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-written to its proper form 289th of October 2005.
#Sometimes I seriously thought of killing him. Slowly. Agonisingly. But it was not my decision to make. Not an act for me to commit. Though I admit that I often searched for ways to show him in a bad light. To make the others see the poison he carried.
Ever since we were boys, I disliked him. His arrogant self-assurance, the way he looked down upon others. Not worthy of anyone’s trust, in my eyes. His jealousy was apparent, but none seemed to see him as a serious threat: not after we all became “friends”, and always moved together in our games. I guess no one ever considered that one day he might turn against all of us – if it would bring any profit to him.
Today, I would kill him without hesitation. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps because he robbed me of everything I have ever fought for.
That thought is ridiculous, of course. Even today, I do not know if he committed the crime most horrible in my memories. But I hate him for many other reasons. And whenever his time shall come, and he will arrive in Hades’s realm, I wish Alexander finally sees the real snake he is – and was.
He never was a true friend to none of us, not when we were children, and definitely not when we were adults and seeking our way to fulfil Alexander’s dream.#
Ptolemy walked through their temporary camp, his eyes searching for familiar faces. Men were slowly preparing to move forward, for tomorrow they would set to travelling again. Some of the commanders stood with their units, giving them orders or merely watching in observing silence. But something was missing: Ptolemy had not seen his fellow generals for some time, and a grip of suspicion was taking hold of his mind. He had grown used to that feeling lately: unreasonable doubt over even the most usual of things. But one could never be too careful, he knew.
Passing by another tent, Ptolemy halted suddenly, hearing voices from the inside. His skin prickled as he made out the words, and he took a swift look around, making sure no-one was near. Then he pressed closer to the tent, focusing at the voices inside.
“I tell you, my fellow Friends, that this is the time when we must choose our side. Ptolemy is already playing a game behind the king’s back, and no doubt controlling him in more ways than one. We must unite before more harm will be done,” Cassander’s voice rang clearly in the air.
“How can you know he has any power over Alexander, beside the same, minor influence that we all have?” Polyperchon asked.
“Because I saw him with Hephaistion,” Cassander announced, smile easily recognisable from his voice. “Wouldn’t it be easy to ally with the lover of the king – now as the queen has proven to be useless – and so easily extend some further power over Alexander? Because Alexander will do exactly what Hephaistion wishes. He always has. It is the prize of his love.”
“So Hephaistion might be behind this alone,” added another voice, probably Antigonous.
“Who knows. Hephaistion has never shown any sign of such actions, but then again, he is a silent one. And they are the dangerous ones. But I say we beware them both –” Cassander said, but then whipped around as the flap of the tent was opened.
“Leave Hephaistion out of this,” Ptolemy said firmly, stepping into the ring of generals. Joining the conversation seemed the only reasonable thing for him to do.
“Of course you want us to leave him beyond our scrutiny: that has ensured you unlimited possibilities before,” Cassander spat.
“For your own good, Cassander,” Ptolemy said slowly with a menacing voice, “do not assault him. Or you will doom us all.” How could he explain this to all the generals so they would understand it, despite their doubts? “If we were to… remove Hephaistion, we would lose all control we have over Alexander. You all know this, but in your fear you wish not to see it: without Hephaistion, Alexander will fall into ruin. And so shall we all, as a result.”
“So you have already taken advantage of this,” Cassander smile icily. “I saw you, so do not try to deny it!”
“What you might have seen –” Ptolemy began, but halted as a horrible possibility filled his mind. What has he seen? How much…? If he has seen one of our most private encounters, he would have already used it against me, he reasoned, his eyes turning to stone as he met Cassander’s stare. It would be more than useful for him to tell that I have managed to lure Hephaistion into my bed. But he has not revealed such a thing, so he knows nothing. “What you have seen has been a discussion between friends, Cassander. For I am a friend to Hephaistion, in a case you have forgotten. Like we all are friends to Alexander – or at least used to be.”
Silence followed, all eyes directed to the wordless battle between Ptolemy and Cassander. Finally the latter one looked away, running his cold eyes over the other Friends. Then his gaze rested upon Ptolemy again, the hatred there almost burning. But Ptolemy stood his ground, and with a snort, Cassander replied to Ptolemy. “Fine,” he spat, but his word promised little. “Have your game – for now. But you are being watched. And Hephaistion is still a threat to all of us,” he continued, looking at the others. “He could easily talk Alexander into killing us all, replacing us with some Asian commanders, who would be easier to control,” he hissed with disdain. Then he left the tent, other generals following soon after him.
