Rating: PG (this part)
Summary: Written for evilmaniclaugh's prompt of "Athos rescues Porthos from a burning building. Porthos is so grateful that he's driving Athos mad." Modern AU. Probably wildly inaccurate as far as real firemen go, but whatev's.
When Porthos woke that morning, there was a nagging feeling that something wasn't right. He was in a strange bed for a start, although further investigation revealed that it was only Charon's and therefore nothing to be concerned about, particularly given he was alone in it.
He was massively hungover, which was par for the course given the amount they'd drunk the night before. His head appeared to be in a vice, which he put down to the hangover for a good thirty seconds before realising he was wearing Charon's big headphones, and dimly remembered shouting at a room full of people at three in the morning to shut the fuck up as he was trying to sleep.
He pulled them off and threw them to the floor, groaning. He could smell smoke and made a face, burying his head under the covers. Most of them had been smoking last night, and he hated the way it made the whole flat stink the day after.
Despite the muffling effects of the bedclothes there was an odd background roaring noise that he couldn't block out, and after a while he sat up with a sigh. It was white noise, as if someone had left a TV tuned to a missing channel. He pulled on jeans over his boxers and was struggling into a t-shirt as he walked into the living room, meaning that it was another good few seconds before his head emerged from the cotton to discover the room was full of smoke.
"What the fuck? Charon!" Porthos bellowed, looking round wildly, wondering if someone had managed to fall asleep with a fag in their hand. But the flat was quiet, and the smoke seemed to be coming under the door from the corridor outside.
Backing away in alarm, Porthos did a rapid search of the flat and was bewildered to discover he was on his own. Staring out of the window revealed a confusion of fire engines and milling residents in the car park five storeys below, bringing with it the belated and frightening realisation that the entire fucking building was apparently on fire.
Porthos dashed back to the front door of the tiny apartment, coughing now as the smoke thickened. For a second he hesitated, grabbing someone's discarded shirt to wrap around his hand before touching the door handle. He couldn't help feeling this was a bad idea, but there was no other means of getting out. He had a vague memory of there being a metal fire escape running down the side of the building. If he could make it to that, he had a chance.
Pulling the door open sent him reeling backwards as what felt like a wall of smoke and heat burst in from the corridor. Coughing and swearing he staggered back, retreating to the bedroom and slamming the flimsy door behind him. Clearly there was no escape that way, and for the first time the true horrifying gravity of his situation sank in.
"Is that everyone?" Aramis pulled off his hard hat and face mask and pushed his sweaty hair back with his arm.
"Fuck knows." Athos glared sourly at the burning building as if taking personal offence with it. "Most were coming out before it took too bad a hold, but the landlord's unreachable and most of the flats seem to be sub-let. So we have no idea how many people might have been in there to do a head-count in the first place. Half of them seem to be illegal immigrants, don't even understand what we're asking." He shook his head in disgust. "Whole place was a death-trap, to be honest I'm amazed it's not burnt down before this."
"It spread so quickly." D'Artagnan was staring up at the facade with a look of impressed shock. Somewhere nearby a window shattered with an explosion of glass and he ducked instinctively. Aramis and Athos didn't move an inch, and he cleared his throat with embarrassment.
Aramis glanced at Athos, ready to take the piss out of the rookie member of their team, but Athos was staring up at the building with a frown, trying to see through the billowing smoke and jets of water coming from the hoses.
"There's someone up there," he said suddenly. "On the - fifth floor? There's still someone fucking in there."
The others looked where he was pointing, and made out a blurred face at one of the windows.
"Fuck," said Aramis with feeling. "How the hell didn’t they hear the alarms?"
"Hey. Hey! Get a ladder up there!" Athos was yelling and pointing, but after a confused few seconds it became apparent the ones they had would only reach the third storey.
"Where the fuck's the big one?"
"Tender's out to another shout," said Treville, coming over and looking grim. "It's on its way here, but it'll be another few minutes."
"Let's hope he's safe where he is for a bit," Aramis muttered. They stared up at the figure, who seemed to be waving urgently to attract their attention.
Athos stiffened. "Tell me he's not going to open the window. Oh shit, no, no don't do that you absolute tw-" his rising tirade cut off abruptly as the figure above them succeeded in getting the window open. A second later a blast of heat and smoke billowed out as the fire immediately slammed through the inner room, and the figure disappeared from sight.
