Disclaimer: ...I don't own. NO SLASH.
A/N: This chapter is dedicated to Spiritblaze. Thanks for all your help :)
I awoke with a start from another nightmare – the second one tonight. This time, I had seen my both my parents and Achilles on a beach covered in blood, but no matter how hard I tried to reach them, I could never help them. The water would come rushing, and no matter how loud I would yell for them to swim, the ocean would sweep them away.
I laid still, blinking back tears. I had not had nightmares like these since I was young and I hated that they were back. Hated even more that Achilles was now present in them.
I finally rose feeling sick to my stomach. I stumbled tiredly towards the water basin in my room and splashed the cool water on my face, hoping to chase away my exhaustion.
Four months. It had been four whole months since the Myrmidons had set sail. Four months without sparring lessons, four months without direct orders, four months without being teased - or worse - lectured, and four months without my cousin
I worried the first two months he was gone, but that was normal. However, in the the months that followed, that the worry turned to fear, and the fear became nightmares. Nightmares that I thought I had long left behind when I was a child. Night after night of nightmares, cold sweats, fear gripping my throat, and images of my cousin dead.
And I'm there, too, of course, but never able to help. And they always ended the same way: with Achilles dead and me alone.
Again. But this time permanently.
That is the ridiculous part because when Achilles leaves, I stay with Thetis. I am always welcomed with her and she has always treated me kindly, so really, I wouldn't be alone if Achilles died, but I do not think I could stand to lose the last of my family – not after my parents. That is why Achilles and me have to stick together, at least that is what he told me before he left. Before he promised the trip would not take long. Before he didn't return after two months. Or three. Or even now he has not returned in the fourth month.
I ran a hand through my hair and pushed it out of my face. It has grown a lot over these past few months. Thetis says that Achilles and I resemble each other even more, now that my hair is long. I always shrug, but inwardly beam with pride. I grew it out for that reason.
I sighed as I realized that the light slipping through my door is a lot brighter than early morning. I knew it was late and the growl in my stomach announced that I had slept through breakfast. These dreams were really missing up my sleep schedule. Dressing quickly, I wondered why Thetis had yet to wake me. Achilles would occasionally let me sleep late, telling his mother that growing warriors needed rest. I secretly knew it was because he enjoyed sleeping late, too. But, Thetis believed in rising with the sun.
My tired eyes braced themselves for the bright sun awaiting me outside. I groaned as I pushed my body into the bright light.
"They're back." My heart jumped to my throat as my eyes blinked multiple times to confirm what I saw. My cousin's ship was beached on the shore.
The Myrmidons had finally returned.
The sick feeling that had been nagging me since I had awoke heightened, but it was now mixed with anticipation. I pushed the thoughts away and sprinted towards the beach, needing to see him.
I pulled up short once I reached the edge of the sand, surveying the surroundings. The beach was busy with all the men, some greeted their families and others unpacked from the long journey. They all were haggled and tired from the journey, but happy to be back on dry land.
One thing was missing though: Achilles, and one thing was ever present: my fears
My heart sank as I imagined my cousin dying in battle on some foreign land, never to see home again. I scrambled forward, trying to prove my dreams wrong as I searched for Achilles.
I had only made it a few feet towards the ship when a hand landed on my shoulder, making me squeak. Normally, I would have been extremely embarrassed, but I was too frantic and tired to care. I spun towards the hand, already knowing it was too heavy to be Achilles.
"Patroclus, lad!" I hardly acknowledged Eudorous's greeting as I searched the older man's face for any sign of unspeakable news.
His smile faded as he studied my face soundlessly in return before speaking. "He's okay, Patroclus," Eudorous responded to the the unasked question.
Tears instantly sprang to my eyes, which I wiped away frantically, trying to hide my true feelings. The man's face did not show judgement, though; he just squeezed my shoulder and jerked his head over towards the cliffs
Squeezing past a family and some men carrying crates, I finally made my way to the bottom of the cliffs. Relief washed over me when I finally saw him standing less than 50 yards away embracing his mother.
The King of the Myrmidons smiled and wiped the tears from Thetis's face, before hugging her once more.
And I froze. The ease in my chest felt like it was from Heaven. He was okay. He was not dead. And as much as I wanted to sprint forward and throw myself into his arms in greeting, I couldn't move.
