Title: Forgotten Lakes
Fandom: Alexander (Historical. Not bloody movie.)
Rating: PG-13 for slash (implied in this chapter)
Pairing: Alexander/ Hephaestion
Summary: Alexander newly baffled by the onset of a new emotion, attempts to tame it.
Aristotle's voice was a steady drone in the background, as predictable as the buzzing of flies around a rotting piece of meat. Alexander hid a yawn behind one hand. Aristotle was lecturing on Plato again, and quoting from his Republic, a subject which had always bored him immensely. The day was hot, dry and dusty, and the air choked him. Despite the thin white tunics, he and his fellow companions wore; sweat trickled down him, mixing with the dry sand on his leg, to form what looked like an esoteric scrawl of writing in some forgotten language. Discreetly he shifted himself to a more comfortable position on the ground. He looked up at his teacher, risking sweat drenched hair falling in his eyes. Aristotle's eyes were far away, and Alexander wondered if his teacher's mind was not here either listening to his weary enunciations of Plato's philosophy, but rather roaming his native homeland of Greece, and thinking of those whom he had once known.
He snatched a glance sidewards at his friend Hephaestion who was idly drawing with his forefinger in the dust. He looked as though he was concentrating utterly on his teachers voice, but Alexander knew from long experience that Hephaestion could look as though he was only thinking about what you were saying, when in fact he would be half asleep.
Alexander looked down at the ground again, and Hephaestion's hand briefly nudged him. A word was written in the sand. Bored? When he was sure Alexander had seen it, he erased it with a tiny casual movement of his wrist. Carefully Alexander sketched his answer. Yes.
Hephaestion gave a tiny smile and put his hand up. Aristotle was startled from his almost somnolent state. With a tiny grunt he signalled Hephaestion's right to speak. "I was wondering if we could have the afternoon off master?" he said boldly. Alexander stared at his friend almost awe-struck. He'd actually asked Aristotle for time off, and had not been struck by lightening, as the philosopher had almost convinced them they would be, if they dared to interrupt.
Hephaestion knew this game though, and knew that if he came up with an original excuse, they would be granted the time off. Aristotle would probably be as glad of the break as they would. "Well master, Plato's Republic is of such significance that in order for it's full worth to sink in, we must let our minds be at rest." Both Aristotle and himself knew that it was an utter fallacy, but the oldish man's tired mouth lifted in a small smile.
"Very well Hephaestion. Your request is granted. But if you do not learn well and speedily on the morrow on account of your request, your hide must pay."
Hephaestion stood and bowed to the tutor, and kicking Alexander surreptiously with his foot sauntered from the arena. The other boys disbelieving of such luck, were slower to follow, until Aristotle gave a little cough, and made as though to continue talking. Then like a herd of sheep, they followed their errant companions footsteps out.
Alexander was the first to catch up with his friend. At fourteen Hephaestion was a year younger, and a year's worth shorter than Alexander, but despite their differences, or even because of them, they were the closest to each other in their select group, and as such were often referred to as AlexanderandHephaestion rather than as separate entities. "How did you dare do that?"
"I was really bored, and I could even feel my skin starting to burn. Beside Master Aristotle seems not to hate me." Alexander sighed ruefully. Hephaestion despite his bouts of inattention, and characteristic blank eyes was one of Aristotle's favourite pupils.
"Shall we go to the woods?" Hephaestion shrugged his shoulders, and acquiescently followed his older friend into the darkness and coolness of the grove of trees. He followed swiftly as Alexander led them to the small lake that hid in the centre of the wood. Ringed by trees and strange flowers, it was shady and quiet, the other boys not having yet followed them. Hephaestion quickly removed his clothing, and swam straight into it with a cool sigh of relief, while Alexander followed more sedately. For a few minutes they didn't speak, but then Hephaestion playfully scattered a rainfall of drops over Alexander's head, and in retaliation Alexander ducked him beneath the water, tickling him until Hephaestion screeched with laughter. When they surfaced, Hephaestion still spluttering and chuckling, Alexander was aware that something had changed. Looking at Hephaestion's eyes he still saw the bright, innocent gleam of friendship and camaraderie, and he shook himself crossly. Nothing had changed at all. He shivered suddenly, as though a sudden vista had opened up for him in the few seconds he'd been underwater. Something eluded him inexplicably, and it was as though the day though still warm and clinging, had suddenly turned cold.
At that moment three other boys hurtled into the lake with varying degrees of loudness, and he was left with no time to ponder on this strange emptiness, as he was drawn into the other boys business and slowly the day became warm again.
