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Fic - No Smoke Without Fire (Part 6)

Title: No Smoke Without Fire (Part 6)
Pairings: Athos/Porthos
Rating: 15 (this part)
Wordcount: 2,863
Summary: Written for the prompt of "Athos rescues Porthos from a burning building. Porthos is so grateful that he's driving Athos mad." Modern AU.

--

Over the following weeks Porthos fell into the habit of dropping into the firehouse whenever his shifts and those of Blue Watch allowed it.

Having made his position clear, and finding that Porthos was willing to suffer continued rejection with blithe good humour, Athos was reserved but friendly. He was even talked into teaching Porthos the basics of chess, and Porthos, who'd never had any interest in the game, became abruptly obsessed with it, as it allowed him to sit quietly alone with Athos for long periods at a time. Athos proved to be a patient teacher, and frequently let Porthos win.

One morning Treville pulled Aramis quietly aside into his office.

"Who's this chap I keep seeing around the place? It's not a bloody social club you know."

"Porthos du Vallon. He's the guy Athos pulled out of Miracle Court."

Treville raised his eyebrows. "The apartment block that went up? Oh dear. He hasn't developed some kind of fixation on him has he? Surely Athos isn't encouraging it?"

Aramis laughed. "No, I can honestly say Athos has done his level best to put him off. But given that Porthos has withstood the full brunt of Athos' personality and is still keen, I'd say it might be a bit more than a fixation."

Treville frowned at him. "Is Athos even - never mind. It's none of my business. I trust Athos to manage the situation. I suppose this man's not a security risk is he?"

"No, I wouldn't have said so." Aramis grinned. "In fact we were considering adopting him as our mascot."

Treville glowered at him irritably. "Oh, get out."

--

Turning up at the firehouse one night when a watch was due to end, ever-hopeful that this might be the night he managed to convince Athos to come for a drink with him, Porthos was surprised to find it dark and apparently deserted.

He eventually found Aramis in the rec room, sitting alone in the dark and staring into a mug of coffee. He knocked hesitantly on the open door, and when Aramis looked up Porthos was startled by how tired and drawn he looked.

"Porthos." Aramis raised a half-hearted smile. "This - isn't really a good time right now I'm afraid."

"Where is everybody?"

Aramis fidgeted with the mug in his hands. "D'Artagnan's been taken to the hospital," he said finally.

Porthos dropped into a chair opposite, staring at him in shock. "What? What happened?"

"Accident on a shout. Opened a door he shouldn't have, flashed up in his face."

"Will he be alright?" Porthos asked anxiously. He liked d’Artagnan, liked his enthusiasm and commitment, liked the way he always laughed at Porthos' lame jokes even when Athos was ignoring them. Especially when Athos was ignoring them.

Aramis nodded slowly. "Apparently it's mostly superficial burns and shock. He should be okay."

"Is Athos with him then?"

A shadow passed over Aramis face for a moment, and his lips tightened. "Athos, I imagine, is right about now crawling into the bottom of a bottle somewhere."

"What do you mean?"

Aramis stared at him, then the anger seemed to drain out of him and he rubbed his eyes tiredly. "D'Artagnan should have waited, but he thought he knew best. Trouble is, where Athos has the experience to assess a situation before throwing himself into it anyway, d'Artagnan really doesn't yet. It wasn't Athos' fault. But that's not going to stop him blaming himself."

"But if d'Artagnan made the decision - ?" Porthos protested. Aramis shook his head.

"A while back Treville took Athos to task for setting a bad example. He's - rather taken it to heart."

"Where is he?"

Aramis studied him for a while before answering. "He normally drinks in The Wren. I can't guarantee what kind of welcome you'll get. But then, he's told me to fuck off once already this evening, so why shouldn’t you get a turn?"

--

Porthos entered the bar with a certain amount of caution. It certainly wasn't a touristy place, the low beams and wooden floor weren't fake retro fit-out but rather looked like they'd been that way for hundreds of years. The floor was stained with a patina of spillages rather than varnish, and he got the impression that if you weren't a regular, you probably weren't welcome.

He drew a number of assessing glances as he walked in, not outrightly hostile, but enough to make his spine prickle. Porthos though, didn’t look like the kind of man you tangled with without a very good reason, and he was able to wander between the tables unmolested.

At first he thought Athos wasn't there, until he finally spied him tucked into a corner at the very back, the table in front of him already covered with a number of empties. He was staring absently into his glass, and didn't notice Porthos until he was standing over him.

When he did, he looked up in surprise, and scowled. "Fuck off Porthos. I'm not in the mood."

Porthos slid into the seat next to him. "I've been to the firehouse."

Athos looked sideways at him. "Then you'll know why I'm not in the mood," he said shortly. He frowned. "Do remind me to thank Aramis for telling you where to find me," he drawled, draining his glass and then glaring at it for being empty.

"Athos, what happened wasn't your fault," Porthos ventured, but Athos turned on him, eyes flashing with anger.

"How the fuck would you know? You weren’t there."

