"From Now To Eternity"
Disclaimer: Based on historical events and historical figures, but the story told is largely fictional. No money is being made from the use of these names. It is written solely for the enjoyment or perhaps, more so, to the humor of history buffs.
Summary: Set between 325 - 324 B.C., Aliza/Drypetis POV.
Rating: R (nudity/adult themes)
Notes: Please do not archive elsewhere. Thank you.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to Ryan (pugsly3) for the beta.
It was the day of the new moon, in the 7th month of the year that our King Alexander married Barsine, daughter of King Darius. The fair and wise daughter of our once great ruler. I was her closest sister. Although, not by blood. Taken from childhood from the home of my father. My ancestors, captives from Judah many years before. King Nebecudnezzar invaded our lands and took many back to Babylon. My family among them. After my father died, my uncle took me to the palace and brought me before King Darius. He asked that I might serve in the king's household, for he could not provide for me.
My uncle was a selfish man, he had only one wife and child to care for, yet he could not spare more to care for both my mother and myself.
The king was gracious and because I was thought fair in his eyes, he claimed me as his own and sent me to live with the women of his household.
On the day that King Alexander took a Persian princess as his wife, in Susa, and many others were given in a mass wedding ceremony. I was among them. The feast and celebrations lasted five days. And on the night of the last evening, I committed to my vows and went to seek my husband.
Hephaestion, was King Alexander's confidant. His right-hand, his brother and his closest friend. It was no secret that there was more than friendship between the two. And it was also no secret that Roxane despised that. Perhaps more so in the beginning than toward the end. Alexander's obsession with his campaign, his dream, were what she resented most. It is what she believed took him from her.
I envy Roxane. Not because she had Alexander and not because of the title she holds. Being Queen of Alexandria is not what my heart desires. Not even seeing the lands of my ancestors Judah, could heal my broken heart.
If I could have one wish, and one wish only, it would be that to have Hephaestion's son. More time with him. As I think back, the days passed by so quickly. Yet as I stand here now, thinking of him, studying him in my mind's eye, every moment we were together is etched into my memory and will last for all time.
It was to be our wedding night. And as most women with my inexperience, I was both anxious and excited about what was to come. My husband was a very attractive man, tall with broad shoulders and a well toned chest. He wore his garments with no air of superiority. They were merely a necessity, not a statement. The man quite definitely had a commanding presence, but not because of his station or voice, but because of a regal aura that accompanied him. Quiet and mysterious, but with the gentlest eyes I'd ever seen. I had seen him only once before our betrothal, and even though I was surprised that I was chosen as his intended, I was secretly glad. Being married to a Persian would have led to a very different way of life. Alexander's ways allowed women more freedom. They could study any art or craft they wished. They were educated and treated with respect. And in my husband I saw kindness and wisdom. I would never be mistreated by him.
The chamber was bathed in a glow of flickering lamps. The bed was draped with fur and fine silks. He was standing at the far end of the room. His back was to the door. My maid servant silently retreated from the room after ushering me in. He had not sent for me, but it was customary for the husband and wife to consummate their marriage on the first night, so I went to him.
The robe that hung from my shoulders did little to shield my warmth. The cool air of the large room soon left my skin chilled, and I pulled the edges of my cloak tighter around me. I stepped toward him. Small steps. Did he know I was in his room?
He turned then, and his face stole my breath away. In the dim light he was even more devastating to look upon. It was his features were carved by God himself. Smoothly shaven and his hair loose about his shoulders, he looked like an avenging angel. My gazed travelled from his face, down his neck to the open expanse of his gown. The robe was loose and was barely held in place by the cord knotted about his waist. The robe exposed his muscled chest and the matt of hair that covered his pectorals and ran down his body and disappeared beneath the area the gown still kept hidden. I found myself blushing and it only deepened further when I realized I had been openly staring at him.
"If you wish me to leave, my lord."
He quieted me with a look. I bowed my head out of respect and he crossed the room to where I stood.
"Do not bow before any man. Least of all me." He lifted my chin with his index finger and thumb. "I should not have consented to this. It is unjust. Unfair to you. Unfair to us both."
The unfairness he spoke of, it confused me. Had he not wanted to marry? Was I not what he wished for in a wife. Perhaps he did not want a wife. In his eyes he held measure of doubt and hurt, but the feelings were quickly masked. Did he have doubts about me? Or doubts about himself...
