rainjoyswriting: (kurt!)
[personal profile] rainjoyswriting
Instincts part one, Little Lights in the Dark, Musketeers fic, stupid exorcist fic (currently tagged, I'll sort out getting them properly organised in my memories in a while). Guess whose shoulder is beginning to feel better <3

Disclaimer: lol yeah this looks like an officially sanctioned piece of fiction

Rating: R just because disturbing shit happens, thanks vampires.

Warnings: Vampires remain as disturbing as I promised on part one; people trafficking, violence and murder and the awful link between sex and power and violence you get with vampires, be wary of that throughout this verse.

Summary: Candles lit in dark places.


Affinityverse!Aramis: Not to be difficult, but you left me midway through a piece in a rather compromising position if you wouldn't mind . . .

Rainjoy: Just let me get this out of my head, be back with you soon, promise.

Exorcist!Aramis: Oh, hello there.

Affinityverse!Aramis: Charmed and delighted, monsieur.

Rainjoy: No. Both of you. No.

Mpreg!Aramis: It's getting crowded in a very pleasing way in here.

Rainjoy: ALL THREE OF YOU NO. NO. YOU ARE MARRIED. YOU'RE SHAGGING A *WEREWOLF*. AND YOU NEED TO STOP HAVING SEX WITH PEOPLE TEN YEARS OLDER THAN YOU FUCKING HELL.

Exorcist!Aramis: I don't think Porthos would mind. I think he'd quite like to watch.

Rainjoy: jesus god in heaven what have i begun

I have too many Aramises in my head and it's becoming *terrifying*. Anyway, this 'verse only requires three prequels and then it can have a d'Artagnan, making it much more compact than the ridiculous affinityverse. So, prequels, in double time! <3










Porthos got a voicemail twenty minutes ago to say the captain wanted to see him now, which means now. He's seriously trying to work out what he's done as he walks through the sliding doors into the garrison, where he gets let through by the agent on the desk with a quick smile. He sniffs as he walks through the reception area, once a courtyard but at some time in its history, when it was modernised, it was glassed over, making a high light space underneath the first floor offices. He walks between the tables and couches and potted plants pushed to the sides -

And freezes, scent in his nose like he was just grabbed by the scruff of the neck.

He looks around without even thinking - instinct, he's shit for anything but acting on immediate instinct, and his eyes hit the man sitting back on a couch, arms folded, boots up on the coffee table, with a ratty backpack and satchel at the side of his seat. He's got a short beard, tousled dark hair - and a bandage tucked almost underneath it, high to the side of his forehead - and dark eyes, already on Porthos, breaking into a dark smile when their eyes meet.

Porthos stares at him, breathing slowly, very aware of the interest in that man's scent. Then he remembers the captain's now and drags his eyes away, hurries on, and hears the amused breath of the man he leaves behind, and thinks, Yeah, would. Definitely would. If he was okay with the werewolf thing. If he wasn't probably a witness or something and it'd be completely ethically not okay and make the captain even angrier. But, would. Here, and now, on the fucking floor tiles. Would.

The man's already passed out of his mind when he gets to Treville's office because he can smell the captain's stress outside the door, so he raises his eyebrows for Treville's receptionist who rolls her eyes back, knocks respectfully and waits for the gruff, "Enter."

He closes the door behind himself. The captain looks up from his computer, then sits back and runs a hand back through his cropped hair, and tersely indicates the seat in front of the desk. There's anger in the stress. Something's happened the captain didn't expect and now he has to deal with it and fuck, what did Porthos do?

Porthos sits and is glad the captain can't smell the fear off him, as he discreetly rubs his palms off his thighs, desperately running through fuck-ups he'd thought he'd got away with until now.

Treville says, "We have a new exorcist."

Porthos stares at him. "Already? I thought after -"

He stops. It's been, what, three weeks since the massacre, the news still hasn't shut up about it, Porthos thought it would be months - fuck, it could be years - before any exorcist would be willing or able to make the move to field agent again. Treville is silent for a second, allowing that statement its proper space, then says, "Yes. Everyone agrees that more time for preparation would have made more sense apart from the man himself. D'Herblay, he turned up this morning, we weren't expecting him. He discharged himself from the hospital and made his own way here."

"D'Herb-" Porthos says, and stops again, stomach knotted cold. "That's him? That's -"

"He's the only accounted for survivor. There's no-one else it could be."

Porthos stares at him. Treville sighs, hard with anger, and says, "I've spoken to Richelieu, he thinks it's best he stays here with us, Richelieu was trying to get him discharged from the college anyway. He hasn't technically graduated but he comfortably would have very shortly, and he probably needs better protection than the college can give."

"If I was an exorcist I wouldn't wanna be there anymore either." Porthos says, because - fuck. That dark-eyed man down there with a bandage on his head, that's the guy. Rumours and news reports slight on news, that's all they've had, and that's - fuck. Fuck.

"I'm reorganising our squads." Treville says. "You were partnered with Cornet, weren't you?"

"Two months," Porthos says. He's not good at the partner thing, he keeps getting moved around. People find him stubborn, unfriendly, aggressive. He'd just rather be on his own. If they're not pack then he can't help not wanting them at his back when things get nasty.

"Every unit is being reorganised, I'm putting you in threes rather than twos. Units containing an exorcist need our most capable fighters attached to them, we can't afford to lose any more of them." Treville has very blue eyes and he might not have a werewolf's sense of smell but Porthos knows he can see even a hint of bullshit from a mile off. "You'll be working with Athos."

Porthos keeps his face as flat as he can, a non-committal frown, and thinks, Fuck, fuck Athos. Athos is the snottiest vampire here, and that's fucking saying something.

"I'm sorry this is all short notice. You can imagine - we need to move quickly."

"Yeah." Porthos says. "I get that."

"There's a safe house I want you to take d'Herblay to, immediately, and wait there for Athos before you return to your own accommodation to collect your things. The priority is not allowing him to get killed if whoever attacked the exorcists' training exercise decides to come back for him, and to make him stay put and finish healing so we can ascertain what trauma we might actually be dealing with. I'm afraid the arrangement is indefinite, Porthos, until we know what we're dealing with. We can't afford to lose him."

"Yeah. I understand." So he has to fucking live with a fucking vampire. They smell like cold dead earth when they don't smell like fresh blood, fuck.

Then he thinks, I have to live with that man with dark eyes and a dark smile.

Silver lining?

Worst idea ever?

*

Aramis kisses his way along the round of Porthos' shoulder to his breastbone, and murmurs to his skin, "I've never been with a werewolf before."

Porthos stares at the bedroom ceiling and thinks, I definitely should not have done that, but clears his throat and puts a hand up into his hair. "I didn't hurt you."

"It was glorious," Aramis purrs back, smiling to his skin before he kisses it again. He stretches his body long down the sheets to fit to Porthos' and says, "God, I needed that. Not that you are a 'that'. I honestly wasn't planning on this, that wasn't going to happen whoever you happened to be. I just saw you and - well, Lord, you know what you look like."

Porthos thinks that if Aramis didn't plan this, his off-the-cuff seduction technique is fucking terrifying and Porthos would have stood literally no chance if Aramis had had actual designs on getting them into this bed. He shifts his shoulders back comfortable into the mattress and Aramis rolls slightly off his chest to settle along his side as if he doesn't want to crush Porthos under his weight - Porthos could actually have three Aramises on him before he really noticed, but it's sweet that he's considerate - and Porthos stares at the ceiling, and thinks that this place isn't so bad. It's clean and bright, got nice high ceilings. It's basic, not fancy or anything, and it's three floors up from a restaurant but no worse than Porthos' place in terms of noise and he'll get used to the smell, everywhere smells strong to a werewolf. He can make this work.

He glances down at Aramis apparently settling for a nap using his bicep as a pillow. He can make this work if he hasn't already fucked things up irreparably just because he's not very good at saying no to his nose.

Aramis says, without opening his eyes, "I don't smell bad, do I?"

He smells like someone Porthos already wants to fuck again and probably could just keep on fucking indefinitely, he smells like a body Porthos just wants to mount. "What?"

"Well, I was on a train all morning, and I probably still smell of hospital despite all the scrubbing. I'm aware werewolves are more sensitive to these things."

"Smell fine." He leans his head down to breathe in at his hair, instinct, he's helpless against instinct. "Smell great."

Aramis grins, and opens his eyes to look up at Porthos, looking his face over as if very, very interested in it. Porthos runs a finger, very gently, around the edge of the bandage, and can tell by the scent that the wound has closed, so he unpeels the surgical tape very gently, and Aramis just watches him do it. Bandage gone he can see that it'll scar but only finely, up against his hairline where it'll probably never show - there's a more noticeable scar crossing his forehead lower down, much older - and the bruising's already sullen yellow, almost faded its way out.

Aramis watches his eyes, waiting for him to say something.

Porthos says, "Probably should've stayed in the hospital?"

Aramis sighs, and nuzzles the prickle of his bearded cheek back to Porthos' arm. "It wouldn't have helped. I'm as healed as I'll get."

What exactly that means Porthos thinks would need them to know each other better for him to be able to expand on, and maybe Porthos will never be anything but too awkward to ask for any more detail on it anyway, what's a guy meant to say after that kind of shit happens to him? He leans over the side of the bed to dump the bandage in the same bin they just dropped the condoms into. Exorcists are only human and they got attacked by a pack of fucking vampires, they stood no chance, it's a human's worst nightmare, it has to be. Goslings attacked by fucking lions. If he doesn't want to talk about it, Porthos isn't the kind to make him.

He runs a hand up and down Aramis' arm, and wonders how the fear didn't drive him mad, if the madness might just be catching up with him slowly, now. Then Aramis purrs, "You smell good." and Porthos cracks a grin, he doesn't act like fear has already essentially killed him, and Porthos settles his hand back into his hair.

"Yeah?"

"Mm." Aramis nudges his nose to Porthos' shoulder and his breath there is warm, comforting. "We should probably . . . I don't know, do something, one of the things we were actually meant to do. Did you want this room, then?"

"What? I dunno." He looks around - a few books on the lower shelves but not much else in here, the place left bare for whoever was going to need it. They didn't exactly do a tour when they got here. By the time they got here they were pretty much only capable of grabbing each other and banging a bedroom door open with their combined bodies. "Need to look around, I guess. D'you want this one?"

"I don't know," Aramis says. "It would be quite nice to sleep in the room where we first fucked."

Porthos looks at him - first fucked - and Aramis smiles hopefully, wickedly back. Porthos feels it in his stomach, that - that he doesn't know what this is, doesn't know what he might have fucked up by doing this, the guy's just out of hospital after going through insanity-inducing hell and if Treville finds out he'll do his nut but -

But he smells right, and wolves have particular feelings about these things, and he says, "Exorcists aren't psychic."

"No," Aramis says, doing the puppydog eyes thing right to a werewolf's face, smiling away. "They are optimists, though."

