#and call that writing.
I have another Patzagchilles AU!
(Yeah I know I have a problem but the hyperfixation has me, what more do you want?)
Achilles is a beautiful Aegean nereid that gets captured off the coast and, despite his vicious escape attempts, ends up dragged to land and traded off to a traveling menagerie. His awful, tiny tank is kept with their other “money maker” for convenience, a rare Underworld demon named Zagreus.
His cage seems just as cramped, miserable, and inhospitable as Achilles’ tank, and he seems just as restless in there, even though he must have spent far more time in it than Achilles has. Zagreus does seem more resigned to their occasional forced performances though, acting up with feigned aggression without the threat of a whip.
Achilles can see plenty of scars from before he decided to accept it. Now, he just paces and snarls and frightens the crowds with his fangs without prompting and then is the most polite person Achilles has ever talked to at all other times.
Achilles understands and sympathizes with why Zagreus complies with their orders, but has no intentions to do the same. They open the top of his tank and want him to perform with twirls and flips and other fanciful nonsense, but they’re fools.
He keeps his tail while in the tank, but a nereid can walk on legs when they so choose, whether they realize that or not. There’s already a crowd by the time they finally open it all the way up but Achilles doesn’t care.
He throws himself out and makes a break for it. The spectators flee but the workers scramble to try to drag him down. He’s unarmed and outnumbered but he almost makes it far enough before someone manages to spear him through the back of the heel and they drag him back.
The wound heals eventually but there’s a shackle on his wrist now and no room to try and escape again. Everything is still so restricted and unlivable and he loathes it but at least there’s Zagreus because, by now, Achilles has grown just as resigned.
Patroclus is getting desperate. He’s displaced from his home, in need of a job, and doing all he can to avoid getting involved in a brewing war. A job with this menagerie that will keep him on the move would work well for him.
It won’t be pretty but he’s always been good with animals and he can make it work. They take him on board readily enough but he finds more than just animals. There’s a nereid with his arms crossed over the edge of his tank chatting with a demon (dear gods, those are rare) in an uncomfortable metal cage as if they’re dearest friends talking over a nice lunch and not chained up and trapped in squalid conditions.
“I didn’t realize you kept people here,” Patroclus says testily. The man showing him around laughs and replies, “You won’t last long here if you can’t tell the difference between people and monsters.” The nereid and demon are both staring at him now and he has a very grim feeling about this at this point but he doesn’t have any other plan for himself.
Patroclus works where they tell him to, then tries to help where he can, keeping an eye on that strange pair in particular. They don’t belong here. The nereid, Achilles, is a beautiful creature covered with scales, almost transparent and ever so slightly iridescent above his waist, then rich blue green over his tail. Graceful frills line its edges that stir gently in the water. Pointed nails tip webbed fingers.
When he’s not talking to the demon, Achilles makes for a sad sight. Patroclus watches him drift at the bottom of his tank, still, staring off into the distance as if in the hope of catching sight of something more interesting. Pat has tried to offer some conversation, but goes unanswered.
Zagreus, the demon, is another story. He stares at Patroclus with his wide, red and green eyes. He constantly twitches the hooked tip of his long, thin tail. He has fire in the skin of his lower legs and a formidable set of claws on his hands and feet that make Achilles’ look dainty. There’s a pair of dark horns curling from his wild hair frame by fiery leaves that Pat can’t explain.
When he asks, Zagreus just says they grow there. He talks all the time. Even when Patroclus has to focus on some task and can’t converse, Zagreus will keep going on by himself, chattering away as he paces in endless circles in his tiny cage, over and over and over.
Pat does his best to keep up, offering conversation he hopes is at least somewhat engaging. Zagreus seems to think so. He smiles at him and laughs with him and he’s surprised to realize how well they’ve truly started getting along. He finds himself wanted to talk as far more than just a guilty courtesy to this locked up man.
It’s this kindness towards Zagreus and their genuine interaction that at length makes Achilles start to warm up to him. He lifts himself over the edge of the tank when it’s open or up to one of the holes in the glass when it’s not to join in their little chats. He’s more reserved than Zagreus but has a dry wit that he enjoys and the sound of his voice is lovely.
Achilles and Zagreus are not always together. Sometimes, when the group settles for the night, it’s just more convenient to set their tank and cage somewhere apart. Patroclus gets into the habit of keeping one or the other company on those nights.
His superiors don’t mind assigning him to take care of the two of them more and more since he’s willing to do it anyway and they don’t seem eager to rip his hands off. As long as he knows his place and stays in line, they don’t care if he wastes his time with them.
