Pairings: Athos/Porthos, established relationship
Summary: Set around the end of and after the events of The Good Traitor, from Athos' POV. (It's probably not terribly exciting, but there were a number of
On a day where nothing had gone right from start to finish, Athos still couldn't shake the feeling that there was yet worse to come. He tried to push it aside, reasoning that it was simply his worry for Porthos.
From his vantage point in the window, Aramis had glimpsed him being dragged away by Baltasar's men, and from his lack of resistance reported Porthos must have been unconscious. Athos clung to the assumption that if Porthos had been dead they would have had no reason to take him, and that a hostage was worth more to them alive. Porthos had a hard head. All he and Aramis had to do was find him in time.
They'd both passed a long night waiting for news, and the strain was starting to show. Athos had given up trying to get a sensible conversation out of Aramis, he seemed guilt stricken out of all proportion to his version of events, but at the same time oddly preoccupied with something else. It made Athos uneasy, they needed to be sharp and they needed to work together, or they risked losing more than either were prepared to pay.
Unable to hold Aramis' attention, Athos would have welcomed being able to talk things through with d'Artagnan instead. The young man had a quick brain and an ingenious approach to strategy - but the last Athos had seen of him was in a perilous position clinging to the back of a coach. He knew d'Artagnan was capable of looking after himself, knew too that he'd matured considerably since his commission, but there was still a protective part of Athos that regretted sending him off into danger alone.
Athos reflected that he'd have liked to talk to Porthos too, whilst acknowledging the paradox that if he'd been there, there'd have been nothing to discuss. For a loud and boisterous man, Porthos was a surprisingly good listener, and his mind seemed to work at a complete tangent to Athos', meaning he frequently saw ways of approaching something that would never have occurred to the others.
Athos pulled his cloak around him against the night air and sighed. It was no use wanting things he couldn't have. A few feet away Aramis paced the courtyard restlessly, and for the twentieth time that night Athos swallowed down the urge to order him to sit down and stop fidgeting. They were both dealing in their own way, Aramis with nervous energy and himself, apparently, with endless conversations in his head with people who weren't there.
A commotion at the gate drew their attention, and a minute later a man was brought across by the guard, having asked for Athos by name. He claimed to have been sent by d'Artagnan, and Athos and Aramis departed with him immediately, arguing they could check the place out first, find d'Artagnan, establish information on the ground, while Treville mustered the men who would follow on to the address he'd given.
Treville, knowing their eagerness had entirely more to do with unbearable impatience and the need for action, let them go.
They found d'Artagnan not long after sun-up, huddled in the shelter of the gate and took stock. Their orders were to wait for reinforcements unless the immediate situation demanded otherwise, and d'Artagnan's report that all seemed quiet meant they were resigned to another period of waiting - until they heard the shot.
As all three men immediately hurled themselves from cover without the need to confer, Athos felt a second's warm pride in his friends, that they would risk themselves so unhesitatingly in Porthos' defence.
Even so, as they broke into the building and raced up towards the chamber d’Artagnan had pointed out, he still couldn't rid himself of the clenching fist in his gut and the foreboding conviction that something was wrong.
It was almost a surprise to find Porthos present and conscious in the upstairs room, although Athos had more than half suspected that where there was shooting, Porthos had probably had something to do with it.
As his gaze swept over him though, Athos could see all was not well. Porthos was leaning his weight heavily against a wall, and his clothes were shockingly bloodstained.
It took every shred of self-control Athos possessed to make himself look away, to pay attention to the other occupants of the room. Having made the decision to go in, he was responsible for more than just Porthos' life here now, and must take charge accordingly.
By doing so too, he could free Aramis to tend to Porthos should he need immediate help. Knowing now that he was injured, part of Athos hoped Aramis would make the call to get Porthos straight out of the building, but instead he'd handed Porthos a spare pistol. From the corner of his eye, Athos could see Porthos had pushed himself off the wall and was standing in line with the rest of them. Again, he experienced that warm flash of pride in his chest, that even injured, Porthos was determinedly unbowed.
Actually, injured, Porthos was probably extremely pissed off, which made it even more imperative Athos took control of the situation.
By this point he couldn't care less about the political repercussions and wished heartily he'd never set eyes on the General. He saw nothing shaming in an immediate retreat, providing they were allowed to take Porthos with them.
Having named Alaman and Samara, Athos added the cipher machine to his list of demands knowing this request would almost certainly be denied. In giving the Spanish things to refuse, it meant he got to leave with what he'd ultimately come for, which was Porthos.
"We withdraw. For now."
Outside they regrouped as the courtyard filled with Musketeers. Aramis had helped Porthos over to a low wall around a fountain and he was sitting on it looking very much like a man trying not to look like he was in pain.
