Hard Choices

A/N: Patroclus is about eleven or twele in this scene. And learns a hard lesson about choices and honor. NO SLASH.

edited - 7/20/13 - I need to include a WARNING: This scene contains te death of a dog. If this isn't your thing - please continue to the next chapter which is a LOT lighter. I rewrote the ending because when I would think about it - I didn't like it. I write for myself so if I didn't like the way it ended...then it needed to be changed.

edited - 3/12/13; I reworked the majority of this story. I wasn't happy with how it was flowing. I changed some things around to better the content, but the concept is the same.

Disclaimer: ...I do not own...

I nervously flipped the stone around in my hand. My eyes were locked on the creature in front of me though. The dog limped forward a few steps as if trying to escape the alley, but I could tell he was trapped. Finally realizing the same, the old dog bared his teeth as if trying to convince us to move out of his way.

"Pathetic old animal." A snarl came from the dog as a rock knocked him along the side, followed by a menacing laugh.

"Aim for the head next time, Epiktetos."

"Ol' Hesiod will regret making a big deal about us busting a few of his vases, huh, Alec?" The dogs snarl quickly turned into a whimper as three more rocks made contact with his head.

"Indeed, Epiktetos." Alec agreed as another rock was thrown. The animal took a few shaky steps backwards and I realized that we now had the dog cornered. I felt a sudden wave of guilt wash over me as I looked into its glazed eyes.

"Patroclus, throw the rock." Alec's stiff voice directed and I felt my stomach churn.

"Are you afraid?" Epiktetos asked.

"I thought you said you have been training with your great cousin."

"I have." My voice came out clipped as I gripped the stone tighter. Alec always knew how to push my buttons.

"Then what's the problem? Afraid of the blood?" Blood did make me a bit queasy, but the feeling in my chest was keeping me from throwing the stone.

"It's simple just aim and-" A soft howl escaped the old dog as it hit the ground panting. Epiktetos was the biggest eleven year old I had seen, and his laugh matched echoing off the alley walls. I shift nervously, we should not be picking on this animal. "Maybe that's enough." I heard myself mumble lowly.

"Come on, Patroclus. You agreed that we should pay Hesiod back for getting us into trouble. Wasn't your cousin mad when he had to pay for those vases that we broke?"

"Yes, but-"

"You're afraid!" Epiktetos accused, jumping up and down a littLink like he had discovered some great secret.

"So it seems," Alec smirked. "The great warrior Achilles can kill men, but his little baby cousin," Alec's voice went up an octave as hit the word baby, "can't even face one dog." I felt my cheeks turning red with anger and embarrassment.

"Baby cousin!" Epiktetos echoed as he snatched the rock from my hand and dealt another blow to the dog.

Alec's laugh was shrill and for thirteen he was the shortest amongst us. I hated the way his words baited me. He was the one who talked me into shooting rocks at Hesiod's vases in the first place. I always had something to prove when he was around.

"Epiktetos would make for a better warrior in training than you," he nodded to our friend. "And his only eleven," he smirked again, adding the finally jab.

Those words cut my pride and I felt my anger build as I glared at Alec. He knew I had my doubts about living up to any family name that Achilles had set.

He outright laughed now, knowing he had touched a chord. He reached down for another stone, but I jerked it from his hand and turned back towards the dog.

Now on the ground the dog let out a low whimper. Epiktetos had kicked it a couple of times.

I pulled my arm back to throw the stone when I heard his voice.

"What's going on here, boys?" I licked my lips as I slowly turned to face him, arm still in the air.

My cousin. Achilles, the great warrior. Leader of the fierce Myrmidons. He looked as heroic as ever in that moment even without his armor. My cheeks burned with emotions realizing how pathetic this must look to him. He surveyed the setting with a quickness that often helps him in battle, before his eyes landed on me and my raised hand still clutching the rock.

His eyes darkened and I felt like someone had hit me with a stone.

I instantly dropped my head along with the stone to the ground.

"Do you enjoy picking on something that cannot defend itself?" His voice was deathly low and I winced.

Nobody dared answered. I could feel his eyes burning into my head, but I couldn't meet his gaze again. I knew it still held that anger and disappointment from moments before.