Porthos looks at him, and Aramis kisses the side of his chest and says, "Don't worry about it. I'm a gentleman. One step back is fine by me if that's what you want."

The thing is, werewolves are possessive. It's just a fact, instinct, werewolves are possessive, they want to possess. Porthos knows it's not a socially acceptable trait - knows that in many circumstances it's not acceptable on any level - but it is what they want. It's how pack works. You find someone, you connect, and then you spin the entire rest of the world around that connection, everything else falls into place in the ripples around the two of you, you are a pack. So he knows what he wants, and it's not one step back. He's just not sure that a scarred man he was assigned to protect all of two hours ago is a good person to start acting like a wolf with.

He says, "We'll work it out." and runs his fingers through Aramis' hair a few times, watching him settle into a comfortable position for a nap.

"Mm," Aramis says. "Things do tend to work out in the end."

Porthos strokes his fingers through his hair, beginning to think things through more now. "Aramis?"

Sleepily, "Mm?"

"If you weren't plannin' on this," he says, slowly, "why'd you pack condoms?"

Aramis' smile twitches broad in his cheeks. "Because things do tend to work out well in the end. Well, I like to be prepared for all eventualities. I learned that in the army."

"You were in the army?"

"Mm. Sniper."

"I was too, a while. Werewolf corps."

Aramis opens his eyes, looks up at him, and then doesn't say a thing about the army for either of them because they both already know it all. "Were you always a werewolf?"

". . . no. Bit when I was a teenager."

Aramis runs the backs of his fingers up and down the side of Porthos' ribs, eyes turning troubled on his. "Were you attacked?"

Porthos says, "Kind of." in a tone of voice that means shut up, and Aramis hesitates, then does, kissing the side of Porthos' chest again like it's an apology. Porthos doesn't want to explain about Charon and all that shit. Too much to deal with, he met this guy no time at all ago. "You always been an exorcist?"

"Mm? No, they'd never have let me into the regular army if we knew. You need to be put into a situation where someone can realise what you can-"

There's a clicking at the front door, a key in the lock, and Porthos sits instantly, and Aramis reaches down for the satchel at the side of the bed. Porthos slides over the sheets and growls, "Stay put," pulling his jeans back on - underwear is a luxury he doesn't have the time for right now - because Treville told him to protect this guy and they don't know who might want him dead, but mostly because werewolves are possessive, and his protective hackles have already gone all high and shivery.

He can scent as soon as he clicks the door open that it's a vampire out there; by the time he's swung it half-open he knows it's Athos, but he only starts relaxing before his back goes tense again, because his shirt is on the floor and Athos will be able to smell the sex, and - well, fuck, it's already too fucking late. Athos is still in the hallway, closing the front door behind himself. He's holding a suitcase and looking at Porthos and he knows exactly what's happened, and the expression on his face -

In a way nothing could have made Porthos more angry, that he doesn't look angry or even contemptuous, that he just looks weary, as if this situation was only to be expected. Porthos is fighting the urge to growl, not very well; it rumbles in his chest like a drill trying to get out. He manages, though it sounds like a snarl, "Athos."

The floorboards creak behind Porthos, fabric rustles, as Aramis dresses in a hurry. Porthos still doesn't know what to say to Athos and is only getting angrier with him, as the vampire looks at Aramis' emergence at Porthos' side - Aramis gives Athos an uncertain smile and receives an expressionless nod in return - and then back to Porthos, and he says as if only tired about it, "Porthos. Have you no self-control at all?"

"Hey-"

Aramis has grabbed Porthos' arm in an attempt to stop him lunging at Athos, and is dragged a good foot forwards with him instead. "From a fuckin' blood-sucker -"

Athos puts his suitcase down. "My baser instincts appear to be in check, unlike those of certain creatures."

Aramis swings around Porthos to get between them and Porthos only stops ploughing forwards because he almost tramples him, but they're right up against Athos now, and Porthos has only just noticed that Aramis has a gun in his hand. "Let's all calm down," Aramis says, "and perhaps have a nice cup of coffee, that usually makes me feel better -"

"Why've you got a gun?"

"I didn't know if it was someone technically on our side on this side of the door. Would you advise me not to carry one?"

Fair point. Athos says, "Treville said you would need to collect your belongings when I arrived."

Porthos flits his eyes to him, and -

Stops.

Aramis is standing between them, still holding Porthos' arm, looking between him and Athos with a human's obvious wariness of what could kick off between them. And Athos is a vampire. And Aramis just watched a whole bunch of his friends and colleagues get torn to bloody bits by vampires, and Porthos is seriously beginning to question the captain's judgement in this arrangement.

More than that, because he knows it's more than that: he has just fucked Aramis, with everything that means to a werewolf, and now he's being asked to leave him alone with a vampire.

Athos just looks at him, then sighs through his nose, says, "I will require a cup of coffee to get through this, yes."

"I don't even know if we have coffee, now it comes to it." Aramis' hand relaxes only a very little from gripping Porthos, and he glances at his eyes, smiling but still uncertain of his response. "It's always the same when you just move in, isn't it?"

He pats Porthos' chest, and his eyes check Porthos', subtly pleading, and Porthos takes a breath in, and grinds it hard out. He flexes his fists and lets them fall open, and huffs the growling down to only slightly harsh breath again. "S'in here somewhere," he says. "I can smell it."

"You're very useful, aren't you?" Aramis says, heading into the kitchen - the main room is open plan, sofas up near the windows and this kitchen boxed in by an L-shaped worktop near the front door. "How do you take it, gentlemen?"

Porthos was supposed to go get his stuff before bunking down to keep an eye on Aramis, but now Athos is here he's fighting against a very primal instinct not to leave them alone together. "Milk an' sugar," he says, and Athos says, "Black. Would you like to go get dressed?" he adds to Porthos, face impassive. "Or washed?"

Porthos grabs him by his jacket, and Athos glares up into his face, expression darkening by the second. "Let. Go."

"Rip the fuckin' teeth out of you," Porthos growls back, and the sound he'd barely noticed of Aramis opening and closing cupboards has stopped, and Aramis says, "Oh look, salt."

Porthos -

He drops Athos and starts back just in time - Athos' shoulders bump the front door in his hurried falling back - as the handful Aramis had scooped from a bag of seasalt taken crunching from its box is whispered to and then tossed between them, and Porthos senses how wrong it is, how little he wants it touching him, he looks at it scattered in a flimsy line on the floor in front of himself and fears it. And Aramis leans casually on his folded arms over the kitchen counter towards them, says, "It's very important to have harmony in a home. Which means that you two need to sit the fuck down and drink a cup of coffee together before Porthos goes to gather his things. I haven't even properly introduced myself yet, I should not already be having to reach for the salt."

Athos, standing upright again but making no move to cross that broken line of salt, says, "What did you do?"

"Let's just say I wouldn't touch it, were I supernatural." Aramis says. "Were I supernatural I'd probably sit down and have a nice cup of coffee about now."

Porthos and Athos still aren't moving, finally united if only in how little they trust that crunchy little scatter of salt on the floor. Athos says, "Are you actually trying to corral a vampire and a werewolf using kitchen salt?"

"The word 'trying' is out of place in that sentence." Aramis says, turning back for the kettle. "Coffee, then. Did we get as far as how everyone takes it?"

Once the cafetière's steaming Aramis locates a dustpan and brush underneath the sink to clean up the salt. Porthos has already backed all the way away by that point, has put a t-shirt on and is sitting by the window, suspicious eyes on both Athos and the salt, while Athos is stuck where he is, uncertain enough of it to not want to try to cross it. Aramis sweeps it away and Porthos' eyes go wide on the sight of the back of Aramis' neck casually bared underneath Athos' nose but Athos is still just glaring at what Aramis is doing, and as soon as it's gone and Aramis goes to bin his eerie handful, Athos walks past him and manages to ignore Porthos in sitting right opposite him.

It's not a comfortable cup of coffee. Aramis talks to Athos. Aramis talks to Porthos. Porthos feels furious whenever Aramis is looking at Athos, and worse when Athos looks back at him. Athos pointedly looks out of the window when Porthos is talking to Aramis. He says very little, even when Aramis does talk to him.

When Athos goes to retrieve his suitcase from the doorway Porthos watches him suspiciously, and murmurs to Aramis as low as he can - vampires' hearing is pretty good, humans' is fucking woeful - "You gonna be alright here with him?"

"I've survived so far," Aramis says, eyebrows raised. "You're acting like he's not a 'musketeer' too."

It's so obviously a nickname to him, not just what the department does call itself because twentieth-century rebranding can't take away centuries of work and fight and pride. It was the same for Porthos once, just stories, not something he really felt connected to. Aramis will get there. If he survives long enough for it. "He's still a vampire."

"Porthos," Aramis says, gently, "you're a werewolf."

Porthos remembers Aramis' legs wrapping around his waist, the vibrant urgency of his kiss, the thin chain of his cross falling sideways across his throat as he put his head back and closed his eyes, mouth open, and the headboard banged off the wall. Aramis has already been helpless against someone who could snap his neck like a cocktail stick once today, and he doesn't mind doing it again.

"Okay," Porthos says, and puts his hand on Aramis' knee, presses it.

He doesn't mean it, nothing about this is okay. And when he eventually does leave the two of them alone, glaring at Athos every step of the way on his way out just wanting to leap at him and turn, when he does get back to his place, he's never packed so fast in his fucking life.

*

Porthos lets Aramis have the room they first fucked in, knows he won't be able to sleep in there with the smell of it if he wants to not have a permanent erection, and Athos has holed himself up in one of the other rooms so he just has to take what's left. It's not like it's a bad room or anything, he just doesn't like the vampire getting first pick.

The whole day's awkward. Porthos brings lunch back with him, and Athos doesn't eat but murmurs responses to Aramis' conversation and looks over the room, his eyes keep falling to the tall windows onto the street. He says eventually, when Aramis is wiping breadcrumbs from his hands, "This isn't the easiest building to defend if they do come back for him."

Silence, then Aramis smiles, and says, "Why would they come back for me? I'm not that important."

Athos looks at him, and Porthos has to resist the urge to bare his teeth. "They seemed fairly determined to wipe out an entire generation of exorcists."

Aramis says, "They've already done the damage they intended to. Excuse me." and stands up, and closes the bathroom door behind himself.

Porthos hisses at him, "I know it's against your nature an' everything but c'n you just try to be fuckin' nice for him? He just got out of livin' through hell -"

"I am being nice. He's already said a number of idiotic things I've skimmed over without comment."

"Your lot already put him through enough."

Athos glares at him, stony blue eyes. "They are not 'my' anything."

Porthos' jaw goes tight and he has to think to stop his hands going just as tight on the table, and cracking it. He has to sleep in this apartment with the vampire. He has to let Aramis sleep here. What the fuck was the captain thinking?

