Summary: Patroclus loses his battle against Hector and is taken prisoner. Now a hostage being held in Troy for ransom, he begins to doubt his worth in Achilles' eyes. Movie AU, two-shot. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: As I've said multiple times before, nothing is mine.
Author's Note: Just when I think I've completely run out of ideas for this fandom, another one strikes right before I'm about to fall asleep. And then I don't fall asleep. Isn't that how it usually works? Part 2 should be up sometime this coming weekend. Enjoy, everyone!
A Different Kind of Ransom
This, of all things, was not supposed to happen. What a catastrophe it had all turned out to be! Death itself would practically have been a less frightening prospect at this point.
As it was, Patroclus found himself being dragged along by harsh hands toward the ever-imposing gates of Troy. It certainly was a far cry from the jubilant, victorious entry he might have dreamed of making alongside his countrymen, whom he was now leaving far behind on a ship-infested beachhead.
The cloud of dust rising up from the feet of marching soldiers on all sides was nearly enough to choke him, and Patroclus would have killed – again – for a simple drink of water; yet he was clearly in no position to complain. Some might even say he should be grateful for the fact that he still had breath in his lungs, but the young Greek entertained no optimism whatsoever about the future which lay immediately ahead of him.
Had he truly been so naïve as to think that he would be offered mercy on account of his youth, should he be defeated? And yes, mighty Hector had spared him after knocking the helmet from his head with a single jarring blow; but the prince was far too clever to simply let it end there. Devising quickly that a lad with apparent easy access to Achilles' armor must be worth a handsome sum, Hector had wasted no time in securing his new captive and separating him with unshakable purpose from the still-shocked swords of the Myrmidons. Those brave warriors would have a gleaming helmet to return to their lord but nothing more.
His escorts led him on a direct course toward the royal palace, their destination being a small, unassuming room on the structure's ground level. Prince Hector's arrival right on their heels made Patroclus' stomach twist in apprehension, for the Trojan's visage was grim, and he obviously meant to waste no time in interrogating his prize.
Patroclus tried unsuccessfully to swallow around his dry and swollen tongue, never once taking his eyes off the prince's intimidating form. Only then did he realize how utterly foolish he had been; he'd had no more chance of defeating Hector than he would have had of defeating Achilles himself. But what other option had there been in that moment when he'd found himself face-to-face with the renowned Trojan champion? To voluntarily reveal himself and end his ill-fated masquerade? The end result would likely have been the same, and he would only have added cowardice to his lengthening list of shortcomings.
Now soon he would be forced to speak with the man who had taken him in fair battle, forced to reveal truths that would either call for his own death or cost his cousin far more than he cared to imagine.
"Leave us," Prince Hector commanded firmly, and the guards departed, leaving him alone in the antechamber with his bound prisoner of war – the boy who earlier that very day had been posing as the Greeks' greatest warrior, Achilles. The charade might have even succeeded, too, had the youth not encountered a warrior as skilled as Hector himself.
"What is your name, boy?" he began without preamble.
Having expected no reply just yet, the prince was surprised to hear a softly spoken answer of "Patroclus." He would consider that a promising start.
"And what is Achilles to you, Patroclus, that you could come by his armor and fool his own loyal Myrmidons so handily?"
But when only stubborn silence answered him this time, Hector pushed harder. "I suggest you talk. I'm sure there are plenty of those among my men who would love to get their hands on the nameless Greek soldier who thought he could be Achilles. Believe me, they will not ask as kindly as I do."
He allowed a moment for those implications to register on his captive's young face. The boy was obviously trying to put up a bold front, and just as obviously failing in his attempt. His stormy blue eyes alone betrayed his fear, and it seemed the threat of torment was enough to loosen his recalcitrant tongue.
"Achilles is my commander."
That much was true, no doubt, but it was not enough.
"And what else besides that? I will have my answers from you, child, though I would prefer not to harm you further in the process of doing so."
Patroclus squeezed his eyes shut, looking pained, before speaking again. "He is my teacher."
"That much is obvious, judging from the way you fight. Now what else?"
The steely look in Prince Hector's eyes was one Patroclus had sometimes witnessed before in Achilles, and he knew better than to disrespect it. Suddenly he understood that those spoken threats were very close to becoming his reality, if he did not start cooperating fast.
"He is my guardian."
The youth flinched visibly, his tall shoulders slumping in a final admission of defeat. "Achilles is my cousin. He has raised me and been like both a father and a brother to me."