Ptolemy stood in silence, his thoughts slowly coming down from their spinning circles. He had almost lost the entire plan…
“You walk on thin ice, Ptolemy,” came a silent voice, Nearchus standing to face him. “Be on your guard. And whatever game you play with Hephaistion…” he halted, steady eyes meeting Ptolemy’s. “Don’t underestimate him. Nor Alexander.” Then the general left the tent as well, leaving Ptolemy to a tense tranquillity.
Hephaistion lay in his tent, half asleep. They had a hard journey before them, and rest was a thing his body yearned for. But his mind was too much on a move to let him sleep yet. Nothing particular occupied his thoughts, yet he was unable to just settle down and dream.
Men moved around his tent with their tasks, walking back and forth. Clinging sound of metal carried in the still night air, speaking of nightly activities. Maybe I should get up and check my weapons, Hephaistion pondered. It would take some of my uneasiness away…
There was a sudden noise from the outside, just beside his tent, and Hephaistion leaned up on his elbows just when a figure slipped into his shelter. He tensed, preparing for an attack, but the intruder raised no weapon against him. A weight settled upon him before he was able to move, sure hands drawing the blanket from his body. Warm lips assaulted his neck, hot breath bathing his skin.
“Do not be so tense,” a low voice murmured, making Hephaistion relax slightly. “Easy, my love,” the other crooned, smiling against Hephaistion’s skin.
With an annoyed look, Hephaistion freed his hands from beneath the other and drew aside the cloak he was wearing. “You scared me, Alexander,” he smiled, burying his fingers into the golden tresses as the other’s eager mouth sucked the side of his neck.
“You have nothing to fear… with me,” the king ground out, pushing Hephaistion down. His eyes shone in the darkness, locking with his lover’s as he removed his clothing, revealing himself to the man he was about to love tonight.
Hephaistion didn’t say anything, his mind immediately taking another route to close around that subject. But he forced his offending thoughts back, feeling Alexander’s hands upon his own clothes. “You seem to be in a bit of a hurry,” he teased, making Alexander lift his head.
The king stared at the blue eyes for a moment, then grinned, and swooped down at his prey. “You are not disapproving, are you?” he whispered against Hephaistion’s ear, licking it slowly.
Hephaistion moaned, closing his eyes, and said no other word as he was undressed. Alexander was like a whirlwind upon him, his movements speaking clearly of what he wanted. But Hephaistion was not about to whine, and his body knew better than to protest. It was only when Alexander’s fingers breached his body that Hephaistion’s mind flared in guilt. Here he was, laying beneath a man he loved – and who loved him in return, thinking that he was devoted to him, and to him alone. Which was not the truth, of course. Just some nights ago, Hephaistion had lain with another man, willingly. Not a single thought of Alexander had passed his mind then, but now his thoughts were filled with memories of Ptolemy.
Alexander moved above his lover, capturing Hephaistion’s lips into a swift kiss, and then he slid home, making Hephaistion’s breath catch in his throat. Moaning in pleasure, Alexander moved his body in a pace he knew to please them both.
Hephaistion buried his face against Alexander’s shoulder, his body surrendering. But even as his body took the pleasure offered, his mind kept following its agonising paths. If Alexander would know, what would he do? Killing Ptolemy wouldn’t be far from the truth… How do I feel so dirty all the sudden… And yet the answer is so simple: I have betrayed Alexander’s trust. He moaned, unconsciously pushing back against the other’s body. Gods, curse me for my weakness. He deserves better…
Alexander groaned, reaching his completion. Kissing Hephaistion, he brought the other over the edge as well, smiling at his lover’s smothered cry against his mouth. Then he drew back, fishing out a rag to clean them both. Hephaistion merely lay on his place, staring at the darkness as Alexander finished his task and settled down beside him. “You are awfully quiet tonight,” Alexander whispered, smoothing Hephaistion’s hair affectionately.
