rainjoyswriting: (kurt!)
[personal profile] rainjoyswriting
Dust and the Sea, Musketeers fic, affinityverse (best catalogued in my memories) <3

Disclaimer: The programme would look very different if I owned it so, not mine, and I'm not even going to pretend to be anywhere near Dumas; yeah, not mine ^^;

Rating: R in a distressing way? Read careful <3

Warnings and spoilers: The main list's on part one, read sensibly. Some violence, some of it quite unpleasant this time.

Summary: More worrying are always the things he doesn't see.

Note: Ploughing on through the plot. Unfortunately involves ploughing through some angst. We can do this. *determined*

It creeps up slowly. They tend to.

The episodes gather momentum. He wakes in the gardens, in the cafeteria, on his bedroom floor; Porthos always has him and it's fine, and he's practised now at not minding the disorientation. He sees things in odd chunks, like his eyes slide sideways - all the little boats on the sea, the horizon of buildings behind them; he tastes the way the harbour winds are all salt and air far out and diesel and heat close in; he sees the warehouse, squat as a legs-spread spider, and dread fills his stomach like ice cold bile.

Porthos holds his head, and strokes the back of his neck.

The problem is the specifics, which Aramis' episodes tend to keep to themselves for as long as they please. Sometimes he just wakes up and knows things, and at least that gets things done - no wasting time trying to work out where in the wide world Aramis is seeing these things happen, though it always makes him feel sick, remembering things he never actually learned in the first place. This comes slowly. The world is full of ports, cranes raised like salutes to the water, and Aramis remembers the blue of the sea ("Not Britain, then." Porthos says, and grins.) and the haze of the air, but that doesn't help. The world is full of ports.

The captain is very patient, and no-one blames him for how little accurate the things he sees are - apart from Richelieu, he knows, but he also knows that his opinion is irrelevant. He knows it's a rift coming, the horrible building repetition tells him that even if the waking dread doesn't. There will be another rift, another chance, another risk. And Porthos, who last week dreamed of snow and confused the hell out of the local climate, needs this just as much as Aramis does. The sooner they can seal their circle the better.

Almost two years since his rift and Porthos hasn't minded his powers like he might, but then Aramis knows that he doesn't know the worst of them yet, and also knows that Porthos minds his powers more than his own. Aramis' powers in some ways look worse but then he's not the one distorting entire weather systems in his wake, and he knows that Porthos' powers will come to trouble him more. There's a bell curve to their rifts, from the utter lack of control of the original break to their gradual understanding of what happens inside them, what they can do, so that the longer they have their powers, the more they understand how to control them. But slanting that is the problem that the longer they're without a circle, the less control they have, and the only difference between them is two years. For three and a half years Aramis has been learning how to navigate the rift inside him, becoming intimate with his affinity, but he knows the cliff edge he'll some day come up against when everything he's learned is nothing against the scope of sheer power inside him. He does know what happened to that last air affinity who survived ten years without a circle. He does know what Porthos, what the captain, might one day be forced to do, if Aramis' rift becomes once again bigger than he is.

But he's water, he's porous, he pours in on himself. If it goes wrong he doesn't think that he'll go out in a tidal wave. He thinks - fuck his affinity; he knows - he'll just sink in on himself, and drown. Which may be a mercy. He doesn't want Porthos faced with stopping him, when there's nothing of him left.

(What will he do if the hurricane in Porthos rises too high? The temptation will be to do nothing, to just walk to him eyes closed and die with him; but Porthos deserves better than being made into a tool of destruction by his rift, and does Aramis actually have the courage to give him that . . . ?)

He wakes in his bed, teeth sunk in leather so hard they hurt, clamped safe under Porthos' heavy body. He spits the cuff out and pants the exertion off - he feels like he's run a marathon, pinned to his side on the bed - and looks up for the captain's eyes, whole body heaving around his breath.

"Alexandria," he says, and swallows, mouth oversensitive as if it's swollen. He can still taste the heat and the salt and the petrol fumes. "I need a map."


