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Cloaks are not bulletproof

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Porthos and Aramis sprinted across the cobbled street, ducking behind a wall and narrowly avoiding the burst of gunfire that followed them.

“This isn’t quite how I imagined today to go,” Aramis said, breathing heavily from running.

“What, you wanted a drink and a game of cards before getting shot at?” Porthos asked wryly.

“Well not cards, perhaps, but some good ale and fresh bread would have been nice.”

“And then you would have been ready for a fight?” Porthos said, his face alight with amusement.

“Nothing like warm bread to get one ready for action. It stirs the soul.” Aramis said, grinning at the taller man.

“If you two have finished discussing the merits of dying on a full stomach,” Athos said dryly, “perhaps we can get back to the matter at hand?”

Another volley of bullets hit the wall Aramis and Porthos were sequestered behind.

The two looked across to where d’Artagnan and Athos were crouched behind a cluster of barrels, also taking cover from the men firing on them.

“What’s your plan?” Porthos called over.

“We need a distraction so we can move to a better vantage point.” Athos replied. “Do you have any gunpowder?”

“Not on me.” Porthos said, looking mildly surprised that Athos would even ask.

Athos knew Porthos didn’t carry that kind of ammunition in large quantities unless instructed to by Treville. Or on special occasions where there was a high chance something would need blowing up. They didn’t tend to tell Treville about those occasions though.

“I might have an idea.” D’Artagnan chimed in.

“What would that be?” Athos asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Just make sure you’re ready to move.” D’Artagnan said, peeking out from behind the barrels.

The men were grouped across the square, sheltering behind a cart and several large boxes, the remnants of the morning market before bullets and chaos had scattered everyone else.

“D’Artagnan, what-”, but Athos didn’t get to finish his sentence.

“Go, now!” D’Artagnan called, as he sprang up from his hiding place and sprinted across the cobbles.

Athos, Aramis, and Porthos all shouted his name in alarm, but it was too late to stop him.

D’Artagnan dashed through the square, weaving his way between abandoned stalls as bullets whizzed past him, the men immediately opening fire. His cloak billowed out behind him, giving a bright target to aim at.

He felt the heat of a bullet as it narrowly missed his head but he kept running, hoping his brothers had used the distraction to get into a better position.

He would have been pleased with Porthos’s quick reaction. Never one to waste an opportunity, the tallest Musketeer charged out of their defensive position, immediately honing in on a better vantage point.

Porthos skidded to a stop behind an empty stall, Aramis and Athos joining him immediately and kneeling behind an overturned cart and a row of barrels. The three of them aimed and started firing at the men across the square, who had been thoroughly distracted by d’Artagnan.

D’Artagnan was more than halfway across the square, aiming for the stone wall on the other side, when something dragged on his cloak and he almost stumbled, losing momentum.

It was just as well he did.

A bullet grazed the front of his thigh, torching a line of fire through his skin and making him cry out in pain. He stumbled again, feeling all the strength go out of his leg, but managed to slide behind an upright stall and into a sitting position.

He grabbed his injured leg to see what the damage was and felt surprise flit through him.

The bullet had cut the surface of his skin, leaving him with a gash that was bleeding steadily, but it hadn’t gone any deeper.

It had missed muscle and bone and, although it would probably need stitches, there shouldn’t be any long-term damage.

It’s because I tripped, d’Artagnan realised. If he hadn’t staggered, he wouldn’t have lost momentum and the bullet would have gone straight through his leg. He’d be looking at a lot more pain and a much worse injury.

He wondered what had caused him to trip, looking across the square.

It was then that he saw his reckless scheme had worked. His brothers were no longer cornered and were firing back at the men opposite them.

D’Artagnan loaded his own pistol and joined the fight. Within a few minutes, the men across the square were starting to run out of ammunition.

One or two had been hit by bullets from the Musketeers’ side and were lying dead or injured, but the others began to abandon their positions, realising that they weren’t going to win the fight.

As the men started to flee, Aramis and Porthos chased after them. If they could arrest one or two of them, they could be put on trial for endangering civilians’ lives.

D’Artagnan slumped from his kneeling position to the ground. Despite the shallowness of the wound, the pain in his leg was intense and it was bleeding heavily.

He pushed the arm of his doublet up and tore off part of his shirtsleeve to tie around the wound.

“D’Artagnan!” Athos called, running across the cobbles to him. He dropped down next to the younger man, brow furrowing at all the blood.

“Are you hurt? What happened?” The older Musketeer demanded.

“It’s fine Athos. A bullet caught me as I was running, but it’s only a graze, look.” He showed the other man, before tying the piece of shirt tightly around the wound, grimacing.

“What were you thinking?” Athos half-snarled. “That was a foolish thing to do, you could have been killed.”

“We needed a distraction and I didn’t see any other options.” D’Artagnan said mildly, giving his mentor his most innocent expression. “It worked, didn’t it?”

“It worked, almost at the cost of your leg.” Athos said angrily. “Imagine if the bullet had gone through the bone, or worse you had been hit in the chest or the head. I’d be taking your corpse back to Treville now. We don’t go running off without sharing ideas and thinking through decisions, d’Artagnan, that’s not how Musketeers operate.”

Before Athos could say anything further Aramis and Porthos came to a stop beside them, both out of breath from running.

