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: Thank you so much to everyone for the support this little story has received! You have all brightened my day in your turn, and the encouragement is very much appreciated. So here's the conclusion now, and I do hope you all enjoy. Thanks for reading!
A Different Kind of Ransom
Apart from the throbbing headache that was sure to linger for some time, Patroclus was relatively unharmed. Per their prince's orders, the Trojan guards had been as gentle as could be expected while searching their captive for injury. They had still taken Achilles' armor, of course, and surely that was to become the crowning jewel of Hector's personal collection. He had won it in fair battle, after all, just as Patroclus had lost it. That thought alone was enough to frighten the young Achaean, for the price of the wondrous armor was likely worth more than his own life.
And whatever might Hector ask of Achilles as a ransom in exchange for his cousin's life? It was sure to be an extravagant price, if the prince bothered asking for anything. But surely that must be his intention! Why else would he concern himself with Patroclus' health and safety, at least for the time being?
They had given him water, which he drank without even a thought of whether it might be poisoned or drugged; and they had also left behind a simple plate of bread and meat, which he had yet to touch. He stared at the food, knowing full well that he should take advantage of such small kindnesses while they were still being offered; yet somehow he also knew that the aching emptiness in his stomach was nothing that could be so easily cured by a meal. For all too soon Achilles would be called upon to offer up a prince's ransom in exchange for the only blood relation he had left outside of his goddess mother.
That remained a daunting prospect. No one had ever disobeyed Achilles to the extent that Patroclus had just done; and if it had been anyone else, Achilles might have paid the required ransom simply so he could have the pleasure of killing the impertinent man himself. The youth shuddered. Truth be told, he had just as much reason to fear his cousin now as he did his captors.
But just then, the door to his cell grated open, and Patroclus defensively hugged his knees up against his still-bare chest. The Crown Prince of Troy entered.
Hector marched into the tiny prison cell with determination in every step. His eyes quickly adjusted to the dim lighting and came at once to rest on the hostage who sat huddled dejectedly in one corner. The child's youthfulness seemed to make itself more and more apparent every time Hector saw him – as did his fear.
Another brief glance around the room revealed that the boy had not yet eaten any of the food which had been provided for him. From what the prince had heard, their young prisoner had been nothing but cooperative since his initial interrogation – perhaps even too cooperative, considering this was the same boy who had stolen Achilles' armor and rebelliously led his Myrmidons into battle.
"Here," the Trojan spoke into the heavy quiet, holding out a simple tunic which he'd brought for their unwilling guest.
Patroclus reached for the garment with minimal hesitation and immediately pulled it over his head, no doubt eager to be less exposed before his captor's searching eyes.
"The warden here tells me you have sustained no serious injuries. Is that true?"
"Yes," Patroclus answered with a single nod. "I am well enough."
"Then your errand must have found some favor with the gods after all. Perhaps Athena blessed you with her protection out of loyalty to Achilles."
But now that pleasantries were concluded, and no response came to his previous statement, Hector wasted no additional time before explaining, "The priestess you spoke of is my own cousin. I have sent messengers to Achilles stating that I will require her safe return in exchange for yours."
The youth blinked up at him in obvious surprise. "Is that all? You…could have asked him for anything."
"Right now, she is all I want from him. I have only given him until sunset to respond, however; I do not want my cousin in his hands again for one more night. But I doubt you have cause to worry. I'm sure you are worth just as much to Achilles as she is worth to me – if not even more."
Patroclus only hung his head, wishing desperately that he could say as much with equal confidence.
Meager comfort though it was, at least Patroclus knew he would not be here long in this dreary cell. By nightfall he would either be reunited with Achilles or dead in Underworld like so many of his countrymen. Another ache panged in his chest at that thought. Had he done any good by his endeavors? Had he accomplished anything at all other than his own grim predicament?
He had just disobeyed his guardian in the worst way, and now Achilles would ultimately have to pay the price for it. Would he even believe that Patroclus was worth the sacrifice? He had been so infatuated with the priestess that he'd let all of Greece suffer when she had been taken from him before. Would he willingly hand her over now when only one Greek life was at stake? How much difference did it really make if that one life happened to belong to his rebellious, stubborn, ungrateful cousin?
So Patroclus' mind spun over and over again as time dragged inexorably onward. He had no way of knowing for certain what time it was, yet he suspected that by now sundown could not be more than an hour or two away. The young Greek was so absorbed in his own thoughts that every muscle in his body jumped in shock when the door to his cell creaked open again.
A pair of burly Trojan soldiers stood just outside the doorway, and one of them motioned for the prisoner to stand.
"Up," he ordered gruffly. "The Prince is ready for you."
