So, I just finished rereading the Iliad yesterday, and what can I say? I wanted cuddling. So. Here is cuddling. Consider yourself warned. Also, I am completely impatient with editing, so feel free to point out anything I might have missed. Also, SLASH if you did not get that from the summary. No disclaimer; as Homer has been dead for a few THOUSAND years his stuff is definitely in the public domain. This is mine.

This, then, is the leave-taking:

There are sacrifices, in the fields and homes of all the men. Patroclus himself draws his knife across the neck of many bulls and lambs, and sends the fragrance of their burning up to the heavens. And there is feasting. The men have spent the day glutting themselves on hot, fatty mutton and the strongest of wines, and Achilles more than most.

And now he is gone, and it falls to Patroclus to find him, as it always does.

Not that Achilles makes it difficult; in fact, he is only standing in the door to his own chambers; to the chambers that Patroclus has shared with him so many of these nights, leaning against the doorframe with his massive hands clutching his hair.

Patroclus touches his shoulder; and as Achilles turns he thinks he sees his eyes glinting hot and wet, but dismisses the thought as ridiculous. Achilles' eyes have never—will never shed tears, not even before his beloved.

There is nothing to say. Tomorrow they depart for Troy, and glory; and so these halls and this land become more sacred with each passing second. Patroclus left behind his first home and his family years ago, and it surprises him how fond this house has become, the scene of so many of his earliest boyhood affections.

"Come," he says. "You're missing the feast. The men want to see their leader."

Achilles catches his hand as it passes over his shoulder. "Lie with me," he says, and Patroclus obligingly allows himself to be led to bed (he does not notice how Achilles—brave Achilles!—passes the back of his hand over his eyes as he turns).

What Achilles has in mind, it soon becomes clear, is not the wild passion of Eros; but something quieter and more foreign. The two men (barely just stopped being boys) lie beside each other, and Achilles drapes an arm around Patroclus' shoulder and another around his waist with the calm, assuming possession he has always had.

"Ah, my tender-hearted friend," he says. "Tomorrow we depart for war. You have never fought a war like this; you do not know what it will be like. Are you sure you are ready?"

Patroclus is too intimately acquainted with the awkward notions of his friend to take offense; he sees the deep affection that the inquiry conceals. He speaks mildly as he replies, "I have fought as often as you have; though without as much glory. I have never yet dishonored myself; yet I would if I remained behind when you and all other brave men go to fight for Greece."

A pair of hot lips at his neck, and Patroclus closes his eyes. "I shall always have to be looking after you," Achilles says dolefully, humorous affection slipping into his voice to show he is only teasing. "I hope you know. I shall be so busy keeping you away from trouble that I will never find glory of my own."

Patroclus reaches up to grasp the hand resting on his shoulder, and delivers a remonstrance of his own. "So be it," he says. "As long as you find no trouble of your own."

Achilles sighs but brings up a hand to touch Patroclus' hair. Patroclus presses his head back into Achilles' questioning palm; he guards carefully this and any other token that proves Achilles is not, as men say, a mere brute. Achilles is never soft and open with him, no, but his actions belie his careless words.

His voice, when he speaks, is steady and even; in rhythm with his hand twisting through Patroclus' hair. "Have I told you," he asks. "About the prophecy given to me by my mother? About what would happen if I sought glory in battle?"

"No," Patroclus says. In time, he will be the keeper of all of Achilles' thoughts and fears; but the time is not now, and perhaps Achilles will never know fear.

Achilles shudders behind him and buries his nose in Patroclus' shoulder. "Someday," he says. "Someday when we are long encamped on the Trojan Plain, then I will tell you. But not today."

Patroclus eases himself onto his other side to look his friend—his lover—straight in the face. Their eyes meet, and Patroclus glimpses once again those phantom tears he saw before. Achilles closes his eyes sorrowfully, and it is then that Patroclus learns that all men, even Achilles, are mortal.

"Do not think me womanish, friend," Achilles entreats. "You cannot know what ails me, and I am not so weak yet as to burden you with it. Someday—someday."

Patroclus does not need to say that he could never think Achilles weak in any way. If Achilles cries, then tears are for the brave, and if Achilles were ever to run away from battle then Patroclus would follow him all the way.

"If only this could be—just this, you and me—forever, then I would not need to seek glory," Achilles says. "I could be content to lay by your side until old age claimed me."

As beautiful is the sentiment behind the words, and however much Achilles believes them (as he always believes those things which he says in his fits of passion), Patroclus knows that they are not true. Achilles has been waiting his entire life for a war like this to come, and with it honor and perhaps death. Achilles has never needed to set his mind to war; it has been there from the time he took his first steps, needing only an outlet to set it to.

"We will still be together at Troy," Patroclus reminds him gently. "There is no need to speak as if we will be separated."

Achilles seems to take heart at this. "Yes," he says. "You will always be by my side—and I at yours."

Patroclus presses his lips to Achilles. He has no words to express his deep, nameless fear that what Achilles says will not come to pass—that Achilles' passions or his own ineptness will fail them, somehow. Only the gods can be sure of eternity and Achilles is not (quite) a god.

"Come," Achilles says. "Let us return to the feast."

The next morning they set off for Troy, with glory in their eyes and all traces of fear banished from their mind. As long as they are together, they cannot be touched.

So? Did you like? All comments, especially constructive criticism, are welcome!