Disclaimer: As much as I love Greek Mythology and tales/adaptations based on the Trojan War, I absolutely do not own the movie Troy or its characters and their universes. If I did, then that would make me a Greek goddess, and while that would be totally awesome, I am only a poor girl in college. Alas!

Acknowledgements: First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this fanfic to HaloFin17. As well as being an awesome friend and penpal, she has been a mentor to me in many ways. So… this one's for you, darling! :) I hope it lives up to your expectations…

I would also like to dedicate this to Horsetamer5 and bluebirdheart. You two are awesome friends!

Author's Note: Hiya, lovelies! In honor of the gorgeous (but seemingly never-ending) winter weather up here at Penn State's main campus, I have decided to attempt writing a cute (and snowy!) winter oneshot with Patroclus and Achilles. I just absolutely adored Patroclus in the movie. He was so adorable, and I can only imagine how cute he was as a little boy. Squee!

You'll notice a character named Antilochus here. Yes, he is partially based on the character from the Iliad, but only somewhat.

Pat is about eight years old here, in case anybody's wondering.

Anyways, even though it's only a oneshot, I hope it's worthy of your time. Enjoy!

/

Can Caged Birds Feel Peace?

"Watch out, Antilochus! I'm gonna get you, and then you'll be sorry!"

A mischievous laugh rang out and echoed in the clearing. "Just try, slow slug!"

"You better watch out, Meleager!" a feminine voice taunted.

"Ow! Europa, you sneaky wench!"

"Oh please, everybody, be quiet before we wake Achilles and all end up being equally sorry!" another female voice fretted.

This seemed to subdue the group for a few minutes… but not for long, for soon, the young Phthians became even more exuberant as their laughter and joyful screams carried through the chill night air.

/

Achilles' blue eyes snapped open as he heard screaming - both male and female alike - pierce through the night. He leapt to his feet and donned a woolen cloak, before reaching for his sword. A dozen scenarios plagued his mind: Was Phthia being raided? Was one of his residents in trouble? Or was one of the residents themselves causing trouble? Then again…maybe it was just some drunken idiot disturbing the peace. (AN: It happens all the time here at college! LOL!) As he crept down the staircase, another scream made him stop in his tracks, and he listened carefully.

"You better run, Antilochus!"

"If I run, you will never catch me, slow slug!"

"Call me slow slug one more time, you little -"

Achilles relaxed as he recognized Antilochus' playful, teasing voice. The young warrior was a recently-made Myrmidon and only ten years older than his cousin, Patroclus. He was a mischievous teenager, prone to carefree, childish behaviors.

A sudden chill made Achilles shiver, reminding the warrior that winter was upon Greece. He pulled his cloak more tightly around him and made his way outside, annoyance filling his being.

"I swear, if that boy and his friends are drunk…" he grumbled under his breath. He'd been having such a peaceful and dreamless sleep - a rare occurrence for him.

Antilochus was thoroughly enjoying himself and blissfully unaware of his approaching leader.

"So this time, I get to be Achilles, and you, Theo, can be Odysseus."

"What about me?!"

"You can be Ajax, Meleager, because you're big and clumsy."

"Hey!"

"All right, you noisy menace! Explain yourself."

Antilochus' head whipped around and he trembled a little as he found himself face-to-face with Achilles.

"I told you we'd wake him up!" the girl who had warned them earlier groaned.

Achilles, on his part, felt both incredibly amused and incredibly annoyed. "Antilochus, just what in the name of Athena do you think you're doing?"

"Erm… nothing," the young Myrmidon muttered, shuffling his feet and trying to hide his suddenly blushing face.

Europa, who was lying on the ground and giggling, blurted out, "We were playing in the snow!"

It was then that Achilles finally noticed the winter wonderland that had graced Phthia on this night. His eyes widened as he took in his surroundings: Pure white snow blanketed the usually lush green land, and the sky glowed with an unusual purplish-black hue. Although the overall accumulation was only a few inches, more delicate crystals continued to fall steadily.