"You must stay," he said gently. His thumb traced my jaw. His fingers were rough against the skin of my cheek. He dropped his hand, as his eyes lingered at the throat of my gown. The fine hairs on my skin bristled as his eyes met mine. He reached for my hand and squeezed it softly. "Goodnight, sweet Aliza."
My heart seized in my chest long before his lips touched mine. It was but a whisper of a kiss, nothing that could cause a woman to swoon. It was hearing my Hebrew name from his mouth that had touched me. How he had known I still do not know. None but King Darius and his closest subjects had known of my heritage. For he had given me a Persian name the day he took me into his house. Drypetis. I suspect that Alexander never knew this. For he wished that someday Hephaestian's sons and his would be blood kin. Fairer in complexion, and with hazel eyes, I have often wondered why none suspect that I am not Darius's daughter. Perhaps they do but to not dare speak aloud lest they fall out of the King's favour.
Not once more did he touch me after he led me to our marriage bed. Throughout the night I wondered if I could have protested the match myself. King Alexander had always insisted on women's freedom. No woman could be forced upon against her will. But what of marriage? Could that not be considered the same? But as I gazed upon my husband's sleeping face, my heart would have none other. Eyes blue as the clear afternoon sky, lips soft as freshly spun silk, the proud lines of his jaw, and the tight cords of his arms. Arms that I longed to touch. I could almost feel what quiet reassurance and comfort they would offer. He was a warrior from within. He was honourable, proud and fierce. And love and loyalty to his king was displayed more beautifully in every action that any eloquent or regal speech ever could. This man was more than any of my dreams had ever conjured. Yet, he was further out of reach that the distant lands I had once thought of as home.
I did not cry myself to sleep. I simply closed me eyes and allowed sleep to come. By morning my husband was gone. Long roused from slumber, his place beneath the sheets were cool. But there was something else. It was sticky and wet. I threw back the covers, now fully awake. There on the soft fur it stood out with taunting clarity. Deep crimson soaking and setting into the fine cream hairs of the lambskin. A tear slipped down my cheek. So this was how it was to be.
A few months later, King Alexander commissioned Hephaestian to lead his men on a expedition to explore and chart his territory along the rivers and boarders of Babylonia. During the expedition, Hephaestian and many of the other men fell ill. We lost many days camping beside the river Euphrates. With it being several days journey from Ur, the few women of the camp gave care to the men, while a group of soldiers traveled to Ur for a physician and medicines. I cared for many during that long wait, and after. It was a harrowing and exhausting time, and it was Hephaestian who I worried for most. He was also my worst patient. Proud and indignant even in his delirium.
"Leave me," he growled.
"You need water," I insisted pressing the cup to his lips.
His eyes glittered dangerously under his sweat moistened lashes. "Others need it more..." he grated, and then coughed. The coughing lasted several moments and he was severely laboured after the ordeal.
Outside the temperature was high, and the sun beat down on the earth with scorching intensity. But it almost seemed cool in comparison to the fever I felt radiating from his being. I was torn between continuously dosing him with cold water and layering him with blankets. He was sick.
As I lifted my hand again, with frightening speed he grasped it in his. With strength I didn't know he had, he pulled himself upright and stared at me with a steely but half glassy eyes. The set of his jaw told me how much control his was exerting at that very moment, restraining himself from giving into his pain, his weakness.
Hephaestian was good at hiding his weaknesses. The injury he sustained years ago in Gaugamela. He still used his injured arm, his shield arm. Watching him in training or in battle you would believe it was never injured. His self-control and determination made it so. But privately, he allowed the mask to fall. On more than one occasion I'd witnessed him throw something in frustration, when his injured arm refused to perform to his satisfaction.
"Please go," he grated through his clenched jaw. Sweat beaded across his brow and his usually healthy tanned skin was dull and splotchy.
"I know you believe that you cannot give me your heart, my dear Hephaestion," I said gently, as I held his gaze with unflinching calm. "But please do not stop me from giving you mine. Let me love you. Let me care for you."
