rainjoyswriting: (kurt!)
[personal profile] rainjoyswriting
Water Flea, Musketeers fic, affinityverse (best catalogued in my memories) <3

Disclaimer: Spent today literally sobbing over a funding application. I can guarantee you that people who actually own these sorts of characters don't do that.

Rating: R is my happy place, apparently.

Warnings and spoilers: The main list's on part one, read sensibly. And also: never, never, *never* treat Aramis as a good example of *anything*, do not play with guns, *ever*, he is an idiot and I condone none of his behaviour, KIDS, JUST SAY NO.

Summary: The river is splitting.


Note: Horrible day. Fanfic formatting and Mad Men is my relaxation, apparently.






It's always the same.

The dream is dread: she can't stop walking. She doesn't want to walk, she wants to scream but all her body does is walk, dumb with horror, walk towards the water rising over the embankment like her heart rising sick in her chest, the rising water a dark cold tide up to her feet and she needs to scream, she needs so badly to scream -

She wakes. The wind rushes through the thin t-shirt she sleeps in, and the pavement is damp under her bare feet. She gasps her breath in, standing by the great flat Thames, cold light raking its slashed surface, how did she get to the South Bank, how is she here in Lambeth in the dark in the night again again again -

She doesn't want to look down, hands shaking, heart hurting, breath whimpering in her throat with her terror. She doesn't want to look down.

She looks down.

At her feet, clay-clotted from the floor of the Thames, the gun waits for her in its puddle, blunt as malice.

*

He sucks his breath in and snaps his eyes open, instantly awake, and instantly -

It's disorientatingly bright, and his body is very unsteady, and he yelps in Spanish as he understands himself too suddenly to be standing on the very edge of the pool, braced to fall forwards. He jerks his body back and would go over and go down he doesn't know which way but arms grab him from behind, he's yanked back into the sturdier shape of Porthos' body, heart banging hard into his side.

"Okay okay okay okay," Porthos pants, stumbling them back a few steps from the pool's edge. "Okay, okay -"

Aramis clutches his arms, and stares past his chest at Treville and a couple of agents standing alarmed by the doors, staring back at him. He swallows, looks back at the pool, the innocent lop of the green water, and closes his eyes, takes a breath, opens his eyes again and smiles for them.

"I'm fine," he says. That's the first thing to get out.

Porthos pulls his head back to look him in the eye - he's dressed for bed, Aramis must have gone walking in his sleep again - and he says, "You're back?"

"Si po, present for duty. Porthos -"

Porthos rubs his forehead and looks drained by the way he's been woken. "Thought you were gonna drown yourself -"

"Porthos," he says, and grabs his arms, and holds him hard. "Porthos, Flea, your Flea -"

For one second, Porthos looks at him without a blink of recognition in his eyes of what Aramis is saying. Then his eyes widen some terrible way, because so rarely do any of Aramis' episodes give them good news and now -

He says, very low, "What about Flea?"

"I saw her." He puts a hand over his mouth, nausea rising, then lifts it to shield his eyes from the evil buzz of the overhead lights. "By the river, in London, Porthos -"

He looks at Treville. He looks at the other agents. He looks at Treville again, feeling panic rise, as Porthos shakes him by his arms and says, "What'd you see, Aramis, what did you see -"

Someone is killing affinities. Someone is leaking the things Aramis sees and using the information to murder affinities. And now, and oh God that this weren't true, now he's seen that girl with her long yellow hair, of every woman on the planet, her . . .

Treville looks at the agents and jerks his head for them to leave, which they do without a question. Aramis' hands are beginning to shake, and he knows a worse episode is coming - whenever one isn't so bad he always has to pay with a worse one - and he presses them together to try to keep them steady, eyes squinted against the light. He has to wet his lips to speak.

"She's like me." He looks Porthos in the eye, so scared of these words. "She's water affinity. She's like me."

Porthos just stares at him, and Aramis can't stop his hands shaking anymore, says to them to keep his head ducked from the light and his eyes away from that expression on Porthos' face, "I'm sorry."

Porthos holds him by the arms and takes one heavy breath, and lets it loose. His voice is horrible in its calm. "Her rift breakin'?"

Head low, he can keep his eyes closed against the way the light invades, sickly into his eye sockets, pressing in ugly ways at the backs of his eyeballs as if to push them out. "Piece by piece. She's holding it in her dreams." His mouth twitches. "She's very like me. She's trying to keep it inside."

Quietly, "What's that mean for her?"

"She's strong. She's surviving it. She hopefully won't flood London with it." He swallows again. "But it might drive her mad."

He remembers that. He remembers his prayer a sob on the inside because he could feel the thing in him trying to reach for the river, and he knew what it would do to the city defenceless against a tide it could never have known would come like this. He held it down as it flooded his mind and every muscle, he prayed on the very edge of despair (a sin he could not let himself tip towards, desperation on that razor's brink, You will not let this happen, You would never let this happen -) and felt it tear his own mind inside out in its rage of not rising the river to ravage the city. Time tore apart inside him, he knows how balance works, he wouldn't destroy the city so it should have destroyed him -

He'll never know what really saved him. Prayer. Grace. Unknown anticipation of Porthos one day needing him too. The hand on his head, before he felt himself lifted from the attic's wooden floor. A voice speaking French, and then quiet, and the dark.

Now there is a rift in Flea, and just like him, she's holding it down, and just like him, she needs something to hold on to or it will wash her mind right away, sluice it out through the past and future, her present snapped off like a light switch. She needs something to ground her, something to hang on to however high the water gets, and Aramis knows what she really needs, because it's exactly what they've all really needed all along. She needs a circle to give her her balance.

She needs Porthos.

He manages to look up, can hardly see Porthos through the blur of all the too-much light, but he's looking at the captain. "Have to get to London." he says, clamping Aramis to his side in one arm. "Got to get there now, before anyone can get t'her an' -"

The captain says, "Aramis?"

