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You Will Not Break Me

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Achilles hurried back to the Myrmidon camp after the meeting of kings, calling for Briseis. The girl had quickly become a friend to him and Patroclus, and he knew that his lover would be devastated if Agamemnon had carried out his threat to take her away.

Agamemnon had backed down from the argument first though, so maybe he’d made the smart decision; decided that it was more important to have Achilles onside.

The two kings had never seen eye to eye, but Achilles knew that Agamemnon needed him.

He needed nothing from Agamemnon however.

He soon found himself in the women’s section of the camp, which Patroclus had insisted that he create to keep as many slave girls safe as possible.

He didn’t deserve a boy with such a big heart to be his.

He was a killer, and Patroclus was a gentle soul through and through.

And yet, Patroclus loved him with everything he had.

And Achilles certainly returned the favour.

“Briseis?”

A tent flap opened, and Achilles breathed a sigh of relief when Briseis stepped out.

“Achilles. What is wrong? I was in the middle of a class.”

Achilles couldn’t help but smile. Patroclus had taught Briseis the language of the Greeks, and here she was teaching the other girls. It was so nice to see these little acts of kindness in the middle of a war.

“I was just coming to check on you. Agamemnon threatened to take you away. I wanted to make sure you were safe.”

Briseis eyed him suspiciously, but nodded. Even though she was starting to become more friendly than hostile towards him, she was definitely more of a friend to Patroclus.

Sometimes Achilles thought she was only friendly towards him for his lover’s sake.

He saw the way she looked at him.

But he had never seen Patroclus look back at her in the way he looked at Achilles. He knew Patroclus’ heart was his alone.

“I am safe Achilles. Thank you.”

His attention was focused back on Briseis.

“Just be careful, ok? Patroclus would be devastated if anything happened to you. And so would I.”

“I believe you would be devastated that Patroclus was upset, not that I was gone.”

Achilles couldn’t really argue with that. Briseis was right, as always. Of course, he didn’t want anything to happen to her; he was human after all, at least in that respect. He didn’t want people to get hurt needlessly.

How much of that was because of Patroclus he didn’t know.

If he didn’t have Patroclus, would he have turned out differently? Would he be the killing machine the Gods wanted him to be?

Then again, wasn’t he that anyway?

Whilst his mind was wandering, Briseis had slipped back into her tent, leaving him standing in the middle of the camp.

He turned back the way he’d came and went back to his own tent.

He hadn’t expected to find it empty.

He frowned and sat down on his pallet.

It wasn’t like Patroclus to not be here when he came back. He knew that his lover usually waited for his return, whether it be anticipation of learning the latest news from the king’s meetings or the need to see that Achilles was still alive and well after battle.

But it was wrong of Achilles to always expect him to be there.

There could be any number of reasons why he wasn’t in their tent.

He could have gone for a walk, or for a swim in the lake. Or maybe he’d been needed in the medical tent with Machaon. He might even have gone looking for Achilles, since he took longer returning than usual.

Surely it was nothing to worry about.

He lay down on his pallet and let his eyes slip closed. The afternoon sun was high in the sky and the heat was intense. There would be no more fighting today, so he could afford to rest for an hour or so.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was dark when he awoke.

He really hadn’t meant to sleep for so long.

“Patroclus?”

As always, his lover was the first thought he had upon waking, and he was concerned when he sat up and saw that the tent was still empty.

He was on his feet in an instant and he roughly pushed the tent flap out of his way as he stepped out into the cool night air.

Automedon looked up at the sound of his footsteps and frowned.

“Achilles! We all thought you’d have stormed Agamemnon’s camp by now.”

“What? Forget Agamemnon for now. His arrogance against the Gods will be punished in time. Now, have you seen Patroclus anywhere this afternoon? I haven’t seen him since I returned from the meeting.”

Automedon paled as understanding flickered across his face.

“Ah, you haven’t heard…”

“Heard what?”

