Porthos has just got his life exactly the way he wants it when d’Artagnan barges in and brings things to a screeching halt.
Porthos is the national treasure of his kingdom. Heir to the throne; son of a king and a noblewoman; a soldier; a working man. Adored and loved by his people.
He’s two years out of his service to the crown and he’s making this inheritance his own. His father the king trusts him to weigh in on the affairs of state, and he’s still got time to ride around the countryside and even go down to the lower levels of the city and help his friend Flea with the soup kitchens, incognito. He’s finally convinced Athos to stay on as a regular Musketeer and sometimes advisor to the king; he’s managed to tone down Aramis’ mischievous flirting (and then some) with everything that breathes.
But then this farmer’s son comes to the city to petition the king on taxes and – look. It’s just fate. That’s all there is. What else could have Porthos bumping into, literally falling over, a guy coming out of the palace gates while Porthos is going in, and in less than two weeks Porthos knows this man is absolutely the only one for him?
How it happens is that Porthos is coming back from a long day of being Not-Prince Porthos, wherein everyone kindly pretends not to recognize his noble features and accepts his help with the construction work in the south town; and d’Artagnan is just exiting the gates, frustrated after another long day of cooling his heels as the fiftieth person in a backlogged line of petitioners waiting to address the king.
They bump into each other, and d’Artagnan opens with a scowl and a “Hey watch where you’re going.”
Porthos pauses and looks at this insolent outsider looking to pick a fight, but he only counters with “My mistake,” because he’s a prince and he’s had his manners taught to him since he was an infant, even if he’s tired and just dreaming about a nice long bath.
D’Artagnan is grumbling, but he’s not entirely an asshole, so he says “Fine” and goes his not-so-merry way, back to his sub-par inn with his possibly-rat stew.
But he remembers .
The next time d’Artagnan sees Porthos – in the palace yards, again passing each other as they each go on their separate ways – d’Artagnan narrows his eyes in recognition. It’s not the usual way that Prince Porthos is greeted, and he’s embarrassed by how annoyed it makes him.
Athos doesn’t even try to hide his smirk, just stares at Porthos until Porthos growls, “What?” and then Aramis – because of course the one thing that Athos and Aramis are going to agree on is making fun of Porthos, their prince, the absolute unfairness of it – Aramis says, “You’re just peeved he isn’t falling over himself to shine your belt buckle.”
“That’s not true,” says Porthos. He says it very definitively.
“Oh, your highness!” Aramis says in a weird country-accented falsetto. “I’d heard stories about you, but i didn’t realize how… strong … and… handsome you were,”
Then it’s time for Porthos to tackle Aramis under the guise of a training exercise, and if Aramis gets thrown over a shoulder or two then that’s his own fault.
But this stranger shows up again, sitting at a table in the courtyard just close enough that when Porthos passes on his way to the stables he can hear that the man’s saying something, and maybe he slows and maybe he kicks Aramis a little when Aramis laughs.
This man’s sitting on the table, feet on the bench, carving an apple with his pocket knife. He’s surrounded by other people who’ve come to petition the king, housewives and tradespeople and merchants and farmers. “Take it from me,” one old man is saying: “I’ve made the trip every year for forty-five years and the best thing you can do is sit out here and enjoy the rest until a man comes to summon you.”
The stranger grins and just for that moment Porthos is intensely and genuinely jealous of the apple he’s aiming that smile towards. “I’m just glad we were neighbors in that line,” the stranger says, “or else I would’ve been there for another week.” And then if Porthos isn’t mistaken, his gaze slides up the curve of the apple peel and over to Porthos when he adds, “It’s much nicer out here.”
But then he’s looking determinedly at his apple peel when he says, “You’d think the king would have a better system in place for hearing these petitions. The king of Spain hears our complaints very easily, with a system of balanced hearings –”
(Except he doesn’t say Spain, because this is fake-France which borders fake-Spain but let’s just call them by the names we know for the sake of clarity, yes?)
Of course Porthos has slowed to a complete stop at this point, but at this he has to step forward, his blood just beginning to boil like it does when he sees an opponent step up across the battlefield. “You go to the king of Spain with your troubles?” he says.