Aramis doesn't think that Porthos is aware that he's the one doing all the lifting, that Aramis' feet have slid out underneath him, that the light no longer hurts because everything has gone dark and he wants to apologise, he knows this is the worst time for it, he knows Porthos needs to be in London and needs to be helping her but -

He doesn't know what he sees. The Thames, glinting angry with the city's light, a proud powerful river silted sullen with dirt and chained by concrete, enraged by all that's forgotten and unwanted just discarded into it. He wakes long enough to at least tell Treville that, rolled into Porthos' lap beside the pool, head too heavy to lift from his stomach. Then he's gone again.

He sees that the river will branch, that there will be divergence, that the split cannot be avoided and will be permanent, that there will be loss.

He wakes only briefly, too weak to speak or pray or grieve.

*

Porthos is sitting in the chair by the medical bay bed, head in his hands, despair a cold fist in his guts. Aramis is out of it, Porthos doesn't know if it's the fact that it's another water affinity's rift breaking - he was really fucking ill that last time, when they got back from that water rift in Indonesia - or if it's something really bad happening to Flea, or if it's just Aramis. His episodes are so unpredictable that there's usually no point in trying to read anything from them until he can wake up and say what he saw. Once after an episode so violent that he gave Porthos bruises he woke laughing, weak and hysterical in his lap, and told them about the referee's controversial decision in a rugby match the following day. There's no rationality to the things that Aramis sees and how he reacts to them. He has no circle. Time takes him and does what it pleases with him, and sometimes it just seems to be taking the piss.

But it's still Flea, and Porthos feels sick.

Aramis would pray. Porthos wouldn't know who he's praying to, he's not Aramis, he doesn't know what he really believes in. Tentatively he thinks of Aramis' god, who Aramis seems to think is a pretty decent guy, but looking at him now drained and restrained on the bed and knowing that Flea is on a different landmass and going through hell and maybe already dead or doomed from it, Porthos isn't so sure. If god's so good, why does he leave Aramis hurting himself and heaving his guts out over things that haven't happened yet? If god's so good, why bring Flea into this?

He lifts his head, rests his elbows off his knees, shuffling his feet wider on the floor and pressing his hands together. He looks over Aramis, who isn't moving, can't seem to wake, and he knows how hard the night's episodes have hit him - four of them so far and one is enough to leave him unsteady on his feet, good only for sleeping - and he can't blame him but fuck, fuck, Flea . . .

The doors to the medical bay open, and he looks up at Treville, who pauses there for a second before he walks over. Porthos sits a little more straight-backed on the chair, clears his throat, says hoarsely, "Nothing yet, he hasn't even blinked."

Treville gives him a long look, and then looks at Aramis before he closes his eyes, nods, and holds out a mobile phone. "Here."

Porthos stares at it. It's been so long that it takes some time to place it, and then the familiarity of it is so startling that he reaches up without thinking, takes it automatically, turns it in his hand only now realising how long it's been since he's touched something so familiar.

He says, quietly, "Huh."

"Call her."

It takes him a moment to remember how to unlock it. It's weird, how weak his hands have gone, strangely shaky as he works through his phone book. He finds her number, stares at it breathing tight, hits dial and looks at Aramis on the bed, sunk somewhere else, underwater and untouchable. He wonders if Flea's like that, now.

Her phone rings and rings, and her voice cutting in - "Gonna have to leave a message, make it quick." - fills his throat with how much he's missed her.

"Flea," he says after the tone, voice too thick, and clears his throat. "S'me, it's P- it's Isaac. I know it's been a . . . can you call me as soon as you get this? I guess you get that it's important. Just call me. Okay? Okay. Bye."

He hangs up, feeling weird. He looks at Treville, shrugs, says, "Voice mail."

Treville says, trying to be delicate, "Does she normally answer?"

Porthos shrugs, and squeezes the phone in his hand, dead plastic standing between him and Flea. "Dunno. Not when she's dryin' her hair or something. Fuck." He looks at Aramis, clears his throat again. "Maybe I should call Charon."

"We can't bring people into this who don't already need to know."

"He might know where she is, he might be able to help -"

"We find her tomorrow night."

They look in perfect synchronisation at Aramis, watching them with tired, low-cut eyes from the pillow, not even trying to raise his head. "I'm sorry, Porthos." he says quietly. "It's how I've seen it. It's going to happen."

"She could be dead by tomorrow. Someone's killin' affinities, she could be-"

"She won't be. They won't come for her, I don't know why." Aramis turns his head to look at his own restrained wrist, then just closes his eyes again. "In the morning she won't be able to find her phone. She'll find it in the evening underneath some clothes under her bed, and she'll call you back. You must trust -"

"We could be there now!"

Aramis has turned his head away from the light again, eyes squeezed tighter closed. "We could," he affirms, quietly. "But I've seen that we won't be. Porthos, please don't break - it hurts when people try to break -"

Treville says, "I'll arrange for the flight tomorrow."

"We can go now -"

Treville is unruffled and immoveable, a pillar in his path. "Disrupting the things that Aramis has already seen happen could kill him. We fly tomorrow. I will try to locate her, though."

"We just have to wait?"

"Porthos, I'm sorry, I'm sorry -"

Porthos pats Aramis' knee in a distracted way, half trying to soothe him, half just trying to shut him up. "He said she'll be fine." Treville says, still so infuriatingly calm. "Have you ever known Aramis be wrong?"

"Yes, 'cause he's a fucking moron."

Aramis smiles on the pillow without opening his eyes, but there's something strained in it. Treville stands, says, "We fly out tomorrow. You may as well sleep while you can, you know we can't move Aramis now anyway, and you can hardly go alone."

"Why not? He'd be safer here, I could -"

"You're a circle."

Why don't they get it, why don't they get that this is Flea - he looks at Aramis again, doesn't know if he expects back-up or if he'll side with Treville but Aramis is out of it, maybe just asleep but unconscious either way. Porthos thinks of going to deal with a rift - with Flea's rift - without him, what it might be and what he might have to deal with alone and it lurches awful inside him. And he knows Treville's right. Aramis is going nowhere tonight, Aramis can't stay conscious for five minutes in a row and Porthos isn't bastard enough to drag him onto a plane, drag him through London, like this. But . . .

Treville says again, like he's trying to be kind, "You should get some sleep."

Porthos glares at the restraint around Aramis' wrist, and shrugs. Treville sighs, and stands up. They both know there'll probably be another episode soon anyway. Not much point in trying to sleep.

