Summary: Mother Nature arranges a premature meeting between two men who later will each seek to end the other's life. Patroclus and Hector this time, still no slash. AU Movie-verse, oneshot. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Still no ownership whatsoever on my part, and therefore no profit.
Author's Note: Basically, I just wanted to write a quick little something in which Patroclus and Hector can meet each other in a more peaceful setting before they later try to kill each other. Understandably, the song I had in my head most often while writing this was "Who'll Stop the Rain?" by CCR. Also a big thank you to Trollmela for her constant support!
Shelter from the Storm
What a joy it was to be walking on solid ground again! Patroclus did love the sea, it was true, but he had learned very quickly that there was a vast difference between a casual afternoon swim and a tiresome week-long ocean voyage. And no matter how much affection or esteem Patroclus might entertain for his cousin and his cousin's faithful followers, one week in close quarters with them would surely cause anyone to seek a few moments of much-needed solitude as soon as the opportunity arose.
And these were the reasons why this particular young Greek moved with an unapologetically firm stride away from the tumult of his countrymen as they set up camp along the Trojan beach. The whole situation was a bit too chaotic for his tastes, and would definitely take some getting used to if it were to become commonplace.
As it was, Patroclus' trek led him inland as he sought just a couple hours of peace and quiet. He had assisted the Myrmidons in their tasks until dusk settled over the ocean waters, and then finally he made his escape. It was not his intent to be gone for long, not that it mattered much if the stars made their appearance before his return. After all, most of the soldiers were already happily saturated in their drink, and Achilles himself was too busy brooding over the loss of his pretty priestess to notice that his cousin had temporarily disappeared.
But what was more, Patroclus also needed this time of seclusion to adequately vent his frustrations without inadvertently offending someone who was in no way responsible. The youth loved Achilles, even as he loved the sea, but both could grow angry and turn against you in the blink of an eye. Perhaps he was being selfish in his desire to do battle, but it still irked him to no end how his guardian insisted on treating him like a child. Was Achilles teaching him how to fight or not? What good was all their training and sparring if he never got to a chance to actually apply any of it?
The boy was so preoccupied with his own thoughts that he did not even notice when a thick blanket of black clouds obscured the emerging starlight. The wind had picked up now as well, but he was used to that and paid little heed to the conditions. It was not until a pair of fat raindrops splashed across his cheek that Patroclus finally looked up and noted to his growing horror that a veritable storm was brewing. He also noticed for the first time that his feet had carried him quite a bit farther from the ships than any sensible man would have counted wise.
Now that the first few raindrops had fallen, the rest began following with a vengeance, driven by the wind like whips to lash and sting at Patroclus' bare skin. The youth cursed his own foolishness for having wandered so very far and for not thinking to bring a cloak, but his outburst was immediately stolen off his lips and lost in the gales. He was attempting to retrace his steps back toward the beachhead; but the winds were driving in violently off the sea, impeding his meager progress, and the rocks upon which he walked were now slick and treacherous with rainwater.
Was it suicide to continue on like this? At the very least, he was likely to catch cold if he stayed out in the elements much longer, and then he would have to endure the smothering maternal side of his cousin which always emerged when he was ill. And it didn't even bother him so much when they were home living alone together in Phthia, but surely he would never live down such treatment if the other Myrmidons should witness it.
But what other choice did he have? Already Patroclus was soaked through to the bone, shivering, and extremely tired. It had been a long day for all of them, after all. Did Zeus send this storm as a warning to the Greeks or to their Trojan adversaries? If only he could find some form of shelter…
Perhaps Athena had seen his plight and decided to show him favor in deference to her patronage of Achilles. Patroclus would never be sure; all he knew for certain was that the very next flash of lightening from the heavens illuminated a shadowy sort of mouth off to his right, and he stopped at once to look more closely. It was a cave, the opening of which appeared to be just large enough for him to fit through; he could remain there until the worst of the storm had passed.
The young Greek lifted his eyes in a brief prayer of thanks before seeking out as safe a pathway as possible to the cave's entrance. He slid inside, already aware of a sense of relief from his aching body as it was finally given a respite from the tempest. The damp cold would not be shaken so easily, though, and his teeth still chattered incessantly together.
