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We Men Are Wretched Things

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Patroclus. Pa-tro-clus. The name echoed in his mind. The sound of soft syllables, letters surrounded by the sound of amiable silence, reverberated in his ears. It was a sound of comfort, of home. They were young gods at the dawn of time, at the dawn of themselves, and in this moment the silence was deafening. There was the sound of Achilles' heart, then, pumping adrenaline-filled ichor through his body, drowning out everything else. It was a heart that had beat to a funeral march long before the demigod ever had the privilege of hearing one. After all, he was a tragedy if the world had ever seen one— his bruised knuckles and loud laughter determined his fate long before he had the chance to determine it himself.

 

The kiss tasted of figs, of longing and sadness and a bittersweet tragedy that all but its participants knew the ending to. There had been prophecies, of course; warnings of a time when one day the son of Peleus would sully the ground with crimson blood in violent mourning. But that was the future, not the present. In this moment, there was only a sharp tang of iron. A hint of blood and rage and fear and bravery, of bright futures and murmured confessions in the hours before dawn.

 

"Pa-tro-clus," Achilles murmured a moment later as if testing out the syllables for the first time in his life; lips a rosy pink and eyes light in merriment. The syllables fell from the blonde's mouth like water through a stream, like a pebble across the sea; gently, softly, a tongue like silk reciting the sounds he'd long since committed to memory. A soft sigh followed soon after their lips parted from yet another kiss; as if Patroclus was gasping for air, drowning in the deep colors of the eyes he saw before him. Strong hands found their way around the dark-skinned male's waist, pulling him closer, closer, ever closer until Achilles could feel Patroclus' heartbeat against his own. His, too, beat to a funeral march, and the kiss that followed tasted of bittersweet tragedy, of blinding sunlight and unrivaled friendship.

 

Achilles was drawn to danger like a moth to a flame. The red-hot blood rushing through his veins fueled his actions more than reasoning did. But, something new was emerging now, a sort of soft calm; a serenity, a spark of understanding slowly unfurling itself in cerulean eyes. Before he knew it, the sun had sunk below the horizon, and the two were immersed in the quiet stillness of a warm summer's night.

 

"How long has it been since you slept? You need to rest," the comment was idle, fleeting; it became clear that Achilles was unaware of why Patroclus hadn't drifted off to sleep. He was unaware of why dark circles had begun to form under his friend's eyes; unaware of what was plaguing the poor boy. A small smile rose to his lips a few moments later, a quiet reassurance, his eyes crinkling at the edges as the subject of his attention quickly shifted to become the figure next to him. Achilles couldn't help but wonder if it was nightmares that plagued his dreams as the last golden rays of sunlight peeked their ways over the landscape; couldn't help but wonder what had brought about thoughts that deprived his Patroclus of sleep, to begin with. For now, he was content to pretend that everything would be alright, that he wasn't part of a game much bigger than himself. So Achilles remained silent, letting quietude fill the air like a thick fog.

 

Maybe it was for the better. Maybe, it was a good thing that Achilles spoke no longer; a good thing that he didn't spoil the sweet silence with promises even he knew might never be true. Reassuring words about peace and prosperity, of health and happiness, those wouldn't help either of them now. Those wouldn't prevent the battlefields from being covered in crimson liquid that had once kept men alive. Those wouldn't prevent the same type of liquid to pump its way in and out of a Greek tragedy's broken heart— wouldn't prevent a part of Achilles to become cut off from the world and never shown again. If Patroclus wouldn't rest— couldn't rest— Achilles resolved to stay awake with him, to watch the sun rise over the horizon once more and wait for sleep to take the pair.

 

"Do you remember the story of Icarus?" The inquiry cut through any other thoughts Achilles could've been having— cut through the silence of the cool summer night and seemed to suddenly get Achilles' attention. Dark hands moved idly as Patroclus spoke, memorizing the feeling of smooth skin beneath his hands, counting the pulse that thudded just beyond the warrior's right arm.

 

It was easy to forget about everything for a few moments, for a few hours, until the sun rose again. It was much too easy to let himself get lost in Patroclus' eyes and just hope everything would be alright, hope for peace, for happiness— hope that one day his own hands wouldn't grow stained by the blood of kings and gods alike. With a breathy laugh, Achilles simply shakes his head at the male's reply, amusement obvious in his eyes, cheeks tinted a light pink. One day, his heart would become a vicious warrior, one day his hands would shine the color of the setting sun with the same thing he could now feel pumping through his best friend's veins. He would seek solace in despair if he couldn't have love, and make sure those who caused such despair would pay as dearly as he had. The augury was already there, written everywhere, in the way Patroclus acted as if this could be the last time they ever touched; in the way the word 'Icarus' sounded much too similar to 'future'. in just a moment, his cheerful expression faltered. Of course, he had assumed the worst, but surprisingly he wasn't wrong.

 

"That isn't our future," there was an edge to Achilles' voice that hadn't been there before, hands idly tracing along familiar skin as if only to reassure himself that this was real, that Patroclus was here, that he was safe. The confusion was evident in his eyes by this point— the serene colors of the sea turning stormy despite his limited knowledge of the story. It seemed more as if he was trying to convince himself than state a fact, and either way he didn't appear to be doing very well. Fingers fumbled for a few moments in search of the healer's wrist, but seemed to calm when they reached it. Patroclus' expression softened. His smile was almost half-hearted; as if he didn't completely believe the male's words.

 

"Of course it isn't," the dark-skinned male replied softly, simply, lips turning upwards ever so slightly despite the dark topic.

 

One day, Achilles would find himself running from the ghosts within him that tear him apart at the seams— followed by the hollow sound of a pulse that had long since stopped beating and the woeful spirits of all the men who lost their lives in battle. One day an arrow would strike his heel and he would venture out into the great unknown in search of a long-lost love. That day was not today, however, and for now, the sound of that pulse only reminded him that he was home. After all, small moments of tenderness are better than none, and a few moments of peace and soft sweet nothings are better than a bed made warm only by the night's air and a mind that tends to wander from one mistake of the past to the next. He returned a smile, although it was still not as wide as it had once been. His eyes seemed nervous, fearful— of what, it didn't seem obvious. A hand left the feeling of Patroclus' pulse in exchange for the feeling of soft skin under its fingers, idly tracing from scar to scar, almost reverently.

 

They were ghosts of days long past, proof that he had done something, proof of a kind of bravery Achilles had found was much too rare in this world. He pressed a few kisses to one along Patroclus' arm— more of a distraction from the halfhearted smile on the male's lips than anything else.

 

"You're not allowed to be Icarus," the words were past his lips before he could stop them, feathering a kiss over the junction between the male's shoulder and neck, if only so that he didn't have to gaze up to see another halfhearted smile or a pair of melancholy eyes. He could feel his own words trailing off, and clears his throat as if that would be able to dislodge the lump now in it.

 

"This— this isn't like that. We're going to win, both of us. Together." The uncertainty was obvious in his voice by now, a subtle sort of hesitancy that hadn't been there a few moments before— but he pushed it away for now. There was a story about a boy with wings who fell, but Achilles was convinced that this winged boy before him— with his soft smiles and quiet courage— could only soar.

 

"Achilles..." there was a soft murmuring of protest, a whisper of cautiousness despite it all, and it was quickly silenced by a gentle kiss. "Sleep," Achilles replied simply.

 

He did.