He lays down on the bed next to Aramis', watching him not moving for the longest night.

When he's woken by the stifled panic of his six AM episode, sitting up, he discovers that someone's pulled a blanket over him, and Treville is already standing beside Aramis, trying to stop him hurting his wrists in their restraints.

*

On the plane, Aramis cleans his gun as if making his way around a rosary. Porthos isn't speaking to him. Aramis always has a gun on him, has never let one out of his reach since someone first shot at them in that forest, but when Porthos saw him tucking it down the back of his jeans before this flight, something in his face closed. He knows what the gun is for, if a rift goes wrong, and there's nothing that Aramis can say to him. Would he shoot her if her rift put the rest of the world in danger? Yes. But he knows that he won't. He already knows that this will be nothing so simple as a bullet. This is a river diverging: something, tonight, will split.

It feels like his heart already has. He ignores it.

His fingers do the things they know to do, quick and easy and clean, and in his mind he runs through Gloria al Padre, y al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo . . .

The space between episodes is a noose around his brain, pulled too tight; the episodes only let off enough for them to set off a couple of hours ago, another frustration Porthos has kept himself silent over, Aramis knows. He ignores the rope biting tight into his brain. He's ignoring a lot, he's good at that, as Porthos stares out of the window with his headphones in, both of them alone at either side of the plane. Treville, at the front, is currently on the phone but is angry in that horribly quiet way that he gets truly angry, and it's too complicated right now for Aramis to work out who or what he's angry at. Both of them, probably, for being alone right next to each other when they're meant to be a circle. He hates the thought that the captain will be angry with Porthos for this. None of this is Porthos' fault.

Como era en el principio, ahora y siempre -

The river is splitting, but that could be true every night, any night. And surely one of you can be braver than this?

- y por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

He clicks the gun whole again, and sighs, and stuffs it back into the back pocket of his jeans. He looks across at Porthos and time has never been on his side, so there's no point in pissing even these few seconds away. These few seconds next to Porthos and still alone might come to haunt him in the worst way, he can't.

He leans over, and tugs at the wire running to Porthos' earbud. He jerks, looks around at him, pops the earpiece out. "What?"

"She's okay," he says, watching his eyes. "She will be okay, Porthos."

Porthos pulls the other earpiece out, and he's been scowling since last night. "That somethin' you know or you just tryin' to make me feel better?"

"I can think of more productive ways to make you feel better," He smiles, even though he knows that neither of them are really feeling it. "Porthos, she'll be fine. She will be fine, you will be fine. It's going to be okay."

"Her rift could go at any second."

"Her rift is already going. She's holding it down, she's strong, she's not -"

"How come it hasn't gone like the others go, how come -"

Aramis shrugs. "Neither did mine. She's got something to fix on, something to hold the rift with. I think for her it only opens in her sleep, though it's getting worse. It will get worse, if we don't help."

"What's she 'fixing' on?"

"Lo siento, I don't know. Something about the river. She keeps coming back to the river."

Porthos turns his iPod in his hands, says to it, "You got a weird thing about water too."

Porthos never says anything about it when Aramis, anxious for whatever reason - Richelieu is often involved - takes himself to sit by the pool to calm himself down. "There must be something more," he says, and touches Porthos' arm. "We'll find out. And she'll be fine, Porthos, I swear to you. She will be fine."

Porthos turns his iPod, silver side, white side, silver side, white side.

He says, gruff, "Like you're fine?"

. . . he doesn't know what to say to that. He looks away, and thinks about it. Then he folds his arms, shrugs, says, "She's stronger than me."

He knows it's what Richelieu thinks, that Aramis is just too weak to hold his powers down. Maybe he is right. Neither of them want to think of Flea condemned to a life of Aramis' episodes, no-one should live through this, so all he can do is hope that Richelieu is right, and that any other water affinity could cope and it's just him.

He remembers the river splitting, running off apart. He couldn't bring himself to tell either Treville or Porthos about that, he still can't, he can't face it himself; pretend it away, because some things are too much to deal with twice, the anticipation and the event, the way he has to force himself through a lot of bad things. Instead he smiles, and says, "What are you listening to?" and Porthos looks at him, then shuffles along the seat so he's close enough to offer him an earpiece.

Aramis closes his eyes when he hits play again, and holds on to Porthos' strange, sad old music, songs he may never hear again. He's surprised when a hand takes his, and presses - Porthos' sturdy warm fingers fitting through his, and he swallows, as Porthos murmurs very close, "She's gonna be okay, right?"

He doesn't open his eyes. "She's going to be fine."

"We're gonna be okay."

Aramis leans across the gap between seats to put his head on his shoulder, and he can't help it, he can't pretend that he can, he's weak.

"Going to be okay." he says quietly, and holds his hand hard, and doesn't open his eyes.

*

It's early evening when they land at the discreet distance Treville arranged, and they're on the train into the city when Porthos' phone finally rings. He's so stunned-to-the-stomach by it that at first he's almost afraid to answer, it's been so long, his voice feels like it might somehow not be his voice now -

Aramis is watching him intent as a tail-flicking cat, and across the train's table, Treville is giving him a why aren't you answering? look. He answers.

"- Flea?"

"Isaac you bastard," she chokes at him. "Two fucking years an' now you call, two fucking years-"

He rubs his nose. "Hasn't been two years. Like, a year an' nine-"

"Fuck you, Isaac, fuck you for calling now-"

"Flea," because this isn't just about not having called for two years, "Flea, something's - happening to you -"

She's silent for one horrible second, then takes in a funny stunted breath, says flatly, "I know. Like something happened to you?"

He swallows. "Yeah. Kind of just like that, yeah."

"An' then you disappeared off the face of the earth for two years."

"It wasn't two years, okay, an' I wasn't disappeared, I just wasn't in London. I'm alright, nothin' bad happened to me, I'm alright but we need to find you, we need to help, where are you?"

"- foster home for now but Isaac, I dunno how long I'll be here, it's -" She sounds afraid, and he never hears Flea sounding afraid, not when she's mouthing off at some wanker twice her size who grabbed her in a club, Flea's never afraid. "It's like I'm sleepwalking but it's not only when I'm asleep anymore, it's like I'm losing my -"

"We can explain, when we find you we can explain, it's gonna be okay, it's gonna be -"

"Who's 'we'?"

