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A Thousand Lifetimes

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His name was Patroclus. In the orphanage, everyone called him Patrick. He hated every mention of that name.

Sometimes he even forgot that he was called Patrick, and got confused when someone looked at him and called him by that name. It usually didn’t end up well, since no one believed him.

When he was nine, he was adopted, and he begged his new parents to change his name to Patroclus. They were kind but didn't understand what was wrong with his name, and why he chose such an old name as Patroclus, of all names. He couldn’t explain why, not to them, not even to himself, but only that for as long as he remembered, his name was Patroclus in his head. It wasn’t until he was old enough to understand that he realised that everyone called him something else.

At the end, they didn’t agree, telling him that he was going into a new school and having such a weird name might make the other kids mock him. For the first time then, he felt raw anger. But no amount of screaming and pleading helped, they only said that he was just a child and wouldn’t get it.

That night, he swore to himself before he slept that he would change his name as soon as he could.

The next day, as a way of consoling him, they told him to consider Patrick as a nickname and went as far as calling him Patroclus at home. But at his new school, and at everywhere else, he was Patrick.

 


 

Patroclus sat under a tree in the town's park, enjoying the shade from the hot summer air. A light breeze rustled the leaves, making them fall. The sunlight alighted softly on the grass around him.

He was about to start reading the book he brought with him when someone came and stood beside him. “Hey.”

He looked up and saw a young boy. He looked the same age as he was, maybe a little older. A stray lock of golden hair fell half into the boy’s eyes; he blew it away.

“Hello,” Patroclus said.

The boy went on his knees and offered his hand. His skin was tanned, the beams of sunlight glowing on his skin. His green eyes were alive and bright. “I’m Achilles. I’m new here.”

He took his hand. “Patrick.”

Achilles frowned, a hint of confusion clouding his eyes and creasing his smooth skin. “Patrick?”

Patroclus nodded slightly. Achilles looked like he was waiting for something, but Patroclus didn’t know what it was.

“I heard her call you by another name.”

His eyes landed on Helen, his best friend who was supposed to hang out with him, but as soon as her new boyfriend showed up, she ran to talk to him.

“Yeah, well,” he said as his eyes focused on Achilles once more. “It is just a nickname.” After a couple of time of people looking at him in puzzlement, or worse, in slight mockery, he stopped introducing himself as Patroclus and just said that he was Patrick. It was easier, instead of trying to explain himself every time.

“Do you mind if I call you Patroclus?”

“Not at all.” He liked how his name sounded on Achilles’ lips. It sounded smooth on his tongue, with a certain accent that made it sound better than it was. Patroclus wondered where he was from.

Achilles smiled. “Mind if I sit?”

 


 

 It was a couple of  weeks after they had known each other when Achilles invited him to his house.

The light streamed through the bay windows, lighting the large living room. The place looked clean, almost like no one had sat in the room before. Patroclus scanned for a personal touch, but there is nothing.

“Do you live alone?” Patroclus asked as he looked around.

“My mother is…busy, but she visits everyone now and then.”

Patroclus saw the look in Achilles’ eyes and decided that it wasn’t the best time to ask any questions.

They sat on the dark leather sofa. His eyes landed on a violin case on the table across from him. “Can you play?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Achilles opened the case and handed the instrument to him.  “Do you?”

“A little,” Patroclus held it in his hand, enjoying the smooth feeling beneath his fingertips. The instrument was new, heavier than the one he played on before.

“What made you stop?”

Patroclus shrugged. “I moved. I had to leave it behind.”

Achilles opened his mouth, probably to ask more questions, but then he looked at him and stopped.

“I am going to go and change,” he said. “Please, make yourself at home.”

Patroclus nodded and watched as Achilles disappeared in one of the rooms. Then his eyes roamed the place around him. He itched to explore it.

One of the rooms’ door was opened. He went there, like a butterfly attracted to a flame. It was like it was in his veins; no matter where he was, whenever he saw a bookcase, he needed to check it out.

The whole room was filled with books, written in English, Greek, and languages he couldn’t recognise. He wandered around, looking at the spines. His hand hovered over many of them but didn’t dare to open them.

After some time, he heard someone clear his throat. When he turned around, he found Achilles standing in the doorway, leaning on the wall with a smile on his face. “I was looking for you.”

“Sorry,” he smiled sheepishly. “I got distracted.”

“It is okay. I was going to give you a tour anyway,” he said as he took a couple of steps towards him. “So you like reading?”

He nodded. He was fascinated with stories, especially historical ones, telling stories of a different time. He tried to imagine himself in each era he read about and wondered how he would be like. Probably just as awkward as he was right now, but sometimes in the privacy of his own mind, he liked to imagine himself as someone whose deeds people talked about.

