Title: Witness of Love and Gods
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Alexander the Great (movie)
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Alexander, Bagoas, Cassander, Cleitus, Crateros, Hephaistion, Ptolemy
Pairings: Alexander/Hephaistion, Hephaistion/Ptolemy (implied Alexander/Roxanne, Ptolemy/Thais)
Summary: Movie-fic. Ptolemy told much about Alexander and his life to the generations after, but there are also many stories that shall never be repeated...
Warnings: m/m -relationship, violence, character’s death
Author’s Note: This chapter was updated and at some parts re-edited to its proper form 27th of October 2005.
#India. That cursed, god- forsaken land. But as much I hate that place, I cannot deny that some part of me will always remember that part of our journey with more fondness than the others. For in India, my life changed completely.
After leaving Hindu Kush, the men got more spirited, but in the mean time Alexander withdrew more into himself, his thoughts solely with his dreams. And when he woke from his dreams, he wondered about the new lands we had reached. As our route took us even more south, the cold was soon forgotten by even the most reluctant men.
What drew my attention most was not the new world around us, but Hephaistion. Ever since Alexander’s wedding, we had grown closer, and now as Alexander seemed to ignore Hephaistion most of the time, something dark began to grow in me.
I thought it to be anger, at first, but then I observed this feeling, and recognised it to be temptation. I denied myself. I buried my emotions far beneath all else, trying to focus my thoughts elsewhere. But he was always in my thoughts, no matter what I tried.
I am not sure at what point he noticed me watching him more than usual, but he did not give me a remark of that. Somehow, it seemed to me as if he was delighted at such attention. I truly understood him: in such a position as his, you have few to trust – if any – and you must be on your guard at all times. He was lonely. And when Alexander’s attention was so solely somewhere else, I was the only one to keep him company.
I responded to him, seeing my chance before my very eyes. And in due amount of time, temptation turned into lust, and lust into something else. Love, perhaps. But it was not pity, that much I know myself.#
Night was falling, and the moisture of the air clung to Hephaistion’s clothes and skin. He pushed a strand of damp hair behind his ear, stopping on a small clearing in their camp. Men were moving all around him, focused on their tasks. Sentries were placed, people preparing for well-earned rest.
Hephaistion stood watching, his ears picking up the strange noises around them in the forest. This place was so different from all those they had seen before, and yet he was certain they would see even more wondrous things in the future. He had only heard stories of India and lands beyond it, but it seemed that he would see them if Alexander remained on his path…
“What are you thinking?”
Hephaistion turned around, smiling at the very man he had been thinking about. “Nothing special,” he answered silently, nodding at his king respectfully.
Alexander smiled, looking up at the trees. “It really is different from Greece, don’t you agree?”
“It is,” Hephaistion answered, but didn’t bother to look around.
“And what other things we shall see…” Alexander mumbled, his eyes getting distant. Hephaistion knew that look and bowed his head, knowing that he would be forced to entertain himself for a moment. But instead of falling deeper into his dreams, Alexander blinked, his right hand raising to caress Hephaistion’s arm. “I must go: Roxane is waiting for me. But I will speak with you tomorrow,” he promised, his hand falling back. Giving Hephaistion a brief, private smile, Alexander headed out, Hephaistion’s eyes following him for a long time.
“Tomorrow,” Hephaistion finally whispered, defeat in his voice.
“Hephaistion,” greeted another voice, making a familiar shiver run down Hephaistion’s back. A gentle hand caressed his arm, driving away the lingering memory of Alexander’s hasty touch.
“Ptolemy,” Hephaistion replied, unable to keep the smile from his face. He turned around, facing the other man. “I’m glad to see you.”
“I can tell,” Ptolemy smiled, his eyes narrowing. “What did Alexander say?”
Hephaistion sighed, shaking his head. “Nothing,” he finally uttered, irritation in his voice.
“He must have said something to upset you so,” Ptolemy continued, his fingers curling around Hephaistion’s arms, keeping the other still. “Tell me.”
“Maybe it is you who upsets me,” Hephaistion challenged, but his eyes didn’t hold as much venom as his words. And Ptolemy saw more in those blue pools than the words the other’s lips uttered.
“He left you alone again, did he not?” Ptolemy pressed.
“He had other tasks to attend,” Hephaistion snapped, trying to push Ptolemy away. “And so do you. Thais is waiting for you, I am sure.”
