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

Disclaimer: Right now all I own is overwork and stress.

Rating: Hard R? No idea.

Warnings and spoilers: The main list's on part one, read sensibly.

Summary: Four dreams and a memory.

Note: Still haven't replied to comments, I know, *exhausted*, sorry, working ridiculous amounts to a deadline I could cry every time I think of. Fanfic is excusable because beyond a certain point in the day, I go from being bad at philosophy to incapable of philosophy and I don't own a telly to veg out with anyway -_-

It's not that Treville's life goes on hold when his water and air affinities are away, even after one of them prophesises his own uncertain death. It's not that his days revolve around the two of them alone, it never has been, he's a busy man, he has a web of agents around the world to co-ordinate as they follow stories and rumours and leads all sounding like they may lead to a breaking rift. It never has been Aramis' unpredictable episodes alone guiding them to the next potential member of their circle though Aramis is - this too is unpredictable, no-one who knows Aramis would assume it of him - the most efficient route to a rift, every time. Treville always has plenty to do whether the two of them are present in the villa or not. Treville is a busy man.

And that holds true still, even as often as they're away now that they're eighteen and officially their own responsibility. It holds true quite admirably until the evenings, when the villa's day shift heads home and the slighter night shift moves in, and Treville is as off duty as he ever gets and suddenly, suddenly he's in alone in the villa without ever-uneasily awaiting the activation of Aramis' alarm, without the two of them in the cafeteria making so much noise just for the joy of being young and alive, without Porthos, shamefaced, knocking on his door to mumble that he helped Aramis climb into an interesting looking air vent and now they can't get him out again. His life without them is so much less chaotic, the villa is so much more quiet.

When he can admit it to himself, he misses them like he would miss his sight.

In the summer's dusk he goes to stand on the patio overlooking the gardens where he meets Porthos for Sunday morning coffee in a casual, uncommented on, just-happened-to-bump-into-you-here way when the weather is good, and looks off across the deep blue grounds, smells the grass in the night. It's uneasily quiet when they're not here, he dislikes the lack of his own anticipation of their anarchy. The sense that all hell could break loose at any given moment, for good or bad, has for a few years now meant that they're here and they're safe, that sense has in its own strange way become what home means. The two of them, wild as kites in a storm and then so suddenly so tranquil, a lake in summer, so peacefully happy together you could almost believe that they never were mayhem in the form of teenage boys. The villa is so large, and yet Treville never feels the size of it except when they're gone.

Last night he dreamed of the orphanage.

He leans on the patio's railing, watches bats flit around the copse at the foot of the grounds. He does know, in a rational way, that he never will forget that orphanage, that even if it hadn't been where he'd picked up Aramis to begin with it would have scoured itself into his memory, something to rise at the slightest prompt. The smell, the risen sewage in the street, the sense of increasing dread pushing his stomach further and further down into the cavity of his guts, the looks on the faces of the nuns he first met. They knew why he'd come, to some extent at least. They thought he'd come from the school, from some authority, wondering about a boy's sudden disappearance, though they didn't understand why he was French and needed a translator. They said, when forced to confront that anything had happened at all, that René was ill and could not be visited; and all the while the radiator in the corner of the room ran with water, and when he asked why they didn't just turn the supply off they said uneasily that nothing stopped it, and swapped the buckets on the sopping towels laid on the floor.

He had that conversation in an office stinking of dirty water four floors below where they'd shut the boy away, as if prayer and darkness could take away the monster that they saw in him.

Now Aramis has gone with Porthos, quite cheerfully, to pick up an earth affinity he's convinced will join their circle and be someone he will always want to spend the rest of his life with, and incidentally he might die in the process, which Treville is still trying to put out of his mind. There may be something admirable in Aramis' ease of affection, even if it leads to problems for Treville, sometimes - probably better that he's transferred most of his physical neediness onto Porthos, better that he hugs Treville now only in greeting or particular joy, better that Treville doesn't have to explain to superiors that Aramis is just like that and just likes touching people and just happened to end up in his bed once, this is better even if he has to make himself not remember the fourteen year old scuffing along too close at his side, one hand on his back as if for balance but really for comfort. Once used to it, there is something comforting about the familiarity of how tactile Aramis always is, as if he really is so certain that his affection is deservedly placed.

