Title: Far Away From Here
Chapter: This is either a two or three parter
Fandom: Alexander (historical)
Rating: PG-13 this chapter. Will rise by final.
Summary: That famous quarrel with Craterus, and Hephaestion's summary decision to return to Macedon.
A/N: This would actually fit better into canon if the argument had occurred after the marriages at Susa, but since the characters of history seem peculiarly unwilling to change the course of history all for little old me, I guess it'll have to do.
Dedicated to: It always seems such cheek for me to presume to dedicate what is scarcely terrific work, to a better writer, but be that as it may, this is dedicated to Moon71, since I was reading her excellent 'Rediscovery' fiction.
There was no doubt in Hephaestion's mind that the thing which would have given him the most pleasure at this point in time would be to have rammed a sword between Alexander's ribs and straight into his heart thus making Alexander's physical state analogous with Hephaestion's mental. He was in no mood for trifling- just seconds before, he had threatened to beat one of his pages to within an inch of his life, if he dared speak without being spoken to again. It was a testament to his willpower that his chamber remained intact, when there was nothing he would have preferred to do than rip it apart. He stared at his sword, studying the beautiful deadliness, and entertained a brief fantasy of murdering Alexander. There was not enough inducement in this world or the next to make him consider turning the blade upon himself. He would not give Alexander the satisfaction of hounding him to death. Suicide would but merely confirm all that they said about him- that without the king's favour he was as nothing. And now the spiteful gossip had been confirmed and by the king's own mouth as well. Now his fury was festering within him, like pus within a rotting wound, and turning the utmost love into the deadliest hate.
At that moment he decided something. He would return home to Macedon. He thought in pleasure of the lush green beauty of his homeland, the rolling hills, peaceful lakes and the harmonious environment he always associated with Macedon. He had property in his own right there, inherited after the death of his parents, and after this war, money in plenty. Hephaestion realised with some astonishment that that was what he yearned for above all else. He was tired of war to an extent, weary of fighting without cessation. His heart was changing and he was discovering within himself a wish for peace that he had never known before. All he wished for was a house of stone, lands to tend and above all the quietness and solitude that one could find in no place in the army. They might call him coward, little more than a prostitute who had fallen out of favour with the king, and was now being pensioned off, but for the first time Hephaestion could not find it within himself to care what 'they' said. He knew he was not a coward, and that for the moment was enough.
He called his page in, and smiling at the poor lad, gave him a coin in recompense for his bad temper, commanding him to fetch the rest of his staff. When they assembled, he informed them of his decision. Calling his chief subordinate- a man named Denaris forward; he named him the new commander, and successor to Hephaestion's position, though he was afraid, he said laughingly that his recommendation would do him more ill than good, now that he was so disgraced. There was utter silence as he politely dismissed them, and turned to the packing of his personal effects that he would not leave to the careless ministrations of a slave.
Some time later, after a lot of whispering in the outer room, he heard a polite knock upon the door. On opening it he was confronted by Denaris and a delegation. Hephaestion let them in, seating them, curious as to their purpose. Denaris was a straightforward man, and he came straight to the point. He was not of noble birth, but through Hephaestion's patronage and his own sturdy good sense he had risen to a position of eminence. "Milord," he addressed Hephaestion as was his wont, (though he had been admonished many times not to be so formal, his lower status still urged him to courtesy.) "We do not mean to interfere in your business, but we wish to voice our distress. You have been wrongfully treated, and we cannot stand by and observe this injustice. You are an excellent commander, and your troops would do anything for you. Not merely for their leader, but for one they look upon as a friend and an ally." Hephaestion had never known how popular he was with his troops. He had noticed vaguely that he rarely seemed to have the minor insubordinations that the rest of his colleagues appeared to, but had attributed that to good men and an excellent second in command. He did not know that his scrupulous fairness, liberality with money, and his genuine interest in the doings of his men had won him not only their respect but their love. They disapproved of his leniency towards Persians, but were convinced that he fought for their rights, and that being pro-Persian was merely a facade. As many a sage warrior said after a drink or two, he was playing them at their own game of politeness, and thus throwing the savages off their guard. They appreciated this cunning, and were sure that Hephaestion was a master of playing a double-game for their benefit.
Hephaestion replied cautiously still not seeing the point with this. "I know and I thank you all for your concern and your loyalty."
Denaris continued. "Well the thing is sir. The soldiers have expressed their willingness to support you. "When Hephaestion did not respond, he clarified his speech further."They are willing to follow you, wherever you might lead."
Finally Hephaestion understood and he was touched beyond words. His soldiers outraged at this insult to him, and by proxy to themselves as well, were tacitly indicating that should he wish to in effect mutiny, that they would support and follow him. This was despite knowing that their numbers were not nearly large enough to take on the rest of the army, and knowing the punishment Alexander meted out to mutineers. It warmed him, this trust in him, even as it made him grow cold at the implications. That soldiers of Alexander's, were choosing him above their king and lord, was an indication more than anything of the soldiers growing disaffection with the king's leadership, and for the first time a tendril of doubt crept into his heart at his decision. Was he acting the spoiled child, angry at a trifle, storming off without cause, leaving Alexander his back unprotected in a court where no-one cared for the man only the king? Then he rebuked himself. It had not been a trifle what Alexander had said. It had been a cold denigration of everything they had shared, a dismissal of who Hephaestion was as a person, a subjugation of spirit and thought that could not have cut more deeply if it had been consciously thought out.