Patroclus rubbed his hands up and down his arms in a fierce attempt to warm himself and cast his gaze about his new surroundings. As expected, the interior of the cave was pitch black, and the air was close. It could not have been a large space, barely tall enough for him to stand upright; and for the first time, Patroclus found himself hoping with a rather desperate fervor that this cave did not already serve as the den of some great predator. For the only Lion he might ever have a chance of taming was Achilles.
But surely a lion or other beast would have made known its displeasure by now at having been disturbed…so why could he not shake the feeling that he was being watched? Achilles had often spoken of a warrior's "sixth sense", but Patroclus had never experienced it himself. Until perhaps now.
"Who's there?" he called impulsively into the obscure darkness. For a few heartbeats there was only silence, leading Patroclus to think that he had simply been imagining things.
But then an answer came from an unseen speaker: "No one whom you need fear."
The voice was calm, rich, and unmistakably male. Patroclus repressed a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold and forced his next words to match the other's level tone.
"Are you a Trojan?"
This time the voice replied without hesitation. "Are you a Greek?"
Though unspoken, the answer to both questions was an obvious "yes." And despite what the other Myrmidons had to say about him, Patroclus was not entirely naïve. Yes, he had already betrayed his nationality to an enemy; but he could not allow this Trojan, whoever he might be, to learn that he was in fact Achilles' cousin, lest he be taken captive and held as a hostage for ransom. He wasn't even armed, a realization that turned his stomach and brought the sour taste of bile to his mouth. He had to get out of there!
"I'll just…leave you then," he stammered and turned to leave.
Patroclus stopped at once, caught off guard by the sudden tone of command in his companion's voice.
The stranger continued, softer now, "This storm is dangerous; you should wait here until it passes."
"But that may take all night."
"Yes, it might – which is all the more reason for you to remain here where it's safe."
Patroclus hesitated, tempted but still unsure. What was this Trojan's motive? Was he afraid that his discoverer would flee back to the ships, only to return with a horde of Greek comrades to make a capture of the cave's other inhabitant? Or was he truly concerned with the well-being of a stranger? And not only of a stranger, but an enemy!
Even in the darkness, his indecision must have shown, for that persuasive voice spoke again.
"I promise I will not harm you. Come sit now, and wait this out with me. You are in no danger."
Finally convinced by another booming clap of thunder from without and by the silent protesting of his bones from within, Patroclus stepped a few feet further into the cave and sat with his back against the cold stone wall. That same damp chill seeped through his already wet shirt and bit into his skin.
"Will you be in trouble with your commander if you do not return tonight?"
Patroclus shrugged unseen. "If he notices I'm gone, he will be very concerned."
"Concerned?" came the incredulous echo. "And does he value all of his men so dearly?"
"I suppose I know him better than most," the youth admitted slowly, before adding more as a note to himself, "but still not well enough to really understand him."
"It is not uncommon that soldiers do not see eye to eye with their captains, or that even the best of captains do not see eye to eye with their kings."
There was something that sounded almost like grim humor in that statement, and Patroclus asked, "Won't anyone be missing you?"
Another pregnant pause stretched between them before he received his answer. "My wife, yes, will be worried about me. She is used to it by now, though it grieves me to say so."
Silence soon settled over the pair again as they sat, and Patroclus inwardly cursed his own inability to stop shaking against the cold. He wouldn't be surprised if the unnamed Trojan could hear his teeth chattering even amidst the noise of the storm.
"Here," the curiously empathetic voice said, "take my cloak. I made it here before the rain started in earnest."
The teenaged Greek at once opened his mouth to refuse such an offer from his enemy, but the words failed to find utterance before he detected the soft swoosh of fabric being tossed in his direction. A corner of the cloak landed across his feet, verifying what he had heard; and with the prospect of new warmth so very near, Patroclus found he simply did not have the inner strength to decline after all.