Later, so much will change. Later, Aramis will drop every 'excuse me' towards them - manners are for strangers, them he flops on top of without warning on the sofa and announces that they're being boring, which means that they're not paying attention to him. Later, Porthos will know Athos better, and will trust him with Aramis' flimsy mortal bones out against all the hell Paris after dark can offer. Later, he will understand what the bond between Athos and Aramis means to Athos, to Aramis, that it is not a case of enslavement, that Athos isn't one of those vampires, and that Porthos' pack might be unusual but it isn't unhealthy.

All of that is later. That day they just have to get through the hours without killing each other.

Before it's dark, Aramis has put both of them in time-out with lines of salt drawn in front of doorways, cut one argument off by ringing a bell that felt like it was ringing Porthos' eardrums, and stabbed some sort of ceremonial dagger into the tabletop between them to stop their increasingly dangerous staring contest. Maybe Treville didn't mean for them to keep an eye on Aramis. Maybe Aramis is there to keep the two of them in line.

*

Just under a month later they're standing outside an apartment building with one of its windows busted outwards, Aramis giving it a speculative look with the file the captain gave them in one hand, Porthos' every sense turned onto the street around them, Athos impossible to read but scowling in the bright of the sunlight as if it's a bad thing that it's a nice day.

They shouldn't be here.

Obviously they shouldn't fucking be here. They shouldn't be here and they have to be here for exactly the same reasons: two musketeer exorcists have been murdered in the last month, attacked on their own outside of the job, and that leaves them desperately, catastrophically short-handed. They should already be training up half a dozen of the coterie of exorcists Aramis should have arrived with, if he hadn't left them all dead after that first attack, and instead they're losing exorcists at sickening rate, Porthos hardly knows how to mourn when he doesn't know if this is just something he needs to start getting used to. Exorcists have always been at a disadvantage in the fight against supernatural threat - too vital in their skills and too mortal in their bodies to escape it - but this is something else entirely, they know something is really fucking wrong now. This wasn't one attack, this is guerrilla warfare against every one of France's exorcists and no-one can be vigilant every hour of every day.

It also means that they're twitchy not only of having Aramis out in the city where he's clearly not safe but of how he's reacting to any of this, what memories it might dredge up, what trauma he's so far stubbornly refused to exhibit but which might yet move like leeches turning under his skin. The thing is, aside from making his way to Porthos' bed every night, and changing the channel if the massacre ever gets brought up on the news, he doesn't display any obvious reaction to what happened to him at all. In the abstract it sounds monstrous, and it's hard to understand how he isn't broken by it. Porthos is still working him out. He was a soldier, so it's likely that attack is hardly the first big, violent loss he's dealt with, even if the scale of it is what shocks everyone. It just doesn't seem to have shocked Aramis. Not in the daytime, anyway. Porthos has never known him sleep a single night alone - he's never even known him take a nap alone, he always tugs Porthos along to a bed for those. Porthos can't work out if Aramis would be like that with any lover or if he does turn to Porthos in a particular way, Porthos can feel the way Aramis touches him, hardly knows how to meet the way Aramis looks at him sometimes. There are little tensions in Aramis. He's never not armed, he's probably clingier than he ought to be, but where's the evidence of how damaged he should be, where is any indication that he's afraid . . . ?

Porthos glances at Athos and sniffs, but he can only smell one vampire on this street, and his shoulders relax at least a little for that.

He and Athos will probably never be friendly but they will at least with a certain level of civility sit and drink on a night, because Aramis seems to think that wine is very important in an evening - even if he drinks the least of any of them, and Porthos knows by now that it's company, not alcohol, he insists on it for. Athos won't shut himself into his room in silence if there's wine on the go, and Porthos tends to be a cheerful drunk rather than an angry one, so he minds the presence of the vampire less. Wine helps, but Porthos and Athos have got used to each other, that's all. They don't like each other or anything. Athos just apparently doesn't plan on tearing Aramis' throat out while he sleeps, so Porthos relaxes more.

After the talking, the card games, the anecdotes, the laughter, Athos will stay up because vampires are creepy fucks who hardly sleep and Porthos and Aramis will go to bed. 'Bed' is in the singular. Aramis is fine all day, bright and mellow, Porthos and Athos spend most of their time amusing him and repeating that it is not okay to go out and 'just' do something, Treville gave them orders, but then when the sun goes down Porthos looks at him and knows he can't refuse Aramis a bed beside his own warm breathing body. He can't. He can't because he's a werewolf and they fucked and it means something, to him; he can't because the guy survived hell and if he doesn't want to be on his own then he shouldn't be; he can't because Porthos wants him there, loves his arms around him, loves Aramis stroking his back, responding to his every kiss, smelling so fucking amazing.

He can't because when he looks at Aramis, he's never met a human who thinks so much like a wolf, and Porthos thinks they both keep their boundaries in exactly the same place. Aramis might be the only human who ever would actually get it.

Aramis scratches his throat under the beard and says, "Well," and heads for the front door. Athos stops him with an arm held out, and Porthos takes Aramis' wrist, eyes still flitting the street, while Aramis stands patiently confused as Athos steps forward and knocks.

Aramis says, "You do realise that so far not one exorcist has been targeted when in the company of anyone non-mortal and extremely dangerous."

Porthos, who is risking his pack out on the streets, growls, softly. Aramis gives a low rippling laugh, and lifts a hand to stroke at Porthos' arm on him, while a woman in black jeans opens the door to Athos, who shows her his badge.

"DPI. Someone at this address requested an exorcist."

"Yes - please come in." She holds the door open for them, and Aramis gives her such a dark-eyed smile, and a charmingly respectful bob of his head, as he passes. She holds the door and his eye a little startled but not displeased. She's already on edge, Porthos can smell the fear off her, can smell a lot of human fear once he's inside the building, and an oppressive damp smell. And other things. Fucking cocktail of bad smells in here, dry blood, bad cooking, something like rancid fat -

"The worst room is on the next floor," she says, gesturing for the staircase. Athos glances at Porthos and then takes it first, and Porthos shepherds Aramis onto it next so he's safely between them and Aramis says, amused, "Really."

"Don't even fuckin' start." Porthos says, and Aramis rolls his eyes like a teenager.

"Almost the first time I get out in weeks and you act like I ought to be on toddler reins."

"You were tryin' to climb out of our window yesterday."

"I only wanted some fresh air. And you'd have been suspicious if you'd heard the door."

Porthos growls under his breath, and gives him a little shove up the stairs, which only makes Aramis laugh again. But he trails his fingertips along the wall as he goes, some distant interest in his gaze.

The woman follows them, and unlocks - Porthos turns the building in his head and looks at it from the outside again - the apartment with the broken window. The smell of damp here is enough to make him gag, and that smell of bad cooking, like chicken congealed in a pan and left to rot. Aramis brushes past them into the room with his eyes already raised, and Porthos looks up with him, to the stains on the sagging ceiling, spotted and mottled like it's mouldy.

"It's worst here but it's in every apartment," the woman says. "We don't know what it is. And -"

Something bangs. Twice. As if someone's knocking to come in but knocking on the air itself, it doesn't come from anywhere, it just is everywhere and it's all Porthos can do not to jump, he hates this. He hates this part of the job, he can fight, fuck he can always fight but you can't fight a fucking ghost -

"Thank you very much, madame." Aramis says, taking her hand and looking so intently into her eyes. "It may be best now if you're not here for this. Is this your apartment?"

"No, Madame Lefevre. She's staying with her daughter."

"It would be best if you could go somewhere safe while we work, we'll summon you again when we're done. Thank you again."

Porthos really ought to get used to Aramis looking like that at anyone who makes eye contact with him. Werewolves are possessive but that doesn't mean he owns Aramis, and Aramis has certainly never seemed to mean more than looking with it. He's even given Athos those looks now and then, and he can hardly want a vampire on him, fuck. Aramis thinks like a wolf and knows that Porthos is his pack and all the rest is just for fun, he knows that, he does know that. Porthos makes himself let it go, instinct is no excuse for acting like Aramis is a possession. Aramis isn't a wolf and yet Porthos does trust that Aramis understands the wolf in Porthos, and can be trusted in that. Porthos trusts him. He does.

He knows all of that but Porthos is still a wolf, and he watches every millimetre of Aramis' smile for that uncertain woman backing out of the room.

Once she's gone Aramis turns to the room and his gaze flits it over, he walks past a glass-topped coffee table and leans to sniff the fabric of an armchair ruined by whatever's run through the ceiling, gives the room a really good look all around the edges of the ceiling. He tucks the file away in his satchel and says, looking at the meet of wall and ceiling behind Porthos, "I think it's safe to say that they have a little bit of a damp problem in here."

It's hard to pick out individual scents everything's so saturated with bad smells right now, but when Porthos turns, he sees why he smells dried blood: it's oozed between that meet of wall and ceiling like someone slit the plaster all the way along, and like that stained, ruined plaster is flesh.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Porthos wants the door open again. Somehow it's all much worse when he feels trapped in here. He squeezes his fists, keeps his breathing steady, and watches Aramis walk a slow circuit of the room, eyes upwards, fingers trailing the wall, while Athos stands arms folded by the window and murmurs, "Can you exorcise it?"

"Mm?" Aramis says, eyes still aimed upwards. "How much do you know about exorcism?"

"That I am not obliged to know it, because that is your problem."

Aramis' mouth twitches. "Good answer. I'm not here to banish some poor tormented soul, Athos. They don't want to be here like this and they usually leave given half a chance to do so. I'm not here to fight her, I'm here to help her."

Porthos watches him walk, the way Aramis seems steadied for the first true time Porthos has ever seen it - there in his concentration, all the energy in him focused to a single fine line, there is no question of him denying or suppressing what he's seen and lived through, he is nowhere in his past, he is exactly here and now and working. Porthos says, "'Her'?"

"Yes." Aramis stops walking, and presses his palm to the wallpaper, pale rose stripes all blotched with water and worse. "The spirits that get left behind are only our echoes, when something jars us enough to make us echo. I don't know why people think that they're evil. Most of us aren't evil. Why would our echoes be?"

Three more bangs, louder now, angrier now, and Aramis lays one hand on the satchel hanging at his side marked with a blue fleur-de-lis, his exorcist's kit, but his eyes are still on the wall. "Can you hear me?" he says. "Can you speak to me? We've come to help."

The back of Porthos' neck has gone cold, and the ends of his fingers. He bristles, and then freezes; nice day out there, why's the temperature so low in here . . . ?

Aramis' thumb traces a small shape on the wall, a cross, hand still relaxed on the wallpaper. "Something happened," he says. "Something happened to you. You need something. We can try to help."

Three. More. Bangs.