The table, and a certain radius of the yard beyond, falls quiet. The stranger squints up at him, not bothering to straighten from his slouch, and says, “Yeah. Of course I do. We’re right across the border from him, as far south as you can get and still be in France.”
“But you are. In France. To deal with another king invites invasion and treason.” Porthos is so mad. This guy’s showing disrespect to Porthos’ father’s life’s work, his kingdom, Porthos’ inheritance.
The man shrugs. “King Treville hasn’t heard my father for six years. Father can never stay for long, so when the king doesn’t have time for him… a week without him on the farm can mean the loss of a month’s crops.”
He pauses to slip a slice of apple into his mouth, drawing Porthos’ eyes to his soft, full lips.
“Anyway,” says the stranger, crunching obnoxiously, “we go to the king of Spain with explanations of our property borders and reports of any bandits that’ve been harming our crop, and his people buckle down on their border patrols and offer us trading rights at a discount. It works out, and we’re back on the farm in a week.”
Aramis is making thoughtful noises, but luckily Athos is there to thump him because Porthos is busy being so fucking angry – “You trade with Spain? That’s import that should be going to our people. There are children in the lower city who’re starving because their parents can’t even get out of bed, there are good people who need that and you and your father are squandering your graciously granted rights and protection that we –” Porthos jabs a finger at his chest, indicating the King’s Musketeers, of which he’s a captain, due to merit thank you very much – “extend to you traitors–”
Then this guy’s off the table and up in Porthos’ face, jaw clenched and eyes narrowed and completely, incandescently furious. “We don’t trade with them. I said we’re offered it. If the king of France had any time for his patient subjects, I’d tell him of my family’s hard-won potential to open up trade routes with our neighbors. But apparently he’s too wound up in tired, traditional committees and hearings to listen to the son of Alexandre d’Artagnan, a man who protected him faithfully until a bullet ended his career!”
Then this man, d’Artagnan the younger, snaps his mouth shut and takes a single step back and throws the apple core to the ground at Porthos’ feet. He says to Porthos with righteous fury, “The d’Artagnan family will always remain devoted and tireless servants to the royal line.”
And then he stalks off.
Well. Well. Aramis is howling fit to burst the minute they clear the palace gates, he almost falls off his horse. Athos is making what Porthos thinks are the outraged noises of a noble seeing his prince disrespected, but he realizes when Athos actually does fall off his horse that Athos is trying so hard to suppress tears that he can’t stop hiccuping for the next half-hour.
Porthos rides on ahead of them in a dignified silence. Then the image of d’Artagnan’s righteously furious face comes back to him. It’s kind of funny. Then he remembers the looks on the other petitioner’s faces when d’Artagnan walked away and he snorts a little.
Then he remembers the king complaining about the old systems of the courts and never having enough time to see to the visitors who come from the farthest reaches of the kingdom, and somehow the memory of d’Artagnan throwing down the apple core and saying, in that offended tone, “the d’Artagnan family” layers over that and by the time Athos and Aramis catch up with him Porthos has fallen off his horse and he’s sitting where he fell, laughing so hard Aramis has to loosen the straps on Porthos’ uniform so he can breathe.
Porthos sees d’Artagnan again – and again and again, this guy is everywhere, what gives – and he goes out of his way to nod at him and try to engage him in conversation. Because d’Artagnan had good points, even if he was a bit overzealous, and shut up Aramis i’m not wooing him. Porthos just feels bad about getting so riled up about -- what, a punk who didn’t know who Porthos was and spoke his mind?
Also yes maybe Athos has a point that this is exactly what Porthos has always wanted, for someone to challenge him and not be intimidated by Porthos’ status. And maybe it is wooing d’Artagnan, courting him over intense discussion (“Provoking him,” Athos coughs into his glove, after the third time in three days that Porthos oh-so-casually finds d’Artagnan in the yard with the other petitioners and asks him about his opinion on the court draperies, surely d’Artagnan must have found some issue with those, he always seems to have an opinion about everything –)
To some this wouldn’t be wooing, but Porthos has always been careful with his heart. Athos loves or he doesn’t; and Aramis dives in head-first and always scrambles out of love with the same brash good-humored energy. Porthos needs to ease into it. He needs to give his heart away piece by piece, carefully, so he might be able to grab it back if it turns out he let it go too hastily.
