Wait and Hope
Summary: To wait – a skill perfected over time – lends itself toward the hope of survival and the reward of lasting brotherhood.
Athos knew how to wait.
It seemed as if he were born with the talent, and if you believed the story his father liked to tell – he waited two whole days to cry after his birth. It was as if he entered the world; surveyed the landscape, then finally, over much deliberation - accepted his fate here on earth, away from the warmth of his mother’s womb. His father labeled this ability “uncanny” and retold the story it seemed, at every gathering he attended, when in the company of his parents – much to his mother’s dismay and his discomfort.
The tale took on a life of its own, and before he could even speak, defined who he was – a reticent infant who watched and waited with sobering fortitude.
Growing up he learned from his father to enhance that ability, and to wait stoically with calm intent. After all, as he was constantly reminded, this was what his position in life dictated. To fidget; show excitement; remorse or have his mind wander on adventures of faraway places, was unacceptable. So he learned early on how to quiet his mind, and mask his emotions. He would travel the world, fight battles, save damsels in distress – all behind a banal facade and indifferent eyes.
It made his father happy.
Under such tutelage, he waited as instructed with stillness and patience, but always with a small bit of hope attached. He waited with hope that his mother would shower him with loving attention; that his father would take notice beyond his position as first born; that his brother would grow up fast, so that they could talk – interact and be each other’s true company.
As an adolescent he wished to be a man quickly – but tempered his impatience by waiting within the world of books his tutors shared of gallant knights and dragon slayers. He filled isolated, empty hours by immersing himself in learning the ways of swordplay; etiquette and honor from handpicked infamous teachers who nurtured his talent.
He waited and was rewarded with a little brother who listened to him, loved him and became his friend – over time.
As a young man, he waited for love and when it came it struck like lightning – rendering him helpless in the face of its sizzling power. She awoke in him the kernel of hope he had ultimately put aside and opened his heart to the possibility of long awaited acceptance, happiness and affection.
She was everything – her promises of forever among forget me nots lasted but a moment; ended with murder; and hellish decisions – destroying every ounce of hope he had dared to share with her. Rekindled efforts between them fell to the wayside along the crossroads into painful memories. Memories of passion; all-consuming fervor and obsession he could not release – no matter how hard he tried. He thought of her more often than not, and would wait for her in his dreams; to feel her body close to his; and to hear her speak of a hopeful, reunited future.
He shut his eyes to such wayward thoughts that served only to distract him from the campaign before him and lead to self-recriminations there was no time for. And so instead sat now in the dirt to wait again – putting his father’s lessons to good use of stillness, patience and silence.
Beside him d’Artagnan fidgeted and shifted on his knees; the rise of earth in front of them barely enough cover to conceal them from the enemy. Dirty, battered, spotted with the blood of those already dead; he was still eager to advance toward the Spanish troops. After all these years, battles fought side by side - waiting was still not his strength. But hope springs eternal and one day d’Artagnan would see the wisdom in stealth, in waiting for the opportune moment.
Outwardly he scowled at his friend’s impatience; but inside his heart he felt deep warmth of care and love that at least after all they had been through - the horror; sorrow; guilt of surviving - this had not changed in him. And it was his ardent hope that it never would, in some way leave his character. His earnest nature a constant that kept him grounded, and on his toes.
It was his hope that somehow the jovial presence of Porthos, the impulsivity of d’Artagnan, the good heart of Aramis, would all remain intact. That this war would not break the spirit; the essence of what it meant to be a musketeer, to be a champion for the King of France.
It was what he hoped.
Porthos placed a warm hand on his back and when he turned to meet his gaze saw his love, loyalty and a grim allegiance that frightened him. Any moment they would step from behind this rise; engage the enemy and perhaps meet death.
Not today – he pleaded; and hoped against hope. Not today. Today they would fight side by side and dismiss the reaper back to the killing field, where he stalked amidst the fog and stripped his men of their worldly effects, memories, and life itself. Where then, in his mission to acquire their souls, would lead them onto the other side.
Sometimes he saw this angel of death in his dreams and other times while wide awake - stepping over the dead, picking them clean; and disappearing among the mist, just as he neared close enough to confront him. The thought of death would bring him low; but then d’Artagnan would speak of Constance and the love so evident there would seep into his bones and bring him tranquility.
Porthos would laugh from his belly; and he would think of Aramis safe among the holiest of men and this would shower him with the hope that they would all survive this and find themselves once again home - in Paris. Rounds of relentless artillery; gun powder, pain and loss – would be left behind in these far away fields with the taker of souls.
This was his hope.
And as he waited for the blood red sun to set, for the order to be given to charge the enemy, for this mayhem to come to an end – he could also hope for peace; d’Artagnan to see his Constance; Porthos to remain a giant among men and for they to lay eyes upon Aramis again – happy; and free from his self-imposed exile.
To have them all, the four together again – safe, was his hope.
And he knew how to wait for such imaginings– and that good things would come of it. He had waited for friendship and it had come – a strong chain; unbroken. He had waited for brotherhood and it had been gifted to him – a stabilizing force that saved his life. He had waited for family and was rewarded for his capacity to tolerate delay, to endure years of misfortune and pain – for it all to come true, and in the end bring him contentment.
Brotherhood, love and affection given to him freely – a gift without expectation only acceptance – was all he had ever wanted or hoped for. And they stood with him now.
“What are we waiting for?” d’Artagnan hissed low at his side; and glared over the rise – first out at the enemy line, then to the General atop his steed upon the hillside.
Porthos grinned tiredly and swiped a hand down over his face, then pulled at his beard; understanding wholly d’Artagnan’s touch of edginess – for he felt it too. “We wait for the Spanish to tremble at the sight of the fearsome, formidable musketeers” he answered, hoping humor would smooth over such edges.
“We hope that after trembling, they turn tail and run for the hills”, Athos added in turn.
d’Artagnan rolled his eyes, still able to show annoyance and little brother irritation to such teasing, albeit surrounded by so much devastation.
“I say we wait no longer – charge for the heart of their line and hope they see the error of their ways. I am tired of waiting, and see no point in this pause!” He looked over his shoulder to the sea of men waiting behind them – anxious, fearful but ready to fight for France, and follow their Captain into the depths of hell.
d’Artagnan stood then as if to race over the rise and take on the battle on his own terms.
Athos grabbed him by the nape of the neck and pressed him down into the dirt. “It is my hope you will one day get it through your head, that I hate it when you do that.”
d’Artagnan wiped the dirt from his face. “Do what?”
Athos ruffled his hair, and swiped the dust from the top of his head. “Run blindly ahead, and hope for the best.”
Athos clapped a hand to his shoulder and peered fiercely into his eyes, hoping to dismiss his earlier image of the apparition leading his lost men away into the fog. “We wait here together. Make our stand together”, he urged, emphasizing each point with a firm shake.
Porthos nodded his agreement. “All for one”, he whispered – hoping beneath his overt confidence – they survived together. And, also - which was his habit at the end of battle - to clear his mouth of dust; grime and the distaste of war - with absconded Spanish wine.