iSo I finally worked up the courage to post the third part. Um. I kinda sorta might even be working on a fourth part. Don't know how that happened... So. Here it is. The third part of this trainwreck of a story. It's not as bad as the first two parts though, I hope, but I'll let you readers be the judge of that./i


Athos frowns as he regards the posh inn, then draws the crumpled note out of his pocket, checking the address once more. It matches.

Why ever would Porthos want to meet him here, to discuss the matter of Aramis? He probably was looking for neutral ground, away from prying eyes and ears, but still this seems not exactly like an establishment Porthos would frequent.

On the other hand, if he wanted to work on a plan to get Aramis out of prison, out of Rochefort's clutches, maybe it makes sense to look for a locale no one would expect you to choose. Because in all probability such a plan would be something completely reckless the captain would have their hides for even contemplating.

Rochefort. Just thinking of him makes Athos burn with hatred. He can't believe he ever felt a smidgen of sympathy for the man. The night he had tied the guy to the bed seems like a dream – or rather a nightmare - by now. Unreal.

Because while Athos was still reeling with guilt over what he did to Rochefort, the bastard was already plotting - and executing - another plan for their downfall. This time taking the queen down with them, and setting Aramis up for execution.

So if Porthos has any ideas how to turn this situation around, Athos is totally game. No matter how reckless.

Determined, he enters the inn and looks around, taking in the place. It's a nice, middle class establishment, respectable, but not overly luxurious. A bit sombre perhaps.

So unlike Porthos.

Shrugging, he walks up to the reception, where an elderly man with a carefully waxed moustache smiles at him in greeting. When Athos introduces himself and asks for Porthos, the man nods and checks his ledgers.

"Bonsoir, Monsieur Athos. M. du Vallon is expecting you in room..." his finger slides along the ledger until he reaches Porthos' name, "... fourteen. It's up the stairs on the second floor. Refreshments have already been served. If you need anything, please ring the bell."

Athos thanks the man and makes his way up the brightly lit stairs and down the short corridor of the second floor, until he reaches a door marked fourteen. After a short knock he enters, but stops in his tracks, gaping in disbelief at the sight that meets his eyes.

The room is largely what he expected, clean, respectable, comfortable if not posh, with a large bed, a dark wooden table flanked by a couple of cushioned chairs, and an armoire at the far wall, but the man awaiting him inside is not Porthos.

At the table, looking slightly dishevelled as always, with his shirt gaping open to show the smooth skin of his chest and his collection of chains and pendants peeking out sits Rochefort, seeming totally relaxed, leaning backwards in the chair with his booted feet propped up on the table. He is regarding Athos with an inscrutable expression in his dark blue eyes.

Athos hisses, taking a step forward, his hand going for his trusted rapier, the impulse to run Rochefort through nearly irresistible.

Rochefort makes no move to get up, just lifts his hand in a stopping motion. "That", he says sharply, "would be a grave mistake."

His own hand clenched around the grip of his weapon so hard his knuckles go white, Athos growls. "Give me one reason I should not kill you."

Rochefort's lips curl back in something that is not exactly a smile. "First, because I won't go down easily. And second, I'm the only one who can save your comrade from certain death. That's two reasons, but I'm sure I could think up more if you wish."

Athos grits his teeth, but refrains from attacking - for now. He doubts Rochefort would really do anything to save Aramis, seeing that he is the one causing all the chaos and suffering, but he can't risk blowing this if there is even the slightest chance to get Rochefort to relent.

"What do you want?", he snarls, his fingers not releasing the grip of his rapier yet.

"Sit", Rochefort says, indicating at the chair opposite to him, and with stiff, angry movements, Athos does.

Rochefort pulls his feet from the table, sits up, and draws his other hand out of his pocket. He puts something on the table, idly pushing a small flagon back and forth. Athos eyes are glued to the small bottle with the familiar amber liquid, and he feels the blood drain from his face as dread settles in his stomach.

"No way", he says, his voice taking on a hoarse note. "I'm not letting you tie me up again. You're not feeding that stuff to me."

But he knows it's just posturing. To save Aramis, he will resign to anything, even if the thought makes his bowels churn with fear.

Rochefort looks up from the bottle, meeting his eyes, and smiles without humour. He picks the flagon up, turning it between his fingers, then pulls the stopper, and sets it to his lips.

Staring in disbelief, Athos watches the other man drink with quick, determined swallows. When Rochefort sets the bottle back on the table, half the content is gone.

A double dose.

Still stunned, Athos meets that eerily intense blue gaze, his own eyes wide with shock, and again shudders at the hint of madness lurking in those depths. It seems that Rochefort did slide even closer to the edge since their last encounter. Briefly, Athos wonders if he is responsible for that, if he was the one setting Rochefort on a course that threatens to destroy the royal house.

Rochefort just holds his gaze, wordlessly, although his breathing quickens slightly.

"You're crazy", Athos finally chokes out, so dumbfounded it even pushes back the wrath he felt moments ago.