Hephaistion merely sighed, shaking his head. He did not wish to speak out his mind in a fear he would reveal too much. Alexander agreed to this, taking his place next to Hephaistion, wrapping his arms around the body beside his. The king’s heart slowed down after a moment, his breathing following suit, and soon Hephaistion realised he was the only one awake. Shifting in the hold of his lover, he stared at the peaceful face before him. The lump in his throat was getting unbearable, and with a shuddery breath, he got up from his cot.
He found some clothes to wear and slipped into the cool night. The air felt freezing upon his still sweaty skin, making him shiver, but he ignored the feeling. Fighting off the tears that were threatening to break through his slipping control, he walked through the camp. He was not sure where he was heading before he found himself standing before Ptolemy’s tent. Long, agonising minutes passed by as Hephaistion stood alone in the dark, weighing his options. He could return to his own tent and join Alexander in his slumber, or he could wander further around the camp. Or he could meet Ptolemy, and speak with the other. Of all the choices, the last was the most appealing one.
After a deep breath, Hephaistion walked to the door of the tent, opening the flap carefully. He allowed the pale rays of the moon inside, immediately realising that Ptolemy was not alone: deep in sleep, the general lay with a woman in his embrace. Thais, Hephaistion recognised. He was not sure which came first: the feel of betrayal or of loneliness. Of all times, he needed Ptolemy’s company tonight. But here he stood, rejected by all sides. That is not the truth, he admitted to himself, but could not stop the tears. He loves Thais, like Alexander loves Roxane. There is no way I could go between either of those loves. But that leaves me alone… Shaking his head, Hephaistion pulled back from the tent, willing himself to leave before disturbing the sleeping couple.
But Ptolemy was already awake, his long ago learned warrior-instincts warning him. Blinking sleepily, he gazed at the door of his tent. His eyes lost their haziness, however, when he met Hephaistion’s eyes. Even as the other’s face was hidden in darkness, the visible trail of tears slid down Hephaistion’s cheeks, glistening in the light of the moon. Ptolemy opened his mouth to speak but Hephaistion had already slipped away, making the falling flap obscure his vision. Cursing softly, Ptolemy got to his feet, grabbed a cloak, and rushed out of his tent. As he emerged into the cool night air, it took him a small while to spot Hephaistion’s distancing form. Drawing the cloak around his shoulders, he rushed after the other man, making his way to the other as soundlessly as possible: there was no reason to wake the entire camp. Or at least he hoped so…
When Ptolemy finally caught up with Hephaistion, the other had already stopped, a good way from the nearest tents. Steadying his erratic breath, Ptolemy slowed into a walk, halting only when he reached the other’s side. Neither said anything for a long while, either in loss of words or merely waiting for the other to begin.
Hephaistion closed his eyes, Ptolemy’s question almost too logical in its innocent form. Of course something was wrong: he did not usually wander around the camp at night, disturbing the other’s sleep. But he had no words for the other man, as much as he had desired to speak with him a moment ago. Now he wished to be alone – like he truly was in this world.
Ptolemy took a step closer, his chest almost touching Hephaistion’s back “Hephaistion, what is the matter? Has something happened?” There was worry in his voice, unhidden. It would have been pointless to try and pretend around Hephaistion: the other was too smart for that.
Hephaistion bowed his head, trying to will Ptolemy to go away. Usually, if he was silent and ignoring long enough, the person bothering left him alone. But the other man stood his ground, silently waiting him to answer. Helpless, bitter anger rose in Hephaistion before he was able to stop it. His previous melancholy was washed away as it transformed into another emotion, pain twisting in his gut. It didn’t matter who’s fault this all was. He was so tired of this game, which in the end seemed to play perfectly against him. “Leave me alone…” he muttered as a warning, giving Ptolemy one, final chance to leave before he would snap.
Ptolemy indeed sensed that something was wrong, but dismissed the undertone in Hephaistion’s voice, staying calm. “Tell me,” he insisted.
Hephaistion let out a shuddery sigh, tears finally spent. “I am alone,” he confessed, gazing at the sky with still glittering eyes. The other general tried in vain to hide his confused expression, and Hephaistion sniffed sadly, blinking. “You should go back to Thais. The night is cold, and she would be much happier with you by her side.” He tried to keep his voice even, driving the anger down with mere willpower. He had no reason to blame Ptolemy… The other had given him exactly what he had craved for, and if there was a fault to be found, it lay in his mirror-image.