The table with the telephone on it next to Athos jerks suddenly sideways, and Athos looks at it with his eyes narrowed as if how dare it. Aramis raises his eyes to the ceiling, where Porthos sees a fresh dark patch growing, more moisture welling in the plaster, and he can hear a weird noise now, it's making him feel sick, some weird thin creaking noise, like - like -

Aramis says, eyes on the ceiling, "What makes exorcists special is not what they can do, it's what they are. We're sensitive. I'm not here to drive out evil spirits, I'm here to - to hear them." His eyes are on the ceiling, as something creaks, creaks, like a rope straining its burden, and Porthos is now so cold he can see his own breath, and Aramis', pale around his face. Athos' does not show.

Aramis says, "She's upstairs."

He turns at that, walks immediately for the door and Porthos would grab him and stop him charging off ahead but Athos says, "Porthos," and he looks back at him, startled, and there's something weird and sure on Athos' face. "He's right. That smell."

"Stronger up the stairs," Porthos says. "But it's comin' through the ceiling, it's gonna be -"

Aramis is already getting ahead of them, leaving no time but for them to drop it to hurry after him. The smell is stronger on the stairs going up, as they catch up to Aramis walking up them whispering under his breath (Latin?) with his fingers trailing the wall. He told them he was going to be a priest, Porthos remembers, he's even very warily escorted him to Mass a couple of times, new to Catholicism and frankly freaked the fuck out by it. Aramis got discharged from the army and signed up for the ministry instead, only they found out what he could do and told him there were other ways to serve God, and he was by then too used to taking orders.

"And the seminary may have been a bit quiet for me," he'd added, eyes crinkling with that bright-dark smile behind his wineglass.

Aramis knocks on the apartment door above the room they've just been in, the smell up here is almost unbearable, and calls, "DPI, please open up." and he's already drawing his gun.

"Okay," Porthos says, taking his arms and, gently but unstoppably, pulling him two steps back.

"Not in a residential area," Athos says, turning the door handle and with one quick jerk, nothing for a vampire, forcing the door and snapping the lock clean open.

Below was an old lady's apartment, lots of neatly shelved books and sheepskin rugs and a pen and notepad kept right next to the phone. This is a young man's apartment, this is what their place might get to looking like if any of them had enough stuff for it. The ceiling's blotchy like below but the whole place is a mess, scatter of newspapers and scribbled notes and old plates and mugs on the coffee table, laptop on the sofa in front of the TV and that smell is like a physical assault, Porthos doesn't walk into the room, he wades into it, it's like swimming. He screws his face up - it's that or cover his nose and mouth - god it smells like rancid fat, oil like cooking left so long it's gone sour -

Aramis walks to the kitchen, past what should be a dining table but it's covered in junk and it's clear any eating happens not here but in front of the television, and looks down at something on the worktop, and doesn't say anything.

Athos murmurs to Porthos, "There's someone behind that door."

It's either a bedroom or a bathroom. Porthos nods; he can't smell the fucker over whatever the hell is going on in that kitchen but he trusts Athos to pick out a human heartbeat. He swallows at that, sickly with the smell and almost amused with himself; finally he does trust a vampire for something.

Aramis says, "It's a hand of glory."

Porthos looks over, then back to the door someone is hiding behind. "What?"

"A hand of glory." Aramis has a hand over his own nose, evidently in no way happy at the smell and what the fuck does he think it's like for Porthos? Aramis puts on an oven glove to pick up a pair of barbecue tongs from the mess of the kitchen, and then picks something else up with them.

It's a human hand, fingers clotted creamy with translucent fat.

Porthos says, "What the fuck."

Athos says, "Do those even work?"

"Oh, yes." Aramis turns it, at some distance from himself, face all pinched with something that might be horror or might just be disgust. "The hand of someone hanged, dipped in tallow made from their own -" He glances at a pan, cold but still reeking, on the stovetop beside him. "- body. It makes a light only the person holding it can see, and it makes them invisible. And yes, they do work. That's why they're banned. That and their being utterly revolting."

Athos says, "I thought it required a hanged murderer's hand."

Aramis' eyes flit to them, and Porthos suddenly realises how ill he looks, not just like he's grossed out, he's gone all pale and clammy and there's something too dark in his eyes and suddenly Porthos is afraid of what the fuck Aramis can feel that they can't. "Most hangings do not leave an echo." Aramis says flatly. "Were they willing to kill her and boil a candle from her flesh, they were willing to make her kill someone else first. That is why she echoes. She's trapped not because of what they did to her, but because of what they made her do."

Porthos walks to him, through the smell of rendered human fat so thick it fills his throat out, and croaks, "Alright," putting a hand on Aramis' arm to make him lower that grisly thing he's holding. "Alright. Come away. We'll call Treville, get this sorted, you don't have to -"

Athos, without warning, turns and strides at the door he'd indicated, then slams it with the flat of his fist so it cracks inwards off one hinge, and a male voice shrieks behind it. Porthos keeps himself between Aramis and the doorway but Athos drags out by the wrist and the hair a single young man, maybe twenty-three or four, skinny white kid in need of a haircut. Athos flings him at the floor and the boy scrabbles to a thump, shrieking, grabs the coffee table to get to his knees and dislodges a mug to thump to the floor and spill cold coffee there. Athos holds his head down with a hand on the back of his skull and snarls, "What did you do."

Porthos can tell by the sound of his voice, thickened, hissed, that his teeth are out. Porthos is just too preoccupied with holding an arm out between Aramis and the kid, not certain what danger the kid might be, to care right now.

"It wasn't me," the boy holds his hands up in surrender. "It wasn't me! I didn't kill anyone, it's just a job!"

Aramis' eye flits over the boy and that is not contempt, the hatred Porthos sees there, that fury in his eyes is an agony of thwarted justice and a rage to see it put right. "You're no necromancer." he says, flinging the oven glove at the sink full of unwashed dishes, trying to stride at the boy but Porthos grabs his arm, and Aramis wrenches it but Porthos doesn't let up. "You're nothing but a hedge witch. Why the hell are you making a hand of glory, why the hell did you have to do that to her?"

"It wasn't me I didn't kill anyone I didn't kill anyone, it's just a job." He's looking up at Aramis through his own hanging hair, panting. "Exorcist." he says, breathing heavy, face twisting. "Fuck you, I'd rather be a fucking hedge witch, you're all dead."

"Porthos." Athos snarls, and Porthos' pounce jerks back before it starts, jarring him. He stares at Athos blinking, then the heart hardens and darkens in him, why is he taking orders from a vampire - ?

Aramis comes to one knee in front of the boy while Porthos is still shaken, and says to his eyes, low, hard, "Who is paying you to make a hand of glory."

The hedge witch stares at him, then spits, "You think I'm stupid? They'll kill me, worst you'll do is lock me up."

"Well," Aramis says, "no, I think you've got it a little bit backwards there. The worst 'they' will do is kill you. You don't know what the worst we will do is." He looks up at Athos, and smiles so sweetly. "Do you know, I think he's resisting arrest."

*

The kid gives up pathetically easily - not that the combination of a vampire holding your head and hissing while Aramis never lets up his reasonable voice or his smile whatever he's actually saying aren't considerations of some weight - and gives them the name and number of the man who hired him and gave him the body parts. He's a new name to them but while they call Treville to update him on what they've found so far, and request back-up to take the hedge witch into custody, he can get them access to regular police files - and the name they're given is not new to them, they practically have the bloke on speed dial.

(Treville orders them to keep Aramis out of it as much as they can. He's new, they don't know what he's capable of yet, and they do know exorcists are in danger. What Treville doesn't know is the look Aramis has got in his eyes, deep and dangerous, like even though they're out of that apartment block and away in the daylight, he still hears the creaking of that rope, and smells the rancid air darkening the ceilings and walls.)

The man the hedge witch gives up to them, too, crumbles into begging far too fast when Porthos catches him in attempting to escape through a back window and holds him easily off the ground, growling so low the glass rattles in its frame. He's a human criminal, not a bad one - of the many times he's been pulled in by the police for questioning, little of it has actually ended in prosecution. But, he tells them through breath shaking so hard it's difficult to follow him, the last time he was inside he got talking to a man who'd done some work for a vampire, and when he got out, that vampire had some work for him . . .

There is a small and generally overlooked painting in the Louvre which is apparently of some interest to vampires; Athos knows it instantly, though Porthos has never much cared about art history and Aramis simply shrugs, new to Paris and they have been too unreasonable to let him go to any galleries yet. But this man was employed to steal it, and stealing from museums of global repute is not a minor matter, vampires and werewolves would have no more luck than a human at defeating the various security systems. But the combination of a thief's expertise and a hand of glory, that really might be enough.

He swears he didn't kill her swears he didn't kill her he was given the body he was given the body -

"The portrait is supposedly of an ancient de Vergy ancestor," Athos says, once they've gone through the tedious negotiations with the police to keep the man in musketeer custody, this counting squarely as a supernatural crime as far as they can see. "Impossible to prove at this distance. Not a bad painting, though."

Aramis says, "You shall have to point it out to me some time. Do you know where we're going?"

"I know where we may be going, but you are to be taken back to the apartment."

"Oh," Aramis says, "yes, except, that is not going to happen, Athos. There's no point in exorcists surviving if this department doesn't use them. And you two aren't the ones who felt what that woman went through, so don't tell me that I'm to go sit quietly while this is resolved. Fucking vampires. Sorry, Athos."

"I'm not offended," Athos says, actually looking rather amused to see Aramis display any ill sentiment towards the creatures who slaughtered nearly two dozen exorcists in their sleep all around him so few weeks ago. "But we are waiting for back up. The Duc de Vergy is old and dangerously powerful, and we're not arresting him alone."

"Let's at least wait for back up outside his place, then, rather than give him a window to get wind and escape in." Aramis bangs himself into the back of the car, all sparky and alight, Porthos can smell his remaining anger and his eagerness to be doing something. He looks at Athos, and Athos is just giving Aramis a long calculating look, before he climbs into the driver's seat, and Porthos rolls his eyes, heads for the passenger side.

As Athos starts the car Aramis says, "How ancient is ancient, for a vampire?"

Athos checks the road and pulls out. "I suppose it's relative. A millennia or so."

Aramis says, "How 'ancient' are you, Athos?"

"That is not a polite question to ask." Athos says, and doesn't take his eyes from the road.

Porthos says, "What d'we need to know about these vampires?"

Athos drives, silent for a moment, then says, "They're a very old clan. I don't know how old the head of the family is, but old. He has a son, I think. I lost track of most families a long time ago."

"Off the Christmas card list?" Porthos says.

"I'm a fucking musketeer," Athos says, and in his voice the name sounds like the mockery it is from some quarters, like they're so old fashioned, so anachronistic, like they're still a regiment of army exorcists guarding the King from the darkest parts of the supernatural. Here in the clean modern world where great vampire families trade in stocks and shares and werewolf children get the full moon off school, now that professional private exorcists can be hired from firms with slick websites, what's the point of them?

