therapeutic thump

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By Sunlight, By Candlelight (The Musketeers: Athos/Aramis, Athos/Porthos, Porthos/Aramis; R)
that smile!, my favorite musketeer, porthos, have fun with it
innie_darling
Hi, everybody!

I seem to keep falling into these fandom frenzies, in which I need to write a story or two just to stop the characters from taking up every corner of my mind. There's more Losers and Selfie and Sherlock fic coming too, but for now, have the first (of maybe two?) story I've written for The Musketeers (the BBC show). It's set pre-series (so, pre-d'Artagnan) and has each man narrate his own section of the story. The fic features an Athos/Aramis one-night stand, Athos pining for Porthos, Porthos falling in love with Aramis, and Aramis coming to a belated realization. The fantastic and talented killabeez was my wonderful beta on this piece. The quotations in Aramis's section of the narrative are from the Song of Songs. Before they were the Inseparables, they were three Musketeers, learning each other by day and by night.


By Sunlight, By Candlelight


ATHOS

He has no rights in the matter, Athos knows very well, but he would rather see anything other than Porthos's lush mouth becoming just one more piece of finery for Aramis to wear against his skin. Aramis is a hedonist, and all of his frippery adorns him as though he were not just a gem but one of those storied Eastern jewels with names and bloodshed in their histories. No other man could wear that pauldron with the Moorish tracery, those braces scalloped and curved, those lace collars, that delicate chain. He's seen Porthos eyeing that flat chain in particular, nestled against rough hair, framing Aramis's collarbones like they're a particular gift meant just for him.

Porthos needs to know better.

Athos does know better. He's seen Aramis for years, watched him court gazes like they're valuable, like they're keepsakes he can tally up on quiet, lonely nights. He's seen the shy-looking curl of Aramis's hair, the bright roundness of his charming eyes, and knows how little they mean when Aramis has been had and lost. Athos wants to teach Porthos all he knows, before Aramis teaches him regret.

*

Darkness had fallen, and Athos needed to forget suddenly fresh memories. There was no particular reason for it – no green-eyed girl had crossed his path, no raven-curled Madame had caught his eye – and that was the worst of it, that his light-eyed wife could bewitch him still, when she was in the grave he'd dug for her. He could feel the weight of her body on his back and called for stronger drink.

Aramis intercepted it with every sign of enjoyment, as if depriving Athos of what he needed for his very survival was just a game. "Good Athos," Aramis said, his voice gone tart as if the sniff he'd taken from the bottle had corrupted something inside him, "this smells worse than a painter's brush-cleaner."

"I would not dream of asking you to pollute your fine throat with it," Athos said, unable to keep his eyes from that ivory column, yet holding out his hand with every expectation that Aramis would laugh and clap the bottle into it.

"Then how can I do any less, brother mine?" Aramis answered, still holding fast to the bottle, dancing back from the table and toward the stairs that led up to the rooms he'd taken. Athos absorbed the endearment unhesitatingly at first only to have it stick in his craw a moment later; Aramis had no right to smile as he spoke the word brother. Athos laid one hand on the hilt of his sword and followed Aramis and the salvation in his hand up the stairs, that damned locket hammering against his chest.

Aramis's door was ajar and the bottle shone on top of a small table next to the wall. Athos nudged the door open with his shoulder and reached out his hand only to find Aramis, doublet and hat discarded, looking resolute. Aramis's hand pressed against the side of his face, warm and altogether alien.

"What are you doing?" Athos asked, keeping his eye on the bottle, just out of his reach.

Sinuous as the vines on his discarded pauldron, Aramis's fingers traced his brow. "I called you my brother but that did not sit well with you." Athos shifted his gaze from the green-glass bottle to look at the man in front of him then; better to see Aramis's lovely, vulpine face than recall Thomas's glass-green eyes. "In truth we are closer than brothers, are we not?" Aramis continued, dark eyes dropping down to his mouth. "Use me as such."