He pokes and prods at d’Artagnan, and sees if d’Artagnan will twitch away and growl or if he’ll grin that brilliant grin of his and poke back, sniping at Porthos and delivering his madcap ideas of social revolution with casual determination, as if they’re so obvious; as if Porthos hasn’t been raised to consider these affairs before his own health.
It’s ridiculous. It’d be one thing if d'Artagnan were a fellow musketeer, or even a citizen of the palace who knew who Porthos was - then, oh then he’d get a lecture from Porthos. From anyone, really. But people see a prince dealing with a mouthy farmer and they figure, eh, the prince is being patient and calm in the face of this unlearned gent’s ignorance, good for him. But this doesn’t cover the scope of what d’Artagnan is – this farmer who wears a sword like he knows how to use it, who locks eyes with Porthos and then looks away dismissively, what. That’s not how you – Porthos has never been one for absolute propriety, look who he chose for friends – but that’s not how you address royalty.
But d’Artagnan probably just doesn’t know.
And maybe -
Maybe Porthos likes it better that way.
Maybe he doesn’t clue d'Artagnan because he likes the way everyone else draws back and lets them go at it, the way they wouldn’t if d'Artagnan were a courtier - then they’d all be inserting their own opinions and jockeying for a nod from the prince. Porthos loves the subterfuge. He knows he wears his status like a cloak; it’s in his posture and his captain’s insignia and the bodyguards at his back. He’s waiting for any one of their arguments - somehow tempered into debate now – to pause and for d'Artagnan to piece it together. He can’t wait to see the look on his face then.
But he’s not gonna spoil the surprise.
He finds d’Artagnan everywhere, so often that d’Artagnan even becomes acquainted with Athos and Aramis; so often that Porthos finds himself nodding to merchants and realizes that he’s joined d’Artagnan on a visit to the market and they’ve been talking all the way there. He brings d’Artagnan to the Musketeers’ training yard within the palace gates and finds himself trading blows with d’Artagnan; letting Athos step in and correct d’Artagnan’s form; giving in to his moment of weakness and picking d’Artagnan up (feeling his smooth stomach against Porthos’ rough palms as his shirt slides up, as his eyes go wide) and throwing the man over his shoulder to dunk him in the water trough.
He finds out that d’Artagnan’s father is sick, has been for a few months; that d’Artagnan’s never been to the city before; that he has five sisters, all as wild and temperamental as he; that he loves the farm and the work there more than anything except maybe, he’s learning, the city itself and all the life there is to see and protect there; that his father trained him in swordplay and was the captain of the Musketeers when he served Treville; that d’Artagnan wants to follow in his footsteps and apply to the guard but has a duty to his father and his land (“Something you probably wouldn’t understand,” he says morosely, and Porthos glares at Athos and Aramis until they stop nudging each other).
He learns about d’Artagnan’s ideas for opening trade routes with Spain and the problems they have with bandits and the serious lack of resources and soldiers way out there by the border – which, coincidentally, could be resolved with another of d’Artagnan’s ideas, a kind of roving musketeer squad that’s based out of no town in particular but has outposts set up in every other city and lives off the country’s supplies, which are regular taxes but diverted to the outposts instead of the cities….
“It’s a good thing you’re here to listen to my genius,” d’Artagnan says, half cheeky and half apologetic, after one of his speeches winds to a close. “You’re good practice for my presentation to the king.”
It’s the first time in these two weeks that Porthos feels guilty about this case of assumed identity – and a little impatient with d’Artagnan, wishing he’d notice the dozens of little signs that would’ve tipped off any observant Musketeer by now. His name is Porthos , for goodness sake – it doesn’t matter how many babies were named after him! Okay, there were a lot, but still.
Porthos has only been giving d’Artagnan little details about his life that could belong to anyone. Somehow these anecdotes become more precious when given to d’Artagnan, who sees Porthos as someone who has done magnificent things instead of merely being born into a life that attracts magnificence. He tells d’Artagnan about the time he rode on his own for three weeks trying to carry word of insurgents, choosing where to camp by the side of the road each night by simply collapsing whenever he ran out of energy. And the time he helped with the disaster recovery after an earthquake toppled the east county three years ago, and Porthos held a child all night until he found her mother, and when he let her go his arms were aching and he hadn’t even realized. And the way the palace and the city looked in the rose-dawn light on the morning Porthos came back from his first battle, weary and bloody and shocked to tears at the beauty of his home that he had fought for with steel and his bare fists.