Athos says it like he knows all of that, and he still walked into an apartment building reeking of boiled human today, and he's still carrying the badge. Whenever Porthos has previously asked himself why vampires join the department his answer was sneering even in the confines of his own head, you can't trust them, they've got some plan, some ulterior motive, they're passing information out or they're so fucking down and out they need the protection of the department from their own kind -

He thinks now he maybe gets that it's more than that for Athos, as well as himself.

Athos says, "Some of the old families are very respectable in the human world now. They affect perfect modern manners. They claim to not even import human blood to drink, they only consume animals." He stares at the road, breathing slowly. He says, "Some of them have things in their cellars."

Porthos watches his face, says quietly, "What kinds of things?"

Athos' eyes flick to the rear view mirror, to the human on the back seat, who smiles at him and already knows all of it.

The de Vergy house is a grand building looking over the Champ de Mars, as if any of the buildings around here are cheap but this one has Porthos' hackles up, not anything about it as such but just what he knows is inside it. Athos parks the car and they sit in there looking at the uniformed security guard outside the door, and then they look at each other.

"Wait for back up," Porthos says. It's the order they have.

Aramis stares at that man standing guard for a long time, something in his eyes more than Porthos can follow, and then says, "You see what happens when you keep me cooped up for weeks, gentlemen." and opens his door.

Athos barks, "Aramis-"

Aramis slams the door, and walks cheerfully right for the guard. "Excuse me, monsieur -"

Porthos and Athos slam their own doors open, and scramble to follow him.

"We're here with the Department of Paranormal Investigations," Aramis is telling the man, who stares fixedly ahead. "We need to ask a few questions to the senior Monsieur de Vergy."

"The Duc de Vergy," Athos corrects him in a mutter, because even when vampires are sadistic murdering bastards you'd still better get the fucking title right, apparently.

Aramis inclines his head his apology. "Will you need to see our badges?" he asks the man in the doorway. "No? We'll just head right on through then."

As Aramis takes a casual step forwards the man touches his side - Porthos can smell that he's carrying a gun, cold metal and gunpowder - but before the guard can do more than touch it Aramis has both his wrist and his own gun to the side of the man's neck, and as he, Athos and Porthos freeze, Aramis just looks so fucking focused.

"You and I are on the same side, monsieur, you have simply been given the wrong information. You are not protecting 'very important people'. You are protecting a family to whom you and your own family are nothing but flesh. Do you have children? Do you understand what they are capable of?"

"Aramis," Athos says.

Aramis' eye flits to the doorway, and Porthos can see - something, something behind his eyes, something not right. "God, you can't feel it. This place -"

"Aramis, put him down."

"- that woman - do you think she was the only one?"

Neither of them say anything. Aramis is almost shaking, hands very tight on that gun and that guard, eyes fixed like fury on him, helpless with sheer rage. Porthos looks at the building, then looks at Aramis, and knows that for all Aramis is basically scent-deaf - even at such little distance Aramis probably can't smell Porthos at all when to Porthos Aramis is a comforting warmth of known scent, under the fear and loathing in him - Aramis is 'sensitive'. That building is giving off some aura Aramis can feel in ways Porthos can't understand and never will, and he has no idea how bad it is in motivating Aramis almost to snap right now.

"Alright," Porthos says, and takes the guard's shoulder, pressing just hard enough to let him know how hard he could press, as the man's frightened eye flicks to him. "We're gonna go talk to the people inside." he says, reaching into the man's holster and taking his gun. "You'll get this back after. But until then, best you can't put yourself in a position where we might have to put you down, right?"

Aramis relaxes at least a little immediately, smiling for Porthos, turning for the doorway. Athos grabs his wrist before he can step forward, and Porthos sees through the gloom inside a man watching them, smile quirked amused; Aramis' eye settles on him after what must be a couple of seconds but seems like far too long to Porthos so on edge, no fucking wonder exorcists die all the time, it's not their fault but humans' senses are good for shit and being in this place with Aramis like this scares him. The man steps forward - white guy, looks about thirty but Porthos takes a quick sniff and knows he could be any age, he smells of cold dead earth and the metallic rust of blood - and smiles for them as if they're so fucking funny. "May I help you gentlemen?"

"DPI." Athos says, still holding Aramis' arm. "We have back up on the way and some questions for the Duc."

"My father is resting. Do come inside and I'll see if I can help."

He never stops smiling, and Porthos' hands have gone to rocks they're so tight. Aramis glances back at him and Porthos feels a sudden rush of feeling for him, wolves would smell it on each other but Aramis has to look and he does, frequently, meeting Porthos' eye to check on him but also, he knows, just to meet Porthos' eye. Porthos finds a twitch of a smile for him, sees the flicker of one on Aramis' mouth. Porthos is watching a human he is more than a little possessive towards walk into a den of vampires. Aramis knows what vampires are capable of and has to watch the two of them follow him in, his eye does flit to Athos as well. Porthos makes himself not mind that. Aramis is still more special to him, he tells himself. Aramis is fucking him, Aramis sleeps beside him, Aramis kisses his face and Porthos knows the love in it. Aramis likes Athos. He loves Porthos.

(Nearly a month they've known each other but that means nothing to him, Porthos thinks like a wolf and wolves don't date. And he's never known a human think so much like a wolf as Aramis does . . .)

It's dark inside, the daytime-dim of shuttered windows and there is a chandelier up overhead but Porthos wonders if it's ever lit, why should vampires give a fuck about light? He touches the back of Aramis' arm as they walk across the marble floor to a side room, trying to orientate Aramis in what he imagines is an alarmingly dark world right now, and the side of Aramis' hand brushes his hip. Porthos himself sees little worse than he ever does. His colour vision's never perfect anyway, and scent is so integral to his ability to navigate that he doesn't see the point of discerning colour most of the time. Aramis' eyes are the darkest he's ever known; what more does he need to see?

The vampire shows them into a living room, if that's the word for it - parlour, reception room, too fancy just for hanging out in, old furniture set at stuttered distances across a too-wide floor, with a huge unlit fireplace taking up one wall. Aramis' scent stays steady, alert, Porthos can smell the adrenaline in him but he's not really afraid, nothing like that sour edge of true fear in him. Porthos keeps hold of his arm anyway.

The vampire says, "Take a seat." and lounges himself on a couch, carved wooden back, taut upholstery. "How might we help you?"

Athos stands, eyes on that vampire, and vampires' scents are hard to read - their internal chemical reactions are slight compared to humans and werewolves - so Porthos has to go by his face, which is blandly calm but for the danger in his tightened jaw. "Your family has been implicated in a murder. We will need to take you and your father in for questioning. Are there any other immediate family members?"

The vampire laughs, once, cheek propped on one curled hand and fingers not quite covering the amusement visible in his mouth. "Come now," he says, "my father's the Duc de Vergy. We'll send someone to speak to you tomorrow."

"No." Athos says. "You will come with us to aid in our enquiries or you will come with us in handcuffs. Are there any other members of your immediate family in this building?"

The vampire looks at him for a moment, calm as a cat, then says, "What family are you?"

Athos says, "That is not relevant to our enquiries. Will you fetch your father or must we search the building for him?"

There's something odd in Aramis' scent, not exactly fear, and though the anger in him is rising it isn't just that. Something - Porthos sniffs discreetly - what's the word for it?

The vampire flicks a foot almost thoughtfully. "Do you need a warrant to be here? I'm sorry, I don't know anything of that kind of - legal matter." with a smile, because why would he need to know such petty mortal affairs.

Athos says, "You invited us inside. Where is your father?"

Revulsion, Porthos thinks, scent settling to sense now, glancing at Aramis' face, pale in the dark, eyes fixed on that vampire. Horror.

"He's a very old man. You can't drag him in to your police station."

"Garrison." Porthos says automatically. It was once and it's been known as such ever since, even if now it's strictly the 'department'. They're not police. They've never been police. You need something more than police to stand between mortal Paris and the sort of supernatural threat this bastard is. The vampire doesn't even look at him, and Porthos' hand goes into a fist, of course he doesn't, Porthos is only a wolf.

Aramis says, "Hardly any of them speak French."

The vampire lifts his head a little, curious, and Athos looks warily back at Aramis. The vampire says, "Excuse me?"

"All the people you've killed here." Aramis says, and fuck, Porthos can see a pallid sheen of sweat on his skin, can feel the tightness of his muscles underneath his hand. "Did you bring them from somewhere else? Have you been trafficking in people to murder?"

The vampire gives Aramis a quick up and down glance. "Is he mad, or -"

"An exorcist." Athos says. "You can't tell him that you're not involved in murder. He knows."

The vampire is giving Aramis another, longer look now, and Aramis is breathing, trying to keep it steady, still too short and sharp. "An exorcist," the vampire says, smiling. "Hm."

- and Porthos remembers twenty exorcists dead because of vampires and Aramis -

He pulls Aramis back, slowly but very surely, and sets himself between the exorcist and the vampire; Aramis is so involved in glaring that he doesn't even seem to notice. The corner of the vampire's mouth twitches a smile. He says, "Allow me to summon someone."

They couldn't stop him anyway, though Porthos sees in the angry flit of Athos' eyes that he wants to, as the vampire rings a small bell on the table beside his couch. "An exorcist," the vampire says conversationally. "They're becoming rather a rare sight in France, aren't they?"

Porthos takes a longer, deeper breath, trying to control his rage and read this building. He can smell a few vampires and a few humans - servants, probably, and apart from the general edge of blood he can smell off that vampire, he can't pick out any obvious evidence of a murder in this room. That vampire smells of blood much more than Athos does, except for the mornings he returns from the garrison having topped himself up on those bags of animal blood musketeer vampires are restricted to. This bastard probably feeds more regularly than Athos does, and apparently not animal but human blood, which means in a fight he's going to be a fucker. Vampires are faster than werewolves to begin with, and with enough blood in them they're stronger too. And that means if this does turn even nastier, Porthos is going to have to turn, and still it's going to be . . .

No. That vampire doesn't realise that Porthos is fighting at an advantage as well. Aramis is here, and Porthos is a wolf, and Porthos wakes up next to Aramis every morning. Wolves are possessive. Wolves are protective. That vampire is going to get the fight of its fucking life.

Already the growl is in him, balling in his belly, a low vibration of his diaphragm, and he sees in the shift of Athos' stance, the quirk of the vampire's smile, that they're both aware of it even if Aramis isn't. Then he hears quick footsteps at his back and turns teeth bared, Aramis is between Porthos and that door -

It's not more vampires walking through it. Well, only one, and she doesn't count; Ninon, gaze moving imperiously over the tension of the room in front of her, and at her side strolls in Flea, folding her arms.

"Alright," Flea says to Porthos, and Porthos nods warily back.

"You our back up?"

"Didn't expect to find you already in."