Aramis knew – oh, he knew – as well as any wife how to get a man's blood up and Athos no longer wanted the bottle when this beauty was there for the drinking down instead. He surged forward and kissed Aramis down to the bed, biting kisses that tore at soft flesh. Aramis gasped and lay still under the onslaught, and then Athos felt arms encircling his body, keeping him close, and he could think no more.

When Athos came back to his right senses, Aramis was dazed and marked with bruises – marks from teeth and fingers, none pretty – and his linen was torn. Athos himself was mother-naked, spent, and sticky, his hands like iron across Aramis's hips.

He snatched his hands back, horrified. Athos fumbled into his clothes and clutched at the bottle that had lured him up the stairs. Aramis was just rousing when he shut the door between them.

Even whores who raised their price for rough trade would have baulked at what he'd done. He could not expect any man, even Aramis, his willing brother-in-arms, to make a martyr of himself like that more than once.
_

Athos absented himself from the garrison with an excuse Treville did not even feign to believe. There were newly commissioned Musketeers to be welcomed into the brotherhood, Athos had heard, and surely he would not be expected to participate in any fraternization rituals; it was well-known that his best friend and only beloved was his bottle.

When he returned, the third morning after his frenzy, Aramis had already laid implicit claim to one of the newly minted Musketeers, a giant of a man who, by virtue of looking nothing like Athos's past, was instantly appealing. The man had beauty writ upon him with a generous hand, and his face was a miracle of expressiveness; the man looked intensely curious about Aramis, who was swimming against the current to stand by his side, to clap him on the arm with a disarming hand, to laugh at his every muttered comment.

Aramis, whom Athos had torn to shreds, who even now merrily waved him over as if unaware of any debasement at all. Aramis, who, Athos realised, shared his body too often to puzzle over any particular use made of it. Aramis had a reputation for soft-heartedness, given the frequency of his love affairs, but Athos could see that, truly, Aramis entered each engagement with his body rather than his heart at stake, just as it was when he fought for the King; the thrill was in the chase and the triumph was in getting the other to abandon virtue rather than to surrender to his love. Aramis was the most dangerous man in Paris.

"Athos," Aramis said, gleaming with pleasure, "this is Porthos."

*

These days, Athos finds himself looking at Porthos with alarming regularity; somehow they have ended up in orbit together, though which is circling and which is fixed he cannot judge. He can tell – though just barely, the man has tact – that Porthos looks back at him, keeping count of his drinks, every night they're out together. Porthos is a good man, a strong shoulder of which Athos avails himself more often than he should. Athos presses his face to his pillow when he thinks of a boisterous laugh, almost feeling warm breath on the back of his neck. He grinds his cock into his bed at the thought of snapping dark eyes, glad when the locket presses painfully into his breastbone at the movement. He has no business thinking of Porthos when she lies like a fog over his senses.

Despite that miasma, he's still sharp enough to observe. He sees that it's Aramis at whom Porthos gazes starry-eyed, Aramis who hears all of the basso rumbles that are Porthos's mode of telling jokes. And Aramis preens, glad of the adulation, but his eyes do not stop dancing, endlessly seeking for new conquests.

Athos seizes his chance when Porthos is on guard duty one night; he does not know Treville's motive in assigning them separate shifts, but it works in his favour. "Aramis," he starts, seating himself across a table that's seen better days; it looks to be a match for the furniture in his rooms.

"Athos, my friend, I must thank you," Aramis says, his smile like a beacon, shamelessly bright.

That is enough to check his words. "For what?" he inquires cautiously.

"Mademoiselle Louise saw your marks on my hips and pitied me the dangerous life of a King's Musketeer. In the retelling, you grew two feet and three stone and were most fearsome, I must say." Aramis toasts him with a half-full cup; Aramis never does seem to need wine in a quantity greater than what's sufficient to wet his throat.