Finally Ptolemy thought he understood, but when he opened his mouth to reply, Hephaistion silenced him by shaking his head. Blue eyes still refused to meet his, but he saw such depression in them that it made his heart miss a beat.
“Alexander should go to Roxane. But so he will, when it pleases him. He comes and goes as he likes – which is the king’s right. But he was more than a king to me. Before, I thought him as…” Hephaistion bit his lip, anger and sorrow mingling together. “I thought us as equals. He also spoke of us in a such way, as if I meant more to him than no other. The world was ours to have, but more than that, I was his, as he was mine… How foolish I was, and so naive! It was a dream of youths, when we hadn’t yet seen the cruel world that waited outside our shared love.” He drew a deep breath, his hands turning into painful fists. “He realised the truth soon enough, but to me he spoke those same lies of eternal love as we were together.
“But he bothers with such lies no longer. Not after Roxane. And only now I realise that I am the one standing alone among the bitter dreams that are fading away like the flowers of the summer. And when you made me feel alive again, I was forced to face another reality: you were bound to another. The only thing we share is a secret mission we bear to keep Alexander in power, and the lust we share in darkness when no other can see.”
Pained eyes turned at Ptolemy, hollow and cold. “Yet Alexander had faith in me: faith that I would cherish our love, and keep the memory of it in my heart. That I would love him no matter what, and give that love to him when he would need it. But I corrupted that love with my own weakness. Curse my impure heart! I betrayed him without a purpose. He has no reason to love me now, if he would know how weak I am. He deserves better…”
As Hephaistion finally fell silent, Ptolemy didn’t dare to say anything for a long while. But partially, he is right. I love Thais. She will be my wife, my only one, and bear my children. That is the truth. But Hephaistion… it is a story with a quite different ending. And my feelings for him… They are no lesser in intensity than my love for Thais, but they are different. And I bet that Alexander loves Roxane in an entire different scale than he has ever loved Hephaistion. Letting his hand slide against the other’s, Ptolemy brought his fingers gently around the tightly pressed fist, trying to ease some of the tension in Hephaistion’s body. “Alexander loves you. He always has, and always will. His heart may be blinded at the moment, but he will soon see where it lies. Even when we were boys, he loved you like no other, even before you gave your heart to him in return.” He paused, considering his own words. “I… I care for you, more than the friend I used to be. But my love, even on its fullest, can never rival Alexander’s. For his love alone you shall ever allow into your heart. It is perhaps not a conscious choice, but that is the decision of your heart.”
Hephaistion’s body relaxed a little, his fingers intertwining with Ptolemy’s. His eyes gazed at the dark world before them, numerous thoughts and memories passing their depths.
“Give him time,” Ptolemy whispered, leaning his head against Hephaistion’s. “He will see his mistakes before the end. And then he shall love you like before. At the moment, he is under too much pressure to express his deepest feelings. You know him. He is not so naive that he would not see that his men are not with him in this. It bothers him, but soon we shall move on, and the light of the Gods shall shine upon all of us.”
“We are just passing the night…” Hephaistion muttered, finally turning to face Ptolemy. “You could have lied,” he smiled suddenly, a small, sad smile. “You could have told me you love me, that we…” he halted, shaking his head.
“And you would have caught my lie in mid-flight,” Ptolemy smiled in return, pressing their foreheads together. “But tell me one thing,” he whispered. “Do you regret? Us? Your betrayal with me?” As much as he dreaded the answer, he had to know.
“Our shared sin…” Hephaistion swallowed, closing his eyes. Then he opened them again, gazing deep at Ptolemy’s eyes. “No. I do not regret. And that probably hurts most.”
Ptolemy nodded, but said no other word. They were not needed, and as the night wore on, they stood together in silence, both deep in thought.
#Perhaps it was then when I finally began to understand how much harm my attempts to save Alexander had caused. But like Hephaistion said to me that night – and I know he was sincere with his answer – I did not regret. Yes, we could have restrained ourselves and kept our distance. But when I made up my mind to kiss him for the first time – or to lay with him – I knew it was a necessary thing to do. For him. He needed solace, a feel of safety. A feel of love. As strong as Hephaistion was, he was only human. And he needed to be loved in return.#
to be continued…