Patroclus has never cared about staying in line or in his place but he’s a good enough liar to pretend like he does.
He’ll talk to Achilles or Zagreus or both of them late into the night, half the time just falling asleep beside them without returning to his bed. The other men look at him strangely sometimes but they’re not nearly as good a company anyway, and Achilles and Zagreus are smarter and funnier as well, and they both have such interesting stories to tell and listen so raptly to his own, and fine- gods damn it- he’s falling in love with both of them.
Patroclus has never really been one for false modesty, and he thinks his affection is at least somewhat reciprocated. Achilles’ eyes trail after him all the time, a sharp contrast to the absent depression he displayed before.
He smiles at him more, little things as if they’re sharing a secret just between the two of them. He starts to make these soft trills at him as well, lyrical noises that he doesn’t understand but send his heart swooping through his chest anyway. He’s only ever heard him make such sounds at Zagreus on occasion, otherwise.
It’s harder to tell with Zagreus since he’s been so affectionate from the get go, but Patroclus notices a blush accompanying most of his smiles nowadays and his gaze flickers over his form more frequently.
The demon nearly jumps out of his skin when Pat pushes a comforting hand through the bars of his cage one day. He shudders dramatically when he takes it in his own. Patroclus’s heart pangs when he realizes he likely hasn’t felt a kind touch in a very long time. He offers his own more frequently after that and Zagreus accepts his touch almost reverently, tracing his fingers over the lines in his palm.
It’s with Achilles that Patroclus first gets the chance to reveal what’s in his heart. He watches his eyes glow with awe and longing before tightening with hesitation and shame. Voice halting, he tells him, “You deserve more than me. I’m trapped and imprisoned and helpless to what these people demand of me.”
Patroclus sighs in response. “I happened to notice that. I love you anyway.” Achilles eyes go wide and his lips part as if he means to argue, but all that escapes him is a wounded, desperate sound and he reaches out to cup his face with shaking hands and kiss him. Patroclus strains to lean up to where Achilles hangs out of his tank as far as the chains will allow.
Zagreus ardently confesses in return when Patroclus tells him of his affection, though it’s harder to deliver the kiss that he also reaches for. The bars of his cage force an awkward angle and Zagreus sounds a bit choked when he apologizes for it as he pulls back.
Patroclus hushes him and says, “The love is more important than anything that might try to get in the way, dear Zagreus.” He pulls his hands out through the bars and kisses all over his claws and knuckles and palms as Zagreus’s lashes flutter rapidly. Patroclus wishes he could pull him from this cage completely, all cold unforgiving metal so that Zagreus has nothing to burn.
Pat is glad that neither Achilles nor Zagreus take issue with his shared love of them. He hid nothing, but still worried absently that they wouldn’t appreciate him coming between them. However, they both still eagerly enjoy his presence and neither one shies from the affection he shows to the other.
But still, he gets a strange sense in response to such displays, not angry or unwelcoming, but maybe something bitter, maybe something jealous. The explanation he stumbles upon catches him off guard.
One night, when Achilles’ tank is elsewhere, Zagreus asks him with a voice so low and shot through with longing, what Achilles feels like. What it’s like to hold his hand. Patroclus blinks in surprise. Zagreus tells him they’ve never touched. Ah.
Zagreus stares like he’s starving as he describes the strangely cool slip of his skin, the smooth stroke down the scales on the back of his hand and the rough drag up the other way. Zagreus tells him that he’s glad Pat can give him the love he deserves. Pat tries to reassure him that Achilles certainly appreciates the company of his lover, even when they’re physically separated.
Zagreus jolts and flushes and quickly tells him that he and Achilles aren’t lovers. Patroclus blinks hard once again. They are so familiar and affectionate with each other that he never questioned the assumption, such that he can’t think of any response other than “Why not?”
He looks so heart wrenchingly plaintive as he says, “How could we be? He deserves so much and I have nothing to offer him. I can’t even reach him. I want the best for him and I can’t give him any of that.” It aches deep in Patroclus’s heart but he can also barely stop from rolling his eyes at how blind he’s being.
“That’s ridiculous,” Pat tells him. “You’ve given Achilles so much more than you realize. I’m sure he loves you.” Zagreus frowns and disagrees. Patroclus sighs. “Well what about the company Achilles has given you, hmm? What does it mean to you?”