It's a little too late by the time Porthos realizes that he’s been handing d’Artagnan each little piece of his heart until there’s none left to spare; that’s he’s given d’Artagnan more of himself than he knew he had. He rises in the morning thinking of how to see d’Artagnan – where to bring him today, which path to steer him down so he can see parts of the city Porthos loves; which pending laws to casually bring up to hear d’Artagnan splutter with rage or to commend enthusiastically; how to casually give his own and his father’s opinions on their existing laws without coming off as too intense or like he, well, co-wrote those laws; how to tell him about his parents’ teasing conversations without letting on who exactly they are.
“Listen,” he says to Athos and Aramis one day, “if you two could just… wander off today...”
Athos says, “We can’t wander off. We’re entrusted with your survival,” because he thinks he’s funny.
“You’re not my bodyguards,” says Porthos, because they aren’t; they just like to think they are.
“What would we do if our dear friend and prince were to be set upon by ruffians,” says Aramis.
“Farm-raised ruffians,” says Athos.
“Farm-raised ruffians with a terrible sense of proper tunic lacing,” says Aramis.
Luckily Aramis and Athos are only Porthos’ bodyguards when it suits them, and after consideration they decide that it doesn’t suit them to listen to Porthos get up to whatever he’s got planned to do with d’Artagnan. (Aramis makes some lewd, though accurate, guesses.) They melt away while Porthos is taking d’Artagnan to one of his favorite haunts in the city, some out-of-the-way empty house where Porthos sort of roosts when he needs a break from being prince.
Porthos forgets all about Athos and Aramis because d’Artagnan is being very receptive in being lured to an empty house, which probably means he is into Porthos and doesn’t think he’s about to be murdered. In another few minutes Porthos is putting his moves on d’Artagnan, most of which involve smiling like the fucking sun just rose behind his teeth and looking at d’Artagnan like he’s Porthos’ new city in the rose-dawn light, and somehow both of them are the sun and the moon to each other. He’s hovering his hands over d’Artagnan’s arms, waiting for d’Artagnan to meet him halfway, because Porthos is patient and Porthos is gentle with the person who holds his heart. D’Artagnan is leaning in, obviously just as unable to resist the pull as Porthos is.
D’Artagnan finally kisses Porthos, and all their half-vicious arguments and their sidelong glances and hands just barely brushing each other as they walk through the city finally coalesce and erupt into the space between them – the not-space, the rapidly narrowing distance between their chests.
D’Artagnan pushes up against Porthos, tugging him down by the hair, grinding up into Porthos and backing him against the wall of their hideaway. Porthos can barely resist his whirlwind of wiry strength and he isn’t trying to. Porthos is pushing back, tugging d’Artagnan onto his tiptoes, devouring d’Artagnan’s mouth and pushing past his lips and taking all the noises d’Artagnan makes for his own. They stumble into something, the bare-bones furniture of the room, and they don’t pay it any mind as it clatters over.
Porthos is rucking up d’Artagnan’s shirt and d’Artagnan is well on his way to divesting Porthos of his pants when d’Artagnan freezes and says -
“Stop – I have to – I can’t do this.”
Porthos stops. Immediately.
At first he thinks it’s something they can talk out, like d’Artagnan maybe doesn’t like sex, or needs to be on a bed, or is careful of his clothes or something. But d’Artagnan backs away from him and says “I can’t do – this. I can’t be with you, Porthos. I’m sorry. I’m meeting with the king tomorrow. I have to – go. I should… I need to go wait in line. For the king. I’ll see you later.” And then he’s out the door, shirt untucked, hair wild and beard burn blossoming over his cheek.
And of course Porthos is still staring at the door two minutes later, half-undressed and bewildered and growing rather chilly, when Athos strolls in, raises an eyebrow, and repeats, “ I’ll see you later ?,” because of course Porthos couldn’t actually be left alone to experience that humiliation.
Athos and Aramis spend the rest of the day, and the evening, dissecting d’Artagnan’s strange behavior. Porthos spends the rest of the day, and the evening, and a portion of the night, calling for another pint and trying to forget how d’Artagnan was kissing him fiercely one minute; and then backing up, something like fear or guilt in his eyes as he said “I can’t be with you.”