“When you fought him for the rights to the girl he sent some men here instead. They took him Achilles. They said Agamemnon only wished to speak with him, but…”

“Why did you let him go?!”

Anger was flashing in Achilles’ eyes, and Automedon found himself staring at his feet. When Achilles was angry, it was wise to tread carefully.

“Achilles, we… None of us knew that there had been a disagreement. We had no reason to doubt what Agamemnon’s men said. And Patroclus was determined not to cause a scene. He went without complaint.”

“Of course he did…”

Achilles clenched his fists. Getting angry at his own men wouldn’t get him anywhere, he knew that. And of course Patroclus went without complaint. He would only have been thinking about the rest of the men. If he’d resisted, these Myrmidons would have fought to the very end to protect him.

He really was very dear to everyone in the camp, and he wasn’t a fighter.

Every single man in Achilles’ army was willing to protect him with their life; partly because of their loyalty to Achilles and those he loved, but also because everyone loved Patroclus. It was impossible not to.

“I’ll go and speak to Agamemnon…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patroclus groaned as he blinked his eyes open.

The first thing he was aware of was how much everything hurt.

He was in an awkward position; that much he could tell. He was kneeling and his hands were bound to a pole in front of him. His back was stiff and aching and he couldn’t feel his legs.

He had no idea how he’d gotten here, but his throbbing head gave him a clue.

He remembered Agamemnon’s men telling him that the king wanted to speak with him and he’d gone without a fuss. Things were already tense between Agamemnon and Achilles and he hadn’t wanted to make it worse.

Besides, he’d thought that speaking to the other king wouldn’t have caused any problems.

He remembered leaving the camp, but everything got fuzzy after that.

He assumed that someone had hit him over the head; it would explain the throbbing and the dizziness.

But why was he here?

He didn’t think he could possibly have done anything to offend Agamemnon. He hardly ever saw him after all.

Maybe they’d been ambushed by Trojans, but that didn’t seem very likely considering they’d still been in the middle of the Greek encampment.

Maybe there were some rebels in the Myrmidon camp who wanted to revolt against Achilles’ leadership, but Patroclus was sure that he’d never met a more loyal group of men than the Myrmidon army.

He looked around, but it was pitch black around him. He had no clue where he was and no way of finding out.

All of his questions were answered however when a tent flap opened and someone came inside with a torch.

Agamemnon.

Patroclus blinked and pulled at the ropes around his wrists.

“Why am I here?”

This was no time for pleasantries he thought, and it seemed like Agamemnon certainly hadn’t only wanted to talk.

“Calm down boy. You’re here because I want you to be.”

“Let me go! I’m a free man. You can’t treat me like this!”

“Achilles refused to give me the girl as a bed slave, gave me you instead.”

Patroclus spat at the king’s feet.

“He would never!”

Agamemnon laughed and grabbed Patroclus’ chin.

“He may as well have. He should have known not to cross me. When he refused to hand the girl over, he as good as handed me you instead.”

Patroclus jerked his chin free and tried to keep his gaze defiant as he looked up at the imposing figure of his captor.

“Achilles will come, and he will destroy you.”

Agamemnon laughed.

“He won’t find you anytime soon. Do you think I was stupid enough to keep you in camp? No, by the time he finds you I’ll have destroyed you and Prince Achilles will know to think twice before defying me.”

The king turned and swept out of the tent, speaking to a guard as he passed.

“Watch him. If he tries to escape, make sure he won’t be able to attempt it again. I have to fetch some things. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

The guard bowed, and then Patroclus was plunged back into darkness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Where is he?!”

“W-Where is who, Lord Achilles?”

“That rat Agamemnon! Where is he?!”

Men parted in front of Achilles as he stormed through Agamemnon’s camp, stealing glances at each other. It was common knowledge that Agamemnon and Achilles didn’t like each other, but this was the first time that any of the men had seen either of them seemingly ready for confrontation. And none of them knew what Agamemnon could have done to make Achilles so angry.