“Everything,” he says immediately. “It means the world to me, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Patroclus raises a brow. “Is it really such a stretch of the imagination that Achilles feels the same way about what you have already given him?” Zagreus looks unconvinced but he doesn’t argue either. Once again, he looks at Pat like he’s starving.
He kisses his lovely demon and tries to give him comfort and reassurance before he has to leave for the night. He spends the next night with Achilles, still apart from Zagreus. He also asks him why they aren’t lovers, and what do you know, Achilles gives basically the same reason Zagreus did. Patroclus does roll his eyes this time.
Achilles is more stubborn when Pat tries to tell him that that’s nonsense but he still sees the spark of longing and hope that creeps into his eye as they talk. Pat kisses him plenty as well, and eventually remembers Zagreus’s question that started all this.
Unprompted, Patroclus tells Achilles how incredibly warm Zagreus’s skin is to the touch, how careful and delicate he is with his claws when their hands connect and how hot his breath is when they kiss. Achilles doesn’t seem to know what to say to that, staring unblinkingly at him with pupils wide and dark.
Patroclus doesn’t talk to them the next night when Achilles’ tank is back next to Zagreus’s cage; he approaches to see them talking, voices disguised by low undertones, and decides to leave them undisturbed.
A few nights pass before Zagreus pulls him closer to his bars and looks at him with an edge of desperation before saying, “Take this to Achilles,” and kissing him firmly on the lips. Achilles is right there, he heard him say it, and his gaze drills a hole into Patroclus as he turns and crosses the distance. He says nothing but doesn’t hesitate in the slightest to lean in when Pat pulls himself up.
His breath hitches when Patroclus delivers the message, as accurate as he can be to the way Zagreus kissed him. He pulls back and the nereid needs a moment before his eyes reopen and he says, “Please bring this back to Zagreus,” and kisses so very tenderly.
A little part of Patroclus thinks this feels quite silly since they’re only about 3 yards apart and they’ve both been staring at him this whole time, but Zagreus is beaming at him when he turns back and he really doesn’t mind doing this for them.
Still, once he’s passed on the kiss to Zagreus, he informs them that this is quite the strange arrangement and that he’ll just have to find a way to unite them properly. Zagreus can’t hide his enthusiasm, looking at him nervously but with a smile that’s only grown wider. Achilles sighs shakily and murmurs, “Please be careful.”
Zagreus falls asleep that night pushed up right up to the cage bars, his right arm shoved through a gap up to the bicep, which can’t fit through, and extended right towards Achilles. He can’t reach out of his tank in the same way, but Achilles sleeps pressed against the side nearest Zagreus.
Even when the two of them can’t touch, every inch between them that they can close takes weight off their tender hearts.
Time passes before Patroclus feels comfortable enough about his chances of getting them out. For one, he wants to wait until they’re close enough to the coast before trying. Achilles tells him that he can survive without being in water for an extended time, a few weeks even, but it’s not indefinite. Fortunately, they’re nearing the coast at last.
The master of the menagerie keeps the keys to Achilles’ and Zagreus’s cages on his person at all times, but Patroclus feels confident he can get him drunk enough to swipe them. That just leaves the odds of them getting away fast enough before anyone notices what’s going on.
Achilles scowls and bitterly admits his fear that he won’t be able to keep up. It’s been a long time since his heel was wounded but he hasn’t had the chance to walk since then and he has no faith in his legs’ ability to run.
Patroclus just starts to wonder if they’ll need a new plan when Zagreus declares that demons are strong and near tireless creatures and that he can carry Achilles as far as they need to go for him to get the chance to regain his strength.
Achilles flushes and frets over his well being and Patroclus questions his truthfulness since he sees Zagreus sleeping all the time. He’s quick to reassure that he’ll be fine and that he’ll never leave Achilles behind and that “It’s just because there’s nothing to do around here, Pat, I don’t need to sleep much, but at least it helps with the boredom.”
Two nights later, they put the plan into motion. An amphora of wine gets Pat the keys and he waits patiently until the area around his lovers is as clear as it ever is then starts opening locks as quietly as he can. Zagreus first, then Achilles.
The nereid does land on his feet when he pulls himself out, strong enough to stand, but he looks shaky. Zagreus whispers a little, “May I?” and waits for Achilles minute nod. They both shudder when Zagreus gets an arm under his knees and gathers him up in his arms, pressed so very close as they touch for the first time.
They make a break for the river that they’ll follow to the sea and apparently Zagreus was being fully truthful because he carries Achilles without trouble, even when they keep going until dawn is fully broken to be sure they won’t be caught so easily.