Later that day, Hephaestion had been called to Aristotle's study, and the other boys had been summoned home, Alexander's feet drove him to wander to his mother's door. Inside she reclined on a couch heaped high with golden tasselled cushions, draped with one of her favourite snakes as though it was a work of art- a magnificent piece of jewellery rather than a reptile. Try as he might, Alexander had never been able to cultivate quite the same liking for the sinuous creatures, and they in turn though not hostile would not allow him to touch them.
His mother was half in a doze, singing softly to the snake some lullaby of her homeland. Alexander hung back a moment observing her. She was beautiful indeed- slender, to the eye still young, though Alexander knew how many hours her maid spent to achieve the affect. Her hair was black as night, a thick pall of silk that draped tanned shoulders revealed beneath gossamers of gauze. He coughed gently making his presence known to her, and her eyes flickered lazily to him. She lay in a pool of sunlight, as though she too was a snake basking in the sun. He knelt beside her as always, and she gently finger combed his hair, the only outward sign of affection that she allowed herself, apart from the occasional fierce embrace. "You've been swimming," she remarked quietly. He nodded, knowing she could feel the movement.
"Oh Alexander," she sighed." What am I to do with you? With only a half mad mother dazzled by Zeus's visions, and a drunken sot of a foster father, how will you survive?"
He shook his head. "You are not mad mother," he remarked with certain intensity.
She smiled softly and sadly. "You need love Alexander. I love you with a mother's intensity and hopes of greatness, and even that man who claims to be your father loves you in his strange awkward way, but you need more." She resumed her vacant stroking of his head. "Do you not love any girl Alexander?" she asked, and with a hint of her old playfulness she shook a finger at him. "It is good for a young man, to have a lady to cherish."
"I am only fifteen mothers. And besides when I love I want it to be forever, never to die, not as a passing fancy."
"We all believe that my child. Time will teach you differently however. Time will teach you wisdom, and you will learn to take comfort from where it is offered, without troubling about love."
Alexander shook his head uncomphrendingly. "I swear to the Gods mother that when I love it will be forever. I cannot imagine anything else. I could not want anything else."
His mother did not reply for a moment, her eyes farseeing and distant. Finally she murmured. "A dangerous oath to swear my son. But I shall pray for you that you find your love." With surprising speed, she worked free one of her rings from her fingers. It was a thumb ring, large enough to fit on a man's forefinger, indeed too large for Alexander's hand at the moment. "And when you find whoever it is, give them this as a token of your love, and as a reminder of the oath you swore." She closed her eyes and turned away, Alexander's cue to leave. He walked slowly away, and once in his own chamber he put the ring carefully away in his hidden cache of things precious to him.
In the next few weeks Alexander's eyes were newly opened to the intrigues in and around the palace, as though his first wonderings on love had brought them freshly to his sight. From his drunken father, and his dalliances with the young servants, to the strictly decorous farmers and their courting and loving of one woman for years before marrying her. And as though a veil had been newly torn from his eyes, he saw for the first time the love matches amongst his own peers, the shyly clasped hands, the whispered words of love beneath still green trees, the inconstancies, and minor heartbreaks, and with a start he realised that he had never seen it before, that it must have been happening all around him while oblivious he had played as a child, and seen the world as a child. He had always known of course;- he'd have had to have been simple like Arrihidaeus in order to have not known about sex and what role it played in the adult world, but he'd never applied it to himself, and now for the first time he properly saw, what had always been there.
He'd turned to Hephaestion, anxious to see if he saw it too, but Hephaestion was as oblivious to their companions exploits, as Alexander had been but a few short weeks ago. He trained with weapons, read his lessons and played with the same wholehearted ferocity as always. Alexander for the first time saw the offers directed towards he himself, the subtle glances of eye, and face, and understood the meaning of the joking of the Athenian delegation who he had entertained long before this awakening had come, and gradually he began to leave Hephaestion's side. Hephaestion was only a child, he told himself. Only a child, and he couldn't understand the burning quicksilver that ran through Alexander's body. Alexander dallied a little with others his own age, going no further than simple kisses, not knowing how to go further, though his body seemed to wish to teach him. And so the long hot days of summer passed, and Alexander and Hephaestion drew further apart, Hephaestion not understanding what so suddenly pre-occupied Alexander's thoughts. The cooler days came, autumn blew its chillier winds, and the matches made in summer, disintegrated, and reformed with others, as though the hot fever of summer quickened love could not survive in the cold.
Alexander came once more to his mother's door. She lay on the same couch, and indeed the only thing different was her dress- now a deep rich hue of red, that fired her eyes, and contrasted with her hair, and the positioning of her couch,- nearer a fire. Languidly she smiled. "Have you found your someone, my darling?"
Alexander shook his head. "No mother. I cannot explain it. I have searched the whole summer through, and am no closer to finding them. And yet sometimes it is as though they have been in the same room but moments before, or brushed past me as light as a breeze in the corridor, as though I keep looking in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time."