His grip slackened and tears pooled in his eyes. He opened his mouth to reply but no words came forth. He allowed me to ease him back into the pillows. He didn't resist this time as I dipped the cloth in the bowl and began to bath his face. Something between us changed that afternoon. After the physician administered his medicine to the men, most of them recovered. The sickness had taken our camp for ten days. Only one man died, and they believed it was not the sickness that killed him but an infection he had developed from an untreated wound. He had hidden it and it had gotten infected, he had died before the men returned to the camp.
In the days that followed, I noticed the difference in my husband. He smiled more openly when our eyes met. And I found his eyes follow me when I was close by. We returned to Babylon after charting the territory along the Tigris. And it was then during those few short months that I will remember Hephaestion, as the happiest I had ever seen him. Those are the memories that I prefer to keep, than those of the loss I felt after.
It was one cool evening, late on the rooftop of our home. I often went out at night, long after the rest of the household were asleep. I would go out to think. To look at the stars and study their place in the heavens. And also, look out across the land toward where I knew Judah to be. It was that night that I pondered asking Hephaestion if we might journey there some day. And as though he could hear my thoughts, he had appeared.
"Do you miss your family?" he whispered.
I felt his arm encircle my waist. It had been so long since I had felt his touch. Unconsciously, I leaned into him relishing the warmth and strength of his chest against my back. "My mother died three years ago, and my father long before that. My father's family I have not seen, since my uncle took me to the king..." Having him close, feeling so at ease with him, I had unwittingly disclosed more than I had to anyone before. He used my birth name whenever we were alone, yet I did not know how much he knew about my lineage.
Sensing my tension, he turned me to face him. "Princess or captive it means naught to me. It is you that I see. And it is you that I care for," he said softly.
In the depth of his clear blue eyes I could see his heart. It was no longer so distant or closed as it once was. And for the first time I noticed that he looked upon me with hunger, desire. But there was also uncertainty betrayed on his face. This man, this fearless and capable captain, the king's vizier, was uncertain about coming to his own wife.
I trailed my hand over the embroidered lapel of his golden robe, and ran my fingers into his thick brown locks, trapping his head. Coming closer, I leaned up toward him and placed a kiss on his lips. He didn't respond, and disappointed and confused I dropped my hand and stepped back. My head bowed, I missed the look on his face, but what I heard in his voice lifted my spirits.
"Aliza," he whispered with thick husky voice.
Meeting his eyes I saw tears of happiness. Overjoyed I threw my arms around his neck and embraced him with all the feeling I had.
He chuckled softly and scooped me into his arms and carried me back into the house. When we reached his chamber, he didn't let me free. He shifted me in his arms and pulled open the door. Inside a single lamp burned by the window. He set me down on the edge of the bed, and stood back. As he looked down at me, I had a chance to really look at him. He was wearing a thin robe and nothing else. His feet were bare and the loosened robe gaped open exposing his smooth tanned flesh. My gaze travelled lower and I caught sight of a growing bulge below his abdomen. I blushed and averted my eyes hoping that the dim light would hide my naivety. He had come looking for me. Was this the first time? How many nights had I missed by wondering about the palace? How foolish I was.
On our return from the expedition, still we had not properly shared a marriage bed. I had waited three sleepless nights, alone in my chamber wondering if anything had changed at all. Refusing to wait any longer, I had gone back to my old past times. I studied with our Persian tutor into the early hours of the morning. Took long walks along the great city wall, charted stars with the astrologers of the palace and took notes and plotted the heavens with them. Rarely did I return before dawn. Had I wasted all that time?
"Sweet Aliza, it is I who is naive," he surprised me with his words, and I looked up to find him kneeling before me. He took my hands in his. "I always knew where to find you, but I did not care to look. You made me feel, things I wanted to forget. Until I realized that the feelings you stir in me are natural, beautiful, and for you alone. Dear Aliza..."
I couldn't see him clearly though my tears, but I could feel his breath against my skin. I could barely move when his lips touched my throat. His kisses traveled downward. The hollow at the base of my throat, the curve of my collar bone, and lower to the swell of my breast. My breath caught, and his movements stilled for a moment. He looked up at me, his eyes glazed with emotion.
"Do not stop," I whispered.
He nodded and took my mouth. His kiss was sweet, and all my longing feed upon it. I reached up and ran my fingers though his hair, pulling his head closer. He parted my lips with his tongue and teased mine to follow. I could taste him for eternity and never tire of it. When he finally broke our kiss, I was breathless and flushed. I didn't even remember how I had come to be lying in the middle of the bed.