They would set off as soon as possible but there are delays, fuck that there are always delays; Treville is trying to navigate the politics of Egypt because just flying a NATO plane in given the current climate is going to lead to issues, and they're still not allowed their freedom yet. And at first Aramis is too ill to travel, is alarmed by how unsteady he is himself, not that he mentions it, not that he needs to mention it to Porthos. The episodes keep yanking him sideways, only small ones, nothing so drastic as his worst but they make him so uneasy, it's like they're trying to warn him of something, but all they seem to be warning him about is how horrible he already feels and is going to feel.

When he's released from another frozen moment staring through time (he can see dirty lorries and shipping crates, and hear Porthos panicking) Porthos grabs his shoulders before he folds, and Aramis can skid his boots steady again on the floor. Porthos ducks his face to look worried into his, and he grins back, and feels very shaky. He has a bad feeling. He has a bad, bad feeling. If this goes wrong - if this goes the worst way -

They can't not go. He's seen that they go. If they don't go, Aramis' episodes promise him in sibilant whispers, pulling at his brain stem and running possessive curving fingers underneath his skull, if Aramis and Porthos don't go, then Aramis' episodes will rupture every blood vessel inside his head. Aramis belongs to the future that has already happened, to him. It's pride to the point of stupidity to try to think otherwise. But there's Porthos as well, Porthos to worry about, and if this goes the worst, worst way . . .

He says it to Porthos, squeezing his hand when they're finally on the plane, low so the captain doesn't hear. "If this goes - the bad way -"

"We're doing what we have to do." Porthos says, calm, and Aramis can't fight Porthos or the future, he's water, he runs as the world tips him. This is just something they have to face.

He's not well, and both Porthos and the captain can tell. His head feels stuffed overfull and overheated, and he hates having episodes on the plane, there's not enough room, it's too narrow, the bruises are vicious. Aramis says, wishing that his kit for cleaning the gun weren't stashed away so that his hands would have something to be busy with, "If - you have to do this on your own -"

Porthos keeps his eyes on the window, says neutrally, "You gonna have an episode during it?"

". . . I don't know. No." He knows that, very suddenly, and blinks. "No, I'm not."

Porthos looks across at him, grins. "So I won't be on my own."

Aramis doesn't know what to say to him. Yes; no. He doesn't understand. He knows things but he never knows exactly what he knows, never until it's too late. He knows -

He touches Porthos' wrist, runs his thumb over his lovely skin, just nods. Things he knows: God is good and Porthos is beautiful. Things will be alright.

When they touch down at the airport they have to run through security, no bowling out straight into action tonight. It's about suspicion and politics, Treville tells them wearily, so it must be endured. Aramis flirts with the man with the metal detector - he has extraordinarily pretty and increasingly confused eyes - and then with the woman who checks their passports, until Porthos drags him away, muttering, "Fitting you with a fuckin' chastity belt -"

"She was a very beautiful woman."

"She was old enough to be your mum."

"I like experience in a woman."

"You like everything," Porthos snaps, and Aramis shrugs.

Aramis has an episode in the hotel, on the scratchy horrible carpet, grazing his elbows and one shoulder. But he knows the man, now - nearly thirty, black hair, copper skin, a man who keeps thinking about his two children. Aramis has always thought that it's more fair for rifts to break in people like him and Porthos. As soon as you're old enough to have responsibilities, all your rift can do is break those too. At least, so far from the villa, just them and Treville, no-one else can use what Aramis now knows to put the man in danger. At least, for now, they may be safe.

Two more episodes in the night, and he throws up, which is even more unpleasant than usual in the small airless room. And now they know that it'll be an air rift, and something in both of them droops, they can't help it. Of course they'll still throw everything they've got at this but it will do them no good: they already have an air affinity. Aramis will never desert Porthos to form a circle without him, nothing could ever make him do that, and Porthos looks gloomy because this won't help Aramis. Dear Porthos; Aramis could kiss him, but he needs to drink at least two bottles of mouthwash first.

He doesn't want breakfast in the morning, though Porthos is always grumpy about him not eating even when all Aramis wants to do is brush his teeth for the next three hours. They compromise over a slice of toast and a cup of black coffee, and then Treville takes them to the docks, the modern part of the port, and there they stand, looking out over a scene Aramis knows very well by now: bay of blue, ships and lorries, cargo and crates.

Porthos wipes his forehead under the bandana. "Now what?"

