Pairings: Shippy gen (Athos/Porthos)
Summary: For evilmaniclaugh. "Porthos is scared of spiders. The others find out."
"Ugh!" Porthos batted at the air around his face so violently that he almost fell off his horse and Aramis, riding behind him, stared in bemusement.
"Are you being attacked by a wasp or something?" he enquired.
"Rode through a cobweb," Porthos explained sheepishly, still rubbing convulsively at his face with his riding glove. "It was right across the path."
"Probably thought his luck was in, catching a fly your size," Aramis sniggered. "Would have been set for the whole winter."
"Oh shut up," Porthos grumbled uncomfortably. He knew he was being stupid, but for the rest of the journey he imagined things crawling up his back, and kept glancing nervously at his own shoulders.
They stopped for the night at an inn, and Porthos was thankful for the opportunity to pull off his jerkin and examine it thoroughly inside and out. There was no sign of any marauding wildlife, but the inn itself was old and not terribly clean, and the fact the staircase up to their rooms was festooned with dust-laden cobwebs did nothing to relieve him of the creeping shudders.
"Porthos what is the matter?" Athos demanded irritably after he'd jumped up from his seat in front of the fire for the third time and scrubbed at his hair, convinced something had dropped on him from the rafters.
"Nothing," Porthos muttered, resuming his seat with an embarrassed scowl.
"He thinks he's being targeted by spiders," Aramis said lazily, stretching out his feet to warm them near the grate. "They've formed a coalition, and he's the subject of a hostile takeover."
"You do talk a lot of shite, you know that?" Porthos snapped at him. D'Artagnan chose that moment to make a scrabbling gesture on the back of Porthos' neck with his fingers, and Porthos leapt to his feet with such a yell that d'Artagnan nearly fell into the fire.
"Will you sit still!" Athos roared, having just upset his drink all over his knee. "And that goes for both of you," he added, narrowing his eyes at d'Artagnan. "Leave him alone."
Porthos managed to contain his jitters for the rest of the evening, but when he retired to the room in the eaves he was sharing with Athos, he couldn't help staring nervously into the dark shadows of the roof as he undressed.
Pulling back the blankets on the bed, a black shape scuttled across the sheet below, disturbed by the sudden light. Porthos froze. He was so used to being keyed up by having to stay in these cobwebby old places, that to actually come face to face with a spider, and in his bed of all places, left him struck immobile with fear.
He wanted to shout with horror, but Athos was undressing on the other side of the room, and Porthos couldn't bear the shame of becoming a laughing stock.
He wanted to back away, but then the hideous creature would move, and he'd have to spend the night not knowing where it was, which was worse.
He wanted to kill it, but his limbs steadfastly refused to obey the instruction to get any closer. All he could do was stand there and stare, while the black leggy monster seemingly stared back at him from the middle of the sheet.
And then Athos leaned over beside him, scooped it up in his hand and threw it out of the window.
As he banged it shut, Porthos finally unfroze, turning to him with a look of gratitude that was tinged with wariness as he waited for the inevitable scorn.
Athos though, just patted him on the shoulder - with the non-spidery hand - and gave him a faint smile. "You don't like them very much, do you?" he murmured.
"Understatement of the year," Porthos said, laughing shakily. He looked back down at his bed and shuddered. He knew it was gone, but the crawling feeling remained.
Athos watched him for a moment, and took pity.
"Want to sleep in my bed?" he offered. "I don't mind swapping. Or sharing."
Porthos gave him a hopeful look. "Sharing would be good?" he ventured. Athos nodded, and pulled back the covers of the other bed, drawing them far enough down without having to be asked, to demonstrate there was nothing lurking there.
Porthos climbed in beside him, grateful both for his quiet reassurance and the way Athos hadn't teased him about it. Aramis or d'Artagnan, he suspected, might equally have rescued him from the bloody thing, but he'd never have heard the end of it afterwards.
Reconvening at breakfast the next morning, d'Artagnan clapped Porthos on the shoulder as he took the stool next to him.
"Reckon you were right about this place after all," he declared. "It's infested."
"How'd you mean?" Porthos asked, making a face as he wondered how much of the bedding had creepy crawlies in it.
"Was taking a leak last night outside the back door, before coming up to bed," d'Artagnan said indignantly, "and a bloody great spider fell on my head. Out of nowhere!" He sighed mournfully. "I pissed all over my boots."
Athos and Porthos, very carefully, didn't catch each other's eye for some time.