Aramis kindly offers to assassinate d’Artagnan in the night, which Porthos refuses. Athos offers his services as professional drink-to-forget guru; Porthos figures he can do well enough with that on his own.
He wakes up the next morning half falling out of his bed, with the sun high in the sky and perfectly pinpointing the hangover sitting right behind his eyes. Porthos feels like an absolute bear and he stumbles around like one, growling at the servants and splashing himself with water (then drinking out of the same basin) and staggering gingerly down to the kitchens where he might find something to eat, breakfast having long past.
He doesn’t have anywhere to go. He doesn’t know what to do. Athos and Aramis are in their chambers or elsewhere, evidently sleeping off their own hangovers or taking the time to find their own amusements. Porthos’ days have been taken up by the question of d’Artagnan: where has he been, where will he be, what hasn’t he seen yet, what will Porthos say to him to make him laugh or scowl or – or run screaming from the room when Porthos kisses him, apparently…
Porthos wanders in a gloom, from the kitchen to the training yard to the stables to the palace halls. There’s nothing to do without d’artagnan.
The queen summons him a few hours into his aimless wanderings, and Porthos is glad enough for a distraction. He finds his parents in the king’s receiving chambers, with a few of their advisors clustered around a table with some papers on it. A servant is laying out refreshments before a man seated directly in front of the king, and Porthos stops stock-still when he realizes that it’s d’Artagnan.
D’Artagnan stands when Porthos enters, and all the courtiers turn and bow to the prince. King Treville comes over and introduces d’Artagnan as “a man with several intriguing proposals,” which in Treville-speak means “here’s some young upstart with some actually good ideas,” which is the same way Porthos viewed d’Artagnan at the beginning of their acquaintance so, fair enough. Porthos isn’t sure if that’s a good sign or not.
“My son, Prince Porthos,” says Treville to d’Artagnan, and d’Artagnan looks Porthos straight in the eye and says, “Your highness.” He bows and he doesn’t look away. His voice is scratchy from long use; he has been talking for hours. Porthos knows this sound by now. “The king has been kind enough to grant me an audience this morning and listen to my humble requests.”
He turns to Treville a little, not breaking eye contact with Porthos. “I am endlessly grateful for his patience for the outrageous suggestions of a simple farmer. The d’Artagnan family’s loyalty to the royal line has been well returned.” His lips twitch a little when he finishes this last bit, as if he’s repressing a smile. Then d’Artagnan’s eyes soften in apology, and he looks up at Porthos – biting his lip, Porthos doesn’t think he knows he’s doing it – waiting for a verdict.
He has known all along.
D’Artagnan has known that Porthos was the prince, possibly from the moment they met, and he has never let on that he knew.
Porthos wants to scoff, wants to laugh, wants to sweep d’Artagnan up in his arms. D’Artagnan is the farmer and Porthos is the prince, and somehow it’s d’Artagnan who’s pushed Porthos away because he’s afraid of his intentions being misunderstood. Afraid that Porthos would enter this room after their night together and see his lover in a new position of power at the king’s elbow and think that d’Artagnan had only slept with him to jump the line or pick his brain or ensure a position in the palace.
D’Artagnan pushed him away last night because he wanted to approach the king after two weeks of waiting in line for his turn, and present his ideas without the unofficial backing of the royal heir, and prove himself to the king and queen and to Porthos. And now Porthos’ father is waiting for Porthos to greet this young new revolutionary who’s delivered proposals of receiving lines and trade routes and roaming patrols for the kingdom, for Porthos ’ kingdom, because d’Artagnan has impressed Treville and as far as he knows d’Artagnan is a stranger at whom Porthos is staring in breathless wonder.
Porthos bows. “I look forward to working closely with you, Monsieur d’Artagnan,” he says.
D’Artagnan barely keeps his ecstasy down to a low gleam. Porthos can’t make his mouth stop smiling. Treville is looking between them and Porthos knows he’s going to have to tell him and the queen the whole story before the day is out, but right now they’re rejoining the royal advisors and sorting out which of d’Artagnan’s ideas could work and which can be modified and which coincide with some the advisors have been working on for years.