Aramis shrugs. "We wait."

"We just wait?"

"Until either the rift breaks or I know more about how it will break."

"Brilliant," Porthos says, with the good old British sense of humour. Aramis grins, and Treville looks across at the busy road, the busy cranes, says, "Do you recognise any of it?"

"Si po. But it all looks . . . there's a warehouse, I know that, but they all look the same now."

There are gulls, overhead, and there's something about the water so close to the buildings against the fuzzy blue sky. He closes his eyes and breathes in, remembers the river and he can almost smell Santiago, for half a second he can almost feel like René.

Porthos says, "Could be a long day." He rubs his wrist off his forehead again. "Could be a long hot day."

Aramis touches Treville's arm. "You should leave, captain. You'll know when we're done."

Treville looks at him, and looks at Porthos. They mutely raise their two alarms, and Treville scratches his hair back, looks around the docks. Then he puts a hand in his pocket and takes out a mobile phone and some paperwork, and hands it (Aramis would be offended but isn't) to Porthos.

"It has my number on speed dial. Call me if you need anything. Show the papers to anyone who wants to know why you're here or tries to make you leave, call me if they insist."

Aramis salutes. Porthos says, "We just wait."

Treville nods at Aramis. "Keep an eye on him."

Aramis just smiles. They're surrounded by sailors, of course Porthos will have to keep an eye on him.

They sit with their legs hanging over the harbour's drop to the water, shipping crates at their backs, Porthos holding the hood of Aramis' jacket in case an episode pitches him without warning forwards. Rifts in populated areas are always difficult. If the area is evacuated, whoever the rift will break in will simply be moved with the evacuating people somewhere else to cause untold damage (and, coincidentally, change what he's already seen will happen and explode Aramis' brain); if the area isn't evacuated, so many people are in so much danger. Aramis watches every man who walks past them, and smiles when they catch his eye, but while every one is interesting in his own right none of them make the knowing in him catch like a match. They're all just people. People he regrets a little that he won't ever know - people with lives and jokes and particular ways they hold the eye, particular ways they smile - but just people, all the same. And still someone, someone here is a rift waiting to happen, and they need to know who.

The blue of the sky is hazing further, clouds are shifting in. Aramis nudges Porthos' ankle with his. "My company is that bad?"

Porthos grips the sun-hot concrete and Aramis' hood. "S'not me."

Aramis holds his eye, and Porthos just looks back. They look up again at the clouds, and the wind is colder on the skin, now.

After a few minutes Porthos' hand feels different in his hood, too tight, and he can feel his own hair blustered about by the rise of the wind. "I'm tryin' to stop it, the wind's gettin' - if I don't keep holding it back then those things," with a nod across at the shipping containers stacked up like books, "are gonna start flying, this could have ships over."

Aramis stands up, wiping his palms off on his jeans, offering Porthos a hand. "I hate waiting."

"Never would've guessed." Porthos says, letting him haul him upright.

The sky gets grimmer, and cold touches on the skin with the wind's rising. Aramis zips his jacket and they walk through aisles of shipping containers, grey and red and blue, he touches the rust on the side of one because it's so like a memory, looking at it. He looks at every man who walks past them - they give the two of them funny looks but don't intervene - and Porthos looks at him. They both know that this is an awkward place to have an episode, and the strangest thing is that for once, they're both half-
wanting an episode, because it might tell them what to do. But Aramis is wary of leaving Porthos to deal with things alone, and is wary of a passing dock worker calling for an ambulance if he goes down in this place where they don't speak the language and Porthos can't explain on his behalf that really he's fine (nothing to worry about, it's only the future, it will eventually get you too). He feels oddly buzzing but he doesn't feel like he's about to have an immediate episode - in fact, part of him knows that he isn't going to have one. But something is happening, all the same . . .

Aramis is feeling twitchy, urgent and itchy, like he's running out of time. His hand keeps moving to touch the gun in his pocket but he can't draw it here, and Porthos touches his back, a calm down gesture. Aramis looks up at the cloud, the darkening grey and the sickly yellow tinge, and now he knows he's running out of time but - but Porthos isn't -

He stops, confused, and Porthos stops with him, murmurs, "What's happening?"