I had been frantic when Achilles didn't return when he was suppose to, but now seeing Thetis's own fear confirmed my own worry.
A young child bumped into me without pause as he sprinted towards the beach. My eyes followed him as he sprang to his father's arms, circling the man in a hug. The ocean wind cared the laughter to my ears, and I turned away in bitterness.
All the emotions from the past few months plus these fresh ones coiled together. If he would have only returned like normal, I could have greeted hm like that young child - full of joy that he had returned. Instead my fears of loss and abandonment pounded at my tired mind.
Achilles was staring at me this time when I looked up. My heart momentarily and annoyingly betrayed the rest of my emotions, as it reminded me how much I had missed my cousin. I stared back at him blankly and willed my legs forward, but my other emotions quickly blocked me. Achilles was the cause of all my pain. He opened his arms widely and a slow smile crept up his lips. But instead of running to my cousin's arm, I turned to leave.
"Cousin?" Achilles' confused voice called out, and I stopped dead in my tracks. I had only made it a few steps. I cursed his long legs and quick pace.
"Patroclus?" Thetis echoed Achilles as she also closed the remaining distance between us.
It took all my will power to turn around and face my family. My only family, a nagging voice reminded me.
Thetis was staring at me strangely, but it was Achilles expression that pierced my heart. His eyes still held some confusion, but his smile was bright.
"I've missed you a great deal, Cousin," he whispered, as he opened his arms to pull me into what could only be a hug.
I hadn't realized that I had shoved him until he stumbled backwards a few steps and the smile faded.
"Patroclus!" Thetis gaped, shocked by my actions. I looked at my hands almost in shock before instinctively backing away from the agitated looking warrior. Had I really just hit Achilles?
"My Lord?" A passing Myrmidon questioned Achilles as he grabbed my shoulder, but Achilles held up his hand and the loyal solider instantly dropped his hold.
"Patroclus?" Achilles turned the same hand to me, but in a welcoming gesture. He raised his eyebrows, curious at my irrational actions and how I had pushed him away in rude greeting. That almost broke my resolve.
Yet, my anger and now pride stood in the way.
"You are a liar!" I bit out the first words that I have said to my cousin in four months. Four months away and I greet him so harshly.
Achilles dropped his hand and stared at me coldly. As his body tensed, I knew that he was trying to control his anger. Nobody called him a liar and got to freely walk away, at least not in Phthia. Achilles demanded respect.
I clenched my fist together mimicking my cousin's frustration as I stared him in the face.
I small smile pulled at his lips which annoyed me more than words.
"Easy, lad!" Eudorus's hand landed on my shoulder this time, restraining me from shoving Achilles again. I turned towards him, shocked that he was standing so close. I was even more shocked to realize that a small crowd had started to form and was watching this reunion.
My eyes turned back to Eudorous when he squeezed my shoulder. His face look weathered from the journey, but his eyes begged me to pick another battle. I jerked my shoulder from his grip in answer.
Thetis gasped again. "Show some respect, Patroclus!"
My ears burned slightly at her rebuke, but I didn't have long to process it because Achilles again caught my attention. He had turned his head slightly and pulled his eyebrows together, studying me as if I were a complex problem or a map he had to chart. Seeing me staring back at him, he instantly straightened and raised his eyebrows in that all too familiar, questioning way that I had seen since I was a child.
"You were suppose to be back in a month tops." I cursed myself for so easily giving into his demands and answering.
Achilles blinked in confusion. "Battles take time. Sailing takes time. You know this, Cousin."
I did know this. "You lied!" I blurted out again not wanting my argument to weaken, especially with my anger still boiling.
Soft murmurs run among the crowd as I pushed forward again. Eudurous grabs my arm to restrain me.
"Cousin, I never said-," Achilles's voice was stiff, but he didn't yell. He was not retaliating to my anger, and that only served only to fuel mine.
"Your mother was worried!" I cut him off and turned my gaze to Thetis, needing the only other person that could possibly understand to speak. "Ask her, Achilles!" Eudurous fingers dug into my arm at my lack of respect.
"You are pushing your luck, lad. We're all tired," he whispered into my ear, and I tried to jerk away again, but his grip held.