Rochefort smiles again, a weary little smile that does funny things to Athos, like make butterflies dance in his stomach. "That's the popular opinion", he says softly.

Athos takes his hat off and throws it on the table, forking both his hands through his hair in confusion. He just can't make heads or tails of this. What is Rochefort up to this time?

"Why?", he finally asks the only question that comes to his mind.

Rochefort gets up with an abrupt, but fluid motion, and starts pacing the room. Already his face seems slightly more flushed than minutes ago. His fingers slide through his hair, making it look even more tousled than usual.

Athos can't help but think how good that looks on the man.

How silky that hair felt between his fingers.

Rochefort blessedly stops this thought when he leans with his back to the wall, his chest moving with his quick breaths. The drug must be taking effect by now. He closes his eyes for a second, then opens them again to stare at Athos, and again Athos is struck by the darkness in Rochefort's eyes, the madness lurking in them, the desperation.

"Because I'm drowning, Athos", Rochefort replies softly, a hoarse note in his voice. "Been drowning for years, but I always had a lifeline to hold on to. Now it's turned out to be a straw. And I'm going under."

"The queen", Athos breathes, the final piece of the puzzle falling into place. "That's why you're doing all this. Why you hate Aramis so much."

Rochefort's eyes close, but not before Athos sees the pain flit through them. Then Rochefort hisses, and his back bows slightly off the wall. Athos can't help but notice the bulge forming under the black leather of his pants.

"Will you watch as I drown, Athos?", Rochefort asks, his voice strained, breathless. "Or will you throw me a line?"

Athos stares at the other man, his feelings more confused than he ever thought possible. Seeing Rochefort like this, realizing how damaged, how broken the guy is, knowing what has been done to him in the past, finally understanding what drives him to do what he does, knowing what it must cost Rochefort to leave himself vulnerable like this, he just can't hold on to the simple hate he felt so far.

Oh, he still hates the man. No question about that. But underneath that, there's understanding. And yes, pity. Damn, even a connection. He can relate.

And as Rochefort hisses again, his hand going for the bulge in his pants, only to ball it into a fist and force it back to his side, his body wrecked by tremors, something else mixes into that emotional cocktail, something visceral. Hungry.

"God, that's strong", Rochefort bites out. "Might run out of time here, Athos."

"Why me?", Athos asks, his voice husky. "Of all people, why me? You hate me."

Rochefort laughs, but it turns into a wheeze as another tremor runs through him. He opens his eyes, and Athos has the impression of staring right into the abyss. He shivers.

"Oh, I do", Rochefort whispers harshly. "But you understand, Athos. You know what it's like being hollow. Empty. Clinging to the one person that could fill that void, and see your hopes turn to dust. To watch from afar as someone else takes what you crave most in the world. To be unwanted. To chase a dream only to find that reality is a bitter bitch intent on tearing your heart to shreds."

Rochefort shudders, slumping a little as his breathing grows ragged. His arms shake with the effort to keep from touching himself, his hands are balled to fists so tight his knuckles turn white.

"Athos...", he gasps.

Frozen, Athos stares at the man for endless seconds, watching him struggle, feeling like someone just floored him.

Because Rochefort is right. He does understand.

On so many levels, they are the same.

He watches Rochefort fight against the effects of the drug, and the familiar shameful heat washes through him. Rochefort is... beautiful in his suffering. Alluring.

With shaking hands Athos reaches for the small bottle, feeling Rochefort's eyes burn him.

Quickly, before he can think better of it, he downs the remains of the amber liquid.

A double dose.

Because he needs it to go through with what he's about to do.

Not for the aphrodisiac effect.

So he can pretend his body is not perfectly ready to do this anyway.

That he does not, in fact, want this.

It seems like Rochefort is not the only madman in this room.

Athos stumbles to his feet and makes his way through the chamber, never taking his eyes from Rochefort's.

Rochefort is openly panting by now, his pupils dilated, his body shaking. And Athos is hard, so hard, and he tries not to think of the fact that the amber stuff had no time to affect him yet.

This is his enemy. Another man.

He should be filled with ice-cold disgust.

But instead, he's burning.

He leans against Rochefort, chest to chest, and licks a slow line along Rochefort's neck, from his shoulder to his jaw. They both gasp, and Athos shudders when Rochefort's back bows, pressing that beautiful body harder into his own.

Rochefort mewls, his hands digging into Athos's shoulders, and then Rochefort's mouth finds Athos', aggressively, invading, demanding. Athos moans as the fire in him flares, making his cock pulse angrily, his hands grabbing Rochefort's narrow hips, gripping with what must be a painful force. Rochefort does not seem to mind. He rolls his hips, the bulge in his leathers sliding along the answering one Athos' pants.

Athos can't tell anymore if the drug finally takes effect, or if it just comes naturally, but he's on fire, the need to possess drowning out all rational thought. He starts dragging Rochefort in the direction of the bed, his mouth wandering to the man's neck, kissing, licking, sucking, biting in a frenzy.

