Love's Musketeer -- Chapter Fifteen
D'Artagnan stumbled slightly as the ship lurched sideways. Regaining his balance, the youth stripped out of his damp tunic and slid under the covers next to his lover. Pressing a tender kiss to Athos' bare shoulder, D'Artagnan tucked his head beneath the older Musketeer's chin.
"He's utterly devastated. To find the man of his dreams is his sworn enemy was bad enough for our new friend."
Athos pulled his lover close, his caresses bringing warmth back into the lad's chilled flesh. D'Artagnan welcomed his ministrations with a husky purr and this made the older man smile. "But... ?"
The longhaired Musketeer draped himself across the larger frame of his beloved and looked fondly at Athos. "But to find him and lose him has broken Henri's heart. He is afraid he will never see the Duke again, that this war will snatch his love from him. The poor man is out there in the rain bellowing out his anger and frustration."
D'Artagnan laid his head on Athos' chest and listened to the man's strong heartbeat. "I tried my best to convince him that fate would not be so cruel but I do not think Henri believed me. You might have to go out there and physically drag him in from the rain."
Athos threaded his fingers through the mahogany curls that lay across D'Artagnan's back. His gaze turned inward, the memory of his own night of frustration playing through his mind. "Let him rant at the wind, young heart. It will help heal the wound that tears at his heart."
The Musketeer captain pulled back the youth's head, exposing his handsome face. He captured D'Artagnan's mouth and shared his fears of that past darkness in a soul-consuming kiss. "His pain I know. And it is a pain I would not survive if it were inflicted upon me again."
Athos crushed D'Artagnan to him, his mouth desperate to communicate his love, his need. "Please never leave me again."
D'Artagnan scattered loving kisses across Athos' face, his hands gentling the tense somber features of his beloved. He worshipped his lover's mouth with tender words of devotion and promise, his fingers dancing across Athos' broad shoulders and smooth chest.
D'Artagnan caught one large callused hand and laced their fingers together, tucking their intertwined hands against his heart, sheltering them from the cold air of the cabin. Minutes passed as the young Gascon soothed the quiet warrior.
D'Artagnan squeezed Athos' hand gently. "Tell me about Rogert."
The older Musketeer turned his head away, avoiding D'Artagnan's inquisitive gaze. "He's dead. Why do you ask about a dead man?"
D'Artagnan sat up, straddling his lover's lower body. "Rochefort confessed the Cardinal's revenge was because of his lover's death." The young swordsman mapped the muscular planes of his beloved's broad chest. "Did you know Rogert? Know him before his death?"
Athos turned and looked at his lover, his blue eyes clouded with memories. "Yes, I knew him."
D'Artagnan leaned down and softly kissed one of Athos' nipples. "How well did you know him?"
"He was, at one time, a student of Monsieur Treville's. I supervised his training."
The young Gascon took note of the tenseness creeping into Athos' body. "Were the two of you friends?"
The larger Musketeer tried to roll over but D'Artagnan prevented the move by tightening his legs around Athos' waist. "Beloved? Were you friends?"
Athos threw his arm over his eyes and mumbled his reply. "Yes."
D'Artagnan pried his lover's arm away and stared down at him. "Were you more than friends? Were you... lovers?"
Athos tumbled the young man to the side and slid from the bunk. "Why all the questions? Why now this inquisition?"
"I... I just... " D'Artagnan worried the tender flesh of his bottom lip with his teeth. "I don't want any secrets between us. Not now." The youth reached out and brushed his hand lightly across Athos' ramrod straight back. "Please tell me, Athos."
The Musketeer captain stood in the darkness, his harsh reply nearly eclipsed by the storm's windy scream.
"YES!" Athos struggled against the memories that stirred his anger. Running his hands over his face, he took a deep breath and lowered his voice. "We were lovers. Briefly. Richelieu saw him, knew of my affection for the boy and stole him away."
Athos turned up the wick on the cabin's solitary lantern, flooding the room with light. Sitting down on the bunk, the somber Musketeer hung his head. "Are there any more answers you need to hear? Any other pieces of my past you need to scrutinize?"
Hurt by Athos' sharp words, D'Artagnan struggled against the tangle of covers, fully prepared to leave the warmth of their bed and seek less hostile accommodations. Before his feet could hit the floor, he was caught and hauled into Athos' arms, a gasp of breath forced out as he was crushed to the older man's chest.