For there of course was the real sting. Alexander had not planned the confrontation. The words had slipped so easily and naturally from his mouth because that was what he thought. And Hephaestion was tired, so tired. For what felt like centuries he had fought tooth and nail, against what he was depicted as in the court by those who were jealous of his power and influence. An essentially worthless man with no talents of his own, who had somehow managed to wind himself in the king's favour, by sleeping with him. He had lived through months, where he had not seen a friendly face from one day to the next outside of his own command. Where men he had known since boyhood broke off their conversations when he entered the room. And he had thought all the time, that there was one place he was safe, in the embrace of his beloved. To find that exactly the same opinion was thought of him inside the bed as out of it, was a final straw on the back of an already too burdened man. With Alexander's love behind him he could have done anything, suffered anything. And to find out so late that perhaps love so flawed was not worth anything, was crushing his spirit.
Realising that he had perhaps hesitated too long in his answer, being caught in his musings, he smiled at the delegation. He had no skill with speeches like Alexander did. His voice always sounded thin to him, his words the same, no matter how much he meant them, but he did his best to rise to the occasion. "Dear friends," he addressed them. "Your loyalty means more to me than mere words can possibly suggest, and I am honoured to be so presented with such devotion. But the best thing that I can do now, is to urge you to accept your new command with good grace. I go home, unless I change my mind. Back to my country, which is also your country. You will be remembered in my prayers to the Gods, that I can assure you, and I shall sacrifice to Athena in gratitude for such a display of friendship." He bowed solemnly to them, and pressed each hand. The delegation filed out more than a little relieved. Hephaestion touched Denaris's arms for a moment to indicate he should remain behind for a moment. Moving to a chest, he shook out a tunic. Made of white with gold trim, it was as clean as though it had never been worn, and indeed it had only been worn once. Turning to Denaris, he gave him the tunic. "I was given this tunic as a mark of esteem on receiving this command from a good friend of mine." He remembered with fondness that it had been Nearchus the peacemaker, who was nearly the only one of his own friends, who had not become estranged from him over the years. "I give it now to you to keep, even if it is seen fit to refuse you command of the force. Take it as a mark of my esteem. It may need to be let out a bit, but I'm sure your wife is more than capable. How is she by the by after the babe?"
Denaris's homely face creased in pleasure. "She's recovering well milord, after her fifth lying in. She has been delivered of a son, as you know, and she insists that she will call him Hephaestion after you." Hephaestion laughed, and Denaris continued. "I speak for both myself and my wife, when I thank you for what you have done for our family."
Hephaestion waved it off firmly. "Talent deserves to be recognised, and I merely gave you the opportunity. You did all the work."
Denaris shook his head equally as firmly. "You gave me a chance to prove myself and that means very much to me. Rest assured you will always have a friend in me and mine if there is ever anything I can do for you."
Hephaestion paused. "There is one thing," he said slowly, and waited for Denaris's assenting nod. "Alexander is a leader beyond any even in legend. He has accomplished more than any of us thought possible. Keep them loyal to him. At the moment plunder holds them, but I have a feeling that soon their loyalty may be tested." No need to ask who 'them' were. "Protect him for when I can't." Denaris nodded slowly as he left holding the tunic.
Hephaestion called in his page. Timonus was a slender boy with an anxious face. Auburn hair was held back neatly from his features which had the uncommon fairness of skin that so often went with that shade of hair. Hephaestion privately doubted the lad would ever make a warrior- his head was too full of fanciful notions for such a thing, and he already displayed a marked preference for the pen over the sword, but he was of an amiable disposition and though naturally inquisitive, had the sense to keep his nose out of Hephaestion's business. He sent the boy out for another jug of wine, ignoring the curiosity written on the features of the lad.
Being alone in the tent however made sure that his thoughts came rushing back to overwhelm him. Doubts, fears and the ever present sadness were only part of the emotions he felt. He tried to think of Alexander objectively, but prodding the wound made it hurt even more, and every time he tried to remember times when they had been happy together- winter mornings when they had woke, sharing each others heat, and reluctant to leave the bed, languorous summer days and crisp rides in cool air sharing their silence, but all he could see in his mind's eye was Alexander saying those words. The words that no matter how stoically he had listened to them had burned more than anything else in his life. The words that had caused his precious world to crumble. Fool. Madman. Idiot. And of course the piece d'resistance 'You are nothing without me.'
Of course the irony was, he wasn't. Without Alexander he was just another foreign noble's son, and not even an important one at that. But what those fools and sycophants did not realise, was that neither were they. Every single one of their lives rested on Alexander, every appointment they held was through his pleasure, and he could take it in an instant and for no reason. He still loved Alexander of course. That was his curse. If he hadn't he could have shrugged and ignored the words dismissing them as nothing more than words thrown out in the heat of the moment. But for Hephaestion who had loved him with the whole hearted fervour with which a priest worshipped a God to whom he had dedicated his life, they were knives that shredded his protective outer casing, and penetrated to his heart.
He didn't know if he could live away from Alexander. Alexander had made him feel alive all his life, given him a lustre that did not come from within. Even as a coltish teenager, he had felt that Alexander's regard had caused his body to metamorphosis from awkwardness to beauty, and he had had no doubt that Alexander had felt the same way. But perhaps now was the time to go. Before Alexander's love for him was wholly corrupted and defiled by his impatience and anger, before it became spoiled by rage and insults. Before Hephaestion himself became entangled within the lies and deceit, and started not to care about what Alexander thought about him. It was the first time in his life he had ever run away from something. It was the first time he had ever wanted to.
I know the quarrel scenario has been done to the utmost, and by far better Alexander writers than I (who I shall not name here for fear of bringing a blush to their faces XD,) but I hope that perhaps this is not wholly unoriginal, and may focus on a rather different angle than the rest, by touching upon the political aspects of such a quarrel, and Hephaestion's relations with those other than Alexander. It also seems rather ironic to have Hephaestion tired of war at this point when we all know what a distance he still has to go.
Thanks for reading, and reviews heartily welcomed.