I heard the sound of Achilles' sword being removed from his belt. I briefly panicked thinking that he was about to cut us all to shreds right there and irrationally wondered how Achilles would explain this to Alec's and Epiktetos's fathers.

"Leave." I could almost hear the sigh of relief as Alec and Epiktetos went running towards the street.

I knew better to move, I had lived with my cousin long enough to know he wasn't referring to me. "Patrolcus," his voice was stern. I saw his feet come into my vision As he stepped in front of me. Achilles shoved the hilt of his sword into my hand, and it startled me so much that I nearly dropped it.

"Finish him."

I blanched and finally looked up. The dog whimpered in the background as if he knew what Achilles had commanded. This had a to be a joke.

It was just a few week ago that he had seen me turn pale when he shot that deer. And then again, when my stomach turned as he started preparing it for dinner.

"I...I..can't...," I heard myself mumbled.

Achilles firm hand landed on my shoulder turning me to face the dog. "You must," he said squeezing, "he is in pain, Patrolcus."

I starred at the dog lying on the ground withering in pain. I felt the shame creep up my neck as I realized the seriousness of the dog's condition. My mouth went dry and my stomach twisted into a knot. "He's going to die." I breathed out so lowly that I wasn't even sure that Achilles heard me.

"Yes," he said bluntly, "but you can make it easier."

I blinked at his answer. I had caused this pain. Now, Achilles wanted me to take it away.

"I don't think..."I mumbled lowly, squeezing my eyes shut not wanting to face my actions.

"You started this, son," His words slapped me just as hard as a punch. He rarely called me son. We both knew that our roles were technically that of father and son, but this was him firmly taking that authoritative position. "Now be a man and finish it."

I felt numb taking a step towards the dog. Achilles's sword was heavy in my sweaty hands. It was already much heavier than the practice one I usually swung when sparing with him, but with the forthcoming action it felt like it weighted tons.

"Aim for the neck. That sword is sharp enough to slice it in one swing. Fast and quick will cause the least amount of pain." I nodded staring at the dog as I raised the sword. His eyes were a mixture of fear and pain, and it was almost as if he knew I held the ability to stop it all.

I wanted to close my eyes again, but knew that I couldn't get an accurate swing that way. And I didn't want to cause the dog anymore pain. So I did what Achilles had said and swung for the neck with my eyes open.

The sword pierced the flesh as the dog let out a low howl. The dog eyes were still open, but the held no more pain. It was over - with one swing I had taken a life.

I barely had time to drop the sword and turn away before I was sick. Dust rushed up to meet my nose as my stomach turned violently. I was now on my knees and the contents of my lunch were on the ground.

I wiped my mouth with my sleeve as I stood keeping my back to the dog. I still felt woozy when I lifted my eyes to Achilles. Slight sympathy was laced across his features, but he didn't offer yay comfort. It was for the best because once I saw his sword stained with blood, I was bent over again.

This time when I stood up his back was to me, and he was walking towards the open street. "Let's go," he called over his shoulder, and I obediently followed him out of the alley. He stopped briefly to clean the sword in the grass before putting it back in his belt.

Then we walked in silence. My head was spinning and my stomach still felt jumpy, but I somehow managed to keep up with Achilles's long stride.

We past a street cleaner and Achilles offered him some extra money to take care of the dog's body. The old man's eyes lit and I just imagined him cooking the dog over an open fire for dinner.

I heaved into grass this time.

I couldn't help but remember Achilles laughing at my discomfort a few weeks ago, when I saw him gutting a dear. I was revolted by the deer's carcass and had to turn away before I became sick.

"Eat." He had commanded once the meat was cooked.

I shook my head in disgust. "I can't."

I had deer meat before. In fact, I enjoyed it on the rare occasion that it was available. This time was different because I had seen the full process of hunting, cleaning, and preparing the deer. The thought of eating something that had been alive and looking at me hours before turned my stomach.

He laughed knowing the reason behind my answer, "Okay, tenderfoot, your choice."

I kicked dirt at my cousin as a "punishment" for using my hated nickname. Achilles had took to calling me that when I was little, and it often reappeared now especially when he was teasing me. "Don't make me get up from here, Little Cousin," he teased as he took another bite of meat.

"You couldn't catch me," I taunted back kicking some more dirt his way. "Your big head would slow you down."