“H-He isn’t here My Lord. He rode up into the mountains after the meeting. He returned briefly about half an hour ago a-and rode off again.”

“Did he say where he was going? What he was doing? Was anyone with him?!”

The poor soldier who had had the misfortune of attracting Achilles’ attention was trembling now, Achilles’ gaze piercing him to the very soul.

“H-He didn’t say anything My Lord. He went into his tent and collected some things, then left again with a sack. I-I didn’t see what was inside. A-And he was alone both times he passed through here.”

Achilles turned on his heel without another word and strode back to the Myrmidon camp, calling out as he neared his own men.

“Someone saddle my horse! Now!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patroclus bit his lip in concentration as he twisted the ropes around his wrists. He could feel that his wrists were raw and bleeding and the pain was almost unbearable, but he had to keep going. The ropes were starting to fray and in a few moments he’d be free.

He had to get out before Agamemnon got back.

He had to get back to Achilles.

Every noise made his heart stop as he stopped moving to listen for any sign of Agamemnon’s return. He had no idea how long he’d been left here, and an hour wasn’t a long reprieve. Agamemnon could be back any minute and that thought was a constant presence in the back of his mind.

He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed as he gave a final tug, the ropes finally snapping and his wrists falling free.

He breathed a sigh of relief and got to his feet, rubbing his bleeding wrists to try and get circulation back into his hands. He was a little unsteady after so long on his knees, but he didn’t have time to worry about that.

He knew there was a guard posted outside; a guard whose duty it was to stop him from escaping.

He would have to make a run for it, and now was his only chance. Every moment he waited was a moment closer to Agamemnon coming back for him.

He took a deep breath and he ran.

He could hear the guard shouting behind him and pounding footsteps right on his heels.

He had no clue where he was or where he was going, but he would just have to keep running until he managed to escape his pursuer. Then he would have a chance to think about his next move.

He was going downhill; he could establish that much. Agamemnon must have taken him up into the mountains; Troy was on a flat plain and the mountains were the only part of the nearby landscape that would have had any kind of slope.

The disadvantage of going downhill was how easy it was to stumble when he was running blind. The night that was providing him a little bit of cover was also hiding any obstacles from view. One moment he was running and the next he was on the ground, screaming in agony, his ankle bent at an awkward angle.

He lay there, knowing that there was no point in even trying to get back up. Even if he was able to hobble on his broken ankle, there was no way he’d be able to get away from his captors now.

Sure enough, it was only a few moments after his fall when someone dug a knee into his back, pinning him to the ground.

He whimpered as his hands were pulled behind his back and roughly bound again, and screamed when his captor grabbed him by the back of his chiton and hoisted him to his feet.

The guard looked him up and down and his gaze finally came to rest on his broken ankle. He growled as he slung Patroclus over his shoulder and carried him back to the tent.
After a few minutes, Patroclus found himself being roughly dumped on the ground inside the dark tent, his ankle throbbing painfully after the not too gentle treatment.

The guard had just attached his bound hands back to the post when Agamemnon appeared inside the tent.

“Oh dear, Patroclus. What have we been up to, hm?”

He knelt in front of the young man and gripped his chin tightly.

“I told you that you wouldn’t escape. If you’d just behaved like a good little slave boy, you wouldn’t have had to have gotten hurt, would you?”

Patroclus spat in his face and stayed silent.

Agamemnon paused for a moment, stunned, before striking his prisoner hard across the cheek.

“Oh, you’re certainly one of his, aren’t you? Just as defiant, and unable to learn your place.”

“Or maybe I have enough pride to only bow to kings who deserve my respect.”

Patroclus grunted as he was struck again.

“Understand this boy; you’re mine now! Your precious Achilles isn’t coming, not until I want him to. Not until you’re well and truly broken.”