"Shit happens," Porthos mutters, glancing at the man he's holding the arm of, who's looking around the walls like they make his flesh crawl. Porthos squeezes his arm in sympathy.

Both Flea and Ninon are a little too straight in the back, cool as Ninon's gaze is, fuck you as Flea's is. They're a two, when every squad was rearranged into a three, because two weeks ago their exorcist was murdered. Porthos doesn't think Flea was fucking their exorcist but he still gets how she'd feel and they're probably in no more patient a mood than the three of them. Especially after that fucking fat-covered hand, and Aramis ready to shoot any fucking second, Porthos can tell, all of them are on edge. Only the Duc's son looks like he's comfortable in this room, every musketeer in here is far too tense whether they're showing it or not.

Ninon says, "We need to take this to the garrison and have everything properly cleared up. Where is the Duc?"

Another vampire is approaching, enters the room and bows cautiously to de Vergy's son. "These people are musketeers," the vampire lounging on the couch says. "If you could inform my sister."

He doesn't, Porthos notes, tell the servant why they're there, because clearly he doesn't have to, they all know. Porthos looks at Flea, and Flea's eye is narrow and dangerous, but Athos and Ninon don't share a glance, they're both looking suspiciously at that vampire, until two more servants walk into the room. Two more vampire servants. Flea and Ninon turn to face them, Porthos can feel Flea's growl inside his bones, and he spots an archway through to another room, nudges Aramis and nods at that. "You need to get out of here."

Aramis' eyes are terrible on those vampires. "We outnumber them."

"Yeah. An' if we have to protect you, that counts as at least minus two of us. So get the fuck out of here, Aramis."

"To where? We're in a den of -"

Porthos shoves him towards the archway and Aramis staggers. "This is about to get fucking bad. Find somewhere safe!"

The vampire on the couch stands, and casually brushes his trousers down, and smiles. "I think you are all aware that this is an overstep of etiquette."

Athos says, "Being held accountable for murder is not only for the ill-bred. You will come with us or we will take you. Now."

Aramis, gun in one hand, is standing with his back to the wall halfway to that archway, not knowing what to do. And Porthos roars at him, every hair on his body shivering upright with the need to turn, "Now!"

Aramis jumps, stares at him, glances at that vampire's smile -

- looks behind himself like the wall just said something -

- bolts for the archway, and as that vampire laughs Athos strides for him, and Porthos' body shifts, bones twisting fluid, he sees Flea dropping to four legs, sees the grace of Ninon's lethal-quick turn towards a vampire servant, and then the growl can really get out of Porthos properly, and he has enough teeth for what he needs.

*

"'Find somewhere safe'," Aramis mutters to himself, skidding around the corner into another, smaller (relatively) hallway, there's a staircase leading up and two corridors leading off but in the gloom it's hard to tell where any of them go. "In a house full of fucking vampires. Find somewhere safe, really."

There is so much death here he can hardly hear. The place echoes continuously with sudden shrieks, so distantly distorted he can understand nothing of them but that they are terrified almost to the point of death, and few of them are in French. Immigrants, migrants, the trafficked, the dispossessed, he thinks. People whose disappearance would never be noticed by the police in this country. The people who brought them here and murdered them, butchered them for blood, probably think they're being so clever in their choice of victim.

Quick footsteps and a man strides through and pauses, looking at Aramis - he has to squint in the dim to see the man's eye drop to the fleur-de-lis on his bag, and as the vampire's head raises teeth baring long, Aramis shoots him three times in the head.

Even through the echoes of those gunshots short and sharp he still hears the wail of suffering and fear and death from the walls and this place will turn him mad.

Behind him he can hear the fight going on, snarl of werewolves and roar of vampires, and he hates that Porthos is right because Aramis would be torn limb from limb in that (he does know that; he's seen it before) but now, stepping over the body of that vampire and looking around heart running harder, he doesn't know where to go. Vampires can hear his heartbeat, they'll find him if he hides, and he doesn't know how many more he might have to get past, even this one won't stay down long. Nothing short of utter disconnection or destruction of the head kills a vampire, everything else they can recover from, and Aramis hasn't the tools for burning the body and lacks the time to hack the head off. It's an undignified thing to do with an athame anyway, he needs to carry more knives.

He chooses a corridor - he thinks the front door was back this way, somewhere, and getting the hell out of here is as much safety as he can manage - and turns down it but a woman's voice says through the dark, "Are you lost?"

. . . he turns slowly, breathing deeper, every part of him so on edge he never could have enough bullets.

She walks towards him, carrying a candelabra so he can see her face. She's somewhere in her twenties and would be very beautiful were her eyes a little closer together, dressed very well and very expensively, looking him up and down and apparently not minding the vampire with a head sodden with blood on the floor between them, nor the bellow and bang of the fight around the corner. Nor, for all of her guilt in them, does she mind the screams of previous victims ringing from the walls, she walks serene in the presence of other people's Hell, and he knows that the people she kills are silent to her. That's why they're trapped here; their murderers are so untroubled by their deaths that they never even think of them.

She smiles, and steps over the body, and Aramis backs off fast. She says, "Are you looking for my father?"

Aramis says, "The D-" and stops, breath stopping, as hands clamp both his wrists from behind and he understands the idiot that he is: howl of trapped souls, roar of the fight, fear of that vampire in front of him, and he had no attention left to aim behind himself.

He tenses the muscles in his arms and only hurts himself against how tight the grip is: definitely a vampire. So that's it. Aramis makes stupid decisions all the time but that doesn't actually make him stupid, and he knows perfectly well that as soon as a vampire gets its hands on you, you're done. That was his life. He replays the highlights to himself, not bad, quite good actually, and decides not to replay the lowlights at all.

Porthos, Porthos, he thinks, heart almost stopping. Athos -

In this moment there is no point in anything but honesty: he knows he does more than 'like' Athos. At least Porthos will never find out. When Aramis slipped through the net of Hell so little time ago he just felt numb of the world, it was made very clear to him that the college did not want him back - his very presence and existence would distress new exorcists arriving - and Marsac had left him, and everyone else was cold and dead, and he was alone. So he took himself to Paris for the DPI and almost immediately fell into Porthos' lap and - and it has been the best place to be. Porthos has soothed him in ways nothing else ever could, because of the way Porthos cares for him, because Porthos is safe. Not because he can protect Aramis - here in this house it's clear that nothing could - but because he will never desert Aramis, and that's all he wants, throat tight, heart hurting, all he needs is to wake up and know that there will always, always be him.

Aramis thinks of himself as loyal to Porthos, he honestly wouldn't have fucked a werewolf if he didn't think he could commit to what he knows it means, and he wouldn't know how to explain to Porthos that there's no disloyalty to him in how Aramis feels about Athos. Athos is enthralling, courteous, wise, witty when he wants to be, and curiously, intriguingly handsome. And it's simply how Aramis is made, he's always been like this. He got his first boyfriend two weeks after he got his first girlfriend, and all three of them were happy for a time (until he got jealous, then she got jealous, and Aramis in the middle couldn't give them both what they wanted). He's never known how to explain to a wolf that his loyalty is not tied to his monogamy and so he hasn't, and now he never has to. Silver linings, he tells himself. Not much of one. What this will do to Porthos . . .

"Don't damage him," the vampire with the candles says to the vampire holding Aramis' arms, who Aramis can now hear the soft low hiss of at the back of his ear. "He's quite pretty, isn't he? Put the gun down."

It's said in the voice of someone who has never known something she said not to happen, and the hand around his wrist suddenly tightens and twists so hard his knees half buckle, and the gun clatters off the marble floor as he bites the cry to keep it inside. "I'll ask Father to save some for me," the vampire says, stepping close enough to run a crooked finger up Aramis' throat, strong enough to force his head back to meet her eye, he can't stop her doing it. "He smells of wolf, pity. We'll just have to manage."

Were Aramis' breeding less immaculate, he would spit in her face. As it is he understands that he is going to die like this, and his thoughts lash back to the next room, Porthos -

The vampire holding his arms forcibly turns him - like swinging a mannequin, Aramis' resistance simply does not register - and forces him on down the corridor. Aramis won't shout, it's hardly even a decision, he just won't. He won't distract Porthos from fighting for his life, nor Athos. Fast as his heart beats, and another tangled scream of horror of some already-murdered person runs through him like barbed wire in his bones - as much fear as this is, enough that he feels deadened in the flesh by it, all the world muffled by fear -

Some part of him is not afraid at all. Some part of that numbness must never have left him, this doesn't even feel like any surprise to him. If he was to serve God like this, maybe this was all God required of him, leading others to this den of horror to know what was done and bring justice here. There can be no going back from this, this family has overstepped itself, the department knows and will do what it has to. That woman tormented and murdered for a hand of glory will have her justice, all these people killed in this building will have theirs. Maybe with that Aramis' part is done, and he is no longer needed. Maybe his reprieve only ever was for this. He can hardly complain of facing the fate torn through the throats of twenty dead exorcists he was left in the midst of, bewildered by blood. He is not special. He survived because of Marsac, and Marsac isn't here now. Maybe this was always going to happen. He's felt pulled sideways from the flow of life ever since it happened, felt like he can't quite - like something doesn't -

Maybe he did know all along. Maybe it will be a relief. He thinks of Porthos and his throat fills with hardness but there's nothing he can do and surely Porthos can do better than all of Aramis' damage anyway, surely Porthos -

One of the voices in the walls sobs in its terror and it sounds, and his heart punches inwards, so young.

He thinks, Fuck vampires, and kicks the vampire who has his wrists in the ankle. The vampire wrenches his left arm so hard it almost dislocates and bangs an uh noise out of Aramis at the ceiling, stunned with pain, stumbling on as he's forced down the corridor. The vampire walking ahead with the candelabra knocks at a door and says, "Father, I have your lunch."

There's no reply from within. She opens the door and the vampire holding Aramis drags him through, boot heels set to the floor and scraping along the marble, not even slowing his passage.

It's another large, high-ceilinged room, windows shuttered against the day. And it's empty - paintings on the walls but the only furniture on the floor is a grand wooden and leather chair that the oldest man Aramis has ever seen in sitting in, and he knows that to be true, Aramis knows Athos must be a few centuries old but this man looks like he's lived forever. His hair is as fine as dandelion fluff; his hands, resting on the chair's arms, are all knuckles and liver spots and veins standing out in knots. For a vampire to look this old he must be ancient. For a vampire to look this old, he must have killed thousands.

"Evelina," the ancient vampire says, voice like a page turning.

The vampire holding his wrists tosses Aramis forwards and he stumbles across the marble, staggering to catch his balance. "Would you save some for me, Father? There's only a girl downstairs, I'd rather have him."

Aramis looks to the covered windows, heart beating fast and hard, if he can -

"Come here," the Duc says, voice a whisper from the time of Christ.

