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A scar is a healing

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Aramis has had more experience than he would truly care to have in sewing  up his fellows. When he had first done it, young, inexperienced, his needlework had been sloppy and uneven, and he winced to look at the scar his work had left, more so than he thought of the wound that he had worked upon. He quickly became better. If he had to to it, he was going to do it well, was his way of thinking. Then, of course, he was the one people went to, the one first called upon; Aramis and his gentle seamstresses hands.

Athos commented upon his good work as he cast an appraising eye upon the wound on his side, and looked surprised, even pleased with his work, and Aramis had taken such pride in that look, and ducked his head in thanks to hide it.

Porthos is not quite so vocal in his thanks. However he is certainly vocal. Aramis is gentle as anything as he sews Porthos up, but still he yells. He’s not a quiet man at the best of times. He yells loud enough to bring more musketeers running, thinking one of their fellows is being horribly murdered. And then he swears long enough to have all of them blushing.

“Must you create such a din,” Athos snaps at him, hand to the side of his head as if to ward off the sound of him.

“I’d be more than willing to swap places,” Porthos grits out, before yelling out another stream of obscenities.

Athos waits until he has quite finished before continuing, “I’ve been sewn up by Aramis more than once, he is perfectly skillful with a needle, I really see no need-”

“Nothing wrong with his skill,” Porthos cuts in, glancing over his shoulder at Aramis, “Could be a seamstress with those hands,” he grins at Aramis.

Aramis presses the needle back into his skin with just a little more force than necessary. “Why thank you for your glowing praise, dear Porthos,” He gives Porthos’ shoulder a shove when he tries to twist around again, “Now at least stay still if you won’t stay quiet,”

Porthos yells again, and Aramis watches over his shoulder as Athos rubs at his temple, “Aramis, could you possibly stop for one moment?”

Aramis finishes a stitch carefully, gently, and leans back to raise an expectant eyebrow at Athos. Athos nods lightly in thanks, and promptly punches Porthos.

It’s enough to render the other man unconscious instantly.

Aramis sits agast for a moment, needle still poised. “Was that strictly necessary?”

“For my sanity, yes,” Athos hums, obviously pleased with himself, “Perhaps you can be finished quicker now - before he wakes up,”

Aramis shakes his head and leans back down to his work, “I shall be finished when I am finished,” he says. Porthos may be unconsious, but Aramis continues as if he can feel every stitch - with infinate gentleness. They may joke and call him a seamstress for his care, but he does it all the same, gentle and careful, sewing up his comrads and friends so that they may look at a mere shadow of a scar in years time and remember that -  Aramis’ gentle hands - rather than the pain of the wound.

Porthos may just remember than Athos punched him, but Aramis can certainly live with that.

*

The next time he is sewing up Porthos he is already unconscious by the time Aramis gets to work, pale and cold. Aramis deliberately does not think of his serene and quiet face like death, as he gets to work on the deep gash on his waist.

His hands shake and slip through blood as he works, and he has to take a steadying breath, remind himself how many times he has done this. Only once before on Porthos, true, but what difference should that make? None, he tells himself as he looks at his shaking hands.

Across the grubby little room they find themselves in, Athos looks at him, brow furrowed, questioning.

“I’m fine,” he says, mostly to himself.

He takes another breath, steadies his hands, and presses the needle carefully, steadily, into Porthos’ skin.

Porthos wakes with a start some hours later,  sitting up and pulling at the stitches. Aramis is beside him in a moment, hands firm but careful on his shoulder and on his side opposite his wound. “You will undo my good work," he chides. He holds Porthos steady until he has stopped moving, until he has a sense of his surroundings.

“Aramis-” he rasps, voice dry and cracked.

Aramis removes one hand from him for a moment, and leans across to the little table he had been sitting beside. He grabs the bottle there and uncorks it with his teeth, holding it up to Porthos’ dried lips.

Porthos drinks as heavily as Aramis will allow him before taking the bottle away, allowing Porthos time to swallow properly rather than choke himself. Porthos’ throat works carefully, as if strained and painful, and then he gives a little chuckle.