Although his mouth left mine, his lips didn't stray far. He nibbled on my earlobe and I giggled at the sensation. A heat had begun to stir inside me, it was slow in building but with every kiss and caress from his hands and his lips, I was fast becoming feverish.
"Hephaestion," I moaned. My hands found a course of their own, as his traveled down my sides. I slipped inside the opening of his robe, and I pushed it over one shoulder. Not liking that he was getting to explore me, and not being able to do so in return was torture. I linked my leg over one of his and pushed off the bed with all my strength. It had the desired effect. I turned us and he was now under me, and I was on top of him.
He didn't seem to mind. Although, not only had I pinned my husband to the bed, but my actions had brought me in direct contact with his proud manhood. The cord of his robe and long since slipped free and his warm naked body was now pressed firmly beneath mine. His throbbing arousal resting against the sensitive skin of my inner thigh. For the second time that night, I blushed profusely. Sitting up he held me in his lap, but put a little space between our sexes and air back into my lungs.
"It is unfair that I should be divest of clothing, and you my sweet are not," he said softly teasing.
I smiled and kissed the tip of his nose. "So many things are unfair between us," I replied in kind.
"I love my sweet Aphrodite."
The words rolled so easily of his tongue that I would almost have missed them had they not been the few words I had been waiting so long to hear.
"I love you, my husband," I whispered as I kissed his neck.
His hands pushed the hem of my gown up my thighs, I lifted my bottom so he could bring the fabric up to my waist. He gathered the material in his hands and I lifted my arms so he could pull it over my head.
Naked I felt anything but cold under his attentions.
"Perfect and beautiful," he breathed, as he kissed a sensitive spot on my neck. I leaned into his lips. Loving the sensations they were stirring under my skin. It was like a feather-light touch that left a slow spreading tide of heat over every inch of my body, and pooling in a pit that was tightening in my belly.
"I need more, Hephaestion," I moaned as he licked and suckled at my breasts.
"I do not want to hurt you," he said his voice breaking, his eyes searching mine.
"You won't," I said confidently, my gaze never breaking. I said it not knowing if it were true, he was so strong and so much bigger than I and truthfully I had no idea if it would be painful. But even if it was, for his sake I would not let it show.
He gently lay me back on the bed and moved over me. He kissed my belly and then my navel. I could feel him travelling lower and I stopped him, gripping his hair.
"Not like that," I begged. I wanted him with me. I wanted to see his eyes. Watch his face. He looked up at me and I pulled him toward me. I kissed his lips, and then his chin. Claiming his mouth again, I traced my hand down the taut lines of his stomach and timidly wrapped my hand around his manhood.
He groaned against my mouth as I held him. Testing my intuition, I moved my hand down his length and then up again. A groan from deep inside him escaped his lips and his hand gripped mine, stilling its movement.
"You'll end me now," he said, his voice thick. He kissed me again and gently parted my legs with one hand.
At first he tested my entrance, pushing slowly. But then less than part way in, he shuddered and thrust deeply. I bit down on my lip to keep from crying out. It did hurt, but I would not let it destroy this moment. I kissed his shoulder, and kept my face hidden while the moment of pain passed. As he began moving inside me, the pain started to ebb, and in moments it was nothing more than a dull ache. I focused on the man above me. He was fighting for control. I should have noticed it sooner. The women had often said that the man's actions did not last long. I had lost track of the time. Being with him was as though time stood still. Nothing else mattered but the feeling between us.
I started to move with him, rocking my hips and watching his face. I felt myself stretching inside. The warmth deep within was building, and with each stroke he gave, a tremor struck a chord that rippled across my belly. I gave into the sensations, finding it harder and harder to focus. I wanted to watch him, I wanted to soak in everything, but my body refused to comply. He drove deeper with each movement and I could do nothing but hold him, and drown in the waves that were washing over me.
With one final thrust, he cried, "Aliza." And slowed, till he moved no more. He rested against me. His face glistened in the lamp light, and a few damp strands of hair clung to his temple.
His seed had poured into my womb and I held him there. If only we could stay joined forever in this way. Never had I felt so content, so complete. His breathing returned to its steady rhythm as had mine. I traced large slow circles over his back. And I wrapped one leg over the back of his knees. I intended to keep him locked this way for as long as possible.