Athos feels his gorge rising. Those marks had been left months ago; for them to be visible still means his loss of control was even more egregious than he had thought. Half of Paris – the prettier half – must have seen them by now, given the rate at which Aramis, unabashed as an alley-cat, conducts his love affairs. It is, Athos reflects, a wonder that Aramis can sit so calmly across from the monster who marked him. The lecture he intended to deliver to Aramis now smacks of hypocrisy. He clutches at his cup instead, opening his mouth only far enough to pour drink down his throat.

"What did you want to say to me?" Aramis asks, sharp-eyed, watching him swallow wine like he knows how much Athos wants to drown in it.

Athos owes Porthos this much, at least, to try to temper his inevitable reckoning in Aramis's bed.

Aramis's eyebrows are raised expectantly, and they lift higher still when Athos speaks. "Porthos is charmed by you." He intends to ask Aramis to show mercy; he cannot bear to see the bright glory of Porthos's smile dimmed.

"I am really very charming," Aramis returns, defiantly opaque. "As you know."

"As all of Paris knows," he snaps, and a dark smile blooms in Aramis's eyes.




PORTHOS

The man striding toward him has a smile soft as butter. Charon would've taken it as an invitation to lift the man's purse, but Flea might've seen the assurance of all the weapons draped over his body. Porthos can see the man's recovering from hard use (a thundering ride back to Paris?) rather than a specific injury, but even so the man moves like a tumbler listening to a piper only he can hear, or like a cat, dainty and unhurried by man or god.

Porthos straightens his spine (does his best to imitate the stick-up-the-arse posture of the red-uniformed soldiers he's seen patrolling the streets) and waits for that smile to drop or harden or curdle when the man sees the pauldron that marks them as equals. (For most men, it's enough to look at his face and see that he's a bastard, no father to claim him.) Captain Treville's unlooked-for favour has got him through the ranks, and that on its own has prompted more than enough moaning, both at the Court and in the army. The same's sure to happen here, in the new regiment of what's being called the King's Musketeers.

Closer up, Porthos can see the care the man's taken in grooming and dressing (the size he is, Porthos has had to save up for custom leathers himself) and he's surprised such a pretty dandy opted for a soldier's life and inevitable scars.

He braces for a comment, standing between Pisan and Courtenay. The man's dark eyes sweep over them all in jagged little bursts, returning to Porthos after evaluating each soldier in the line, like he's decided Porthos is the one to watch. Faced with a row of new Musketeers with virgin pauldrons, the man's butter-soft smile blooms into a cocksure grin, all edges and teeth.

"Fellow Musketeers," he begins, voice pitched as if he's wooing, "Captain Treville bade me welcome you to the garrison. My name is Aramis." First name only – does his surname fit Aramis as ill as du Vallon does him, then? (Surely no man as fine as Aramis has ever been spurned by a father, natural-got or not.)

It's not until Aramis refocuses his smile to shine exclusively on him that he realises he's been frowning out the puzzle, and he locks his knees to stand at attention again, wondering at the bruises on Aramis's neck.

*

Aramis seems to be Captain Treville's strong right hand, or at least that's the impression he contrives to make. Pisan (who hears all the gossip that dries up around Porthos) confides that Aramis has been a soldier under Treville for years, serving as far back as Ile de Re and Montaubin. He must have been a stripling then, given how fresh-faced he still looks.

(Aramis is beautiful, beautiful like Flea, sharp and fierce and knowing, and still full of grace.) Aramis even looks at him the way Flea did, before he started training himself up as befit a soldier, turning that strength that had always been an oddity and a hindrance at the Court (too big to hide well, too tough-looking to convincingly beg for his supper) into a honed tool. For whatever reason, Aramis has chosen him as companion, the one he whiles away long evenings and shifts on guard duty with.