Patroclus complied silently and allowed his hands to be bound once more before following his escorts out into open air. Much to his relief, he marked that although the sun was low in the sky, there must still be nearly another hour before it would set completely.
The actual exchange of prisoners a short while later was remarkably uneventful.
Hector had brought a small contingent of elite Apollonian guards, as well as Patroclus, to the designated meeting point halfway between Troy and the beaches. Achilles' only escort was Briseis, whom he surrendered over to Hector without a word. The prince immediately began to fuss over her; but Achilles, never one to wait on the whims of others, simply reached around behind his adversary and grabbed Patroclus by the elbow.
The Myrmidon warlord did not spare a single glance back behind him as he pulled his charge along with him toward his waiting chariot. Patroclus stepped up into the box but abruptly sat at the pressure of a strong hand on his shoulder. Achilles drove them off in the direction of the ships, his face stony and his every muscle tense; but his anxiety seemed to slowly fade as the distance separating them from the Trojans grew gradually greater.
Patroclus was aware of a similar draining sensation in his own body, culminating in the two hot tears which slid down his cheeks when he squeezed his eyes shut to block out the humiliation. Achilles did not speak to him. At long last, they arrived back at the Myrmidon encampment; and by the look of things, it was obvious that Achilles still fully intended for his troops to return home to Phthia – most likely the following morning. That would prove an unexpected bonus for Hector in the whole ordeal.
The eyes of many curious soldiers blatantly followed their approach. Some might have marked their coming with actual concern for the hostage's fate, but no doubt most were only eager to see what grim fate would befall the youth who had betrayed Achilles and deceived them all. Only when they were in Achilles' tent and safely out of sight did the warrior finally cut the ties which bound his cousin's wrists.
"Wash," the elder ordered sternly with a gesture toward his own basin.
Patroclus stripped off his tunic and complied, happy to finally cleanse away the day's filth but still keenly aware of Achilles' regard all the while. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied the helmet he had worn early that morning, now lying discarded in the sand off to one side. Where would Achilles possibly acquire more armor worthy to accompany it?
Having not eaten since yesterday, Patroclus was hungry to the point where it had become genuinely painful; yet he was not about to ask for food like a dog begging at its master's table. If Achilles let him go to bed hungry, it should be the least of his worries. And Achilles himself, though he did not mention it, seemed to agree, since he did not offer sustenance of any kind.
When Patroclus had finished bathing, he glanced uneasily at his guardian. "Should I go to Eudorus now?" he asked, referring to prior roommate.
Achilles' response was immediate. "No. You will stay with me tonight."
The youth paused only briefly in surprise before nodding his compliance. If anything, he had assumed Achilles would want him away and safely out of sight for a while. Nevertheless, he lay down atop the furs without a word and waited for his cousin to join him, which he did momentarily.
Patroclus used to sleep with Achilles quite frequently when he was younger, but it had been a couple of years now since the last time. In this particular instance, it was bound to be as much a reassurance for Achilles as a punishment for Patroclus. If the boy so much as rolled over in his sleep, much less tried to sneak out again, Achilles would know of it.
The familiar arm around his waist felt more like a manacle this time than an embrace, but Patroclus forced himself to believe that he was still safer here risking the heat of Achilles' anger than back in the dank cold of a Trojan dungeon.
"I'm sorry." His words sounded hollow, despite the truth in them. "I know you would rather be holding her right now than me."
"If that were true, then I would be." Achilles paused, contemplating. "Did you think that I would choose her over you? That she was more valuable to me than you are?"
Patroclus hesitated for a couple of heartbeats before admitting, "I did wonder."
Achilles shifted closer then so that his mouth was right next to his cousin's ear, and his breath ghosted across the boy's neck when he spoke.
"And if that was also one of the reasons why you nearly threw your life away this morning, there was no need for it. I may have been short with you of late, Patroclus, but you should never have doubted my affections."
The younger man had no response for that, yet the words had fallen on fertile ground. Had that been an unspoken motive behind his façade – to recapture Achilles' attentions which had recently been wasted on the sniffling priestess?
"Will you ever forgive me?" he asked eventually.
"I already have, such is my gratitude that I am not burning your body and sending your spirit off to Hades right now." The golden warrior eased himself back to a more relaxed position reclining beside his kinsman. "However, I cannot allow such a misdeed to go unpunished, and so you will not be seeing a field of battle again until you are at least twenty-one. At least."
The emphasis was not lost on Patroclus, who could scarcely argue with that decision. It still hurt, though, to realize that the frustration and disappointment he'd felt over the past few days was about to extend for nearly another four years. He would simply have to bear it more nobly than before, understanding full well that he'd brought this on himself.
But in the immediate present, it was time to sleep. After all, this had easily been the longest day of his short life.