A/N: "When will Achilles show up in this story?" you demand. I've been asking myself the same question since age 14 when I started this, but fear not. Soon.
"Helen, oh gods, I'm so sorry!" Briseis managed to force the words out, tamping down her instinctive terror at being grabbed from behind. "I just-" She quickly released the other woman's arm, instead extending her hand to help her off the marble floor. "I know I told everyone I was alright after I came back from the camp, but it would seem that old habits die hard." She looked down at Helen's arm, still red where she'd grabbed it moments before. "Are you alright?"
The blonde nodded. "It's fine, really. I shouldn't have- I didn't think." Her face turned grave. "Briseis, listen to me, there's something you need to know, something-"
"Is this about that horse? Hecuba just told me what the council decided, and frankly it's nothing short of suspicious that-"
"Briseis, listen," Helen interrupted. "You're right, it's more than suspicious. The patron goddess of the Greeks wouldn't favor Troy, especially if her favorites had just lost the war to us, she's too proud. And that spy's story; I haven't been with the Greeks for a long time, but not so long that they'd grow foolish enough to openly discuss such matters. It has to be some sort of trap. And if it is, that means-"
Briseis's eyes widened. Helen didn't need to continue; they both understood the three unspoken words:
They're still here.
Which means...he's still here. She tried vainly to suppress the rush of hope that the second thought brought. Foolish girl, he's probably forgotten you already.
And yet, had he?
She allows herself to consider this, briefly; what seeing him again could mean. They called him a brute, a mindless, raging Greek- the view she herself had once held, before she saw what he was truly like. He had protected her, a mere slave in their camp, as though she were someone precious to him. He had offered her what she craved most of all- respect, an acknowledgement that she held value beyond her status as a priestess or Trojan royalty. Before he loved her, before she even cared for him at all, he had given her that.
She had nearly forgotten how it felt to be with him, the danger, the power that came with holding the heart of Achilles. Since she had returned, her life in the city had gone on as it always had. It was as if the entire royal palace was trying to pretend that an army wasn't encamped outside their walls. Once she'd made it clear that she no longer wished to dedicate herself solely to the service of the gods, the noble boys- yes, boys, she couldn't bring herself to think of them as men, not now- of high birth had gone right back to trying to court her, to win the favor of a princess of the royal house and advance their own status. They came to her in quiet corridors, at banquets, in the corners of every social event- smelling of perfume and hair oil, their hands smooth and soft and wrong. She painted her face for them, flashed them a smile and blithely encouraged them, for what else was she to do now? Priam would ultimately dictate who she would marry, and what good would it do then to have offended her suitor out of spite?
But how could they try to compare, how could they hope to compare, to having the greatest warrior the world had ever known underneath her, inside her-
No, don't think of that, you can't have him anymore. Don't fool yourself. She did her best to push away the heat that pooled low in her stomach, and shook her head. "Helen, if this is true, if the horse is really some sort of ruse and they're still nearby planning something, surely they must mean to do it soon? We've already fallen right into whatever they're planning when we brought that thing inside. Perhaps it's not too late, if we try and warn King Priam, surely he'll take heed-"
The other woman shook her head. "Believe me, I've tried. If they could put their hatred of me aside for one moment they would hear that I was speaking sense! But I fear it may already be too late."
A chill ran down Briseis's spine. "What do you mean?"
"This very morning I heard Cassandra pleading with Priam, confirming all that I suspected but with details that she surely couldn't possibly know- and he dismissed her outright, ordered her not to speak on the matter again. His own daughter! Last I heard, she was on her way out to the city walls to try and tell anyone who would listen that Troy was going to fall."
"I doubt she could find a single person who would agree with her; they're all too drunk off our 'victory' to think of anything else." Briseis muttered.
They both avoided the fact that no one, not even them, ever seemed to believe Cassandra about anything. Whenever the princess spoke her supposed prophecies it was like a golden fog crept into their minds, beautiful but so full of doubt, lies...
Helen shook her head. "That's why I came to warn you. I fear there may be nothing more we can do for the rest of them, they're too blind, and we have no definite proof. But I wanted you to know that if something does happen", she leaned in close then seemed to change her mind, taking a step back and motioning her into the nearest alcove. When she spoke again, her voice was quieter. "There's a way out. Before he died, Hector told me of a passage on the west side of the city, near marker eighty-four. It leads to the shore, to a hidden cove, and there should be a boat there- if the Greeks haven't gotten to it by now."
Briseis's head was reeling. She felt as though she had barely gotten back to Troy, and now to hear that they could be at risk of destruction again, and due only to their own foolishness- "Who else knows of this?"
"Only myself, Andromache, Paris, and now you. Perhaps it will come to nothing, and I pray you'll never have to use it, but if anything goes wrong, you need to get there."
"And what of you?"
Helen smiled grimly. "Darling, if they get in here, there's not a thing in the world that can save me." She clasped Briseis's shoulder gently, and before the other woman could respond, turned away and was gone.
Briseis found herself lingering in the hallway as Helen's footsteps grew fainter, still trying to process what she had been told. The city being invaded was a possibility she had lived with for the duration of the war, no matter which side of the Trojan wall she'd been trapped on. And during her time with- she stopped herself- during her time as a prisoner of the Greeks, she had tried to resign herself to never seeing the remainder of her family or friends again. But the thought of leaving them to their fate to save herself- they wouldn't listen, it's already too late for them, but you, you can survive- a voice inside her head whispered, but she forced it down. Nothing was proven, nothing had happened yet. Helen's intuition was one thing, but the future could be another, and she wouldn't waste time on things she couldn't change. She'd done enough of that already.
Briseis took a deep, slow breath, and continued walking down the corridor, doing her best to ignore the part of herself that knew that if the Greeks did invade, in the center of the monstrous horror and bloodshed would be the man she loved.
As it turned out, Cassandra was right.