Aramis looked almost worse than Porthos, he'd gone pale enough for Athos to worry he might be about to faint. Now, Athos could see Porthos' leg was tied fast with bloodstained bandages - from Samara's dress, judging by the colour, and he flashed the girl a grateful look that she never saw.
Having to content himself for the moment with one meaningful exchange of glances with Porthos, which Athos hoped said everything in his heart, he and Aramis briefed Treville on the events of the past hour.
Athos had cause, afterwards, to be glad they had. If they hadn't spent those few moments talking to Treville, the forces in the courtyard might have advanced a minute earlier, and been inside the building when the whole world went to hell.
The air was full of dust and flying debris, and for a moment Athos couldn't hear anything above the ringing in his ears. Then something dull and heavy slammed into his ribs and he dropped to the ground, choking.
Gradually, the air cleared. Athos scrambled to his knees and then forced himself to his feet, his body protesting every inch of the way. He ignored it, taking the pain as a comforting reminder that he apparently wasn't dead.
Someone was screaming, and blinking stone dust out of his eyes he saw Samara struggling in Porthos' arms, trying desperately to run into the ruins of the building.
Porthos hung on grimly, until eventually Samara's screams turned to sobs and he held her tight in his arms, her slight frame almost buried against his body. Porthos looked up, over her head, and saw Athos watching them. Athos inclined his head in a slight nod, which Porthos returned. Wordless recognition that they were both still alive, and were each grateful for that.
Aramis and d'Artagnan stumbled across the rubble towards them, d'Artagnan bleeding from a cut on his cheek and Aramis limping slightly from where a wooden strut had landed on his foot. Athos was absent-mindedly holding his side; a hand pressed tightly beneath his ribs kept the pain at bay. He wondered distantly if he'd been impaled by something, but there seemed to be no blood, and he pushed it from his mind. There were more pressing matters to attend to than whether he was wounded.
As order was gradually restored from the chaos of the devastation around them, Athos could finally in good conscience turn his mind to the question of Porthos.
A cart was commandeered from somewhere, to return Porthos and those Musketeers more severely wounded in the explosion back to the garrison. Athos helped Samara up into Porthos' care, and promised to follow on as soon as he could. As soon as the cart was rumbling down the street, he went in search of Aramis, finding to his surprise that he was already walking out of the gateway behind him.
"You'll return to the garrison with them?" Athos said, looking round for the groom that had brought up their horses. "Good, the surgeon will be over-run, and Porthos is more likely to behave in your hands." He turned back to Aramis with a slight smile, which faltered at the look on Aramis' face, of guilty but determined defiance.
"I'm sorry Athos. I'm needed elsewhere, I have to go." He would have walked on, but Athos caught his arm, stunned and confused.
"What could possibly require your attention right now more than Porthos' wounds?" he demanded in a voice that was all cold, tempered steel.
Aramis looked sick. "I'm sorry Athos. I can't face him right now."
"What? What are you talking about? Aramis, what happened, it wasn't your fault."
"Yes it was." Aramis looked at him shakily. "It was my job to take down Baltasar, and I failed. What happened to Porthos - what happened to all of them - it was my fault."
"It was Tariq's fault," Athos said, frowning. "If he'd told us from the start the cipher wasn't in that box - Aramis, Porthos needs you."
"He's in good hands, he'll be fine. Athos - tell him I'm sorry." Aramis turned and strode off, leaving Athos staring after him in baffled shock.
Returning to the garrison, Athos found Porthos being tended to by the regiment's surgeon, having his wound cleaned and dressed. Slipping quietly into the room, Athos returned Porthos' grimace with a sympathetic smile, and climbed up somewhat stiffly to sit on a table at the back and wait for him.
Porthos immediately noticed the awkward way Athos was holding himself and frowned. "You hurt?"
"Just bruised. I think half the building hit me."
"Let me see." This time it was the surgeon who spoke, and Athos glared at Porthos, who smirked back at him triumphantly.
Athos stripped reluctantly to his waist and bore the prodding with ill grace. His skin was reddened and grazed where a block had hit him, but he was faintly relieved to note there was at least no blood.
"Nothing broken," was the verdict.
"Told you." Athos put his clothes back on with a wince. "Come on," he said to Porthos. "There's others waiting to be seen." He helped Porthos up and slid an arm round him, and they withdrew to an empty room beneath Treville's office.
Athos helped Porthos lower himself onto a bench, and sat next to him with a slight sigh. After a moment, he unhooked a flask from his belt and offered it to Porthos.
Somewhat to Athos' confusion, Porthos burst out laughing, but he took it gratefully and swallowed a healthy mouthful before handing it back.