Treville just remembers Marsac too much.

In his dream, 'Athos' had looked like him. He had stood at the base of the stairs in the orphanage wearing Marsac's face, had stopped him going up, said that Porthos had gone for Aramis, Treville wasn't needed. Treville's stomach had gnawed with anxiety but he knew that there was nothing he could do, he couldn't interfere with a circle, he had to trust them but Athos-Marsac wore that smirk he did sometimes and Treville had really known it was trouble from the start, pairing Aramis - at the time fifteen and over-fluid, over-easy, over-bright and enthusiastic - with a difficult and proud air affinity two years older than him when they had barely enough words in common to share a sentence, let alone a conversation. Marsac was angry at being torn from his life and resentful for weeks while Aramis watched him as if waiting for his opening, and Treville knew that Aramis had confused himself about who was cat and who was mouse in that situation.

He remembers the morning he saw them at breakfast in the cafeteria and he knew what had changed in the night, something in the way they both sat, and looking at them his face had gone hot-cold and his stomach panned and his hands hurt to be fists. He knew, knew, that nothing had happened that Aramis hadn't wanted since the day that they met. But why, then, why did Marsac look so smug, and under all his teasing and cheerfulness, why did Aramis look so faintly -

He would like to call it confusion. He doesn't know why it's so much worse, black-in-every-artery worse, that under it all Aramis looked surprised.

(When does a psychic ever look like something beyond their expectation has happened . . . ?)

He shakes both memory and dream from his mind; natural for him to dream that now. Anxiety about how important this is and how his affinities are coping out there, doing God knows what but probably never the most practical thing, anxiety about Aramis' certainty of his own not-death. Just an anxiety dream. He keeps his hands on the railing and leans his shoulders back, feeling the ache of too long in that damn office chair, and lets his breath out slowly at the now night time garden, silent around him but for a few unsettled birds in the black knotting of the copse's branches.

The phone in his jacket pocket begins to ring.

With Aramis away Treville managed to get another agent to help him change the ringtone from Livin' On a Prayer to something more neutral, but the caller still makes his breath hold and release with sheer relief before he answers.

"Hola capitán, sorry we didn't call sooner, ça va?"

Why did he think that Aramis learning French would make him more easy to follow . . . ?


Porthos sits beside the pool, feet in the water, keeping an eye on Aramis hanging like a dead thing over the pool float in case he falls asleep on it and slides in; eyes closed and limp as he is, Porthos is going to need to watch close to be able to tell the difference. He should have known sooner that Aramis spent the last two days running off excitement and adrenaline - no wonder he was so fucking hyper - until, in the car driving to the villa with Athos, with Athos having agreed to come with them, he had no reason to force himself on anymore. After driving both of them nuts for a bit, like a kid refusing to give in to the nap, he gradually slid down in his seat and was asleep within twenty miles. Porthos had just leaned back to cover him with his jacket. Too many episodes in too little time, and Aramis had exhausted himself just staying conscious for them.

Now Porthos tries to keep him awake in the water, because it turns out that water affinities are lying fucks who really can drown. "No sign of his highness yet."

"He's a count," Aramis murmurs over the float, without opening his eyes. "I believe his proper form of address is something like 'the Right Honourable'."

"The Right Honourable Count Up-His-Own-Arse."

Aramis sighs over the float. "I'd sleep in after all that alcohol too."

Porthos thinks about that, and kicks at the water a little ruefully, a little sulkily. When they set out to pick up a missing quarter of their circle it wasn't exactly like he wanted another Aramis, because Aramis is pretty fucking exhausting all on his own, but Athos in his silence and gloom is like the anti-Aramis and Porthos really wasn't expecting that either. What they have to deal with - what they're going to have to tiptoe around, something neither of them are good at - is the fact that Athos is grieving, and betrayed, and in constant physical pain, and dealing with a fucking lot, actually.