"Wanna bet?" he asked as he lunged toward me. I squeaked and jumped backwards. Achilles quickly sprang to his feet with grace only true fighters own. "And when I catch you, Tenderfoot, I am going to roll this deer meat in dirt and stuff it down your throat."

I couldn't help but laugh as I spun on my hills and ran.

I finally tuned back around to Achilles wishing that this was all some sorta game.

But it wasn't.

I was disgusted with myself. And mad at my friends.

He took a step towards me and I involuntary flinched. "Here," he grunted lowly handing me a small bottle of liquid. "This will help your stomach." I took a sip and grimaced as it burned. My head swirled a little and I had to blink a couple of times to focus.

I turned it up to take another sip when Achilles reached for it. "One is enough."

"Oh," I said blankly watching him drop it back into his pocket. I always imagined my first taste of alcohol as a joyous event: a birthday or celebrating the day I was old enough to join the Myrmidons. Not like this.


I was happy to finally reach home. My stomach had settled making the walk more bearable in that aspect. Achilles had not said another word to me since he had handed me the alcohol however, which had made the walk long.

I wasn't sure how long this silent treatment was going to last, but I couldn't take it much longer. Surprisingly, it was broken a moment later when I bumped into him outside our home. He had abruptly stopped in the entrance and I was so deep in my own thoughts that I ran right into him.

"Sorry," I managed to mumble, dropping my eyes as he turned around.

"Have I taught you nothing?" he fumed, ignoring my question.

I suddenly wished for the silent Achilles. His voice was cold and he stalked back and forth in our yard. It made me nervous, like I was watching a cage cat that was fixing to strike.

"Patroclus." He was standing in front of me now. "Speak, Cousin."

"You've taught me -,"

"Not enough," his words growled from deep in his throat, cutting me off.

"Not enough , if you think it is okay to hurt something innocent."

My eyes blurred at his words, but he held a hand out. "No, you don't get to cry."

I bit my lip so I could focus on the pain instead of the tears. He was right.

I was responsible for this. My face colored with embarrassment.

"I taught you to use your strength, so you would never feel like you had to listen to nobody else."

I managed to nod.

"So you...," he paused pointing his finger at my chest, "could stand up to anyone that was trying to hurt you."

His anger seethed from him. "Maybe I should take you to the camp and match you against one of my warriors." I wouldn't stand a chance - not yet - not with my strength and level.

I paled slightly as he grabbed my arm and started pulling me in that direction. My heart was beating so loudly that I almost screamed, when he whirled around back in my face. "Wouldn't that be fair?"

"I'm sorry!" I blurt out as I pull my feet in the ground trying to get out of his grip.

"What?" He asked gancing down at my arm in his grip, quickly realsing it.

I stumbled backwards with shock and a little surprised that he had let me out of his hold.

"Sorry." I mumbled rubbing my arm, but keeping my gaze firmly on the ground.

"Are you?" he asked, and chill swept up my spine.

"For everything." I clarified.

"Sorry, I couldn't hear you cousin." His voice was still cool, but wasn't as fierce.

"I am truly sorry, Achilles." I answered meaning every word. I managed to meet his eyes for a brief moment.

"Do you care to explain yourself?" It was almost unnerving how much he had calmed down.

My ears colored. "Well Alec and Epiktetos wanted to get back at Hesiod."

I shifted my weight back and forth from one foot to another feeling nervous under his watch.

"I didn't realize how bad it had gotten till you made me...," I trailed off not wanting to remember my first kill.

His face was still red and I thought he was about to yell at me, but insted he sighed. "I know, Patroclus."

That seemed to have broke me and I quicklly rushed out the rest of the story. "I wasn't even going to do it, but then Alec was calling me coward and a baby. And then you came before I even threw one stone."

His eyes clouded and he rubbed the back of his neck with one arm. "So this," he paused, breathing deepily, "wasn't even your idea?"

Misserably my head confirmed his question. "So Alec and Epiktetos talked you into killing an innocent animal out of spite," deep breath again, "and bravado?"

"Did you even care that the dog had never bit anyone? Or that Hesiod would lose one of his only friends? Or did you just care what your friends thought?" His voice raised but his eyes weren't as angry as earlier.

