A Tip of the Scales
The air was cloying, oppressively hot, as the prince of Troy waited in the courtyard, high on the citadel. Soon, sure enough, there were light footsteps behind him, and he turned to see his golden-haired god.
"Not with the wife?" Apollo said casually, stepping past Hector to gaze out pointlessly at the Greeks' fires on the plain. He had seen it all from much better vantage points; he was here for Hector, not for the view.
"You told me to meet you here. I came," Hector answered tersely. He loved his wife, he really did, but what she didn't know was that Apollo had got there first – in more ways than one.
"I know. You're not like your woman-chasing brother," the god said with a dry smile. "You always were the greater prince."
"Some prince." There was a bitter note in Hector's voice as he too moved to look out at the plain. "I can't even save my city."
Apollo's hand brushed his arm; the god's skin was cool and deceptively human, reassuring him. "If anyone can, you can," Apollo said softly. He wouldn't lie, but there were some things Hector didn't need to know. "The people believe in you." Without seeming to have moved, he was behind the prince, arms draped almost possessively over Hector's shoulders. "And I will protect you," he murmured in his ear. His breath, like his skin, was cool, a refreshing touch and a betrayal of his godhead at one and the same time – not for the gods the crushing summer heat, the warriors' sweat, the uncomfortable closeness to others.
Though that was not to say that Apollo never burned. Hector had himself felt his god burn many times since their first meeting, when he had been on the edge of manhood. Unlike Paris, or Deiphobus, or any of the others, he had won Apollo's greatest favour, and had enjoyed it for years now.
Now, instead of burning, Apollo offered cool and protection, just the things he needed. But the god's mind was in turmoil; he had heard his father, heard the fates. He knew what was to come. But mortals could deny it, so for once he was following their lowly example.
"I will never leave you," he whispered, holding his prince closer. "Never."
The scales rise in Zeus' hand, glinting gold, and Apollo imagines this must be how mortals feel when they say their throats are dry. He is perfectly comfortable, physically. But from here on the plain, he can see the scales as if they are being raised right before him, and the immortal god feels an awful sense of dread.
When he sees the pan begin to fall, he feels as if his heart has turned to bronze. Apollo the prophet has made a promise he cannot keep, and most of all he dreads the moment when his prince will realise he is gone. But he has no choice. He has to leave; even a god cannot save one he loves when fate is calling. So with one last glance – back instead of forward – Apollo leaves the Trojan plain.