Porthos doesn't really remember grieving, he was so young. Maybe he didn't grieve. Maybe it just took a part of him away, a hole in his heart, he never felt secure in himself punctured as he was until he met Aramis, who fills up every part of him. No-one has ever loved him like Aramis does, and he knows that absolutely, knows it like gravity. The way Aramis looks at him, Porthos has never even thought about not thinking of himself as someone who would ever receive that sort of look. Who ever thinks that someone's going to love them like this? Those looks like Aramis adores him, like Aramis worships him, and Aramis has had so much practice at worship . . .

But now there's not just Aramis, now there's Athos too, and Porthos feels uneasy of what they'll ever be to each other. How is Porthos - Porthos - ever supposed to get on with the sunken, drunken wreck of the Right Honourable Count Up-His-Own-Arse? Aramis gets on with everyone he's not actively trying to piss off, Porthos . . .

Last night he dreamed about Charon.

Just, fuck, he dreams about London too much. He wakes up from those dreams with Aramis under his arm, breathing slow into the pillow, skin so smooth against his. He doesn't want to forget Charon, he doesn't want to pretend his old life away, Aramis isn't the only one who lives a precarious existence on time's tilting borders, Porthos remembers London. And then he dreams about Charon demanding that Porthos form a circle with him, he's the one who's always been there, Porthos should be with him. And Porthos knew that telling him that it doesn't work like that, that he can't - he knew that that was a lie of such subtle omission.

Because it's not just that he can't. Aramis props himself a little more upright on the float, looks drowsily across at him, says, "Do you think we should go try to wake him again?"

"He cussed us out pretty bad the last time," Porthos murmurs, and looking into Aramis' eyes, he will not leave him. It's not can't. It's won't. Arm over his beautiful back in bed, he'd flattened his palm over his stomach, slid it up and around his side, felt Aramis wake with the curving of a cat to his touch, smiling as his breath sighed out. It felt weird, hot-stomached weird, sucking Aramis' cock with the thought of Charon's accusing eyes still in his mind but maybe weird turns him on, he is with Aramis, and rocking himself off against his stomach afterwards he came so hard to his skin and his hands and his kiss and his filthy whispers under his ear, equally obscene in three different languages.

Porthos won't leave him. It's not just that he won't last on his own and they all know that. What the fuck does Porthos have if he doesn't have Aramis?

Sometimes he thinks about how he would tell Charon. He couldn't, in the dream, shame stopped him, and now he looks at that emotion and feels as sick as he knows he should: why the fuck is he ashamed of telling anyone that he's with Aramis like this? Flea didn't care but Flea never fucking did, the Pride parade was Flea's favourite thing, and Charon thought the idea of Flea getting off with another girl was hot anyway. But when fights started on the streets, when they casually insulted their teachers and classmates, when he was just expressing vague disapproval of something -

Porthos does know how Charon felt about even the word 'gay'. And he isn't, he's bi, and Aramis is Aramis, but he thinks of looking Charon in the eye and telling him . . .

The door to the corridor opens, and they both look across at Athos standing there half in and half out of the room, uneasy on his feet and hipflask in one hand. Aramis smiles, still a little sleepy, and Porthos spots his trunks floating on the water some distance away.

Welcome to the circle, Athos.

Aramis says cheerfully, "Buenos día', Athos." and Porthos nods, and Athos, blinking weary eyes and steady because he's holding the doorframe, nods back.

"The captain will want to see you," Aramis says, and rolls into a lazy backstroke to swim back to Porthos, because his trunks are floating away and he's an epic shit. It takes Athos a few seconds - he's clearly prepped himself for this encounter with copious amounts of alcohol, not even knowing exactly how much he would need it - before his face freezes, and he saves himself with scrabbling the lid from his hipflask for a hasty, hot-faced drink.

Porthos offers him a hand to climb out of the pool and tells him in Spanish, "You are such a wanker."

"It would be ungenerous of me
not to share," Aramis says, a puddle under his feet and yet completely dry, stepping into his underwear. They both look back to Athos, who just glares back at them like their shit is so far down his list of priorities right now, and Aramis grins.