For once in his life, the greatest warrior in the world was left utterly speechless. It rarely snowed in Greece, even in the coldest of times! He could remember only one time in his childhood when Zeus had saw fit to unleash snow upon Greece. He had been a very young child, almost too young to recall it now - but somehow, the memory clung to him, and he was suddenly filled with a strange emotion that tightened his throat and made his eyes sting.

A loud laugh snapped him out of his musings. "Oh gods, look at his face!"

Achilles shook himself and regained his composure. "So… this is why you've been so noisy tonight? You were playing in the snow?"

"Yes." The roguish teenager regarded him with a grin as he replied. "Wanna play with us?"

"Play? Play?" Achilles stared at his young friend incredulously. "No, I do not want to play! I want to sleep, that's what I would like to do! In fact, I'm sure every other citizen in Phthia would like to sleep as well, but they can't now, thanks to you lot.

"And in case you haven't noticed, I am not a child. I am a respected warrior and the leader of this land, and warriors do not… play." The word even sounded foreign on his own lips as he spoke it.

"Besides, even if I wanted to play with you," he added with a hint of amusement, "I would wait until well past sunrise!"

"Fine, suit yourself," the younger man replied, shrugging. He turned to his friends and snickered under his breath, "He hasn't even seen 30 summers yet, and already, he sounds like a crotchety old sailor."

"I heard that!"

"Sorry!"

Achilles tsked and turned on his heel, but before he even made it just a few feet, he felt something cold and hard hit him on the back of his head.

A snowball… they had actually dared to throw a snowball at him! He, Achilles - the greatest warrior in the world and King of the Myrmidons and Phthia!

He whirled around and glared at Antilochus, who had collapsed on the ground shaking with laughter. Tears streamed down his face as he gasped out, "Gotcha!"

"What is wrong with your generation? I swear, Eudorus and I acted much more dignified and mature as teenagers. In fact, Antilochus, Patroclus acts more mature than you!" Achilles' statement was meant to be good-natured, but his friends still pointed at him and guffawed with laughter.

"Aw, shut up!"

/

Achilles shook his head with amusement as he headed back into his home. Soon, however, his amusement faded and was replaced by the same strange emotion he'd felt earlier upon seeing the snow. He lay down on his bed of furs, content to gaze out his window at the rare sight of snow falling. How long had it been since he'd last experienced snow? He remembered being a child - an innocent child untouched by the horrors of war. He remembered how something as simple as snowfall had brought him the greatest joy he had ever known. He remembered wrestling and building forts in the snow with Eudorus and the other Myrmidons as children – the same seasoned warriors who now fought alongside him in the deadliest of wars. They had all been children then - innocent and pure-of-heart, never once imagining that their lives would one day consist of bloodshed and the terrible, terrible traumas of war.

With an agonized hiss, he remembered his jest to Antilochus - that he and Eudorus had been much more dignified and mature as teenagers. Of course it was true! And he knew very well why: As teenagers, they'd already been battle-hardened and aged beyond their years. They were not yet men, and even so, they had still seen and experienced more than the average village elder. Achilles, having been forced into the art of warfare at a very young age, experienced the worst trauma to his psyche. Yet, because of his father's expectations and the cold, hard fact that warfare was the only thing he truly excelled at, he simply did not have a choice except to succumb to the warrior lifestyle. True - he was gifted in other areas, particularly medicine, but his talent as a warrior was unmatched.

It hadn't even been that long ago, and yet, to Achilles, it felt as if he'd lived in two separate liftetimes. He finally recognized what he was feeling: bitterness. And nostalgia. And yes, grief. Grief for the childhood that had been torn from his clutches and the fact that he couldn't enjoy something as simple as "Demeter's curse" anymore. Antilochus was right – he was young himself, not yet 30 summers, and yet, he still he possessed the attitude of a "crotchety elder." He was a caged bird, a wretched caged bird imprisoned by his own bitterness and limitations, a caged bird who longed to be free from his own lifestyle, but couldn't because the iron chains of destiny held him bound.

At the very least, he thought with a sad smile, there was one good and pure thing that remained in his miserable life: Patroclus, his young cousin of eight years. The boy in question had been living with him for only two moons, and yet, already Achilles dearly loved him as one would a younger brother. He was so very innocent and pure-hearted, as Achilles himself had once been. Homesickness and grief for his dead parents had damaged his psyche, too, however, and not a day went by in which Patroclus didn't weep for them. Achilles knew too well, although Patroclus tried desperately to hide his grief, to be a brave little warrior for him. His little warrior.

