rainjoyswriting: (kurt!)
[personal profile] rainjoyswriting
Instincts part two, Pack, Musketeers fic, stupid exorcist fic (still currently only tagged, god I need to sort out my memories . . .).

Disclaimer: As official as a hand-knitted football scarf.

Rating: R because . . . stuff.

Warnings: Shit can always be as disturbing as I promised on part one; violence, occasional references to suicide here.

Summary: Pack is non-negotiable.


Note: Normal service will resume when I get this thing the fuck out of my head. I'll probably have a rant about wolf behaviour and what 'alpha' and 'beta' actually mean at some point, because I like werewolves to stay fairly true to their original metaphor and apparently the internet isn't interested in actual wolf behaviour, which is ironic when you consider the metaphor of the werewolf and how we like to misunderstand the animals that we are ^^;










Athos is unfamiliar with hospitals. Generally vampires are, given that they can heal themselves from anything that doesn't kill them and it's blood, not medicine, that aids in that. It's entirely because blood heals vampires that he's here, sitting straight-backed and blank-faced in borrowed hospital scrubs on a plastic chair, in a small waiting area with only two other occupants at this time of night, a man and woman holding hands tight. Athos shouldn't be here. If that frightened couple realise he's a vampire, DPI or not, they're going to specifically not want him here.

He can smell them. He's trying very hard not to.

He shifts in his seat, keeps his shoulders back. He's been off human blood for years and he's forgotten what it's like, he always knew in the abstract how it heightens everything but he'd forgotten the felt phenomenology of living like this, he can hear a spider making its way along the edge of the ceiling, he can hear someone drinking too loud from a cup in one of the sealed rooms along this corridor, the nurses' talk behind closed doors is incredibly distracting. He can feel the air like an irritation on the skin. The smells are appalling, if this is what Porthos lives with -

He can't think about Porthos yet.

The worst of it all is the heartbeats, the steady-shifting lungs, all the pulses and swishes of fluids around the soft wet insides of human bodies. It's making him equal parts hungry and queasy, vampires' bodies are so much quieter, all these noisy boorish human bodies like vermin everywhere, he feels towards those two people heads ducked together a rising surge of furious contempt -

No. That's the blood talking. You are high right now, you are not thinking rationally, they are not just bodies and you are not just a vampire.

You come off human blood thinking you're doing it for humans. It's only now he's tasted it again that Athos realises that living like this, god it's unbearable, it's too much, he's hypersensitive to everything. No wonder most vampires seem so fucking crazy, they genuinely can't cope with their own sensory feedback, they probably kill humans just to shut up their fucking heartbeats.

He shifts his ankles closer together, squeezes his hands together in his lap, focuses on his pressing fingers to try to ignore the noise of them all. It only half helps. There is one heartbeat he can hear like it pumps right in his ear canal.

It had been confused and fluttering when they arrived here - Christ, he'd lost so much blood - but it's steadying now, a little more strained than Athos would like but there is a difference between struggling and dying. The wound had to be sealed, they need to replenish his blood. A lot of his blood. There's not a lot they can do for the cracked rib.

All the rest of it, nothing but death will mend now.

Athos lowers his head, digging his fingers through his hair, clenching his teeth as if that will blot out the sound of Aramis' heart beating as if startled to still be alive.

The evening's mission should have involved Athos very little. The callout was for two werewolf packs getting aggressive in a high rise, Porthos and Flea were to take the lead in talking them down, Aramis was to hang back as a fairly neutral figure in proceedings, at least representing that Athos and Ninon keeping their distance must be neutered vampires if even the flimsy little human trusted them. They were talking on the stairwell, not in anyone's apartment, neutral territory between packs; the humans in the building kept their doors locked and stayed the hell inside away from them all, they were the ones who'd called the DPI in when they heard the snarling turn to fight. There was another squad of musketeers outside the building to act as back-up if required, considering how nasty werewolf fights can get - a witch and two more werewolves, just to be certain - but the general hope was that they wouldn't even be required. Porthos and Flea would do the talking, if necessary Aramis could slip in to soothe tempers - when he's not actively trying to make situations worse, Aramis is surprisingly good at peacekeeping - and it might not even get to the point of anyone turning, which would surely precipitate worse.

Unfortunately it turned out that they had not merely walked into two wolf packs forced into living in over-close proximity and responding just as wolves do. They had walked into a schism within a werewolf separatist movement, and a group of musketeers, with vampires in tow, was really the last thing the situation needed.

Athos still isn't clear on what exactly happened, so much of it was either out of his sight around bends of the staircase or else just too fast and chaotic to follow. Every wolf present turned, and there were around twenty of them, and while half of them started attacking each other the rest turned on them. Porthos and Flea turned and went for the alphas - two each to deal with, Athos doesn't know what state either of them are in and cannot think about Porthos right now - and Ninon leapt the banister of the concrete spiral staircase to the next turn of the stairs, sprinting down already calling for back-up, wolves peeling off howling to follow her. Others went immediately for Athos.

He doesn't know how many, it's close to the full moon and they were fast and he had Aramis to worry about, banging him behind himself against the wall before they could have his throat out. But then there were just lots of teeth all aimed at him and he heard the repeated retort of Aramis' gun, the slavering snarl of furious wolves and sudden piercing yelps of pain, and then -

Then jaws got him the wrong way around the midriff, and all but disembowelled him right there in the hallway.

He pushes a hand back through his hair, and the borrowed clothes he's wearing may not be torn and clotted to his stomach with his own murky blood but they do reek of the wrong washing powder, and his hypersensitive blood-fuelled skin feels them hushing, hushing against him as he moves.

In that tower block Aramis screamed his name, there was a catastrophe of gunshots, and as Athos hit the ground with no wolf holding him up in its teeth any longer, he heard something else hit the concrete floor like lead. He watched dazed with pain as Aramis' boot kicked a fire extinguisher to roll heavily towards the werewolves growling and whining, picking themselves up with Aramis' bullets already in them -

Aramis' arms grabbed Athos' shoulders, and with nowhere else to go, he dragged Athos bodily backwards down the stairs, shot as they stumbled and fell and crashed down and into the wall with Athos on top of him trying not to scream, Athos heard Aramis' rib crack, as the landing above them exploded into powder and the screaming of wolves. Aramis let his breath out in a sharpened huff and dragged Athos on around the corner down more stairs, where he shot the lock off and fumbled them into a cleaner's cupboard, wedging the door closed with a kicked-in mop handle, hoping that the reek of chemicals would at least delay the wolves from finding them.

What other options did they have? Athos would heal but it would take hours. Aramis was injured and running out of bullets. The werewolves were scattering throughout the building, Athos could hear the roaring of their fights above and below them, the wolves who had followed Ninon would be holding up the agents downstairs still trying to get into the building. They couldn't escape out - not with Athos holding his own guts in, forearms pressed over the slow ooze of his brown blood, almost speechless with pain, while he could hear Aramis' too-quick breath rasping at the cracked bone in his chest. There was no safety in their hiding place, all they were doing was delaying the inevitable, sooner or later some wolf would come past and wonder why their scent 'stopped' outside this door . . .

Athos' hearing is currently blood-boosted acute enough that he can have himself upright again, outwardly composed, before a doctor has even emerged from the room they took Aramis into. She walks to Athos smiling a little uncertainly - every nurse and doctor who saw the state of Athos' clothes when he arrived with Aramis half-dead could tell that no human could be gutted like a fish, bleed out brown blood, then heal without a trace before their companion had time to die from blood loss - and says, "We've got your friend stabilised, if you'd like to see him."

'Friend', Athos thinks, standing from his seat. What an innocuous word for the relationship he and Aramis have now.

On the bed they've stripped Aramis to the waist to get heart monitors attached to him but Athos wants to tell them that honestly, there's no need, he'll know before their machines do if Aramis' heart fails. Not that failure is something he can imagine Aramis' heart doing. It tends towards the over-active, that fucking organ.

Athos just stands and looks at him, and tries not to smell the contents of the bag of blood feeding into Aramis' limp arm. "Another member of our squad and our commanding officer will be here shortly," he says. He assumes these things will happen, anyway. It's hard to imagine Porthos dead and Ninon will report to Treville what's happened, and he's going to be furious at the state of their exorcist.

He looks at the thick binding of bandages around Aramis' wrist, thinks that when Porthos gets here, he's going to kill Athos. Which isn't in and of itself a bad thing. It's the only thing now that will make Aramis free.

In that cupboard, hugged to Aramis' chest and trying to cope with the pain of it, he tried to listen over the sound of Aramis' breath huff - huff - huffing in the dark for the movements of the wolves. They would come for them. Once they stopped fighting amongst themselves they would catch the scent of an injured vampire and follow it determined to kill it. Aramis' only chance at survival was to flee and hope sheer hatred would make the wolves care more about killing Athos than chasing him.

Ridiculous suggestion to make, apparently.

After Aramis had calmed down a bit, after he'd stopped cursing Athos out because of course he wouldn't fucking leave him, he'd never fucking leave him (it occurred to Athos too late what it meant to Aramis of all people, the suggestion that he should desert a comrade to die so he could escape), they were quiet in the dark again, Athos listening to the wolves, thinking, through the haze of pain. He'd asked, "How many bullets do you have left?"

"Not enough." Aramis said. "Even if I could get them clean in the head, and they're too damn fast for it, not enough."

"Salt?"

Aramis' arms pressed closer around him. "They're too far gone. They wouldn't even notice it hurt until they were already through it. Spirits I could stop, wolves - I'm sorry, Athos."

"It's not your fault," he'd said, his own arms agony against his opened guts, entire body a panic of trying to heal itself and there never could be enough time.

There was no plan D. Just waiting to die.

Laying there cradled in Aramis' lap, listening to werewolves who would with delight rip Athos to pieces - the best hope was that they'd get the head off relatively quickly, if they were inept they could maul him for quite a while before it ended - he thought about Aramis, and Porthos. Aramis would certainly die when Athos was killed, even if they overlooked Aramis in their excitement at getting their paws on a wounded vampire Aramis would never allow that, and he was armed enough to be an irritant if he did attack them, armed enough to make their killing him worthwhile. And Porthos, assuming his own survival, would come downstairs and find his mate - Aramis might be human but they all know exactly what's going on there - cold and sodden with blood on the floor, torn apart by Porthos' own kind. Werewolves do not kill cleanly. There are vampires who take satisfaction in leaving aesthetically pleasing corpses, werewolves are not so fussy.

