“Do you think you’d be different if you hadn’t… if you hadn’t taken that boy’s life?” Achilles’ voice is coloured in practiced carefulness, such carefulness that makes my breath hitch in my suddenly dry throat and my bones ache immediately from their stiffness. Has he been wanting to ask this question for long now? Is this the question that scorched his tongue every time he looked at me like that. As though I were a complex being with so many intricacies too great for man and the moon alone? As though I could crush him with a single word. With a single action. With a single breath.
The words he used. 'Taken that boy’s life', He could’ve said ‘killed' or ‘murdered' but he did not for he knows I am not enthusiastic when violence is so explicitly mentioned. I silently thank him for this, for his soft hesitant use of words. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I feel his body tense as he awaits my reply, he sits, anxious yet eager for the words that do not seem to form in my throat. He’s waiting for words that I’m aware I should give him to ease this sudden almost too quiet quiet that hangs over us as we sit together, as though it were a rope, luring us to pull and pull and pull until everything suspended- our breaths, my halted movements, his halted movements - comes crashing down all at once. But we do not pull and so it remains, too quiet, too too quiet.
“I’m sorry, we don’t- I’m sorry.” he seems to trip and trip countlessly over the words that tumble from his red lips like water from the waterfall in front of us. I’m aware I should tell him it is not a worry, to assure him that the question did not faze me at all, that it certainly did not catapult me back all those dreadful years ago to the exact second the incident happened. I should lie and tell him that as he speaks, I definitely do not see the boy’s blood, the sickening colour shockingly contrasting against the harsh rocks, flutter beneath my eyelids. But I can not lie to Achilles. It is a known fact that I physically can not bring myself to even think about lying to him- a boy who has promised and merited me with nothing but honesty and safety- who would I be to do such a thing? A fool.
“Perhaps.” the word is breathed out of me forcefully, I completely ignore his quick apologies and instead answer his initial question. I have wondered the same myself. Would I be different if I did not have a boy’s death looming over me? Perhaps I would be. But how much different? To what extents would this difference be? I would inevitably still be the pushover I was all those years ago- this trait I of course still harbour but only when Achilles is involved, only for Achilles, always- but what else?
“Perhaps?” he asks now, pulling me out of my thoughts, forcing me to focus on the present, the now and not the past, not what happened.
“What do you think? Do you think I’d be different?” for some reason his answer is what matters most to me and I crave to hear his opinion. He shifts an infinitesimal amount closer to me, I try to ignore the sudden reassuring warmth radiating off of him. I try to ignore his light. I try to ignore the wavering touch of his fingertips against my thigh. I try to ignore my heart which screams to be freed. But sometimes trying isn’t enough.
The wet grass itches the back of my thighs.
It had rained a couple of hours ago and with the rain came a sudden sadness too large for me to acknowledge, it was heartbreaking to see all the beauty of autumn being washed away by the winter rains. When the clouds were practically pregnant with their sadness, Achilles eagerly ran towards the river, the atoms in his restless body were going berserk and his happiness, his light, just seemed to burst and leak right out of his every pore.
Just as he turned to me with a grin plastered on his face, the first of many rains dropped on his forehead. I followed the lone tear, tracing its journey down Achilles’ blessed face with my eyes. I silently wished to be that raindrop. I silently wished to be able to kiss Achilles’ face as freely as that raindrop could, but I couldn’t, not here. All at once, Zeus’ rain pummelled onto the earth, its pelting unrelenting and merciless. The crops will drown, was my first thought, then, I’ve never seen Achilles so euphoric before, my last.
“Dance with me Patroclus!” He had all but screamed into the thick barrier the rain created between the two of us. I tried to tell him I had two left feet so didn’t know how to dance and couldn’t even if I tried but he shook his head and threw his head back with laughter which was drowned by the too loud precipitation, declaring that everyone knew how to dance even if it was just jumping about like lunatics.
Now, the air is mellow with the sweet, dewy petrichor lingering on the earth. Both Achilles and I’s tunics are soaked through and our bodies are slick with the soft film from the salty rain, as a reminder almost of the happiness that clung to our skin as we danced, weaving eagerly through the parting rains and intertwining our limbs together.
He doesn’t say anything. His face is passive apart from the permanent slight smile he always carries. I almost miss it. The slow furrow of his eyebrows and the twitch of his nose. He’s thinking. His mind is reeling with thoughts about me and I can tell these thoughts make him upset.
“We should go back to the cave Patroclus.” he whispers to me, his eyelashes are heavy with tears that I suspect are not from the rain but rather are due to his own melancholy. He didn’t tell me his opinion. But it’s okay, I’m sure he will answer in his own time.