He looks at Aramis, who looks back with that too intense gaze, Porthos hasn't understood Aramis' weird mood all day and hasn't got a clue how to ask about it, Aramis is always weird. "A friend. Someone else something 'happened' to. We're gonna help, but you have to hold it down in the meantime, you have to hold on for us, where are you? You still at your old address?"

"I won't be here," she says, and she sounds all wrong, not like Flea, stressed and scared. "I know I won't, you won't find me here -"

"Where the hell will we find you?"

"South Bank. Along from St Thomas's, there's this quiet bit where I -" Her voice breaks the worst way, splintering like bone, "- where I threw that fucking gun in the river -"

Porthos whispers, "Oh, fuck." because now he knows what Flea's had to 'fix' on all this time, what's making Flea both keep and lose her mind - "Look, we're just outside London, we'll be along from Clapham as soon as we can but you have to-"

The line sounds weirdly quiet. He holds his phone out, sees the dead signal bar, and Treville says, "What's wrong?"

"Fucking signal - Flea? Flea, can you hear me?" As soon as one bar comes back, but -

Silence on the line, and Aramis is watching him, something far too dark in his eyes.

Porthos knows London, and for once he's not following Aramis following his own vague but pressing sense of where they just have to be. Porthos knows exactly what he's doing, and they leave Treville at Lambeth North, Aramis following his run down streets so familiar they almost look unreal now, a film set made of his memories. The air just feels like London and Porthos runs, because Flea needs him, because Flea's on the river and her rift could do anything and that fucking gun -

Dusk closes the sky over them, they dodge between traffic and Porthos gives two fingers to a cab driver's blaring horn, grabbing Aramis' wrist to get them over the road in time. Aramis is silent. Ordinarily nothing keeps him from making inappropriate jokes at deadly times, and all Porthos can think is, Please fucking god not here, not now. Not an episode, Aramis, we have to get to her in time, please not now, please.

Aramis just runs.

Porthos is out of breath, legs shaking underneath him, when he staggers into the railings over the river, bent in half and panting hard. Aramis jogs to a halt beside him, breathing quick, looking up and down the riverside as the streetlights flicker on. "That way," he says, and Porthos looks west as he indicates, nods, wipes his mouth on the back of his arm and starts walking as fast as he can. Most of the people will be a lot further east along the river, where the shops and lights and cafes are. Here there are offices looking across the river empty but for cleaners at this time of night, and tree cover over the pavement at the side of the water.

Aramis leans over the railing as they walk, curses quietly, speeds up. Porthos looks at the water seeping up between the bases of railings, hisses his breath out, fuck.

"Can you hold it down?"

"If I have to, I can try. We need to get to her."

Their speeding up is gradual but at some point it tips over the edge of walking fast and into just running again, Porthos' trainers wet through, Aramis' boots pounding water from the pavement as it rises like a spring tide, and there along the bank -

"Flea!" Porthos yells, at the girl just standing there, staring out across the water, unmoving as the tide slips back between her ankles and flushes into the river again, pouring down and away, the Thames behaving itself once more like it never would have dreamed of rising high enough to burst its banks. Flea doesn't move, doesn't blink, that horrible stillness of Aramis caught trapped in time, but then she starts and stumbles back, and looks down -

She doesn't scream, though her hands clamp over her mouth, and she's shaking. And on the pavement in front of her feet is the muddy shape of a gun, left like a gift from the river.

"Flea!"

She looks up, looks close to tears, throws her arms out as he runs up and she buries her face in the side of his neck, sobbing, "Every night every night every night every night -"

"Oh hey, sshh, hey hey hey, it's alright." He rubs her back, stepping her away from the mud-clotted gun, stroking a hand back through her hair. "Hey, hey, it's alright. You're alright? You feel alright?"

"I feel weird, I feel -"

"Porthos," Aramis says behind him, and then in Spanish and a little desperate, "calm her down, please?"

Porthos glances over his shoulder, where the Thames is on the rise again, water whirling around itself, lifting boats clinking upwards along the river like a huge animal so slowly shaking itself out. "Flea, listen, you gotta listen, it's okay." Porthos says, brushing her hair back behind her ear again. "There's this power in you, it's a rift breaking, we both have one too, we know what it feels like, okay? It's like it's so much power there's no room left for you, it's enough to wipe you out -"

She moans into his shoulder, and there's water around Porthos' feet now, and at his back Aramis is murmuring in Spanish, "This is not 'calmer'."

"Cállate," Porthos growls back, because he's not helping. "You got to keep it calm, Flea, you can do this 'cause we both did it an' we're idiots compared to you, you could run rings 'round the pair of us so you can do this, you can keep it -"

"That gun," she chokes at him, squeezing him in the hug so hard it hurts. "Whatever I do, it always comes back, it always comes back here, I put it down the sewers and in the river and whatever I do it always -"

"It's not the gun, it's your powers, it's 'cause you're fixatin' on that gun that you're not flooding the whole bloody city, you've been pulling that thing up over an' over again instead of drowning half of London -"

"It won't leave me alone, I'm losing my-"

Porthos hears Aramis move behind him but ignores him, rubs Flea's shoulders and the water is cold and powerful like dead hands around his ankles, tugging him sideways, making him feel unsteady, uneasy, and now the fucking wind's rising as well. "It's okay, Flea, forget the gun, it's not the gun, you can control this, you can make all of it stop -"

"The gun is dead." Aramis says in English at his back, and Porthos turns to him, Aramis shaking out one wet hand, tilting the gun with the other to get a really good look at it. "It's been under the mud for how many months? It won't ever fire again. You killed it." Flea is watching him with one eye from where she's buried in Porthos' shoulder, breathing hard. Aramis smiles for her. "Slayer of guns."

And then, because he's Aramis, he raises it and Porthos doesn't even have the time to close his eyes as he holds it against the side of his own head and pulls the trigger.

Flea leaves a bruise in his arm she grips it so tight, and makes a noise like she's been punched in the stomach.

All the gun does is click.

Aramis shrugs, and lowers it again. "Dead gun."