“We managed to get two of them, but the Red Guards showed up and decided this was their jurisdiction. They’re making the arrest.” Porthos growled, irritated.

Aramis, seeing the blood on d’Artagnan, immediately went into medic mode.

“What happened? How bad is it?”

He knelt next to d’Artagnan and Athos, gently prying the bandages off to take a look.

“D’Artagnan’s thoughtless scheme got him shot.” Athos said, unamused.

“Looks like the bullet only grazed you.” Aramis said, meeting d’Artagnan’s eyes, before going back to the wound. “Keep pressure on that. We’ll need to get back to the Garrison to clean the wound and stitch it. You were lucky, though, it didn’t hit any arteries.”

“That’s what I was telling Athos.” D’Artagnan said, glancing pointedly at his mentor with a satisfied expression on his face.

Athos looked thunderous. “Just because you were lucky this time, doesn’t mean you will be every time. I appreciate that you risked your life for us, but you shouldn’t have done it.”

“It’s different hearing someone else get a dressing down from ‘im.” Porthos said to Aramis, amused.

“Yes, it’s normally us on the receiving end.” Aramis said, giving d’Artagnan a playful, knowing smile.

Athos looked at the sky with exasperation. He looked back at d’Artagnan, expression slightly less stern now. “Don’t do that again. Next time we come up with a plan together.”

“How much pain are you in?” Aramis asked, tying a strip of cloth he’d produced from a pocket on top of the already blood-soaked shirt.

“It’s not too bad. Feels like somebody’s nicked me with a knife.”

“Don’t give Athos ideas.” Porthos joked, and Athos scowled at him.

“What happened when you were running?” Aramis pressed further. “I saw you fall.”

Of course Aramis had noticed. His eyes were the keenest of all of them. And he knew how light on his feet d’Artagnan was; it was rare for him to trip or lose his balance.

“Yeah, something dragged me back slightly.” As he said it, the realisation of what must have happened hit d’Artagnan.

He felt behind him and produced his blue Musketeer cloak.

Holding it out in front of him, he saw that it was filled with gaping tears.

Bullet holes.

Porthos whistled lowly.

That’s what made me trip. When the bullets hit the cloak, the tension pulled on it and dragged me back. It’s because of that that the bullet didn’t go through my leg.” He said looking down at the cloak in wonder.

“So your Musketeer blues saved you.” Porthos said, one corner of his mouth curving up into a smile.

“Perhaps it’s a sign that you’re right where you belong.” Aramis said.

He and Athos moved to either side of d’Artagnan to help him to his feet.

“Or luck and terrible marksmanship.” Athos said dryly. He still sounded unimpressed, but he took one of d’Artagnan’s arms over his shoulder to help him keep pressure off his injured leg.

Aramis took the other side and together they set about looking for a cart they could borrow to get d’Artagnan back to the Garrison.

“Either way,” Porthos said, walking backwards and grinning at d’Artagnan, “it’s going to cost you a pretty penny to fix.”

D’Artagnan groaned and Porthos and Aramis chuckled.

“Perhaps Treville can give me an advance on this week’s wages?” D’Artagnan suggested hopefully.

“He makes a habit not to do that after Porthos once received his early and gambled it all away on cards within an afternoon.” Aramis said, amused.

“I won it back later that same day.” Porthos retorted indignantly.

“Only after I asked for my wages early so I could buy you in.” Aramis said, raising an eyebrow.

“The point is,” Athos said, steering them back on track, “Treville is unlikely to give you early pay. But he’s not an unreasonable man. He won’t expect you to produce a new cloak until you’ve had your wages.”

“Until then,” Athos continued, nodding his head back to the sorry looking cloak, “this will have to do.”

TMTMTMTM

Several days later, d’Artagnan was ready to return to light active duties. Despite how profusely it bled, the wound had only been a graze and after a thorough cleaning and a few neat stitches from Aramis, it was only a thin, raised red line.

D’Artagnan was just finishing breakfast when the planned shifts for the next few days were announced.

He felt his heart sink as he heard Treville call him out for palace guard duty. His shift was tomorrow and it would still be two days before he received this week’s pay.

He couldn’t arrive at the palace with his current, tattered cloak. The King would take offence and it would reflect poorly on the regiment.

He returned to his room, wondering what to do, but as he opened the door, something caught his eye.

A brand new cloak, in pristine Musketeer blue, was sitting folded on the end of his bed. That hadn’t been there when he’d left.

He walked over and picked it up, marvelling as the soft, clean material slid through his fingers.

He hadn’t ordered this.

But who…

D’Artagnan didn’t need to finish the thought. He knew who had bought this for him.

Cloak still in his hands, he left his room and strode to the top of the stairs, looking down into the courtyard below.

Athos, Porthos, and Aramis had just returned from their morning duties and were handing the reins of their horses to the stable hands.

Athos walked over to the tables and poured himself a drink. As if sensing the eyes on him, he looked up and met d’Artagnan’s gaze.

“Athos…” The youngest Musketeer said the word so quietly that he wasn’t even sure his mentor had heard, but Athos raised his cup to him.

“Try not to riddle that one with bullet holes.” He said in his usual wry tone. “I don’t imagine Treville would be pleased.”

“Thank you.” D’Artagnan said quietly, a smile falling across his face.

Athos didn’t give any indication that he’d heard, but as he turned away, he was smiling too.