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“Does this still count as showing me around Paris?” d’Artagnan is standing hip-deep in the Seine, cold water lapping at his ribs. He jerks his chin towards the silhouette of the city walls that is outlined against the evening sky.

Aramis laughs. He’s splashing around in deeper water, taking a swig from the bottle of wine in his hand every now and then. “It counts, d’Artagnan.” Slowly, fighting against the current, he clambers towards d’Artagnan and holds the bottle out to him. “It’s one of the most important things to know about Paris. If you want to rid yourself of the grime and gunpowder,” he drags a finger along d’Artagnan’s cheek that was generously slathered in said grime and gunpowder not two hours ago, “and possibly blood,” he pats d’Artagnan’s chest with the flat of his hand, the spot where a blade left a mark on his skin not two days ago, “in short, to get yourself thoroughly clean, this is where you have to come: outside the city walls. Get into the river before it enters the city. Never,” he leans in, his hand still on d’Artagnan’s chest, and speaks with the earnestness of the inebriated, “never bathe in the river on the other side.”

D’Artagnan accepts the wine and the advice with good grace. “Very well. I bow to your superior knowledge.” He takes a mock bow, loses his footing and grabs hold of Aramis’ arm. It’s wet and slick under his fingers, but also firm and warm. D’Artagnan’s hand slips and comes to a halt in the crook of Aramis’ elbow. His eyes meet Aramis’, who is wearing an expression that d’Artagnan can’t read, like he was looking down the barrel of his musket, eyes locked on a target. A wave of confusion floods over him, and he is suddenly very aware of the fact that he is naked, that they are both naked and standing within inches of each other. He blinks, and then it’s over, Aramis turns away from him and wades towards the riverbank.

“Come out, d’Artagnan,” he says, and his voice carries clearly across the water. “You’ll get chilled to the bone, and I’m sure M. Bonacieux won’t let you waste wood for a fire in your room in the middle of summer.”

“Summer, my arse,” d’Artagnan mutters as he follows Aramis and climbs out of the water. Only now the cold hits him, his skin tightens and his muscles begin to shiver. Icy rivulets run from his soaked hair down his neck, his chest and back. Aramis, muttering Spanish curses under his breath, is tugging his smalls over his legs. D’Artagnan catches a glimpse of dark curls before they disappear under the white linen. He doesn’t look, why should he? The glance was purely coincidental. He’s seen more men naked than he cares to remember, Aramis is not the first man with whom he ever went for a swim.

He’s the first man with whom he went for a swim since he came to Paris, though. The city had assaulted d’Artagnan with its stink and filth and the constant push and pull of human bodies who wallow in dirt, squeezed in together like hogs in a pigsty. He grew up accustomed to open spaces, to clear skies and clean water; Paris is anything but.

D’Artagnan loves the hustle and bustle of this city, the most magnificent city in the world, but he’s not immune to occasional bouts of homesickness. Aramis happened upon him as he was slumped over the table in the courtyard, staring with unseeing eyes at two burly soldiers sparring. It was a matter of seconds for Aramis’ quick eye and quicksilver mind to take in the scene, assess d’Artagnan’s mood and come up with an antidote. Wine and women, d’Artagnan had suspected, but Aramis simply led him outside the city walls, to where he could breathe, and d’Artagnan loved him for that.

They did take wine with them, though.

“Here, have another one,” Aramis shoves the bottle under his nose. “There’s no point taking it back half full.” D’Artagnan drinks, and Aramis is standing before him, radiating warmth and smiling with his eyes. His hair, heavy with water, brushes against his shoulders. His skin is covered in water droplets and goosebumps. D’Artagnan is not sure why he notices all this, but he does, and he takes another swig to clear his head.

“Get dressed, d’Artagnan,” Aramis says. He stalks to his own pile of clothes, pulls on his breeches, then his shirt, and he picks up his stockings and boots and carries them in his hand. They walk side by side along the embankment, sharing the last drops of wine, and then Aramis flings the bottle into the river and throws his arm around d’Artagnan’s shoulder. “And now,” he breathes into his hair, “we’ll continue with your education.”