The silence was broken when Aramis said, "You heal faster after feeding, don't you?"

The doctor having left them Athos stands by the bed, looking down at him, hating him. Hating him for suggesting it, hating him for forcing the matter, hating him for acting like the consequences are of no consequence when they are the rest of his life, hating him for being right. They would both be dead if Aramis hadn't acted. But - fuck - is this really any better?

He has to catch himself, suddenly, in the realisation that he doesn't know how much of his own fury directed right at him can be felt by Aramis right now. Athos is no longer free to feel anything he wants to, Aramis is as connected to him as if there's a chain between their chests, Athos' sluggish heart dragging Aramis' sprightly, shackled one along after itself. And Athos is only angrier at him then, understanding his own shortened circumferences, that he will never be allowed to indulge himself in petty rage against him again until the day Aramis dies. And he probably won't even be in the fucking mood for it then. It's just so typically fucking Aramis a situation to drag Athos into.

Aramis' heart beats, settled now if exhausted of the day's events, as if low in Athos' chest. He hears the slow passage of breath in his lungs as if it blows into his ear drums. It's constant, he's not used to it yet but he knows he must become used to it, eventually, if they both live long enough for it. The day Aramis dies, Athos is going to feel as if he's gone deaf. If he does survive that far. There's Porthos to deal with yet.

Aramis had laid out his argument sounding so fucking reasonable Athos wanted to hit him. They were pinned down and likely to die very shortly, and Aramis didn't want Athos dead, and he didn't want to do this to Porthos, leaving him on his own, making him know that other werewolves had killed Aramis in some terrible violent way. Aramis was no good for fighting them with a busted rib but Athos, healed and souped up with human blood, really was. And Athos had said, "Aramis." and it meant a lot of things, and what all those things meant was shut the fuck up Aramis.

"Look," Aramis said, and until Athos had Aramis' blood in his veins and kicking every sense into overdrive, he had never felt Aramis' life as so alive in him until that moment, he was excruciatingly aware of the contained clockwork of his body, the ticking of his blood and breath. "Neither of us are children, let's be practical. Human blood will make you heal faster. That - moments, for that wound. That's just cosmetic, to a vampire. There is no need for Porthos to find both of us dead, there is just no need to do that to him. And I'm not letting you die when there is utterly no need for it either, I have plenty of blood, there's no need to be squeam-"

To be patronised as 'squeamish' by an idiot human who refused to understand what he was actually suggesting enraged Athos enough to forget his torn-open stomach and the werewolves out there who might hear them, that Aramis could be so criminally stupid as to think -

"You're an exorcist," he whispers, touching the warm back of Aramis' hand, still on the hospital blankets. "You bloody fucking stupid waste of a brain, Aramis, you're an exorcist, you knew what this meant -"

It would kill him, is what he'd roared at Aramis in that cupboard, surrounded by the stink of bleach and dirty mopping water and his own stale blood. Whether the bleeding killed him or the aftermath did, turned him into a zombie and sapped all the life out of him, either way it would kill him and it wasn't worth it, of course it wasn't worth -

"No." Aramis said, one of his arms slipping from around Athos' chest, rummaging in his satchel. "It means we're both alive. That's worth it to me."

"You know what it's going to make you feel, I'm going to be kicking you away from my bedroom door every fucking night, don't you care about what you will look like, what Porthos will see -"

"He'll see us not dead." Aramis slipped something from his satchel and Athos squirmed, choking on his pain, fingers full of his own wet flesh and innards, trying to turn himself to see the furious dark of Aramis' eyes as he held his own athame to his wrist. "I understand what's going to happen, don't pretend that you don't know what's already happened. There's not a thing it's going to make me feel that I don't feel already."

And then he slit, and the scent of hot-welling human blood filled that whole cupboard out, the smell of it filled Athos' whole mouth like a great red ball, trying to press his teeth free without his even thinking -

He puts a hand over his eyes, whispers, "You idiot. You idiot. You idiot."

Drawing his breath in sharply in that cupboard, dropping the athame to sing metal off the floor so he could clamp his hand around his lower arm, Aramis had hissed out through his teeth, "Either you drink from me and get us both out of here alive," he'd paused to wet his lips, Athos could hear his heart as if he could taste it between his teeth, "or I will bleed to death very quickly, Athos."

Aramis is an exorcist, and he knows what happens to a human drunk from by a vampire but not dead. The pact of psychic slavery they have now entered into sickens Athos, he doesn't know how he'll bear to watch it when Aramis wakes, even when he did drink from humans he never did this to them, the sadism of this represents everything he loathes his own kind for. They think it's funny, watching the way humans look at them afterwards, terrified and needy. They think it's even funnier to string the pathetic things along, to make them think their confused feelings are met in kind when they're never anything but a willing, walking larder. They keep them as if they're pets. Drunk from humans don't want to want what they now find they do, if they're kept alive long enough they almost always lose their minds, and since nothing short of the vampire's death will ever free them, suicide is usually their only chance of freedom. For a very limited definition of 'freedom'. Aramis knew that when he did it. And he also knew . . .

Athos looks down at his fingers resting on Aramis' hand, then takes them back.

Of course he's known what Aramis has felt for some time. Vampires are very good at reading human interest, he's sensed Aramis making efforts not to look, heard the occasional uncertainty of Aramis' heart in front of both Athos and Porthos. Athos had so far found it just incredible, the thought that a human would so willingly play with that much fire, attach himself to a werewolf and then start eyeing a vampire up as well, it would have been funny were it not so cretinous. Athos had no intention of indulging Aramis' self-destructive whims, and had no interest in any sentient being ever standing close enough to him for that again anyway - Ninon was the closest he'd come since her, and they had neither of them intended anything extended out of it, both distrustful of intimacy. And so it had merely been a piece of Aramisian anthropology, some new and ridiculous ritual of his to observe, their exorcist's outright and unabashed death wish.

It isn't just sex, though Athos can feel Aramis' attraction to him. It's so much more than that. Some nights he's realised, mid-sentence while Aramis and Porthos eat dinner and Athos sits with them, exactly the way Aramis is looking at him as if fascinated by him, and has glared honest fury in return for Aramis to let it show with Porthos at the table. All it's ever made Aramis do is grin before returning to his plate. Athos didn't know exactly what Aramis felt before, beyond the matter of sex. He can guess, but he thinks he's been in denial about how deep it clearly ran. Refusing to acknowledge it, refusing to think about it, and able to tell that Aramis was doing his best to tamp it down anyway, it was best never thought of at all. Or it was until Aramis decided that those feelings already gave him little to lose, and slit his own wrist, and then raised his shaking, bloody fingers in the direction of Athos' mouth, fear in his eyes that Athos was just staring at him, that he was bleeding so fucking fast and Athos could hear wolves on the floor above them, padding around -

Aramis couldn't see, in the dark. His blood-sticky fingers brushed Athos' cheek before they found his lips, and the scent under Athos' nose dilated his pupils.

Human blood smells distinctive, so much clearer than animal blood, catching on the tongue so much purer, that smooth metallic warmth - he closes his eyes and his hands, now ashamed so hot in his belly that it almost warms even his body, that he grabbed Aramis' wrist to get a good suck at his fingers, heard Aramis' gasp, looked down at how much blood he was losing -

- lifted his wrist, licking around the run of blood down his arm before closing his mouth over the wound, hot liquid silk on his tongue.

He still can't face the shame of the fact that while Aramis swore he felt it all already, Athos knows that he did too. He is very good at ignoring his urges towards humans, but in that moment, surrounded by the scent of the blood he couldn't make himself not notice all along, it turned out that he had no more self-control than Porthos did in the first moment of Aramis' offering. He can't stand knowing what he wanted. He can't face knowing he'll never stop wanting it, now he does know the exact exquisite clarity of Aramis' body-hot blood.

"I," Aramis had said, and then, "Ah," as if startled, body jerking, as if he really hadn't understood what he was starting until too late. And already it was in Athos' dead arteries like life, flowing through his cold brain like clarity. Athos sucked, used both hands to pull Aramis' wrist closer, drew hard at the wound, Aramis making another small half-stifled sound trying to be brave and he was so human, so suddenly helpless, hardly able to control his reaction to the discomfort of it, Athos closed his eyes and sucked and Aramis' breath shuddered into him staggered and shocked, Athos sucked and sucked and could feel his eyes sharpening, his nerve-endings awakening like coral blossoming under the skin -

Wolf-paws patted down the stairs, claws clicking on concrete. Aramis made another non-noise, just a punched vowel, his weight slumping sideways. Athos caught him in an arm - already his stomach had sealed, already the internal damage was knitting itself, pouring with clean fresh blood, as Aramis' body hung in Athos' arm to his side, head slumping back on his shoulder, whispering wordless breath to the ceiling and Athos held his wrist up and he tasted like life.

A paw the size of a hand scratched the outside of the door.

Athos sits in the chair by the bed so he can prop his elbows off his thighs and bury his face in his hands. It wasn't worth it. How could it be worth it? What I did to you -

But that wolf outside the door, the second one following it down the stairs. Does Athos get to decide for Aramis that being drunk from by a vampire is better than being torn to pieces by a werewolf? There are too many ways in this city for an exorcist to die. He looks across at Aramis, pale and breathing steady, his heart beating shockingly out of place in Athos' chest, and he thinks, Yes I fucking do get to the decide that for you, because you're an idiot.

He has more complicated feelings towards the saving of his own life, and the one thing he's certain of is that he didn't want to be the scented rag attracting werewolves to Aramis' hiding place. They could easily have left a human alone when there were hostile vampires and werewolves in the building, and it was the presence of Athos that put Aramis in danger. Had he died there, it would have been because of Athos. But the guilt has to be weighed against more guilt; is it better to see Aramis savaged to death by werewolves, or put into this hospital like this?

