Pairings: Shippy gen (could be read as OT3/4 if you prefer)
Wordcount: 1,581 (this part)
Summary: Someone is killing people within the Court of Miracles, and Flea arrives at the musketeers' headquarters with a request for help.
AN: The Musketeers/Neverwhere crossover, in which The Court of Miracles is basically Paris Below, and the musketeers have to deal with Croup and Vandemar.
"What's she doing here?" Aramis straightened up from where he'd been lounging against the wooden pillar of the staircase and stared across the courtyard to where a young woman in a shabby grey hooded cloak had entered through the archway.
"Flea?" D'Artagnan recognised the young woman with surprise. As far as he knew, it was unusual indeed for her to venture this far outside the Court of Miracles.
She looked around uncertainly and finally came across to them, recognising them as friends of Porthos.
"My lady." Athos greeted her politely and she stared back at him with undisguised hostility.
"You would mock me?"
"On the contrary. A queen is a queen regardless of where her throne may lie," he murmured gallantly. "How may we be of service?"
She stared at him, finding only sincerity in his face, and thawed a little. "I need to see Porthos."
"He doesn't come off duty for another hour," Aramis told her. Flea glared at him.
"This is important!"
"I'm sure it is."
Athos gave Aramis a warning look. "Can we help?" he suggested.
"No. I need to talk to Porthos. It's a matter of life or death," Flea insisted, managing to look pleading and stubborn and angry all at once.
Athos gave a slight bow. "Then I'll fetch him." He turned and went up the stairs, and Flea moved apart from them, arms wrapped defensively around herself.
"What kind of a name is Flea, anyway?" D'Artagnan muttered under his breath. "It's not very flattering."
"I asked Porthos that once," Aramis replied, just as quietly.
"What did he say?"
Aramis smirked. "She bites."
D'Artagnan's stifled laugh was interrupted by the reappearance of Athos on the balcony, with Porthos close behind him. They descended to the courtyard quickly, and Porthos went to take Flea into his arms.
"Flea? What is it? What's wrong?" Knowing she would not have come for anything trivial.
She cast an uneasy look at the other three and Porthos shook his head. "You can trust them. Anything you would say to me, you can say in front of them. Anything."
"They won't believe me." Flea looked briefly wretched. "I'm not even sure you will."
"How can you say that?" Porthos drew her over to the benches and they sat, joined a moment later by the others, when Porthos indicated it was okay.
"Now." Porthos clasped her hand warmly in his. "Tell me only what you require of me, and it's yours."
Aramis frowned at such a sweeping offer, but said nothing. He, too, was curious what had driven the Queen of the Court so far from her jealously guarded territory.
Flea regarded them warily, twisting a tangled lock of hair in her free hand. But she had come seeking help, and recognised that sooner or later she would have to explain.
"Death walks the Court of Miracles."
"I do so love a dramatic opening," Aramis murmured, but Flea's tone had been deadly serious, and he couldn't prevent a shiver despite the warmth of the late afternoon sun.
"Could you be a little more specific?" Athos asked, pragmatically. "Do you mean plague, or murder, or something else?"
D'Artagnan shifted nervously at the mention of plague, and peered closely at Flea in case she should suddenly start exhibiting symptoms.
Flea gestured helplessly. "People are dying. By night at first, and now also by day. Some with their throats cut, some are drained of blood, some simply seem to - stop." She looked around her nervously, as if they might be overheard. "Some just disappear altogether, never to be seen again."
Athos cleared his throat. "I beg you not to take offence at what I'm about to say, but - the Court is rather notorious for its body-count. A more concentrated number of cut-throats and murderers could probably not be found in all of Paris."
Flea gave him a look of disdain. "Other than here in the bosom of the King's militia you mean?"
Rather than argue, Athos conceded the point gracefully, and Flea almost smiled.
"I grew up in the Court, monsieur Athos. I know what is normal for within our walls. And this - this is not normal. Not natural." She shuddered, and Porthos took off his cloak, wrapping it around her shoulders over her own rather threadbare one.
"To be clear - you're saying someone is killing people?" D'Artagnan put in.
