Rating: 15 (this part)
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.
When Porthos woke the next morning, he lay there for a whole peaceful second before recollection came flooding back, bringing with it a crushing weight of sadness.
He closed his eyes again, pulling the duvet over his head and trying to escape the knowledge that everything good about his life was gone.
The night before he'd bodily dragged a semi-conscious Charon to the nearest police station. It had taken Porthos a while to get them to take him seriously, and he'd come close to getting arrested himself until he'd finally convinced them to cross-check with the night's emergency calls. From there things had escalated rapidly and he'd finally been able to go home in the early hours, leaving a sullen Charon behind in custody.
Porthos rolled out of bed with a groan. He couldn't face going to work and phoned in sick, going to stand under a hot shower in the hope it would beat out some of the numbness that seemed to be filling his body.
He wondered how Athos was, hoping desperately he was awake and recovering. He'd checked his phone as soon as he'd got up, and checked it again now, hoping that Aramis might at least have texted him any news, but it remained obstinately silent.
Maybe Athos had forbidden any contact, Porthos thought gloomily. Or maybe if Athos had told Aramis the full story he'd decided for himself Porthos wasn't worth bothering with any longer. He couldn't blame them.
When the door buzzer sounded Porthos frowned. He couldn't imagine who it might be, and could only think that it must be the police wanting to ask him more questions.
When he opened the front door and found Aramis on the step his heart leaped into his mouth.
To his relief Aramis gave him an understanding smile. "He's awake," Aramis nodded. "And asking for you."
Porthos stared at him. "For me?" A brief flicker of hope flared and then died again as he considered the fact that Athos might only want to tell him to his face he never wanted to see him again. "Are you sure?"
Aramis looked at his tense expression and sighed impatiently. "So are you coming or what?"
On the short drive to the hospital Aramis refused to be drawn on what Athos might want, other than to confirm that he was out of danger. Upon arrival, Aramis took him to a ward, identified them to the sister, who seemed unfeasibly pleased to see him back, and then lead Porthos to a sideroom.
"Right, want a coffee?" Aramis said brightly. "You go on in. I'll be right back."
Porthos stared at him in dismay. "Aren't you coming in with me?"
Aramis clapped him on the shoulder. "Porthos, you're a grown man. I'm sure there's some balls in there somewhere." And he strode off, leaving Porthos staring at the door nervously.
He inched it open, sidling through the gap feeling like a small boy summoned to see the headmaster. Athos was sitting up in bed, and Porthos was relieved to see he looked so well. He'd had visions of bandages and drips and machines, but there was none of that, just Athos with a couple of stitches in his forehead, looking bored.
Athos looked up as he came in, clearly expecting Aramis or a nurse, and Porthos couldn't read the flash of emotion that passed across his face before he schooled his features into polite caution. It could have been pleasure, relief. It could equally have been anger.
Porthos came slowly towards the bed, and gave Athos a hesitant smile, with lips that were threatening to tremble. Athos looked tired and a little lost and all Porthos wanted to do was gather him into his arms and hold him.
Athos was looking at him now with the same helpless expression Porthos suspected was on his own face, as if neither of them knew where to begin.
"How are you doing?" Porthos asked, taking a little heart from the fact Athos hadn't immediately had a go at him.
Athos nodded vaguely. "Not so bad. Just smoke inhalation and a concussion, which is why I'm still here, they want to keep an eye on me for a bit." He looked down at the bedclothes, seemed to take a steadying breath.
"I'm sorry Porthos," he said quietly.
Porthos gaped at him. "You're sorry? Whatever for?" In his surprise he sat down on the edge of the bed, but Athos didn't object.
"I asked you to betray someone you loved," Athos said. "I was angry with you for staying loyal to someone. I was unreasonable, and - and I'm sorry."
Porthos suddenly realised that the last time they'd spoken, Athos had assumed Porthos had been throwing him out, and the breath caught in his throat at the unfairness of it all. But there was something else in Athos' words that needed addressing first.
"I don't love him," Porthos said. "Charon and I were over a long time ago. There's only one man I love," he added sadly. "And he has every reason to hate me."
When he hesitantly looked up, Athos was staring at him.
"That doesn't mean he does?" Athos ventured.
They looked at each other for a weighted second, a tentative hope creeping in.
"Aramis tells me you saved my life?" Athos said. "That you raised the alarm, and carried me out of there. I - thank you."
Porthos gave a bleak laugh. "Given that it was my fault it all happened in the first place, I don't deserve any thanks." He remembered something that Athos would want to know. "Charon's in custody. Dragged his sorry arse there myself. I told them everything, they're holding him."
"Aramis said you'd gone after him," Athos nodded. "I was worried. I'm sorry," he added, "I know you didn't want to get involved."
