Title: Failing

Fandom: Alexander (historical not movie)

Category: General

Rating: PG

Pairing: Alexander / Hephaestion

Summary: Alexander talks to the Gods, and finds out love can not conquer all

Warnings: short, mild language

A/N: I must warn you about the use of language within. The Gods speak something similar to the older form of English- the courtly tongue I suppose we'd call it. Alexander speaks in ordinary colloquial English. I have also used a few Homerisms such as 'Aphrodite of the white arms' occasinally, and this may give a touch of the ludicrous sometimes, please excuse it.

When he woke, there was a subtle feeling of discomfort, of something different, as though his room had been changed in the night. Nothing had moved however, and he was about to dismiss the feeling when a movement in the corner tingled his senses. He strode forward, ready to apprehend the intruder. On reaching the corner he was surprised to find no-one there. Behind him a gentle cough sounded, and he turned, irritated at someone intruding in his chambers at such a time of the night.

An astounding beautiful youth was sitting cross legged on the ground. Alexander knew he'd never seen him before, he would have noticed. He was playing a small instrument, resembling the flute, yet no sound emerged from his mouth. When he saw he had Alexander's attention, he stowed away the instrument and stood. He was perhaps a little shorter than Alexander, a good-tempered looking youth, despite his beauty. He was dressed in an odd fashion, that Alexander's untutored eye judged to be about three hundred years out of date. His smile was genuine, a warm outpouring of affection and light, brightening the very air around him. He inclined his head to Alexander who automatically nodded back. He did not speak, merely motioned for Alexander to sit. This time when he raised the flute to his lips, a delicate tune came piping forth, a tripping light hearted tune, that increased in speed until Alexander was almost dizzy just from the sound. The sound seemed to make the colours of the room curl together, melding them, and Alexander closed his eyes to escape the sight. The music continued for a few more moments then slowed and finally stopped.

When he opened his eyes he was no longer in his rooms, indeed no longer in his realm. He was sitting on a grassy rock, with snow all around. The youth tutted, then placed cool hands over Alexander's eyes. The scene they opened to was nothing short of dangerous to the mind. A long, low hall open to the skies was before him, and it was peopled with those who could not be less than Gods. He turned to the youth, but already he was supplanted with a beautiful serving , whose clothes proclaimed her richer than the richest woman on earth. Her voice was resonant and low. "I am known as Hebe. The youth who conveyed thee hence was Ganymede. I am afraid he does not talk much." She held up a steaming cup. "Drink," she advised simply, and when he obeyed her instructions she smiled. "I shall take you to Athene of the flashing eyes presently, once she has returned from war, a task I am nothing loth to do."

Alexander spoke for the first time. "War?"

Hebe searched his face with her beautiful eyes. "Why yes." She sounded faintly surprised. "The Trojan war of course. The Achaens and Trojans."

"But that has happened already," whispered Alexander faintly.

Hebe touched his face lightly. "Do not trouble thine thoughts, nor fight against the natural bounds" she said gently. "Time is different here, perhaps thou art in the past, or we are in your future. Or indeed maybe we are so far ahead of it as to be incomprehensible to your mind. Time is little to us, it can bent and broken like any tool. We have seen battles that will make Gaugemala look like a child's game of soldiers, wars conducted in space, even beneath the ground. But some things never change, though some may flicker and fade."

"Mine glorious sister Aphrodite wouldst have you verily believe that the gentle emotion of love is one of those things," a dry voice cut in. "I hazard thou and I know rather different." Athene stood before him, bestowing a dry, not unsympathetic glance at him. She sat heavily, and Hebe began to remove the breastplate she wore, the stained sandals and her cloak, gracefully. Athene thanked her with a smile, and plucked a grape from the bowl at her elbow. Alexander did not reply, his mind too busy absorbing her reality. She was beautiful, but not in the way women were. She had almost a male intensity and her features were far more masculine than those of her beautiful handmaid. Her hair was braided, blond-red down her back, and her hands were small, tough and callused as she grasped her glass. Her skin was white, whiter than even that of the most sheltered, and her eyes were a cold green. Her face was kind, yet harsh, and she was older than he had thought she would be. Finally she looked directly at him, and he flinched at the power in her gaze unable to meet them. "You are wondering," she remarked, leaning her head back.

He nodded. "I was wondering why I have been given this gift of such converse."

Athene threw back her head and laughed, a barking laugh. "A gift? Scarcely. My kind is not of a subtlety to do such a generous thing, and cast it as a favour won." She suddenly took off on a tangent. ""What do I appear as to thine untutored eyes, and honest tongue?"

He hesitated. "As the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, a warrior in woman's fair flesh."

A delighted smile twitched her lips. "You are skilled in the art of flattery, and speak with charmed tongue," she complimented him. "A rare thing in such a warrior I have found. Nonethless I appear as thou believe me to. If I wert to appear in mine natural form you wouldst not understand me, or indeed be able to have converse with such as I."

"But the Judgement of Paris?" asked Alexander. "How could he then pick the most beautiful of the Goddesses?" He flushed as he spoke, aware this could be a difficult subject.

A frown creased Athene's face. "Men see what they wish to seem and nothing else. An idle and taskless fool finds more chance for rest and happiness in the arms of love, than he does in the fields of war, or the halls of power. Love was his wish and his desire, and so love, and her embodiment appeared to him to be the comeliest. But enough of this my friend. I have summoned you unto this place for more than idle talk that may fall from our tongues. Long have I cared for you and yours, and you have bequeathed unto me many a sacrifice. Now I shalt bestow upon you the most terrible gift, and evilest blessing. A chance to glimpseth the spectre of things that may come to pass through your agency. A chance to form it, and mould its shape within your grasp."

