Fandom: Alexander (historical)
Pairing: Alexander/ Hephaestion, mentions of Alexander/ Bagoas, Alexander/ Roxanne
Summary: Hephaestion doesn't care if Alexander flaunts his lovers, but he does wish that Alexander could see what it does to his status. Hephaestion POV
A/N: Bitter!Hephaestion again. I should expand my repertoire. Also a point of historical inaccuracy. Technically we hear of Bagoas winning a prize, and being kissed by Alexander at some point after he had met Alexander. Here, the first time they meet, the prize winning/ kiss incident happens.
The dancers were graceful enough I suppose if you appreciated the sight of male bodies twisting and cavorting in one of the primitive rites of the Persians, bending in time to the beat of one of their tribal rhythms. I thought sourly in disbelief that they had the nerve to call us the barbarians, but I digress from my point, for all that I feel such a point is worth the making. The dances I watched were being performed for a prize more rich I daresay than any such dance has ever been rewarded in all the known world, and yet for all the skill displayed, all the wares on offer to be bought for so small a price, there was an obvious winner.
Small, slender and dark, his face had an enchanting mobility of expression, and graceful features, which along with large dark eyes that seemed filled with more than a dancer's usual depth and thoughts, raised him beyond mere beauty. I distrusted him on sight. But I could tell from the very first time I saw him dance, that Alexander would be entranced. He was, and the moment Bagoas- the insolent eunuch's name claimed the prize offered to the best dancer, I knew what would pass. He claimed the consort's seat beside Alexander as though it was his right, rather than an honour, and I believe that he had entranced the men in the room to such an extent, that he could probably have declared himself Queen. I wasn't interested in him, though. His lithe sinuousness held no charm for me, but rather repelled me in its sinister gracefulness, as though a snake had crawled uninvited to my bed. I was more interested in the faces of those in the room. I was a little drunk myself, but most others were sodden, and I wondered wryly if Bagoas knew the danger in which he stood if Alexander did not claim him that night. Eyes followed his every movement, devouring even through the haze of unmixed wine. A chant went up around the hall calling for Alexander to give a kiss to the victor. I watched, interested in how he would handle this. Whichever way my decision was made.
My one saving grace I often think, is my ability to laugh both at myself and my companions, to poke fun at the incongruous things we both say and do as humans on this earth. It developed as a technique to defuse the anger of others as a child. I studied, being almost of an age, with Alexander, under the philosopher Aristotle. I was bright, and found lessons an easy task, but I knew even at that age, that my skills did not lie in the province of strategy. I had not the genius element required truly to conquer. My skill at oratory was limited as well, and I refused to play a musical instrument, though Aristotle conditioned by years amongst the Greeks, winced at the thought. But when lessons were hard, and the carved pointer fell more on our backs than the ground, a well timed pleasantry often came in handy...
And it was this that entered my brain, as I watched Alexander kiss Bagoas. The king conquered by a . I itched to say it aloud, but restrained myself with difficulty. There was a time and a place to deal with the subject. I drank too much that night, and vaguely remembered giving Craterus of all people a hand back to his room. I woke alone, and late in the afternoon, and the light hurt my eyes. Some fool had drawn back the drapes, and looking up I saw that fool. Bagoas stood, supremely relaxed and confident. He placed a cup of water beside me, and I drank slowly wondering idly if Alexander had commissioned Bagoas to poison it. My doubtless unfounded fears were laid to rest. The water was just that. I blinked, a little impatiently. I did not require a body servant, yet another thing which separated me from my companions,- it struck me as unnatural, to be washed and clothed by another, and if I did want a slave, then I wouldn't choose Bagoas of all people.
"Why are you here?" I asked, when he showed no signs of leaving. In the light of day he was different. The nubile figure that last night had been clothed in silks, thin whispery garments, whose aim was to make more mysterious than to conceal, and had been barefoot was hidden. He wore a simple tunic now, the sort a Macedonian youth would have worn, and sandals. I was not deceived by the simplicity of clothing or the absence of face paint. A leopard in disguise is still a leopard.
His eyes were cast down. "My lord king commanded me to make myself useful to you."
The words hung in the air, like birds hovering, and he loosened the laces of his tunic as though to make it clearer what he was implying, and then I gave a short humourless laugh, which visibly startled the youth. "Bagoas, let me tell you something. When I am hungry I eat a full meal. I do not cook another man's leftovers." I lay back, easing my head onto a cushion, fully confident he would leave. Indeed, the next time I looked up, he had left on noiseless feet.
The silence was shattered some minutes later however by Alexander's indignant entrance into the room. So predictable, so temperamental. He was worse even than me at keeping his emotions and reactions undercover. A short jerk of his head sent Bagoas scurrying from the room, and I looked up at the furious figure that paced the room incoherently, and steeled myself to strength. Just as I did not always understand Alexander, so he did not always understand me, and it was that, that I counted on.
I never begrudged Alexander his lovers, give me credit enough for that. I was aware of how remarkably few there were. A wife, with whom he had spent so few nights since their nuptials. The he kept installed more for show than anything, and again who was graced with few visits from him. And Bagoas now. What a very... select list really.
You could ask, do I not feature? To tell you the truth yes. He shared my bed, on almost every night but those spent in duty elsewhere, despite the rumours that circulated of him. Alexander was not interested in woman- a great blow to both his father and mother. His father wanted him to be a man in the narrowest sense of the word; imagining that near raping a woman would somehow prove his son's virility. His mother simply wanted him to excel, and I think that even within her carapace of a skin, beat a heart as tender as any woman's, and it longed for a grandchild. But women were incomprehensible to Alexander, they could not share his pursuits, his dreams, his hopes of glory. He wished to be a Homeric hero, an Achilles, but to be that he needed his faithful Patroclus.