He just stands there, staring down the wide aisle of shipping containers to the road curving past the harbour, the line between the coast and the land. "I don't - know -"

He turns left and right, feels lost, something, something -

Porthos says, "It's like working with a bloodhound."

"Something happens in a warehouse."

"All the warehouses are up that way."

"No. We're not there for it. I'm not -" He puts a hand over his eyes; the light has turned itself somehow inside-out, gross yellow, it touches his face like nausea. "I'm not -"

The sky is making a noise overhead, dry thunder, and Porthos touches his shoulder but his eyes are up, checking what the wind is doing. "I can't keep holdin' this down. Can't mess with the wind like that, all that force's got t'go somewhere -"

A shipping container stacked over their heads makes a screeched grinding noise, dragging a little on the top of the container it's resting on. Porthos pulls Aramis away from it by the arm, but Aramis still has a hand to his head - just one, the other arm has gone weirdly numb and heavy and hanging, just like his brain feels. "Porthos?" he says, barely audible over the raising wind, mostly because his name is comforting when he's unsure. Porthos is looking at the shipping containers all around them, holding Aramis from behind by both shoulders, light with suspicion on his feet.


"I'm not," he says, and his top lip is wet; he lowers the hand from his head to wipe at it, looks at the blood on his wrist. "Well."

Porthos checks his face and then his eyes stop when he sees the blood, and he says, "Are you having a-"

"No." He's confused about it himself, because he's not. But his nose is bleeding and one arm has gone numb and increasingly his whole brain feels like it's freezing from the outside in, like it's shrinking, something is wrong but he doesn't understand -

"What's happening tuh-?"

His tongue clots in his mouth. Porthos checks the grating movement of a container overhead, turns Aramis by the shoulders so he's looking at his face and whispers, "Jesus Aramis what do I - the alarm -"

"Nuh," he says, because it's all he can manage. They can't summon the captain here. Not to this. He'll be killed.

He blinks, and his eyelids bounce some strange way, and the world has gone dark. "Oh for fuck's sake," he wants to say, "now I'm blind." but his tongue just makes a sort of muh noise, and he stops.

Rift. The rift. He pushes at Porthos' arms, fumbles with his stupid tongue, gets close enough on the third attempt, "Rruh-"

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

He shakes his head and falls over. Porthos catches his weight, drops them down to their knees, metal groans overhead now and the wind is wrenching at Aramis' hair, at his clothes, and he's so numb and weak that wind could throw his body off the ground if Porthos weren't holding him. He hits, in a pathetic loose-handed way, at the side of Porthos' thigh with the only arm that works. Go to the rift. Go help the rift. Put me down and go help the rift, Porthos -

Porthos is holding him tight and his voice is too deep, too rough with fear overhead. "What the hell is wrong with you - ?"

It's not an episode. Limp now in Porthos' hold, ten tonne head hanging towards the earth, afloat in the blackness of the blind world Aramis thinks, God in heaven I'm having a stroke.

All those episodes, all those years of violence done to his brain, something has gone wrong, something is badly wrong, something in him -

The rift, he wants to say, he needs to say, Porthos put me down and go help the rift -

He understands that Porthos is talking but he can't understand the words.


He wakes to breathing, breathing, breathing.

It takes a little time to separate out that it's Porthos' breathing, that, like the first time he met him in the flesh, he's held over Porthos' lap, in his arms, head stuffed to his chest, Porthos' shoulders hunched protective over him. He can't move for some time, worse even than an episode, everything in his head feels wrong. Someone has unpeeled every vein up there, leaving horrible raw wounds across and through his pale pink brain. He tries to swallow. Two more attempts and he manages it, and Porthos must have noticed him moving because he lifts his head, says in a rush, "Aramis -?"

His eyes open so slowly and painfully, and he has to squint because the light is so vicious, but he can see. He can see Porthos looking at him, beautiful Porthos with his heart the size of a cathedral looking so worried down at him and Aramis would touch his face but he's not up to it yet. He just holds his eye, and strains everything he has for the smile.

Porthos touches warm knuckles to his cheek. "You're not dead."

He swallows again, and again it takes more than one attempt, sucks a breath down and manages, "Rift . . . ?"