He hears movement down the corridor, on and off, but recognises this stride and sets his back straight, clears his throat slightly, hopes that he doesn't have enough human blood in him right now to blush with shame in front of the captain. He doesn't know what happens now. The way Treville is going to understand this -

There's a knock at the door. Athos glances at Aramis - he doesn't wake - and says, "Captain."

Treville walks in and his eye flits over Aramis before it settles on Athos. "Ninon told me you'd brought him in," he says, closing the door behind himself. "She said she didn't know the extent of his injuries. The nurse said he'd lost a lot of blood."

Athos' hand closes on the side of the chair but carefully, he could put his fingers through it like paper right now. "Yes. He has. Have you heard from Porthos?"

"He's still wolf-formed, he's not following anything well yet. Ninon's going to try to get him to dress and shower before she explains it to him, we can't have him turn up here as a wolf."

It's an open secret in the department what Aramis and Porthos are to each other, every werewolf and vampire there can smell it off them. The captain was incredibly angry about it but would clearly rather not separate a werewolf and its mate as reorganising the units would require, even if that fucking werewolf had it coming.

"No." Athos says. "That's probably wisest."

He would like a moment longer to wrap his arms around himself and hunch his body small and choke on his own self-hatred but he doesn't deserve even that, so he stands, and brushes his stupid, undignified borrowed clothing down, and looks the captain straight in the eye while Aramis' heart pumps its blood loud in both of Athos' eardrums. "We ended up pinned down by werewolves with nowhere to run. He had a broken rib and little ammunition left, I was holding my intestines in with both arms. He slit his wrist and made me drink from him so that I could get us out safely."

Treville's lips part for the What? but Treville has seen quite a lot in his life, for a human, and his mouth purses tense in the same second. Athos, senses like scalpels, can see in the captain's posture his sudden awareness of both his gun and the fact that against a vampire full of blood, he'll never have the time to reach for it; Athos nods to his side, says calmly, "I won't stop you drawing. The kindest thing for him now is if I'm killed before he can wake."

Treville is silent for a second longer, then says, "I'm not killing you just for your satisfaction. Tell me what happened."

"There is little else to tell."

"I am asking for your report," Treville says in that steely, dangerous voice, and Athos finds himself thinking with idiot nostalgia that he will miss that voice.

"I assume Ninon has told you what she knew. There were two packs, werewolf separatists, half attacking each other and half attacking us, it was bedlam. Porthos and Flea chased the alphas, I was trying to shield Aramis and one of them tore my stomach open. Aramis shot a number of them, and then exploded a fire extinguisher underneath them, and dragged us into a cleaner's cupboard to hide. He cracked a rib falling down the stairs. While we were trapped in there he suggested - he pointed out -"

Athos doesn't know how to word it. He both does and doesn't want to flag up that this is all Aramis' fault; he knows who he's really angry at, the blood hot, for once, in his veins.

Treville says, eyes hard on him, "The facts."

The facts. Yes. Deal with those, first. "He pointed out that we were both doomed as soon as those wolves found us, and he - particularly didn't want Porthos to find us afterwards. To find him, afterwards." Treville nods tersely. "He was injured and would run out of bullets long before he could get either of us to safety. I was going to take some hours to heal from being disembowelled, without feeding. We had a brief discussion about the implications of his being fed on." He can't keep his eyes from straying, withering, to the man on the bed, who lays easy, calm, Athos knows it, he can feel his peace pumping the blood in his own body. "He refused to listen to reason and slit his own wrist so I could either drink from him and save us both or else watch him die either from blood loss or the wolves getting to us first." He pulls his eyes away from Aramis, can't say to the captain that once he had Aramis' blood in his mouth, he couldn't stop. "Two wolves did get to us, but by then I was healed. I disabled them, got a tourniquet on him, and I could hear Ninon and the others coming upstairs which meant any wolves below were no longer a problem, so I called for an ambulance and carried him out. Which brings us about up to date, sir."

Treville is breathing very slowly, but Athos can hear how hard those breaths are, and the fury of his heartbeat. He put an exorcist they were never certain could be safe into the hands of a werewolf and a vampire he thought could protect him; the werewolf fucked him and claimed him for a mate and now the vampire's drunk from him, and as if it's not enough to fuck the exorcist around like that, now the werewolf will almost certainly attempt to kill the vampire. Which is a bit of a pity. Athos had become quite attached to Porthos, for a wolf.

Athos would also like to heavily stress Aramis' personal culpability in both the ill-advised werewolf-sex and the vampire-feeding, but hearing that heart helpless on the bed and knowing he put it there, he just fucking can't. Maybe he'll be angry with him later. Right now he can't summon enough hope in himself for anger.

Treville rubs his hair, turns away, paces the edge of the room, turns and paces back and stops in front of Athos again. "He doesn't belong to you."

It's like being disembowelled all over again, the words drop out of him before he's thought not to make them sound so shocked. "I know that."

"He doesn't belong to Porthos either. This is - hell. We need to deal with him before he gets here. He'll know. He'll smell it."

God. Yes. Aramis will smell of Athos now, every vampire and werewolf around will be able to tell that. He smells of Porthos and Athos, he smells like a fucking supernatural groupie, fuck, he will smell to a lot of vampires now like he 'wants' it, like one of those pathetic feeders, like he must have done this on purpose -

Athos remembers how sure Aramis seemed when he put the blade to his wrist, and how quickly he became uncertain as it became overwhelming. Aramis likes playing with fire but everyone has their limit, and the only fraction of mercy they have is that Aramis discovered his with a vampire who got interrupted.

"I'll wait outside for him." Treville says. "Speak to him before he's in the room."

This is a hospital, they can't risk a fight here. "Is that wise?"

"We can't stop him coming here. I mean that literally, we don't have the resources to keep the two of them apart, not after tonight. I'll talk to him."

"We're near the full moon."

"Yes. We may actually have some chance of his obedience at this time of the month."

Sometimes, in the captain's alarming humour, Athos wonders if he copes as well as he does with all of them because their trouble is nothing compared to the trouble he could make . . .

Athos lifts his head, straining to hear - "He's here now," he says. "Down the corridor. He'll -"

"Stay here." Treville says, and closes the door again behind himself. Athos stands in what should be silence but for a hospital full of humans and the irritating beeping of that machine, so slightly behind Aramis' actual heartbeat, which when he presses a hand to his own chest he can almost feel.

He tries not to listen to Porthos and Treville speaking, he doesn't want to hear it. He tries to look dispassionately down at Aramis but finds that he's looking at his throat and looks away, blinking fast, startled and sickened. He's always found Aramis' throat a problem. Aramis wears loose shirts and t-shirts revealing far too much neck - in a house with a vampire in it, god - and Athos has long had to ignore that he finds it attractive for more than one reason. Normally he's good at ignoring things, there's just something so agonisingly unignorable about Aramis. Now he looks fixedly away from Aramis' neck, and puts a hand over his, and presses his fingers to the sheets.

I won't make this worse for you. I know it will be bad enough.

He hears Porthos' voice catch into a bellow and it sounds like - it's the way it cracks, not just fury, pain, the grief of knowing what has happened -

Athos takes his hand back and takes a step back from the bed, so that when the door bangs inwards on its hinges and Treville barks, "Porthos -" at least the vampire isn't looming over the werewolf's prone mate, even if he is the one who put him in that bed.

Porthos hasn't turned again, though he can't be far off, face wrinkled and teeth bared, huge in that doorway and roaring, "You -"

Athos keeps his own emotions as bland as he can, he doesn't want to distress Aramis. "Porthos, this wasn-"

His back hits the wall in a way that might have hurt, were he not still so ringing with blood he would be a match right now for Porthos even in the depths of his fury. Porthos' hands twist in the shoulders of his scrubs, almost claws, and he snarls at his face, "Scum."

"Porthos," Athos says, quietly. "Don't wake him."

"- took him," Porthos growls, whines, breathing hard and face contorted around teeth. "Stole him, you - broke him -"

He feels sick. Vampires can't, that he is aware, vomit, but he feels like he might be able to buck nature right now he's so queasy with it all. He whispers, "I'm sorry."

Porthos stares at him, and then the rage on his face darkens -

"Porthos." Treville snaps from the doorway. "Don't disturb Aramis, put him down. That is a direct order."

Porthos just stares at Athos, and makes no move to do anything. In this moment of stillness Athos can take in the torn skin on his arm, at the underside of his jaw; it will heal, and quickly so near the moon, but there's no equivalent to simple blood for werewolves, the only thing that eases their healing is proximity to their pack. Athos doesn't really know what's happening to Porthos' pack right now. Treville says, "We are going to discuss this outside the room, all three of us. He needs to rest. Get out here now, he is resting."

- something in Porthos' eyes - settles, down out of the fury, and his hands twist less tight on Athos' shoulders. He looks around, looks bewildered at the bed, at Aramis unmoving, and his eyes flick to that bag of blood.

He says, gruff, "The vampire leaves first."

Athos says nothing, just steps around him when Porthos lets go of him, walks past Treville in the doorway and out into the corridor. He turns and looks at Porthos - he doesn't like to look at Treville, the way Treville is looking at Porthos right now, holding the door and white with rage - and Porthos looks at Aramis, then walks to his side. There's the wall between them and Athos, he can't see what happens next.

For one sudden lurching second of terror, he thinks that Porthos could see only one way to free Aramis from what Athos has done to him now -

- and blinks in the same second, because of course not, as Porthos pads back from the bed and walks dry-eyed and hands trembling in their fists out of the room. Porthos may see only one way for Aramis to be free, but it's not Aramis' death that would make the most sense to him.

Treville closes the door on Aramis. "Obviously," he says angrily, "this is less than ideal. But it's too late now to divide this unit, so the two of you will just have to live with each other."

"S'his fault," Porthos spits, hands squeezed so tight Athos can hear how the flesh creaks, eyes like fury on Athos. "Move him."

"I can't, and you know I can't, it will cause Aramis too much distress. Nor can I move you, given your own bloody indiscretions, Porthos. So you are stuck together. For his sake, you will both have to manage this."

"You're fuckin' dead." Porthos says, eyes still on Athos.

"Stop thinking about yourself." Treville snaps at him. "If you kill him you are going down and Aramis loses both of you. I thought you cared slightly more than that about protecting him from whatever the hell is killing exorcists in this country but evidently testosterone is the most important fucking motivating factor to you."