“Is that it,” d’Artagnan asks some time later, incredulously, “is that your great secret? I’ve had my share of lovers, too,” he adds proudly. He has bedded three women after all, and two of them were married. They are sitting in Aramis’ quarters and sharing another bottle of wine, their third or fourth that night, and Aramis has been eloquent on the subject of Constance Bonacieux. “Using somebody else’s words?” D’Artagnan can’t believe it. “Poetry?”

“I’m telling you, d’Artagnan,” Aramis says, emphasising his words by a raised forefinger. “Try it. It never fails.”

“Constance isn’t like that,” d’Artagnan shakes his head. “She won’t fall for pretty words. She has no need for them, she’s much too sensible, what she wants in a man is honour, and courage and… and… and –” he has spat the words out in one breath, loses the thread and falls silent under Aramis’ calm gaze.

“D’Artagnan,” Aramis says gently. “No woman needs pretty words. No woman needs lace and silk and gemstones. A fine and white stocking, a silken robe, a lace kerchief, a pretty slipper on the foot, a tasty ribbon on the head do not make an ugly woman pretty, but they do make a pretty woman beautiful. Pretty words are no substitute for honour and courage and-and-and, but they will make the man who is possessed of honour and courage and other such admirable qualities even more desirable in the eyes of a woman of taste.”

D’Artagnan opens his mouth to argue, even though he is not sure how, because something about Aramis’ argument sounds right. Perhaps it’s just his ability to string pretty words together. It’s annoying, but it’s also compelling, and d’Artagnan finds that he can’t be bothered to argue his point.

“She loves you,” says Aramis. “You only have to look at her.”

D’Artagnan’s heart leaps to his throat at those simple words. “I’m not learning poetry,” he says in an attempt to appear suave and unruffled.

Aramis’ eyes are too calm and calculating for a man in his state of drunkenness. D’Artagnan begins to suspect that he has been tricked into imbibing the lion’s share of the wine and that his companion is still quite clear-headed. But then Aramis rises from where he was sprawled on the bed, stumbles over his own feet and bumps into the cabinet. With a stream of Spanish curses pouring forth from his mouth, he lurches over to the paper-strewn table in the corner, rummages around and retrieves a sheet of paper covered in fine spidery writing. D’Artagnan watches him over the neck of the bottle at which he is suckling like a babe at his mother’s breast.

Aramis crosses the room rather more gracefully than before and flops back onto the bed. D’Artagnan shuffles aside to make space.

“Well now,” Aramis says, and d’Artagnan can hear the drink in his voice now; Aramis is slurring ever so slightly. “Listen to this, d’Artagnan. It’s a song from the Bible. A friend of mine has been translating it into French, and he’s asked my advice. He’s an abbé, but I think you’ll agree that these are not verses that one would care to hear read from the pulpit:

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth -
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you - let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.”

When Aramis starts reading, d’Artagnan scowls and frowns and wrinkles his nose, but he soon realises that his display of disdain is pointless as long as Aramis is sitting with his back to him. D’Artagnan lets the now empty bottle drop to the floor, where it rolls under the bed, and he then shifts closer to Aramis to look over his shoulder. Aramis is holding the paper so as to catch as much light as possible from the solitary candle.

“Don’t you think,” Aramis says the moment d’Artagnan’s head appears at his shoulder, “don’t you think that these are beautiful verses?”

“Hmm… They’re a bit too long for my taste,” says d’Artagnan, whose appreciation of poetry is governed by other factors than Aramis’.