He's been introduced to others who must once have sat in his seat (Marsac, who's been sent to London on Musketeer business, and Athos, who sits sullenly in a corner though that amount of wine should be enough to cheer him) and knows he should simply enjoy Aramis's attentions while they last. It's not like they're all his even now – Aramis is courting innumerable fine ladies of the city, according to the whispers that follow him throughout the garrison. ("Love-sick," Pisan whispered when Aramis looked pale, and an old hand overheard, snorted, and said, "Cunt-struck, more like.") Porthos never learned his letters, knows his numbers only because ciphering kept him alive, has stolen more than he'll ever earn, and is here by Captain Treville's grace alone, so what is he next to the legions of pale, perfumed ladies who've welcomed Aramis into their silken beds?

Every time he thinks it through, he ends up in the same place, so he puts it out of his head, focusing instead on Courtenay, sparring with him. Courtenay's a natural with the sword, but Porthos minds his footwork for once and overpowers him into dropping his weapon. "Me next," Aramis calls, and Porthos whirls, looking at the easy line he makes, from feathered hat to folded boots, leaning against a pillar. "You're improving daily, my friend."

"You don't need to," he says back. That's all he says (all he means to say), but his tongue is so clumsy that Aramis hears more.

"I don't need to flatter you? I do not, Porthos."

His name sounds sweet in that voice, and he flushes, hoping the quickness of his breath will look like effort from trouncing Courtenay. "C'mon, then," he says, voice dropping into a growl that sounds even more obvious than a moan.

Aramis sways on his feet like a reed bending to the wind (like a veiled dancer), and Porthos, charmed, lowers his sword. Aramis keeps his sheathed and comes close enough to murmur in his ear. "Do you not trust me to speak the truth to you?" Porthos rears back, trying to read Aramis's dark eyes, lighting up his fair face. (He thinks of Aramis's sincerity at his devotions, the sweet set of his jaw when he is sewing up his comrades' wounds, and cannot speak for shame.) Aramis rests one hand on Porthos's heart (his leathers are too thick to feel its warmth) and says, "Can you trust at least that I'll need your help to get Athos back to his rooms once we're done?" True enough, Athos, best sword in the regiment, is slumped over a bottle in one corner. (Athos hasn't given up on being Aramis's shadow, then. Porthos has carried the man home more times than he can count.)

At his nod, Aramis draws, wearing a smile as sharp as his blade, and the bout begins under a blazing sun. Fighting with him is a joy (his answering grin must be giving him away).

*

Aramis is close and careless in the early hours of the day, leaning trustingly in as they make their way to the palace for guard duty. Their breath steams in the crisp air. (Aramis does not quite shiver but Porthos feels it anyway.) "'S my favourite time of day," he says before he can stop himself, before he can wonder whose bed Aramis woke in, who gave him those bite-marks on the soft underside of his jaw.

"Is it the cold you enjoy, or the near-solitude? If the latter, I could leave you, return to bed, and make it perfect for you." Aramis's tongue is so damned quick.

He shakes his head, but Aramis will not let him plod along in silence. At the third nudge of an elbow in his ribs, he finally spills the truth. "It's the light." His gloved hands look ridiculously large and beastly when he gestures, so he tucks his fists by his side and keeps his eyes on the cobblestones.

"Like gold growing warmer," Aramis says, humming a little. A ray flashes across his face and he is dazzling. "A memory, then?"

"My mother." He remembers her in pieces – slender hands, low voice, sunlit eyes. He remembers her with his body (the only times he felt small and not alone were when she held him).

"An aubade would be a fitting tribute for a golden-eyed lady." He doesn't know what that means so he stays silent. (How many golden-eyed ladies has Aramis loved?) "An aubade, a song of the dawn. I'll teach you," Aramis offers, and Porthos shivers at the touch of lips or beard just under his ear.

*

It's always a wonder to him, Aramis's room, the untold richness of manuscripts in three languages and one bound book and a beeswax candle to read his bible by. (His own room is small and dim, and his leathers set him back so far he cannot afford more than rushlights to brighten it, but it is all his.) Porthos has learned to read by that steady smokeless light, surprising both of them with his speed. (Aramis has a way of looking delighted that spurs him on.)

