Everything is white, a glaring grey-whiteness stretches out in front of him and around him. A whiteness through which dark silhouettes move, human-shaped and remote. He’s standing on a stool, his hands are bound behind his back and there’s a length of rope slung around his neck and tied into a noose. At twenty-one, d’Artagnan is about to die.
His mind is as blank as the landscape around him, a glaring grey-white that clogs his brain, leaving no space for thought or fear. One memory only surfaces all of a sudden, a face, a voice, “Whatever you do, wherever you are, always behave with honour, my son.” His father is there, reaching out to him, and then-
a sharp pain.
An arm around his waist, the sound of a dagger being drawn, the tightness around his neck eases, and his senses spring to life again. He sees the angry crowd teeming before the gallows, he hears the screamed orders, the clash of metal on metal as swords collide, his body is jerked back and slams into someone, he can’t tell whom, and he struggles. A pistol floats into his field of vision, pointing over his shoulder, and a well-aimed shot strikes down the man who was coming at him.
“Aramis?” d’Artagnan croaks.
“Shut up, you fool!” There’s a sudden jolt as the hand with the pistol tugs the noose around his neck. “No names!”
He is manhandled backwards like a ragdoll, pushed onto a horse (“Aramis”, he whispers in the privacy of his head, he’d know that horse anywhere), and then brutally shoved forward as Aramis mounts behind him. “Go! Go!” somebody shouts, and he is sure it’s Athos, and his heart swells. Athos and Porthos are here, they are holding the men back who would come after him, and the horse breaks into a gallop.
Aramis reins him in once they’re out of sight of the crowd. The horse falls into a trot, and Aramis steers him from the main road to a narrow path that winds into a stretch of woods. They sink from glaring whiteness into cool green, and it soothes d’Artagnan’s eyes and head. “Thank you,” he mutters and lets his head roll back till it comes to rest on Aramis’ shoulder. “Really, thank you.”
Aramis makes an impatient sound. “Sit up,” he orders in a voice like a whiplash. D’Artagnan jolts upright, and he feels the warmth and weight of Aramis’ body withdraw as Aramis dismounts.
D’Artagnan looks down. Aramis is wrapped in a thick cloak that d’Artagnan has never seen him wear before. He tugs down the scarf that he used to cover his face and takes off his hat to wipe his forehead.
“What did we tell you,” he says in a very low and even voice, “about rushing in?”
D’Artagnan slumps in the saddle. Aramis sounds angrier than he’d ever heard him, and that includes him shouting at Treville.
“Sorry,” he whispers. “I’m really sorry, I thought it’d work.”
“Next time, think.” Aramis pulls out his flask and drinks like a man dying of thirst. “Think. Don’t rush. Be sensible.”
“Like you always are?” He didn’t want to say it, it slipped out. His mind is all a-twirl with the rush of blood.
Aramis looks up at him. “Get off.” He doesn’t sound like himself at all. The curt, commanding tone, the short, sparse gestures. There’s no flourish, no smiles, nothing that serves to defuse the tension. “The horse has to rest. It’d be a disaster if he went lame from carrying us both.”
He’s focused and angry, and when d’Artagnan slips off the horse awkwardly, his hands still tied behind his back, he grabs him by the arm to steady him and slams him into a tree.
“Athos and Porthos are back there,” he says, very close to d’Artagnan’s face, “risking their lives, because you were stupid. Do you understand?”
“They risk their lives daily. We all do,” d’Artagnan says defiantly. “We did for you.”
Aramis is merely staring at him for the span of two, three heartbeats, and then something melts in his gaze. “There are varying degrees of stupidity,” he says at last, with something resembling his usual levity. “The one you displayed today was inacceptable. You’ve got to learn how to control yourself.” But he doesn’t sound angry anymore, and he pats d’Artagnan’s chest and steps back.
D’Artagnan’s knees give out. He didn’t realise how much he was shaking until he feels his back slide down the tree and there’s nothing he can do to stop his body from falling. Aramis darts forward and grabs him, one arm around his middle the other…
The other tangled in the noose that is still slung around his neck.
D’Artagnan groans in protest, and Aramis keeps him upright by pulling him close, and then spins him around and pushes him face-forward into the tree. “Let me cut your hands free,” Aramis says and shoves one knee between d’Artagnan’s thighs to stop him from tumbling to the ground as he takes his hands off him.
D’Artagnan groans again. It is quite possibly the most embarrassing moment of his life. His body has slipped out of his control. He’s heard of it, of course, of the angel lust of hanged men, but he always thought it happened after they died. His legs are still shaking, yet despite the weakness that has melted the bones and muscles in his lower body, he manages to push back into Aramis.
Aramis goes very still. Then, d’Artagnan hears the metallic scrape of his dagger being slid back into its sheath. In the next moment, Aramis is back, in a gust of heat and the smell of leather. A sharp tug at the noose, and d’Artagnan’s head falls back. His face is on fire and his eyes and lips burn with shame, and yet lust cascades through his blood in an almighty torrent, wrecking him, undoing him. And Aramis hasn’t even done anything.
