For Yuletide 2011, to filia_noctis. Thanks so much to esra for looking this over and helping me with all sorts of random background/context/setting questions!
The first thing you notice about Deidamia is her resemblance to Patroklos, that same tilt to her chin, the same curve to her lips, those same golden flecks in her hair. Her body, however, is nothing like his, soft curves where you have known only hard angles. This does not dissuade you, though, because pleasure is pleasure and she is not unsightly in any way, and you like her well enough for a woman.
But when Odysseus comes and unmasks your disguise, you leave her with no qualms, even though your child is already growing inside her womb. She has no faults but one: she is not Patroklos. Even if you were not intent upon attaining glory at Ilium, that would be reason enough for you to leave.
Patroklos is the first thing you seek when you return to Phthia, and he is the thing you had most missed while in Skyros. Deidamia resembled him, somewhat, but she didn't have his apple-crisp laugh, his wine-dark eyes, his ability to take you captive with a single glance. Alone with him, you re-map the planes of his body, re-learn the different cadences of his voice, re-fit yourself to the dips and curves of his form, and it satisfies the humming in your blood, relaxes the tension in your chest, which, like an unwelcome guest you could not dismiss, had stayed for so long that you had forgotten it was ever not there, until it no longer was.
After, you watch the sunlight playing on the surfaces of his body, gold caressing gold, and you think you know. You may not yet be a man, but you are old enough to lead the fiercest warriors of all Achaea into war, old enough to father a child, and so you are surely old enough to know.
No one else will ever be good enough for you to love.
Before Patroklos left for Sparta, you asked him why. He said, "Because who doesn't want the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife?"
When you first see Helen, she is standing upon the walls of Ilium, no longer the youthful beauty your cousin wanted for himself. You have met many beautiful women, have even had many of them, and yet you can still understand why a war has been waged because of her. The twin swords of honour and beauty, equally potent and equally deadly.
However, when Briseis is taken from you, only honour drives your rage. She is very beautiful, clever as well, and you love her as much as a man can love a war prize. But she is no Helen, and even Helen does not inspire in you the all-consuming emotions that only Patroklos does.
"You are too proud," Patroklos murmurs later, when you are alone.
You pin him beneath you, kiss him, and do not say, "Because this is not my war." He is bound to this, and that would have been reason enough for you to follow him here, had you not been guaranteed immortality yourself. However, if not for his oath, you would have carried out your threat to leave. Why should you suffer this insult to your honour when they need you to conquer Ilium?
But Patroklos cannot leave, and so you will not leave. Let kings come crawling again, beseeching you to fight once more, and let them come this time with more than just the the glory promised to you by a prophecy. Agamemnon would not accept the vow of compensation three and fourfold his loss, and now you will accept nothing less.
It'll be your last gift to Patroklos, who has no kingdom of his own to which to return. You'll shower him with riches fit for a king in a final act of love, so that he may live like one even without you and your claim to Phthia.
Because though no one else may be good enough for you to love, the call of eternal glory is still stronger. The rush of battle, the satisfaction of victory, the singing in your veins when you strike down another Trojan, they have driven you these past ten years, and anticipation of them had underlain your life even before then. You were born for this, and you wanted nothing else before Patroklos.
Even now, you desire nothing beyond these two things.
Ten years later, despite the lines and scars on his body where none were before, marking the story of his time here, he is still the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. The covetous shadows playing over his lamplit form agree.
You traverse the roads of his body, inhale his breaths and swallow his desire, and sometimes, with good reason, the paths most well-worn remain the ones most worth taking. This is the song you will never tire of singing, love etched into all the words, and you press them into Patroklos's skin in the hopes that they'll permeate into his body, brand themselves into his organs and carve themselves into his bones, so that even after the price of your everlasting glory claims you, he will continue to carry the sheer force of your feeling with him wherever he goes.
And when he joins you in the Elysian Fields, you will do it again and again and again, until his shade carries the mark of your love as well, until he can never doubt that under any other circumstance, you would have chosen him.
"Because who doesn't want the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife?" Patroklos had asked in response. More than ten years later, you have an answer for him.
I don't, you think as everything shatters. This is not why you came here, seeking the only kind of immortality available to mortals. You are willing to pay for it with your life, but this is a price you had not foreseen.
This is a price you would have refused to pay, had you known.
Let Agamemnon keep Briseis. Let those petty kings squabble over the spoils of war.
You'll kill Hector, and what he would have let happen to Patroklos, you'll return to him several times over. You'll send Hector to the Underworld to herald your final act of love, and you'll give Patroklos a funeral befitting a king so that he does not forget, just as you cannot.
Because he does not outlive you, and thus cannot become proof that you had lived, you will become proof instead that he had existed, that he had been loved. Your names will be sung together even when Ilium is no more than an expanse of barren, dead earth, an empty name passed down the generations.
You did not choose him, and so you will make him immortal with you. No one else can be good enough for you to love.