Athos was in the palace when it happened, and that was what made all the difference.
Being First Minister of France should have been a safer job than being a Musketeer. As it turned out, the emphasis was on the should, because Aramis’ knack for getting into trouble (as Athos himself had dubbed it) truly knew no bound.
Later, they learned that it hadn't been a ploy against the King, or somebody going after the Queen Regent. It was Aramis making enemies because he was fair and insensible to bribes, just like Treville, and because he valued the lives of the commoners just as highly as those of the nobility, and because he was all around good and moral and nice to peasants.
Athos had been back in Paris for a few months now, both he and Sylvie missing the noise and the animation far too much after two years spent away. They had missed their friends, too, the thought of their son growing up without knowing his many uncles and aunts an unacceptable one.
The Queen had taken an instant liking to Athos’ wife, and it had been mutual, much to Sylvie’s own surprise. (After so long without friends, the Queen liked to adopt people.) And so they’d taken to visiting the Louvre often, Aramis and Athos discussing matters of state while Anne and Sylvie played with their boys, or the other way around.
That habit, as it turned out, was what saved Aramis. ‘Saved by friendship’ was the story of their lives, so it wasn’t too surprising.
“Athos,” Aramis greeted without looking up from his paper. “Can you come over and take a look at this? I think the Duke of Rohan is up to-”
“I’m not Athos,” the man who had just entered growled, pointing a pistol primed and ready to fire at the First Minister.
Aramis had never seen the man before, so he just assumed ‘hired assassin’ and acted on it, diving to the ground as the gun fired and rolling to accommodate the fall. His chair crashed to the ground behind him and splinters of wood rained down from where the bullet had hit the cabinet above. Drawing the dagger he kept concealed under his doublet, Aramis lunged at the man.
His attacker, as it turned out, also had a dagger – one that was already bloody, Aramis noticed, and he knew the two guards by the door had to have been murdered. Their blades clashed, throwing hot sparks on their doublets, and Aramis had to grit his teeth to keep himself from groaning.
He trained as often as his schedule would allow, which wasn’t nearly enough, and his skills had degraded. He was still competent enough with all types of weapons, and still unparalleled with a pistol, but he had no pistols, and the stranger was younger, faster and clearly good with knives.
Aramis tried to kick the man’s legs out from under him, but he wasn’t fast enough, and the bloody dagger slid into his left side. He collapsed onto his knees, grunting in pain, and the next slash would have opened his throat from ear to ear if it hadn’t been for his brother’s timely intervention.
There was a loud bang, the assassin’s face contorted, and Aramis was left staring at a grimacing corpse. Athos’ bullet had found the man’s heart.
“Aramis!” Athos exclaimed, rushing from the doorway to his friend’s side. “Are you alright?”
“Just fine,” Aramis panted, gratefully accepting Athos’ support. “It’s just a graze.”
In truth, it was a bit deeper than that. Athos ducked under Aramis’ arm and hoisted him up, getting the overturned chair up with his foot and making Aramis sit up in one fluid movement. That simple effort left Aramis panting. He groaned when Athos sliced through his doublet with his own knife, exposing the wound.
“Shouldn’t we be doing something about the corpse in my office?” Aramis asked. “And the bodies of the two guards who were posted in that corridor?”
“Quiet,” Athos scolded, examining the gash critically. “We’ll get servants to deal with that. Can you walk to your rooms, or should I summon the physician here?”
Aramis scoffed at the ridiculous question.
“Athos, please. This is a graze. There’s a sewing kit in one of the desk drawers. Sew me up before somebody arrives and starts to fuss.”
D’Artagnan or Porthos would have protested. Athos knew better.
“I suppose I shouldn’t ask why you keep medical supplies in your ministerial office,” he commented dryly, opening a few drawers until he found the one. He finished tearing off Aramis’ doublet and lifted his shirt. “Questioning their usefulness would be rather dishonest, considering.”
Aramis smirked at him through the pain.
“I’m not so rusty after all, see? I’m just as prepared as ever.”
Athos snorted and poured the small vial of alcohol from the leather pouch onto the gash. Aramis hissed, sweat trickling down his brow and neck.
“Prepared? Say that to me again when I’m not about to you stitch up,” Athos countered. He gave Aramis his best unimpressed look. “With all the respect owed to the dead, you also clearly need better guards.”
And he plunged the needle into Aramis’ skin. Aramis was so used to the familiar sting that he didn’t gasp, but he did grit his teeth.
“He must have had inside help,” he mused, breathing out through his nose.
Athos worked diligently, and he was almost done closing the gash when ten guards irrupted in the room, panicked.
“Minister!” The lieutenant gasped, taking in Aramis’ bloody side and the dead body lying on the floor.
“You should have been here ten minutes ago,” Aramis scolded.
“F-forgive us, Minister,” the man stammered, making a conscious effort to look anywhere but at his First Minister’s blood. “Some of the guards were sent away to investigate an incident in the east wing without my knowledge. I don’t know how it could have happened.”
“Definitely inside help,” Athos sighed, tying up the last stitch and clipping off the remaining thread. “Well,” he told guards, looking up, “don’t just stand there. Have the assassin’s body delivered to the morgue, we might need to have a look at him later.”
The soldiers watched Athos hold up a bloodied hand to Aramis, wincing collectively when he got onto his feet.
“Minister, surely you should—”
“I should go and sleep in my rooms, yes, you are absolutely correct,” Aramis quipped, walking past them.
Athos followed him out of the room with an amused smile.
“You have just either obtained the status of living legend or destroyed your reputation as a serious and respectable minister of the crown,” he told Aramis as they made their way to his apartments.
He occasionally supplied a steadying hand, for when Aramis stumbled or unconsciously veered to the left. They reached the rooms without notable incidents, but Aramis was close to falling asleep on his feet. Clearly he had been at his desk for too many hours when the assassin had so brusquely interrupted his work.
Athos took a clean cloth and dipped into into the silver basin Aramis used to freshen up in the mornings and cleaned off most of the blood while Aramis waited obediently. He then helped him out of his ruined shirt and let him fall into the bed, smiling when Aramis let out an offended whine and burrowed into the numerous pillows.
Leaning forward, Athos tousled his brother’s sweaty hair.
“I’ll send for d’Artagnan in the hour, we’ll catch the rest.” Studying Aramis, Athos couldn’t help but tease. “As a teenager, as a common soldier, as a Musketeer, as a monk and now as a Minister,” he commented fondly. “It does appear that you are capable of attracting trouble anywhere, no matter your position.”
“Shut up,” Aramis grumbled into his pillows, disinclined to be a target for anyone’s humor at the moment. “I outrank you. ‘M sending to the Chatelet if you keep it up.”
That earned him a splash of water on the head.