Pairings: past Aramis/Marsac, mostly shippy gen.
Summary: Western AU.
A/N: There *is* a sequel being written to this, if it feels like there are loose ends...
Treville most certainly was not happy, and despite their explanation that Alleyn had attacked them and clearly demonstrated obvious guilt, Treville only stopped shouting at them when he ran out of things to say and realised he'd started repeating himself. He finally subsided back into his chair and regarded them all disgustedly, frowning at Porthos' bloodspattered state as if noticing it for the first time.
"For God's sake, go and clean yourself up," Treville snapped. "All of you." He realised Athos and Porthos were both battered and bruised under the dirt, and Aramis looked exhausted and ready to drop. He softened his tone.
"Look, I meant to give you these before." Treville took a bunch of keys from his desk drawer and passed them to Athos. "It's the keys to the jailhouse. There's living accommodation at the back, you can use it to clean up. If the three of you walk into the saloon looking like that I'll have Bonacieux making complaints, and he's the last thing I need today."
Treville looked at Aramis and hesitated. "Someone will need to pack up Marsac's possessions. I can arrange for it to be done, but in the absence of any family, I thought you might wish to?"
Aramis looked shaken, but nodded quickly. "Thank you sir. Yes, I should be glad to."
Dismissed, they walked the short distance down the road to the sheriff’s office where Athos unlocked the door and let them in. It was quiet and warm inside, blinds half-closed over the windows and dust stirring in the shafts of sunlight. It felt as if it had been standing empty for a long time, rather than just a couple of days.
Once inside, Athos deferred to Aramis, sensing he would know his way around. Aramis lead them past the outer office and two barred cells, and through a door into the hall beyond. Here they found a kitchen-come-parlour, a store room, a smaller private office and further doors opening on to two bedrooms.
They settled in the kitchen, which held an old black range and a large sink with a pump, which Porthos promptly began filling with water.
"If you can wait for us to get the range going, you can have warm water," Aramis offered. He went to a cupboard on the wall and took out a box containing medical supplies, handing it to Athos along with a basin of water to clean his own cuts and grazes.
Porthos laughed. "I can't remember the last time I had warm water to wash in. So thanks, but it's fine." He squinted into a small mirror propped on the windowsill, presumably used by Marsac for shaving purposes, and made a face as he saw for the first time how filthy and blood-spattered he was.
"If I were you, I'd just stick my whole head in," Athos advised, and Porthos snorted. Then shrugged, and did as Athos suggested, submerging his head completely and scrubbing at his face. When he drew it out he shook himself like a dog, showering the room with water and making Aramis laugh.
"I'll see if I can find you a clean shirt," he offered. "You're bigger than Marsac, but there's bound to be something."
When he returned both Porthos and Athos were shirtless, Porthos scrubbing at himself with a cloth, and Athos gingerly prodding a sore looking weal across his ribs.
"What happened?" Aramis asked, having come late to the scene at the timber saw and not witnessed the extent of Athos' injuries.
"Alleyn hit me," Athos explained dryly. "I think with a fence post. Although it feels like it was the whole fence."
"Let me see." Aramis crouched down beside him and explored the tender skin with careful fingers while Athos did his level best not to wince.
"I don't think any ribs are broken," Aramis declared. "You're lucky, it's just bruised."
"Oh, lucky am I?" Athos drawled, and was glad when Aramis' lips twitched up in a smile. "I'd hate to have been unlucky."
"Unlucky, and we'd have had to bury you in two coffins," Aramis pointed out. "Here, try this on, it should be about your size." He handed Athos a clean shirt and went over to Porthos, taking the cloth from his hand and dipping it in the sink before cleaning off the patches Porthos had missed.
Porthos stood patiently still and let him, watching Aramis with a faint smile on his face. "Have you got kids?" Porthos asked suddenly, realising he knew as little about Aramis as he did Athos. There was something very paternal about Aramis' fussing over them.
Aramis drew back, and Porthos was sorry to see his expression cloud a little.
"No. I'm not married." He busied himself with lighting the range, and Porthos pulled on the clean woollen smock that Aramis had found for him.
"Thanks for this," Porthos said, joining Athos on the wooden settle. "Much appreciated."