Achilles' throat tightened painfully then, and he realized with a jolt that he was crying. Crying! Irritated and disgusted with himself, he tried in vain to brush his tears away, but finally, he succumbed to the foreign, cleansing emotion and let himself have a good cry. He wept for himself and for Patroclus, and for both of their lost childhoods and the tragic experiences that had left them older beyond their years.

When he finished releasing his emotions, he felt relieved, yet emotionally exhausted, so he rolled out of bed and made his way to Patroclus' room. He wanted - no, needed - to watch his little warrior sleep, for he knew that doing so would soothe his inner turmoil. As he entered the boy's room, he saw that for once, the little one was sleeping quite peacefully, and he looked so much younger than his mere eight years. Achilles smiled and almost snickered to himself, but instead of doing so, he knelt by his cousin's bedside and reached out to stroke his thick blonde hair tenderly.

"So fluffy…" Achilles thought to himself absently, and had to clap his other hand over his mouth before he could burst into laughter and accidentally wake his cousin up. Where had that thought come from?

Patroclus, on his part, smiled in his sleep as though he could sense Achilles' presence, and Achilles had to wonder yet again why the gods had seen fit to place this child in his life. Why, oh, why, had they let a caged bird - a crow - be the unlikely guardian of a pure-white dove? He would never truly know why, but he was ultimately grateful for the blessing, for Patroclus filled his life with meaning and purpose, anchoring him to light when darkness threatened to consume him. In the end, he filled the warrior's life with more happiness and peace than Patroclus himself would ever know. Yes, the boy was indeed a salvation in many ways.

"I guess even wretched caged birds can feel happiness and tenderness on occasion," Achilles mused to himself, still brushing his fingers lovingly through Patroclus' hair.

He was interrupted from his musings as he felt the little boy begin to stir and open his eyes. Morning already? Achilles glanced outside, and much to his surprise, the rosy light of dawn greeted his eyes. Sunrise was upon them.

"'Morning, Achilles," Patroclus' soft, sleepy voice greeted him. Achilles glanced back down and felt his heart melt at the sight of Patroclus.

"Good morning, little warrior," Achilles murmured softly, using his favorite nickname for his young cousin. He then realized he was still stroking the boy's hair and lowered his hand. "Did you sleep well?"

"MmmHmm." Patroclus nodded at him and smiled, still looking hopelessly sleepy. "I didn't have any nightmares, either!"

"Oh, Patroclus, I am truly glad to hear that," Achilles said, and he meant it. It hurt him to see one so young and so dear to him suffer such a devastating loss. For all he had been through in his own lifetime, he hadn't lost his own father until he was nearly grown, and he would always have his mother, Thetis, since she was an immortal goddess of the sea. She would never die, and he would never truly be an orphan - so he could only half-relate to his cousin's loss.

"I still… miss them, though," Patroclus sighed, eyes growing suspiciously misty. "Even when I don't have nightmares about their deaths, I still miss them so much!"

"I know, little warrior, I know," Achilles murmured soothingly and reached for him. Patroclus practically threw himself into the warrior's arms and clung to him for dear life. Although he didn't weep, he still seemed to be in desperate need of comfort, so Achilles simply held him close and began to stroke his hair again.

"Why did they have to die, Achilles? Why?" Patroclus' anguished whisper broke Achilles' heart.

"I don't know, little warrior. I truly do not know," Achilles sighed, wishing he could offer more comforting words to Patroclus. All he could do, however, was tighten his embrace on the boy and whisper, "Just remember that I love you so very much, and I will always be here for you when you need me."

Patroclus rubbed his head against his chest for a moment, then nodded and pulled away from him, smiling through his tears.

"I love you, too, Achilles," he replied, with a raw honesty and adoration that made Achilles' heart clench.

Patroclus let out a small sigh then, and Achilles leaned down to kiss him on the forehead and tickle him under the chin, causing the little boy to giggle. Suddenly, an idea came to him, and he smiled slowly. He would give his poor grieving cousin something to smile about for a long time!