Olympia tilted her arm back, catching the cold with the fire's light. "My dear Alexander, perhaps you seek too far," she murmured cryptically. And then changing the subject apparently. "It is Hephaestion's birthday tomorrow. I do hope you remembered."
Alexander's face coloured slightly. He had forgotten to tell the truth. Indeed he had hardly seen Hephaestion in the last two weeks. He lied through his teeth. "Of course I did remember."
His mother smiled showing a hint of teeth. "Then you will have got him something appropriate. It is his fifteenth after all."
Alexander's brain buzzed helplessly, and he finally gave up the charade. "Truth to tell mother, it slipped my mind. I've been so busy lately." He looked at his mother pleadingly and she sighed.
"Sometimes Alexander it is as though you are six not almost sixteen." Pointing to a wooden chest she commanded him to pull it out. "I knew you would forget so I took the liberty of choosing something for you. Look in the corner for something wrapped in blue silk." Alexander found it and unwrapped it. It was a handwritten copy of the Iliad, no doubt hideously expensive, and Alexander looked up amazed. He didn't even have his own copy himself, though months ago he had stolen Aristotle's and hidden it alongside other sundry precious possessions, comforting himself with the knowledge that the man probably never read it, and certainly never devoured it like Alexander.
"Do you know Hephaestion?"
"He brings me flowers sometimes, when they come into bloom, as a courtesy."
Alexander shook his head still amazed, and wrapping it carefully back up, he carried it back to his room. As with all the other boys, Hephaestion's fifteenth was an important marker, and as such there was a party to commemorate it, though no-one seemed to notice that the cause, had absented himself early in the evening, and unaware that he was being followed by Alexander had made his way to the lake, sitting with his back against the biggest tree of all. He was still, only occasionally shifting, indeed he appeared almost asleep after a few minutes. Alexander sat down beside him softly, and nudged him. "Wake up," he whispered.
"'m not 'sleep," was the almost petulant reply, but Hephaestion sat upright anyway, seemingly surprised that Alexander was there. "What are you doing here?" he asked in a tone, that smacked almost of annoyance, and Alexander stared at him in astonishment. He'd never heard Hephaestion sound like that before, and it threw him off guard.
"Well actually I wanted to give you your birthday present," was his reply, perhaps a little snappier than usual.
There was silence then, "no thank you."
Alexander was truly worried now. This was not like Hephaestion at all, this almost sullen boy, was nothing like his friend and companion of the last few years. "What is wrong?" he asked trying to moderate his voice.
Hephaestion practically snarled. "Everything! You can't just decide you hate me for almost two months, and then just suddenly ask what's wrong, and expect everything to be normal again. I don't understand you or anyone else suddenly. It's like you're all speaking a separate language that you don't want to tell me the code of, and I'm sick of it, Prince Alexander." He almost spat the last two syllables. Standing up, he made as though to leave, but Alexander caught at his wrist.
"What do you mean?" he shouted.
"You wouldn't even speak to me for almost two months. Every time I tried to do something with you, you'd find some inane excuse, or you'd just ignore me as though I was a child, incapable of understanding what you could understand. Ever since that day when I asked Aristotle for the afternoon off, you've been different, and I can't explain why." There was a world of frustration and misery in his voice, the sound of a child trying desperately to understand something what everyone else seemed to grasp so easily, he sounded like Craterus when faced with a geometry problem, and it sent a pang of pain through Alexander's heart. He wished he could explain it to his friend, could show him, but he knew this was something that Hephaestion would have to discover for himself.
So shrugging disdainfully, he let go of Hephaestion's wrist. "If that's the way you wish it Hephaestion, then keep playing your childish games. Nobody's hiding anything from you, maybe you are just not clever enough to see it." Hephaestion's eyes flared brightly, hurt shining from them.
"As you wish Prince Alexander. I shall not bother you again." He spoke in a monotone, and his eyes dulled, losing all their fire. Alexander's brain was screaming miscalculation! at him, and he was kicking himself, for letting things reach this awful stage, when Hephaestion turned and ran from him as though Alexander was Cerberus, and Hephaestion had lost his harp.
Important notes (Well to me)
I know Hephaestion and Alexander seem rather slow at working out the whole attraction/ puberty thing, considering that they are fifteen, but lets just assume that they know all about the physical side, but that they are rather naive with everything else.
Well that's a relief to have the first part of this actually typed and up, since it's been in the draft stages for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Actual impetus for writing, was desire to use Moon71's slipstream XD though alas it doesn't touch hers. If you haven't read her stuff, then what the hell are you doing with this story!
My copy of Plutarch went walkies without me, and though I'd rather rely on that than Robin Lane Fox, it'll have to do. If I got anything wrong, I'll be eternally grateful if you point it out. Nothing worse than fanfiction with absurdities