Oh, but that was vile, even for you,” Porthos chortled, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
Aramis laughed, his charming silent laugh, and tucked a lock of curl coyly behind his ear.
“Laugh all you like, my friend, but the Captain did suspend his pay, did you hear?”
“No!” It was Aramis’s turn to look incredulous. “He wouldn’t! It’s Athos!”
“In order to receive your pay for service, you have to, you know… occasionally show up and serve.”
“And how do you propose that we now pay his rent?” Aramis inquired, a troublingly sober expression shadowing his features.
Porthos was about to take another sip of the wine but, upon hearing Aramis’s question, he had to steady his arm and place the glass back down.
“Beg pardon? I thought I heard you say – forgive me, but my friend, how are we to pay his rent – uh… er?”
“That is precisely what I said. Surely, you’re not suggesting, as kind as you are, that you allow Athos to move in with you?”
Porthos, who by then had the opportunity to take another sip after all, now had to cough to prevent himself from choking.
“With me? Why the hell would he move in with me? You take him!”
“Oh don’t be absurd, my friend. You know as well as I do that I need quiet and solitude for my devotions, and that Athos of all people would find this proclivity most tedious.”
“So, really, you’re just thinking about what’s best for him?”
“Always,” Aramis replied, with zeal and without a hint of irony.
“Riiiiiiiight.” Porthos did not seem convinced. “In other words… Since neither of us can really… um… indispose Athos by our presence and have him move in with us… only one thing remains for us to do…”
“As I was saying,” Aramis tried to conclude the dialogue, “We must pay his rent.”
“We must whore ourselves out,” Porthos stated at the same time.
“What?” Aramis startled and leaned back as though he had seen a snake.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Croesus! I forgot about all the treasures you keep hidden in your coffers!”
“I was not suggesting we whore anything out! Least of all ourselves.”
“Aramis, I have always espoused Athos’s opinion that you were smarter than the two of us combined, so if you can think of another way to get enough money for us to pay the rent of Athos, not to mention our own rent, then I will do exactly as you say.”
Aramis blushed, and then, hating himself for blushing, he blushed even more deeply, and finally dug his fingernails into the palms of his hands as a means of punishing himself.
“Perhaps I can sell some of my poems,” he finally muttered.
“Wonderful. You do that, while I go and find a certain lady friend of my – intimate acquaintance – and then we shall see if I cannot secure our dissipated friend’s residence with a few sighs and furtive kisses.”
“Oh, Porthos, truly! You are devastatingly indiscreet.”
“I am still waiting to hear your brilliant idea.”
“Perhaps Athos has the money to pay his own rent after all?” As soon as these words were out of Aramis’s mouth he could already see how far they’d missed the mark and he shook his head in defeat. Finally, Aramis composed himself and sighed quietly. “We have another five days until his rent is due, let’s give it another five until his landlady notices…”
“Oh, if only Athos was willing to whore himself out a bit, we wouldn’t have to try very hard on his behalf!” Porthos gave a loud guffaw at that utterance. “His landlady! I’m sure she’d let him live there for free if he gave her the time of day.”
“Porthos, fie! You’re positively filling my mind with all sorts of unpleasant imagery!”
“You’ll have to schedule extra time to be alone with your devotions tonight?” Porthos wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, this latest gesture earning a rather painful punch on the shoulder from Aramis.
“You are revolting.”
“But I get results,” Porthos shrugged and, having finished his drink, slowly unfurled himself to his standing height. “And on that note, I bid you au revoir, my friend. I have a rendezvous to arrange.”
“Vive la France!” Aramis gave him a mock salute and turned sharply on his heels to head towards his own house, his sharp mind already composing the letter that he would indubitably need to write.
A few weeks later, having perhaps built a sort of Noah’s Ark from the empty wine bottles upon which Athos crossed the sea of his own inebriation, he finally reported for duty, as if nothing untoward had occurred at all. M. de Treville, as always somewhat indulgent with this most difficult of his charges (as it was rumored he sometimes thought of his musketeers), allowed Athos to get off with nothing more than the garnished wages (of which not a word was spoken) and the request that M. Athos take the night shift at the Louvre for the next seven nights, an arrangement which seemed perfectly agreeable to Athos’s impenetrable expression. And so that this punishment did not seem too dreary to Athos, the captain was kind enough to allow his two friends the pleasure of joining him on the fourth night of the watch.
On their way there, Aramis accosted Porthos and drew him aside for a quick discussion.
“I trust I do not have to remind you that you absolutely cannot tell Athos what we did for him while he was… ignoring real life issues, as is his tradition?”
“Truly, no, Aramis. Have no fear. If I were to tell him that we paid his rent, I’d have to also tell him how we paid his rent.” A spurt of jovial laughter escaped Porthos as he rocked back with glee.
Aramis allowed an involuntary smile to grace his face.
“It is true that the thought of some woman’s money paying his rent would likely kill him,” he mused quietly.
“And we do not want that.”
“No,” Aramis agreed. “Not yet,” he added with a sly grin, and taking Porthos's arm under his own, steered them both towards the Louvre.