Patroclus smirked.

“I don’t think you’ll find it too easy to break me Agamemnon. I have faith, and I believe in Achilles. You can break my body, but you’ll never break my spirit, because I will always have faith in what I know to be true. I will always have faith in my prince.” He raised his eyes to meet Agamemnon’s and there was still a fire in them, even in such a hopeless situation. “You could kill me, and his name would still be on my last breath. You will never break me.”

Agamemnon raised his hand to strike Patroclus again, but a tight grip on his wrist stopped him before he could.

“Touch him again and it will be the last thing you ever do!”

Agamemnon chuckled softly in the back of his throat.

“Prince Achilles. You found your way here much quicker than I thought you would.”

“You should have known that I would stop at nothing to take back what is mine. Now step away! Your guard is dead. You’re alone here. And I won’t hesitate to add another body to the pile. Accidents happen so often up in the mountains.”

Agamemnon stood slowly when he felt the sharp tip of a sword in the small of his back.

“Go back to your men Agamemnon. Tell them Achilles fights for you no more. I am taking the Myrmidons home as soon as Patroclus is well enough to travel.”

“We don’t need you! Greece will win this war with our without your help!”

“We will see. Win or lose, you’re on your own.”

Achilles marched Agamemnon out of the tent, keeping his sword pressed into the other man’s back until he was mounted on his horse. Their eyes met for a moment, then Agamemnon was riding back towards the Greek camp and Achilles was back inside the tent, kneeling by Patroclus’ side.

“By the Gods Patroclus! Are you alright? What has he done to you?”

“Actually, I did it to myself, trying to escape.”

Achilles sliced through the ropes binding Patroclus’ wrists and took his lover’s hands in his.

“I’m so sorry Patroclus. I had no idea he would take you. I was trying to protect Briseis, more for your sake than anything, and I came back to find you gone. I would kill him Patroclus. By the Gods, I want to! I let him go so that you wouldn’t have to witness that side of me, but if he did anything to you, anything more than those blows that I saw, he’ll be dead by sunrise Patroclus, I swear it.”

“Shh, Achilles, I’m fine!”

Patroclus drew Achilles’ hands to his lips and gently kissed his palms.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry my love. I’m here. I’m fine.”

Achilles gently caressed Patroclus’ bruised cheek, just barely managing a sad smile.

“Fine? You should see yourself Philtatos. You must be in so much pain…”

Achilles couldn’t help but notice how gentle his hands were with Patroclus; almost as if his lover was fragile, so easy to break at any moment. It wasn’t too far from the truth. His hands had caused so much harm, had broken so many men. Those hands had destroyed lives, families. They were the hands of a warrior, the hands of a killer.

And yet, every touch merely ghosted Patroclus’ broken skin as he turned the other man’s wrists over in his hand, checking the extent of the damage. Gentle touches probed the stiff and abused body, flinching at away at any sign of pain.

“I’ll need to take you to Machaon to see about your ankle. You were much more talented at our lessons in medicine than I. I don’t think I’ll be able to help you with such a bad injury.”

Patroclus chuckled low in his throat.

“Stop fussing Achilles! I’m fine, really! Machaon will set the bone and that’ll be all there is to it. Stop looking at me as if I might fall apart at any moment.”

Achilles managed to smile a little more genuinely, one hand in Patroclus’ hair now as he stroked it, trying to soothe him.

“I just can’t stand seeing you hurt Philtatos. You are my entire world Patroclus. You are-“

He was cut off by a soft yelp and he quickly pulled his hand away.

“What is it?! Patroclus, are you-?!”

He looked down at his hand and paled.

Blood, thick and warm, coated his fingers. Patroclus’ blood.

His gaze hardened.

“I’ll kill him.”

He said it calmly, plainly, as if he were just stating a fact.

Patroclus found it a little disconcerting how Achilles could just talk about life and death as if they meant nothing.

