Pairings: Athos/D'Artagnan (gen/pre-slash)
Summary: Follows on from episode 2, Sleight Of Hand. D'Artagnan is worried Athos will think he was right to object to him being involved - without realising that Athos was only ever trying to keep him safe.
AN: Spoilers for episode 2. Title taken from Athos' description of D'Artagnan.
Athos was about to leave the tack room when a movement caught his eye and he stopped in surprise, having thought himself alone. Sitting in a dark corner was D'Artagnan, head down and a picture of dejection. Athos hesitated, then made his way over.
"D'Artagnan. I thought you'd gone with the others." He leaned against a wooden pillar and considered him. "Should be celebrating."
D'Artagnan looked up then, and his expression was troubled enough that Athos experienced a spike of concern.
"Are you hurt?" They'd all sustained various cuts and bruises from the events in the tunnels, but up to now Athos had thought they'd come through largely unscathed.
D'Artagnan though, shook his head. "I failed," he muttered instead, head drooping again.
"How do you work that out?" Athos asked, genuinely taken aback. "Vadim's dead, the King and Queen are unhurt, we recovered the contents of the treasury. All in all a fairly good day's work, I'd have said."
D'Artagnan sighed. It felt like Athos was being kind, which in a way hurt more than if he'd shouted at him.
"He wasn't fooled. Not for a second," D'Artagnan confessed. "It was my job to make him trust me, and he just - just used me, from start to finish. I fed you false information thinking I was helping, and couldn't even stop half the palace getting blown up."
"Hardly that," Athos chided. "They might have to rebuild part of the kitchens, but at least thanks to us they can still afford it," he added, hoping to raise a smile, but D'Artagnan still looked resolutely miserable.
"You were right all along. It should have been one of you that did it," D'Artagnan muttered, feeling he might as well say it before Athos did.
Athos frowned, then pulled over a stool and sat down so his face was on a level with D'Artagnan's. "He'd have done the same with any of us. It was always a long shot."
"I just wanted to prove myself to you," D'Artagnan said. "Because you never thought I could do it." He sighed. "Guess you were right."
"Nonsense. It's the result that counts." Athos clapped him on the shoulder, making D'Artagnan jump. "Besides, things rarely go according to plan," he added. "It's how you cope with everything going to hell that matters. You did well today. Don't tell yourself different." He stood up, straightening his cloak.
"And for the record, I never doubted your spirit or your commitment. The only thing you lacked was experience, and I merely hoped to keep you alive long enough to gain some."
D'Artagnan looked up at him, hope kindling in his eyes for the first time.
"If Vadim didn't trust you, it's because he could tell what you are," Athos said.
"And what's that?" asked D'Artagnan, rather warily.
Athos gave him a rare smile. "A Musketeer."