Thetis pulled her lips into a thin line, but she did not back down from my challenge – she was the mother of Achilles, after all. "Yes," she spoke slowly, her eyes never leaving me, "but, I welcome him home gladly."
Achilles momentarily froze and turned towards his mother. They addressed each other in whispered voices. My anger was momentarily replaced by nerves when Thetis nodded a couple of times and then jerked her head towards me.
I suddenly felt extremely tired as Achilles turned from his mother and took a slow step towards me. "Are you having nightmares again?" he leaned in and whispered softly so the crowd couldn't hear. I looked past him at Thetis, my betrayer. She had repaid my honesty with honesty of her own.
She raised her eyes knowingly, and I gritted my teeth before turning my gaze back to my cousin, where he waited with controlled patience. It almost shocked me to see him so close and so...alive. We should have been celebrating his return, but instead, I stood here, bitter and angry because of his absence.
"Let us give them a few moments alone," Thetis called gracefully. "Achilles will greet everyone shortly," she added, showing her authority as she turned the remaining people away.
"I'll bet Achilles beats him to a pulp," the whispers drifted to my my ears as the group dispersed.
My eyes didn't leave my cousin, though, and the secret he now knew about me was confirmed in his eyes.
My nightmares. He raised his eyebrows again. If he can lie, I can lie.
"I'm fine," I grunted out finally.
Achilles snorted disbelievingly.
I hadn't realized that Eudorus wasn't holding my arm anymore until my halfhearted swing hit Achilles in the chest. He didn't dodge the swing, only stared at me sadly as it connected.
"What's wrong with you, Patroclus?" I barely heard him ask as I threw my next punch. This one had more strength, but Achilles's intercepted it by catching my wrist.
"YOU ARE WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME!" I grunted out, frustrated as I threw a left handed punch. It connected with his chin, but I barely had time to feel accomplished. He jerked my right wrist towards him, causing my body to stumble forward.
"What do you mean?" I was so close I could see the beads of sweat that were starting to form on his head.
I tried to push him again with my free hand but he caught my left hand, too, this time. I was stuck staring up into his face. The bitter feeling still remained, the fear still twirled, the images of him dead and me alone were still there from my dream earlier, but now his own confusion and hurt were staring back at me. And my own heart nearly crushed when I saw the unshed tears in his eyes.
"I never...," he grunted, and guilt mixed in with all my other emotions as I saw his tears.
His arms let go of my wrist, but I was still frozen in shock.
The loud sob caught me by surprise as it escaped MY throat. I frantically brushed the tears away.
"Can't we just talk?" he asked me gently, as he unashamedly brushed his own tears away.
He reached for me again, and that was when I finally gave into his embrace. My own resolve was faltered and my emotions drained. "I can't..," I realized that I was fully sobbing now.
He tightened his hold as I tried push away. "I'm here, Cousin." And I finally gave up, collapsing into his arms as I buried my face into his shoulder.
The sobs wracked my body. They had been stored up for over four months and it was as if someone had uncorked them. All the fear and pain drained out of me, as did as did my doubts. "I thought you were dead," I managed to mumble into his neck.
He placed a kiss on the top of my head, before pulling back to look me in the face. "Do you doubt my skills so much, Cousin?"
"I cannot," my voice cracked, "lose you, too." He pulled me close again, and I clutched at his shirt as if he was the Achilles in my dreams, about to drift away from me forever.
His voice was in my ear when he spoke. "Patroclus, I am not going anywhere." He gently unclenched my hands from his shirt and somehow managed to lead me over to some rocks.
I nodded more bravely than I felt, as I collapsed tiredly onto the rock.
I kicked the dirt, feeling betrayed by all my emotions. I was too tired and too ashamed to face my beloved cousin after my harsh words and actions, followed by my complete breakdown
"M'Lord," I felt my throat tighten again.
Achilles elbowed my lightly in the ribs. "No need for that."
"M'Lord," I continued anyway, wanting to make up for my lack of respect earlier.
I licked my lips nervously. "I'm sorry that I... Picked a fight. Hit you. Disrespected you. Lied about you. Lied to you." My mind slowly ticked through the list of all my actions of the day. I sighed heavily as I said them to myself, not even sure where to begin.
"Cousin," Achilles voice snapped me out of my thoughts. I peaked up at him, but instantly dropped my head lower as I saw the small bruise forming on his chin.