Rochefort keens, a needy, plaintive noise, and starts ripping at Athos clothes. It's hard to undress without letting go of the other person, but somehow they manage to lose most of their clothing. Some of it even remains intact in the process.

Tumbling on the mattress Athos seeks Rochefort's mouth again for another of those hungry kisses.

"Fill me, Athos", Rochefort whispers into his mouth.

And Athos does.

xxx

Athos can't tell how much time has passed when they finally collapse back onto the twisted sheets, both panting heavily, bodies sated for now. It has been a wild ride, both of them frantic and feral, the need burning through them more and more demanding.

"Oh God", Athos pants, still completely breathless.

He still can't believe he did all of that with another man. It's unthinkable. He never felt any... urges in that direction. So he decides to blame it all on the drug. But he has to admit the experience has been anything but unpleasant this time, without the agonizing built up.

Rochefort moves a bit backwards, until his back touches Athos' chest, and Athos has to force himself not to think about how much this resembles cuddling.

No cuddling Rochefort. Or else his mind might boggle.

"I think God forgot about both of us a long time ago", Rochefort answers, equally breathless, a hint of bitterness in his voice.

He turns slightly towards Athos, and Athos gasps when his eyes fall to Rochefort's neck, for the first time noticing the many spots, bruises and bite marks he left behind there. "Holy mother of God", he whispers, shocked, tracing the markings with the tips of his fingers. "I think I... got a little carried away there."

Rochefort laughs, and Athos blinks, stunned. The laugh is open and carefree, so unlike Rochefort, and Rochefort's eyes shine with humour, the darkness in them banned, at least for now. "Don't apologize before you've seen your back", he smirks.

Now that Rochefort mentions it, his back is burning somewhat fierce. Athos dimly remembers there has been a lot of clawing involved, but at the time, he did not mind at all.

Groaning with embarrassment, Athos drops back into the pillows and closes his eyes. "I don't know what I'm doing anymore", he says, helplessly.

Rochefort gives a dry chuckle as he sits up on the bed. "Welcome to my world", he replies.

Athos groans again. "Curse you, Rochefort", he says, without any real ire.

Rochefort scoffs. "Get in line", he says drily. Then he gets up and starts gathering what's left of his clothing, dressing quickly. Athos just watches wordlessly, blushing slightly as he takes in the badly torn fabric. Has he really been that... vehement?

Oh, who is he fooling? He has been rabid.

This is truly mortifying. If only the floor would open up to swallow him whole.

"All the drug's fault", he mutters to himself.

Rochefort looks up, his gaze inscrutable. Obviously the guy has ears like a fox. "Did not use it the first time", he says, matter-of-factly. "And you did not the second time around."

As Athos slumps with embarrassment and covers his eyes with his hands, Rochefort throws on his wide cloak, hiding the damage underneath. "The room is paid for", he says, his back to Athos. "See you tomorrow."

With that, he is out of the room before Athos can utter a word.

As the door clicks shut, Athos starts, sitting upright, groaning as he slaps his forehead with his palm.

He has been so busy feeling embarrassed that he completely forgot to nail Rochefort on the matter of Aramis.

Worse. He's completely forgotten there is the matter of Aramis the moment his lips touched Rochefort's.

He's a total failure as a friend, and as a musketeer.

xxx

When the summons to the king comes to them the next day, Athos has a hard time to keep his face neutral, to feign the same level of ignorance the others suffer. His heart is beating madly as they follow Captain Treville to the throne room.

The sight that meets his eyes makes throat constrict. Next to the king, who wears his usual sheepish grin, the one he always sports when things go his way, sits Queen Anne, her face an impenetrable mask.

Behind the throne, Rochefort is standing, a blank expression on his face that gives away nothing.

"Brilliant news, Captain Treville", Louis croons, his inane grin widening even more. "This has all been a silly misunderstanding. That governess my wife hired – you really have to be more careful who you trust, dear – was behind it all. Rochefort found this unposted letter in her quarters. Seems like she had a crush on your man Aramis, and sought to punish him by creating this nasty rumour. I wonder what she could have been thinking. I'm forever indebted to my good friend Rochefort for uncovering her plan before someone was hurt."

He takes the queen's hand, giving her another of his childish smiles. "Of course the Dauphin is my son. I never really doubted you, dear."

Athos eyes are drawn from that sickening display to the man behind the throne, meeting Rochefort's gaze and finding it already fixed on him. There's no telling what goes on in that head, the blue eyes giving nothing away.

But something looks different. Athos frowns a little, until it hits him. Other than his usual dishevelled style, today Rochefort wears a high-necked coat with an artfully arranged cravat around his throat.

The moment Athos realizes what Rochefort is hiding under his clothes, he feels the blood rising to his cheeks with embarrassment. His eyes return to Rochefort's, with a silent apology.

Rochefort's mouth quirks in the slightest of smiles, not more than a slight lift of the corners, but his eyes suddenly hold a hint of amusement, seeming to invite Athos to share the joke.

And Athos can't help but smile back.

Maybe this whole situation is salvageable after all.