“This is merely a first attempt. See? Here, he’s crossed that bit out. And I told him to get rid of that phrase, it was too coarse.” Aramis leans back into d’Artagnan like it’s the most natural thing in the world. There’s no hesitation in the gesture, his voice never falters and his fingers continue pointing out passages in the text. D’Artagnan catches himself staring at the letters without taking in one single word, the weight of Aramis’ body against his chest blocks out every other sensation. He’s not sure what just happened, but he wraps one arm around Aramis’ chest and Aramis lets himself fall into the embrace without so much as a hitch to his breath, resting his head on d’Artagnan’s shoulder. He’s reading again, enunciating beautifully in a voice that’s heavy and thick with wine. D’Artagnan finds that he can feel Aramis’ voice reverberate against his flesh, and he tightens the arm around his ribcage to catch the vibrations through his arm and chest. It is quite pleasant, and then Aramis’ head rolls to the side and his still-damp hair sweeps across d’Artagnan’s cheek. D’Artagnan cups Aramis’ jaw with his free hand, tugs his head back to expose his neck and sucks in a mouthful of Aramis’ skin.

Aramis jumps in his arms, and d’Artagnan, lightheaded with the taste of Aramis’ skin and his own daring, bites down in the spot where Aramis’ blood is racing at the base of his neck, and then he pulls Aramis’ head closer, leans in and kisses him on the mouth. It is, without any doubt, the oddest sensation he’s ever experienced, the potent taste of wine, the brush of Aramis’ beard. Aramis’ lips are closed, and d’Artagnan opens his mouth even wider, pushing his tongue in, licking and sucking in a breathless attempt to elicit a reaction from Aramis. He can’t stop now, that much he senses dimly somewhere in the recesses of his half-stupefied mind. If he stops now, Aramis will beat him to a pulp, he won’t even grant him the honour of a gentlemanly duel. His only chance to get out of this mess is to drive Aramis crazed with lust, and he pushes down even more forcefully, kissing into Aramis’ now-open mouth and ignoring the way their teeth click together.

A broad hand alights on his throat, forcing his head up and away, and d’Artagnan, panting, shivering and with a mouth full of the most heady taste, blinks down at Aramis. Aramis, who is still reclining in his arms, quite at his ease, who looks neither shocked nor murderous, and who is regarding d’Artagnan with serious dark eyes. And yet, even though he might not get killed just yet, d’Artagnan’s stomach is tense with fear, and it blossoms and spreads up his throat, pours out through his skin until his arms burn and his fingers shake with it. He forgot how scary Aramis could be; he saw it before, once or twice, Aramis shedding his veneer of charm and displaying a cold-blooded focus that carries him straight at his target, and d’Artagnan feels he has become that target, and he doesn’t know what that means.

But then, Aramis smiles. He shifts his hand from d’Artagnan’s throat to the nape of his neck, and whispers: “See? Poetry.”

D’Artagnan jerks back, but the headboard behind his back stops him before he can get away. The only thing that he’s achieved is that Aramis has slid down his body so that his head is now resting in d’Artagnan’s lap. The sudden rush of blood to his head makes him gasp; to say he’s blushing is an understatement, his face has broken out in flames. Aramis can’t but notice how utterly, helplessly hard he is in his breeches. D’Artagnan wants to crawl away, throw himself into the river, leave Paris and never come back, but Aramis is still smiling, and there is a lot of tenderness to it.

“Relax,” Aramis says. He buries his fingers in d’Artagnan’s hair, caresses the back of his head. “You’re with me.”

Awash with relief, d’Artagnan nods, but then frowns. “You don’t mind.”

Aramis laughs. “Why should I? It’s always flattering to become the object of desire of an impressionable innocent.”

“Not as innocent as you think,” d’Artagnan says as haughtily as he can, with Aramis’ fingers sending lightning bolts of pleasure up his scalp and down his spine and his cock throbbing insistently in his breeches. “I’ve had lovers before. Even before I came to Paris.”

“So you said.” Aramis shifts, stretching like a tomcat, and asks a question that d’Artagnan has not anticipated: “What have they taught you?”


“Show me.” Aramis runs his hand down d’Artagnan’s neck, along his collarbone, down the length of his arm, and it leaves tiny sparks it its wake. He takes d’Artagnan’s hand in his and threads his fingers through d’Artagnan’s. “I’d like to know.”