"Aramis said - "

"Aramis doesn’t blame me. That's not the same thing as it not being my fault."

"But - "

"D'Artagnan might lose his sight. Did you know that?" Athos banged the glass down on the table and stared at him, his voice strained. Porthos stared back in shock, and realised with a lurch of his stomach that what he'd taken for glittering fury in Athos' eyes was actually held back tears.

"Aramis didn't - " Porthos faltered as Athos turned away, a look of guilt passing over his face. "He doesn't know, does he? You didn't tell him," he said quietly.

Athos stared at the table. "I was with Treville when he took the call from the hospital. I should have told Aramis the whole of it, I just - I couldn't. I couldn't get the words out."

Porthos stared at him, aching to do something, to comfort him somehow, but theirs had never been a tactile acquaintance and Athos might as well have been a thousand miles away.

Athos picked up his glass again automatically, and sighed with disgust on finding it empty. "If you're not going to fuck off you can at least make yourself useful and buy me a drink."

"Don't you think you've had enough?"

"No. I don't." Athos glared at him. "Shall I tell you when I'll have had enough? When I can't see it fucking happening any more."

Porthos swallowed. "You were there?" He hadn't realised Athos had witnessed it. No wonder he was in a state.

"Of course I was there." Athos' voice was faint, tight. "Aramis was still outside. We'd gone in ahead, to - to - " he broke off, took a shuddering breath. "It should have been me."

"Athos, no."

"Yes. It should have been me. I should have been in front. I was in charge of him Porthos, do you understand what that means? He trusted me to keep him safe."

"Does he blame you then?" Porthos asked. He couldn’t see it personally, d'Artagnan had never seemed the type to duck responsibility for his own mistakes.

Athos shook his head miserably. "It doesn't matter. Don't you see? It doesn’t matter if he doesn't blame me. It doesn’t matter if it was his fuck up that caused it. He shouldn't have been in a position where any choice he made could have those consequences in the first place. Ultimately, I was responsible, and nothing anyone can say, no empty words can change that." He sounded broken, and Porthos couldn't stop himself, but put a hand over his.

Athos looked up at him then, and Porthos thought he was going to tell him to fuck off, but he just stared at him for a long moment with an unreadable expression.

"You going to get me that drink or not?" he said finally.

Porthos sighed. "Yeah, alright." He had to admit, in Athos' position, he'd probably have wanted to get wasted too. "Same again?"

Athos nodded and he went up to the bar, buying them both the same. When he came back, Athos didn't object when Porthos resumed his seat, but when he opened his mouth Athos held up a finger.

"No. I don't want to talk about it. If you're staying you shut the fuck up, okay?"

Porthos gave in. "Okay." At least Athos hadn't walked out, or forced him to leave, which he'd been more than half expecting. He was content just to sit here, to keep silent company with Athos in his misery, and to see he got home safely afterwards. That Athos was allowing this at all, Porthos sensed meant a lot more than it might appear.

For a while Porthos kept pace with Athos, then conceded defeat and sat nursing a coke while Athos continued to sink enough alcohol to leave most people Porthos knew reeling and comatose. Outwardly it seemed to have little effect on Athos, other than a loosening of his posture and slight slur to his speech when he pressed another note on Porthos and directed him yet again to the bar. His eyes though, were far away and full of pain, and Porthos wasn't convinced that the drink wasn't making it worse.

Finally Athos staggered to his feet, leaning heavily on Porthos' shoulder for a moment. "Need to piss," he muttered, and lurched across the bar, bracing himself on pillars and brickwork but weaving between the tables and people without once knocking into anyone.

Porthos stared with vague anxiety at the entrance to the gents until he appeared again, leaning in the doorway and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Porthos wondered if he'd thrown up, and rather hoped he had given the volume he'd consumed.

Athos was looking around absently, as if trying to recall where he'd been sitting, and Porthos gathered up their jackets and headed over to him.

"Come on. Time to go home," he murmured, and slipped an arm around Athos' waist. It came naturally now, and Athos blinked at him curiously. For a moment Porthos thought he was going to object, but then Athos gave in and leaned against him, as if surrendering himself into Porthos' care.

Porthos draped Athos' jacket around his shoulders and carefully guided him out of the door. "Where do you live?"

Athos mumbled the name of a suburb miles out on the edge of the city and Porthos sighed. "What you want to live out there for? Suppose it'll have to be a cab then."

He helped Athos along the street towards the nearest taxi rank, but when they got there the drivers took one look at Athos and to a man refused to have him anywhere near their upholstery in case he threw up.

Porthos sighed. "Guess you're coming home with me then." He lead Athos the short distance to his flat and helped him off with shoes and top shirt before settling him into his bed.

Athos was asleep - or unconscious - practically before Porthos had pulled the duvet up over him and Porthos sighed, gazing down at him and resisting the urge to press a kiss to Athos' cheek.

--

In the morning, Porthos ventured in with a pint glass of water and found Athos sitting up and looking confused.