Aramis nodded shortly. "Not a problem. Not like Marsac is going to need them again, is it." He faltered, having run out of things to occupy himself with.
"Why don't we see how much there is to pack up," Athos said quietly, sensing that Aramis was feeling rather overwhelmed and might welcome being kept busy. It was clear he was familiar with the place, and to be here without Marsac must be upsetting.
Aramis nodded gratefully and lead them into the larger of the two bedrooms. It was neat and almost devoid of personal touches, to the extent that Athos wondered if someone had been in already, but Aramis seemed to see nothing odd in it.
"He didn't have much," Aramis murmured, seeing their surprised looks. "He came out of the army, I guess old habits stay with you," he added, sitting down on the tightly tucked blankets of the bed.
"Which company?" Athos asked idly, pacing the perimeter of the room. A window looked out onto a yard behind the main building, holding a wooden shed that he presumed was the privvy, and an empty stable. He wondered what had happened to Marsac's horse, and guessed Aramis had probably taken it home to his ranch.
Aramis hesitated. "He never really talked about it. I wondered sometimes if there wasn't something - I think perhaps his discharge wasn't entirely honourable. But he was a good sheriff," he added loyally.
"I'm sure he was." Athos gave him a sympathetic smile. "And I hope you don't feel I'm intruding here. It's not my intention."
Aramis shook himself. "No. It's fine. Treville's right, the place needs to be cleared." He looked around. "There isn't a lot, but we'll need some boxes."
"I'll see what I can rustle up," Porthos volunteered. "The Bonacieux's are bound to have some crates going spare."
"Do you want some help?" Athos offered, once Porthos had gone. "Or would you rather do it alone?"
Aramis shook his head. "I'll be fine. Like I said, there isn't much."
"Then, if you need me, I'll be in the office."
Athos wandered out into Marsac's study to give Aramis some privacy. There were neat piles of papers relating to the everyday business of the sheriff’s office, warrants and reports and carefully kept accounts. Everything was so well ordered that Athos wondered whether Marsac had ever truly expected to come back from his encounter with Vadim.
By this time the range had been going long enough for Athos to boil some water, and having searched through the cupboards he made up a pot of coffee. He poured two cups and carried them through to the bedroom, only to pause in the doorway.
Aramis was sitting on the edge of the bed, silent tears running down his cheeks. Athos hesitated, caught between the instinctive urge to offer sympathy, and polite withdrawal. Aramis looked up and saw him standing there, and made an effort to stem the tears. Athos crossed the room to sit next to him.
"Would you rather I dealt with his effects?" he asked.
Aramis shook his head. "No, it - it should be me. Someone who knew him," he amended.
He wiped his eyes and set his shoulders. "I'm sorry. You must think me ridiculous for behaving like this."
"Not at all. Grief is a heavy weight to bear, and there is no shame in letting it out." Athos considered his next words. "You were - close, clearly?"
Aramis stared at the watch in his hand. Days without winding had stopped it. Like Marsac he thought, and the tears spilled again, unbidden and silent.
"We were lovers." He heard himself say it before he'd even processed his intent to do so, and braced himself for Athos' revulsion. It didn't come.
"I rather thought that might be the case," Athos said quietly. Aramis looked at him in astonishment and Athos gave a slight smile.
"You expected me to be shocked?"
Athos shrugged lightly. "It happens more often than you'd think."
"Does it? There were times when it felt like we must be the only two in the world," said Aramis bleakly. "It's been so hard. To lose him, and to have no one that understood what I was going through."
"Nobody else knew?"
Aramis shook his head. "We were very careful. I think perhaps Treville guessed - but if he did, he was prudent enough never to see proof of it."
Athos laid a consoling hand on his back. "Will you keep something of Marsac's?" Athos asked. "A memento?"
"I thought perhaps his watch." Aramis turned it over and over in his hand.
"Such things can be a comfort." Athos hesitated, running the chain of the locket he wore absentmindedly through his fingers. "But - they can also serve as a weight to tie you to the past. Stop you from moving on," he warned gently.
Aramis gave a mirthless laugh. "I hardly think I need worry about that. There is unlikely to ever be anyone else for me, now, is there?"
A movement in the doorway made them both look up sharply, relaxing again when it proved only to be Porthos.