Lifting his head, he kissed my cheek and then my lips. He smiled, a heart wrenching, devastatingly handsome smile. Who could resist not smiling in return.
"My only love," I said to him, and for the first time, I saw it reflected in his eyes.
Not taking his eyes from mine, he rolled to his side and brought me with him. Reaching down with one hand he lifted the covers and draped them over us.
"Sleep now, my Aliza."
And I did. For the first time in months, I slept peacefully and contentedly. Safe and blissfully joyful in the arms of my husband.
Less than an a season later, I would watch him die. A mysterious illness, claiming him painfully and suddenly from us. I wished to deny it, but perhaps my heart already knew it at the time. We had the best physician in Ecbatana, and still nothing could be done for him. It happened so unexpectedly.
Exhausted from travelling from Babylon, I retired with the other women of King Alexander's party. It was mid-morning when I went to my husband's chamber to find him still in bed. Sheets clinging to him, covered in sweat, his skin burning with fever and his body wreathing as he struggled for breath. I knew something was wrong even before I come to his side. For Hephaestion was always an early raiser. He rose with the sun and was often about his palace duties before some of the servants were.
Not even a year we had shared together. As it had been for my mother and father, our time had been fleeting. What I had seen as a little girl, my parents marriage was a joyful and loving one. And as a young child I had never felt neglected or lacking of their attention, but that sense of contentment was short lived. As was my marriage.
Alexander was close at hand when Hephaestion left us. I remember what the king said his voice heavy with anguish.
"You must be strong my friend. My brother. I need you. You always give me the truth. You are my guide. I know I said that you would be nothing if it was not for me. But in truth, I am nothing without you. We have still much to explore, my brother."
The king moved from my husband's bedside and went to open the window. In my mind's eye I saw our fair city. Babylon. A city of wealth, beauty and endless opportunity, but it held no joy for me any longer. As I watched my husband struggle for breath, the breeze that travelled through the window, carrying the scent of our mighty Euphrates, it no longer brought hope and renewed vigor for life, but a cold reminder of our fragile mortality.
"We must grow old together. Watch our children play together, as we did. Our journey is not yet over, my dear Hephaestion..." The king turned and saw that Hephaestion lay still in the bed. His lips no longer drawing breath.
I saw it as King Alexander spoke of growing old. The last shudder of breath, and the resigned sigh that followed as his life left his body. All will to move escaped me. I felt a chill crawl up my spine and goose pimples raise on my skin. I wanted to go to him, cradle him to my breast and weep into his hair, but I could not move. I sat at the foot of the bed staring at him. Not believing he was truly gone.
Alexander flew to the bed and buried his face in my husband's chest. And I heard no more but sobbing from a broken man, as he embraced Hephaestion's lifeless body.
I did not cry out, I did not sob while in the presence of the king. For both our sakes I remained silent, but I could not stop the river of tears that flowed down my cheeks. Inside I was crumbling but outside I managed to hold some measure of composure.
The guards posted outside the door heard the King's cry and burst into the room. Outraged at the intrusion in his time of grief, Alexander raged at them.
"Where is the physician?" he growled.
The physician who had hovered silently in the shadows, came forward. "My good king, there was nothing more we could do...he was sick out of his mind... the fever..."
"Kill him," King Alexander ordered, his voice as cold as stone.
His gaze feel upon a cup at Hephaestion's beside. He picked it up and tasted it. Then he turned to me.
"What is this?"
"It was there this morning, my king. I do not know..." my voice wavered as I read the fury in his golden eyes.
"He was murdered," Alexander hissed with anger. "The murderer will be found, and will seek justice for this crime."
And without another glance in my direction he swept out of the chamber and into the hall. Left to my grief, I crawled up the bed and lay beside Hephaestion. I had no doubt that Alexander would follow through with his convictions. Many a time I had seen eyes of jealousy and envy on Hephaestion, but I would have never suspected that someone the king's household would wish him dead.
"Sleep in peace my love," I whispered. "We shall meet again."
Placing a kiss on his lips, I rested my head in the nook of his neck and closed my eyes. Death was not the end. The mortal life was just the beginning of our journey. I would be with my husband once more.
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References: http: www. livius. org/aj-al/alexander/alexander00. html