Porthos stares at him for a second, then lifts his head, looks outwards at something, Aramis is so disorientated that he has no idea what. He lets his head roll to Porthos' hand and Porthos, without looking down, opens his palm to hold his jaw, and strokes his cheek with his thumb.

"Over that warehouse, I - felt it split, in the air. But it sort of - it sort of faded off and - out."

He breathes, blinking a little, working out what he has the strength for. He wets his lips, his mouth feels as much an open wound as it does after an episode, and he says, "Could he have held it . . . ?"

Porthos stares down at him, and Aramis lets the words settle into their proper meaning inside him, too: the rift didn't tear the port and the city to pieces while they were hunched down here on their own, and there can't be many reasons why that could happen, unless -

Please God please God please God -

Porthos has to help him up bit by bit, since he refuses to leave him here and go to the site of the rift on his own. He cleans his face up with a tissue, clotted blood under his nose and dried in the moustache. It's a few minutes before Aramis can even sit upright, and his hands are still too weak to reach for his head like he wants to. He looks up, eyes narrowed against the glare of the light, and sees the dented container on its side at Porthos' back which certainly wasn't there before he went temporarily blind. He looks around, at the containers thrown chaotic all around them, massive metal boxes bigger than cars flung around like a child's bricks leaving just this clear gap around them, and he says - it's still difficult, his voice sounds slow and sloppy - "Did you save our lives?"

Porthos puts a hand in his hair. "Gonna get crushed."


"You okay to stand?"

He says, "Yes." which means, If you help.

He shakes like an old man, his muscles weep inside him. He clings to Porthos who holds him up with a hand on his arm and the other around his waist, and he shuffles his stupid steps along, stunned by how weak he feels. What the hell was that? Not an episode, he knows not an episode, he didn't see anything. What the hell just happened to his brain?

They pick their way between crumpled containers, shouting from the road, the sound of sirens fast approaching now. The sky overhead is still dirty, the light still wrong, but the wind has died. One of the cranes has pitched forward into the water, and lorries have been blown across the road like dropped toys. An ambulance screeches by, people are rushing around yelling, God knows what damage has been caused, and it's quite easy for two boys to walk across a road no cars can pass now, under a sky thick with thunder uneasy with Porthos' uneasiness.

There's a warehouse, its doors a little open, and Aramis feels a horror of its doors a little open, knows that they have to go in and knows that this is bad. But he tells himself no, no, it's not, the rift stopped, the power is contained, it must be, it has to be that. He holds the back of Porthos' t-shirt tight and prays, urgency beating the words fast, Dios te salve, Maria, llena eres de gracia -

The warehouse seems empty of people at first, they must have run out when chaos broke the sky open. There are stacks of crates, and they make their unsteady way around them, Aramis exhausted and afraid now, clinging to Porthos for his steadiness as they turn the corner - where there is a man, laying on his back in a dark red puddle, eyes unblinking on the ceiling.

Oh no no no no no -

Not again.

Porthos stops, not knowing what to do, but when Aramis tries to pull himself forward he comes with him to support him. Aramis sinks heavily to his knees by the body - the ground is a little damp under his jeans - whispers in Spanish, "God please let this not be -"

He touches the side of his neck, already cool, and his eyes flutter closed.

Dios te salve, Maria. Llena eres de gracia.

Porthos says, "Aramis?"

He makes himself lift his head, opens his eyes, reaches out to close eyes that will never open themselves again in this life. He crosses himself without thinking, then realises that he has blood on his hand and stops; he doesn't know which one of them it belongs to.

There is a perfect slit down the centre of the man's chest, like a blade was plunged cleanly in. He looks up at Porthos and Porthos puts a hand on his shoulder to steady the both of them, face gone grim with fury like the thunder.

"That wasn't his rift."

Aramis shakes his head. "Someone killed him."

"How? How are they doing this? How'd they find him first, who the hell could kill someone in the middle of that?"

Aramis looks at how perfect the wound is, and shakes his head again. He's feeling queasier, the smell of the blood doesn't help. He sits back off his knees and hangs his head a little, concentrates on breathing, while Porthos pulls his alarm and crouches beside him, says, "What's that on his neck?"