Resting on the river bank, Patroclus admits that food won’t be great for the next few days, he has a town he’s aiming for that he thinks will take about two and a half days to reach, but until then, they’ll have to find things to eat around them.
Achilles quickly announces that if they stay by the river, he can fish up whatever they might need. Zagreus rubs the back of his neck and sheepishly offers his fiery legs to help cook them. Patroclus can’t help but laugh and kiss them both.
Achilles walks on his own for a while before Zagreus helps again; he limps a bit but it’s not as bad as any of them feared. Patroclus examines the old wound when he gets the chance and doesn’t doubt that he’ll get his strength back in time.
He dives in the river when they stop for the night and comes back with three fat trout. Pat elect to build a standard wood fire for the cooking but Zagreus’s feet are useful for getting the kindling to catch anyway.
As Patroclus sets about cooking the two fish (Achilles says he’ll eat his raw but wants to wait to eat with them) he sees Zagreus shuffle up to Achilles out of the corner of his eye. They intertwine their fingers, holding to each other tightly, and although Patroclus isn’t rude enough to stare, he might watch peripherally that lovely first kiss they share.
They’re very clingy with each other and with Patroclus as well, if perhaps not quite as much. They all sleep together that night, Patroclus clamped close in between them, their linked hands resting on his side, and all is not yet right with the world but damn if it doesn’t feel that way.
They end up settling in the little coastal town where the inhabitants are smart enough not to rat out the three strongest people around. Best not to cause trouble with a dangerous nereid, a fierce demon, and their strange mortal who’s more than capable of handling any trouble in his own right.
Besides, they quickly realize that they don’t want to. Achilles brings fresh fish on every market day, even more when Patroclus convinces him that nets are in fact a valid form of fishing and he starts setting them up underwater in ideal spots only he can reach. He’s always proud of his haul but sells and trades them very generously.
Zagreus (who knew a demon could be such a sweetheart?) takes up all sorts of odd jobs around town. He helps most often with the shepherds tending the herds on the outskirts, patrolling the border every few nights and keeping any predators well away from the sheep and cattle.
Patroclus starts helping out the elderly town healer. He admits that he knows quite a bit already about treating wounds and illnesses and helps the old man with tasks he can’t manage on his own anymore. He helps when things are too busy for him to handle alone and takes his place when he passes away a few years later.
The town doesn’t pay much mind to how they sometimes find Achilles snoozing in the surf or to how Zagreus sometimes burns footprints into wood floors when he gets too excited or to how all three of them are so obviously in love because they’re kind and why make trouble where there isn’t any?
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Hero walked in hoping against hope that what he had heard was all a lie. Despite his hopes, sadly, fate was making a mockery of him. There, standing near the fountain gazing into its waters deep in thought, stood his precious younger brother. Villain.
How? He thought desperately, this was not supposed to be the way they met after years. How was his precious younger brother who would follow him around all the time the notorious villain who had terrorised the entire town. Due to his presence the once bustling town square was silent. Deathly silent.
A few people hid in nearby buildings or shops watching the scene in front of them. They had been the ones to finally call Hero here to save them from the villain and were now no doubt watching the scene unfolding in front of their eyes.
Villain finally looked up. Hero gasped. His eyes, the ones that usually were full of adoration and love and happiness, were now devoid of any emotion. They just had darkness devoid of any emotions in them. Villain smirked. “Long time no see, brother. It’s hilarious how fast you came here to save people.” He laughed a cold quick laugh that had no humour in it but just anger and was that a tinge of sadness? Or had Hero imagined it? “Otherwise, you had totally forgotten about your little brother.”
Hero stepped back. What had happened to his brother that had changed him so? He walked closer as if to embrace his brother.
Villain stepped back, raising his arm in a swift motion to stop Hero. “Just do what you came here to do. From the moment you heard I was the villain, you had no sympathy and came here with your weapons,” he looked at Hero’s waist where he kept his sword. “From the moment you decided to bring your weapons here to have a chat with your little brother. We were enemies. Why stall now? Let’s get to the main part. I’ve always wondered if I could finally beat you. Best you at something for once just once in my life.”
Villain flashed a cold smile as he pulled out his crescent moon blades. “Let’s fight,” he growled and then ran at Hero with a snarl. Hero barely had enough time to draw his sword and parry.
Villain clearly was fighting with all he had. Hero was forced to draw another blade to prevent himself from getting cut. Villain was extremely quick as he whirled around Hero just as deadly and fast with his moon blades. Luckily Hero had trained enough that he wasn’t suppressed and could hold his own.