"Patroclus." He tried again.
He sighed this time but didn't respond. I knew that he was waiting for me to fully acknowledge him, so I slowly lifted my head.
He smiled. "Please, I thought after being away, you would be happy to have your cousin back, not a Lord."
My face flushed at his words, but I nodded. "I-I don't deserve to call you "cousin." I welcomed you as an enemy."
He clicked his tongue. "Patroclus, we are cousins. No matter what you do or how mad I get, that bond can never be broken. We are family."
My mind tiredly tried to process his words. I managed to nod, and he clapped me on the shoulder. "Besides, you've welcomed me now."
"You're not going to beat me to a pulp then, Cousin?" I felt a grin pull at my lips as I addressed him as my beloved cousin.
"You heard that, too?"
"Maybe I should." He rubbed his chin with his hand over the spot where I had punched him. "And to think, you're the one who beat me to a pulp."
My ears reddened and I dropped my head again.
"I can't lose you," I repeated as if it made up for my punching. "I don't know how to fight, not really, I can't yet hunt, and I still have much to learn about honor.
"You know more than you think, Cousin."
"You mean for someone who tried to fight his returning cousin after he's been away for months? And then have to clutch to him like a baby...," I mumbled, feeling pathetic.
He chuckled softly and rubbed the back of my head. "I mean for a thirteen year old boy."
"Look at me, Patroclus."
I forced my head up and stared him in the eyes. Nothing could prepare me for his next words. "I missed you, too. And I'm proud of the way you've handled yourself over these past few months. It couldn't have been easy." I thought I had drained all of my tears, but at those words, I pitched forward into another set of sobs.
After a moment, he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. "Cousin?"
I'm sorry," I hiccuped and forced my eyes to his face once more, "for treating you the way I did."
His eyes bore into me, and I finally had to look away. He gently grabbed my chin and forced me to face him again. "Patroclus, I didn't say that to make you feel guilty. I wouldn't worry you - nor my mother - for all the gold in Greece."
"Still, M'Lord..." I paused. "My Cousin, I'm incredibly sorry."
He nodded. "All is forgiven."
I blinked back the pooling tears.
"Oh, tenderfoot," he smiled at me gently, before moving his hand to the back of my head and pulling me into another tight embrace.
"Besides, you should've seen how I acted when I was your age."
My watery eyes turned towards him, curious. "You were a terror?"
He clucked, clearly not wanting to discuss himself anymore.
"Nightmares?" he then said, countering my question. My smile faded, and I nodded my head.
"Care to share?" he asked gently, and the genuine concern twisted my heart.
"My parents die. You die. I'm alone," I blurted out miserably, not liking the images that came to mind with those words. I shuddered and the fatigue of the day came rushing back.
"Patroclus," he said, wrapping his arm tightly around my shoulders, "I'm sorry, Cousin. You are so young and have been through so much." I leaned against him, feeling tired.
"Later," he confirmed, knowing that I would talk about the dreams more when I was ready.
I nodded slowly, feeling drained. The warm sand was looking more and more comfortable.
As if reading my mind, he chuckled lightly. "I'm tired, too. Come, I must greet the others. And you need to rest."
"I'm not tired," I mumbled, not wanting to leave his side now that I was happy to see him, and especially not wanting to face my nightmares.
He pulled his eyebrows together questioningly.
I sighed. "Fine."
"Go on, now. Get some rest. I'll check on you shortly."
I nodded, deciding that maybe some sleep would be for the best.
"Besides, it is going to take a lot of beauty rest," he reached over and pulled on a strand of hair, "to grow out those golden locks to look like mine."
Rolling my eyes, I smacked his hand away. He hooted with laughter and grabbed me around the neck, rubbing his fist into my head. I couldn't help but laugh, as I wiggled out of his grip.
"It suits you," he grinned, and I felt my heart grow with pride at his compliment.
"Rest," he jerked his head towards our home, as he turned to leave.
He turned slowly back towards me and I was so glad to see him well and back.
"Umph," he grunted as I flung myself willing into his arms.
"Welcome home, Cousin," I muttered into his chest.
He smiled and said, "Thank you."
a/n: Thanks for reading and feed back is most appreciated. :)