Eventually the king must see other petitioners, and the party is moved to a conference room, but not without Treville’s promise that d’Artagnan must stay on at the palace for another year at least, conferring with the committee. Then it grows late and d’Artagnan is given a room and a purse and Porthos is volunteering to lead him to his wing of the palace.
Then they’re outside d’Artagnan’s new chambers, and d’Artagnan is trying not to shuffle, squaring his shoulders and meeting Porthos’ eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I shouldn’t’ve left you like that. I was up all night thinking – but I needed to do this first.”
Porthos shakes his head; he understands now. “I’m the one who should apologize,” he says. “I should’ve come clean. I thought,” he laughs self-deprecatingly, “I thought you didn’t know who I was.”
“Your face is on our coins,” d’Artagnan says, with an eyebrow raise he definitely picked up from Athos.
“I wouldn’t have thought you were giving me the run-around,” Porthos says. “Even if you hadn’t left yesterday. I would’ve known you weren’t using me.”
D’Artagnan shakes his head wryly. “You would’ve thought it. Even for a second. Anyone would.”
“I’d know better. That isn’t what we have, you and me.” Porthos steps closer, shrinking the space between them again. “Yesterday, you said you’d see me later. Did you mean it?”
D’Artagnan grins and fists his hands in Porthos’ shirtfront. “I think we’ve been kept late enough already.” He pulls Porthos against him, trapping himself between Porthos’ frame and the door. Porthos barely remembers that they’re in the open hallway, and fumbles for the doorknob before he loses himself in d’Artagnan’s mouth.
Porthos will have to explain everything to his parents tomorrow; he misses dinner that night. The ornamental furniture in d’Artagnan’s chambers is much abused and the bed is thoroughly tested before either Porthos or d’Artagnan are satisfied. Then they decide that they aren’t quite satisfied yet.
They aren’t satisfied for quite a while.
In the morning they’re served breakfast on a tray, which is par for the course for the prince; Aramis serves, which is a little more unusual. D’Artagnan waves sleepily from under the covers. Aramis smirks at Porthos. Porthos grunts and gropes d’Artagnan pointedly. Athos enters to drag Aramis out, and tosses a “well done” over his shoulder; to Porthos or d’Artagnan, it’s unclear.
Porthos delights in hand-feeding d’Artagnan, which is another weird power reversal that seems to be the hallmark of their relationship as it grows; d’Artagnan nips at Porthos’ fingers and bites Porthos’ stomach in retaliation for mushrooms. Ultimately they end up with d’Artagnan’s head on Porthos’ stomach, eyes closed in bliss as Porthos runs a lazy hand through d’Artagnan’s hair.
“I get you all to myself now,” says Porthos in satisfaction.
“You might have to fight the committee for me,” d’Artagnan says. “Not that i’m opposed to that. Just make sure you’re shirtless when you do it.”
Porthos grumbles so low it’s almost a growl. “They’ll get you for as long as your proposals need work. I want you for longer.”
D’Artagnan’s breath catches. “Well, about that. I may have smudged a few truths when I told you about my family.”
Porthos pauses in his ministrations. “Is it your father?”
“He really is sick. But since he’s been ill my sisters have taken over the upkeep and the exports and, well, it seems they’re better at it than I ever was.” D’Artagnan laughs. “They told me to not come back too quickly. And… they know how badly I want to follow in my father’s footsteps. If I met any captains of the Musketeers, I was to apply to them for the regiment.”
Porthos huffs to cover his blinding relief. He slides down under the blankets and catches d’Artagnan in his arms. “So you were just tryin’ to get close to me for my connections, after all.”
“Obviously,” says d’Artagnan.
And then he becomes a favored advisor of the king and gets trained as a Musketeer and impresses all the palace folk with his obvious love for the prince; and he and Porthos bang all over the palace; and Treville calls d’Artagnan his son-in-law for a full year before Porthos and d’Artagnan get married, and the queen tells d’Artagnan all the embarrassing stories about Porthos’ childhood and teaches him how to make her childhood sweets that Porthos loves.
And the prince volunteers for the first campaign of the newly implemented roaming patrols and happens to meet d’Artagnan’s sisters at one of the outposts and it’s mostly terrifying for him and absolutely hilarious for the sisters.
And they all live happily ever after.