As we walk, I do not ask him the cause of the sudden hurt in his eyes and he does not offer me an explanation either and so we venture on into the slow falling darkness with nothing but the pale moonlight to light our path until we are safe inside the confinement of the rose-quartz cave. No words or actions need to be said for me to understand that this, Achilles’ sudden sadness is something he does not want to discuss, so I do not pry.
We prepare ourselves for bed, wiping away the remnants of the salty rain with cloth. The silence between us is thick and tense. Did I do something wrong? There is only the water basin between the two of us now, no rain, just the water basin with water from the Spring that sloshes at the sides as though a storm is coming. The movement of the water reminds me so much of Achilles: swift and sure, restless and rapt.
Achilles does not look at me when he curls in on himself on the bed. I do not look at him either as I myself lay on the bedding that is soft against my back. He does not reach out for me, I note with acute detachment, normally he fumbles his way through the blankets to feel the press of my cool skin against his own but tonight, tonight he faces away from me. He does not want to talk to me.
Still I refuse to shatter the silence. I am a coward.
“Patroclus ,” he rings each syllable: Pa-tro-clus . “Patroclus,” again, he says my name. I stare up at the star painted ceiling a second longer, mentally preparing myself to see the inevitable shame in Achilles’ eyes before I look in his direction. He stares at me with bright, softened eyes—the shame that I expected is nowhere to be found—his eyes are unwavering. Green flecked with gold.
“I’m glad you took that boy’s life.”
The rawness of his confession knocks the air out of me. My eyes widen and my lips part to form his name: Achilles, but he beats me to it,
“I know it sounds bad. And I am selfish. Completely selfish. But if you had not taken his life then you wouldn’t have been exiled and if you hadn’t been exiled we would have never met again and if we had never met again, I...I,” he licks his lips and sucks in a breath, “I don’t want to think about what my life would be like without you. I don’t want to think about the person I would be without your presence,” there is something in his voice, a strain that has been there ever since he brought up the topic of Clysonymus’ death. How had I missed the strain? The tightness? How had I missed that?!
“I don’t want to think.” he concludes, surging towards me suddenly and crushing my lips to wine. His skin is as soft as the delicate velvet of petals beneath my fingertips that caress him gently. This isn’t our first kiss, nor will it be our last but still, something swells in my failing lungs, whispering sweetness to my heart and completely engulfing the erratic hollow muscular organ.
I love him.
The surety of my realisation overwhelms me so much so that I begin to tremble. I love him. I love him. I love h-
“I love you.” I breathe, my words lace around Achilles’ body and make him glow gold with new defined meaning. I say it because it is all I can say though I’m not certain the words do portray just how much I adore him. Surely he knows. Surely he’s aware that I would quite literally die for him, with him, beside him.
“I love you.” he says, and I know he’s not only saying it because I said it but rather he’s saying he loves me because he truly does. He loves me with a fierce passion that sometimes makes me question whether he is perhaps much more than a demigod.
I’ve never said those words to anyone before. I tell him so and he practically goes blind with sudden tenderness. Of course, Achilles Pelides has uttered the words ‘I love you’ countless times whether it be to his mother, his father, Phoinix too. But I, I have not. I didn’t know what love even was until I met Achilles. I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I didn’t know.
I can smell the petrichor still on his skin. It’s comforting, soothing. He also smells like almonds, sweet and slightly cherry like. Petrichor and almonds. My favourite smells.
The smell. The smell is the first thing that strangles me. Then it is the noise. The dull thud of his head against the ground and then the sudden crack of his skull against the jagged rocks which I had not seen. Then, then it is the sight of the blood leaking out of him. The blood, his blood, just seemed to leak and leak and leak like an endless stream of water out of his shredded wound and all I can do, all I can do is gape. All I can do is feel my throat close in horror and the sudden tingle in my hands- the very same monstrous hands that had done that. That had killed him. Clysonymus: the son of a nobleman. A nobleman!- and the tingle in my feet.
I think it is Zephyrus, the west wind that carries my feet along. Run, run, run! the wind whispers and I do. It is all I can do. Run! The heels of my feet lick the earth, I have never ran so fast in my life- perhaps because there have never been reasons to. I didn’t need to run before but now I do. I needed to run away, away from the sight of Clysonymus on the bed of rocks, his eyes popping in surprise, his lips parted in a prayer- I wasn’t going fast enough. Run! I wonder what my father would say if he saw me running now. Perhaps he would be proud (not taking into account that fact that I am running from a death that I have caused.) Run! The tears sting my eyes and it takes everything in me to not collapse on the earth and cry like the little child I am. There is no time , Zephyrus whispers, run boy, run! As I run, all I can smell is the metallic scent of blood, all I can see is the endless stream of red, as red as pomegranate seeds, and all I can hear… all I can hear is the endless loop of thuds and cracks rattling and ricocheting off of the walls in my head. Run!