“Why?” D’Artagnan’s head feels like he had been whacked with something blunt and heavy; he has apparently been rendered incapable of uttering anything but one-syllable words. He can’t believe what Aramis is suggesting. “You’re a man,” he eventually manages.

“Mmm…” Aramis rubs, actually fucking rubs his cheek against d’Artagnan’s cock through the fabric. “You’ve noticed.”

D’Artagnan is not completely naïve, he knows that this kind of things happens, but it’s not supposed to happen like this: face to face, looking the other man in the eye, openly, like it was nothing to be ashamed off. Like it wasn’t a guilty pleasure born out of necessity and drink. His body is flung into utter confusion, hovering between lust and fear. His sense of adventure pushes him over the edge, then, coupled with curiosity and just a little bit too much desire. Once the decision is made, he’s almost instantly sprawled beside Aramis, kissing him with an abandon that is meant to silence any doubts and pawing at his clothes.

“Slow down.” Aramis holds his head between both hands and pulls him off. “D’Artagnan, slow down.” He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Now, close your mouth and come back here.”

“Close my mouth?” D’Artagnan frowns. “That’s not what-“

“Remember what Athos said,” Aramis says, stroking the line of d’Artagnan’s cheekbone, his jaw, with his thumb. “Head over heart. Passion is good, yes, but you’ve got to rein it in.” He pulls d’Artagnan down and kisses him lightly on the corner of his mouth. “Don’t waste it all at once,” he whispers and moves to kiss the other corner. “Stoke it like a fire, allow it to burn with higher and higher flame before you permit it to consume you.”

“Are you quoting poetry at me again?” D’Artagnan is about to say something scathingly witty, to show Aramis what he thinks of his seduction technique, but then Aramis kisses him and d’Artagnan’s rational faculties abandon him.

“Keep your mouth closed,” Aramis murmurs against his lips. D’Artagnan’s head is swimming, Aramis is kissing him with his lips rather than his tongue and it feels better, deeper, more intimate than it has any right to. He sighs, unable to control himself, and the tip of Aramis’ tongue flicks between his lips, just so. “Don’t rush it,” he continues inbetween languid kisses. “Let me feel your desire grow.”

“My desire is pretty much fully grown, my friend,” d’Artagnan says and presses the evidence into Aramis’ thigh.

Aramis shakes his head, smiling. “That’s nothing,” he says smugly. “To put it in farmboy’s terms: you’re currently riding the horse at full gallop until it’s worn out. Don’t spur it on. Let it breathe.”

Increasingly emboldened by Aramis’ easy conversation, d’Artagnan smirks. “Let me guess, I shouldn’t use the crop on it, either.”

“Ah, that…” Aramis pulls him down and kisses him again. “Let’s leave that for another lesson.”

D’Artagnan senses vaguely that there is a deeper sense behind Aramis’ words, but he can’t process any of it now, because Aramis flips them both over, rolling on the bed until he comes lying atop d’Artagnan. He, too, is hard. D’Artagnan shoves his hand down to rub him through his breeches, but Aramis grabs his wrist and shakes his head. “Not yet,” he says.

“But you’re-” D’Artagnan finds it hard to understand. They’re both hot and hard and their mingled breaths are heavy between them, it would be so easy to push down their breeches, take the other’s cock in hand and bring each other to completion. D’Artagnan’s body is certainly more than ready, waves of arousal unfurling in his groin, surge after surge after surge.

“Do you want to learn or not?” Aramis says, sliding his hot mouth down d’Artagnan’s neck. He is tugging at d’Artagnan’s shirt, pulling it out of his waistband, and then his hand lies on d’Artagnan’s flank, and d’Artagnan’s stomach quivers.

“Do I?” D’Artagnan gasps. “You keep saying I do. I’d be quite happy to just, ah, come.”

“And you will.” Aramis’ nails scratch lightly across the fine hairs on his stomach. “Believe me,” he’s kissing d’Artagnan’s neck, throat in earnest now, with his lips and tongue and a hint of teeth. “You will.”

