The sky is dark grey, the sun sets early, and the first flakes of snow have begun to dance down from the heavens; Achilles is still hot, almost feverish, from the battle. There's the icy, clean tang of winter in his nose as he heads back towards camp; it almost clears out the tang of blood from earlier. There are some things that can never completely be eliminated.
The earth is hard beneath his feet; his steps sound like faint, echoing drums. For a long time, the warrior hears only his own breath, the rattle of his gear, the clank of greaves and shield, and is absorbed into the silence of the snowfall, the calm after the storm. These days, it's become more of a letdown than anything else; there used to be a kind of exhilaration in it, even though the heated rush of armor and bodies was over. But now, Achilles is in no hurry to return to an empty tent, to rehash the day's action to thin air.
Oh, it's not completely empty. Phoenix and Briseis are there, and he loves Phoenix and feels a kind of responsibility for Briseis. But Patroclus is gone. Not so long ago, they would come back together, bloodied and drenched in sweat, occasionally nursing wounds of their own, talking animatedly about the action – who's dead, who's wounded, who did surprisingly well, which part of the Myrmidon line needed reinforcements, who should be promoted, what a fuckwit Agamemnon is – until well into the night. It was Patroclus who talked him out of doing stupid shit, who kept him warm at night, who reminded him to go get an extra shield in case one of them needed it.
He can't even remember a time before Patroclus.
The mound is in sight now. Ordinarily, Achilles can't stand the sight of it, and heads left for his camp as quickly as he can, but today, he treads methodically right, towards the great mound. It's been a landmark since it was raised, and that wasn't so long ago – just in the summer. The snow is coming down more steadily, and there's a wind up from the north, but Achilles doesn't feel a thing; he kneels at the foot of the mound and gently scrapes away the gathering snow.
"It's gonna be a long winter without you," Achilles says, and lets his tears fall without shame.