Even as astonished as he is by the day's events – the King rested his hand briefly on his arm, and the Queen looked him full in the face – he still spares a moment to appreciate the room where Aramis lays his head.

Aramis sheds his weapons and cloak and lights a tallow candle to ease the dusk, the familiar stink of it not nearly enough to overwhelm the smell of gunpowder that clings to them both, and Porthos suddenly cannot keep himself from laughing aloud. This day has been more than a child of the Court of Miracles could ever ask for, and Aramis looks first startled and then lovely as he too sinks into laughter. (As ever, Aramis's nose crinkles like a child's and Porthos cannot catch his breath at the sight of him.)

Between one blink and the next, Aramis is there, one hand against Porthos's face, leaning slightly up to lay his mouth against his.

(He has never been able to keep himself from questioning whatever good fortune has come his way.) One long sip of Aramis's hot mouth is all he allows himself before he steps back. "Why now?" He has never been sure whether Aramis only bedded women, but he has long been certain that Aramis has read his dumb longing. (He is a complete fool.)

"Do you not wish to be mine?" Aramis asks, drawing his head back down, but even level as their eyes are, Porthos can read nothing in the dark depths of Aramis's gaze.

He pulls back again, his throat and chest tight, and lets Aramis's hands fall away. (Of course he wishes to be Aramis's.) His hand moves to unbuckle his pauldron and as it snaps free he realises Aramis answered another question entirely. "Why now?" he asks again, tossing the pauldron aside toward the chair. His aim must be at fault, because Aramis lunges to catch it, clumsily trapping it against his thigh. (Aramis is never clumsy.)

And Aramis is never silent like he is now, lifting his chin slowly, eyes black as night and snapping like a roaring fire in a face painted red by the dusk-light. (Aramis might very well come at him with a sword or musket, but Porthos is still better at brute strength. Please don't let it come to that.) Porthos isn't going to run from whatever this is – fight or fuck. (But this might be where he dies.)




ARAMIS

Aramis would have said, prior to this very moment, that it was not even tempting anymore, being seen as another's salvation.

Of course it never works out – standing in God's place is rank blasphemy. For those desperate with need, Aramis has committed this particular sin too many times to count, and then has murmured penance with his lips against the wooden beads of his rosary even more often than that as his transgressions crowd into his mind; it seems better to ask pardon for the same offence ceaselessly than to miss one in his carelessness. They were all in need and so saw in him some answer, and better for the sin to be on his head than theirs, when they had no idea how they erred or how to confess their misery.

So he would have said, but as this fateful day turns into night, Porthos is in his room, lost to laughter and thus radiating joy, and underneath that is the accreting significance of Porthos's looks, longing and lustful and adoring not by turn but in some irresistible compound. So he would have said, but he can feel Porthos's lovely mouth blossom under his when he stretches up to taste it.

Porthos's desire has long been almost a tangible thing, and when they kiss Aramis feels the full weight of it. He loses all of his words, even the ones he will need in the morning to repent for this night.

*

He had wanted to ease Athos's burdens, to offer a respite from his sorrows – despite how often Athos searched, he never seemed to find one in the bottom of a wine bottle – but he had contrived somehow to make it worse. Athos had fallen on him like a ravening wolf, ravaging him without mercy or shame, which was all to the good; Aramis had expected strength to match his own, had wanted it as a change from the blushes and perfumes of the titled ladies he most often knew these days. But Athos had kept his freshwater eyes screwed shut as if he were undergoing an exorcism rather than performing an act of love, and he had, immediately after, retreated further as if glad to have a reason for his self-loathing.

Aramis was not in the habit of conflating weakness and need, but Athos evidently considered the marks he'd left on Aramis's skin damning on both counts.