Porthos blinks, looks at Treville, looks confused, looks, for one horrible second, like he's going to cry. "He wrecked him," he says, voice twisting with his inability to understand why Treville doesn't - "he's - broke him, he'll never be anythin' again but - an' he took him, he took him from me, all he'll want now is him -"

"When I made you a unit," Treville says, still shaky with rage, "that did not make Aramis the personal property of either of you. You will do now what is best for him. This will be difficult enough for him. If you intend to make it worse then I will separate you, and you know who it has to be to go, Porthos."

Porthos blinks faster now, and whether it's fury or misery Athos doesn't know, but he does know that his instinct to touch Porthos' arm cannot be acted upon. Vampires aren't a comfort to werewolves. Especially not when they've just drunk from their mates. Then Porthos looks back to Athos and tucks his chin in, so much hatred he can't stand being near him, and he says low and rough, "He never would. He never would've asked you to do that, he knew what it meant."

There's not a thing it's going to make me feel that I don't feel already.

Athos says quietly, "It meant you wouldn't have to find his body torn to pieces by werewolves."

Treville says, "We'll ascertain his state when he wakes. Until then I need to know that you two can be in a room together without requiring musketeer intervention to pull you apart again."

Athos says very softly, "I am not going to make this worse for Aramis."

"You've done enough." Porthos says, hard. "See what he says when he wakes up. Then we work it out."

Athos can tell by how he says it that if Aramis says he can't stand it - or if Aramis pleads pathetic for Athos to bite him again please please - then Porthos will act. It actually sounds like a reasonable position to take, all things considered, so Athos nods once, and then - tenses his shoulders, feels strange, like something in him has shifted; he realises that it's Aramis' breath shortening from the slow ease of sleep, and his heartbeat coming back into a waking range. "He's waking up," he says, looking at the door.

Porthos says, "Stay out of his head you creepy fuck." and walks past the captain without even looking at him, shoving the door aside.

It's not just Aramis' heart, Athos thinks, trying not to show on his face how strange he feels as he walks after Porthos back into Aramis' room. It's his consciousness. It's not like this link will make Aramis' thoughts an open book to Athos but it does make him aware of whether he's awake or asleep, he just hadn't realised it yet, Aramis being unconscious from the moment Athos was able to pay attention to what the world now felt like on the other side of Aramis' blood. It feels - invasive to him, in a way he feels guilty for thinking of, it must be worse for Aramis but god he really does see why most vampires do just kill their prey, you need a really special sort of mind to enjoy this sort of thing.

Aramis is barely stirring, but does crack his eyes for Porthos' voice, as the werewolf takes his hand and leans over him, palm on his head, murmuring to him how alright everything is, how he's here it's alright it's alright. Athos stays distant from the foot of the bed, Treville in the doorway; Aramis recognises Porthos with some slow difficulty, then smiles for him, faint and sleepy, closing his eyes as if in bliss to Porthos' knuckles nudging his cheek.

Then his eyes open again, suddenly more alert on the ceiling, and Athos feels -

"It's alright," he says. "I'm here."

Porthos shoots a look back to him like teeth, but Aramis' eyes are instantly on Athos, and Athos feels him relax. He smiles for Athos, heartbeat settling back to serene from the sudden distress of not knowing where Athos was, and when Porthos goes back to whispering to him and ignoring Athos Aramis just sighs, peaceful. Athos stays back, though he doesn't like to test the tether between them while Aramis is still recovering by walking any real distance away from him right now, and you'd think Porthos had a pup for how he fussed, smoothing the blankets over him, rubbing his bare shoulder, voice gruff and quiet.

Treville returns with a nurse - the only one of them with an eggcup full of sense right now, it had occurred to neither of them - who helps Aramis to drink something, and then removes the heart monitor so he can sleep more naturally. And Athos thinks, Oh, god, please, sleep. Please don't let it have come that far yet. Just rest, Aramis -

By some mercy, or the magic of Porthos' soothing hands, he does.

Presumably Treville will want to interview him in the morning. Presumably he'll be sending other agents to this hospital to discreetly mind them all night in case Athos and Porthos turn into the fight creaking underneath their seams right now. But for now, after another quiet word with each of them ("Stay with him, just stay out of Porthos' way." As if Athos really planned any different.) the captain leaves them, he still has a block of flats full of dead werewolves and department cells full of the surviving werewolf separatists to deal with. Rather than get into a fight with Porthos about it or risk too much distance from Aramis too soon, Athos drags a chair to the wall outside Aramis' room and sits there, so Porthos can stay in there with him all night. Compromise, Athos thinks. Not something vampires are famed for, but here he is.

And in his own blood he feels the beat of Aramis' heart, and can tell through the muted searching struggle low in his own consciousness that Aramis is dreaming about him.

*

In the morning Aramis is sitting up and the edgy tension Athos heard in his heart and breath sinks out the moment he sees Athos in the doorway, and he smiles. Aramis is still incredibly thirsty and his rib is probably sore but he doesn't otherwise show any evident sign of discomfort, which should be a blessing but there's too much tension in the room to appreciate it.

Porthos sits by him like a guard dog, glaring Athos down. His own wounds have healed now. Werewolf healing; proximity to the full moon; the presence of his pack. In some ways it must be quite nice to be a werewolf. They are healed by being close to those who love them, vampires heal by murdering other people. Not that Aramis looks murdered, he doesn't even seem to mind how tired he at least looks, he's only eager to get out of the bed and out of the hospital again. "Treville needs to speak to you first." Athos says. "And you need to get out of the habit of discharging yourself from hospitals."

Treville does want to speak to him. He makes them wait outside, and Porthos doesn't look at Athos and growls quietly and continuously, pacing up and down outside Aramis' room, arms folded and tapping at his elbow. Athos is a little confused, but working out, gradually, why Aramis seems remarkably Aramis despite what's happened between them. He hears, senses, Aramis' guilt in front of the captain now, but it's strange that his emotions still seem so lively and rich. They all expected Aramis to wake up essentially a zombie and yet he's still just that irresponsible, irrepressible idiot they've been getting used to over the last few months. Everyone knows what vampires do to people, but . . .

The door opens, and Treville looks at them both, and says, "Keep him here until a doctor has discharged him, then take him home." and strides off, done with all three of them. Athos can hardly blame him.

Aramis is sitting in bed a little wilted, eyes low to the floor in the corner of the room, though his head lifts and he smiles ruefully for the two of them. "I've caused him quite a lot of trouble," he says. He looks down at the fat roll of bandages around his wrist. "I've caused everyone quite a lot of trouble."

"Not your fault," Porthos growls softly, sitting beside him on the edge of the bed.

Athos opens his mouth, then closes it again. Best not poke the werewolf, not while he's not in this exact moment trying to tear his head off.

"I'm alright," Aramis says, putting a hand over Porthos', watching his eyes that close, focused way he does. "It feels a bit - strange, but it's not unpleasant, Porthos."

Porthos' jaw does a thing, not a good thing, and he turns his hand under Aramis' to squeeze his fingers. "Don't even think about it."

"Honestly, it's not that bad. The stories are greatly exaggerated."

"Aramis," Porthos says, voice grating on pain, "that's the blood talking."

"No," Aramis says. "It's really not."

"I think," Athos says, though he does know that it hardly matters what he says, Porthos will never believe a word of it, "that my not trying to control Aramis makes it more - bearable. Presumably most vampires who do this do it for a reason, because they enjoy the torment they inflict. I'm not trying to harm him, so he seems rather - normal. By a relative standard of 'normal'."

"That sounds plausible," Aramis says. "I'm very aware of you, but I don't feel - trodden on. I feel fine, really."

"How would you know," Porthos persists, "he's controllin' your blood, you'll feel whatever he wants you to -"

"I don't think it works like that, Porthos."

"Oh yeah?" Porthos looks at Athos like Athos is the worst thing on the face of this planet. "What d'you feel when you look at him?"

Aramis says gently, "Nothing I didn't feel yesterday."

"He's making you think that, he's - there's all the - fucked up sex stuff, Aramis -"

"Porthos," Aramis says, putting both hands around Porthos', and Athos thinks, Oh god no.

"He'll make you think you want to," Porthos says urgently. "You've got to - you can't let him. It's what he wants."

Aramis' mouth hesitates on a few things he could very indelicately say, and then he says, "I love you. I think that you know that. I wouldn't have allowed this to come so far with a werewolf if I wasn't willing to accept what that means, and I always did accept it happily because I - really fucking love you, I love you like an idiot." He's grinning at Porthos, sad and pathetically honest. "I didn't come to Paris because I thought I would be happy here, but you - really changed what waking up in a morning is like for me. And being with you is more fun than I've ever known. And you care about me even when I'm driving you nuts, and you're just sort of perfect, so, I do love you, and I think that you do know it, Porthos."

Porthos looks like he's going to cry. He looks like that, Athos thinks, because he still believes that Aramis' love for him will gradually fade into the past tense, as Athos' control over Aramis emerges like a snake from under a rock. Poor innocent Porthos, and how little he knows, about where the snakes in his life lie.

"The thing is," Aramis says, and lifts Porthos' hand, and kisses the back of it, eyes closed, meaning it, "if I am attracted to Athos, that didn't begin last night."

Porthos blinks, at first just like he's still trying not to cry, then again in confusion, and then he says, "What?"

"Aramis," Athos says, and means -

"No," Aramis says. "There's no point in not being honest. I thought I'd never do anything about it so it didn't matter, but - but things are more complicated now, and I don't want Porthos blaming you if my self-control does start going down the toilet -"

"He is to blame." Porthos snaps.

"No he isn't." Aramis says. "Not because he drank from me and not because I noticed that he's a very attractive man long before that. Porthos, I'm sorry, I can't help noticing it. I can't help my feelings but I swear to you it doesn't change a thing about how I love you and I've never intended to do anything about it anyway, I knew you wouldn't-"

"Wh- it's- he's making you say this-"

"Oh for god's sake." Athos mutters.

"He is not, do you think it works like that? I'm not his Aramis sock puppet. I have never been unfaithful in my life and I never would be and I love you and it's not anyone's fault that there's Athos as well-"

"What the fuck are you sayin', are you - are you actually glad he owns you now?"