My head dropped to my chest in defeat. "I just wanted to prove...I just didn't think..I always have to prove...," I couldn't find the rights words to express everything that had happeed. "I am so sorry," I repeated.

"I know, Patroclus, but that doesn't make what I have to do any easier."

I paled and felt my stomach twist again. What did he mean? I didn't have much time to think about the possibilties though. Achilles grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me towards the corner of the house.

Instinctively I drug my feet into the ground, causing him to tighten his grip on my shoulder. "Don't fight me," his voice was close to my ear and I fliched, but stopped fighting. I deserved whatever he had decided was a fit punishment.

I was confused when he stopped in front of the barrel that stores our extra water supply. It was full of water from the nearby river and the recent rain. It stood as tall as my chest and I could see my watery reflection peering fearfully back at me.

Achilles had let go of my shoulder and now had snaked an arm around my neck. My eyes widened in the reflections and my body lunged forward over the water, till my nose was just barely touching the top of the water.

Thoughts became jumbled, and my arms flailed outward trying to resist the water. Achilles was quick though, his free hand caught mine and pinned them to my back. "I told you," his voice was controlled, "don't fight me."

Afraid that movement would cause my head to dunk under water, I grunted my complaince and stilled my movement.

I felt helpless to Achilles whims. I moved my arms trying to loosen them from his grasp, but he tigthened his hold.

"I should throw your head under this water," his voice was distant and I recognized it as his general voice. The voice that strikes fear into his warriors's hearts.

"Please," I whispered, as I thought of the last person to double cross Achilles. They didn't end up so well.

Swallowing my pride, I begged for his mercy. "Please Cousin. This isn't fair. I cannot fight back."

"Fair?" He questioned.

Tears spring to my eyes as I made the correlation. It wasn't fair what we had done to the dog. Is this how it felt to be cornered at the hands of someone else. Vulnerable and helpless.

"Patroclus, you are your own man and make your own decesions."

"Do it." I breathed feeling the total guilt from today in his words. "What I did was dishonorable." I derserved this.

Achilles pulled me back and released me. I turned towards him wiping frantically at the tears that were starting to pool.

"What did you say?"

"There is no honor in what I did today," I managed.

"Why is that?" He questioned, ignoring the tears that pooled.

"That dog was innocent and couldn't fight back."

He waited.

"And, instead of helping the weak, I took advantge of my strength."

He nodded. "We fight to be remembered, Patroclus. People remember the great fights – warrior against warrior. Only a coward fights someone that cannot defend themselves."

"I understand your lesson, Cousin."

Achilles took a step towards me. "No, not the barrel." I whispered, afraid that he might actually dunk me under this time.

His face momentarily reflected pain, but he continued towards me. I closed my eyes when he grabbed my arm. "Shh, tenderfoot," he mumbled pulling me into his arms and that was all it took for me to sob loudly into his shirt.

"I'm sorry," I sobbed again.

"Shhh, Shh, I know." He wrapped his arms a little tighter around me.

"I'm so sorry...,"

" I'm not going to put you in that barrel." He mumbled gently rubbing my head with his knuckles. "Never was..."

"You had mercy...,"

He chuckled lightly, "You could say that...," his voice faded out. He pulled back to stare at me, "Some lessons have to be learned the hard way."

"I let them... that dog." I mumbled as another sob wrecked my body.

"You are your own person, cousin." He said knowingly as he peered at me still in his arms.

His eyes were no longer angry and his voice was much softer.

"You make your own decesions. Always."

Reaching up to wipe my tear eyes I stared at my cousin.

"The same blood runs through your veins as mine. We are bulit to be warriors. You either fight for honor or take advantage of the weak. But you will always be stronger and faster and fiercer."

I could only nodded as the emotion thicken my throat again. I knew Achilles lived by honor and he was trying to teach me to do the same.

"You are a leader, Patroclus. You don't have to follow."

He hugged me once more before stepping away. "It may be a hard choice, but you can make it."

And I knew he was right.

Finished.

A/N:

Patch learning abut honor. Achilles is a bit harsh in this, but I wanted him to drive home the "lessons" he was trying to teach.

Reviews (postive and negative) are always welcomed and appreciated - what did ya think?