There was a silence.
"So what happened?" Porthos said finally. Athos looked at him enquiringly, and Porthos sighed. "In the marketplace. Why didn't Aramis take the shot, he had a clear line of fire?"
Athos stared at him. "What - makes you say that?" he asked carefully. Porthos looked at him like he was mad.
"Well I knew where he was, didn't I?" Porthos pointed out. "I made sure Tariq stayed back out the way, so we wouldn't foul his shot. Until Baltasar came forward to take the box he should have been fine." Porthos shook his head disgustedly. "Could have taken him out meself, but I didn't know if the plan had changed. Then everything went to shit."
"Aramis says he didn't have a clear sight on him," Athos said quietly.
Porthos looked dubious, but shrugged. "Then I suppose he didn't." He looked again at Athos, rather unhappily. "I thought Aramis might have been here?" he ventured.
"He - had to go urgently somewhere else," Athos sighed. "And he blames himself. For what happened to you." Athos let his fingers skate over the back of Porthos' hand, the first intimate touch he'd allowed himself since they'd been reunited.
"As do I. We didn't know you'd been shot," he added quietly. "I'm sorry."
Porthos gave a pained laugh. "Not like there was anything more you could have done if you did."
He looked thoughtful. "Athos - is there something up with Aramis? He's not been himself lately. He keeps sneaking off by himself. I think he's seeing someone, but if he is they don't seem to be making him happy."
"I'm not his keeper."
"No. But he used to talk to me, and he doesn't any more. But he does talk to you." Porthos eyed Athos closely. "Do you know something?"
Athos shook his head. "No."
Porthos snorted. "You do. I can see it in your face. I know you too well."
Athos sighed. "It's not my secret to tell," he said quietly. "And knowing it would do you no good. It might even put you in danger."
"You think I care about that?" Porthos demanded hotly. Athos held his gaze.
"No. But I do."
Porthos subsided a little. "I don't like us all having secrets from each other," he muttered.
"You think then, we should tell Aramis about us?" Athos suggested mildly.
"No! That's different." Porthos shifted in his seat.
"You know how. What we're doing - if he knew, if it ever came out - he could be implicated."
"So you wouldn't risk his involvement? For his own protection?" Athos persisted quietly, and Porthos suddenly realised what he was getting at and scowled.
"I hate it when you're right," he grumbled.
Athos relaxed, leaning sideways to rest more comfortably against Porthos' shoulder.
"Could I help?" Porthos asked him after a second. "If I knew what was going on?"
"No. I don't think so."
"Is he in trouble?"
Athos considered. "Not immediately."
"He should be fine, as long as he doesn't do anything stupid."
Porthos looked at him, face clearly showing what he thought of that.
Athos' mouth twitched. "No comment."
"Will you promise me something?"
"If I can," Athos said carefully.
"If things change. If you need me. If Aramis needs me - if there's anything I can do to help, promise you'll tell me, regardless of the consequences."
Athos gave a reluctant nod. "Very well."
Porthos wrapped an arm round Athos' waist, tucking him in more snugly against his side. "Are you alright?" he murmured. "I know how tiring it can be dealing with Aramis' shit."
Athos smiled properly then, if only for a second. "I'm okay," he said softly. "I've got you back, right now that's all I care about."
Porthos leaned in and kissed him on the mouth, a warm press of lips that somehow lead to them holding each other tightly, arms wrapped about each other and Athos' face buried in Porthos' neck.
After a while they relaxed their fierce grip, and Porthos kissed him again, deeper and more intently.
Athos pushed him back, but his eyes were smiling. "We shouldn't do this here," he breathed.
"Let's go home then. I need to wash the rest of me." Porthos kissed him again for good measure, and Athos didn't resist.
"Sure it's just a wash you want?" Athos murmured, letting his hand come to rest at the top of Porthos' good leg.
"Well, some food wouldn't hurt. And some clean clothes. And a sleep in a nice soft bed." Porthos caught Athos' eye and cackled. "You might have to help me with all of that though."
"I'm entirely at your service." Athos stood up and offered him a hand, wincing as his ribs protested painfully. "I particularly like the sound of the sleeping part."
Once on his feet, Porthos tugged Athos back towards him and slipped his arms around him. "Thank you," he said, his lips moving against Athos' cheek.
"Finding me in time."
Athos smiled. "You've got d'Artagnan to thank for that, actually."
"I don't have to sleep with him an' all do I?"
"You'd better bloody not." Athos hugged him tightly for a second before stepping back, and they smiled at each other.
"Take me home?" Porthos said softly.
Athos nodded and held out his arm. "Hold on to me, then."
Porthos smiled. "Always."