"He doesn't own me. But I am saying that I don't regret it, and if it does give me - urges, Porthos, I already had those. And I know he'd never use them against m-"

Porthos is off the bed, hand snatched back from Aramis. "What the fuck, you wanna fuck him -?"

"I'm not going to! And I would have told you, you've just always been a bit -"

"That's not how it works!"

"- possessive, I didn't know how you'd . . ."

"That's not how any of this fucking works! We're together, I'm a werewolf, you can't just turn around and-"

"That's why I've been ignoring it, I wanted to be honest with you but -"

"But what?"

"Well -" Aramis' eye flits, possibly involuntary, a very bad idea, to Athos. "I didn't know how jealous you would be."

"Jealous -"

"I was trying to be a good - mate, I suppose, Porthos it's not like it changes us -"

"Jealous, because you wanted to fuck the vampire, I'm a fucking werewolf, how did you think I'd feel -?"

"There's no need to shout," Aramis says, holding a hand out, Athos can hear how nervous-quick his heart's gone. "Porthos, none of this can't be handled in a more- because we can talk about this, if you're uncomfortable with it then it changes nothing and I never would do a thing to hurt you but you will have to be patient with me if my self-control around Athos does go a little -"

"Fuck your self-control," Porthos spits. "Why're you fucking pretending you have any, you know how we first got together -"

Head pulled back, shocked and beginning to get angry, "You mean that time you reacted in exactly the same way I did?"

"I'm a werewolf, I have instincts, I can't -"

"I'm a fucking human being, I have feelings, why is it different? Why do I have to suck up being in love and sit on it and you get to have a big possessive tantrum -"

"Aramis," Athos says, because this is not calming the werewolf down.

"It's not the fucking same!"

"It fucking well is! Instinct is an urge, you're still fucking responsible if you act on it! If you don't believe that then why the hell are you even wearing that badge?"

"Both of you," Athos says.

"Shut it or I will fucking kill you," Porthos snarls back, then to Aramis, "You wanna fuck him? Fine. I hope he tears your fucking throat out."

"Por-"

The door slams in the frame with a noise that probably echoes two floors down. Athos glances up at the cracks in the wood, and sighs.

Aramis rubs his forehead with the heel of his thumb. His eyes look shocked, before he steadies himself again. "Alright," he says. "That probably could have gone better."

"Why did you even feel the need to tell him -"

"Because he'll blame you for all of it otherwise, and we know it's not right. I -" Aramis takes a breath, and looks as if for inspiration or guidance to the ceiling. "I thought I was never going to act on it, Porthos would never be okay with it so I never would, so it wasn't even an issue. But now there's this, and . . . I don't want to have to lie to him, I've never lied to him, and he needs to know that I don't know how much of what I feel right now is the blood and how much is just you."

Athos walks closer and sits on the chair beside him, sighing. Vampires don't strictly need to breathe but the lungs do get a bit stale with lack of use, and muscle memory tends to keep them going; still, to vampires, sighs are never involuntary. "You still didn't need to tell him."

"I did. I really did. Athos - I do feel - different. Not like - not like I'm drowned or broken or anything but I am very aware of you, I feel - weird whenever you're out of the room. I can't guarantee what my behaviour is going to be like." He watches Athos' eyes, and smiles, hardly strained at all. "We'll all find out together, I suppose."

Athos watches his face, then says, "He didn't mean much of what he said. He was just shocked and angry."

Aramis twitches his smile, and doesn't reply to that. "How do you feel?"

Athos is silent for a moment, then says, "'Aware' of you is probably a good way to put it. Particularly your pulse. I can tell if you're . . . happy or distressed, I suppose, but nothing in any further detail, if that puts your mind at rest."

Aramis takes his hand. "Well, for your sake perhaps rather than mine. I doubt you'd like being stuck listening to the contents of my head."

Athos watches him, as Aramis holds his hand and begins with the thumb to massage at the back of it. "I didn't give you much choice," Aramis says. "I'm sorry, to leave you stuck with me like this. If it helps, exorcists are dying so often it probably won't be for long."

"Don't. The entire reason this happened was as an attempt to save your life. I'm not so churlish I'd say I regret that part of it."

"To save both of our lives, Athos," Aramis says, lifting his hand to kiss the back of it. "They would have - God, you know what they would have -"

"Aramis."

"What?"

"Are you aware of what you're doing?"

Aramis looks at him, still holding Athos' hand. "What am I doing?"

Athos looks at him for a moment longer to be sure he's serious, then nods at his hand. Aramis doesn't follow for a moment, then looks down at his hands, and then his eyebrows raise and then lower, and he says, "When did I do that?"

"Aramis . . ."

"Sorry," Aramis puts Athos' hand down on the bed and pats the back of it apologetically. "You see? Porthos is going to blame you for things like that, and - and I'm not sure - all it's done is made me not notice when I'm doing things I wanted to do anyway."

"That is not all it's done," Athos says quietly, and Aramis looks at him for a long moment before some coolness settles into his gaze, and he says as if it's a fact, "I think you were right that as long as you don't intend to exercise control over me, I'll be better off than many who face this. So as long as we respect each other, I am never going to beg you for your bite or your cock, Athos. It's intensified my urges towards you but I can manage those. I have so far."

Athos just looks at him, a little startled by the bluntness of his words, and wonders if 'respect' can be enough to get them through this. He feels Aramis' heart in his chest; it beats very steady, a little quick, but very sure.

He says, "Aramis."

Aramis quirks a look to him, ready for his response. Athos says, "Your hand is on my thigh."

Aramis looks down at it, for quite a long time, then says, "Would you perhaps like to move your chair a little further away?"

Later, none of them will give half a thought to Aramis being controlled by Athos, Aramis proving as wearisomely uncontrollable as ever. Later they will realise that respect is all of it, everything, between all three of them. And later Aramis will indeed beg Athos for his cock, but only because he knows they like to hear it, and because he honestly does want it.

The bite he never will beg for, and even when Athos' urges towards Aramis do shift, hungry with awareness of his pulse, he knows where Aramis' limits lie, and that is all that matters. He respects Aramis, and it will turn out, later, that he respects himself enough for it too.

*

Porthos has been fumbling under the sheets for a long moment, too drowsy with sleep even for annoyance at how difficult to find Aramis' body is proving, when he comes awake enough to stiffen as he remembers that Aramis isn't in the bed. The mattress and pillows - the air of the room - smell of Aramis' presence, but the man himself is absent. He's not here because Porthos made him leave. He's not here because Aramis looks at Athos too. He's not here because Aramis smells of Athos now, and Porthos can't fucking bear it.

He can hear his voice, outside the door.

He checks his phone - nearly one - and thinks that a human just released from the hospital after all that blood had to be replenished should probably be sleeping more. And then he hears Athos' soft reply to Aramis and his fist curls tight on the sheets again, he knows why Aramis isn't feeling tired, and every single part of it is the fault of that fucking vampire.

And then he wants to curl up into a ball and whine because he's all alone in here because Athos took Aramis away from him, that's his mate, Athos took him and - and he'd be here now if Porthos hadn't roared him out of this room a few hours ago, but -

But Aramis looks at Athos as well, and it doesn't matter what he fucking says about it not meaning anything, fuck him.

Porthos picks himself up and with the stealth of a wolf, enough through a closed door to defeat a vampire's hearing, he pads for the door itself, to listen, suspicious of the two of them together. Out in the living room Athos is just saying, "- try to sleep, Aramis."

"I can't." Aramis' voice says softly. "I'm not even tired. And I - hate it on my own, anyway."

Silence, then Athos says, "I'm not coming with you." and Porthos' fists start hurting again.

"I wouldn't ask you to. He doesn't want you to."

"Are you still hoping to reconcile?"

Quiet, and then mumbled so low Porthos barely catches it, "I love him."

Porthos' lip twitches almost a growl. Funny fucking way he has of showing it, looking at Athos too.

"He is a wolf," Athos points out, and Porthos knows that and tells himself it every day but hearing Athos say it makes him want to -

He'd almost got to liking that vampire. He was almost beginning to think that despite everything, they could be friends, Aramis could manage it so they could. All of this is a nightmare of the universe really wanting him to relearn the lesson, hard, of how fucked up and toxic vampires are.

"He's Porthos." Aramis says, flat and firm. "He's - if he wants me to be monogamous then I will be. Whether he actually wants me anymore or not."

A pause, and the clink of a bottle to a glass. "You should never have told him."

"I had to. This between us now, I can't tell him outright lies and I'd have to if he blamed you for - some of how I get. It's not that bad. It's not that bad, is it? Is it bad for you? I don't know what it's like for . . ."

"It's fine. I'm aware of you. I'm adjusting. It's fine."

"Good," Aramis says quietly. "I really never meant to ruin both of your lives."

"Is that how you think of it?"

Aramis is quiet, then says, "Everyone's so unhappy."

"Do you include yourself in that 'everyone'?"

Porthos listens keenly; their voices are low to begin with, and while Athos' stays fairly steady, Aramis' keeps dipping so soft as to be barely audible.

"As long as you're alive . . . there's hope, isn't there?"

"Are you really asking a vampire that question?"

Aramis' laughter is only very quiet, but he's still laughing for that fucking vampire, the vampire who took his blood, the vampire he likes, and Porthos' teeth feel tight. "I just need to talk to him," Aramis says. "I don't know what he wants. I don't know if he's still just angry because it's all been such a shock or if - if this is it now, if I broke it, I . . ."

"You shouldn't have told him."

"I hated not telling him. I have hated not telling him every day but I - I can't bear hurting him, I can't stand it. I can't help how I feel, he must know I never would have done anything about it if he didn't want me to."

"For the rest of your life?"

"If he wanted that. No-one's ever wanted me for the rest of my life, I could make a lot of sacrifices for that. Though - I suppose you and I will have each other, now, for the rest of my life at least."

Porthos doesn't want to hear this, he feels sick overhearing it now but the temptation is too much to leave them to it. Athos sighs. Aramis says, "I'm sorry."

"I didn't mean it like that. Aramis . . . go to sleep."

". . . I don't know if I can. Doesn't it drive you mad, being the only one up all night?"

"Not all night."