Aramis opens his mouth to tell him how incredibly unlikely he is to comply to that, when he finds that his body is - turning, his muscles relaxing, and as his breath sucks in to ask the world at large what the fuck, his baffled legs are already working, walking him towards the Duc.

His mind goes cold and numb with this new horror. They were taught in the college that some old and powerful vampires could do this, he just never thought he'd meet it. Vampires can force control over humans by drinking from them, but vampires like the Duc don't even need to do that, and Aramis is walking to his own death trying to think desperately fast what the fuck to do because if Porthos finds him killed like this - if Athos finds him with his throat torn out by vampires -

And worse. His eye catches the vampire holding the candelabra, Evelina, and the interested way she's looking at him. Humans are just walking flesh to vampires like these, and Aramis knows that in the heat of feeding vampires may do things, may play, may torture, may - act upon arousal. And he doesn't want Porthos and Athos to find him when they're done with him. He doesn't want Athos to know exactly how Aramis died, he sees sometimes in Athos his dis-ease with his own kind, with what he is, he knows that Athos may have done things himself before he decided to side with humans instead of against them. He doesn't want him to see what was done to Aramis' body before it was made a corpse. And, God, he doesn't want Porthos to know it, God, please, not him. He doesn't want either of them to have to live with that knowledge for the rest of their lives.

(Exorcists are dying all over France. Did you really think that you would be so special as to escape?)

It hurts, trying to fight his body to turn and run. It hurts, teeth clenched, like he's tearing his muscles, and it still doesn't work. The only thing that stops him walking to the Duc is when he's standing in front of him, where the Duc gazes at him through filmed and exhausted eyes, and says, "Kneel."

Aramis' body does. Aramis wants to punch himself for it. The marble is cold underneath his knees and the room groans with death, the room is an agony of death and the exorcist in him can't bear it. He doesn't want to force these broken spirits to move on, he knows what people think exorcism is, he could do that but that's not what exorcists want to do, not when they hear the grief and rage and pain. A good movement on from the awful between these voices are trapped in is the resolution of all the horror they went through, an acknowledgement that what they went through was wrong and that something has been done, as much as it can be, to put it right. He came here for that woman tormented in that apartment building, he felt her misery like it had got nailed through his chest; now there are all these other souls, so many and so anguished, and he knows what will move them on the right way. It's this vampire dead, and Aramis' hands are fists but he can't move.

The Duc looks down at him in a disinterested way, like Aramis hardly matters to him. "Why can I hear guests, Evelina?"

"Musketeers, Father. Jean-Joseph is taking care of them."

"There will be more," Aramis says, relieved to find his tongue still works. "It's already too late. You're all going to Hell."

"Quiet," the Duc says, and puts a cold hand into Aramis' hair, pulling his head to the side to lengthen his neck and his heart panics hard. The Duc speaks in his wisping voice, ignoring Aramis completely. "Tell your brother I will speak to him afterwards. He knows I disapprove of his scheming."

He pulls Aramis' head up by the hair, unfolding his legs, dragging his neck into range, and Aramis has been silenced so utterly that the involuntary sound of his shocked pain doesn't even emerge. He tries to calm his heart - the panic of his blood will only excite the vampires - stares at the wall and tries to think of something calm something calm something calm but he can hear hundreds of screaming voices all trapped in the same moment he's living through now and he can't do a fucking thing he can't do a fucking thing and that vampire's hand is so cold -

The door behind them barrels inwards off its hinges, the roar fills the room, Aramis' spine goes tight with it. The Duc holds his head and drags his weary gaze up, to the sound of the beast behind Aramis growling on a diaphragm-low pitch, it sounds like it's the size of a car -

Athos' voice says, hard and very clear, "Put him down."

Aramis stares at the wall, he can't turn his head to look at them, and searches for the relief in himself but all he feels is the coldness that they're going to see it happen, he can't -

"Your manners are wanting." the Duc says in his pale, frail voice, and Aramis hears Athos say, "Porthos." as a warning, and though the growling shifts down from a rising snarl like Hell's gates opening, it doesn't stop.

Athos says to the Duc, "Put him down. He is a Department of Paranormal Investigations exorcist and his death is a crime you do not need adding to your problems right now."

The Duc says, "You brought dogs into my house."

There's a sharper growl at the back of the deep black fury of what Aramis knows to be Porthos', a second werewolf in the room. And a woman's voice, Ninon's, he met her once in the department, says, "Put him down while there remains some small chance for mercy for your family, de Vergy."

The fingers in Aramis' hair tighten, and he can't even move to indicate to anyone that it's happened and it fucking hurts. "It's only one human." the Duc says. "It's de Larroque, isn't it? Why are you fussing about a human, why are you in my house?"

Athos' voice says like a marble slab falling, "Put him down."

He won't, Aramis thinks, feeling his own pulse stutter so close to the vampire holding him. Why should he? He has everything to lose and Aramis means nothing to him. Why not kill him? If spite isn't enough motivation, there's the simple fact that the Duc doesn't care and if this turns into a fight, Aramis is in his way . . .

"Why are we even discussing the human? Why are you in my house?"

Silence, but for the werewolves growling low and awful and the wailing and weeping in every wall around him, Aramis can't stay in this place much longer, he'll lose his mind to their horror. And then Athos says, quiet with authority, "He is already claimed. You have no right. Put him down."

That touches the Duc, Aramis feels the lessening pressure in his hair, just a little but even that feels like a blessing through the pain of it. The Duc is silent for a moment, then says, "Which family are you?"

Silence. Aramis breathes, a little too hard and too fast, whole bodyweight held by his hair and his unbalanced knees, and Porthos is right behind him and Aramis doesn't know what to -

"De la Fère." Athos says, eventually. "And you have something of mine, so return him, now."

"You're still alive," the Duc says, and his hand lowers, swinging Aramis to thump to the marble lower on his knees, stunned with shock, blinking hard at his eyes' involuntary stinging. "I thought your family were wiped out."

"Evidently not. He is mine, and you know the etiquette. Give him back."

The Duc says, "He smells of the wolf. You've never even fed from him."

"You know he is mine."

The Duc sighs, and casually drops Aramis to the side. He hits the floor with a yelp on his shoulder and scrabbles backwards, dignity be damned he can move again, kicking himself away on the marble across the floor and -

Something huge is at his back. He tenses deathly still, and hot breath huffs into his hair, across the back of his neck, and then the collar of his jacket is taken in teeth and he's dragged, very firmly, across the floor and away from that vampire.

He can see, now, the layout of the room. Athos and Ninon stand in the doorway, backs straight and terrible with fury, Ninon like a knife, Athos like a stormcloud rising. Flea, the other woman who came with Ninon, is in her wolf form, a spiky pale-furred wolf bigger than a normal wolf would be, all her fur on end, teeth set in a snarl at the vampire servant standing ready, fangs bared, at their side. Evelina is holding her candelabra and looking at Ninon, who is ignoring her completely for the Duc, though Aramis can tell she's very aware of her. Porthos -

Aramis catches the snout of the wolf looming at his back in a hand, turns his head to look at his face, strokes his thumb over the short fur and whiskers of his muzzle and whispers, "God, you're gorgeous."

Flea is larger than a normal wolf; Porthos is huge. Half of it is just his fur, paler brown underneath but tipped with coal dust so he looks almost black, and so thick that when Aramis touches his shoulder his fingers never do touch down to flesh. His sides are heaving with his panting rage to kill something but Porthos, enormous, gentle and firm as if with a cub, catches Aramis' jacket in his teeth again and tugs him back to the wall, dragging Aramis' sore and feeble body along the marble, then plants himself between Aramis and the room, shoulders hunched, his whole huge body a pounce just not yet happened.

The Duc says, "Are you here about an indiscretion of my son? This is hardly an appropriate response. Young men do these things. You were one yourself once."

Athos says, "Your son is dead. We have some further questions for you."

"It's all of them," Aramis says, and clears his throat to raise his voice. "This house is thick with death, she said there was a girl in the cellar now, they have murdered -"

"Then they are all under arrest." Ninon says. "Will you come quietly or must this become undignified?"

The Duc says nothing for a long time, then says, "This is becoming wearisome."

Athos says, quietly, eyes fast to the Duc and fists closed at his sides, "I will bring him in."

"You are being ridiculous." the Duc says. "Where is my son?"

Athos says, "He is dust in your front room, he refused to come quietly as well. The world has changed, you murderous old idiot, your last name is no longer your right to whatever you please. You were careless and now nothing is deniable and you will come into DPI custody or we will force you to do so."

The Duc is looking at Athos and finally something in his face seems tight from the looseness of flimsy age, as his hands fix to the arms of his chair and he raises himself from it. "Your family," he hisses out, "fell into the gutter the moment you were born -"

Athos says, "Whereas yours has been scum all along." and strides at him, and Aramis doesn't have his gun, and knows this is about to -

Evelina -

She means to swing her candelabra at Ninon but gives too much warning to an experienced DPI agent who also happens to be a vampire. Ninon's pale arm is up and so perfectly poised as she fires a gun at touching range into the other vampire's throat and Evelina falls back choking, candelabra hitting the floor, and it won't stop that vampire for long but it doesn't need to, Ninon already has a hand on her head and one on her shoulder -

Flea has leapt with a roar at the servant, teeth missing his throat as he moves but clamping in his chest and shoulder - Aramis hears bones crunching - but the vampire grabs her foreleg and could tear her limb clean out of its socket; Aramis shoves at Porthos' shoulder but he's already flying forward, roaring as he charges -

Aramis never sees the Duc move, he has his back to him. A vampire like him, so old and powerful, Aramis doesn't know what he's capable of, they've never deigned to tell the exorcists the limits of their powers. But Athos - de la Fère, Aramis thinks, can't quite remember - comtes, weren't they? Only a comte, and the Duc -

Only a comte, yes. But more than that he is Athos, and Aramis didn't even know that he carried a blade like that but the Duc's head thunks across the marble as his body drops, bounces twice more before it flumps into dust as it strikes the wall, his body crumbling where it fell.

Aramis puts a hand on the wall and closes his eyes. They never would have come into custody. They never would have paid for their crimes in the modern sense of justice and right. They chose the old ways when they murdered humans just for the taste of their blood, and they chose the old ways when they attacked DPI agents instead of surrendering. They chose the old ways and now they're dead, he whispers to the dead all around him, their howls and screaming faltering now, fading, as if they too are listening to what's happened. They're dead, they're gone, Aramis promises every suffering soul surrounding him. They can harm you no more by living as if your deaths never mattered. You are free. You are free. You don't need to hurt anymore, you are free.

All of the pain in the air around him sighs, softly, and the oppression of a headache he didn't even realise he had begins to lift.

Athos turns back, looks over the room in front of him, calls, "Porthos, he would be useful alive."

"Flea," Ninon says. "Please, at least some of them should be kept like an animal caged. It's what they deserve, more than an easy death."