Porthos' body is so aware of how little he's breathing right now, staring into the eyes of a mad Chilean psychic who just played Russian roulette with a very muddy gun in front of them, that it's a few seconds before he notices that the water has lowered, that Flea in her shock has stopped shaking, that the river is sighing and sluicing itself back between the bollards, falling back into its centuries-old home, subdued again between the banks. Slowly, achingly, all of his muscles relax too, as Flea's fingers shift on his arm, and she swallows, breath coming back unsteady, and she whispers, "Why do all your friends have to be fucking insane, Isaac?"

Aramis grins crookedly, and Porthos squeezes her a little in his arm. "You're like my oldest friend, you know that?"

"An' I'm the one haunted by a dead gun and that stinking river -"

"You'll learn to control it," Aramis says, and his smile is still only half right. "You're holding your rift. You'll be fine, Porthos will explain everything. I'll - leave you two, to, um." He rubs the back of his neck, and gestures between them with the muddy gun still hanging from one hand. "Catch up."

Porthos doesn't really understand the way he walks away, taking his alarm from his pocket to summon Treville as he goes. At a little distance he scoots himself to sit on the railings over the river, boots dangling, dead gun in one hand and eyes on the water, not looking back at Porthos and Flea. He doesn't really have time to worry about it, because Flea hugs him hard again and whispers, "Fucking hell Isaac, fucking hell -"

He hugs her back and it gets tight in his throat, it's been so long, wet to the knees but her hair still smells like coconut as he breathes her in. "I missed you, you know that?"

"Oh fuck you, you never called, you never emailed -"

"I couldn't, they wouldn't let me, this is all - you get how secret this all has to be? You know what people would do if they knew what we can do? There's this guy in charge of us, Treville, he's alright, you can come back with us an' he'll help you out, Aramis can help you with your powers, he's water affinity too -"

She puts her hands over her eyes, digs the heels in. "None of this makes any sense."

"Listen." He takes her hand, leads her to a bench - it's wet but they're already wet, so he just sits her there beside him. "The rift, that power in you an' both of us, it's unstable. It needs balancing out. You need one of each, you two're water affinity but I'm air, you need fire an' earth as well to make a circle, it's only once we're in circles that we can really control it, until then we're just - this," he says, waving a hand at the Thames now playing innocent, underneath Aramis' hanging boots. "We can't always stop it. When I'm really pissed off I make it hail, Aramis has these - it fucks him up a lot. But you can get better at controllin' it, an' when you have a circle . . . look, Treville'll explain it all, he'll be a lot better at explainin' it."

"Where the hell've you been? Where the hell did you even go," she snaps, punching him in the shoulder, "you massive idiot? I never knew if you were dead -"

He rubs his arm, she's got bony fists for punching, and says, "Been in France, actually."

"France?" She stares at him like Mars would have been a more likely location. "What the fuck have you been doing in France?"

". . . mostly this." He shrugs at the whole situation they're in. "Tryin' to help people through their rifts. Mostly failing. In between rifts I've just been sort of . . . hanging out with him. How've you an' Charon been?"

She gives him a long look, and he knows she's smarter than he is, and judging everything he says very closely. "Worried," she says pointedly, and Porthos sighs, and nods, slowly.

"Yeah. Me too. Has Charon - you told Charon about this?"

"'course I haven't, like I want him anywhere near that bloody gun again -"

"Yeah. Okay."

She's silent for a moment, visibly angry and controlling herself, and Porthos can hear the way the river moves with her contained rage. He looks across at Aramis kicking his legs a little, listless over the water, and wonders what's up with him, Aramis is usually obnoxiously all over making friends with anyone he can get physically close enough to talk to. Flea gets his attention back by scratching at his jaw.

"What's all this, then? They don't have razors in France?"

He grins, slowly. "We're playing moustache chicken. Whoever shaves first loses."

She rolls her eyes a boys. "That wasn't French you were talking to him."

"Nah, he's been teachin' me some Spanish. Handy for gettin' around Treville."

"What was he calling you? You got some kind of code name now?"

". . . 'Porthos'," he says, and it's weird, now, remembering when it wasn't his name. "S'just what he always calls me. It's what everyone calls me now."

"Porthos." she says, like it sounds funny. It occurs to him as if for the first time again that maybe it does.

"Girls called 'Flea' don't get to judge."

"That was always your bloody fault." she snaps back, but she doesn't actually sound so angry. She follows his gaze to Aramis, still just sitting over the river, head hanging under a streetlight. She touches Porthos' jaw again, scratches at the growing beard, makes sure she's got his eyes. She says, "You an' him?"

She always was smarter than him, smarter than anyone he's ever met. There are a lot of ways he could respond to that; he just looks across at Aramis, troubled by that bend of his neck, and says, quietly, "Yeah."

She looks him in the eye, perfectly steady. "He treat you right?"

He lets his breath out, amused. "He's an irritating little shit. But he puts up with just as much from me so I reckon we're even."

She watches Aramis' back for a while, and the slow sad swing of his boots. Then she pats Porthos' jaw again and says, "You should go talk to him."

"Why? He knows what this is all about, it's you -"

"He thinks you're dumping him for me, idiot."

Porthos stares at her, then stares across at Aramis, and then he feels it in his guts.

Ohhh, fuck.

He rubs his eyes, curses his idiocy and mostly Aramis', says, "You'll be alright if I -"

"No, I reckon I'll drop dead on this bench if you walk off for two minutes." she says, and folds her arms. "Go talk to your boyfriend, Isaac."

"He's not my - fine." He stands up, and wipes off the seat of his damp and horrible jeans. "Try not to flood London for a few minutes."

She swipes a slap at his arse as he jumps out of the way, and walks over to Aramis, who doesn't look back at him. He's looking downriver, now, towards the Houses of Parliament lit golden above the water. "When I came for your rift," he says, without looking over his shoulder, "it didn't look like the London in films. I suppose I was thinking about this."

Porthos puts his hands in his wet pockets, tips his weight back and forth. "They don't set many films in Camberwell, normally. Aramis -"

"It's alright." Aramis looks around at him, and smiles, and the worst part is how much he looks like he means it. "It's so perfect it must be meant to be. And you'll be happy."

"For a psychic you are fucking stupid sometimes, Aramis."