"Still, I . . ." A long pause. "Fine," Aramis says quietly, and there's a shifting of the sofa's springs, Porthos thinks he's getting up but he doesn't, he must have been laying down. He's sleeping there?

Of course he's sleeping there, Porthos thinks with a twisting pain. He doesn't think Aramis can sleep on his own, and if Porthos won't have him, he'll stay out there with the fucking vampire, won't he . . . ?

He has to stay out there with the vampire, the better part of Porthos points out even if he wishes it wouldn't. He has to stay out there with Athos because you're not there for him, and you know what he's like.

Of course Porthos knows what Aramis is like, Aramis is his mate. He hugs Porthos to sleep every night, he pulls the duvet down and sleeps on the floor with him during the full moon when the bed would be too hot with all his fur. He sleeps sound beside Porthos and never even closes his eyes on his own. Porthos knows him because Aramis is his mate, and when Porthos didn't know he felt lucky and proud and possessive, the way wolves do feel, watching Aramis move so beautiful around in the world as his. But now he does know, he knows that he never did know what Aramis was really like because now he knows that Aramis noticed Athos too, and he can't be okay with it. He won't ever be okay with it. He's a wolf. He can't share with anyone and how the fuck could he share with a vampire - ?

The mate thing isn't as simple as people think. It isn't some instant thing that clicks with just anyone, Porthos has fucked people who've never meant that to him before, it didn't even mean it immediately with Aramis - well, suggestions of it immediately, that instinctive possessiveness. But it develops, the connection. The understanding that the wolf feels something, the wolf's decision is made, different to human decisions on the matter, deeper. The point where it turns from being 'a bit possessive' to this, to Porthos' body knowing the absence of Aramis', that bewilderment he can't shift, the wolf baffled by Aramis not being there. The wolf doesn't want to be angry with Aramis. The wolf just wants Aramis.

Porthos is a werewolf and Aramis has admitted to wanting a vampire as well, and it's more complicated than the wolf's wants. He goes to bed, and lays there staring at the wall, anger keeping him awake too long.

He's to report to the captain in the morning, they're all giving their updates on their situation. Porthos is due last so he says he'll make his own way in and Aramis' face doesn't change but his eyes look stricken, and he doesn't say a word. He just draws his breath in and holds Porthos' eye and smiles and nods, and goes out with Athos, without Porthos. Porthos fumes around the flat for a while before he follows them, walking in while they take the car. It's petty and he knows it but he does think that prolonged forced proximity to Athos really might make him pull his head off, and Aramis would probably get all sniffy about having the moral high ground then.

He can tell that they've been through the garrison ahead of him, he can smell them both. He sees them in the entrance to the break room, Athos at least, talking to Ninon - they don't notice him - and he assumes Aramis must be nearby, Aramis follows Athos like a shadow now and Porthos doesn't know if it's the blood or just what he feels, and hates - everything. Just, everything, right now.

The captain is terse with him, probably has been with all of them, angry at the situation they've made for themselves. Porthos always feels cowed in front of the captain, instinct again, but right now he just looks sullenly back at Treville and lets it wash over him. Porthos says Aramis doesn't seem any different, hating that fact. He asks why the captain even needs a report from him, if he's spoken to Aramis himself.

"The man discharges himself from hospitals when no doctor would countenance it, his conception of being 'well' is as reliable as the wind. You two are close enough that I assumed you would notice were his mental state scarred." the captain says, and there's accusation in there but it's close to the moon and Porthos is angry and he just doesn't give a fuck anymore, why's this being made his problem? Aramis went and slept with him and wanted Athos too and then let Athos own him, Aramis made his bed and he can fucking keep it, Porthos isn't going to climb in there after him if he has to share it even in thought.

The captain dismisses him after far too brief an interview, telling him they're all off-duty for the next few days while they watch Aramis settle in his new state - he's angry, Porthos can tell, and doesn't care. He stamps out of there ignoring Treville's secretary and sniffing already, searching out where they are, he doesn't like them being out of his sight together. He simultaneously doesn't fucking want to have to talk to Aramis and urgently doesn't want Athos to have him either. The wolf in him is going mad, the fucking moon doesn't help -

At his back Flea says, "Haven't seen you since that tower block."

Porthos stops, and looks back. Flea's scent is entirely comforting, even if she's always smelt like living gunpowder, always ready to ignite, but he knows her scent and settles his weight back, more relaxed on his feet now. He says gruffly, "You alright?"

"Are you?" She gives him one of her narrow-eyed too-aware looks. "I heard," she said. "'bout Aramis and the vampire. I'm sorry, Porthos."

It clutches in his heart afresh, the pain that Aramis was taken from him, but not that night when chased by werewolves, Athos took Aramis from him long before that. "Yeah," he grunts, and swallows hard. "Everyone knows?"

". . . no-one really gets why the captain's being . . . that vampire should be in chains. Let's face it, that vampire should be decapitated, we dunno what Treville's thinkin' . . . you okay? Is he okay?"

The anger gets at his jaw again, he knows it must show on his face. "Yeah," he says, and of course Flea hears the snarl in it. "He's fine."

She folds her eyebrows, confused and kind of pissed off with him for being like this, then says, "You wanna get lunch an' tell me what the fuck actually happened, then?"

*

"So he didn't just attack him," Flea says, wiping her fingers on a napkin, sitting back and folding her arms to look at him. "There's that, I guess. Fucked up thing for an exorcist t'do, though."

"He's a pretty fucked up exorcist." Porthos mutters over his empty plate, and then remembers twenty dead exorcists and feels fucking bad about that. Maybe Aramis was willing to do whatever it took to avoid the fate of death by some supernatural creature he stood no chance against. Maybe to him it did seem a better option. Porthos looks at a grease mark on his plate, head low. Him and Flea always meet here for lunch, a lot of werewolves do, the menu tends heavily towards meat cooked rare, and staring at the streaks on the plate, he wonders if it wasn't just that Aramis didn't want to be torn to bits by werewolves. Twenty dead exorcists: maybe, Athos unable even to stand and werewolves scratching at the door, he couldn't face watching it done to a single extra person, whatever it cost him.

"Why're you mad at him?" she says, and werewolves don't lie to each other, don't hide things from each other, there's no point with noses like theirs. "Bein' mad with the vampire I get, I dunno what you're so pissed off with him about."

Porthos glares at the wall of the café, and can feel Flea watching his eyes. She says, slowly, "Has he started goin' after the vampire already? I know it's got to be shit to watch but you know that's not his fault, that's the blood talkin'."

The breath bursts out of Porthos, harsh with fury. "Yeah. Yeah, 'course it's not his fault, of course -"

"What did he do, then?"

He doesn't want to say it, it's in his throat like a canker, bitter and it hurts. "He already wanted him," he says, and has to swallow it comes out so gruff. "Before he let him drink from him. S'why he didn't mind doing it, he probably fucking got off on it -"

"Wait, what - the fuck, go back - did they have a thing? I never smelt -"

He feels sick saying this. "No, they never - but he wanted to. He confessed he wanted to. He wanted the fucking vampire, he's in my bed every fucking night but he wanted him -"

"Oh shit," she says, "that's fucking awful. But he - if he dumped you for him now, you - we don't know how much of that's the blood talking, he - I mean, we all know he loved you, three days ago he was crazy about you, nothing could make him turn like that but-"

"He's still comin' out with all that, he doesn't - he wanted him, Flea, he was lookin' at him, now he's sayin' it like he can want both of us and it's okay -"

"So, hold on." She rubs her forehead with thumb and forefingers, and says, watching his eyes, "He never cheated on you. He never actually dumped you. He told you he liked the vampire too an' what, then what, then you lost your fuckin' temper, didn't you?"

"Why wouldn't I lose my fucking temper? He's looking at the fucking vampire, Flea!"

"He didn't fuck him, did he?" She's still sitting back with her arms folded but her posture is always that of a wolf, the strike only ever a second away. "Did he even kiss him?"

"God. No." Porthos feels disgusted by the thought of it, and then knows it's not disgust at the thought of the kiss, it's nausea at what it would have meant if Aramis had done that. "No, he's actin' all hard done by 'cause he couldn't declare his great vampire love to the whole wide fuckin' world because of me -"

"I'm gonna translate that out of 'Porthos havin' a tantrum' speak," Flea says, "an' guess that he kept his mouth shut 'cause he knew how you'd react. He probably just didn't wanna hurt you."

"How is it not meant to hurt? I'm a fucking werewolf, he's eyein' up the vampire!"

"An' he never did anything about it, right? Fuck, Porthos, he's a human, he's not a wolf, you can't expect him to act like -"

"Then he never should've started with me if he couldn't fucking hack it."

"Sounds to me like he was willin' to go pretty fucking far to be with you," she says, scowling, arms folded in a dangerous way. "So how far're you goin' for him?"

It's like being whacked with a rolled-up newspaper, he doesn't understand where her sympathy's gone, Porthos' mate wants a vampire and now that vampire's drunk from him there's no way in hell Porthos will ever get him back - fuck, he never can have him back, the person Porthos thought he was fucking never existed, that person wanted Athos all along. "I don't care if he never did anything about it, I'm a werewolf, he knew what he was gettin' in for-"

"An' he's a human, did you give two seconds' thought to what you were gettin' in for? Fuck, Porthos, bein' a werewolf never stopped you bein' a person, you need to stop using it as a fucking excuse for giving in to instinct every damn time."

"Don't tell me about controllin' instincts," Porthos snarls. "Been in that apartment with the two of them for two days an' no-one's dead, don't tell me about control."

Flea is silent for a moment, then says, "You ever threaten that exorcist again I'm cuttin' your dick off an' feeding it to a ghoul."

It's a flush of -

Horror. Simple horror, the thought that - yes he's angry, he's fucking angry, but the thought that she'd even think he would ever hurt Aramis whose bones are as brittle as fibreglass to Porthos' hands -

"I didn't mean that," he says, and clears his throat. "I didn' mean that like that an' you know I didn't."

"Then don't fuckin' say it if you don't mean it." she snaps. "Jesus, Porthos, it's this with you every time, you just go with the first fuckin' thing you feel, bein' a werewolf never gave you a get out of jail free card for actin' on impulse, I don't think you can even tell the difference between the wolf stuff and the person stuff. There's a hundred people you could pick for a mate, if that was all you wanted him for then fine, move on, get a new one, but people look for more than that. Did you ever actually love him or did you just want a mate all along?"