D’Artagnan loses the track of what happens after that, there’s heat, he knows that, and hands that move in leisurely strokes over his body, and there’s a delightful pressure that builds up in his lower belly, his loins, his thighs. His cock is so hot and hard d’Artagnan is sure it will burn a hole through his breeches, and what will Aramis do then? He tried to touch himself, to ease some of the pressure, but Aramis seized his hand and pushed it away. “Remember, you’re supposed to be cantering,” he breathed into the hollow between d’Artagnan’s collarbones.

His shirt has disappeared somehow, he hasn’t even noticed when that happened, how Aramis untied the laces and pulled it over his head. Aramis, too, has shed his. They’re pressed together chest to chest, with a thin layer of sweat and scorching heat as the only barrier between them. Aramis is kissing him deeply, urgently, swallowing d’Artagnan’s gasps, and yet his tongue hardly ever slips into d’Artagnan’s mouth. D’Artagnan has come to appreciate and to copy this method; never let it be said that he’s not a quick learner. There is something disturbingly erotic about the sparse, the controlled licks that Aramis bestows on him. He thinks, dizzily, that if Aramis keeps this up for a while longer, he will spend himself from kissing alone, like a boy. He wonders then if that is what Aramis wants.

Aramis appears to sense d’Artagnan’s desperate need for release. That’s hardly surprising, d’Artagnan thinks wryly once Aramis pulls back, permitting air to enter his lungs and clear his mind, considering the moaning and writhing and clawing that d’Artagnan has been imparting on him.

At last, at last, Aramis’ fingers alight on the buttons of his breeches, and d’Artagnan lets out a drawn-out moan of unadulterated pleasure as Aramis yanks the fabric down his legs and off, off, off, tossing everything to his other discarded garments on the floor and leaving him utterly, shamelessly bare. “Do not touch yourself,” Aramis growls at him even as d’Artagnan’s hand makes a dash for his cock. He, too, undresses and then lowers himself over d’Artagnan, aligning their bodies head to toe, balancing barely an inch above d’Artagnan on his arms and knees. D’Artagnan moans again, he can’t help himself, Aramis’ cock is brushing against his belly, stamping sticky smears onto his skin, and d’Artagnan’s pulse heaves each time it bumps against his own cock. His hips jolt upward, but Aramis grabs him and pushes him back onto the mattress. “Tell me what you’d have me do,” he says in a low voice. “No, not that,” he adds as d’Artagnan’s hand jerks to touch his cock again. “Not yet.”

“Not yet?” d’Artagnan all but whines. “How long yet?”

“Till you’re ready.”

“I am ready.”

“Well then. Till I’m ready.”

“Are you trying to kill me?”

Aramis laughs softly and kisses d’Artagnan just below the arch of the collarbone. “You’re enjoying this. Do you really want it to be over so soon?”

“I could go again.”

At this, Aramis bursts out laughing, loud and delighted, and he rolls off and onto his back, propping up his head on his arm “True. But seeing as we’ve chosen this avenue now, it might be worth pursuing it further.”

“We have chosen? You have chosen,” d’Artagnan points out. He’s missing Aramis’ weight and warmth above him and rolls on his side, pressing himself against Aramis’ flank, rubbing his cock surreptitiously against his hip. Aramis raises his eyebrows but doesn’t comment. “How come you’re allowed to do this and I’m not?” D’Artagnan points to where Aramis’ hand is resting in his groin, curled loosely against the inside of his thigh.

“That’s because I know how to control myself.”

“And you think I don’t?”

In lieu of an answer, Aramis presses his thigh against d’Artagnan’s cock and grins at d’Artagnan’s hips surging forward, at d’Artagnan’s desperate groan. “Right, then,” he says. “If this is what you really want.”

Before he knows what’s going on, d’Artagnan finds himself manhandled by firm hands, flipped onto his stomach like a fish, and then Aramis is straddling him, his hands wrapped around the ridges of his ribs, and he wants to simultaneously push down and up, to drill his cock into the sheets below and press his arse into the body above him.

