Title: Far Away From Here
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: First things first. It has been so long since this has been updated that I feel obligated to give the reasons. I went through a lot of upheaval which resulted in moving right before my exams, and then having to take those exams which determine the course of my life for the next three years. Those of you who know me, know that when I start writing I cannot stop and work instead. As it happened I might as well have written Alexander fanfiction since I appear to have failed anyway! Anyhow here is the update finally, and Forgotten Lakes is out soon :)
Dedicated to: Moon71 for not forgetting that me and my fanfiction ever existed XD
Thanks to: Salome, Coraldawn, khepri2, lize, Yolass, Baliansword, bob, HavenRain, Arlad, Queendel, SilverblackWolf13, SongNatasha, angstman, Yaoi Angel, for the reviews!
Leona looked at her hands, and folded them neatly on her stomach. Her clothing was tidy, plain brown homespun that modestly covered her. Her hair was gathered back into a braid, making it appear less greasy, and her eyes seemed brighter. She was ensconced in a tent, and in front of her were a number of tinctures, and piles of dried herbs. The doctor was gruffly avoiding eye contact, as he showed her how to wield a mortar and pestle to crush the herbs for him to use. Leona was not stupid, and she carefully refrained from telling him that she had done this for years. Instead she merely followed his instructions closely, and meticulously continued after he left the room. The work was not arduous, and even if it had been she would not have complained. It had taken a week for the doctor to realise that even a pair of unskilled female hands would be useful in simple jobs such as preparation. She continued grinding absentmindedly as she thought of her husband. Unbidden tears sprung to her eyes at the painful memory, and she shook them away grimly. He was dead and she could not forgive him for what he had done to her and her unborn child.
When the doctor returned he was surprised to see that she had not only finished with the dried herbs that she had been given, but had also taken the initiative in collecting water, for him to soak the herbs in later. He muttered something, and showed her the linen strips he used as bandages. In an army as large as this one there was never enough supplies, so bandages were washed and used again. She automatically began sorting through them, grading them in size, barely noticing him leaving, absorbed once more by her own thoughts. Her skilled fingers were neat and deft, and she did not have to think as she sorted, leaving her open to more painful remembrances. When she next looked up, the sky was dark, and tea steamed upon the table. She hesitantly smiled, and took a sip from the cup, savouring the bitter taste.
A wave of memory hit her and she shuddered. A bitter taste lingering in her mouth, as she remembered the loathsome creature who had given her the herbs that would shake the babe she carried loose from her womb. A camp follower no better than a prostitute, had slipped them into her hand with the muttered instruction to brew a tea, to drink it then to exercise hard. She had come so close to taking the well meant advice, to ridding herself of a burden that seemed too heavy to carry alone. She realised she had dropped the cup, and with shaking hands she knelt to pick it up. Even now she was unsure that she had done the right thing in choosing to keep it.
The doctor looked in. "Well done," he complimented her, the grudging words seemingly having to tear themselves away from his mouth. Then a rebuke followed. "You should have ceased working earlier. Undue exertion will not be good for your child." He turned away, and took a bottle down from the shelf. "Take a measure of this," he instructed, "it will strengthen you, and help the babe." She took it obediently, poured a dram and drank it, barely wincing at the taste. Replacing it carefully on the shelf, she took her leave, retiring to her narrow pallet, where she curled up, and wrapped her arms around herself for warmth and comfort.
The doctor, satisfied that she was asleep, packed away the work she had done, rather approving of the neatness. Then with an expert eye he gauged the shelf of medicines. The lord Alexander had been complaining of difficulty sleeping. He took down a dark bottle, and made his way from the tent. Medicines destined for King Alexander were delivered by hand always, not trusted to pages naturally. The King was alone, poring over a map, yet courteous as always he looked up as the doctor entered the tent, and listened carefully to the instructions. He smiled absently as he took the bottle and thanked him. Then turning back to his work, he paused for a moment. "I hear you have taken on an apprentice," he said without much thought on the matter.
The doctor swelled up like a bullfrog. "Certainly not," he thundered, then remembering who he was talking too tacked on a 'my lord.' Calming, he explained himself. "I have taken her on as a favour to Lord Hephaestion," he said, noticing how Alexander's eyes darkened with rage at the mention of that name. "He asked that I become the protector of her and her child, now that her husband is dead. The lady in question assists me with some of the things that woman's minds are capable of." Alexander made no reply, and the doctor turned after a polite bow to leave. Alexander made no move to question him further.