Aramis raises a brow, wondering what Porthos finds funny with half his side gashed open.

“Seamstress and nursemaid,” he croaks, still chuckling.

Aramis rolls his eyes and presses Porthos to lie flat again. “Very witty my friend,” he sighs.

“Gentle Aramis,” murmurs Porthos, patting at Aramis’ hands, eyes already sliding closed again.

Aramis smiles at him, “I’ll go see if Athos can raise up some horses to get us home,” he says, though he knows Porthos is barely conscious enough to register it. He gives soft rumbling hum in response as Aramis closes the door behind himself.

Aramis leans back against the closed door and takes a steadying breath. Porthos is fine. He looks down at his hands, which are steady.

*

The advantage of stitching Porthos up after a brawl in the tavern is that his patient is already quite willing and happy to be sewn up, being in quite a drunken stupor.

The disadvantage is that so is Aramis.

He sits between Porthos’ bare knees, as Porthos perches on the edge of the table, leaning on his elbows and still clutching a bottle.

Aramis squints at the wound, just above Porthos’ left knee, one hand on his other knee to steady himself as he sways, or maybe that’s the room, he’s not sure.

It’s a small wound, but just deep enough to need sewing. He could leave it, true, wait until he sobers, but that seems a long time away, and by that point he’s have to get Porthos drunk or unconscious just to sew him up. He can just do it now. Assuming he can thread the needle properly.

It takes him three tries under Porthos’ watchful, hazy, gaze, but once he’s done it he grins smugly up at him.

“You sure you’re up to this?” Porthos rumbles, “Would hate to see you make an uneven stitch,”

Aramis makes a dismissive sound, “I could have been a seamstress,” He says emphatically, and leans in close to Porthos’ thigh, one hand steadying him just above the wound when he flinches away, “Stay still,”.

“Your hands are cold as death,” Porthos gripes, but stills as Aramis presses the needle in with the exaggerated care of the very drunk. Porthos hisses through his teeth, but is otherwise quiet and still.

Aramis is finishing a second stitch when he feels fingers threading through his hair. He looks up a Porthos, who is lying almost prone on the table, barely propped up by one elbow, eyes closed, as he makes a rumbling sound and cards his fingers through Aramis’ hair.

“Porthos,” Aramis chides.

“Always so gentle,” he slurs out in response, and makes that pleased sounding rumble again.

Aramis rolls his eyes, “Be mindful of your hands, one jerk of my head and I could tear you open again,”

“You wouldn’t, Aramis - too careful for that,” Porthos argues.

Aramis doesn’t respond, just goes back to concentrating upon his sewing, Porthos’ hand still in his hair. It’s only the work of a few more stitches, but it takes Aramis much longer than usual, as he works against his own drunkenness, and the distraction of Porthos stroking his hair.

When he pulls the last stitch tight, he moves to lean back from the bracket of Porthos’ knees, but Porthos abruptly tightens his hand in his hair, holds him still. Aramis stills obediently, lets Porthos wind his fingers into his hair and manhandle him. He pulls up until Aramis stands, and is forced to lean over Porthos, bracing a hand beside his waist.

Porthos leans sideways, looking around Aramis to his own thigh, blearily assessing the job Aramis has done, “Fine enough for royalty,” he rumbles, smiling mostly to himself.

He releases his grip in Aramis’ hair, allowing Aramis to stand straight (if swaying slightly), only to then grasp one of Aramis’ hands in his, bringing it up to his face. Aramis stares dumbly as Porthos presses his lips to the centre of his palm, “Such gentle hands for a musketeer, Aramis.”

Aramis chuckles softly, “Could have been a seamstress,” he repeats the old joke almost automatically.

Porthos chuckles back , presses another kiss, seemingly in thanks, to the pads of Aramis’ fingers, “And yet it is my good fortune that you are a Musketeer,”

“And my poor fortune to be friends with a brawling brute who gives me far too much opportunity to practice my skills,” Aramis leans forward, presses his forehead against Porthos’ as he chuckles at his own joke.