Aramis tilts his head, and pulls the neck of the man's shirt down a little. It could be an insect bite, but it hasn't swollen red as they tend to. Just a perfect little pinprick, like a needle -

Like a dart.

He looks at Porthos, and Porthos looks back, and then they hear the doors behind them opening wider, and a language they don't speak calling out. They look up as feet turn the corner and three men see the two of them, beside the body, and all the blood.

There's absolutely no point in trying to explain that it isn't what it looks like. They both put their hands up, Porthos rumbling angrily, Aramis already praying again, now that the captain will get here soon.


Treville clears things with the police to get the two of them out of handcuffs, and to arrange access to the dead man's post mortem files as soon as they're available. In the airport again, waiting for the tedious permission to fly, he asks them for a brief debriefing before they're back in France.

Porthos looks at Aramis.

He's been dreading this since it happened. He's been dreading this for years, because he knows what it could mean, he knows that he's failing the captain in this and he doesn't want to do this to him, not after everything the captain has done for him. This shouldn't be how he repays the captain's love. He reaches out and takes Treville's hand in both of his, and says softly, "Don't worry, captain. Don't be worried. You mustn't worry."

Treville is silent for a second, then says, "What am I not to worry about?"

He takes a breath, and sighs it out, and doesn't know how to . . .

Porthos says, blunt because there's no point pretending the facts away with watery words, "He had a seizure."

Aramis closes his eyes for a second, then opens them to smile at the captain again. "It wasn't an episode."

"What do you mean - tell me what happened."

Aramis holds his hand, and Porthos says, "His face went funny an' he couldn't talk right -"

"I went blind. My arm was numb."

"Then he was just out, he wasn't doin' anything, he was just down."

"I didn't see anything. It wasn't an episode." He holds the captain's hand, which is stiff and unresponsive, and he never wanted this to be true for him. He swallows, says, "Captain, it would make sense that there's some - damage, after all these years -"

"You had a seizure."

"Only a little one," he offers, because he's not stupid, he does know what it means, but he just wants to offer what comfort he can. No wonder he's felt like he's running out of time. And, yes, he knows what it means to the captain, to Porthos. He knows exactly what it means.

He smiles at him, says, "I'm fine now."

Treville stares at him. Aramis has never seen him look so old.

He loves the captain. He wishes he could make this not be true for him. He wishes he was stronger than what his powers have done to him. He wishes so many things, because there's Porthos as well now and Aramis can't fail both of the most important people in his life, can he?

And he can't, he knows, sudden and sure in that second. Aramis can't let the ravages of his episodes wreck his brain. Because someone brought that man down and slit him open like a sacrifice: because someone is attacking affinities, and damn everything Porthos is his circle and Porthos is Porthos. As long as Aramis lives he'll protect Porthos. And when it comes his time to die, lacking in humility as he is, he will go kicking and screaming and shooting and biting for one more chance to protect Porthos, for one more second defending his back -

He says, again, surer now, "I'm fine."

Treville stares back at him, not moving to take his hand back, hardly moving at all. Aramis looks at Porthos, who returns his gaze straight-backed but bleak.

Porthos is his circle. Aramis can't leave him alone, to discover what it's like trying to hold your rift down on your own. There's Flea now - he could form a circle with Flea but Aramis knows he doesn't want to, it hardens his throat with knowing it, Porthos wants Aramis. So he'll be there for Porthos. He will. And he won't do this to the captain, he won't, and never to Porthos. He can't. Porthos has lost his mother, lost his friends, lost his home, lost everything and Aramis can't be one more thing for him to have to lose.

Things he knows: Porthos is beautiful, and God is good.

His brain hurts. He feels the wrongness in it, the echo of what happened to it, the angry, gristly feeling of bad inside the tissue. But as long as he's alive he can pray and he can fight, and Porthos will help him, he knows Porthos will help him.

He pats the captain's hand and puts it down, and finds a smile to aim at his greyed, aged face. "I hope this won't take much longer," he says, and looks thoughtfully up to the airport's high ceiling. "I'm hungry."

He's not. He just thinks that they'd like to hear it.

Porthos sighs, reaches across and wags Aramis' head left and right by the back of his hair. Aramis closes his eyes, and trusts his hands.

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