from birth, he is instilled with a fear of weakness.
his mother does everything she can to make him stronger, but never teaches him that he is worth more than the weight of his muscles and the force behind his fist.
he remembers drowning, pain and terror rushing through every nerve in his body, wishing she would let go of his foot so he could just dissolve instead...
then there is light, or as much light as reaches the underworld, and the face of one who did not believe in him enough to let him build his own strength.
you are immortal now, she breathes with an air of the miraculous in her voice,
you cannot die by any type of injury.
well, except one, right here on your heel.
but then, he turns to look at her, doesn’t that mean i am not immortal at all?
he still touches the spot sometimes, at night, feeling an emptiness there that both reassures and terrifies him.
the rest of the time, he wears thick socks and like everyone else, ignores the thought of his mortality.
on his ninth birthday, he is disguised and sent away to spends his days among another’s daughters.
he grows up in love,
and surrounded by compassion, it is there that he learns how to be a real warrior, simultaneously gentle and fierce.
but they come for him in the night, throwing words in his face about prophecies and oracles that go over his head.
it is his destiny to win, they tell him, and he must fulfill it.
duty takes away his choice.
so he fights their battles but shoots the sea to make tidal waves that hide the fact he keeps deliberately missing, lacking the hatred needed to ****.
the first time he hurts someone, he cannot sleep for days, only feeling better when the man comes back and allows him to repair the injury.
in combat, they give him fifty ships to command
but then take his love,
and when he cries in his tent and refuses to leave, they are ashamed of him.
it is only when his best friend is murdered that the fire they wanted from him ignites, consuming his vision in red.
if they seek violence, he yells, that is what they shall have .
once he emerges in full gear, everyone trembles, picturing his anger,
but cannot see that it is loyalty and loss which burn even stronger in him,
more destructively powerful than their petty reasons for starting this war.
years later, when they retell the story of his victory, everyone swears he was completely untouchable
she finds him in the garden when it is all over, watching the flaming chariot just barely climbing over the horizon.
covered in dried blood but no wounds, his body is tense and unmoving,
but when she reaches out to touch him, he flinches and pushes her away.
he doesn’t need her help, he says through grit teeth, he is strong enough to handle it alone,
and to his surprise, she laughs.
you are too young and small to consider yourself atlas, and even that titan had help from heroes. you have lost much, which will not be forgotten quickly or easily. but strength can only be found in facing our weakness and, sometimes, allowing others to carry our burden. if you will let me, i should like to bear yours.
in the silence that follows, she watches the reflection of sunrise in his eyes,
and as the tightness and shadows of his face fall away, she can begin to see through to the child he once was, soft and joyful and a little bit scared.
laying his head in her lap, she uses her hair to wipe the tears that form
and slowly, in the silence under white flags, achilles heals
I tried in incorporate themes of toxic masculinity, but my apologies if it came across badly