“Achilles, no!”

He grabbed Achilles’ hands in his, ignoring the pain that shot through his wrists at the sudden movement.

“He’s not worth it Achilles. I’m fine, I swear! I can’t even feel it anymore. It’s probably healed by now and the blood is just in my hair. Stop panicking.”

“But it hurt you…”

Achilles was only half listening by now, gently combing his fingers through his lover’s hair to look for the wound. It took him a few moments to find and he made a low humming sound, lips pursed tightly together.

“It doesn’t look too nasty, praise the Gods. It’s not bleeding anymore, but I’ll make sure Machaon takes a look.”

Patroclus fondly rolled his eyes.

“Can we calm down now?”

Achilles managed a soft laugh.

“I’m satisfied that you are alive and here with me again, where you belong.”

“Exactly.”

Patroclus lazily curled a strand of Achilles’ hair around his finger and smiled at him.

“Right where I belong Achilles. I’m not going anywhere, I promise you.”

“You certainly are not! I’m going to nurse you until you are well enough to make a voyage home, and then I am taking you back to Greece and Mount Pelion and never letting you out of my sight again!”

Patroclus stifled a laugh.

“Whatever you want my love.”

Achilles stroked his bruised cheek again, his touch barely there, but Patroclus leaned into it anyway. After a moment, Achilles leaned in and gently pressed their lips together.

“I’m going to move you now. Please, if it hurts…”

“Of course it will hurt, my love. Don’t worry. I can handle it. I just want to go back to camp. With you.”

Despite his words, Patroclus was careful not to make too much noise when Achilles lifted him into his arms. He was worried that if Achilles heard him in too much pain, he’d go back on his word and kill Agamemnon without another thought. As much as Patroclus hated the other king, especially now, he didn’t want that blood on his hands. He didn’t want Achilles to stoop to Agamemnon’s level.

So he bit back his moan of pain and tried to take comfort in the feeling of safety that Achilles’ arms gave him. He almost whimpered when Achilles set him side-saddle on his horse and had to let go of him for a moment in order to climb up behind him. But it was only for a moment; as soon as Achilles was settled on the horse he wrapped his arms tightly around Patroclus again and pulled him tight against his chest.

Patroclus smiled. Achilles was so warm and strong and safe, and the slow rocking of the horse as it walked was soothing. He could feel his eyes slipping closed, Achilles’ soft voice in his ear like a lullaby, whispering promises of love and safety and protection if he wanted to rest.

Patroclus let the voice wash over him and gave in to the darkness pulling at his senses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Philtatos. You have to wake up now.”

As Achilles’ voice had the power to lull him into dreams, so it had the power to pull him back to consciousness. He blinked his eyes open and turned to look into Achilles’ eyes.

“You’re really here…”

“Of course I am Philtatos. I’m sorry for waking you, but I can’t get off the horse without letting go, and I won’t let anyone else touch you.”

Patroclus rolled his eyes. Achilles truly was too protective at times. They both trusted all of the Myrmidon warriors with their lives and Achilles knew that none of them would be any danger to Patroclus. But maybe Achilles needed the comfort of knowing that Patroclus was being protected by him personally.

“Ok my love. I’m awake now.” He wrapped his arms around the horse’s neck and held on. “Don’t worry. I won’t fall.”

He felt Achilles shift behind him as he slipped off of the horse, and then arms were around him again and his arms were around Achilles’ neck instead.

Achilles turned to Automedon and pointed.

“Fetch Machaon and send him to my tent. I will be nursing Patroclus, but I need his help with a broken bone. Nobody enters my tent aside from him. I don’t care who it is. Nobody enters. And tell the men that we’re going home. As soon as Patroclus is well, we’re sailing back to Greece.”

He took a step, then turned back and added, almost as an afterthought; “If Agamemnon shows his face in this camp, come and fetch me. If he dares show his face here it’ll be the last thing he does.”

