After the battle has been fought and the men return to their tents weary and covered in blood and the dust of the battlefield, Achilles, son of Peleus, greatest of all the warriors in Agamemnon's camp, this great man with his immortal skin and his sword dripping blood and the haft of his spears shattered and broken in the bodies of the men he's slain - he stands in his tent. His own armor he strips off and drops onto the ground, leaving it in the dust for some other man to pick up and clean, but he takes his care in removing Patroclus's armor. The greaves first, well-made and fastened in the back behind Patroclus' heels, and then his breastplate, his sword, his shield strap and heavy shield as well, and the helmet that covered his brow. The battle has been fought, the war still unwon, and Achilles memorizes the wounds on Patroclus' body.
Immortal Achilles lives though every one of his battles untouched, unmarked, unharmed, even the most tempestuous of strong-armed blows will glance off of his arms, their bare skin glistening with sweat and the angry red blood of his enemies. Patroclus, his kinsman and brother-in-arms, is not his equal in might nor in reputation, he is not the one who leads the Myrmidons to battle or the one whose deeds are sung in song. It is Patroclus, however, his dear Patroclus of the strong arms and mighty shoulders, whom Achilles calls cousin because they are kinsmen, Patroclus whom Achilles calls brother for the years spent side-by-side learning to fight on rocky ground which shifted uncertainly beneath their youthful feet, whom Achilles also calls dear. It is on Patroclus' body that the tale of their battles together is painted. His skin is a map of scars, of old wounds and new ones, lines carved into the canvas of his body. His life can be told in increments by the layers of scars on his body, and Achilles his brother-in-arms remembers his own life by the scars his dear Patroclus bears.
He remembers learning to fight with a dagger and shield, how brave Patroclus had faced Achilles again and again under their master's tutelage - these memories are inscribed in the thin lines over Patroclus' arms, barely visible to the eye yet standing prominent in Achilles' mind's eye - the sight and sound of his kinsman's blood, crimson against the golden hues of his sunlit skin. The memories surface because Patroclus' body remembers them, and were it not for his Patroclus' humanity, Achilles fears that he may never know which battles were fought on earth and which were fought in the dimly lit recesses of his mind. He counts his history by the battle scars Patroclus flaunts as if they were testaments to his courage.
The siege of Troy has made it's mark on Patroclus as well, bruises from clashes with the Trojan soldiers cover his shoulders and chest. His legs show the scars of a hundred thousand battles and skirmishes, all of which Achilles can only remember by the curve of Patroclus' calves and the slow trickle of lifes-blood that had flowed down his skin to mingle with dirt and dust and swat and the blood of their opposite number. Battles full of grit and sweat and glory, but to Achilles the battle is ongoing, unending, his enemies attempting to drive their swords and spears into his body but unable to touch him, unable to shatter his armor or mark his skin. The Great Achilles, a soldier unequaled, his immortal skin which he hates - he longs for death, for a wound, for something by which to distinguish one epic battle from another.
He has his Patroclus instead, the one man in whom Achilles may trust with his confidence, his life, his sanity, his soul. Three thousand long days in which battles are fought and the war remains unwon and unsung, and nothing changes between one day and the next. His sword sings for blood and Achilles quenches it's unending thirst, fights for honour and glory and for his king and his gods. The reasons for Achilles to fight grow longer and longer, stretching into eternity with the shadows cast by the sun setting on the horizon, and yet he stays and fights for none of them. His honour has not been insulted, his glory is legendary regardless. He stays to watch Patroclus clean the lacerations from thighs as strong as oaks, to seem him laugh and bleed and share with mortal men the friendships that Achilles has been denied.
In prowess, Achilles has killed a greater number of men and in fewer battles than Patroclus his friend; in strength Achilles and Patroclus have always been equals, neither striving to best the other in any battle or skirmish; there is nothing that can overcome them. But in courage, Patroclus' scars bear testament to his bravery, they show that he has fought while outnumbered, fought while wounded, taken blows such that should have killed a mortal man, and yet Patroclus lives and fights on, for glory or for a love of Achilles. And Achilles, protected by sacred water, a man too close to the gods for mere men to befriend, whose skin has never known the sting of a blade or the pain of a wound, Achilles who is destined to die at Troy, it is this man the immortal who is afraid of death -- the death he has never had cause to fear before. His Patroclus has fought this battle with his own mortality, with fear, with his own death, and he has won, and Achilles' dear Patroclus is his equal in so many ways, but Patroclus surpasses even Achilles in courage.
And so Achilles wonders, when he dies, will his Patroclus bear the scars of that battle as well, would he wear them as proudly as the mark of a king or a god, would he say to the men who see his scars, "This is the scar from the Trojan's sword, whom I slew in retribution for my dear Achilles' death," would dear Patroclus tell the story of Achilles' final battle with pride, would he describe his struggle to overcome his destiny?