Porthos loves him, smug little psychic shit that he is, whatever Athos might think, whatever Charon would think. Porthos loves him. Which, given his shithead tendencies, really is a good thing.


Athos gets used to them, slowly.

He suspects that their 'reporting' to Treville - who informs Athos that he's not actually a captain, but there's no point in trying to dissuade Aramis of anything - was their warning Treville exactly what to expect. He can't pretend that he's not listing, not sleepy with spirits, for most of the day; he still needs to drink just to feel human in a morning, though he can sometimes manage a little normality in the afternoons, before evening drags the need for numbness sharper again.

But, since arriving in the villa five days ago, he's only drunk himself unconscious the once. He doesn't remember what happened then though he has his bitter suspicions, because he woke undressed to his shirt and underwear in bed, with a glass of water on the bedside table and his increasingly impressive bottle collection ranked against the wall of the room rather than scattered across its floor.

The pain is less, though not gone. Aramis promised him that that would happen, that they're all better with each other than alone, as much as Athos still does want, often, just to be left alone. It's not just the pain that makes him ache for the bottle, after all. And after Athos is used to them happening every few minutes at the most, if Aramis has had one of his 'episodes' since they returned to the villa, Athos hasn't seen it. The ones he's already seen had already told him all he needs to know. They're 'better' with each other; they're not mended. Something in them broke and the break is something they have to live with until their circle is sealed, and they all pay a price for that.

For a few days he thinks that Porthos' price is just having to babysit that infuriating Chilean reprobate until he wakes one morning confused in the deep waters of his dream, to the sound of thunder reeling the horizon up in enormous fingers, taking the whole earth from its edges.

Alone in his room, hungover and still quite drunk, he listens to the thunder, and remembers that the weather is Porthos' domain and would he let a storm happen or would he be more likely - he can be tempestuous - to make one . . . ? There's no rain though there's a deepened quality to the light getting underneath the curtains Athos never opens. He feels the stormy edge to the air, the potential of electricity along the hairs on the skin. To make himself not think of the dream he tries to think what might inspire this in Porthos instead, because while Porthos often glares at him and no-one could compete with Aramis for serenity of temper, Porthos is still patient enough to deal with that infuriating psychic pain in the arse, and thus patient enough to deal with anything.

His dream oppresses the room with the memory of the mocking serenity of water lilies, pale and perfect. He staggers up for a very cold shower, spills as little as he can in refilling a hip flask, and goes to find those two.

They're not in either of their rooms - they always sleep in the one with the alarm over the bed, though he often finds them in the one with the record player in the daytime, listening to old music and batting conversation back and forth, using each other for pillows and teasing each other roundly and affectionately. They're not in the corridor's kitchen - the layout of this living corridor reminds him of a much more modern version of the first staircase he lived on in college, clearly a recent conversion in the villa - and he doesn't really want to stumble all the way to the pool, where Aramis is likely to be smugly naked, or the shooting gallery where he's so strangely un-Aramis, intent only on improving Athos' and Porthos' aim, his joking almost entirely gone, something strangely soldierly in him, then.

Until he got here, Athos had only ever shot at grouse.

There's a common room of sorts at the end of the corridor, and, for once, he can hear noise inside it.

He creaks the door open, squints in, too much of the day's grey light; they're on a sofa in front of the television, which at eight in the morning seems to be tuned to some sort of Spanish language football match. Porthos looks back at him and grins, and thunder tugs - Athos realises now that it's doing it playfully - at the foundations of the earth, shivering the sky like laughter. Aramis doesn't even turn around.

Athos has been inspired to shouting at Aramis more than once, and Aramis responds with smiles and placidity every time, Athos has never even seen him raise his voice except in excitement. Right now he stops tugging on his own hair to throw his hands in the air and continue his yelling stream of what's presumably fury at the television, like all of civilisation has collapsed because the wrong team is winning, and Porthos looks at him like it's the funniest thing that's ever happened, the attempt not to grin too hard making his cheeks glow.