Instead he turned back, shaking with anger to his books. So Hephaestion had his whore did he? And a child. His vision blurred, and he clutched hard to the side of the table. Gods. A child. His hands closed even tighter onto the edge, and he took a moment to try and steady himself. Why hadn't Hephaestion told him this before their argument. A small, cold lingering doubt answered his question quietly. Their argument had just been an excuse for Hephaestion to leave him, to reject his touch. To give the love that Alexander had fought to earn, to some bitch of a woman, who had been able to give the other man something he must have desperately wanted. Some woman with a dead husband, not even fresh and young. A low animal sound came from his mouth, a guttural sound of hurt and pain.
Hephaestion sat alone in his own tent, contemplating the situation. A sense of sick desperation surrounded him, and he bent almost double as he tried to hold it within himself. He could not even begin to analyse the tumult of emotion within him, didn't even want to try. He was so tired, tired enough to just lie back and sleep, sleep without waking. But that wasn't an option here. Timonus looked at him timidly. "My lord," he said quietly, wary of Hephaestion's freshly awakened temper. "Lord Denaris would like to speak to you."
Hephaestion sighed. "Show him in," he said with little interest. After Alexander had made it clear that under no circumstances was Hephaestion going to be allowed to return to Macedon, he had been forced to resume his command, relegating Denaris to second in command again, something he felt bad about. Even worse, for hearing the sympathetic grumbles of the men, and their looks of anger at Alexander. Not one of them would have dared express their feelings to Hephaestion of course, their respective ranks forbade such a thing, such a showing of pity and fellow feeling, but all the same they managed to make it clear what they felt.
Denaris entered. He bore in his hands as usual all the papers which related to the day to day running of their section of the army, and spread them out on the table. Hephaestion never neglected his duties, and he was unstinting of both time and effort, so these sessions usually went by smoothly. On the other hand his face was so blank, that even his friends found it impossible to broach personal topics, anything that required more than surface acquaintance. Especially nothing involving Alexander. That was a forbidden topic, and no matter how desperately Denaris wished that there was someway to demonstrate his friendship and support for Hephaestion, there was never going to be an opportunity in which the dark haired younger man would allow such a display. They had dismissed Timonus- though Hephaestion liked to give his pages hands on experience of the various things that went into running an army, and even gave them special instruction upon it, there was no point when it was merely routine and general business that they were embarking upon.
Timonus took his leave quietly, after bringing a jug of wine and two cups for their refreshment. Usually he would have gone straight to find out whether Laonicus has been given similar release from his nightly duties, but Hephaestion's comments still rang in his ears, the hurtful words that had made him doubt whether his instincts were right and true. There was no reason for Lord Hephaestion to lie, he told himself again sternly, and Laonicus was certainly conventionally attractive. It made sense that he already had a lover. Probably someone of high rank, maybe even one of the other commanders, whose own pages had lost their charm and freshness. With a sigh he sat on the ground, not far from the tent, near enough that if he was summoned he would hear, and proceeded to gaze at the stars, doing his best to cleanse his mind of his worries and his doubts. He had almost succeeded in doing so, when a familiar voice hailed him, and he winced hoping it didn't show. Laonicus sat down beside him. "Why didn't you come to find me?" he asked cheerfully, leaning over to kiss the other boy on the mouth.
Timonus turned his head, and managed to avoid the kiss, letting it touch his cheek instead. "You know how things are," he said in a steady light tone. "It's hard to get free time, and I don't really want to risk wandering off while Lord Hephaestion is in the mood he is in." He didn't mention the attack he had seen Lord Hephaestion suffer after that dreadful argument.
To his fortune Laonicus seemed to accept the argument. "I know how you feel," he said wrinkling his nose. "King Alexander has been in a terrible mood since the fight." He seemed far less concerned about it, than Timonus felt.
Timonus gazed at him in wonder. "It's terrible," he said briefly. "They truly hate each other so badly." He stared down at the ground. "What happens if Lord Hephaestion does leave and return home? What will happen to us all?"
