Yes, now you’ve done it. I PROMISED myself that I wouldn’t do ANY fan fiction UNTIL I had finished my third novel. But damn it, this ship has driven me to drink — in the sense that I gave in and wrote this piece. NC-17 just in case, though it ended up less explicit than I expected.
A possibility of what might have happened if Milady had taken Athos’ gift.
“Crimson and Glass”
Athos held the door open and stifled his irritation as Milady swept past him, elegant despite the warn quality of her dress. She looked around the small room disdainfully. “This is what everything a Musketeer has can buy?” Athos bristled despite himself, but kept his voice steady and cool. “There is still coin left over.” He focused his eyes on the chipped wall, as he dryly noted, “What you chose to do with it is your choice.” Milady looked over her shoulder, her icy expression knowing and bitter. “Ah. How magnanimous of you. And so with this gift you free yourself of the burden of my crimes?” Athos returned her look, but kept his composure, refusing to rise to her bait. She surveyed the small room, the paltry table bearing a glass of warm, sour wine, unfinished by the last tenant. She glanced over the dusty mirror on the wall, and to the tiny, thin sheeted bed in the corner. “I suppose you believe a woman can make her way in the world on a few coins and her own cleverness.” “You could, if you had taken the money and left Paris,” Athos reminded her, irritated at himself for letting some of it show in his voice. “The city is expensive.” “And what life could I have made for myself in the country?” Milady countered, the twist of her mouth hinting at some raw pain. “Finding work as some migrant laborer?Subject to the whims and cruelties of a small man eager to exert what little power he has on those below him? As a maid or washerwoman, prey to any merchant whose house she entered, vulnerable to the fury of his bitter wife?” Milady turned her sharp gaze on Athos, her green eyes flinty and hard. “Or perhaps you agree with D’Artagnan — that I should end my days plying my trade in some dirty brothel? On my knees for coin from any unwashed peasant or lecherous nobleman who cannot gain a woman by his own merit?” Her eyes dared him to look away, and Athos tried valiantly to answer her challenge. But she painted her options too keenly, and despite the anger at her that was always present in him like an aching brand, the thought of her brought low left a sour taste in his mouth. “You have education. Cleverness. And — charms. You can certainly find a way to avoid such outcomes.” “I am known to all the nobles in Paris, now,” Milady reminded him curtly, as she ran a gloved finger down the table and grimaced at the dust. “The king’s shamed and discarded mistress. My only honest option is to become the wife of some mid-level man who finds the idea of bedding a former favorite enticing.” Athos wished fervently that she would cease mentioning how her prospects were entwined with her sexual skills. “You have other talents.” “Yes,” Milady pounced, smiling in a way that left him longing for a stiff drink and a bottle to smash against the wall. “I am sure there are many legitimate jobs for a woman who can kill and spy and plot like a man. Why, how have I not enlisted with the female version of the Musketeers? Surely they would value my services. Tell me, why have I never encountered them before?” Athos clenched his fists. Do not rise, he instructed himself. Find a way to end this. Leave. “You have time yet to make your plans. If you need any assistance that I can give … do not hesitate to ask.” He turned to go, and heard her snort. “Yes. I’m sure you relish the thought of me coming to you, begging for your aid. But unless I am threatened by some enemy I cannot, for some reason, defeat on my own, I believe we can be quite free of each other.” Athos was at the door, thankful for the excuse to leave, when he stopped up short. He wrestled with himself, wishing more than anything to leave this tortured room and the pain that she embodied. But his sense of fairness and justice (he swore it was that, that and nothing else) forced him to turn. “There is something you must know,” he said, echoing the same words he had spoken to make this conversation necessary. “Catherine. My brother’s former betrothed. When I was in Pinon, recently, I encountered her, and … I could not lie. She knows you are alive, and she still bares you a grudge. I warned her that you were the king’s mistress, but she may yet come for you. If you leave Paris now — you avoid any such confrontation.” Athos expected anger. He expected calculation. He even expected disdain, or to watch the cold mask of Milady resettle over her features, showing him the brutal survivor he had come to have wary respect for. He did not expect to watch fear, fury, agony, and rage wash over her face at his news. He did not expect her to stumble back, as if she had taken a physical blow. And he did not expect her next words. “You,” she whispered, as if she were seeing him for the first time, and was horrified at the sight. “You coward.” Athos’ eyes widened. He struck him that of all the things she had accused him of, that word had never left her lips. “*What* did you say?” “Coward,” she repeated, spitting out the word as if it burned her, and had the power to burn him too. “You knew you could not kill me as the king’s mistress, you didn’t have the strength to do it with your own hands. You never did. So you set that mad bitch on me to do the job you are not man enough to carry out yourself.” “I did not set her on you!” Athos hissed, stepping forward. He had tried, tried to keep his temper. But always, always she drew it out of him. “I could not lie to her that you were dead.” “You could!” Milady asserted. “You most certainly could. You were under no obligation