Something changed in Ptolemy’s expression, but instead of releasing Hephaistion, his hold increased in strength and his eyes got darker. “She does not wait for me to join her tonight,” he hissed, bringing Hephaistion closer. “So, it was Roxane he spoke about. Oh, do not try, Hephaistion! I know you, and your heart. How it yearns for Alexander to notice you, to love you…” he halted, seeing the pain win over the hatred upon Hephaistion’s face. “He does not deserve your love,” Ptolemy continued, his lips upon Hephaistion’s brow. “Your love is too pure for him. You should keep living your life, not his.” Ptolemy drew back, gazing deeply at Hephaistion. “I… I am not Alexander, but…” he did not finish, his eyes darting away.
“You are not Alexander,” Hephaistion echoed, a small smile appearing to his face. “But I do not want you to be him, either.”
Suddenly a distant thunder echoed through the landscape, a warm rain falling upon them like a curtain. Hephaistion grimaced, looking up to the sky. The dark cloud promised nothing but rain in the near future. Suddenly Ptolemy grabbed his hand, leading him away through the mist that the rain was raising from the ground. Hephaistion did not even dare to guess where they were headed.
After few minutes of walking they came to a shelter formed by great trees and a partially collapsed stone building. Ptolemy bowed down and walked in, throwing Hephaistion an encouraging smile. Following his companion, Hephaistion entered a small space. A smell of living things assaulted his senses, the sound of the rain muffled by the walls. It was quite dry there, the trees and stones keeping the rain away.
Hephaistion looked around in the dimness, wiping water away from his face. He felt Ptolemy’s gaze upon him and turned to the other man, giving him a devilish smile. “You do not look any better,” he laughed, looking down at his soaked clothes.
Ptolemy stepped closer and reached out with his hand to brush away more water droplets from Hephaistion’s cheek. The rain increased outside, thunder rumbling in the sky. Staring into the dark blue eyes, Ptolemy’s hands drew the wet hair out of Hephaistion’s face, his fingers lingering on the other’s ears, following their curve down to the sides of the strong neck. “Hephaistion…” he whispered, like a prayer. The man before him swallowed, his own hands coming to rest against Ptolemy’s chest. Rain drops hung from Hephaistion’s dark lashes, glittering in the fading light. Ptolemy leaned forward, wishing to capture the drops before they would fall, but Hephaistion tilted his head, bringing their lips together instead.
Ptolemy halted momentarily, but then decided against his hesitation, taking over the slow kiss. His fingers tangled in the wet hair, holding Hephaistion firmly in place. Hephaistion’s own hands sneaked up to his shoulders, one arm circling around his neck. Ptolemy’s heart beat maddeningly as he freed his right hand, letting it travel down Hephaistion’s back. When he reached the hem of the soft chiton, he let his hand travel upwards, rubbing against the damp, hot skin. As his questioning fingers encountered the strong buttocks, he traced up along them, his hips giving an unconscious push forward.
Hephaistion moaned, his fingers fisting into Ptolemy’s hair almost desperately as the hand moved up to the small of his back, sending shivers along his spine. The fingers kept moving, making torturous circles upon his back, the lips branding his, giving him no mercy either.
Finally Ptolemy pulled away, his eyes meeting Hephaistion’s momentarily. The fingers in his hair tugged him forward, and with a smile Ptolemy dropped his mouth, tracing the neck before him hungrily, and tasting it with a warm tongue. Hephaistion gasped, letting his head tilt back, his eyes drifting shut. Ptolemy freed his left hand and dropped it lower, seeking the fastenings of Hephaistion’s clothes. The other man’s hands left their place and sneaked in between their bodies to mimic Ptolemy’s actions.
Ptolemy smiled against the wet skin, letting his tongue lick away the water lingering there. He tasted rain and sweat and felt the other’s strong pulse against his lips. Hephaistion’s fingers touched the skin on his chest, bringing him back to action. Shifting his hands slightly, he unbalanced Hephaistion momentarily and then brought them both down to the ground, his lips upon Hephaistion’s skin in an instant. The man below him merely groaned and shifted under his weight.
Ptolemy halted from his task, leaning over Hephaistion. Their eyes locked together, breaths ghosting over each other’s skin. Slowly, Ptolemy’s hands moved up Hephaistion’s thighs and pushed the wet garments further up. Ptolemy pushed his hand deeper between the other’s legs, his eyes never leaving the other’s gaze. Hephaistion’s eyes fell shut and his neck arched back, a gasp escaping him as he rocked his hips forward, his hands taking hold of Ptolemy’s shoulders as if seeking support. With an unseen smile, Ptolemy leaned down to kiss Hephaistion, all the world around them forgotten.