Athos catches the back of the sofa to make his way around it - tight corners are a problem - and sits with a grunt. "Who does he support?"

"Twenty minutes ago it was the ones in red, now seems t'be the ones in blue." Porthos gives Aramis an amused look, ruffles his hair while Aramis covers his eyes and moans his frustration at the screen. "Fickle bastard supports whoever's losin'."

Athos watches the teams scrabble about, unsuccessfully trying to follow the excited commentary - almost as fast as Aramis on a roll. "You much into football?" Porthos says, offering across a packet of biscuits which Athos would refuse but then he realises quite how much his stomach hurts in its emptiness, and takes a couple instead.

"Rugby, mostly."

Porthos grunts, which means, posh boy. "Make him watch boxing sometimes, he gets bored too quick. Don't you, arsehole?"

Aramis is hissing at the screen what are probably curses unto the referee's tenth generation. Athos eats a biscuit.

He dreamed last night that there were water lilies on the surface of the pool, and somehow the body face-down in it belonged to two people at once. He watches Aramis out of the corner of his eye, he always thinks of his unpredictability as something that must be planned for, contained, controlled, and nothing about him reminds him of Thomas. Thomas was a shy and earnest boy, hopeless in any practical matter, dreamy and distant and vague. Athos had done his best for his little brother, done everything he could think of because Thomas couldn't possibly be trusted to manage it on his own. He told Treville during his interview that he had once been in the Officers' Training Corps; he didn't tell him that he'd quit in case of the possibility of Thomas wanting to follow him into it, because the thought of his little brother mixed up in anything to do with the military filled him with dread. Too innocent, too hesitant, too easily led. A lethal combination.

We're the same, Aramis had insisted, and Athos watches Porthos bluster amused wind at the windows while putting a 'commiserating' arm around Aramis' shoulders at the goal that inspires a wounded moan from him. They're not the same, Athos thinks, Aramis hanging his head and Porthos finally laughing out loud, backed by the thunder; Thomas was shy even in to be in a swimming costume, Aramis quite casually climbs out of the pool naked but for a golden cross, Aramis is more than open about what he and Porthos have been up to in private, Aramis - Aramis is Aramis. He has no concept of either too much information or too little personal space. This boy and Athos' brother are in no way the same.

Except that the body in the pool was one body, and sometimes in his quiet moments, Athos does see in Aramis' eyes a heart too warm, the same problem that Thomas always had, that everything feels too much all at once, that sense of . . .

Perhaps he should have always known that Thomas would turn out to be psychic. There was always something of the saint, the mystic to him. Not quite of this world, and not sure how to go about pretending that he was. You put it down to the oddity of children and then the difficulty of adolescence, never understanding that it's just the person until it's too late.

Aramis, a much bolder soul, doesn't even trouble himself to pretend normality. Now he leans his face into Porthos' shoulder and groans out his agony there while Porthos rubs his back and grins. The referee blowing time makes Aramis clutch Porthos' arm to shield his face properly and give a final moaned curse, as if his life has ended because someone had to lose a football match.

Athos knows what his cold unmoving chest feels like underneath his hands.

Water lilies in the pool, and the body face-down.

The wind strikes off the windows almost like the victorious drumming of a military band. Porthos scuffs the hair on Aramis' still-slumped head, says cheerfully, "What're we up to today, then?"

Athos feels the twinge of the bones inside him, and unscrews the hipflask. "I thought the shooting range," he says, raising it to his lips. "If Aramis can quite recover himself."

He needs to get better. He dislikes the distance between himself and Aramis; Porthos is a poor shot but Aramis insists that in action he's near-perfect, he just seems incapable of replicating it on the shooting range (he also insists that Porthos is a better shot when drunk, but how they discovered that is something Athos is probably better not knowing), but to say that Aramis is accurate is almost comically inadequate. Aramis is lethal, can circle Athos' shots in the firing range targets with a pretty, perfect circle of bullets, impossibly tight. And he's already had a gun aimed on Athos once before . . .