He felt a hand ruffle his hair. "They don't hate each other," Laonicus said quietly. "If they truly hated each other, then one or the other would be dead by now, or Hephaestion would have been sent back to Macedon. I don't know what is going to happen. I have never seen the King so distraught. He can't sleep, he barely eats, and he only talks to that eunuch of his," he could barely prevent his face wrinkling in distaste. Laonicus was not a friend of Bagoas, despising as most of the Macedonian's did, the pampered, tweezered hairless Persian whose only business was to cater to the comforts of the King in ways that no Macedonian men of the same age would. It was true that many pages shared the beds of their commanders, but it was not in the same way. Physical comfort and connection perhaps, enjoyment, and the promise that one day they would be the warriors. Bagoas was bred for such a purpose, and nothing else, forbidden even to carry a weapon lest he try and take his own life as so many eunuchs did when they began to age. Bagoas didn't appear to notice the camp's opinion of him- at any rate he held his head high and proudly, gliding past the sneers and jibes.
The thought did not occur to Laonicus, or indeed to anyone else within the camp, that it was precisely this that had sharpened the edge of Hephaestion's anger, to a point that made him turn on Alexander to such an extent. In his own way, Hephaestion suffered as much as Bagoas from the snide remarks and looks of lesser men. Not from his own troops certainly, who would kill to avenge such an insult, but from others in the army who wondered around the crudity of their tent fires, what precisely Lord Hephaestion must do to keep King Alexander's ear listening. It showed in their eyes, in their insolence, in their lackadaisical salutes, that seemed to scream clearer than anything that they knew he was no warrior, merely a higher class whore, bought with an army rather than coin. No wonder Hephaestion sought to preserve his rank in whatever way he could, and that included foolhardy duels. Things can bring a brave man down, where armies fail. The insults and slights of those with no right to pass judgement, can strike more deeply than blades of bronze or steel, and there is many a man who would rather be stabbed in the heart, than have his manhood impugned- and worst of all be unable to revenge it. For Hephaestion could never turn his sword upon Alexander, and not just because he was the king.
Timonus sighed quietly. "Lord Hephaestion has changed," he muttered. "Nothing is the same as it once was." He did not mention what concerned him the most, the revelation about Laonicus himself. He didn't have to since Laonicus brought it up himself.
"Are you angry with me?" he asked looking away from Timonus.
Timonus's reply sounded unconvincing even to his ears. "No not at all."
It was Laonicus's turn to sigh. "If I angered you by being bold enough to steal a kiss then you should say so. Then I'll know not to make the same mistake." This last was said with just a touch of petulance.
Timonus shook his head. "I'm not angry about that." He fell silent and licked his lips nervously. Thankfully at that moment Denaris walked past, and told him Hephaestion wanted him back. Timonus jumped up thankfully, and bowed to Denaris. "Night," he said to Laonicus, and dashed off leaving the other boy extremely confused.
Laonicus headed back to Alexander's space, slipping quietly in towards his sleeping pallet, noticing that not even the eunuch attended Alexander now, though the King was not asleep. He looked round at the other pages who attended the King, and slipped in amongst them, hoping they had not noticed his absence. A stern voice arrested him. "Laonicus. Here now." Laonicus slipped into the main part, and stood ready to receive his orders making sure not to fidget. Nervous people annoyed Alexander, and when the king was in such a volatile mood it was wise not to do anything that could bring attention to you. Yet Alexander made no move to commission him to take a letter or request a meeting. Instead he looked at Laonicus penetratingly. "You're friends with Lord Hephaestion's page aren't you? What's his name- Timonus?" Laonicus nodded timidly. "Very well. "I want you to find out what Lord Hephaestion is planning from him. The boy is weak willed, it should be easy enough."
Laonicus bit back his first horrified response. The King was spying on his erst-while friend. Then he realised it was not quite as sinister as it first appeared. If the King truly wanted information it would be easy enough to get it through his spy-master, and the information would be far more accurate. It was obvious that what the King wanted was a personal account. He hesitated for a second. It would mean using Timonus. He remembered the other boy turning away from his kiss, and nodded firmly. "Yes sir," he said quietly.
A shorter chapter than usual, and merely filler. It's to help me get back into the swing.
Alexander meets Craterus. Hephaestion talks to Bagoas. Alexander and Hephaestion have another encounter next chapter. Keep an eye out for it ;)
Reviews very welcome