“Oh fuck!” The groan is ripped from d’Artagnan’s lungs, from the pit of his stomach, from the very deepest depths of his soul. He’s trembling like a man in the grip of fever, and all just because Aramis’ hands have begun roaming his body, all the way up to his armpits and back down to his loins.

“Fuck indeed,” Aramis murmurs, stretching out atop d’Artagnan, pushing his legs apart with his knees, “would you like that?” D’Artagnan tenses, he doesn’t know if with lust or apprehension, but Aramis is continuing to talk in the same low, even voice, “I’m not going to fuck you, d’Artagnan.” He leans in even closer until he’s resting on d’Artagnan with his full weight, and breathes in his ear. “I don’t have to.”

Bone-shattering lust has taken full control over his mind and body, d’Artagnan claws at the sheets until his fingers manage to clutch a handful of fabric, and he clings to it as though to a lifeline. Aramis is kissing the nape of his neck, slithering down d’Artagnan’s body, licking his spine with the flat of his tongue, nipping at his skin with his teeth, and d’Artagnan’s cock is swelling against his own belly and it doesn’t seem to stop. He’s sure that it will burst if he doesn’t come soon, but Aramis’ weight, Aramis' hands make it impossible for him to hump the mattress. The air above his back is hot and humid, clinging to him like a sweat-soaked blanket. Aramis’ mouth is travelling lower, and then he comes back up and licks the same path down again and again. It’s agony, but it’s an agony that d’Artagnan is willing to endure for the rest of his life. It’s not until nails scrape over his arse that he realises that he’s free to move again, and he grinds his cock into the sheets with a groan.

And then, just as he thinks that this is it, that this is all the pleasure he will be forced to take, Aramis parts his arsecheeks and his tongue slips lower, past d’Artagnan’s tailbone, and dips into the cleft of d’Artagnan’s arse. The curse that rips from his throat is not words, it’s an animal noise. He scrabbles for purchase, until Aramis seizes his hand in a firm grip, holding him, steadying him, anchoring him. There’s a warm puff of breath and the slick slide of tongue, the brush of Aramis’ beard, and then words float up to him, penetrating the fog that clogs his mind. “Nobody’s told you about that, have they?”

D’Artagnan doesn’t care for anything anymore, his only need and want is to feel that again, and he doesn’t care how depraved the act is. The urge to feel Aramis’ tongue licking him so filthily is overwhelming, it is the only compass that guides his actions. He pulls one leg up and thrusts his arse in the air, and he shivers in anticipation. The tongue is back, a slippery pressure, swirling and lapping and probing at his arsehole, and then the tip slips inside, and d’Artagnan’s entire body clenches and erupts with a force that leaves his head spinning and his hands and feet numb.

Heartbeat by heartbeat, the shivers subside, and he’s able to distinguish words through the pounding of blood in his ears. “Stay there,” Aramis says. He presses a kiss to the small of d’Artagnan’s back, pulls himself up, drapes himself over d’Artagnan, drags his cock through the cleft of his arse, pushes the wet tip against his tailbone and begins to palm himself off, his frantic breath blistering the back of d’Artagnan’s neck. It’s a span of a few breaths, certainly not longer, until Aramis’ hips fall into a hard rhythm and the groan against d’Artagnan’s ear is accompanied by a hot spray of semen on his back. Aramis collapses, panting for air, and presses a messy kiss to d’Artagnan’s mouth. “And I didn’t touch your cock,” he gasps.

“Smug bastard,” d’Artagnan gasps back. He grabs a fistful of Aramis’ hair and tugs, delighting in the noise that Aramis makes, somewhere between a moan and a purr. Aramis squeezes his hand. He’s never let go of it, d’Artagnan only now realises that he’s been clinging to it through his own orgasm and Aramis’.

Aramis kisses his shoulder, strokes his back and pulls him flush against his chest. “You’re very, very welcome,” he breathes, and it is the last thing that d’Artagnan hears before he’s dragged down into the oblivion of sleep.