"Fuck." Athos grabbed his hat and was running towards the entrance before anyone else could move.
"Athos! Athos don't you dare!" Treville bellowed after him. "Athos!"
Athos kept running, either not hearing or paying no attention and Treville spluttered in fury. "Athos I'm ordering you, not to set foot in that - oh for fuck's sake." Athos had disappeared in through the doorway, the broken and charred wood running with dirty water.
Aramis and d'Artagnan looked at each other and promptly set off after him, only to be brought up short by Treville grabbing the back of both their suits.
"Don't you take one more step," Treville growled. "Either of you."
"But Athos - " d'Artagnan protested, then fell quiet at the glare he earned.
"Not one step. Do I make myself clear? I am not losing you your first week on the damn job. And Aramis you should know better."
"Yes sir," they muttered. Treville stared at them a second longer to be sure they meant it, then stalked off to yell at someone else because the ladder rig still wasn't here.
They stared up at the building in silence for a second. Bits of it were starting to collapse, and it was becoming apparent the hoses were having little to no effect. It would have to burn itself out, and there would be precious little left.
"He'll be okay, right?" d'Artagnan ventured in a low voice.
"Course he will," Aramis told him with more confidence than he felt. "Indestructible, is Athos." He crossed himself behind d’Artagnan’s back, hoping he was right and offering up a silent prayer.
Inside, the building was a smoke and flame-filled hellhole. Athos forced his way up the stairwell, which was only still standing through virtue of being solid concrete. The heat was intense, and even with a face mask and breathing apparatus the going was hard. Every instinct told him to turn around and get the hell out, and with every step he took he knew the chances of being able to come back this way were diminishing. Still he pressed on, filled with a stubborn and bloody-minded resolve.
Athos counted the levels as he went, and eventually pushed his way out between fallen joists and twisted bits of metal ceiling grid into the corridor of what he sincerely hoped was the right floor. He made his way along, counting doors until he got to where he thought the face had been.
He pulled his respirator away for a moment and yelled.
"Hey! Can you hear me? Are you up here?" Desperately hoping that he hadn't miscounted or got turned around. It was supremely disorienting in the smoke, and he could easily be on the wrong side of the building for all he knew.
He ploughed on, banging on doors that were starting to burn until he came to one that was hanging open.
"Hello?" Athos peered into the room beyond, flames taking hold of the furniture and belching out evil looking fumes.
Distantly there was a faint cry in response, and he gritted his teeth and ran inside.
In the bedroom he found a man sprawled on the floor under the window, nearly unconscious and bleeding from a cut over the eye. Athos dropped to the ground, crawling over to him beneath the worst of the smoke and shoving the respirator over his mouth.
After a few seconds the man's eyes blinked open, and he started to cough.
Athos grunted with relief. "It's going to be okay. Can you hear me? Can you tell me your name?"
Disoriented and scared eyes stared back at him, but then came a shaky nod.
"Porthos," he managed, his throat scratchy and eyes streaming.
"Right then Porthos, you hang in there okay? I'm going to get you out of here." Athos stood up and leaned out the window, waving vigorously. Dimly he heard a shout from below, and was relieved to see the big fire tender had arrived. He ducked down again, taking a quick lungful of air before giving the mask back to Porthos.
"I think we'll take the quick way down if you don't mind," he murmured. "Now, when I say, I want you to take a deep breath of air and hold it till we're outside, okay? I'm going to carry you out of the window, and I'd appreciate it if you could try not to panic, or we'll end up taking the really quick way down."
Porthos coughed. "You'll never lift me, I'm bigger than you." Despite the bulky suit and air tank, it was obvious the fireman had a slighter build than him.
"You let me worry about that." There was a bang outside as the ladder hit the sill and Athos looked out quickly to check the position. "Right. Deep breath for me?"
Porthos did as he was told and nodded. Athos took the mouthpiece back and slipped an arm round Porthos. He gave a twist, and in a move that Porthos didn’t quite follow suddenly he was hanging over the man's shoulder, a firm arm locked around him, and Athos was climbing carefully out of the window.
Porthos had a confused view of an air tank and his rescuer's arse, before focussing on the ground five floors below and wishing he hadn't. He squeezed his eyes shut instead against the temptation to struggle for a more secure hold, and only opened them again when several pairs of hands were lifting him down.
To his shame his legs gave way and Porthos was helped to an ambulance stretcher where he sat down heavily. He was handed an oxygen mask by a paramedic and told to take slow breaths.