to tell her about me. You chose to tell that monster I was alive, hoping that she would come and exact the revenge that you cannot bring on me yourself!” “You killed her betrothed!” Athos seethed at the way she tried to turn it around, to make *him* the villain when *she* was the murderer. “You killed my brother, and ruined her life—” “Her life!” Milady shouted, appalled and infuriated. “*I* ruined *her* life?” She glared at him, and then began to laugh — an awful, jagged sound devoid of any joy, wild and upsetting. It was everything Athos could do not to clamp his hands over his ears. “Oh, yes,” she said, between bouts of the sickening sound, “yes, of course. Of course I did. I came into your lives, and took everything she so desired. Of course she must bear me enmity. Of course it was not enough to ruin my happiness because it was not hers. She must now have my blood as well.” She ceased laughing to turn her lovely eyes on Athos again. He could see a flash of abandon and insanity in them. “Yes, of course. She could not make your fool of a brother dance to her tune, so she finally takes matters in her hands herself! And you will sit back and watch, just as you did then!” “Watch you kill her as you killed my brother?” Athos spat. “Everyone is to blame but you, then? Even now you will impugn his name when you have caused his death!” “*She caused his death*!” Milady spoke the words as if they were rent from her. “She sent him to find the ‘truth’ of my crimes!” Milady grinned, all bared teeth and hatred. “But she could not control him, her betrothed, her intended. She hoped that he would bring the list to you, turn you against me. But your brute of a brother had his own ideas.” Athos turned away, turned his back to the other wall. “I will not listen to this.” “No, of course not,” Milady continued, unsparingly. “You would not listen then, and you will not listen now. You never questioned why he would come to me first, with his evidence, rather than bring it to you. You never thought to wonder at why he would present me with a list whose contents I was already aware of. Never considered that he would do so only to demand something in return for his silence.” He could see her through the mirror on the wall, could see how the rage in her face slipped away just enough to let out the desperate hurt that colored her next words. “Did you love him so much that you would not see what he was?” Athos glanced up at her eyes in the mirror, and saw them harden. “Or did my former life so disgust you that you could not believe I would have any honor to defend?” “You lied to me.” Athos forced the words out, and was almost surprised that the cold voice was his own. “You never told me the truth of who you were. You could have. You could have trusted me. But instead you waited, and then my brother was dead. Why?” “Because I feared what you might do!” “Was I such a cruel husband that you had to fear me?” Athos’ mouth pulled into a grim, humorless facsimile of a smile. “Did you doubt my— did you doubt me so, that you would have lied to me forever? Did you *calculate* that I was such a fool that I would never see it unless it was before my own eyes?” “I only lied to protect what we had!” Milady swore. “You lied to protect yourself,” Athos cut her off brutally. “You lied to protect your position, the position you gained by tricking and beguiling me for a fool. Everything about you was a lie.” Milady was still, her eyes widening in true shock. “Is that what you believe?” she asked in quiet fury. “All this time, is that what has haunted you?” Her voice rose in bitterness, wavering. “All this time, you told yourself everything I did was a lie? That the woman you hanged was not your wife, never your wife— but a calculating whore? That all that time I was but a viper in your bed, lying to you every night, in everything we did?” Milady took a step forward but seemed to stumble slightly, and when Athos was brave enough to turn to look at her, he could see pain and agony tear away the last of her mask. "Is that it, *Olivier*? You saw my past and knew a street slut could never have any true feelings? God DAMN you!” Athos pulled back as she suddenly hurled the glass of wine at him. It shattered on the wall and sprayed its ruby droplets over their faces. "You coward. You true coward. I should never have— I should have given myself to your brother when he demanded it of me, then. Yes! Yes, I will speak it again!” she snapped, even as Athos tried to shake his head against it, to deny her words. “Your precious brother wanted what you had, just as his shrew of a betrothed wanted what I had! So they worked together to undermine us. Catherine saw a way through exposing my past to leave you free to marry her. And Thomas—” Milady finally spoke his name, with all the venom of a spitting snake. “*Thomas* saw a way to have what he saw denied him every day. Once he knew the truth of me, he saw a low woman, a woman who would not dare deny him when confronted with the evidence of who she truly was.” Milady drew her head up, and flung the last words at Athos, the words she knew would drive from him the last of his composure. “But I foolishly allowed myself to believe that my past was behind me. That in the love of a man who made me feel that I was worthy of such a thing that I could behave like a woman of honor and turn him down.” She choked on her final words but valiantly managed to get them out. “But he would not take my answer. I believed you would listen. That you would understand. But you proved no better than he.” Her face worked as she kept her eyes locked on Athos’. “So God damn you. I should never have fought. I should have exchanged one brother for another, for truly you are no better. God damn you to *hell*, Athos.” Her next words caught in her throat, and even her pride, so