#That night I’ve never forgotten. It stayed clear in my thoughts through every hardship we faced, warming me during cold nights when I couldn’t be with him. I can still hear him moaning my name as I settled inside of him, the way his every whimper controlled my movements. I can still remember the feel of his skin against mine, how he trembled in my hold when he came. And the long hours we laid together, listening to the rain and each other’s breathing, our bodies cooling from our love-making. It was not my first time with another male, but it was the most intense experience I had ever shared with anyone – male or female.
Even today, I do not regret it. The days that followed were peaceful, but the way he looked at me changed completely. For the first time, I think I really saw beyond his gaze, into his heart. And what I saw was peace.
He never compared me to Alexander, of which I am grateful. For who could compare to a man like him? Not once did he mention his name when my hands were upon him, even if I at times felt curious to ask about that. Did he think of Alexander when I took him? Later, I know he thought of me. He told me so. But I never pushed him to speak of Alexander, just like I never mentioned Thais. We both had our personal demons. The life beyond our secret love.
But what else I remember of India is jealousy. It was unreasonable, I admit it, but I couldn’t fight it. And beyond jealousy, it was fear. Fear of admitting what I truly felt towards a man who should have never been mine. I tried to avoid that question, but for his sake, I faced my inner fears.
It took me a long time to do so, and before that I nearly lost everything that I had ever fought for…#
The discussion was getting heated. Cleitus’ outburst was enflaming even Alexander, and it seemed that the general didn’t see his own death mirrored in the king’s eyes. Ptolemy looked desperately from Alexander to Cleitus, immediately regretting his toast for Cleitus’ new appointment. Even if Cleitus’ words had been pure mockery towards Alexander, he should have watched his own reaction more carefully. It seemed that the situation was getting out of hand.
People were growing quiet, careful eyes being directed to the argument. Hephaistion stood in a group across from Ptolemy, his eyes showing his own concern. He knew Alexander’s temper, and after the amount of strong wine the king had drunk, it would not be a surprise if his temper flared.
The discussion got more personal, the local people raising from their places and disappearing from view. Alexander’s voice carried in the silence, stopping even Cleitus as he compared himself to Heracles.
“How do you dare to compare yourself to Heracles? Did you conquer Asia by yourself, Alexander?” Cleitus challenged. “I mean, who planned the invasion of Asia? Was it not your father? Or is his blood no longer good enough?!” People held Cleitus back, trying to make him stop his account, but Alexander was already on his feet. “Zeus-Amon, is it?” Cleitus continued nonetheless.
Ptolemy felt like he was standing between two forces. There was no doubt that the argument was going to end up in a confrontation. His eyes surveyed the men around, trying to read the others’ reactions from their faces. Who would be on who’s side? Already, the army was dividing, and arguments like this did nothing good to Alexander’s power.
“You insult me, Cleitus! You mock my family, be careful!” Alexander shouted, pointing at the dark-haired man. Hephaistion stepped closer to him, seeing that the rage in the other’s eyes would not be satiated easily.
Cleitus, however, did not stop. The number of wine-goblets he had emptied were taking their toll. His words became more personal, attacking Alexander’s friendship with the Asians – barbarians. It was a matter that had been argued about countless times, but today seemed to be the breaking-point.
Alexander glanced around, trying to hold back his anger. “Go quickly, Cleitus, before you ruin your life,” he said finally, his face tense. Hephaistion glanced between the two, keeping himself alarmed. His eyes met Ptolemy’s momentarily, warning the other.
“Doesn’t your great pride fear the Gods any longer?” Cleitus taunted, stepping closer. “This army-” He pointed at the men around. “This army is your blood, boy! Without us you are nothing!”
Alexander looked back, blinking as if he was seeing something the others could not. “You no longer serve the purpose of this march,” he stammered, seemingly disoriented. “Get him from my sight!” Hephaistion stepped in front of him, holding one hand out to calm Alexander.
Cleitus fought back, raging his heart out. “I don’t serve the purpose? What was I serving, when I saved your life at Gaugamela?!” The rest of his words were drowned between the shouts of others, but the harm had been done.
Alexander lunged forward, men trying to stop him but to no avail. “Alexander!” Hephaistion shouted, trying to hold the king back. He repeated the other’s name, despair in his voice.
“Arrest him for treason!” Alexander’s words made everyone stop, shocked silence filling the room. Alexander looked around wildly, shaking the others away from him, demanding who of the others were in alliance with Cleitus. People looked at their king, shaking their heads desperately. At the moment, they could all be accused of treason if Alexander thought them guilty.