"What - what the fuck kind of question -"

"I don't think you c'n tell the difference between havin' a mate an' loving someone," she says, eyes cold and he can hear the razor-wire edge of the growl on her voice. "S'why we never worked out."

He's silent, doesn't know what to say, hands gripping the edge of the table. Then he says, "We never worked out for a lot of reasons."

She barks a single laugh. "Yeah. An' your 'instincts' were most of 'em. He's a human, Porthos, you can't treat 'im like a wolf, you can't expect him to bend over backwards to fit what you want an' never unbend a thing in yourself, humans don't think about mates, they don't own each other like that, an' you know what? We don't either. We're not just wolves, we're werewolves, it is so much more complicated than you ever wanted to face up to an' that, dickhead, is why we never worked out." She stands up from the table. "You're buyin' 'cause you're an arsehole."

"What the fuck is this," Porthos says. "He wants to fuck a vampire an' I'm the bad guy?"

"I feel sorry for that exorcist." she says, catching up her bag from beside the table leg. "Poor bastard went an' fell in love with you an' you don't even know what that means."

"Fuck you, you think I don't know what love is?"

"I think he probably doesn't know what it means from you right now. He just got bit by a vampire, Porthos, he'll be usin' every crumb of self-control not to crawl around after him an' all you can do is blame him for not bein' able to not want to, as if he hasn't been doin' the same thing for your sake for ages. You know what? If you're entitled to your feelings, he's entitled to his. You get blamed for what you do about them. So do something decent an' either stop bein' a dick to him or else break up with him an' let him go to the vampire without feelin' like shit about it. An' you're buyin' the next two lunches as well because fucking hell Porthos, fucking hell."

Werewolf cafes aren't troubled by raised voices, by snarling, by anything short of outright violence which they all know is why there's the scent of a loaded shotgun under the counter. They're certainly not troubled by Flea storming out, long swish of blonde hair, and Porthos thinks, The reason we never fucking worked out is because you're you, Flea -

The door slams with a panic of the bell behind her. Porthos just sits there, so angry he doesn't dare to move in case he doesn't know how to stop moving, and nothing but that shotgun then might keep him from trashing the place.

*

He walks the long way home. If he was angry before he's even angrier now, and he's making himself even angrier by trying to work out why he's so angry. Because he's not a fucking wild animal, because of course a werewolf is a human who got changed, not an animal with no human in them, people can fuck off if they think that. But at the same time his instincts are his instincts, Aramis knew what he was getting in for the day they met, he can't pretend now that Porthos isn't entitled to his instincts -

(Instinct is an urge, you're still fucking responsible if you act on it! If you don't believe that then why the hell are you even wearing that badge?)

Fuck all of them, he thinks, and walks hard and fast more with rage than any desire to get home.

But then he does recognise in himself the desire to get home, tucked in the back of his mind but very true, and he walks a little slower, picking it over but not really wanting to know what he's going to find. He doesn't want to leave Athos and Aramis alone when Aramis' self-control might be going completely south and Aramis has admitted that, blood aside, he wanted Athos anyway. But why the hell does Porthos care about that? He won't even have Aramis in his bed right now. Why would he care if Aramis fucked Athos?

He does. Miserably, twisting his stomach, he really does. It would be the last thing he couldn't cope with, the end of all of it, if he smelt off the two of them what they'd done together without him. And he doesn't know anymore what he even wants, why does he care about Aramis sleeping with Athos if Porthos doesn't want him anymore unless he does still want him -

He remembers Flea yelling at him that he didn't know the difference between the wolf and the human, between a mate and lover. Did you ever actually love him or did you just want a mate all along? What the fuck sort of question is that?

He comes at it sideways; does he love Aramis?

He puts the thought aside, it hurts too much to try to consider it, all he feels is the way Aramis has betrayed him. He doesn't care that Flea thinks Aramis never acted on it so it doesn't matter, it matters to him, it matters because Aramis is his mate and if he can't get loyalty from him -

Okay. Wolf. Human. He watches his feet, his snarl keeps wanting to twitch up but it's more confusion than anger now. Work this through. Aramis swears he loves Porthos - said it angrily in the hospital, said it soft and meek to Porthos' fury in his bedroom. Aramis swears he loves him. And he said it doesn't mean he doesn't love Porthos that he notices Athos as well, he said he was trying to be a 'good mate', he was . . .

He's not a wolf, Porthos thinks, slowing his angry walk. He's never had any of the right cues from Porthos to work from because he's fucking not a wolf, he's been doing his best with what the human could read but humans' senses are shit, Aramis has been essentially fumbling in the dark. And - and if he's really not a wolf - of course he doesn't think about it the way Porthos does, he doesn't feel it the way Porthos does -

No. That's not right. Obviously Aramis' and Porthos' feelings diverge, Porthos isn't the one eyeing up Athos, but Porthos still thinks now, can't shake it, that Aramis does think about it the way he does. Aramis didn't act on the things he might have wanted, Aramis understood his loyalty. He did come to Porthos every night and he really was present every night, it's not like he seemed to be acting a part or imagining someone else, Aramis loves being with Porthos. Porthos knows that, he's been able to tell it from the moment they first made eye contact, the first second his scent and its interest hit Porthos. Aramis is bewitched by Porthos, Aramis - hell, he acts like Porthos owns him. Why wouldn't Porthos think in terms of mates? It's how Aramis has behaved all along, faithful as a dog, even if he did have a secret he was trying to ignore.

Porthos stops in a square to sit on a bench, under a tree, staring into space, thinking. There's a rubbish bin smelling foul too close, but he tries to ignore that. He scratches his hair, and tries to think.

Instinct is an urge. Aramis had been so angry in the hospital that he had respected Porthos' instincts since the beginning but when it came to him needing Porthos to understand his own 'urges', Porthos just refused. Porthos is trying now to reiterate the reasons it's not the same but Flea's gone and confused him worse, telling him that there's more to being with someone than the wolf stuff. Love. Aramis had argued that his being in love was as instinctive as Porthos' urge towards pack and Porthos wants to roar bullshit to that but -

But he remembers showering the blood off himself in the flat of a werewolf taken into custody, scrubbing quickly, yelling to Ninon waiting outside to just tell him where his partners were. She insisted he should be clothed first. So he hadn't even dried, just ran a hand over one of his cuts and hissed and pulled his jeans on, they tended to slide easily off a wolf's narrower hips but she'd had to fetch him one of his spare t-shirts from the boot of the car, that had torn open in his turning -

And then when he came out of the room in a rush of steam she told him that Athos had taken Aramis to the hospital, alive, but she didn't know the full extent of his injuries.

He sits on the bench, hands clasped between his knees, staring down at his own interlinked fingers. He remembers that moment. He remembers exactly what he felt, like the cord of a lift full of bad feeling had been cut and it plummeted through him full of ice and horror. He thought of Aramis hurt, thought of him not with Porthos having faced werewolves and he didn't even know how badly hurt he was, and it was like being punched in the throat.

Wolf-thing? Human-thing? It wasn't just a pack thing, in that moment there was no question of how he loved Aramis, how strong it welled like the blood from something burst inside him, impossible and huge. Is that really what Aramis has been feeling for both of them, and trying to stifle in himself?

The wolf in him, so near to the moon, keens with the knowledge in its blood of its pack. He needs to be with Aramis if he's to turn. 'Need', it's an urge, it's an instinct, but it feels like so much more than mere want. He needs to be safe with his pack for it, so they can face the moon together; he needs his mate to be there for him during it. Aramis will cook his meat rare because Porthos always feels a bit ill waking up after raw meat when he's human-formed again after the full moon, will sit on the floor leaning against him, reading him the newspaper because Porthos likes falling asleep to the sound of his voice, will rub his ears in the way that makes him make embarrassing noises and thump his tail off the floorboards. He'll smile a lot. Porthos will be able to smell how happy he is.

The human in him thinks of the human Aramis is, thinks of the decision he made to save his own and Athos' lives, the permanent, irreparable thing he knew he was doing to himself, to both of them. He remembers Aramis trying, angrily, to be reasonable in the hospital; thinks of Aramis nervous and trying to be placatory in Porthos' bedroom, already visibly frightened of Porthos' refusal to forgive him. He thinks of him and aches; thinks of how he'll wake Porthos up by singing along to the radio, thinks of him taking far too fucking long in the shower but how Porthos loves the smell of shampoo he leaves behind, thinks of how he kisses him, how he kisses him, as if nothing in the world has ever deserved such focus as kissing Porthos. He thinks of him lonely and confused in his feelings, no Porthos to talk to and he knows Porthos doesn't want him talking to Athos, thinks - thinks of what he would have said, in the moment Ninon told him, if he'd been offered the bargain then: Aramis can live, but it will turn out that he notices that you're not the only person in Paris. Porthos wouldn't have cared. Porthos would have agreed to that bargain for his lover back then, fuck, he'd have begged for it. For Aramis returned to him safe he would have agreed to anything.

No-one's ever wanted me for the rest of my life, I could make a lot of sacrifices for that.

What if it really is just instinct, to Aramis, to notice Athos as well? What if all along he's been stifling it in ways that Porthos never would deny his own instincts, what if that 'sacrifice' of not touching Athos sooner that Porthos sneered at him for, what if that cost him as much as Porthos having to leash in his own instincts, and Aramis did it all along for him?

Can he feel like that about two people? Doesn't it - how can he love Porthos right, and Porthos does know he loves him, if he's feeling that for Athos as well?

He breathes out, slowly through his nose, partially just to blow away the scent of high-rotting rubbish for a moment. He needs to talk to Aramis. They haven't talked yet, Porthos has shouted too much for them to talk. He needs to talk to him. He needs to understand. The wolf in him and the human in him are united at least in this, they both still want him, painfully, but -

But they can't share him. Not with Athos. Not with the vampire Aramis' blood now smells of.

He stands up, and brushes the dust of the bench from the seat of his jeans, and heads once more for home.