Aramis sits up and looks young and gloomy in that moment, and it's not his bones, the pain that twists in Athos then. The body in the pool and the peaceful, perfect water lilies. One young man who was Athos' responsibility, who he never was there for enough, never did think of enough so wrapped up in his own life, has been murdered already. The body in the pool, the flowers so pale. However much he respects the single and combined power of those two almost-children on the sofa next to him, Athos still needs to get better with a gun because he already knows that he can't survive it twice. They're young, and in their own difficult way, they're good people, and Athos has to be able to help them in the way he never could help his brother.

Every day he's more used to them. Every day he learns a little more; that Aramis is placid only until really riled, that Porthos shakes the sky with laughter as well as anger. That they settle and balance each other, that when one is down the other helps them up, that when one is up they tug the other higher with them - and that they offer it all to him, too, uneasily as yet, too aware of how unwelcome their proffered hands might be.

One of these days, Athos might have the courage to be as easy with them as they want to be with him.

Aramis says, "I will never recover. Injustice leaves its bitter marks as scars upon my tender heart." Then, "Does anyone want a drink?" and he pushes himself off the sofa, and strolls for the door, stretching as he goes.

The thunder gives Porthos' soft laugh for him, and without even thinking about it, Athos' mouth gives a quick, wry twitch.


He dreams that they're back in those parched gardens around that horrible house, surrounded by people quietly talking, people with accents that make Porthos' back itch, all of them holding plates of food and glasses of drink and dressed very proper and sombre, and Porthos is angry with Aramis because he shouldn't be here, he knows what that house does to him, he knows what happens next -

"But I have to be here, Porthos, you know we have to -"

Just when he's so angry he might shake him he realises - stone cold in his stomach - that this is Athos' funeral, that he's getting angry with Aramis at Athos' funeral, and he feels like he's been hit in the face with a sack of ice, he feels awful. He feels so shitty about it, about how he's behaved and then just that Athos is dead that his eyes betray him, his throat goes hard, and Aramis takes his arms, looks so pleading, says, "Porthos, you know he's not really dead, don't - there there, Porthos -"

Porthos wakes up mid-snore, which always feels weird, and blinks at Aramis' bedroom ceiling a few times, baffled. He can hear rain on the window, steady and sad. Fucking weird dream. Fucking weird dream. What the fuck . . .

Aramis has shuffled in the night, he's somehow sleeping happily with his face stuffed into Porthos' armpit. Porthos shifts the aching muscles in his arm and Aramis sighs, pats at his side, starts to lift his head but then just yawns and curls in again, burrowing his face between Porthos' chest and the mattress if he insists on shifting his arm out because it's, you know, fucking numb after he's slept on it all night. Porthos thinks about telling him that he's a bastard but it's first thing in the morning and he just woke from a dream about Athos' funeral, he's really not in the mood.

Aramis' arm hooks around his stomach, and he rubs his side, says muffled into his t-shirt, "You okay?"

Porthos settles his arm around underneath Aramis', so he can slide his fingers between his against his side. "Yeah," he says, still looking at the ceiling, thinking. Thinking . . .


He turns his head, uneasily, to look at the mop of Aramis' hair. "Why'd you ask me that?"

"You know," Aramis says, and yawns again into his side. "Not a nice thing to dream."

Porthos is silent for a long, long second, making sure that he does remember - he definitely does remember - he really, picking through every memory of the day so brief so far, he remembers - not actually telling Aramis what he was dreaming before he woke. "Aramis," he says, slowly.

Still muffled, "Mm?"

Porthos strokes the side of his hand with his thumb, making sure this doesn't sound accusing. "How'd you know what I just dreamed?"

Aramis is silent for a moment, then swears in quiet Spanish and sits up, scuffing his hair back, blinking down at Porthos lying on his side. "Sorry," he says. "I - sorry. I promise I'm not prying."

"You know I know you can't control it."

Aramis presses his lips together, nods uneasily. "I don't really know whose dream that was. I think yours. I'm - having some trouble with dreams. I think it's Athos, I think my powers are trying to - work out what he means, now he's here."

"What trouble," Porthos says patiently, not about to panic unless he has to, "are you havin' with dreams?"

