Achilles sat on the beach for a long time, letting the moonlight limn his skin and taking care that the lapping water not touch his feet. Moments alone were scarce during war. Achilles' council was required often, and even when sitting by the fire and digging his teeth into haunches of meat with the juice running down his chin he drew stares from the dust-caked men who milled around the camp. Their faces held no meaning to Achilles. In the heat of battle Achilles stepped over them, his Myrmidons, never living up to their name so much as when he crushed them beneath his immaculate heels and fought on, and on. His men, Achilles knew, would be less than footnotes in stories told when the war had been won, but in their stares he felt his own glory solidify. He cut through his camp like a knife gutting an ox, and with every whisper that rose in his wake Achilles knew that his legend was being written, passed from soldier to soldier and kept safe in the hearts of men.
The ocean, however, made Achilles feel overly young, and unknown. He breathed in its smell, and with an unpleasant stab of guilt he remembered his mother's long white fingers, and standing waist-deep in brine as she cupped his jaw and turned his head from side to side. When she examined him like that he felt ashamed of how human he was, impotent and soft. Thetis would pinch at his biceps to check the muscle and hiss at him to be wary in the world of men. He had immortal blood in his veins, she would tell him gravely and not without pride. Before she melted back into the sea, she would embrace her son, and Achilles would wrinkle his nose. His mother smelled of old fish.
But anyone, blood of gods or not, could sit on a cliff and keep still. In stories written and passed along, the sky would only ever be white, the sea dark as wine. The language that would immortalize Achilles as the best of the Greeks had no word for the color that moonlight casts on bright nights, and so Achilles had no word for how he felt as he sat quietly and pondered. What he felt was blue.
The cicadas cried in chorus as Achilles walked down the beach to where his tent lay, far from where the other men slept. When he lifted the flap and ducked inside, the blue color lingered. Even in his personal dwelling, where not even kings were allowed entry, moonlight showed through the linen walls. This aggravated Achilles, who wanted nothing more at that moment than to hide in the safety of his tent and answer to no one for a while.
Patroclus was deeply asleep when Achilles climbed back into bed, and studying his profile calmed Achilles somewhat. Their bedrolls were pushed flush together at the edge of the tent, and Patroclus' arm lay across the boundary, his hand curled loosely on Achilles' pillow. Head in the crook of his elbow, Achilles pressed his fingers into Patroclus' palm so that his hand would close around them in sleep. He toyed with the idea of shaking Patroclus awake. When they walked side by side through the bevies of Myrmidons, men would call out greetings to Patroclus and he would raise his hand to them and smile. He could pick any one of the dirty-faced men out of the crowd and call him by name, and when he did so Achilles felt a brief guilt over not being able to do the same. Being near Patroclus made Achilles feel monstrous and keenly human all at once, and laying there he felt an overpowering desire for Patroclus to open his eyes, reach towards Achilles without saying a word and make him into someone he knew.
The color blue. Men who lay with men and feel no shame. A poem about a ten year war, and the downfall of a man destined for greatness but burdened by pride. None of these things had yet been put to words; other things would never be. Achilles wanted badly for Patroclus to look at him, but was perennially scared of what he might see. After a battle, Achilles would push through the flaps of the tent and find Patroclus waiting for him. He'd remove Achilles' armor piece by piece and hang it on the wall, and after Achilles has been stripped of enchantments and wiped clean of dirt and blood, Patroclus would run his fingers through Achilles' hair and smile at a job well done.
The quiet hours spent between men have no place in legends. The swoop of Achilles' heart when Patroclus rolled closer on the bedroll and warmed his bare shoulder with sleep-breath, even less, and the deep, private tenderness between them has no words to describe it at all. Achilles pulled his blanket over him and Patroclus both, so not even the moon could see them, and until morning he was no one at all.