"Sorry," he ventured, unsure whether to come in and sensing he'd interrupted something. "The door was open."
"No, it's fine. Come in." Athos beckoned him inside. "You're just in time, we're ready for the boxes." He stood up, his hand resting for a moment on Aramis' shoulder.
Later that day they reconvened by agreement in the saloon and retired to a dark corner. They made a good supper, and were starting to gradually relax for the first time in days when Treville walked in and came over to their table.
"I thought I'd find you here." He pulled out a chair and sat down without being invited, staring hard at them all for a moment before sighing. "Jesus, you don't do things by halves, do you?"
They exchanged glances.
"I take it you've been to the railroad?" Athos said carefully.
"Bloody carnage," Treville growled. "Literally. I've had men cleaning up there for hours."
"That wasn't us," Aramis objected. They had explained all this once already, but Treville had mostly been shouting at them all through the first time.
Now, he glared at Aramis. "That's what you said before. When you brought me seven other corpses. Apparently the only safe occupation in Paris with you three around is that of coffin-maker or grave digger!"
"You do believe us?" Porthos said cautiously, wondering if it mightn't be safer to make a run for it after all.
Treville rubbed his eyes and groaned. "Yes. While I have no doubt you'd be capable of it," he said to Athos, who merely raised an eyebrow, "I see no reason why you would lie about it when you had the authority to use lethal force if necessary."
"Thank you," said Athos quietly. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry it has ended so inconclusively." He sighed. "Alleyn indicated that he was being run by someone, someone powerful. But he never named any names, and presumably whoever it was then saw to it he never could."
Treville looked gloomy. "Oh I have my suspicions as to who was paying them. This just means I can't prove it." He fixed Athos with a speculative look. "But you'll get your money, don't worry."
Athos inclined his head in silent acknowledgement. "May I suggest you split it three ways," he said quietly. "I couldn't have done it alone."
Aramis and Porthos looked startled, but Treville nodded, clearly impressed by Athos' generous request.
"Well. I suppose this is goodbye then," Athos said, leaning back and studying his hands. Aramis and Porthos sat up straight and stared at him.
"What do you mean?" Aramis demanded.
Athos shrugged slightly. "Your immediate troubles are over, albeit in rather more drastic fashion that I'd anticipated. I was only ever employed to rid the town of Vadim and his activities. With Vadim and Alleyn gone and no way of identifying who was paying them, I see no way it can be taken further."
"I do have one more thing I would ask of you," Treville said slowly.
"Name it," Athos said.
"Consider staying on as sheriff."
Athos looked startled. After the briefest hesitation, he shook his head. "I'm hardly suited to a career in law enforcement. Make Aramis sheriff."
Treville cleared his throat. "Already offered it to him. He turned me down."
Athos shot an amused look at Aramis, who blushed slightly, and looked away.
Treville sighed. "I can hardly condone that. He is, after all, still a convicted criminal. And until I hear back from the judge regarding the appeal against his sentence - " he let the thought trail off.
"That's another thing. If you leave, until such time as I do hear back regarding the services he has rendered us, Porthos will be forced to return to the railroad. With no one here to supervise his parole, as it were."
Athos looked up sharply. "That's blackmail," he said quietly, seeing immediately what Treville was doing.
"Yes. I'm rather afraid it is." Treville looked satisfied. "You see, if you leave, I'm left with a power vacuum which Richelieu will immediately fill with his own man. I can't let that happen."
Athos groaned in defeat. "Oh very well. I'll stay. But - only until you can line up a permanent replacement," he added. "And only on the condition Aramis and Porthos agree to stay on as my deputies?" They both nodded to this, and Treville held out his hand.
"That's settled then."
Athos shook it with a resigned expression, and Treville left them in peace, well pleased with his accomplishment.
"I'm glad you're staying," said Aramis after a second.
"Me too," Porthos added fervently. He smiled at Athos. "Thank you."
Athos looked at him. "You know perfectly well he'd never have sent you back," he muttered.
Porthos shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not. So thank you."
Aramis raised his glass. "Here's to Athos then, officially the new sheriff of Paris."
Athos shook his head. "To all of us." He smiled. "And God help everyone else."