*

When he turns the key and the door handle and walks in, they both look over from the living room. Athos is on one sofa with a newspaper, giving Porthos a long even look; Aramis is curled on the other sofa, arms folded around himself, eyes on Porthos like cornered prey.

Porthos closes the door behind himself and looks at them, the scent of both of them saturated in the air here, he has to search for fresher scent. Athos smells as he ever does. Aramis is nervous, and now Porthos looks, he doesn't even need his nose for it because Aramis is an expansive sitter, can take up a whole sofa quite easily, limbs cast lazy out across it, and that uneasy ball of himself he's made - that's not fucking right.

The blood, Porthos thinks, guilt squeezing like a sponge inside. Aramis isn't just having a fight with Porthos, they don't know what's going on inside him right now, what it might be doing to him. Fuck. It's not just for his own sake that he needs to talk to Aramis, he's not that much of a bastard, he couldn't keep putting a stranger through this, let alone him.

He puts his keys down on the kitchen counter, clears his throat, says, "C'n I - talk to you?"

Aramis' wary eyes flit between his, and then - something wakes behind them, Porthos scents fresh fear in him. Hope smells a lot like anxiety, got to remember that, he doesn't know what is going on inside Aramis, on so many fucking levels. "Of course," Aramis says, voice a little dry, and he swallows as he picks himself up from the sofa and says, "Your - my room? Which do you . . ."

"I can leave," Athos says.

"No, s'fine." Porthos says. "Whichever, you pick."

Aramis stares at him, not even really knowing how to be defensive, then says, "Mine, then." and turns for the door.

Maybe he does think like a wolf. If this is happening, he wants to be on his own territory for it.

Aramis' room is fairly empty, since he came here with nothing but a backpack and an exorcist's kit. The only photograph he has up is one that arrived a few weeks after he did, sent to the department for him, Porthos thought it was some sort of sick joke for the college to send it, the framed matriculation photograph of Aramis' cohort; Aramis just hung it all the same, and hung a couple of rosaries off the corner of it, and put a few candles on the chest of drawers underneath it. Apart from that there's just a few books he's picked up, his clothes kept much the same way Porthos keeps his, dumped over the back of a chair, and a scattering of stuff on the desk Porthos doesn't always understand but he's pretty certain that is an actual vial of holy water, and why does Aramis need chalk and charcoal and so many knives?

Porthos closes the door behind himself. Aramis folds his hands behind his back, says, "Do you want to sit?" and his scent's all jangling with pulses of his nervousness, and Porthos puts out a hand to touch his shoulder to make him stop and then remembers that they're probably not at that point yet, and closes his hands to loose fists at his sides instead.

He says, "I'm not mad anymore. Not - much, anyway. I just need t'understand, I don't - get it. I need to understand."

Aramis looks tired, now, paler than he was a few short days ago, violet smudges under his eyes. "Understand what?" he says, and his smile twitches wry. "Me? That one I'm not sure I can explain."

"You an' him." God it hurts getting that 'him' out. "When did you - why didn't you tell me - ?"

Aramis looks at him for a very long time, then says, "I believed you'd stop loving me if I did tell you."

Porthos feels a number of things at that, all of them heating his face. "When did it start?"

"Of course I noticed he was handsome," Aramis says, voice as calm as if he's too tired for anything else. "But handsome isn't enough, you know, you and I might have first come together out of - chemicals, but it's always been more than that, hasn't it? For me, anyway, it very quickly became just - everything. The way you . . . everything about you. I can't really explain falling in love. You are perfect, to me, and I would do anything to stay with you, to protect you." His head is a little lower. "I noticed he was handsome but that is irrelevant, attractiveness dictates nothing. But he's - kind, Porthos, much more than he pretends. He's been very gentle with me when I've needed it. He's funny in that dry cool way, he watches out for us, he's proud but he knows when to unbend. I can't tell you when it happened, it happened slowly, I just - started seeing him properly, over time, and it just felt inevitable. But it's never meant I loved you any less. I love you more the more time I spend with you, it never stops growing, that's never going to change, you are perfect to me. It changes nothing about how I feel about you that there's him as well."

Porthos just stares at him, and doesn't understand. How can't it change anything? Aramis wants to fuck Athos, how does that not change anything about the way Aramis loves him?

Aramis can see whatever's happening on Porthos' face even if he can't smell the turmoil in him, can't hear his hands squeezing tighter, and he says, "I've always been like this. Some people are gay, some people are straight, some people aren't affected by gender, and some of us love more than one person at a time. I think maybe more people could, if they stopped feeling like anything that isn't monogamy is wrong. I - don't seem to come with any brakes when it comes to falling in love, and once I'm in I only ever come out with a lot of difficulty, so dating more than one person at a time has always made sense. But I've never done that if everyone involved wasn't okay with it. I have abided by other people's wishes every time. And if you're not comfortable with it, I'll never speak of it again. Never. Whether you - still want me or not."

He tries to say that bravely. His back is still straight, his eyes are right on Porthos. Porthos can smell the sudden bloom of hurt in him, like his whole heart's one big bruise. He forces his own hands open so he can rub his nose, and says, "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Do you wish I had?"

Porthos stares at him, and thinks about poisoning their relationship with this even sooner, and can't make any yes or no feel right. Aramis watches his eyes, waiting, then says, "You've always been . . . possessive. Which I've never minded. Which I quite like, in honesty." The first flicker of one of his wicked little grins Porthos has seen in days, but smothered almost instantly. "The only thing I knew about how you would respond is that you wouldn't like it. And because I knew that I would never act on it, so it made no difference. I never wanted to hurt you. And I'm not so impossible a creature I can't keep my hands to myself, so I knew I never would do anything. If you wanted me to be yours, I was willing, Porthos." Something in his eyes, and Porthos knows why he's got his hands behind his back, he's trying not to give himself away when his scent is a beacon of fear to Porthos. He adds so softly, with a flicker of a here-and-gone uneven smile, "I still am."

Porthos says, "Didn't have to tell me after Athos bit you. Could've just pretended it was all the blood."

"He didn't bite me," Aramis says quietly. "And no, I could not. I wouldn't do a thing to hurt you, and that includes acting on - any heightened urges this has given me. But I can't let you blame him for them either, it's not his fault. He didn't want to drink from me, we were desperate, he was - Porthos his intestines were hanging out, there were wolves looking for us, I felt so fucking useless, I couldn't do a thing. Except that. I know it wasn't ideal." He smiles suddenly, crooked and helpless. "Look at the situation we're all in now, this is hardly ideal."

"Fuckin' tell me about it," Porthos mutters, and looks at him, and the human in him knows he loves him. He loves him for not even knowing how to bow, not when all of the world seems to demand it of him, he loves him for his exuberance towards life and even now his sense of humour can't be suffocated, he loves him for his fierceness, the passion in him, the things he's capable of for the sake of it. And he doesn't understand Aramis' feelings but he tries to understand them as a wolf and then he loves him for his faithfulness, because Porthos knows he couldn't fight his own instincts the way Aramis has for him.

He understands that, suddenly, very hard: he hasn't been able to fight his own instincts for the sake of being with Aramis the way Aramis has fought his for Porthos. He let the wolf talk, when all along the wolf and human need to be in harmony or else you're either a dangerous animal or a neurotic mess, werewolves always tread a fine line. But it's so easy to give in to the wolf, wolves don't care about nuance, wolves just feel very big clear feelings. It feels good letting the wolf talk, wolves never second-guess themselves. It's easy to give in to instinct. It's a lot harder to recognise instinct, and then think about what the right thing to do is. And Porthos does wear a fucking badge, and, fuck, he can't let it down.

Or Aramis. He can't desert him. Aramis struggled with his feelings for Porthos' sake, it's Porthos' turn now, though the thought sinks his stomach. He doesn't really understand but he knows that Aramis loves him, that Aramis has tried so hard to live in Porthos' world, but Aramis is a human. He doesn't feel Porthos' presence the way Porthos' wolf feels his presence, and Porthos has never blamed him for that. He feels small and sad, now, all the confusion between them, he doesn't want it anymore. He doesn't want to blame Aramis for his feelings. Aramis never acted on them. Can't he make that enough, can't he appreciate what that means?

There has to be some compromise. Porthos has to be able to fight his own instincts down for him. But he can't watch Aramis walk to that vampire to share what he and Porthos have, he can't see Athos' hands on Aramis, he can't stand it. He won't blame Aramis for what he feels, but he needs Aramis to understand how he feels too, and he can't bear it.

He says, "I'm not mad anymore. But I can't -" He knows this like he knows his teeth, this is a fact. "Aramis, I can't share." His jaw twitches too tight. "Not with him. I can't. I really, I can't -"

"No," Aramis says, takes half a step forwards and then stops, hesitating again on his uncertainty of what Porthos wants from him. "No, of course - Porthos I won't. I told you, I never would have, not unless you were okay with it and if you're not -"

"I'm not." He says it like dropping a rock. "I'm really not."

"Then it doesn't even matter," Aramis says, eyes urgent and nervous on his. "It will never matter."

Porthos stares at him, surrounded by the scent of him in here, and it's so close to the moon, one of the instincts howling at him right now is for his pack. He recognises it, and thinks about what the right thing to do is, and it's the same thing it always is - find a harmony between the wolf and the human. The wolf wants its pack. And the human wants . . .

He squeezes Aramis into the hug and Aramis gives a small gasp, and then a helpless little laugh into his shoulder, turning his face to the side of his neck, Porthos can feel the relief off him like heat. "Porthos," he says helplessly, arms wrapping around him, and Porthos clamps him in by the waist and brushes his hair back from his face with one hand and growls gently, "You get away with a lot 'cause you're pretty."

"Another reason to be glad of it," Aramis whispers, and Porthos squeezes his side and feels the way Aramis' body tenses, hears the change in his breath, remembers -

"Shit, your rib, Aramis, am I hurtin'-"

"No," Aramis says, arms clamped tight around him so he can't let go. "No. It's fine. No. I don't care."

Porthos brushes his back, and looks at his eyes squeezed tight. And then he leans down, nose nudging to his hair, and inhales long and slow; Aramis, his mate, his pack, and he tries to ignore that he smells of Athos as well now. In the face of all the things they have to deal with in the dark together, they can both manage some baser instincts to keep this alive.

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