They went back and forth even climbing onto the fountain at times until they were both breathing hard and sweat had started beading at their foreheads. Villain whirled his blades expertly while he looked up eyes taking in Hero’s stance and his mind no doubt planning what to do next. He leaped into the air as he feinted to one side and was about to bring his blades down onto Hero.
Paying no heed to Hero, Villain brought down the blades onto Hero’s swords with all his might. They were both pushing as they did their best to disarm the other. Finally Hero managed to dislodge Villains blades and brought his blade up meaning to point it at Villain to force him to surrender. What he didn’t anticipate was that Villain had extra daggers which he pulled out in a flash and they were going to meet in the centre when he called out to him, “Brother please stop!”
Villain faltered his eyes widened with shock as he looked up. It had been ages since Hero had called him that. Too bad it was too late for him to be happy. Hero hadn’t expected him to falter and misjudged the strength he had been thrusting his sword with as his sword smoothly pierce Villain’s gut. He stared in horror as it entered Villains body in slow motion and he could do nothing to stop it. Hero let go of the sword as he stepped back in shock.
Villain’s eyes widened as he dropped his weapons and stared down at his gut as he took in the unfamiliar sight of a sword sticking out of it. He slowly laughed, blood spilling out of the corner of his mouth. He had a wild look in his eyes as he smiled a gruesome smile, teeth tinged with red. He maintained eye contact with Hero as he placed his hands on the sword and in one swift motion pulled it out of himself.
Hero gasped in shock and rushed forward too late to do anything. Villain smiled as he placed his hands over his stomach as if to cover the wound that was now bleeding profusely. He looked up at Hero with a bloody grin, hand still clutching the gaping hole in his gut dripping with blood. He laughed, a broken humourless sound. “You finally did it brother, I was always in the shadows because of your brilliance. Even now, years later, look at you the shining star, the saviour of the people.” Villain let out another loose laugh that uncontrollably burst out of his lips as tears rolled down his eyes. He was laughing but his eyes were extremely sad.
“You left me and went to the city to become a hero. Well then let me cause havoc here in the town where you were born, where you grew up, in the very same town where you abandoned your little brother to seek for glory.”
Villain’s words were becoming softer now, until now he had been staggering to keep himself on his feet now he slowly started swaying and his legs gave out beneath him. He started falling while his vision started to blur as he fell into his brother’s warm embrace. Hero had jumped beside him in a flash. Hero gently cradled his head as he sat down supporting Villain against his shoulder as he looked at his brother with sadness and guilt.
Villain gathered the last bit of his energy to speak. It was apparent he was making great effort, “I finally... became famous enough and brought you back home... Back ..to me,” he said with a satisfied smile as he started taking laboured breaths. He felt warm wet tears on his face. Villain’s vision had started to blur but he blinked evidently confused as he tried to see who was it that was crying over him. He looked up and could vaguely make out his brothers face staring at him. Sadly, his vision was fading too soon, Villain smiled at last and slowly his body stilled and went limp in his brother’s arms.
Hero couldn’t hold his tears any longer as he quietly broke down while the townspeople cheered as they slowly emerged from the shops and buildings out into the town square.
They were too busy rejoicing their new found freedom and life free from terror to notice Hero. Hero, who was silently shaking with grief as his heart felt hollow and tears fell from his face as they mixed with the dirt and blood on the ground.
The curtain fell.
As the audience burst into applause, the children behind the curtain who had just put on the play did the same as they smiled around at each other. The play had been a success!
The boy who had played the role of Hero quickly wiped away his tears and stood with a smile as he offered his hand to his younger brother who had coincidentally played the role of Villain. His brother pulled out the blood bag from his clothes and stood up after wiping his hands on a spare cloth.
They both took in the messy scene on stage, the floor covered in the fake blood. Villain’s outfit had it the worst. It was completely soaked red near his stomach.
The brothers grinned at each other.
“What do you think mother will think of our performance in the play?”
“I’m sure she’ll be proud. Besides we totally nailed that fight scene, didn’t we?”
His brother replied with a laugh, “Absolutely! Which one of us is going to tell mother that years of sparring with each other with our toy weapons finally paid off when she had specifically told us they were of no use?”
The younger brother laughed, “There is no way you’ll ever catch me telling her that. I have no wish to be scolded tonight.”
With that, the brothers left with their arms around each other’s shoulders, cheerfully talking about the play they had just put up as they headed backstage to meet with the rest of their friends and their drama teacher to go back to the stage for the final curtain call.
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