“Me too,” Achilles said, his fingers touching the spine of the old book in front of him lightly. He looked at Patroclus. “A friend of mine loved reading. He made me pick up the habit.”

Patroclus smiled. “He must be a great friend then.”

“Oh, he was,” he smiled. It was that smile again as if he knew something that Patroclus didn’t. “Still is.”

Patroclus picked one of the books and opened it to a random page. The leather was smooth in his hands, the pages were yellow and worn. A faint scented musty smell touched his nostrils.

“This is quite old,” he noted, as he flipped the pages slowly, careful not to tear them.

“The books, along with the house, has been passed on for generations,” Achilles said.

“It is a beautiful place,” he said. Especially this room. He wanted to stay holed up inside the room for a while until he had read all of the books.

Achilles shrugged and looked away. “I don’t know. It feels too big for me. Too empty. Doesn’t feel like home.”

“Well, I will make sure to come and annoy you every once in awhile,” he said, in his lame attempt to cheer up his friend. “And maybe you could play for me. This place is too quiet.”

Achilles’ eyes sparkled. “I would love to play for you.”

 


 

Achilles was on his knees, holding a body Patroclus couldn’t see. The sound of his screams echoed around the place, sending a pointed arrow towards his chest. Patroclus needed to help him, but he couldn’t even move. All he could do was stand there and watch as Achilles murmured something over and over again, a prayer that was too low for him and the Gods to hear.

A different sound echoed in his ear and Patroclus sat up suddenly, blinking at the darkness around him. Cold beads of sweat ran down his face.

His eyes landed on his nightstand and found his phone vibrating. He ran a shaky hand through his hair and picked it up.

“Hello?”

“What’s wrong?” Achilles asked, not missing a beat.

“Nothing.”

“It doesn’t sound like nothing.”

“I just woke up, Achilles,” Patroclus put his hand on the mobile and took a shaky breath. Honestly, why did a dream affect him like this? “It is just a weird dream. I am fine.”

“What was it about?”

Patroclus shrugged before remembering that Achilles couldn’t see him. “I don’t remember. It is already fuzzy in my head,” he said. “Why were you calling?”

Achilles paused for a moment before answering, “I can’t sleep.”

Patroclus lay on the bed again. “My parents aren’t at home. Do you want to come so we can share tales of insomnia and nightmares?”

Achilles chuckled. “Yeah, I would like that,” he murmured. “I will be there soon.”

True to his word, a few minutes later, Patroclus heard the sound of the doorbell.

That night, Achilles slept beside him. His lips were parted slightly, an arm thrown carelessly above his head. Patroclus watched him for a moment. He could almost swear he had seen him before.

When he fell asleep, he dreamt of him again, but he wasn’t crying. Achilles was standing in front of thousands of people who cheered and chanted his name. He waved to the excited crowd, his other hand holding Patroclus'. It was the first pleasant dream he had in a while.

 


 

 When school started, Achilles signed up for the football team, as Patroclus expected. The school team won a championship that year for the first time in what seemed like forever. Achilles’ spirit seemed to run through members, giving them firing passion and renewed energy.

Patroclus watched him in the games, moving with a grace that he had never seen before, except that he couldn’t shake the lingering sense of familiarity. The crowd stood when it was declared that they had won, and Patroclus smiled, feeling something like pride swelling deep within his chest.

Something like love.

 


 

 The sound of his locker being shut made Patroclus jump. He turned around, a word or two on the tip of his tongue when he saw Achilles standing behind him.

“Happy birthday,” Achilles said, and handed him a box before he could say anything.

Patroclus blinked in surprise and looked at the rectangular case in his hand.

“But I didn’t tell you when was my birthday,” he said. “And it is still tomorrow.”

“Yes, you did. You just don’t remember,” Achilles replied. “And I couldn’t wait to give it to you.”

Patroclus tried to remember if he ever did, but came up empty. Still, it was his birthday soon, and he was burning with curiosity about what was in the box.

“Shouldn’t you be training for the game tomorrow?” He asked.

Achilles shrugged. “I’ve trained enough. Now open it,” he urged. His voice was a little strained.

He opened it slowly, careful not to ruin the wrapping. He could feel the Achilles’ eyes watching him. He made an impatient sound but didn’t stop him.

Inside, the case was red, matching the colour of the violin inside of it.

“This is for me?”

Achilles nodded, grinning.

“I…” He paused, running his hands on the smooth wood beneath his fingertips. He shook his head. “I can’t accept this, Achilles.”