He saw Porthos and sighed. "Oh. Hello. I did wonder where I was, I should have guessed."

"Here." Porthos held out the glass and Athos took it, downing half of it thirstily.

"Did we fuck?" Athos sounded barely curious, and Porthos bridled.

"No. I slept on the couch. And in case you hadn't noticed, you're still half dressed." He sat on the edge of the bed tiredly. "Do you really think I'd take advantage of you in that state?"

Athos actually looked shamefaced. "No. You're right. I'm sorry."

Porthos smiled at him, surprised and disarmed by the apology. "How do you feel?"

"Physically or emotionally?" Athos asked dryly.

"Physically?"

"Not as bad as I deserve to, given the amount I drank."

"And emotionally?" Porthos ventured.

Athos hesitated. "Dead inside. Business as usual, really."

"That's not true."

"No offence, but you know fuck all about me."

"I know you're not dead inside. If you were, you wouldn't care," Porthos said quietly.

Athos looked away. "I should go," he said.

"Stay. Sleep it off." Porthos stood up, and Athos after a moment's hesitation and finding that movement made the room sway sickeningly, settled back down.

"Maybe another five minutes. Or maybe I could just stay here for the rest of my life," he muttered, feeling overwhelmingly like he wanted to hide from the world.

Porthos smiled. "You're very welcome to."

Athos looked startled as he realised how his words could be taken, then conceded a smile. "You don't give up, do you?" he said softly.

"Never could take a hint." Porthos smiled down at him. "I won't push it though. Not right now. You get some sleep. I promise you don't owe me anything."

"Out of interest, what am I doing in your bed?" Athos murmured.

"None of the cab drivers would take you home, in case you threw up."

Athos made a face. "Did I?"

"Not that I know of. You might have in the pub."

Athos' only reply was a groan, and to bury his face in the pillow.

Porthos smiled and went out, closing the door quietly.

As he came back into the living room he heard a buzzing noise and traced it to Athos' jacket. Fishing out his mobile phone, the display read Aramis and after a second's hesitation Porthos picked up.

"Hello?"

"Athos?" Aramis sounded confused.

"No, it's Porthos."

"Oh. Oh. I see."

"Doubt it," Porthos laughed. "Nah, it's not like that. He's just sleeping off a skinful."

"Is he okay?"

"Physically? Yeah." Porthos sighed. He wasn't so sure about Athos' emotional state.

"Good. Did he - did he tell you about d'Artagnan?"

"Yeah. All of it. I guess you've heard?"

"I saw Treville. Why the hell didn't he tell me?"

"Couldn't bring himself to. He's convinced it's all his fault."

"Nobody blames Athos. Not even Treville." Aramis sighed.

"He blames himself. Critics don't come any harsher than your own head, do they?"

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Got a car? He could probably do with a lift home in a bit. Seems to live miles out."

"Yes, he does. Okay. Did you say he was asleep? I'll be there in a couple of hours then. And - thanks. For looking after him. He needs someone as stubborn as he is, you're good for him."

Porthos gave a low laugh. "Not sure he sees it like that."

"He let you stay." Aramis had a smile in his voice. "If you know Athos, that speaks volumes."

--

When Athos emerged, looking pale and hollow-eyed but slightly stronger than he had the night before, Porthos gave him a beaming smile.

"Hey you. Feeling better? Want some breakfast?"

"Oh God no." Athos went, if anything, even paler. "Thanks for the offer though," he added, realising it might have sounded ungrateful.

Porthos' door buzzer went at that point, and Athos looked wary. "Sorry, are you expecting company? I'll be off."

"I'm guessing this is for you," Porthos told him, and ignoring Athos' look of bafflement, went to let Aramis in.

When Athos saw him he looked immediately guilty and trapped, but Aramis smiled at him with exasperated affection.

"Why didn't you tell me you idiot?"

Athos shook his head. "I couldn't. I'm sorry. I didn’t mean to lie to you, I just - I - "

"It's okay. Hey, it's okay." Aramis folded Athos into his arms and hugged him tight, and Porthos was both glad and deeply jealous to see the way Athos easily hugged him back.

"Have you heard anything?" Athos asked, voice muffled by Aramis' shoulder.

"Treville called the hospital this morning. Not much news but they're apparently cautiously hopeful."

Athos sagged in his arms, and Aramis squeezed him, then let him go. "Come on, buck up. Going about with a face like a wet weekend's not going to help d'Artagnan."

Athos gave him a rueful smile and Aramis laughed. "You ready to go home? I'm your chauffeur today apparently."

"Oh. Right." Athos looked round for his jacket, then glanced at Porthos.

"Thanks. For - last night. I guess you can see now why I'd be a dead loss. Consider this your lucky escape." He gave him a bleak smile and walked out before Porthos could protest.

Aramis looked at him, rolled his eyes over-dramatically and followed Athos out.

Porthos closed the door softly, and after a second, despite everything, found he was smiling.

-(tbc)-
Tags: fic, the musketeers
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