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the gates separating the chambers of elysium slide open and shut, heralding the arrival of the prince of the underworld to the two shades that owe him their happiness. achilles looks up from where he sits beside his philtatos, his greeting dying in his throat when he sees the state zagreus is in. he stands abruptly, but zagreus makes it to them before he can go to him.

“what happened, lad?”

patroclus’s hand tightens around achilles’s wrist as the prince slowly sinks to the ground in front of them, sitting with his legs stretched out and his head hung.

this close, achilles can see the arrowheads embedded in his ribs and the oozing burns along his legs, as well as the odd angle his arm falls at. his burning feet are barely smoking, but zagreus still manages a wry smile.

“forgot your teaching for a moment, sir. sorry—“

he coughs and winces, achilles lunging forward as zagreus keels to the side, his breath coming in short gasps.

“easy there, stranger. don’t overdo it.”

“little..late for that, sir—“

he cuts off with another cough, and finds himself soothed by achilles’s arms cradling him and patroclus’s hand smoothing back his hair.

“is there anything, anything we can do?”

“don’t go... it’s so much worse...dying alone.”

zagreus’s voice is barely a wisp of a sound, and patroclus and achilles meet eyes over him as they gently adjust him to lay as comfortably as possible. his head lolls to the side and he smiles faintly, wheezing out a word of thanks before the pain takes over and speaking isn’t possible.

a gentle hand on his forehead lulls him into the lightest doze he can manage, the scent of sandalwood and pomegranate tinged with the metal of his own blood. his last breath is soft, while labored, and achilles goes still as zagreus’s next breath in doesnt come, his head cradled on his shoulder, half veiled by golden curls.

“prince? zagreus?”

“he’s gone, achilles..”

patroclus’s voice is not unkind, and they take note of zagreus’s completely extinguished feet and barely flickering laurel before the styx begins to rise.

a deep gong startles patroclus, but achilles simply looks up in relief.

thanatos stands there consideringly, molten eyes unreadable.

“it’s been a long time since i have been the one to escort him back..”

patroclus looks to achilles and backs up a little when thanatos glides forward, kneeling on the plush elysian grass. zagreus’s still body is passed into death’s arms and they two shades find themselves pinned with gold.

“thank you...for caring for him as you do. it means..the world to him, i can tell.”

with that, he turns and the styx rises, carrying zagreus and death down to the House once more.

achilles looks down to find patroclus cradling his shaking hands and leans into his shoulder.

“he will be alright.. if we wait long enough, perhaps he will come dashing by as healthy as a horse to claim some jerky.”

achilles nods and rests his head on patroclus’s shoulder, letting himself be comforted with the fact that no one he loves can die permanently anymore.