“Where are you Patroclus?” Achilles’ voice is as gentle as rich velvet.
It takes me a second to realise my memories of the past had devoured me, making me almost immobile in Achilles’ arms. I startle, blinking rapidly. My short fingernails left half crescent moons on his arms; had I been holding onto him that tight? I bite my bottom lip anxiously whilst looking up to meet his eyes. He’s so beautiful.
“I’m sorry.” it is all I can say in that moment and I hope it is enough.
“Where did you go?”
“It does not matt-"
“Sometimes you have this look on your face… this look that…” a pause, “this look that makes me think you’re thinking about the world ending.” The tip of his nose gains a pinkish colour and his bottom lip trembles just a little.
“Maybe it is.”
“The world isn’t ending Patroclus.” Achilles breathes the words against my ear before pulling back, allowing me to see the thin sheen of tears in his eyes and the slight redness of them. The strain is back. I silently will him inside my head to not cry. Please don’t cry, please don’t cry, please don’t cry, and it is like he hears me for he composes himself slightly and does not cry.
“Not yet anyway,” I can’t help but whisper. I don’t know why I am doing this, hurting Achilles like this. I know he doesn’t like thinking about our deaths or the world ending or being apart from me yet, yet I can’t help myself, I can’t seem to steer away from the topic that brings him such melancholy. I am sure there is a darkness in me. Perhaps there is a hole in my heart and my kindness is slowly leaking out of it. What is wrong with me. “Achilles… ”
He’s crying and his tears look like diamonds against his flushed cheeks. He is crying and he is crying because of me. Why do I hurt him like this? I feel like the proverbial picture of guilt as I look at him and his tears and his trembling lips. Achilles. My heart clenches and I feel as though I have been stabbed multiple times in the chest. What kind of person am I? Or rather, what kind of monster am I?
“Stop. Stop being like this, I don’t like it , I don’t like it Patroclus. The world isn’t going to end and we are okay. We are good. You are not a monster and it isn’t your fault. It’s not your fault.” comes his watery words filled with such conviction and confidence that makes me believe in them.
The world isn’t going to end and we are okay.
I am not a monster.
It isn’t my fault.
Gods, he is too precious for this world. He is too precious for me. Achilles Pelides is too precious.
I nudge his nose against my own and pull him closer to me. And I kiss him. His lips taste of mint and the figs he ate after the meal Chiron prepared for us before we went to the River. His skin is smooth and his heartbeat is delicate against my chest. I suck his bottom lip into my mouth, eliciting a euphoric hum from him. My beautiful, emotional Achilles. I stroke him gently, wanting to remember this moment for as long as I live, wanting to remember the look of pleasure on his face, wanting to remember his eyes which are bright with sensuality, wanting to remember the feeling of his warmth intertwining with my own. Wanting to remember him, Achilles, like this, forever .
I say his name, over and over and over again and he says mine too and soon, soon we find ourselves saying our own names into each other’s open mouths.
Achilles. The lightness of his name is as sweet as honey down my throat and I swallow it. Achilles. I love him. Achilles. I will never hurt him again. Achilles. I will never make him cry of sadness again, instead I’ll make him cry of happiness, of pleasure. Achilles. I will never leave him. Achilles. It’ll be this, always, for as long as he will let me. Achilles. Achilles. Achilles.
Our backs arch simultaneously yet our fingers are ceaseless against each other. Do not stop, do not stop, do not stop, he chants and I don’t. He whimpers out my name in a broken, strangled cry and presses against me still, needing to feel my warmth, needing to feel me, needing to reassure himself that I was here and that I was not going to leave him. Needing to reassure himself that the world wasn’t going to end and I would be with him, always. We still, our breathing laboured and in sync. I love him.
His lips, which are bruised from kisses, linger just underneath my right eye. I love him.
“I love you.” I tell him again. I will never leave him.
“You know. Of course you know.” A breath of laughter blows through me.
He moves his head so he is nestled underneath my chin, and wipes our hands on a discarded blanket on the floor before touching my chest with his petal-veined fingers.
“You, Patroclus Menotiades, are the love of my life,” a quick kiss is pressed to the skin over my heart, "And the next, and the next, and the next and so on and so forth," he reaches out to intertwine our fingers together, a lazy fond smile is plastered on his bright face, “The light of my life.” he admits, leaning up to my ear as if he were telling me a secret.
I am the light of his life and he is the light of mine.
“I love you.” it is all I can say.
“I love you.” a grin,
“I know.” a fondness overtakes me then and I am all too aware of the tears blurring my vision.
He is half of my soul, as the poets say, and I would be nothing without him.