powerfully forged in pain, could not keep her voice from breaking. “I let myself love you.” Athos had thought she could not spin him any more. He had though this night could not drag him back into the abyss any further than he had ready plunged. But the desperate openness of her face, an openness and honesty he had last seen only that night in the burning house, when despite all he knew she had looked so like his Anne — “This is hell,” he murmured, through leaden lips. “You have already well damned me, Anne.” She hissed at the use of the name, and then took a step back, bumping into the rickety wooden table in alarm as he crossed the room to her. “No,” she denied, as he drew level with her, too close for her to have space within which to spin lies of self defense. “You have drawn us here. And you haven’t even the courtesy of an enemy. You won’t make your hate pure and cast away your—” She pursed her lips and turned away. “You keep looking at me,” she finished, trying to make it a statement of only disgust. A failure. “Is that what you desire?” Athos heard himself ask. He could drink whole taverns worth of liquor, and yet the sensations driving him now were more powerful than all the reddest wines and darkest cognacs in a king’s cellar. God, how he craved it, this loss of control that he chased with drink and could never match, until now. “What do you desire?” Milady turned her head to the side, exposing the pumping veins in her neck and chest, the swelling red line that was rising up to color the porcelain skin of her throat. “You’re drunk. You’re mad,” she accused, she deflected. “You’re a coward, and a fool, and a hypocrite like him—” For once, it was he who moved, as his hands grasped her shoulders and his lips found her mouth. She must have been expecting it too, because she opened for him, and he was lost.
Light came through the windows of his room, throwing into relief Anne lying naked and restful on his bed, and damning him again. It refused to let him lie in the sweet delusion that he had made a mistake, one mistake, one that he could be forgiven for. But no. She lay, bare and beautiful, her hair mussed, all evidence of his continued sin. His coat thrown over her, because she should not have to lie cold in this sparse bed, simply because he had ripped her skirt and torn her bodice to shreds. Her hair was a mess of tangles from how his hands had buried in them, breaking her elaborate braids as he held her down and listened to her moan and beg and promise. If only had he taken her the once, as an extension of their fight, with the scratching and screaming and swearing, hatred motivating them as much as lust. Then, at least, he could cling to the defense of fury blinding him, and the longing of six long years undermining his strength. But when they had finished that first, desperate and wild joining, he looked down at her. And her face was so open, so stunned, so honest and free of artifice that he could not remember the hateful mask of Milady, could not remember that it was not Anne lying in his arms, his wife, his love. And so he had given in again, kissing her warm, willing mouth, and then traveling down her known body, discovering it anew. It had been so long, so long, and yet every dream that had reminded him of her, that had haunted his nights no matter how much he tried to drive them away with wine, had etched itself into the motions of his body. He remembered how to get her to arch, how to draw the whimpers from her, as he descended to her thighs. And he shivered again, remembering the sweetness of her, how she had gasped and threaded her fingers into his hair, and yes Athos, yes, oh God, yes, don’t stop, my love, please, yes. He wondered if anyone below in the street heard her scream through the thin walls, whether anyone stopped and listened to the continued stream of endearments and pleas as he rose up to kiss her lips and take her again, slowly and steadily and praying to God that every word she whispered and gasped in his ears was, for once, true. He turned away in shame when he realized that his desire was rising again, that he was still not sated. He tried to recite a litany of her crimes, her lies, but her scent was too overwhelming, and when he felt her hand on his shoulder he flinched. “And now?” she spoke softly, her voice lazy and warm with just waking. “Are you ashamed of yourself, Athos?” He turned, his hair falling over his eyes, still damp with sweat. “I should … I should go.” Anne ignored him, letting her fingers rise up his face. “And then? Will you drown what we’ve done in wine in some tavern? Will you scorn to see me, and pray that she arrives and stabs me in the back to rid you of ever having to face me again?” “She favors a pistol.” Anne smiled. “Ah. So it will be quick then.” Athos closed his eyes, trying to block her out, desperate to find a way to end the yearning that he could feel threatening to take over once more. “I do not — wish to see you harmed.” “Merely to have it done out of your sight, then?” He opened his eyes with a look of stern annoyance, and Anne giggled, truly giggled. “You have such a variety of expressions with which to show disapproval. I imagine you barely need speak to your brothers-in-arms, simply glare at them and they take your meaning.“ “I don’t believe I’ll ever match your collection of expressions,” Athos responded quickly, and watched the playfulness leave her. “So. We are back to that, then?” she said softly. “Even after what we’ve done here, you will see only a liar and a murderer?” Athos tried to set his jaw. “This cannot happen again.” Anne closed her eyes, and Athos wanted desperately to take the words back. To kiss her again, to abandon the world for this room. But Milady was already opening her eyes, redressed in her armor already. “Yes, of course. Never again.”