Flea hesitated before nodding. "Nobody knows for sure, but - there are rumours. Whispers in dark places of a darker shadow. Two shadows, that leave death in their wake."
"Assassins?" Porthos asked, cracking his knuckles as if preparing to throttle a battalion of them in the next five minutes.
Flea pulled the cloak closer around her neck. It smelt comfortingly of Porthos, and for a moment she felt tempted to pull it over her head as if she were a child again, hiding under her covers from night terrors. But she was not a child any longer, she was a queen, and her people were dying.
She sat up straight and slipped off the cloak, handing it back to Porthos. "I can't give you straight answers, for I do not know. Those who claimed to have seen, to have witnessed - they are gone."
"What do you mean gone?" Aramis asked. "Dead?"
"Gone. Vanished. Without a word, without a trace. From unmade beds, from watching a cradle, from locked rooms. Gone. Do you see why we are afraid now?"
"Let's start from first principles," Athos said, seeing that Flea's talk of death-by-night and mysterious shadowy killers was starting to unnerve D'Artagnan. "When did this start, and who is dying? Is there a pattern, that you can see?"
Flea looked at him, grateful that he was taking this seriously and not dismissing it out of hand as the fevered fancies of a woman.
"About a month ago. It was just one or two at first. Men of - certain skills," she said delicately. "We thought they had merely fled the city, or met with a bad end - natural causes for that kind of man you might say."
"But now it's more than that?" Athos prompted.
"Yes. Old men, women, children. People who never harmed a soul, whose only crime was to be one of us. People with no connection to each other, that I can find." She looked up. "Can I ask - is it only us? Has this stain spread to the rest of the city?"
The musketeers exchanged glances, and one by one shook their heads.
"There's been no noticeable increase in unexplained deaths," Aramis said. "At least that we're aware of. We could check with the mortician."
Flea sighed. "No matter. If such things were happening in the world above, the outcry would have reached you long ago."
"You speak of the Court as if it were a separate land," Aramis observed.
"As indeed it is," Flea said. "Perhaps more than you know," she added under her breath.
"Nevertheless, it technically still falls within our jurisdiction," Athos said thoughtfully.
Aramis stared at him. "You're not seriously considering marching in there to investigate? We'd be dead within an hour. Mysterious assassins be damned, the inhabitants would kill us for the our clothes on our backs!" Rather belatedly he realised Porthos and Flea were both staring at him in anger, and cleared his throat, embarrassed. "No offence. But tell me I'm wrong."
"If we were invited in," Athos mused. "If we were seen to have the queen's protection. We might be able to do something."
"You'd have us risk our lives for a group of people who've turned their backs on our justice until they deem it convenient?" Aramis demanded.
Athos just looked at him. "Setting aside for a moment that you apparently expect me to believe you would ignore a direct request for help," he said quietly. "Are you saying you would rather Porthos went in alone?"
"What?" Aramis looked from Athos to Porthos, who'd put a protective arm round Flea and had a face like thunder. He groaned, subsiding to the bench in surrender. "No. No, of course I'm not."
"I'm asking no-one for any favours," Porthos growled.
"Good, because we're offering none," Athos retorted. "If someone's killing people indiscriminately in this city, it's our job to stop them before they pose a threat to the king." He held Porthos' gaze, daring him to contradict his rather tenuous argument.
Porthos finally relented, with a reluctant laugh. "Fine." He bowed his head, then looked up from beneath lowered brows. "Thank you."
"As if we'd let you go alone," Athos muttered under his breath, just audible enough to make Porthos hide a smile.
"You say this has been going on for a month?" Porthos asked Flea. "Why didn't you come before?"
"We look after our own," she said stiffly. "We thought - I thought - I could fix it." Flea cast her eyes down and clenched her fists. "But it's getting worse. People are afraid, and more are disappearing every day. I will not let more people die because I was too proud to ask for help."
Porthos covered her hand with his own and looked round at the others. One by one, they all nodded.
"Then we are agreed." Athos stood up, and Flea looked surprised.
"You're coming now?"
"No time like the present." Athos looked around, to see the sun had already slid behind the line of the roof. "While there's still some daylight left," he added to himself.