“Take it. I won’t take no for an answer,” Achilles stated.

“It looks too expensive.”

“Nonsense. What is the use of money if I can’t spend it on someone I care about?”

Patroclus’ cheeks burned at that, and he looked at the ground, hoping that Achilles didn’t notice. Achilles raised his face with his fingertips, a smile playing on his lips.

“You don’t know how much I missed that,” he murmured.

Patroclus wondered what he meant, but right then he was too embarrassed to say anything. It was his mind’s fault to react to something that probably didn’t mean what he thought it meant.

Distinctly, he could feel eyes of the passing students watching them. Achilles didn’t let go of him, and Patroclus didn’t want him to.

 


 

 He had spent the whole day with Achilles, who wanted them to celebrate privately. He ordered pizza and more foods and sweets than they could ever eat, and now they were sitting quietly next to each other.

Patroclus was sitting on Achilles’ bed cross-legged. Achilles lay on the bed beside him, his eyes closed as he hummed an unrecognisable tune to himself. The sun was setting, shading the room with a fading orange colour. Patroclus watched the colours shift and nudged Achilles to do the same.

Achilles merely shifted so that his head lay on Patroclus’ hip instead. Patroclus ran his hand through Achilles' golden hair, enjoying the feeling of it against his fingertips. Achilles’ eyes were closed, a small smile playing on his lips.

“Do you believe in fate, Patroclus?” Achilles asked.

An image flickered through his head, but it evaporated before he could capture it. He blinked, frowning in frustration for a moment. This wasn’t the first time that this happened, and for some reason, he felt like he was missing something important.

In the barest form of his consciousness, sometimes when he was just rising from his dreams, he saw things that weren’t there. Things that looked familiar. Sometimes words he didn’t understand.

“I don’t know,” he said at last. “Do you?”

Achilles nodded without opening his eyes. “Fate is cruel, but sometimes miracles happen.”

Patroclus had no idea what he meant so he stayed silent, stroking his hair.

“You haven’t tried the violin yet,” Achilles said as he stretched and sat across him. His blond hair was changing colours as the sunlight slowly shifted and faded.

“It has been a long time. I can’t even remember how to play it,” he said.

“Then the only way to remember how is to play it again,” he said, giving him the instrument.

“I won’t be as good as you,” he argued. “I heard you play in school.”

“I’m sure you will be good,” Achilles said, taking Patroclus’ hand within his. Patroclus felt something tugging at him, something familiar.

A small smile lifted the left corner of Achilles’ mouth. “You are…” he stopped, playing with Patroclus’ hand ideally as he seemed to think of something. Patroclus watched their hands, half afraid that if he said something, Achilles would come to his senses and stop. “I know you are talented.”

“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Patroclus murmured, grateful that the light had faded, hiding his face. “But you have never heard me play.”

“Come on, Patroclus,” Achilles said. “I want to hear you play it.”

The room swam in darkness. He could barely see Achilles’ features, but he could imagine the stubborn and determined look on his face. Patroclus shook his head, smiling helplessly.

Achilles went to turn on the light and get the violin from its case.  Patroclus rubbed rosin on the bow and then worked on tuning the strings, careful that they didn't snap.

Gradually, the feeling of the instrument in his hands became familiar once more. They spent hours taking turns playing the violin, teaching each other their tricks and pure music rose around them.

“I used to play in the orphanage,” Patroclus murmured. They were laying on their backs, just about to sleep after Achilles insisting that he stayed over. The dim moonlight was the only source of the room. “But I stopped when I was adopted. They didn’t know that I could play, but I could tell that they couldn’t afford it. I didn’t care. I was happy. I had a family.”

Achilles mumbled something too low for Patroclus to hear and leaned on his arm, looking at him.

“Happy birthday, Patroclus,” he murmured. His voice struck something deep inside his mind, but it was gone before he could grasp it as Achilles leaned in and touched his lips with his own.

Patroclus froze for a moment before closing his eyes and kissing him back. His lips were soft and full and smooth against his own. Achilles sneaked a hand in Patroclus’ hair, tilting his head and drawing him closer, drinking him in. He tasted chocolate in his mouth. Patroclus’ pulse was pounding, his blood thundering in his ears.

The kiss was messy and sweet and desperate, making his head spin. The sound Achilles made in the back of his throat when he licked his bottom lip shot straight through him, piercing his heart and lungs and stomach and twisting so that there was nothing in the universe.

“I wanted to do this from the moment I saw you,” Achilles murmured as he kissed him over and over again, his hands wrapping around Patroclus tightly, crushing their bodies together.