Wolves are not easily parted from their prey, but between Ninon and Athos they manage to get their instincts under the control of their jobs, even in wolf form they're DPI agents first. Aramis knows that werewolves fully turned think essentially like wolves, and struggle with the human part of themselves, and he knows how confusing and infuriating Athos seems to Porthos right now, and he snarls at him a bit, standing over a mauled vampire not actually dead. But when Athos says, "Go to Aramis, Porthos." Porthos' ears flick, and he looks across to Aramis still sitting underneath a shuttered window, hand on the wall, breathing longer and easier as every broken presence in the building passes on into the relief of the silence of their own suffering. And Porthos, the biggest wolf Aramis has ever seen, pads back to him, licking his muzzle repeatedly as if the taste of thick dark vampire blood there disgusts him, until Aramis can raise his hands and bury them in his throat fur, looking into his dark eyes to see Porthos looking out, very worried for him, whining under his breath and tail wagging once as Aramis puts his face into his chest fur, thick and warm.

He can hear Flea still growling softly but Porthos just whines, and nudges at Aramis' shoulder with his snout. "I'm alright," Aramis whispers, lifting a hand to pet at his ear, rubbing it between thumb and fingers to soothe him. "I'm fine, Porthos. We're all fine."

Footsteps cross the room to them, and Aramis looks up to Athos standing over them, watching them in silence for an uneasy second. "I'm sorry," he says. "I had to say those things to him. It was the only thing a vampire like that would understand to make him let go of you."

"I know," Aramis says, and smiles for him. "I don't mind. Thank you, for saving my life." He rubs Porthos' ear, and Porthos licks his muzzle again and starts panting, tongue shocking pink in the dark. Aramis just smiles. "I've become rather attached to it. There's a woman in the cellar we need to find, the daughter said - Athos, she'll be terrified."

Athos holds his eye for a second, then nods, and turns back to the room, walks to Ninon who murmurs something to him, all the practicalities they must now deal with, Treville will probably be mad at all this mess. Aramis just rubs the base of Porthos' ear - his eyes shutter slightly and Aramis grins and knows that now he is attached to his life - and God, Porthos really is a beautiful wolf, enormous and terrible. Aramis doesn't know how much Porthos weighs (enough to be delicious pressing over him in bed, he knows that much) but it makes the wolf massive, and that handspan-thick fur makes him loom even larger . . .

"You're terribly handsome as a wolf," Aramis tells him, stroking his ear, though he knows Porthos can only follow basic speech right now, patterns and inflections, a handful of words. "I'm surprised every lady dog in Paris doesn't howl underneath our balcony every night."

Ninon is speaking into a mobile phone, and Athos murmurs something to Flea who flicks an ear at him, then follows him in a bouncing lope out of the room. Aramis watches them go, even as he keeps stroking his fingers through Porthos' thick fur, and says nothing but he knows he and Athos both know it to be true. Athos told the Duc that he had already claimed Aramis - he will smell slightly of Athos to any vampire or wolf, simple extended proximity will have done that, but more than that, vampires can tell these things. They can tell when a human is owned. And Aramis feels a twisting confusion that Porthos won't have understood what Athos said to the Duc, not in this form, he doesn't know if it's better or worse that Porthos couldn't have understood it because every damned word of it was true.

He looks at Porthos' eyes, smiles again for him hoping to lighten the worry out of his own scent with it. "You need a bath," he tells him, stroking his ears back. "Significant amounts of shampoo will be required."

Porthos licks his face - Aramis has the time to do no more than squeeze his eyes closed - and he laughs, pushes at Porthos' chest as his tail starts to beat off the floor. And there's a hopelessness to it but he just lets it go: he slept with a wolf. He knew what it could turn into when he did it but he looked at the way Porthos was looking at him (concerned, friendly and troubled, visibly turned on) and knew he couldn't not, and he'd just have to deal with what happened next. And they happened, Porthos and Aramis, it wasn't just a fuck, Aramis fell for him in a series of sudden thumps like falling down the stairs, every extra thing Porthos did was just another reason to fucking adore this man. This wolf. His Porthos.

He strokes Porthos' ears, and promises him as his snout nudges Aramis' jaw, "It's alright."

He made his decisions, he has no right to go back on any of them now, he doesn't even want to. He will be loyal to Porthos as Porthos understands loyalty. Relationships are about compromise; Aramis will be as ideal a mate as any werewolf could hope for from a human, and if Athos has a claim over him as well, Aramis will never let Porthos be hurt by it. He loves him. How ungrateful would it be to tell Porthos that he needs more, that it's never felt like disloyalty to him, that he loves multiply and meaningfully and struggles all the time with how other people feel about that . . . ?

He finds a patch on Porthos' muzzle clear of dark thick blood to lay a kiss to, and then puts an arm around his heavily-furred shoulders, cheek to his chest fur, and keeps one eye on that vampire still face-down from what two werewolves did to it. If it so much as moves he'll tell Porthos, if Porthos can't tell himself. If it moves, they need to put it down again instantly.

He listens to the quiet of all those souls finally allowed to settle, thinks of that haunted apartment building where the woman trapped will finally be free, then closes his eyes, and listens to the cavernous bellows of Porthos' breathing against his ear instead.

*

Flea turned again back in that house, so she could go downstairs and find the victim in the cellar, all of them assuming that a vampire going down to fetch her was a bad idea. Porthos waits until he gets home, so he's not human-formed but smeared in vampire blood out there, at home he can shower.

He does it quickly, hurries through drying, throws clean clothes on, and when he slams the bathroom door open Aramis is still just lounging on their sofa, one leg thrown over the arm, eyes drowsily trailing from the ceiling to Porthos. His smile is weary, turning puzzled at the way Porthos strides for him, he can't help it, catches him off the sofa in both arms -

"Porthos -"

- and flumps into a sit there holding Aramis to his chest, arms close around him, trying to keep the growl from getting out; Aramis will be able to feel how it vibrates his chest against himself.

"I'm alright," Aramis says, lifting a hand and stroking a thumb along the edge of Porthos' beard. "I'm fine, love, I'm right here."

Porthos' lip keeps wanting to twitch to reveal his teeth. He mutters his snarl of, "Fucking vampires."

Quiet, then Aramis just gets settled against him if he's being held like this, cheek fitting to his shoulder, getting his arse comfortable on Porthos' lap. "Yes," he says quietly. "But not all of them. Athos saved my life, Porthos."

Porthos glances at the closed door to Athos' room, then sullenly away again. "Guess he's alright," he mutters.

"We're all still here," Aramis says. "And we did something that mattered. I think it's cause for celebration, really."

Porthos stares into space over Aramis' head, then says, "The captain was mad."

He cares more about the captain being mad than he should, it's always the same when he's being told off in wolf form, Treville's only human but he's got alpha coming out of his pores, it's all Porthos can do not to cringe. Aramis laughs softly, and pets at his cheek again, and says, "He'll just have to learn what we're like. I don't know why it's assumed I'm so fragile, I was in the army for ten years, I survived most of the college. And there's no point in exorcists being 'special' if you never use them."

"That vampire had you -"

"Yes." Porthos looks down at Aramis looking up at him. Aramis says gently, "I will need your help against vampires." Thoughtfully, "And I might start carrying more weapons."

Porthos holds him pinned close (he's trying not to snarl out loud the mine), remembering, in the strange-impressioned way he does remember things from his wolf-form, the moaning vampire they met on the floor when they were trying to find Aramis, its head a stinking mess of blood and bullets. Ninon put another one into him to keep him down, he'll be in custody with the other servant now. Aramis did that to him. Exorcists might be feeble mortals, it's still a pretty lethal feeble mortal he's got in his arms to put a vampire down at all.

"We were hunters once," Aramis says. "Before your department started letting supernaturals in, we did all of it. I know they were bad times but at least it shows what we're capable of and that was before automatic weapons, I'm not quite such a wilting flower, you know. Just, against the bad vampires and werewolves, nowadays."

They were bad times. As much as humans were being picked off like lambs by vampires back then, getting brutally caught up in the werewolf wars for territory, humans were also in return slaughtering any supernatural they came across without any questions asked. They were really fucking bad times. For all they know, Athos was there for them, they still don't know how old he is.

"I'll need your help," Aramis says, thumb stroking his cheek, voice soft. "But there are things I have to do, Porthos. Hardly anyone can do them, now, and if I hear - I have to. But I'll need your help. I will need your help."

The college, twenty murdered exorcists, exorcists now unable to walk out without fear in Paris at night. And Aramis hearing voices in the walls, that look on his face, his utter inability to just walk on when he knew what had happened. The captain was angry with them but in a way Porthos knows that Aramis is right; if they'd gone to that house of vampires without an exorcist they'd never have known how much death had been wreaked in there, they'd never have known about that poor girl still locked up in there, even if Athos heard human heartbeats he'd have only thought they were employees. They might have had an ugly confrontation and had to walk away empty-handed against so powerful a family, able to deny all involvement and intimidate their way out of it when the department tried to get lawyers and a proper prosecution involved. But as soon as an exorcist walked in, he knew, and Treville himself is going to have to admit to it sooner or later, they need Aramis. Not just for back up, not just strictly for hauntings and exorcisms, they need him on the streets, he's a fucking radar system for supernatural crime. So Porthos is going to have to up his game. If Porthos wants to keep the body on his lap warm and breathing, he needs to protect him whatever it takes, he needs to know what he's capable of and what he's not, so Porthos can fill those gaps. Because a vampire had him and Porthos could smell the fear on him, and he couldn't do a fucking thing.

Maybe Athos is good for something. It softens in Porthos helplessly, yes, he owes Athos, he knows, whatever Athos said to that vampire he got him to drop Aramis and give him back to them. Yeah, Athos isn't one of the bad ones. Athos is with them. Maybe they can start being actual friends now.

He glances at his closed door again, and wonders if this is some sort of sulk or if Athos is really upset about having to deal with vampires like that; either way he thinks he'll go out for a bottle or two of wine soon, so they can tempt him out. He squeezes Aramis in his arms and it's in his throat, he knows he owes the man a lot more than a drink.

"Okay," he says, lifting a hand to slide his fingers into Aramis' hair. "I'll help. If you promise not to go runnin' into vampires' houses without back-up again."

"Well. Not more than I can help." Porthos tucks his chin in to look down at Aramis' face, at his grin, and he's alive and he's Porthos' and he lowers his head and breathes in long at his hair, can still smell some of the day's fear and anger in his scent but mostly just Aramis, the same scent as Porthos' bed, the way home and togetherness and safety and pack smells.

"Captain was mad," Porthos tells him to his hair. "Best stay out of trouble for a bit."

Aramis' knuckles stroke at his cheek, and he whispers, face slipping up so his mouth is dangerously close, "How long is 'a bit'?"

Porthos kisses him, and Aramis' hands slide into his hair. Fuck all the rest of it. What matters now is pack.

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