Aramis just looks at him evenly, neither confirming nor denying that.

"I'm not - startin' a circle with Flea, I don't think it even works like that, we can't split up now -"

He sees things move behind Aramis' face, he's terrible at hiding his expressions, even his endless smiles show every feeling behind them, even the bad ones. Now he looks bleak with hunger before he calms it, makes it settle in his eyes, and he says gently, "I would be alright. It would be al-"

"No you won't, you'll die an' we both know it, I will fucking shove you in that river if you don't grow a fucking brain -"

Aramis looks back at the water, and swings his legs a little over it. "Don't put a water affinity into the river, Porthos. It can only lead to bad things."

Porthos grabs the back of his neck, feels him start but not lose his seat, and holds on hard. "Flea's my oldest friend," he says, serious to the back of his ear. "I've loved her since we were kids an' yeah, we fucked a few times once, but fuck's sake, Aramis, us, this?" He shakes him by the back of his neck. "This isn't goin' anywhere. This is us for the rest of our lives. We'll help Flea get her circle together but I'm not breakin' mine to do it. An' I'm not breakin' anything of yours." He puts his nose to the back of his ear, breathes in his hair (not coconut; just that clean Aramis scent, soap and something like the memory of incense), feels the shivery-tautness of his muscles under his hand. "How many times have I got t'tell you I'm not goin' anywhere -"

"But I remember -" Aramis lifts a hand, he's still got the gun in the other one, and rubs his eyes hard with thumb and forefinger. "I remember you wanting to, I remember the widow and Bonnaire -"

"Who the fuck are 'the widow an' Bonnaire'?"

"I don't know."

Porthos pulls him back, on his precarious perch, so he has to grab backwards onto Porthos' shoulder to keep himself up, weight leaned into his chest. "Fuck the widow an' Bonnaire," he says, whoever the hell they are, because you have to let these things go when you know Aramis. "Fuck everything else. In the end it's always gonna be us. Right?"

Aramis, tipped on his weight and helpless, breathes against him, and swallows, and checks his eyes from his awkward angle. He looks at them for a long, long time, and Porthos just looks back, angry with both of them, that Aramis could believe it and that he could let him believe it.

Then Aramis smiles, quite tentative, and Porthos kisses him just once because he's a fucking moron who doesn't deserve more, and helps right him again on the railings. He can feel Aramis watching him as he walks back to Flea, who's sitting with her arms folded, watching him and looking smug.

He sits next to her again with a sigh. She says, smirking, "He's not your boyfriend."

He shrugs. "I don't know what we are. Just - him an' me."

She raises her eyebrows but doesn't say anything to that. "So what happens now? I get disappeared too?" Her brows go tighter, her mouth clamping closed. "You didn't even say goodbye. We just never saw you again, you never even said -"

"I know. I - sorry." He rubs his nose, looks up at the approach of Aramis' footsteps, until he stands there awkwardly at their side. "It all had to be . . . it has to be secret an' people like us aren't safe around normal people. For a whole bunch of reasons."

Aramis gives him an amused look at that, but still looks oddly awkward in a way he never does, embarrassed of himself, uneasy of being near Porthos and Flea - shy, an adjective Porthos would previously have laughed until he choked himself to hear applied to Aramis. Aramis shrugs, still holding a dead gun in one hand, and says, "It'll be nice to have a woman in the villa."

Porthos says warningly, "Aramis."

"What? Ever since you arrived it's beginning to smell like a boys' dormitory, it howls for feminine influence."

"Well now I really wanna go there," Flea mutters, and then she looks around herself despairing, her face cracks, she says, "I don't want to leave London. I don't want to go to France -"

Aramis sits beside her and pets her shoulder. "No-one wants to go to France," he says, soothingly. "Have you seen what they do to snails? I suppose the English aren't so picky about food, though."

"Shut up, huevón. It's not so bad, Flea -"

Footsteps are approaching. They all look up, but it's Aramis who knows his shape best; he springs up, gives a startling bow to Flea, and then hurries to Treville, to talk to him under the streetlight before he reaches them. Flea says, quite slowly, "Where do you find these people, Isaac."

"You get used to him. He's not - all there, all the time, but he's . . ." He's scared of telling Flea what Aramis' powers do to him; he's scared of telling her what they might do to her.

Treville walks up, Aramis looking confused but not unhappy at his back, as he says, "My name is Treville, miss, it's a pleasure to meet you. A colleague of mine is on her way to meet you."

Over his shoulder Aramis mouths to Porthos, Anne, and lays a hand over his moronic heart.

Flea says bluntly, "I don't speak French."

Treville says, "That may not be an issue." and Porthos narrows his eyes at Aramis again, who shrugs minutely, and gives the captain's face a wary look.

Treville has them recount the last half hour, Aramis still holding a filthy gun and all of them wet to the knees, but while Flea says she's got a headache and she's tired - she hasn't slept a night through in weeks, every night she's found herself back here, wet to the shins and staring at a gun and losing her mind - she seems fine. Porthos remembers after his own rift, when he was holding Aramis through his thrashing and all he felt was freaked out, not bad. They never know what to expect from a rift, of their nature they're unpredictable, lethal things that do what they like to the poor body they open from the inside. But -

Flea holds his arm, and Porthos feels such strange relief. He's never said how much he's missed London, his friends, he's never needed to say it to Aramis who knows these things anyway and the captain can't change anything so there's been no point in whining to him. But the thought that she'll come with them, back to the villa, Flea will be there, he can hardly believe his own luck. He'd thought he'd been lucky to get Aramis whatever it cost him, but having Aramis and Flea, both of them - Porthos is the luckiest bastard in London right now, and feels it like a bell booming in his chest, it reverberates right through his bones. Okay, a rift inside him broke, which statistically is about the worst luck in the world. But he got Aramis out of it, and that's something to be really fucking grateful for. And now, now he can have Flea too . . .

Flea says, "What happens to Charon? I'm not leaving him behind, he won't last five minutes, we can't -"

Treville looks at Porthos, and Porthos tugs a hand through his hair. "Flea, we can't. This thing we're mixed up in, it's too dangerous, I know it'll suck for him -"

"He'll get himself killed." she says, coldly.