“What stopped you?” Patroclus said as he wrapped his hands around Achilles’ neck. Something inside of him screamed and called Achilles’ name like it had been waiting for him for a long time.

Achilles made an incomprehensible sound, sliding to lie on top of him. Patroclus gasped for air as Achilles’ lips travelled around his body, sucking on his neck as his hands sneaked beneath his shirt.

Patroclus’ back arched he moaned, the voice echoing in the otherwise silent room.

After a while, they reluctantly separated, out of breath. In the moonlight, Patroclus could just make out his face. His lips were bruised from kissing and the sparkles in his eyes danced. He was the most beautiful person he had ever seen.

Achilles grinned. “I feel like I could eat the world raw.”

 


 

 The next day, Patroclus would wake up to the insistent ringing of his cell phone, and would apologise repeatedly to his parents for never telling them that he was going to spend the night with Achilles.

That night, his parents would throw him a birthday party, and everyone would be there. Helen would show off Paris, whose eyes were entirely focused on his new girlfriend.

And through the crowd and the chatter and the bubbling laughter, Patroclus would link his fingers into Achilles’ and his boyfriend would smile and kiss the back of his hand.

 


 

 Achilles had given him a key to his apartment a couple of months ago, so Patroclus loved to sneak in every now and then. Achilles seemed to enjoy being surprised.

But when he opened the door, this time, he found the place quiet and empty. Achilles didn’t work and he didn’t mention any plans for that day.

“Achilles?” he called, not too loudly. Silence was his only answer.

He went towards Achilles’ bedroom, where they spent with him most of their time and found him lying on the bed. Achilles turned to look him, his face hidden in the darkness.

“Hey, lazyass. It is too early to sleep,” Patroclus teased as he turned on the light of the room. Achilles flinched, and squeezed his eyes shut. A mostly-empty bottle of wine was thrown carelessly next to the bed. Some of the liquid left had fallen, darkening the floor.

Patroclus picked it up. “Did you drink all that?”

Achilles opened his eyes and squinted against the light. “I was hoping that you would come.”

Patroclus put the bottle on the nightstand next to the bed and sat across from Achilles.

“Did you drink a lot?” He asked. He had never seen Achilles drink, not even in a party. He said that he always liked to stay alert in case of anything. Patroclus didn’t know what did he mean but shrugged and didn’t ask.

Achilles shook his head.

“Have you been here all day?” He said as he ruffled Achilles’ hair a little.

“Didn’t sleep well,” he muttered, leaning into the touch and closing his eyes for a moment.

“You could have called. We could have gone somewhere.”

Achilles opened his eyes and swallowed. There was sadness in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

Achilles suddenly leaned in and kissed him deeply. Patroclus kissed him back as he let his fingers wander and play in Achilles’ curls.

When they let go, Achilles didn’t lean away.

“I dreamt of you,” Achilles breathed, cupping Patroclus’ chin between his fingers. “Before we met.”

“Really?”

Achilles nodded, watching him. He seemed to be waiting.

Patroclus looked at his boyfriend’s eyes, trying to understand what he wanted.

Finally, Achilles sighed and closed his eyes, laying his head on Patroclus’ shoulder.

“Achilles, are you okay?" He asked. "You are making me worried."

Achilles didn’t answer, just clung to him desperately. Patroclus wrapped his arms around him, trying to comfort him even though he didn’t know what was wrong.

“Do you want me to do something? Should I call your mother?” he asked, desperate to come up with any help.

Achilles let out a bitter laugh. “I don’t think she would care,” he murmured, his words muffled against his chest. “I have stopped being her pride and joy a long time ago.”

 


 

 That night, Patroclus dreamt.

Flashes of images and familiar sounds assaulted his senses. Then, a woman appeared. She stood in front of him, watching. Her arms were crossed over her chest.

“I don’t understand,” she said at last. He remembered that voice. “After all this time, why wouldn’t he give up?”

Patroclus didn’t know how to answer, then realised that he couldn’t even move.

The woman took a few step closer, staring right into his eyes. Finally, she sighed and snapped her fingers.

 


 

 Patroclus jolted awake, breathing heavily, his mind swimming. Something shifted and clicked into place.

“Patroclus?” A hand caressed his face. “Are you okay?”

“Achilles,” he breathed. “I remember.”

Achilles grinned and kissed him till they were out of breath.

 


 

 “Why didn’t you tell me?” Patroclus asked later.

“I couldn’t,” Achilles said as he ran his fingers ideally on Patroclus’ arm. “It was part of the deal with her. Every time I had to wait for you, till you remembered on your own. I suppose that that was my punishment.”

Achilles regarded him for a moment. "But I can wait," he said. "As long as I have you in the end."