In between gulping in enough to make him light-headed and coughing miserably, Porthos looked round for his rescuer, realising he hadn't had a chance to say thank you. He was sitting on a low wall a short distance away, and as Porthos watched, pulled off his helmet and face mask.
If you'd asked Porthos to describe a typical fireman, he’d probably have summoned up the image of the muscle-bound oiled beefcake of a thousand calendars. Not this wiry figure with a scruffy beard and surprisingly long hair curling round his face.
Two other firefighters stood either side of him, one looking mostly amused and the other nakedly admiring, both clearly relieved. As Porthos watched, trying to find enough strength to go over and say thank you, an older man strode across to them.
Athos looked up warily as Treville stamped to a stop.
"Athos de la Fere if you ever disobey a direct order from me again you'll be out on your ear faster than you can blink, do you hear me?" Treville said icily. "We have procedures for a reason."
Athos glanced across at Porthos. "Another few seconds he'd have been unconscious. By the time anyone had got up that ladder he'd have been beyond reviving," he said tiredly.
Porthos blinked to hear how close he'd come to not making it, and his gratitude towards the man - Athos? - doubled in an instant.
Treville jabbed a finger at Athos' face. "You made it out. This time. What happens when your luck runs out? Also need I remind you, you have a responsibility to set an example. You want d'Artagnan here to think it's okay to ignore protocols and run headlong into an inferno?"
"No sir. Sorry sir," Athos muttered.
Treville held his gaze angrily. "Both these idiots would have followed you in there. I won't have your death wish endangering the rest of my team." He turned and strode off, leaving Athos looking somehow like a reprimanded schoolboy.
Aramis clapped him on the shoulder. "He only yells because he cares," he murmured.
Athos gave him a grateful smile, then looked up as someone else cleared their throat.
Porthos had finally come over and was looking at him almost shyly. "I just wanted say - thanks. And sorry, for getting you a bollocking. Seriously, I thought I'd had it. You were incredible in there."
Athos shrugged. "Just doing my job."
"Above and beyond, by the sounds of it." Porthos shifted from foot to foot. "Anyway. Thanks."
"What happened to your head?" Aramis asked. "Athos didn't bash you on the windowsill getting you out did he?" Athos aimed a kick at his shin, and Aramis jumped back, laughing.
Porthos smiled. "Nah. Hit it when I fell over. Knocked myself silly and then the room was full of smoke and I couldn't breathe. Couldn't even tell which way was out."
"Why were you still in there?" D'Artagnan couldn't help asking. "The fire alarm must have been going off for ages before the wiring melted."
"I was asleep." Porthos felt even sillier as all three of them stared at him. "I mean, I had headphones on. I couldn't hear a thing."
"Well. Sorry about your flat," Aramis offered. "And, um, you know. The building."
Porthos shrugged. "It's not mine. I was just staying over." He looked around, wondering for the first time what had happened to Charon and the others, and wondering with a sick sense of betrayal if they'd run out when the alarms went off and just left him in there. But he couldn’t see anyone he recognised amongst the crowds of stunned looking residents, so maybe they'd gone out before it happened. If that was the case, it would certainly be a shock to come back to.
He swayed a little as a wave of dizziness washed over him, and Aramis frowned, beckoning one of the paramedics across.
"You need to get that cut seen to. You might need stitches."
Porthos submitted without a fight. He felt distinctly odd, and also didn’t have any shoes on, which made sitting in an ambulance a more appealing prospect than standing in the car park.
Athos looked up. "Maybe afterwards they could take a look at my shoulder?" he murmured discreetly.
Aramis swung round and stared at him. "What's wrong with your shoulder?" he demanded.
"Told you I was too heavy for you," Porthos said, and Athos gave him a slight smile.
"No, I ripped my suit earlier getting out of the stairwell. Think I might have got a bit - " he looked distinctly embarrassed. "Burnt."
Aramis had dropped to his knees beside him and was teasing the torn fabric of Athos' jacket away until he could see the skin beneath. He winced.
"Jesus Athos. Why didn't you say something before, you idiot?"
"Too busy being shouted at," Athos muttered. "I'm fine. It just stings a bit."
Aramis rolled his eyes. "We'll let the hospital be the judge of that, shall we?" He waved at the paramedic who was helping Porthos into the ambulance. "Room for one more?"