Aramis sits there cross-legged, eyes down, and begins playing with the hem of Porthos' t-shirt for something to do with his hands. "They're not like episodes," he says, to the t-shirt.

Porthos says evenly, "Good." because the last thing they fucking need is more of those things.

Aramis looks to the side, and tugs at the t-shirt's hem. "My dreams have been really weird. Like they're - not my dreams, ¿cachai? Like I'm watching other people's dreams." He swallows, and watches the wall. "I think my powers . . . you know I've always been sort of - porous. I think my powers don't understand why Athos isn't here when we're sleeping. I think they think, Oh, you're a circle, why aren't you all together? and then they go wandering off to find him and instead I pick up - dreams, other people's dreams. But it's fading off. I was getting all kinds of strange things at first, now it's mostly yours, I think because I'm close enough to pick them up."

"Because you fucking climb on top of me as soon as I fall asleep."

"You're warm." Aramis says, like it's the irrefutable concluding move in a long line of reasoning. "Other people's dreams I just see, yours it's like I'm there. But it's fading already, I think it'll stop, soon, and I'll get my own dreams back." He smiles at him. "No te preocupíh. I'll be out of your head again in no time."

Dubiously, "Your powers want Athos in bed with us."

Aramis shrugs, and the smile is really a grin now. Porthos thinks about that, because he knows Aramis, he loves Aramis, he doesn't want to force Aramis into any box that would suffocate him, and eventually says still without knowing how he really feels about it, "You wanna fuck him?"

"I don't think he's interested." Aramis meets his eyes calm and smiling, and tugs at his t-shirt again. "I already have a very handsome, very interested man here in my bed. So long as he keeps me satisfied I have no reason to look elsewhere."

"No-one could keep you satisfied, you literally don't get shagged out."

"Well, you have more stamina than most." Aramis coils his fingers playfully in the t-shirt, pulling it tauter above Porthos' belly, letting the air in underneath it; his muscles jump a little, but it definitely doesn't feel bad.

Porthos takes a breath, tells himself he isn't going to jinx it, says, "You haven't had an episode since we got back."

Aramis looks at the strip of skin he's revealed, thumb and fingers stroking the t-shirt's fabric for something to touch, and he shakes his head.

Five days already. He used to do five day stretches when Porthos was new to his circle, but the last six months he hasn't once made three days in a row. He begins peeling the t-shirt back with a little more urgency, dragging it up from underneath Porthos' body now, looking into his eyes and murmuring, "Do you want to celebrate?"

Porthos thinks of the dream, thinks of how fucking wrecked he felt in it, and thinks of Aramis being there - Aramis really being there, not just the dream-Aramis his brain made up but actually Aramis, trying in his clumsy Aramis way to comfort him. That feels good. That feels a lot better.

"Hey," he says, as Aramis puts a knee over his hips to straddle him, shifting him to his back as he pulls Porthos' t-shirt up his chest to bunch in his armpits. "Why'd you tell me Athos wasn't really dead?"

Aramis stares into space above Porthos' head for a second, and says, "I have no idea." before bending his back, and his breath touches warm onto Porthos' nipple. "Must be something I remembered." He laughs, softly, and his quick teasing tongue jolts Porthos' back. "So we'll get around to it sooner or later, ¿cachai?"


There's a morning mist in Santiago, and he walks to school with one little one on his shoulders, pushing another ahead of himself, dragging a third by the backpack while the boy skids and scrambles in his backwards-walk behind him. They're late, and René will be in trouble as well now - it's too much effort to explain that he had to help find the boys who'd decided that they wouldn't go to school today, and that it was only luck that they chose to hide in a linen cupboard he's particularly familiar with so they're not even later. These things can't be helped, and it's really not like René has any sort of perfect disciplinary record at school to be broken now, he'll take his punishment as it comes. Too dishonourable to blame his own lateness on the little ones; he could have just walked off and left them to be the sisters' problem, after all.

"Renéeeee," the boy dragged backwards moans. "I don't want to go to school."

René just keeps walking, and says placidly, "No-one wants to go to school."