"Stop apologising!" Porthos blurted. "You could have been killed and it was all my fault, and just - stop bloody apologising for things you don't have to!"
Athos looked startled, and Porthos winced at his ham-fisted approach, and then Aramis walked in balancing three coffees.
He put two down on the bedside table, took in the awkward silence and frowned. "Have you two not kissed and made up yet? Am I going to have to bang heads together?"
Athos glared at him. "Aramis - "
Aramis put his free hand up in a gesture of surrender. "I know, I know, fuck off." He left again, and this time when Athos and Porthos looked back at each other there was a slight edge of amusement.
"Guess he doesn't know the whole story," Porthos sighed, grateful that Aramis seemed to be rooting for him, but resigned as to the outcome.
Athos shook his head. "Actually he does." When Porthos looked surprised he blushed a little. "When I came round, I - well, I'm going to blame the painkillers, but I may have - unburdened myself a little," he said looking embarrassed. "I told him everything."
"What did he say?" Porthos couldn't help asking.
"Called me a twat." Athos gave a twist of a smile. "Told me I'd mishandled everything massively, that I didn't deserve you, that if I hadn't had a concussion already he'd have slapped me round the head, and that he was going to fetch you immediately."
Porthos looked startled. "He told me you asked to see me!" He felt uncomfortable as the significance of this sank in. "You didn't?"
"Well, no," Athos admitted, then stretched out a hand as Porthos looked like he was going to get up. "But that doesn't mean I didn't want to." He hesitated. "I thought you might have - come to see me anyway?" he said in a small voice.
Porthos reached out and took Athos' hand that was still resting on the covers. "I wanted to. Of course I did. I've been so worried about you. I just - didn't think you'd want to see me," he said with a defeated sigh. "I'm so sorry Athos. This is all my fault."
"Of course it isn't. You weren't the one who hit me were you?"
"Well then. You can't take responsibility for everything you know." Athos smiled at him. "You've been hanging round me for too long if you think like that."
Porthos smiled back a little sadly, but it was gradually dawning on him that Athos was still holding his hand. He rubbed his thumb over Athos' knuckles and Athos tightened his grip. Porthos followed suit, until they were squeezing each other's hand almost painfully hard, each searching the other's face for confirmation of what they hardly dared hope.
"Athos." Porthos couldn't stand it any longer, he leaned forward and pulled Athos into his arms. To his amazed relief, Athos immediately wrapped his own arms around him and clung to him with a desperate strength.
For a while they just held each other, pressed cheek to cheek, chests heaving with the effort of not simply bursting into tears.
"I love you," Athos breathed finally, ragged and emotional. "I love you Porthos."
Porthos drew back and kissed him shakily on the lips. "I love you too. So much. God, Athos, I - "
"It's okay." Athos gave him a watery smile, tracing Porthos' mouth with his fingertip. "It's okay." He kissed him back, and this time it was warmer, deeper, and they stayed pressed together, breathing each other in.
"Can we just - start again somehow?" Porthos suggested after a while when they'd calmed down a little, although not enough to let go of each other.
Athos kissed him softly, with a smile. "Why don't we start from 'I love you', and go from there?"
By late afternoon Athos was given the all-clear and allowed to go home. Porthos took him back to the flat and immediately insisted he get into bed.
Athos groaned. "I don't want to go to bed. I've been in bed all day."
"They said you need rest," Porthos told him implacably.
"Will you get in with me then?" Athos asked hopefully, changing tack and winding his arms round Porthos' neck.
Porthos laughed, and kissed him. "No strenuous exercise, the nurse said."
"What about gentle exercise?" Athos countered. "Wouldn't want me to seize up."
Porthos smiled. "Get into bed and we'll see."
Athos undressed obediently. He was wearing smoke stained jeans and a shirt Aramis had leant him, and sighed as he sat down on the bed. "I need to buy some new clothes. I don't even have anything to sleep in."
"I can lend you a t-shirt if you want? But naked's good," Porthos smirked. "What's wrong with naked?"
He stripped down to his boxers and joined Athos in the bed. Despite his complaints and teasing, Athos settled back into the sheets with a clear degree of relief, and Porthos frowned.
"Yeah." Athos caught his searching look and sighed. "Just a bit dizzy, that's all."
"Do you need anything?" Porthos asked anxiously, shifting across until Athos was nestled in the crook of his arm.
"Just to be here with you," Athos said softly.
Porthos hugged him close. "Tell me the truth. Exactly how rough are you feeling right now?"
Athos hesitated. "Fairly?" he admitted.
"Then no funny business," Porthos declared. "Not until you're feeling better."
"Might speed my recovery," Athos smiled, but he didn't object again, and to Porthos' amusement he was fast asleep inside five minutes.