“Wouldn’t want it to go to waste,” Porthos counters, moving to knock his temple against Aramis’ in a light headbutt.

Aramis shakes his head, jostling Porthos in the process, “Come, you drunken brute, we should get you back to your lodgings,” he murmurs.

“And back into my trousers,” Porthos says, with a leer.

“Yes, that first please,” Aramis laughs as he pulls away from Porthos to find where he trousers had got to.

*

As soon as Aramis hears the sick thud of the axe, he knows Porthos’ wound will be severe.

They all play it up in the presence of Bonnaire. Porthos comments upon Aramis’ skillful needlework, and Aramis is theatrical as he catalogues Porthos’ wounds for him. He points out the knife wound - the second time Athos had been forced (he says) to render Porthos unconscious lest he give away his position, and deafen them in the process. He sweeps a gentle hand over the gash in his side that almost killed him not so long ago. He describes them as terrible wounds, hoping to conjure up images of blood and horror for their prisoner, but really, as he smooths a thumb over the papery skin of a scar, he hopes Porthos no longer sees them as that - but only as pieces of Aramis’ workmanship, evidence of his gentle hands.

He has Athos knock Porthos out again, partly for all their health and sanity, and partly just to unsettle Bonnaire further. He sweeps a hand over Porthos’ scars one last time, almost to remind himself of what his work has healed, and gets down to work.

Porthos rips his stitches not a day later. He’s never done so before, not as fiercely as this at least. For all his insistence to get back to his usual behavior, he is careful with his wounds - Athos and Aramis are always on hand to ensure that.

Not that Aramis can blame him for it. Athos and D’Artagnan pull Bonnaire from the room so that Aramis can work on Porthos without him, rightly so, trying to harm the man again.

“Don’t let Athos punch me again,” Porthos says, and it would be a joke if Porthos’ voice were not so flat and emotionless.

Aramis doesn’t say anything, just directs Porthos to sit leaning over the back of a chair. Aramis sits beside him, watching the profile of him. He expects at least a little of the usual yelling or swearing, but Porthos just sits there, quiet and still. It’s unnerving.

Aramis glances up from his needlework to Porthos; his face is shaded with anger, and hate, and maybe, just there in the pinch of his eyes, grief.

Aramis doesn’t say anything, doesn’t have anything to say short of empty threats upon Bonnaire’s life that he knows he cannot act upon. He just presses gentle fingertips into Porthos’ skin as he works.

Porthos sighs and closes his eyes. In pain or not, Aramis cannot really tell. He ties off the last stitch and cuts the thread.

Neither he or Porthos make to move once he has finished, they just sit quietly beside each other. Aramis leans forward, presses his forehead against Porthos’ shoulder with a shaky breath, and a press of his hand to the healed scars on Porthos’ side.

“Always putting me back together with those gentle hands,” Porthos murmurs, turning towards Aramis.

Aramis nods emphatically, “Always,” he agrees, and raises his head.

Porthos is smiling at him, though it does not reach his eyes. Aramis pulls a face, expressing his own displeasure with this. He leans forward to press a kiss to Porthos’ temple, instead of saying ‘if you kill him I’ll stand by you’ and ‘look after yourself’ and ‘I love you’.

*

It’s not the most satisfying way to deal with Bonnaire - that would have involved a lot more punching. Possibly whipping, Porthos had seemed fond of that one. It is, however, the best way, the way that ensure him delt with, and they celebrate that more than happily, drink with each other and laugh.

They leave the tavern swaying and grinning, and Aramis wraps an arm gently around Porthos as they make their way down the street.

“How’s your wound?” Aramis asks, skating fingers lightly over where he can feel the bandages beneath Porthos’ clothes.

“Your needlework is fine,” Porthos responds, smirking just slightly at Aramis.

“That’s not what I meant,” Aramis chides.

Porthos chuckles and wraps his uninjured arm around Aramis’ back, his hand coming to rest cupping the side of Aramis’ neck.