Then he was sweeping into their tent and Patroclus was laying on his pallet, Achilles kneeling by his side and carding fingers through his hair.

“Don’t be angry with the men…”

As soon as he said it, Patroclus knew that it was true. Achilles was angry with the Myrmidons for not stopping Agamemnon.

“They had no way of knowing.” He continued before Achilles had the chance to interrupt him. “None of us did. They tried to tell me to wait until you returned, but I made the call. Truthfully, I told them that you wouldn’t appreciate them giving me orders. It was wrong of me, but I was worried that I would make things worse between you and Agamemnon if I refused. I was worried that some of the men would get hurt. I’d hoped to try and smooth things over. I wanted to do something helpful and…”

Achilles silenced him with a gentle press of lips.

“Oh Patroclus, you’re such a good soul. You always worry about everyone before yourself, and you believe in what’s good and true. All of this war and death and you’re still not tainted by it all. That’s why you belong back in Greece. You don’t belong in a war. You’re too pure. Men are not good like you Philtatos. They use you to get what they want. They cheat and scheme and lie and kill and I am surrounded by it. I am consumed by it. I have to be, to survive. To be the warrior I am destined to be, I have to become one of those men. I have to throw away my humanity.”

Patroclus watched him in silence, his breath catching as Achilles pressed their foreheads together.

“And yet, I can’t. You are what keeps me human Philtatos. All that is good about me is because of you, and I don’t want to forget that. I don’t want to lose what I am around you. I want to be the man that you make me be, not the man that the Gods planned for me. That’s why we’re going back to Greece. Forget glory and riches and fame. I don’t need them. I have you, and I like the man that I am around you, and now I can be him forever.”

“Achilles…”

A finger pressed against Patroclus’ lips and he was silent again.

“Agamemnon has me wrong. His plan would have backfired. He hoped to use you to contain me, to make me obedient. He thought that breaking you would make me human. The terrifying thought is that it would have been just the opposite. Hurting you, it would make me lose what humanity I have left. I would have had no mercy, on him or anyone who helped him. I would have destroyed everything in my path.” He sighed. “I almost lost my mercy. The Gods almost won. I saw him raise his hand against you and I wanted to kill him. I wouldn’t have been able to turn back from that. You would have seen me as the monster that you always said I could never be. It was that thought that stayed my hand. That thought is the only reason that Agamemnon isn’t dead.”

Patroclus reached for his lover’s face and took his cheeks between his hands.

“But he isn’t dead. You aren’t a monster. I still believe you never could be. And if you feel that you need me to keep you human, then I will keep you human until the day I die. I’m not going anywhere Achilles, no matter what you decide to do with your life. If you want to chase your destiny, then I’ll be by your side every step of the way. I’ll clean the blood from your skin as I’ve always done. Nothing will change.” He smiled softly. “But if you truly are willing to give it all up, I will happily live into my old age with you. I know I will be happy, because you’ll be with me. I will be a true and faithful lover and I will do everything in my power to make sure that you’re the first hero to be happy.”

“I won’t be a hero.”

“You’ll always be a hero to me.”

“Then that’s all I could ever need.”

Their lips were together again, more urgent now, Patroclus pushing for more, Achilles reluctantly giving in to every demand. His hands, though gentle, were starting to wander and Patroclus took his hands to guide them, encouraging him. Achilles’ hand was just starting to glide across a dark thigh when a soft cough caught their attention.

“Machaon!”

Achilles sat up, his pale cheeks lit up in a burning red. Patroclus turned his head and smiled sheepishly.

Machaon stood in the entrance of the tent, unsure where to look.

Achilles smiled wickedly at Patroclus before getting to his feet.

“Machaon, my friend. We need your expertise…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Patroclus didn’t know how long it was before Machaon left them. He knew it must have been a few hours at least.

Achilles had insisted that Machaon check every inch of him for injuries, and then that he do it again just to be sure.