The hard lines of Hector's face softened considerably as he finally had the full truth from his captive. The child certainly did look enough like Achilles, Hector had to admit. There was no doubting the boy's story, even as there was no doubting why he had been so loath to reveal it. The cousin and ward of Achilles would make a finer bargaining chip than anything he might have asked for on his own. But as it often does, the truth also revealed more questions that needed asking.
"Why would Achilles bring you here, then, if he is supposedly your protector? And more importantly, why would he allow you of all people to fight in his stead?"
"He didn't allow me," Patroclus almost snapped before reining in his temper. The prince's raised eyebrows told him to continue. "No one knew it was me out there this morning and not Achilles. You must have seen how surprised his own men were."
"I did, yes. I also noticed that the Myrmidons haven't been fighting at all since the day you Greeks first landed and took the beach. Does that have anything to do with what might have possibly driven you to such a desperate plan?"
There seemed little harm now in confessing it, so Patroclus nodded, drawing in a deep breath as he did so. "Agamemnon has been Achilles' enemy more than you these past few days, and Achilles withdrew his troops entirely because of it. I do love my cousin, but sometimes his anger consumes him to the point where he can think of nothing but his own wounded pride."
"I imagine he and Agamemnon are both alike in that regard," Hector conjectured with grim amusement. It would certainly coincide with what he had seen of both men thus far.
"But the soldiers all look to Achilles for inspiration, and many of them hold him in higher esteem than their own kings," the young Greek explained further, his tale coming out in a veritable rush now. "If they only know that he is out there with them, battling alongside them, their spirits are lifted, and their own fighting improves."
Patroclus finally raised his head and looked his captor squarely in the eye. "That's why I did it. Not for the glory of it all, as Achilles does; I only wanted to help my comrades and my countrymen push you away from our ships, since my cousin wouldn't do it himself."
"And indeed, it was a noble attempt, although one doomed to end poorly even from the start." The prince observed his captive with new eyes. "You are a skilled fighter for one so young, having learned from Achilles. How old are you, Patroclus?"
The young Greek took another deep breath to steady himself and answered, "Seventeen."
"Gods!" Hector's exclamation was accompanied by his hands instinctively tightening into fists at his sides. "And to think how close I came to killing you just a few hours ago."
"But isn't that what you plan to do now?"
The question had been put forth in hushed tones; and when Hector looked, genuine fear shone bright and unmistakable in the boy's eyes, making him appear even younger than before. So very young…
They held gazes for a moment longer before Hector sighed gravely. "It would not be my first choice, child, but I can make no promises. This is a war, and innocents your age and younger have already lost their lives on account of it." His own cousin Briseis had not been much older than this youth, after all, and now her grieving family could only assume that she had been a casualty of the battle on the beach.
"Even the innocent can still cause trouble," Patroclus muttered, barely audible.
Yet the prince heard him and snapped, "You did far more than 'cause trouble' today, boy, and you alone are now responsible for the deaths of many. Don't you dare think of yourself as innocent."
"I wasn't thinking of myself!"
"Then of whom?" Hector was intrigued now, an inexplicable fascination which only intensified when the boy fidgeted at the question.
"No one important," he divulged after that hard brown gaze crumbled his resolve. "It's just that this whole argument between Achilles and Agamemnon has been over some little priestess…"
It was no startling outburst that made Patroclus halt in mid-sentence, but rather the dangerous gleam which had returned to Hector's eye.
"What did you say?" the Trojan pressed, his voice low and decidedly more insistent than it had been before. "What about a priestess?"
Patroclus blinked, suddenly unsure of himself once more; but his reprieve was short, as Hector's patience obviously was as well, for the prince closed the gap between them in two long strides and grabbed a rough handful of the boy's hair, forcing the younger soldier to meet his gaze.
And Patroclus did. "I – I don't even know her name. She was taken from Apollo's temple after the first battle. The Myrmidons found her, but then Agamemnon took her. That's why Achilles stopped fighting."
Hector tightened his grip, making the boy grimace. "And where is she now?"
"She's back with Achilles – or at least she was last night."
After another tense pause stretched too long, Hector finally released his prisoner and stepped back, recalling the guards. "Take the boy down to the prison," he instructed them, "but I want you to treat him well. Feed him and care for any wounds he may have."
"Yes, my prince," one of the men replied before they left with their charge.
When they had gone, Prince Hector sighed once again and sank wearily down into chair. He had a delicate plan to organize now and precious little time in which to do it.