"Morning," Porthos cheerfully greeted as Aramis plopped himself down on the bench opposite to him. Athos silently shoved a plate of breakfast towards their newcomer.
"Mhm, morning," Aramis greeted back, his voice somewhat grating.
Porthos frowned. Athos must have noticed as well how odd Aramis sounded. He turned sideways to face the marksman. "What happened to your throat?"
"What of my throat?" Aramis asked casually. Too casually. Which somehow made his voice grate even more.
Porthos shrugged. "Dunno, you just sound funny."
"A lot of people find me funny. It's hardly anything new," Aramis said, spooning through his plate with a resolution and thereby, managing to escape making any eye contact.
Athos gave him a critical appraisal. "Are you alright?"
"Of course I'm alright, why wouldn't I?" their brother replied before taking a bite off his bread. A very tiny bite.
Athos shot an exasperated glance at Porthos.
Aramis reached for the glass of water and lifted it for a drink, only to be interrupted by a violent sneeze, spilling the contents of the glass all over his doublet and trousers.
"Bloody hell," the marksman cursed, sniffling.
"You have a cold, 'Mis."
"No, of course I don't." Aramis glared at Porthos. "It was... something was tickling my nose."
"Right." Porthos nodded. He and Athos shared another glance before the swordsman's lips curled up into a smirk.
"Fine then, since we have the day to ourselves, I would like to spar a bit," Athos declared, rising up. "Aramis, care to join me?"
The look of alarm that crossed Aramis' face reminded Porthos of a spooked horse. "What?"
Athos raised a single eyebrow. "I am sure the two of us could use some exercise."
"Bu...but," Aramis spluttered, desperately reaching out for words. "But Porthos-"
"Can join us after this," Athos cut in. "Come, I want to have the first round with you."
"We can practice shooting?" Aramis tried meekly for one last time. Porthos was struggling to contain the laughter threatening to bubble out of his throat.
"We'll have a round of shooting after we have stretched our muscles a bit. Unless you are not feeling fit enough-"
"No, no, of course, I'm fit, I'm fine." His shoulders slumped, Aramis got up and headed towards the courtyard. Now that he was looking for it, Porthos noticed the sluggishness in his brother's usually graceful movements. His legs seemed like they were being pulled down by some invisible force.
His gaze flitted to Athos. The swordsman caught his eye and gave him a subtle nod. None of it had escaped his attention.
The two men faced each other, their swords drawn and poised for action.
Athos made the first move, forcing Aramis to get immediately on the defense. It was clear from the beginning that the marksman's parries and ripostes lacked their usual elegance.
Athos was not going all out with his attacks either. Porthos could see that. Nevertheless, his strikes were unrelenting enough that Aramis was quickly beginning to tire. He was panting heavily and his face had a greasy shine to it, thanks to all the sweat.
Porthos expected the man to collapse from the sheer exhaustion but instead, Aramis tripped.
Like a clumsy green cadet, he tripped.
The marksman appeared rather content to lay on his back and made the absolute minimal effort to lift himself up from his ignominy.
Athos loomed over his fallen opponent, regarding him with what Porthos interpreted as mild amusement.
"Are you going to help me up or just stand there and entertain yourself with my humiliation?"
Porthos could not help it anymore. Before he knew it, a booming laughter had made its way out of his throat.
Aramis rolled his head, the only movement he was apparently capable of, and threw him a baleful look.
"I am just-" Porthos wheezed, clutching his belly- "I am just...you brought this on yourself, you know? You stubborn little bugger, just admit it you're ill."
Aramis glared. "Am not ill."
"Is that so? Then you can find your own way up." Athos motioned with his rapier. "Come on, up you get then."
Aramis flailed his limbs, in what appeared to be an attempt to roll over. His actions managed to achieve precisely nothing and he threw his head back with a defeated groan.
"Please," he whined. "A little help."
Athos finally took pity on him, deciding to put him out of his misery. With a sigh, he extended his hand that Aramis grabbed eagerly.
"Dear God," Athos exclaimed as he pulled the man to his feet. "You're burning."
He reached for the sharpshooter's neck and winced when his fingers touched the flushed skin.
"That's enough training for today. Go to your room, I'll fetch the physician."
"I am not ill," Aramis protested peevishly. "And what are you, my father?"
"Then stop acting like you are five."
"I. Am. Not. Going. Anywhere."
Athos sighed before shooting a side-glance at Porthos. "I would say this calls for drastic measures now."
A wicked grin spread across Porthos' face. Aramis' wary eyes darted between the two men.
Porthos rose and headed straight for Aramis.
His words were cut short with a yelp as the big man picked him up, one arm under his legs and the other supporting his back. Aramis squirmed and whimpered but Porthos' grip was secure.
"Put me down!"
"Only after we get you to your room."
"Porthos, please, people are watching!"
"Hmm, should've thought of that before venturing out of your bed while you were sick, you dimwit," Porthos chided. "Now be still or I'll drop you."
The pair of fever bright eyes widened in alarm. "You wouldn't."
"Then don't try me."
The threat worked. Aramis was quiet as a kitten as Porthos crossed the courtyard, walked up the stairs and reached the man's quarters without a fuss. Athos, who was following close behind, held the door open for him as he entered and headed straight for the bed.
Aramis started struggling again as soon as Porthos laid him on the bed. The big man easily restrained him with a single hand placed on his chest.
"Lie still or I'll sit on you if I have to." Porthos' tone brooked no argument. Aramis scowled and grumbled but gave in to his brother's ministrations.
"If you have everything under control here?" Athos asked from the door.
"Yeah, we're all good here," Porthos said over his shoulder. Aramis huffed.
"I am sending for the physician then."
Porthos hummed his agreement as Athos' footsteps retreated. He could feel the heat in Aramis' body even through the layers of clothing.
The larger Musketeer shook his head and set about to relieve his brother of his stuffy outfits. Now that he had stopped in his protests, Aramis was practically boneless.
Porthos began with the boots, lifting each leg and pulling out the footwear. He then worked on unbuttoning the doublet. Once divested of his heavy jacket, Aramis whimpered as the cool air hit his clammy skin.
"Just hold on for a bit," Porthos said as he pulled down the trousers, leaving his friend in just a loose shirt and his braies.
Aramis shivered. "C...cold."
"Yeah, right," the big man muttered as he scanned the room and spotted a blanket by the fireplace. He quickly retrieved the blanket and tucked it carefully around the sick man.
Aramis appeared to settle more easily after that.
Porthos was still worried about his steadily rising temperature. He filled a bowl with fresh water and picked his friend's handkerchief from the bedstand.
Settling himself on the edge of the bed, he rinsed the handkerchief in the water and placed it on Aramis' forehead. The marksman winced as the soaked fabric came in contact with his heated skin. Porthos removed the cloth after a minute and repeated the process several times.
Aramis was growing restless, fidgeting more and more. He rolled his head and threw his arms out of the blanket, as if he was seeking for something.
Porthos set aside his things and slipped his hands under the other man's armpits, gently tugging his friend until Aramis' head was comfortably resting on his lap. He resettled the blanket around his brother and then busied himself with brushing aside the damp curls on his forehead.
Aramis gave a content sigh. Porthos smiled.
"Thank you for putting up with my idiocies. And Athos too, tell him I thank him too."
Porthos chuckled. "Yeah, you're our penance."
A bleary eye shot open.
"Am I going to regret my feverish ramblings?"
"Oh, you bet you will."
Aramis groaned but this time, it had nothing to do with the fever.
Merci pour la lecture!