"I'm sorry, my young heart. I did not mean to hurt you."
Athos buried his face in the youth's thick long hair, his words muffled by its softness. "My heart cannot forgive the pain my past has caused you to endure. I would do anything to protect you from harm, D'Artagnan."
An understanding sigh drifted into the night as Athos was coaxed to lift his head. "How better to protect me than to share your past with me?" D'Artagnan wiggled his arms free and wrapped them around Athos' shoulders as he gently kissed him. "I cannot defend us against that which I do not know."
Athos lovingly traced the features of his young companion. "I love you, D'Artagnan. More than my own life."
D'Artagnan again embraced the older Musketeer, pushing him back down onto the bunk. He pressed a single kiss to Athos' heart before pulling the covers over their naked bodies.
"Tell me about Rogert."
Athos settled his lover's weight more comfortably across his large frame. "Rogert was under my tutelage for several months. He was young and quiet but eager to learn and to serve. Feeling a strong attraction for him, I sought out his company and it wasn't long before our desires demanded more than a lonely night spent sharing a bottle of wine and tales of past exploits."
The Musketeer stared into the darkness, a brief smile touching his mouth when the ghost of Rogert's face floated before his eyes. "He came to my bed when my body craved the type of loving that can only come from another man. It was shortly after my wife's betrayal and his gentle loving was a comfort my broken heart hungered for. Unfortunately, our time together only lasted a few months. The boy wanted more than I was willing to share at that moment." Athos paused, giving thought to his next words. "With time, I might have grown to love him but it was not to be. The Cardinal saw to that."
Wrapping a curl of D'Artagnan's hair around his finger, Athos examined it closely as he continued with his musings. "Richelieu and I have always been at odds with each other. I don't know why but the moment he saw Rogert and I together he made the decision to steal the lad from me. He courted Rogert with his wealth and his power. And one day, without warning, my young friend resigned his commission in the Musketeers and joined the Cardinal's guard."
D'Artagnan hugged his lover tight, knowing Athos must have been deeply hurt by the loss of Rogert.
"I tried to keep my eye on him, knowing how devious Richelieu could be but the war with England was upon us and I was reassigned as part of the King's personal detail." Athos sat up, shifting D'Artagnan so that he rested beside him. Absently caressing his lover's bare thigh, Athos closed his eyes and tilted his head back as he forced himself to recall the past.
"A plot to kill the King was exposed not long after Rogert left my bed. One afternoon, after attending to the daily affairs of state, Louis was wounded in the shoulder by a sharpshooter. Phillipe went into a rage and demanded the capture and death of the traitor."
"It wasn't long before certain evidence led us to Rogert. I was totally bewildered how such a devoted servant to the crown could commit such treason. I soon discovered how evil and manipulative the Cardinal was. He had filled Rogert's mind with his own hatred of the king and the lad had, unwittingly, become a pawn in Richelieu's bid to steal the throne from Louis. The blame for the entire scheme was laid upon Rogert and since we could never discount the Cardinal's innocence, nor link the two of them together as lovers, Rogert was sentenced to hang from the gallows."
Getting to his knees, D'Artagnan pulled Athos into a gentle embrace and ran his hands over the man's naked torso. "You must have been devastated by Rogert's death."
Athos twisted his head to the side and took comfort suckling at his small lover's breast. After a moment of savoring D'Artagnan's love, the older Musketeer lifted his face to the light and rubbed away the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes.
"The fight... I tried to spare him, D'Artagnan. I truly did try. But he would not stand down. He kept coming at me with his sword. It was like he was crazed beyond reason. I took no delight in killing him, my love. But I had no other choice."
A quiet sob escaped the tired warrior as D'Artagnan kissed away his tears. "Thank you Athos, for sharing this with me. I know it brought back memories you did not wish to relive."
The youthful Gascon grew quiet which made Athos look up and ask, "What is it, young heart? Why all these questions?"
D'Artagnan shook his head, a concerned look darkening his blue eyes. "Rochefort stated the Cardinal's revenge would embrace many and that I was not its only victim."
Pulling free of D'Artagnan's arms, Athos stood and instinctively reached for his sword.
"The King. Phillipe. Dear God in heaven help us."
End of Chapter 15