"Shh, shh..." Achilles paced his baby cousin's nursery, a bounce to his step. The child of two years sobbed on his shoulder, nightmares from the trauma he had suffered only a few months prior keeping him awake.
"Mumma, Mumma..." the child wailed.
"Hush, Little Man, you're all right. It was just a dream. I need to sit down," Achilles sat in the rocking chair in the room and began to rock, back and forth, back and forth.
It turned out that as Patroclus got older, the nightmares got worse, mixing reality with false memories.
"PAPA!" an eight-year-old Patroclus shot up in bed, drenched in sweat.
Heavy, quiet footsteps came down the hall and then Achilles was opening Patroclus' bedroom door, a robe around his shoulders.
"Little Man, it's early. What's wrong?" without answering, Patroclus reached for his cousin and guardian, who went to the boy's bedside and took him in his arms. His long legs came around Achilles' hips and gripped his waist tightly, just as his arms were doing to the warrior's neck.
"Okay, shh, shh... Zeus, you're heavy..." this only served to make the eight-year-old sob harder into his cousin's bare shoulder, "It's all right," Achilles turned to go out lof the room, down the hall, and to his own bedroom.
Once there, he laid Patroclus in the big bed and went to the wooden chest by the window. Opening it, he took out the deteriorating, stuffed lion on top of the blankets that were folded inside.
"Here you are, Little man. Alexios will protect you," the boy clutched the stuffed animal to his chest, kissing it on its head briefly. Then Achilles went to the empty side of the bed, and laid down, drawing Patroclus to his chest.
"No need to be sorry. You may not be as little as you once were, but you will always be welcome here. Now go to sleep," Achilles began to card his fingers comfortingly through his young cousin's light brown hair, as well as sing a lullaby almost under his breath.
Within minutes, Patroclus was soundly and contently asleep.