Alexander turned back to Cleitus, asking Zeus to trial the other man. Cleitus looked at Alexander in shock, but then his anger and bitterness won out, and his accusations filled the air again. When Alexander was about to attack Cleitus himself, Hephaistion drew him back, begging him to stop with his eyes.
Then Cleitus dared to call Alexander’s mother a barbarian, and the king snapped. Taking a spear from the hands of a startled guard, he strode forward with a cry of madness, driving the weapon through Cleitus’ body. Only after a moment Alexander understood what he had done, but it was too late. Cleitus was dead.
Hephaistion stared down at Cleitus’ still twitching body, his face paling. He turned around, not being able to bear the sight of the dead man. Further away, he saw Ptolemy, equal shock upon the other’s face. Men wept around them, Alexander’s cries mingling with the others’.
#It was a disaster. Cleitus was dead, and with no true reason. Alexander fell apart right in front of us, and I could but curse the entire situation. If only Cleitus would have held his peace, and had controlled himself before it had got out of hand…
But he did not, and he paid for it with his life.
And for the first time since leaving Macedonia, I knew Alexander was in mortal danger. There had been attempts at assassination before, but after these events, there were few who still trusted to their king – especially among the Friends.#
Ptolemy rushed out into the rain, wiping water from his face. The people were still paralysed by the fact that their king had killed one of his generals, so no one stood on his way as he ran forward. “Hephaistion!” he shouted, seeing the other’s figure distancing from the camp. He ran after him, reaching him quickly. “Hephaistion,” he said softer, taking hold of the other man’s arm.
Hephaistion halted reluctantly, his eyes glued to the muddy ground, his face pale. Ptolemy looked back to the building they had left, and then to the man beside him. “Hephaistion, you must go to Alexander. He needs to be –”
“No!” Hephaistion shouted, turning to look at Ptolemy. “I cannot!” he pleaded, his tears mingling with the rain.
“You must! We cannot let him break down! It will be our downfall,” Ptolemy urged him, shaking the other man. “If he does not face his men, they will use the opportunity to finish him. There are too many who wish him dead at the moment!”
“Do not ask that from me…” Hephaistion cried out, genuine fear in his voice. He pressed his face against Ptolemy’s chest, shaking his head desperately. “Please…”
“Hephaistion, I beg you,” Ptolemy pleaded. “For Alexander. Without him, all we have built will fall. The empire will crush down. Do this for Macedonia. For Greece.”
Hephaistion was still for a long moment, but finally he lifted his head, looking up at Ptolemy, his eyes cold. “He might kill me as well,” he whispered roughly.
“Never you, Hephaistion!” Ptolemy swore, his hand caressing the other’s hair. “He loves you. Only you. He will listen to no other.”
“He loves me…” Hephaistion echoed, his fingers fisting into Ptolemy’s front. “But does it keep this madness in him at bay? He is no longer the Alexander I knew.”
“We have kept him on a straight road this far,” Ptolemy soothed. “He cannot turn against you, or he will destroy himself. He has fallen too deep: he has become shadowed by his own dreams. You can lead him out into light again, make him breath free air.”
Hephaistion nodded uncertainly, his eyes still showing his fear. “For the world,” he whispered brokenly. “For Alexander.”
Ptolemy swallowed, his fingertips tracing the other’s face. “All will be well. Just go to him, and…” he didn’t finish, unable to continue. A voice in the back of his mind laughed at him, calling him a coward.
Hephaistion nodded again, drawing away slightly. Before he was able to leave, however, Ptolemy grabbed him back, kissing him passionately. Hephaistion answered to the other with equal heat, his fingers digging into Ptolemy’s flesh painfully.
Ptolemy welcomed the pain, holding on to Hephaistion for a long time. Then he drew away, watching the other disappear into the darkness. After he was certain that Hephaistion was beyond the range of hearing, he let out a shout, striking his fist against a tree next to him. The pain faded away along with the agony inside him.
#I stood alone in the rain for a long time after Hephaistion left me. I still remember the feeling inside me, the agony and guilt. I pushed him, forced him to do something against his own wishes. I told myself that it was for everyone’s good, that he would have done the same later, when he had overcome his fear. But it did little to ease the anger in me.
I was afraid of how he would think of me after this. There was a good chance he was going to hate me to the end of his days, and I couldn’t have blamed him for it.
I did what I thought to be right. Yet I couldn’t get over the feeling that I should have thought of him first. And my own, hidden desires. Were all our efforts worth it, if it doomed us to be unhappy forever?
I never found out the answer.#
to be continued...