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Do We Not Laugh

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The battles of the day have ended, and Achilles, freshly bathed in the cool of his mother’s sea, sprawls across the bedding in his tent, his bare feet in Patroclus’ lap.

He emits a sleepy, pleased sigh at the feel of Patroclus’ deft fingers painting across his pink soles and arch, gently kneading in his favored sandalwood and pomegranate oil.

The sigh becomes a choked moan when Patroclus lifts one leg, lips forming an ‘o’ to blow against the heated, fevered skin in his grasp. A full-bodied shudder runs through Achilles.

“You truly are sensitive here,” Patroclus murmurs, amusement singing in his voice. “Aren’t you?”

Achilles thinks of his mother, with her whispered warnings and perpetual worry. She wouldn’t have wanted him to share his weakness with Patroclus, but the two of them keep no secrets, and what’s done is done. He nods, face pressed into silken furs, and imagines the star-bright vitality in Patroclus’ large, dark eyes.

A kiss brushes across his heel, chaste as the ticklish sweep of a butterfly’s wings. Suddenly, Achilles feels rejuvenated, brimming with too much vigor, even after vanquishing a hundred opponents, to resist temptation. He rises and swivels to fit himself atop Patroclus’ laughing form, capturing those teasing lips against his own.

It’s not their last night together, not even close. And yet, almost a year hence, when Paris’ Apollo-blessed arrow spears his tendon, Achilles feels no pain. He merely thinks back to that moment, to Patroclus’ clever, smiling mouth, and shuts his eyes, relieved.