Machaon had wanted to stitch the gash in his head. Achilles had held his hand the entire time, and that hadn’t been a problem. Machaon had cleaned the wounds and numbed him with alcohol and Achilles was there and whispering sweet lullabies to him again; lullabies of love and safety and protection and he was here, here, here.

Setting his ankle had been a more difficult task.

He knew it would hurt. With his bone so clearly out of place, it would be impossible for it not to. He would probably never walk properly ever again. He knew all of this before Machaon turned to him, mouth set in a grim line, and told him.

Achilles didn’t take it so well.

He’d been hurt enough, Achilles had argued, surely there must be a way to not hurt him further. Surely there must be a way for him to walk again.

He’d practically howled when Machaon shook his head.

Patroclus had tried to calm him. It didn’t matter if he walked with a limp, he said, he would still be here and happy and alive and they’d be together.

Achilles had stared into his eyes and promised to be by his side every step of the way, no matter what happened.

Machaon’s warning hadn’t prepared either of them for the shriek that tore from Patroclus when his ankle was moved back into place.

He had felt more than heard the growl rising in Achilles’ chest at the sound.

He’d clutched his lover’s hand tightly and promised that he was alright.

Achilles had held him tightly, protectively, as Machaon had wrapped his ankle and instructed him not to move for the next week at least.

Achilles had listened intently and taken it all in. Patroclus knew that he’d be following Machaon’s instructions to the letter, because Achilles wasn’t going to take any chances with his recovery.

Machaon had left, instructed to tell the Myrmidons that they were all leaving for Greece in two weeks’ time.

Achilles had kept Patroclus held tightly in his arms, and they’d stayed that way until they both fell asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sure enough, a little more than three weeks later, Patroclus found himself standing at the prow of the Myrmidon ship, the sea air blowing in his face, the sun warming his skin. The smell of salt was overpowering and he breathed it in.

They’d been at sea for little over a week and were expecting to make port in Greece later today.

Patroclus leaned heavily on a sturdy stick, keeping the weight off of his damaged ankle. He’d been healing well, but he’d probably never walk unaided. That made Mount Pelion an impossibility, for he’d never be able to climb it now.

That didn’t matter. It never mattered where he was, as long as Achilles was by his side. They now planned on returning to Phthia, where they had grown up together.

Patroclus couldn’t be happier.

He felt an arm snake around his waist and he leaned into the strong body beside him.

He let the stick fall.

Achilles would hold his weight now, and the stick was just cumbersome.

Achilles shifted so that he was taking more of Patroclus’ weight.

“What are you thinking about Philtatos?”

Patroclus turned his head to smile at him.

“Lots of things. Mainly you. Us. How we can finally be together and happy, like we promised so many years ago. Like we promised before Troy.”

Achilles kissed the top of his head.

“Yes. We’re together, and we’ll always be together. How could we not be happy?”

Patroclus tilted his chin upwards, and Achilles took the hint quickly. He shifted his hands to Patroclus’ hips and held him firm against his own body. Patroclus’ arms wrapped around his neck and pulled him into a kiss.

A million things passed between them then, as they tried to pour everything in their hearts, everything that they wanted to say, into this one single moment. Safety, happiness, relief, love.

It was a moment that they wished could last forever.

But why waste the forever that was stretched out in front of them? There would be plenty of time for these moments.

Patroclus was glad of that, because this moment was over too quickly.

He smiled against Achilles’ lips, but a flash of something in the corner of his eye made him turn to look back out to sea.

He hugged Achilles tightly.

“Land! It’s Greece Achilles! We’ve reached Greece!”

His cry was taken up by the men as they called to each other.

“Land ho!”

Patroclus grinned up at his lover.

“We’re finally here! We’re finally home!”

Achilles pressed his lips to Patroclus’ curls and whispered into his hair.

“I’ve always been home. Home is wherever you are.”