The garment was made of surprisingly fine material, heavy yet soft; and while it certainly did warm Patroclus, it also heightened his overall uneasiness regarding his companion in the dark. Obviously no poor farmer would be in possession of such a cloak – unless he had stolen it, in which case he would not be so easily inclined to share. Perhaps this man was a soldier, then? That might be a fitting explanation, considering he had virtually no fear about spending the night with a Greek.
The rain drummed on relentlessly outside the cave, and try as he might, Patroclus could not keep his eyes open now that he was moderately comfortable. His last conscious thought was a fleeting hope that Achilles would never find out about the details of this night.
It was the pleasant sound of birds chirping nearby that woke him. Patroclus blinked drowsily, blue eyes drinking in the welcome sight of sunshine. But when a dark blue cloak fell off of him as he shifted against the cave wall, it brought a tidal wave of memories crashing in on him. What of his Trojan companion? Had the man departed already and left his cloak behind?
Apparently not. Now the voice was coming directly across from him, and Patroclus looked up to finally get a good look at the speaker.
The Trojan's coloring was predictable: dark hair, brown eyes. Apart from that, however, this stranger looked nothing like Patroclus had been expecting. He was too clean and physically imposing to be a common soldier; yet what impressed Patroclus most of all was the man's air of authority and the almost regal bearing in the proud set of his shoulders. Then, of course, there was also the small matter of the sword that hung threateningly at the stranger's side.
Suddenly fearful to even move, the youth nervously worked some moisture into his dry lips. What in Zeus' name had he gotten himself into?
The Trojan stood abruptly, took a few steps closer to the young Greek, and extended his hand downward in a gesture which caught Patroclus completely by surprise. For a long moment, he simply eyed that hand warily, even as he reflexively clutched the man's cloak closer to himself. Only distantly did he discern the one small part of his brain which spoke of endless shame at cowering so.
"Did I not promise that no harm would come to you?" The words startled Patroclus, but they were spoken in a tone of almost tender patience. "You can trust me."
Strangely comforted by that assurance, the youth firmly grasped the proffered hand, feeling the calluses of swordsman there, and allowed himself to be pulled upright by the other's frighteningly strong grip. His body protested with a few sharp aches and pains at the movement, but other than that, he appeared to be in good health. They both moved outside then, pausing for a moment to bask in the sun's warm rays.
"Thank you," Patroclus said at length, partly for the assistance in standing but primarily for the cloak, which he now held out for the older man to take.
The Trojan accepted the garment back with a courteous nod of his head before stating, "You are as young as I expected you to be. I hope a boy like you isn't here in Troy to fight."
Patroclus bristled, truthfully not caring if his irritation showed. He had heard enough of this talk from his own friends and countrymen! He did not need it from his enemies now, as well.
"A chance to fight is exactly what I hope for here."
"But you still don't know if you will have that chance?"
The stranger's voice betrayed that he had already guessed far more about the situation than Patroclus was comfortable with. Yet he admitted, "For now, there is not much more I can do besides hope."
"War is an ugly thing, my young Achaean. Believe me, it would be best for you to avoid it in all forms for as long as possible. Farewell."
And with that, they parted ways. Patroclus made for the ships, all the time aware of a lingering blend of curiosity toward his anonymous companion and relief that he had escaped the man blessedly unscathed.
But one thing was undoubtedly certain: Patroclus would always remember that Trojan's face, even unto his dying day.
Prince Hector briskly made his way back to the safety of his besieged city. His father's war councils would invariably be frustrating and tiresome, largely due to the inordinate amount of influence wielded by the high priests; but the next time he needed to clear his head, Hector was determined to stay decidedly closer to the city walls. Truly, he would not be at all surprised if he encountered a search party out looking for him even before he reached his beloved Troy. Andromache would indeed be worried sick by now, but she would be just as likely to berate him for braving the tempest without need, had he opted to do so.
That old cave he had been very familiar with, having discovered it back in the early years of his adolescence. Nevertheless, the night could easily have included bloodshed, and the prince was grateful that he'd not needed to use his sword. For most assuredly he would have regretted it, once he had fully glimpsed his victim.
And since the only other plausible place for them to meet now would be on the battlefield, Hector prayed that he would never see that young, young face again.