And sometimes I doubted whether I could be that for him. Whether I was strong enough, to submerge myself wholly into that identity, to be the loved companion of a warrior. I was too alone by nature, too independent to be little more than an accessory to someone else. Do not doubt me though. I loved him as strongly and passionately as I could love anyone in this world. Just as I was his, he was mine and it had been like that since we were children, and shared a bed. But it was cold comfort to know I could break his heart. We were so deeply entwined that to break his heart, would be to drive a dagger into my own. A pity that Alexander had no compunction about trying to break mine.
I swung my feet out of bed, and from pure habit, Alexander passed me a new tunic, and threw up his hands in frustration. "Why am I acting as your body-servant?" I bit back the obvious answer, repressing the urge to scream. The childishness of the man sometimes! I didn't bother with the basin of still steaming water that Bagoas must have obviously brought with him as well, and simply pulled on my clothing, and ran a comb through my hair. It was growing again, falling about face and neck, and I resolved to have it cut as soon as possible. Alexander was still pacing, and on his third time past the window, began talking. "Why are you being like this Hephaestion? I honour you above all. I love you. Is it not enough to have that love?"
I paused in doing up a sandal. "I have never asked for anything more my king. I have never breathed a word either on your marriage night, nor when you chose to take others to your bed."
Alexander sat wearily. "No. You never breathed a word, dear heart, and I loved you for it. But maybe you don't notice that you flinch if I touch you unexpectedly, and it as though you have to steel yourself to allow me to caress you. And it is always worse, after I have visited my wife."
I chose my words carefully. "I have sacrificed much also for this Alexander. You do not have to hear the snubs and jeers not only of your companions but of those you have conquered. They say you are corrupted by my presence, that I urge you to unmanly principles. That I am..." I steeled myself to say the cruel words. "No better than Bagoas, if indeed so good. For Bagoas was designed with no better function in mind than pleasure, while I should have been the Companion of your heart, not the sharer of your bed."
His eyes were hot with anger. "I'll kill a man who dares say that!"
"Oh Alexander you cannot fight against all the world. Against shadows and whispers for all your life, unless you truly wish to be a tyrant- insane and paranoid, always seeing slights, and plots where there are none. It is I who must bear this burden and alone. If I was wondrously beautiful Alexander, and ten years younger than you, and of less noble birth, and perhaps rather stupid then I would not indeed be mocked. But I am who I am, and I cannot change that, nor would I if I could. I know my limitations. I do not have your gifts of strategy or indeed of proper leadership. I am an organizer, little better than a quartermaster.." I was about to continue, but Alexander broke into my diatribe.
"I will not allow you to put yourself down like this! You say you do not have the gift of command, then why is it that your men would walk through fire for you? Did you know that Diodorus was offered a promotion outside of your cohorts, and he turned it down so he could stay? Your pages fight for the honour to bring you wine, and if you as much as bestow an absent word of thanks, they glow. I would never want you to change." He was pacing now, eyes afire with a rhetorical gleam, his head held in that characteristic way of his, tilted up and to the left, and I had no doubt that he believed what he was saying. "I promise Hephaestion, the next person who so much as looks at you the wrong way, I will execute without reason, be it the mark of a tyrant or not. I will not lose you to some jealous sycophants scheming, or poisonous whispers. When we were five I promised you we would conquer the world together, not you one step behind." He stopped, and threw his arms around me, as though he was seven again. "Promise me you'll ignore them Hephaestion. Promise me." His eyes were burning hot and fervent, and I wished I could answer as he wanted me too, without dreams of throwing myself on an enemy soldier's spear, so at the end, at least I could say I died in battle, and they could not say that I was a coward.
"I promise I'll try Alexander." He seemed satisfied by this, and looked at me a little plaintively.
"I'm sorry about Bagoas. That was thoughtless to send him to you. He'll stay out of your way from now on. In fact, best of all, I'll get rid of him." I winced at the thought. I did not care for the boy- behind those dark eyes lay a scheming mind, and a plotting heart, but in all conscience I could not consign him to the fate that would result if he fell out of favour. He was young enough, that I felt a twinge at the thought of the brutalization that would occur. Besides he loved Alexander, and that surely was priceless. An extra pair of eyes always looking to protect the king- and for love not pay. Looking at Alexander, I realised what I should have seen before. To Alexander, Bagoas was no more than Peritas, in fact rather less. Both were there for a purpose, and I had no doubt that Bagoas was going to have to endure many pats on the head,
I smiled. "No Alexander. Keep Bagoas. You need somebody with proper manners, now you are a king of Persia." He smiled at me cheerfully, and then his eyes darkened with seriousness.
"Truly Hephaestion. It has always been you, and to know you were angry with me, that my touch repulsed you…" he trailed off, unable to finish his sentence. "I am sorry," he ended helplessly, and looked at me.
Despite my reservations I could feel my resolve melt. I am sometimes convinced that Alexander could have conquered Asia with those eyes alone. The guilt they could inspire in me… I gave in and embraced him properly, feeling the beating of his heart, and the wetness of his lashes against my neck. "Let us just be ourselves," I murmured softly. "As when we were children, and pure of mind and heart and body, and nothing could have come between us." I felt him nod, and I released him, marvelling once again at how young he looked like this, with hair ruffled, and clothes askew. Scarcely more than a youth, and yet such a king, and once again I felt my heart swell with pride. This was my Alexander, right here.
If anyone can help at all with formatting issues, I'd be very grateful.