Aramis prided himself on being a man who pleased bodies as assiduously as he cherished the souls they housed. To maids and matrons alike he was all that their sweethearts and husbands could or would not be, awakening blushes that left creamy breasts as rosy as pert nipples and exciting desire until cunts were as ruddy and slick as tongues. With some few of his brother Musketeers he has known the wonder of a strong back arched, the burn of a beard against tender thighs, the uses to which long fingers can be put. What was the value of all of his honed talents if they could not snatch Athos, the best of his brothers, from the depths of his despair?

*

Here, now, Porthos is asking for an answer. "Do you not wish to be mine?" Aramis asks, certain of the response; Porthos is an open book, and he is literate in multiple languages. Porthos begins divesting himself of his protective gear but stops before stripping away leather to get to linen, checking himself to voice his query again, and Aramis recalls that he had offered few words, too few, to Athos. He must do better this time, if he is not to lose Porthos as he did Athos. He opens his mouth, wondering if Porthos needs his usual honeyed speeches or something that hews closer to the truth of this moment: Because I want to keep you like this, joyous, with me.

And then Porthos tosses his pauldron aside to bare himself, and Aramis cannot allow that hard-won guard, symbol of Porthos's concerted effort and ultimate triumph and a fine example of Perrault's workmanship besides, to be carelessly discarded. He catches the leather, which has eased from stiffness to suppleness in the months that Porthos has worn it around his shoulder, against his body. The pauldron easily accommodates his thigh and Aramis feels his throat lock tighter than a virgin's cunt as he fully comprehends, for the first time, Porthos's size. The strength that lies coiled within him must be magnificent, this splendid figure of a man. Aramis looks up slowly, eyes dragging the length of Porthos's body, up the thick thighs and wide hips, the barrel chest, the long line of his strong throat, the lush curls; Porthos does not stand still for inspection, and cannot meet his eyes for long.

Porthos has lost some of his joy already as tension takes over his body, but he is still stripping like he can only stop at Aramis's command. "You are a miracle," Aramis says, and Porthos recoils like the words are buckshot to his belly.

"Do you know what you're saying?" Porthos asks roughly, and Aramis is awash in guilt without knowing precisely why. Or, rather, he knows half the reason: he's never seen Porthos in a state of serenity; it's clear from his carriage, his scars, and the street rhythms of his speech that he's never felt at peace, but that joy spilling over into laughter had been true, and perhaps as elusive. And Aramis has stripped him of it somehow, has made Porthos's bright face close. All with four words, the meaning of which was plain to Porthos, if not to him.

He'd meant to teach Porthos to read French as he'd learnt his Latin, from the Bible. As a child, he'd spent hours in the sunshine, armed with a slingshot to perfect his aim, his head full of verses in both the old tongue and the new, but Porthos had steered his own course, learning best from his own repertoire of filthy jokes. Porthos loved words, how some could be sly with double meanings while others were neatly bound to a single definition, and Aramis wondered at his facility even as he transcribed the jokes Porthos recalled, until all the margins of Abbé Suger's treatise were littered with cheerful filth. Porthos had treated words as a private currency, a fortune shared with Aramis; for Porthos to be questioning his meaning now is serious.

A child of the sun, Porthos is, and Aramis stretches out his hand to touch Porthos's bared chest, dark and bright at once. "I mean that to me you are wondrous," he falters, like he has never strung sweet words together like pearls to woo a lady out of her garments, shaken by the grief in which Porthos is suddenly cloaked. How has he gone from the adored to the supplicant in the blink of an eye or the dropping of a careless word? Porthos shakes his head reflexively, dark eyes shining with hurt.

"What have I done to wound you?" he asks, drinking in the sight of Porthos by candlelight, naked to the waist, like an offering to a heathen god. He wants his roaringly vivid Porthos back, the one he's served beside all these months, the man who kisses his weapon before joining the fray and crows about the Musketeers' victories after. He does not want Porthos to lay himself down as a sacrifice, as he did himself for Athos; he wants to tip Porthos back into joy.

He must make it clear that his body is available for Porthos's delectation, and that he'll tarnish his soul again if Porthos needs him as he has always been needed.

