L&W 4: Demands of Virtue
Title: Demands of Virtue Series: Love and War IV Author: Tanith Rating: PG for now (NC-17 to come) Genre: Drama/Angst Fandom: Troy/Iliad Pairings: Achilles/Patroclus Warnings: This is SLASH. Don't read if you're offended by male-male relations.
Author's notes: tba
Timeline note: This takes place in the early evening of the night that the Trojans attack the Greek camp.
Summary: Patroclus finally confronts Achilles on his reason for abandoning the war, and makes a decision.
It was early evening when Patroclus finally decided to go talk to his cousin. He had dwelt on the words of the morning and his own tumultuous thoughts for most of the day, but still he could not come to any clear decision of what to do. The one bit of knowledge he lacked was why Achilles chose now of all times to depart, and there was nowhere else for him to find out except from Achilles himself.
With determined steps, he marched into Achilles' tent, only to come to an abrupt stop upon sight of Achilles with the slave girl, Briseis. He had been vaguely aware that Achilles returned with the girl the night before, and he intellectually knew full well what kind of fate awaited such captured girls... But he still couldn't help but feel a stab of resentment at seeing his Achilles in another's arms. Even if it was just a woman.
Achilles looked up from Briseis when Patroclus entered the room, to see his cousin glaring at him-- or rather, at Briseis.
"Something wrong, Patroclus?"
Patroclus shook off the surge of jealousy, telling himself that he was being irrational, and answered Achilles' question.
"I wish to know what was on your mind, my lord. Why did you order us to prepare to depart? Why now?"
"I have my reasons," Achilles said simply, unwilling to discuss it.
However, as he looked at Patroclus' unmoving form, he sighed, rose from the sleeping mat and tossed on a tunic. Clearly his cousin would not be satisfied without an answer. What a time for the younger man to assert his stubbornness. He gestured for Patroclus to sit across from him on the couch. Both men ignored the rustling under the bedsheets as Briseis furtively scrambled to dress herself.
"Why do you pursue this, Patroclus?" Achilles asked wearily. "There will not lack for battles and glory in the future."
"But why does that mean we must leave this battle? Agamemnon's forces cannot win without us. Without you!"
"That is Agamemnon's concern. Not mine." Temper began to sneak into Achilles' tone at the mention of the Agamemnon.
"And what of Ajax's followers? Odysseus and his people? Diomedes? Idomeneus?" Patroclus continued, undaunted, "they are lost without you too!" He knew Achilles, he told himself. There had to be another reason.
Indeed, Achilles did seem to waver momentarily at that. Perhaps off balance as much because of Patroclus' uncharacteristic forthrightness as because of his words. Patroclus was not the only one to sense that brief lapse.
"Then let them leave too! There is no good reason for war and killing!" Briseis exclaimed, unable to hold her tongue.
"What?" Patroclus stared at the slave girl, amazed at her audacity. He had almost forgotten that she was there.
"I wouldn't expect common soldiers to understand." The words were haughty, though laced with bitterness.
Like a snake, Patroclus struck, seizing the girl by the chin and forcing her to meet his furious gaze. Did the wench not want to live, to disparage both her captors so? What possessed her to speak this way?
"Watch who you insult, girl," he spat. He spoke slowly so that there would be no misunderstanding his words. "My cousin, who you now serve, is the son of Peleus, king of Phthia. His blood is no less royal than old Priam's, much less a--"
"Patroclus," Achilles interrupted, his voice a warning. "Let her go."
Patroclus tossed the girl back onto the mat, still fuming. Briseis glared back at him, though not without a measure of fear and uncertainty in her eyes. Fear, because of Patroclus' threat. Uncertainty, because her preconceptions had just been shaken by his revelation of Achilles' royal blood.
Achilles regarded their mutual glares with something akin to exasperation. He sighed again. He had not wanted to discuss his reasons with anyone. But Patroclus was not exactly one of his subordinate Myrmidon warriors, for all that he was under his own personal tutelage. The younger man had more right than anyone to know his thoughts.
Abruptly leaning over, Achilles seized Briseis by the arm and pulled her to her feet after him as he strod briskly to the tent flap.
"Get her something to eat and keep her out of trouble until we're done here."
With that command, Achilles roughly pushed Briseis out into the startled soldier's arms. Trusting Eudoras to be careful with her and discreet, Achilles promptly turned back into the room, letting the flap fall closed behind him. He dropped back into the couch across from Patroclus.
"How can you stand her?" asked Patroclus who was still staring after the closed tent flap. "She speaks like no woman should."
Achilles snorted. "She's a strange girl," he admitted, "I find her strangeness amusing. I wonder what Priam or whatever kin of his had been thinking when he raised her." Seeing the other man's dubious expression, he abruptly leaned forward and place a hand atop Patroclus'. "Don't tell me you're worried on the account of a mere girl!"
Patroclus shook his head. "Of course not. I couldn't care less about the girl." He paused for a moment, before adding awkwardly. "I... I care about you." He looked into Achilles' eyes earnestly. "Please, tell me. What happened?"
Achilles frowned as he idly scrutinized his sandals. "Agamemnon has no intentions of giving reparations for his insult," he finally ground out, anger coloring his voice.
"But-- he did return the girl, did he not...?" Patroclus trailed off uncertainly.
Achilles gave a disbelieving snort. "He had nothing to do with it." With another surge of anger, he was on his feet, pacing the room in agitation. "Did you know where I came across her last night when I thought to go to Menelaus' funeral? That sack of manure calling itself king had given her to the common soldiers! As if proclaiming to the world that such a trophy that was the cause of our discord had no value to speak of!" Achilles whirled to face the stunned Patroclus in mid-rant. "Tell me, Patroclus: why should I stay and fight for an incompetent fool who insults me? What reason do I have to fight men beyond those high walls who have not wronged me at all?!"
Stunned silence met the ringing question. When Patroclus finally found his voice to answer, his words was tentative and uncertain, the very picture of a young protege seeking assurance from his mentor. "For... glory?"
Achilles snorted again and turned to stare blindly at the strips of light leaking through the flap of his tent. "If I fight for Agamemnon and we win, he will only claim all the glory of war for his own, just like he did the spoils," he explained darkly.
"Then... for the Greek soldiers and the other lords?"
"If they choose to stay for Agamemnon, it is their choice to fight and die," Achilles sighed. "No insult has come to them, nor dishonor if they die on the fields. No, Patroclus, there is no good reason for me to fight at all. Can you understand that, Patroclus?"
He did. Much as it pained him to see his cousin and beloved companion with his hand forced so to leave behind the chance for glory and the aid of their fellow Greeks, Patroclus did understand the decision. He was still not sure that leaving was the only alternative they had, but he knew his hopes for a change for the better were nebulous at best, and likely unrealistic.
Rising from the couch, he approached the forbidding figure of his cousin and laid a gentle hand on the other man's shoulder.