“I know what you meant, Aramis,” he says with a rumble, “You meant; Am I in pain? Do the stitches pull? Will it heal right and when I look upon it will I remember pain or will I remember you?” He chuckles again at Aramis’ look of shock, “I know you, Aramis,”

Aramis shakes his head with a small smile to himself at that, telling himself that he really should have known that Porthos could read him so easily. He stops walking, and Porthos stops with him, hand still around his neck, warm and firm.

“So,” Aramis says with a small smile, looking towards Porthos, “How is your wound?” he asks again, and they both know this time he is asking for the answer to everything Porthos said he was asking.

Porthos regards him quietly for a moment, and the still street around them, then sures his grip on Aramis’ neck and pulls him in close. When he speaks, his lips are practically against Aramis’ own.

“When I catalogue my scars,” he murmurs, voice rough, “I should by right be drawing a map of pain, fear and lonliness, but instead, I count the number of times my fellows have saved me, the number of times I have not been alone, and the number of times that you have put your gentle hands upon me and treated me as if I were precious,” He takes a wavering breath, and Aramis mimics him, not realising he was holding his breath, “And the number of times I have failed to kiss you,”

“Oh,” Aramis breaths into the silence that follows, “Well-”

Before he can start, before he can say one suave comment, one joke about the amount of wine they have drunk, Porthos presses forward and kisses him. It knocks both of their hats askew, and Aramis might be worried about that, might grab for his hat before it falls into whatever filth lies in the street, if not for the kissing. Which Porthos is really rather skilled at. Aramis’ hands come up for something to grasp, for something to hold onto if his knees do in fact give out, and he takes a hold of Porthos’ shoulder, and Porthos gives a gasp of pain and pulls away.

“Damn your shoulder,” Aramis hisses under his breath, wanting to pull Porthos back in, but releasing his grip on his shoulders instead.

Porthos chuckles breathlessly, and presses a last fleeting, all too brief, kiss to Aramis’ lips. “Come, we really should be moving,” he murmurs, straightining Aramis’ hat and taking him by the elbow to lead him onwards.

Aramis walking in vaguely stunned silence for a moment, then asks quietly, “Is it only when you are injured that you have a desire to kiss me?”

Porthos rolls his eyes, “Since when did you find yourself fishing for compliments?”

“That is not an answer,” Aramis points out with a laugh, though his heart beats faster.

Porthos gives him a sidelong look, reads him easily with a flicker of his eyes, and says roughly, “I desire you constantly,” He watches Aramis’ carefully as he says it, as if gauging his reaction.

Aramis takes a steadying breath, then flashes a grin a Porthos, “Good, or else this might seem forward of me,” he grabs at Porthos’ arm and drags him into a side street, no more than an shadowed alley. He presses Porthos to the brickwork carefully, mindful of his shoulder, and kisses him firmly, eliciting a most pleasing moan from the other man.

Porthos tips his head right back, lets Aramis press further, and grips at Aramis’ hips hard enough to bruise.

Aramis pulls back with a last bite to Porthos’ lower lip, which elicits a low growl from him.

Porthos takes a few deep breaths as if to steady himself, and then shakes his head at Aramis, “You couldn’t wait?” He laughs.

“Not a second,” Aramis replies seriously.

Porthos shakes his head, but presses forward to kiss him again.

*

“This is normally your role,” Porthos says, strained, as he fumbles the needle for the second time.

Aramis grits his teeth and twists to take the needle from Porthos, “Well I’m rather indisposed right now,” he snaps without real heat, and threads the needle carefully before handing it back, carefully pressing it into Porthos’ fingers.

“I could-” starts D’Artagnan, across the room, frowning in concern at the both of them.

“Porthos knows what he’s doing,” Aramis says confidently, screwing his eyes shut in pain as he twists back. The gash across his back stretches angrily as he moves, in front of him, Athos pulls at his shoulders until he sits still, and hands him a bottle, from which he drinks deeply.

“In theory,” Porthos grumbles, and moves behind Aramis.

“You know what you’re doing,” Aramis says, barely a whisper, and Porthos can hear the smile in his voice, “Just do what I do,”

Porthos smiles at that, “Just do what you do,” he repeats, and sweeps a gentle hand over Aramis’ shoulder.