"He has more chance of dying if he's with us." Porthos says, because he can't lie to her, she's going to be facing it as well. "Most rifts go the bad way, yours was mild -"

"That was mild? That was weeks of me goin' out of my head -"

"Someone is trying to kill us," Aramis supplies from Treville's shoulder. "On and off. We don't know who or why."

Porthos says, "It's just not safe for him. I'm sorry, alright? It's just not."

"But it took you and me," she says, squeezing his arm. "He might - he might be like this too, we just don't know yet -"

Treville watches a car slow up to stop at the kerb, and its door opens. Porthos sees the way Aramis' body goes alert like a dog before its tail wags, and looks across at the woman who climbs out - a woman he recognises from Aramis' creepy desktop background on his laptop, a rather delicate and pretty woman at least fifteen years older than them, who smiles at Treville and then smiles for Aramis, who looks like he might break his face with the smile he returns.

Porthos rolls his eyes.

Treville and Anne talk quietly, and then he walks her over, introduces her and Flea. "Gentlemen," he says, and walks to the railings over the river. Porthos and Aramis share a glance, and then follow him - they never know why they obey the captain like they do, it just always feels right. Anne sits beside Flea, and begins speaking to her quietly.

Treville looks out over the Thames, and sighs. Then he looks them in the eye, one then the other, and says, "Well done."

The first rift they've brought in together, the first survivor since Porthos himself, and Porthos closes his eyes, feels his breath leave him slow and so fucking thankful that it was Flea, if it was anyone, who lived. Aramis nudges his arm with his elbow, and Porthos can tell that he's grinning, but his voice when he speaks is already uncertain again; "Captain . . . ?"

Porthos opens his eyes, and watches Treville watch the London reflected in the river, upside-down and scattered by wavelets. "Someone is trying to kill affinities," he says, speaking to the water, and Porthos shifts uneasy on his feet. "Somehow they have access to our information, and sometimes they can get to a rift before us, and you know what happens then."

Porthos looks at Aramis and Aramis flits his eyes across to meet him, and then they look back at the captain, and wait.

Treville puts his head back a little, and breathes through his nose. "They've already come after you two twice. You're in danger whenever you're out of that villa. And if someone is trying to murder affinities, the more of you clustered in one place only makes for a bigger target."

"Captain," Aramis says quietly, and Porthos says, "What are you sayin'?"

Treville closes his eyes for a second, then turns to them and meets their eyes. "The villa is essentially compromised but we don't have many options as to where we can house you, and it's only a few more months until you'll be given your freedom anyway. You will stay there and continue to try to form your circle. Your friend miss . . ."

"Flea."

"Flea," he says, sounding patient about it, "can't be part of your circle, as you already have a water affinity. But it's not safe for her to be near you, and as she doesn't need to be near you -"

Aramis murmurs to the water, "The river is splitting." and Porthos glances at him, checks on the Thames which is profoundly not splitting, then takes his wrist in case he's about to go down without warning.

Treville says, "A separate circle will be formed elsewhere, under the protection of Anne. There will be no communication between the two forming circles. It isn't safe."

Porthos stares at him, and Aramis tucks his head down a little, and Porthos can just tell that he's praying.

"No communi-?"

"It's the only way that each circle might have some chance of surviving. Even I won't know where they are."

"No - but we just found each other again, we just -"

Aramis has his eyes closed, lips unmoving, and Porthos can practically hear it all the same. "Stop that, get mad." he snaps at him. "He's tryin' to split us -"

"I've already seen it." Aramis says, eyes still closed. "I just didn't realise it." Quietly, "Lo siento."

"You -"

"It's the only way, Porthos." Treville says. "Your friend will be safer with Anne, without whatever mole we have making her life more dangerous. She'll form her own circle. When all of you have closed circles you should have enough power to protect yourselves but until then -"

He could almost choke on his anger. "Until then we never see each other again?"

"Until yesterday you believed that to be true anyway."

Porthos feels a number of emotions barge onto the stage of his mind, proclaiming themselves loudly and elaborately, while he grips Aramis' wrist and can practically feel him praying because he's losing someone too and Porthos does know what being left behind does to Aramis. As for himself, rage plays quite a large role. Disgust gets a walk-on part. Defiance and betrayal are cackling in the wings.

And what's left, when they've all had their say and bowed out, is the quiet voice in the back of his mind murmuring that everything that Treville is saying is true. If they bring Flea with them then they put her into the same danger they're already in but currently with less control over her powers, less ability to fight back. If they bring Flea with them and anything happens to her, they're the ones to blame. And twice now people have come after them, and twice they've survived shocked and bruised, but if Flea can escape whoever it is who knows where they are and when to come for them -

He breathes out, slow, through his nose. Aramis leans a little to his arm, and Porthos can still sense the rhythm of prayer off him, Aramis trying so hard to make himself not mind.

Porthos squeezes his wrist a little, and the disappointment, the loss, weighs down deep in him like stone.

He says, quietly, "Yeah."

He has to be adult enough to remember that the balance for his loss might be Flea's life. He has to be intelligent enough to keep in mind that that's more than worth it. He has to be mature enough to not mind having Flea returned to him and snatched away again, because it's not like it's anyone's fault that it's happened like this.

Well. It's not the fault of anyone except whatever fucker's trying to kill them.

He looks at Aramis, and Aramis sighs, opens his eyes, looks tight-jawed back.

When they find out whoever this bastard is, they will find a way to properly apportion the blame.

*

He wakes on the floor of the plane, completely crushed under Porthos' weight.

He breathes hard for some time, ribs aching from Porthos on top of him, his arms pinned back above his head in one hand, Porthos' knees stuffed in at either side to hold his hips still, one palm gripped around the back of his head, someone else - it must be the captain - holding his legs down. Then he spits the cuff out to the side, pants, "I hate having them on the plane."

Porthos pushes himself up on his elbows, checks his face, and looks back to Treville letting go of his ankles behind them. "You're not the only one," Porthos says, and puts his hand back on the back of his head; Aramis winces his eyes closed, feeling how hard he must have banged it off the floor, unless it was a seat first. "What'd you see?"

He rolls his head, stares dully under the row of seats to his side. "Anne and Flea," he says, and blinks slow and tired. "Getting the hell out of London."