"I have something for you, little warrior," he said, trying to contain the excitement in his voice.

Almost immediately, the boy perked up.

"Really?! A surprise? For me?" By now, Patroclus had shot out of bed and was bouncing up and down, all traces of melancholy gone. "What is it?!"

Achilles laughed. "You have to go outside and see for yourself. But before you do so," he added, "you have to dress warm, and you have to close your eyes."

"Aw, come on!" But Patroclus did as his cousin bid and let the warrior guide him outside. Once they were both standing in the doorway, Achilles asked his cousin, "Are you ready?"

Patroclus nodded vigorously, and Achilles laughed. His cousin's exuberance was admittedly contagious! "All right, then, open your eyes."

Patroclus did so and yelped aloud as he beheld the snow. At first, he seemed a bit uneasy, and he took a few tentative steps backwards and grabbed onto Achilles for support.

"W-what is this white stuff?" he squeaked, voice trembling. "I've never seen it before!"

Achilles snickered helplessly, and within seconds, he succumbed to roaring laughter.

"W-w-what's so funny?" Patroclus turned to his cousin and looked so hopelessly confused that Achilles only laughed harder.

"Patroclus," Achilles gasped, once he composed himself, "this "white stuff" is called snow, and it's perfectly harmless." When Patroclus still made no move, Achilles nudged him gently. "Go on, my sweet little warrior - it's perfectly safe and natural."

"Really?" Patroclus sounded doubtful. But then, oh-so-tentatively, he reached down to scoop up the white substance in his hand. Marveling at the cold, soft feel, he brought the snow to his face and sniffed at it. Then, with uncharacteristic boldness, he licked it. Behind him, Achilles snorted and muttered, "He was so afraid of even touching it at first, but he doesn't have any second thoughts about putting it in his mouth. Children!"

Patroclus, however, paid his guardian very little attention, possessing eyes only for the snowflakes that started to fall. They were so beautiful! He reached out again with wide eyes, giggling when the snow tickled his bare hand. And then, at long last, Patroclus unleashed his excitement, and with a squeal of delight, he dived into the snow without any fear. Within moments, the boy was utterly preoccupied with trying to catch each and every snowflake with both his hands and tongue.

Achilles, watching him from the doorway, felt love and tenderness for his little cousin overwhelm him, and for the first time in many, many years, he could honestly admit to feeling truly happy and peaceful.

/

Unbeknownst to the cousins, two figures were stood atop a hillside, gazing down upon them.

"You know, Eudorus, I truly think Achilles just might end up playing in the snow with Patroclus."

"Oh? And what makes you come to that conclusion, Antilochus?"

"Because watching that little boy play makes me want to play, too!" Antilochus slapped his sides and laughed.

Eudorus shook his head and sighed. "Of course it would."

"Wanna play with them?"

"Excuse me... play? Warriors do not play," Eudorus muttered gruffly and stalked away from the mischievous teenager.

The déjà vu made Antilochus chuckle, and while Eudorus' back was turned, he scooped up a handful of snow and started to form a snowball.

Almost immediately, Eudorus whipped around and fixed Antilochus with a half-scathing and half-amused glare. "Don't even think about it!"

The younger man grinned and shrugged. Then, with the snowball still in his hands, he charged down the hill.

"Patroclus! Achilles!" he called. "Ready or not, here I come!"

/

End Notes: This is a random thought, but did you guys know that in literature and poetry, winter as a season symbolizes death while spring symbolizes rebirth?

...

Anyways, what did you guys think about this fic? It's a little long and reflective in some places, and I do apologize if it seemed like I rambled! It's my writing weakness. :P

So… please be honest: What did you think about me referring to Achilles as a "caged bird"? Was it too much? I can't help but think him as one, and I absolutely adore the symbolism of caged birds. And I love Achilles angst as well! But be honest: Did I go overboard, or was it just right?

Also did you like the nickname I had Achilles call Pat? "Little warrior"? I think it fits perfectly -it's not too, too cutesy, but it's cute enough and makes sense. I could picture Achilles saying it sarcastically as well. Teehee. xD