"Then why do we have to," the boy being pushed mutters, and René gives him another little launch forwards by the backpack.

"Because adults are sadists. The sooner you learn this lesson the better."

The boy on his shoulders leans down and whispers to his ear, "Sofia is in love with you."

René tilts his head to whisper back, "It's not gentlemanly to share these things."

The boy being pushed snaps, "I don't want to go to school."

René says, "You have to behave at school. You know how it looks for the sisters if we don't."

"I don't want to go to school."

Qué lata. "Behave and I'll give you a chocolate bar."

"You don't have a chocolate bar."

"I can get a chocolate bar." Find the right tourist, help the poor creature get to where it intended before the dialect got it hopelessly lost, look cute. Works every time.

The boy being pulled scrabbles his heels again, his sulk battling his avarice, and says, "I want a chocolate bar."

"You see how these transactions work," René says, tugging the boy forward by the backpack strap and giving him a little launch to get ahead, so he's now walking forwards at least. "Give and take. Good behaviour is rewarded."

The boy he's still bumping along one push of the backpack at a time mutters, "What d'you get out of it?"

René thinks about it, a little thrown by the question. What does he ever barter to gain? He already has everything in his life that he can imagine wanting.

"Perhaps I just enjoy the transactions," he says, and shifts his shoulders under the weight of the boy on his shoulders, and quirks a grin as they walk.

And Aramis wakes, slow in the bed, slow as the shifting of a summer sea. His mind stays steeped in the dream, the dream he recognises as a memory, and he breathes in the scent of Santiago and feels the way the streets felt under the soles of his shoes, and he remembers -

What he remembers, what cracks his eyes open to the morning, is that he doesn't remember these things anymore. He lost them. Aramis ate them. Aramis took René's life and squeezed all of the René out of it to make room for himself. But now he remembers - faces and particular laughter and his own child's mind -

He sits with a start, and Porthos shifts on the mattress beside him, mumbles, "Ar'mis . . . ?"

Aramis tumbles from the bed, manic with memory, hardly believes in all the memory, such richness of it, do normal people have all this, all this in their heads, like their brains are treasure chests to pick through of the bright-shining everything they used to be? For years he's lost more and more, felt it slip out like sand spilling through an hourglass to make room for all the future piling up, for all the memories that never happened to him -

He is, mercifully, dressed enough; he doesn't think he could co-ordinate himself to care to put on more clothes right now. In boxers and t-shirt he opens the door and sprints down the corridor while Porthos yells, "Aramis!"

He doesn't look back and doesn't bother to knock, there's no time in all the excitement for knocking, he just barrels into Athos' room and Athos gives a snorting jolt on the bed and looks bewildered at Aramis dropping to his knees by his head and knocking a tipped bottle aside, grabbing his face and announcing fervently, "I love you." and kissing him hard and heartfelt on the forehead.

Athos makes a noise like Aramis might just have wounded him.

Porthos stumbles into the doorway, panting and staring at them, as Aramis stands up, looks around the room dense with darkness with the curtains pulled against the morning, and he remembers the slant of sunlight across Santiago, skimming the straight sides of buildings as he walked to school just four years ago and but it might as well have been someone else's life until it was restored to him. He puts his hands in his own hair and remembers so much of himself that he doesn't know whether to laugh or cry or jump on anyone and fuck for joy -

It's first thing in the morning, and he feels like he's floating.

He says, "I'll make coffee." and walks out, runs his hand around Porthos' side as he goes, begins humming, he can't stop the smile, he's still in there, somewhere, René is still in there, not forgotten, not yet, not buried under the weight of the future, not dead, not yet.

Behind him he hears Porthos say to Athos, "You c'n ask for an explanation but I'm gonna tell you now it won't make it make more sense."

Aramis barks the laugh at the ceiling, and does a little skip in his walk for the kitchen.

Three quarters of a circle and another fraction of his life restored, three quarters of a circle and that sliver further from disappearing, three quarters of a circle and now he feels the true hope that they can survive.

One quarter to go.

God is good, Porthos is beautiful, Athos holds his past and future, and Aramis is blessed.

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