*

Aramis is good at this, has always been good at love, since he first awakened to the possibilities of his body. Porthos has been yearning for him for months; Aramis knows this for a fact, and yet when he steps around Porthos, circling him with sweet intent, fingers trailing lightly along hot skin, Porthos's muscled back flexes – defensively, not enticingly.

"Speak, Porthos," he says into the man's spine, the fingertips of one hand pressing into a shoulder blade like armour. He has seen the way Porthos's eyelashes dip down when Aramis pronounces his name, that brief act of gathering himself before proceeding; he wants Porthos to give himself time to think, to consider, before opening his lips.

"Why now?" Porthos asks again, neck twisted so that he can look over his shoulder, and Aramis cannot deny him a third time.

"Because you are lovely and you were joyous and you should be mine in every way." It is undeniable truth. Porthos faces front again and Aramis considers the skin in his line of sight, the vulnerable nape of the neck and the softness beneath his small ears, all innocent of hair, and wants to lay his mouth against it, as a benediction.

Porthos's whole body shifts with the profundity of his sharp inhalation. "No." He steps away and for the second time in a night Aramis is left holding air instead of this man out of the common way. It is as if Porthos divined his intention to put lips to skin but misread his purpose; it would be no Judas kiss.

"No?" His hands are still reaching toward Porthos; he catches himself and draws them back. Porthos looks at him out of the corner of one eye, and Aramis wonders if he would have more faith if Aramis had stripped himself in concert with him, if it is the power dynamic implied in Porthos's compliant nudity that he is truly protesting. But Porthos squares his shoulders and pivots like a duellist then, facing him without shame.

"Not like this. I know I'm just one of many, but you're not." Porthos's words are slurred with emotion, thickening his accent. Aramis has to strain to understand him, cannot stop himself from fixating on that luscious mouth as it shapes the words. "You fixed on me, that first day. Because of the captain?" Before Aramis can deny that Treville guided his gaze to Porthos, the rumble of words continues. "You said I was a Musketeer and everyone fell in line. You taught me to read. You, Aramis –"

Aramis needs to stop this paean. He did nothing out of the ordinary; singling out Porthos, who'd towered above his fellows, was merely instinct, and to educate one of his brothers and increase his usefulness was only good sense. He closes his eyes, not wanting to be worshipped.

But Porthos is not done delivering himself of his speech; when he chooses to speak, he is eloquent indeed. "You could have me, but you just want to claim me."

Aramis's eyes pop open in surprise. It is not adoration on Porthos's face. When Porthos takes a step forward, he finds himself taking a commensurate step back. Porthos does not see him as holy, as salvation, as an escape. Porthos is stalking toward him with intent, and Aramis stops retreating.

"My turn for a kiss," Porthos says, that deep voice reverberating like a church-bell, and Aramis tips his head back in welcome before Porthos's hands cup his face. Porthos's mouth is hotter now than it was at dusk, and Aramis moans at the strength of the body pressed against his. The boast of Solomon's men was every man has his sword on his thigh, but Porthos is mightier than the flower of Israel because he needs no blade at all, with that harboured power to command. All that harnessed strength is in Aramis's arms now. He twines himself closer, kissing until he is light-headed and has to gasp for air.

He pulls free with a pang. "How can I have you?" he asks against the long strong throat bared for him.

"You can love me," Porthos says into his mouth.

His banner over me is love. Aramis, giddy with kisses and confessions, is settled by realisation. Porthos looks at him not as salvation but as beloved, and offers his whole self in return. In his experience, it is unprecedented. He puts Porthos's hands away from him, gently, with a kiss for each palm, and stands on his own for a moment. He lights the slim pillar of the beeswax candle and blows out the tallow candle's flame. By clear and steady light, he frees himself of his boots and garments, then smiles and bears Porthos down to the bed.


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As always, I'd love to hear what you think.

This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/450328.html.

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