Treville says, "It may be best if you don't tell us the rest."

"I don't know where they were going. An airport." Aramis rolls his head - it aches as if it should make the noise a rolling bowling ball does - back to Porthos. "I suppose I better had keep it to myself if I do see where they are."

Porthos grins at him. "You got me. I'm the mole."

"Hilarious, huevón." Porthos climbs off him, in what space there is, sits in an aisle seat and takes his hands to help hike him to sit up on the floor. Everything is heavy and painful and Aramis doesn't even want to move, which makes it so much harder. Because he had to say goodbye to Anne, Anne who is beautiful and kind and caring and clever, Anne who he's been besotted with since he was fourteen, Anne who smiled and told him in her careful, pretty Spanish - he always speaks slowly and clearly for Anne - that the still-growing beard suits him.

And then drove away, with Flea pale and exhausted and mutinous in the car and Aramis' bewildered heart crunched under the wheels, leaving him and Porthos, battered little half-circle that they are, once again with nothing in the world besides each other and their captain.

"They'll be bad again tonight." he says quietly, because he knows it. Payment for the few hours he's managed to be clear to help Flea. Porthos touches the back of his head again, giving him one of those close, worried looks.

There is a way that Porthos' eyes check his. Why did he ever think that Porthos would leave him?

He needs badly to sleep. Porthos gets him huddled to his side in their seats, he can hide under a blanket and put his eyes to Porthos' shoulder to keep out the light. It's been a bruising two days for Porthos, the worry and grief of being returned in dangerous circumstances and then losing again an old friend, an old lover. And Aramis would have liked to be able to be more comfort to him instead of feeling so petrified himself of being deserted once more, sensing that someone would leave him and not knowing that it wouldn't be him . . .

He doesn't know why he feels such panic, why he feels like being left behind is all he knows. He has too many memories of lovers disappearing on him - literally too many, they aren't his memories though they leave their attendant emotions tacky in his veins, loneliness and betrayal and confusion and hurt - and he thinks of Marsac too much, still turns his head sometimes expecting to see him behind himself again. But Porthos has lost so much too, and Porthos stays stoical, keeps his eyes forward.

Aramis settles his eyes into the dark of his shoulder, breathes slow, murmurs, "Maybe the captain is the mole."

Porthos laughs, only a little strained. "Yeah. We finally pushed him too far, now he's tryin' to get us bumped off. What d'you think it was?"

"He's never forgiven us for your birthday."

"Could be the time we invented Fire Cricket."

"Could be the time we made drunk meringues."

Porthos squeezes his arm. "We had a deal that we would never talk about that."

Aramis hums a little laugh against his arm, and can't risk opening his eyes, he feels the queasy edge of an episode in everything that's too much, and right now everything is too much. He finds Porthos' wrist to hold, presses it just gently, murmurs, "I'm sorry, Porthos."

Porthos is silent for a second, then Aramis feels the breath leave his body, slow, and he says very low, "You lost someone too."

Anne; it twists his heart again, that he doesn't know if he'll ever see her again, and her visits have always been rare precious beautiful things like incredible butterflies, and now no more. He could mope, he really could, curl up inside his melancholy and pine away for her lovely eyes; instead he takes a moment to feel the slight weight of that cross around his neck, and shakes his head against Porthos' shoulder, because that's not why he's sorry.

"I knew someone would leave," he says, very quietly, into his shoulder. "I didn't know who. And then Flea is water affinity too and it just . . . I'm sorry that I assumed it would be you." He keeps his eyes closed, and breathes. "It's only that - that you're the one I could least bear to lose. And I'm an idiot. Forgive me."

Porthos takes a moment to digest that, then lifts his hand from his arm to cup once more the heavy and pulsing back of his skull, fingers settled through his hair. He says, softly, "You are an idiot."

He smiles, and keeps his eyes hidden to his shoulder. Porthos tugs gently at his hair, thoughtful, then sighs so heavy and says, "At least we both got to say goodbye, this time."

Aramis has never needed to ask to know when Porthos has been thinking about London, about the friends he had before he even knew Aramis, friends he would have killed and died for even before killing and death were just part of his life. He thinks of Anne and that still hurts, so he tries to think of goodbyes he would have liked to have been able to give, thinks of names but -

But he hardly remembers a single face, can't remember who the names connect to, and he swallows, and grips Porthos' arm.

Porthos clears his throat, settles himself back in his seat. "Need to get a move on with this circle. Flea'll crow like hell if she gets hers down before us."

Aramis' smile twitches to his shoulder. "Ah, now that we have some true incentive I'm sure everything will be much speedier."

"We've been slackin' for too long."

"Anyone would think that we didn't care."

"Too busy inventing Fire Cricket."

"And doing obscene things with eggs."

"Damn it, Aramis, we're meant t'be not talkin' about that."

He grins against his shoulder, nudges his weight into his side. "Anne will look after her, and she's an intelligent woman. We'll have to work very hard to be quicker than her."

Porthos' fingers run through his hair. "I will if you will. Tell me if we need to get you on the floor again, okay?"

"In front of Treville? I'm so irresistible you can't even wait until we get back to the villa?"

"Fuck sake, Aramis."

"I'll tell you." He lets his breath out, slow with his tiredness, into his shoulder. "Thank you."

It's going to be a bad night, the buzzing in his brain tells him that, like a thousand angry flies are readying to hatch in his skull. But Porthos is still here - gracias a Dios Porthos is still here - and they just helped a water affinity get her mind back before her rift took it. And if they've done it once, they must be able to do it again.

The thought that it could be years before he sees Anne again, the thought that he could die without seeing her again, is a weight in his stomach. But Porthos is here, and Porthos has lost someone too, and if two quarters of a circle can't comfort each other then why are they even a circle?

He says, "It could be the time I changed his desktop background to an extreme close-up of the veins in Richelieu's eye."

Porthos gives a small amused rumble against his side. "He never should have asked you for help installing that update. Could be the time we cling filmed Serge to the couch while he was asleep."

"Could be the time we had sex on his desk."

Porthos goes stiff against him. "We never did that."

"Yet," Aramis says, eyes closed to his shoulder, and smiles.

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