“Interesting,” Aramis breathes into d’Artagnan’s hair and tugs at the noose again. D’Artagnan moans, shamelessly. “Perhaps I should’ve left you to hang after all? You like this, don’t you?” Aramis works his knee deeper between d’Artagnan’s legs and wraps the rope around his hand, tightening the noose, and it is as if he were reining in a horse. “We don’t have much time,” he continues, with barely a hitch to his voice as he moves his other hand around d’Artagnan’s body and undoes his breeches with sure, deft fingers, “but I don’t think we need long, am I right?”
“Please.” D’Artagnan gasps and thrusts his hips forward to rub his cock into Aramis’ hand.
Aramis tightens the rope further, and d’Artagnan swallows thickly, getting lightheaded already. His cheek scrapes against the bark of the tree, but he barely feels it, because Aramis braces himself against the tree with the hand holding the rope and there’s suddenly the smell of leather and gunpowder and the fucking tightness around his neck, and it’s all too much. His cock swells impossibly in Aramis’ grip.
“Do not come over my glove,” Aramis growls into his ear. D’Artagnan whimpers. He twists his head and strains against the rope. Aramis lets go of his cock, ignoring the pathetic babble of ‘please, don’t stop, more, fuck’, raises his hand to his mouth and tears his glove off with his teeth. Then, he pulls back, and d’Artagnan only now realises how closely he was pressed into him and how his bound hands rested against Aramis’ groin.
Aramis’ naked hand sweeps over his arse. Fingers hold him open for a moment, then continue down all the way to his balls. “You’re sweating,” Aramis says and drags one finger back up to his arsehole. “And shivering. Are you hot or cold?”
“Feverish,” d’Artagnan whispers.
“Good answer.” He feels Aramis smile. The hand withdraws and reappears before his mouth. “Suck.”
He does. He sucks in Aramis’ fingers all the way to the knuckles and twirls his tongue around them. Aramis exhales and bites the ridge of his jaw. And then, without any warning, he screws one finger into d’Artagnan.
D’Artagnan cries out and the noose tightens even more. “You’re so aroused,” Aramis says, and he sounds almost amazed, “you’d let me take you like this, wouldn’t you?” D’Artagnan is thrusting back, arching and bending his body to beg for more, more friction and more fingers and more everything. “Hold still. Don’t fall.” Aramis lets go of him. There is the creak of leather and clink of weapons, and then he’s back, and this time it’s flesh on flesh as his cock glides slickly between d’Artagnan’s thighs. He’s rubbing himself against d’Artagnan, sliding back and forth easily in the sweat that drips off him. D’Artagnan gropes blindly with his bound hands, and he finally gets a grip of Aramis’ shirt, the linen soft and damp where it rested against Aramis’ skin. Aramis’ cock nudges his balls from behind and d’Artagnan clamps his legs shut and is rewarded by Aramis’ groan and a short, sharp tug at the noose. He sways, unable to balance well now that his legs are so close together, but the sensation of Aramis’ fucking himself between his legs is too good. Aramis’ hands on his hips are just enough to keep him upright.
There is the scrape of metal again, and Aramis slashes through the rope that binds his hands. “Touch yourself.” He has leaned in and is enveloping d’Artagnan with his body.
“What about you?” He wants to make Aramis come, to make him lose that edge of control that is as frightening as it is arousing.
Aramis buries his cock in d’Artagnan’s cleft, pressing it right against his hole. But he doesn’t push in, and d’Artagnan spits out a stream of profanities. “Like this,” Aramis says through clenched teeth. “I need you to be able to walk.”
It is the thought more than anything that does it. The idea of Aramis’ forcing the thick piece of flesh that d’Artagnan feels pulsing against his arse into him. His muscles clench all at once and his cock drives into his hand, and his vision gets white again as the noose tightens one last time.
When he comes to, he’s lying on his side in the moss. The skin between his legs is moist and sticky and he realises with a shiver of arousal that it’s because Aramis has spent himself there. Aramis, fully dressed again and pulling on his glove, is scanning the woods. He looks around at the sound of d’Artagnan weak croak as he tries to talk, and crouches down by his side.
“Here,” he presses the flask of water into his hand. “Drink. Your throat must be raw.”
D’Artagnan blushes at the implication; the noose is still lying around his neck, loose and harmless. He pulls it off with a shaking hand. Aramis takes it off him and tosses it away carelessly. “You can use some of the water to clean yourself, if you like,” he says with a pointed look down.
“How can you…” d’Artagnan’s head spins as he attempts to process what happened. He’s not quite clear how they got here, and Aramis is acting as if this, this was nothing out of the ordinary. “How do you…”
Aramis pats him on the chest. “Experience,” he says and rises to his feet. “Get dressed. We need to get going.”
“You’re actually worse than Athos,” d’Artagnan says in grudging admiration, pulling himself up and doing up his breeches and coat.
Aramis laughs. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” He looks much more like himself now, smiling and relaxed and teasing. “Has he ever had the pleasure?” he asks with a meaningful tilt of the head.
“No!” D’Artagnan isn’t sure why he’s so indignant. “No, of course he didn’t.”
“You should let him.” Aramis steers the horse with one hand and throws the other arm around d’Artagnan’s shoulder. “You’ll enjoy it.”