Pairings: Athos/Porthos (established relationship)
Summary: Set during The Return. The night before the fight for the village. Because Athos needed unconditional cuddles.
Bertrand had given the five of them an attic room in the eaves of the inn. When the others retired, Athos had remained downstairs for a long time, alone with his thoughts and his wine.
He was ashamed, both of his recent behaviour with regards the villagers, and his actions here years before. He had no desire to enter into discussion on either matter, and intended to stay out of the way of well-meaning enquiries from his friends.
When he was finally sure everyone would be asleep, he mounted the creaking steps with a slow and cautious tread. A single candle was still burning in the room above, enough to make out Treville snoring on a trestle under the window, and Aramis and d'Artagnan huddled together in the bed at the top of the stairs. And beyond them, in a third bed -
He sighed. Of course Porthos was still awake.
Porthos had tried to counsel him on his actions earlier, and Athos had ignored him, shut him out. Porthos, who'd come from nothing, had clawed his way up from the slums of the Court of Miracles, and who had just had to watch Athos give away a fortune in land with no more justification than a petulant desire to be left alone.
Athos felt abruptly sick with guilt. He hesitated mid-step, then came on with a deep bone-weary dejection in the set of his shoulders. No more running. He owed Porthos that much, at least.
Coming to a stop by the bed, Athos slipped the borrowed cloak from his shoulders and looked down at Porthos. He more than half expected to receive a frown or some form of rebuke, but Porthos just patted the bedclothes next to him.
Overcome with tiredness, Athos sat down heavily, pulling off his boots and breeches, letting them lie where they fell. Athos turned back the covers, and Porthos silently held out his arms to him.
Even now, Athos hesitated. He felt so unworthy of comfort, so undeserving of Porthos' forgiveness and understanding, that to lie down with him, to accept that warm embrace, felt more than he could allow himself.
"Come here," Porthos growled under his breath, cutting across Athos' thoughts with a gruff impatience and beckoning with both hands.
Athos surrendered. He slumped forward in half-collapse, and felt Porthos' arms settle tightly around him. One big hand was cupping the back of his neck, holding him close, the other stroking his back.
"It's all right," Porthos breathed, feeling Athos' heart hammering in his chest where they were pressed together, feeling the tension in his body. "I've got you."
"It's not," Athos protested miserably. "It's so far from alright I can't even see alright. The way things are going, at this rate I'll probably end up getting you all killed tomorrow."
Porthos snorted. "Good to know your estimation of our abilities."
Athos lifted his head, contrite. "You know I didn't mean that."
"I know you talk a lot of shite." Porthos grinned at him. "Get some sleep. Look on the bright side, you've got a deserving bastard to take it all out on tomorrow."
"Porthos - "
"Shhh. You'll wake the others." Porthos pulled him back into his arms, and pressed a kiss to his hair. "You don't half stink," he added, after a second.
At that, Athos sat up and pulled his filthy shirt off over his head, tossing it to the floor with the rest of his clothes. He blew the candle out and lay down again, this time more than willing to be pulled in against Porthos' bare chest, and sighed.
"I'm sorry," Athos murmured.
"What for?" Porthos was caressing his back again, long, gentle strokes of his calloused hand that were both comforting and slowly, increasingly, arousing.
"Involving you in this. Letting things come to this in the first place." Athos sighed again. "Perhaps just for acting like the spoilt brat I thought I'd left behind here."
Porthos gave a low laugh. "You know the only thing less attractive than that sweaty shirt of yours, is self-pity?"
Athos said nothing, but Porthos felt his lips curve into a reluctant smile against his shoulder. A moment later Athos' teeth grazed his skin in a teasing bite of protest, and Porthos wriggled them both into a more comfortable position for sleeping. This also revealed to each other they were both hard, but there was little chance of doing anything about it, sharing the room with three others. They contented themselves with a kiss, a warm press of lips and a slow swipe of tongue.
"All I want," Athos breathed longingly, "is to be back in Paris, with you."
"All in good time," Porthos reassured him. "We'll get there. And then I'll make you forget all about this place." He grinned in the darkness, and slid a hand down under the covers to cup Athos' balls.
"For at least an hour or two."