A new voice entered the converse. "Honoured sister, allow me to join you." Soft footsteps heralded the approach of a new Goddess, but Alexander was unable to tear his eyes away from Athene. When finally he did so, he flushed with shame. The woman that stood before him now was more beautiful than Athene even, blond curls tumbling loose around a body that the finest God-smith must have fashioned, her eyes a grey that rivalled his lovers in depth and beauty. She smiled at him, her eyes understanding. "This subject to is mine to speak of, and I wouldst have converse with thee Alexander." Where Athene's voice was high and clear, Aphrodite's was slow and deep, a sensuous torrent of sound. "I bestowed unto you the most wonderful gift a mortal man may have. My adored sister disagrees that love is one of the most permanent and forceful things that exist in the understanding, that those emotions which herald war, have that place which should be its rightful throne."

Athene of excellent renown gave a sigh. "Excellent sister we shalt never come to understanding, indeed we cannot even if we wouldst. You art a facet of that jewel; life, as am I, and our spheres are without affinity, except in those brief places they coincide as they do in excellence here." She turned to Alexander. "I pray you forgive us, our gentle quarrel. I wouldst not prolong your curiousity. Of of the myriad of worlds and times which our path doth cross, we hath encountered you Alexander King. Thou art torn in yourself, you art broken and wearied- divided between two aims and two destinies, that self-same devotion that spurs you on, and it is our task to mend you. I hath a great portion of your heart, as I do know. It is unto me your heart sings as you doeth battle with thine foe, and I stand beside thee with mine shield, and your harsh warrior prayers are uttered by mine lips, with that fervour that can move destiny. The fierce love of war and slaughter, the undoing of all valiant foes is present in your soul, those hard emotions that knoweth no rest as that of Morpheus in the arms of love or beauty."

"Yet I lay claim to you, son of Olympias. You wert not conceived in the arms and thoughts of love, but I have brought thou a ceaseless bounty of it. Thou hath been adored all your life, and what is more you have also felt that tender emotion blossom in thine own soul. Is it not the truth that by your side stands your lover, your friend and your brother-in-arms? It is mine will which allowed you the pleasant fruits you hath reaped together in the dawn of your lives. I beside thee, when thou art sleepy from the arts and acts of love, and fire you with the steady flame of constancy, in every morn you have experienced, I have given you the love that causes you to fight on. And now I call thee to an accounting," thus spake Aphrodite of the white arms.

Alexander pressed his hands to his forehead, "I ask thee for leniency," he said haltingly. "Both are gifts any man would be a fool to turn away. Yet I confess I do not understand my purpose in this debate.

"Before you, Alexander son of Philip lies a choice, and bound within them is the seeds of destruction. On the one hand you must choose between the entire destruction of all of thine troops, a mutiny from within so terrible that Macedonia herself shall burn in the conflict, a war to end war as the survivors crawl from the smoking ruins of thine empire." Thus did Athene of the smooth brow speak, and her words were terrible to hear, and her countenance sad to behold.

Then Aphrodite of the golden hair chimed her contribution. "And on the other hand is balanced the fate of the one thou lovest beyond thyself. Thou must cradle his body in thine arms or the other future shalt come to pass. I place before thee now a choice, between the love you bear for one, and the love you bear for many. Will thou choosest thine duty as king, or thine duty as man? Mine tongue and heart plead eloquently for love, but tis thine own choice which shall take place."

There was silence for a long while. Then Alexander of peerless renown uttered his heavy words. "Is there no way to avert this terrible course?" he said softly.

Sympathy was in Athene's voice as she replied. "No future is set in stone, the winds of time may erase the potentials as they scatter the rootless dust. Yet there are futures which needst more than the hands of the Gods to shift from their course, great channels of time down which it longeth to flow, and from whence we may not divert it. One man's or life may be the turning point of the survival of the world, the mote which balances the shifting sands."

Alexander's face did not flinch, and his mouth was grim. "I have chosen," he whispered after a little hesitation. Evidently if this decision was to be made at all, it must be done swiftly. "I have chosen the sorrow of the soul." He did not move a finger or so much as blink. "I betray my other self for this. I beg of you to grant me a boon." When Athene nodded, he continued. "Allow me to die after. The hurt this renders to mine soul makes life evil to me. And allow me to forget."

Tears glistened in Aphrodite's eyes, and as she bowed her head, they tumbled from under the lids. "I grant the gift of forgetfulness," she said with infinite gentleness. "I shall beg it from the brow of Morpheus for thine sake." She turned to her sister Athene of the white skin. "Wilt thou beseech his boon from Thanatos?" she mumurred.

Athene was stone-cold, but in her eyes were two great tears, and she merely assented with a gesture of the hand. "War has won out, and lost as well," she said. "A hollow victory indeed that such men must suffer, and the gift of Hypnos shall indeed be merciful to thou." She took his hand, and he was conscious of its coldness. "Forget," she said simply. "Wake, and love him unknowing of such a future as must come to pass."

Alexander stretched, sitting up suddenly, certain there was someone in the room. The draperies were blowing gently in the light wind that stirred them, and there was a scent of such divine origin in the air, that he did not recognise its source. Try as he might, he could not remember the dream he had been having, and he lay back uncertain of its significance. He pictured Hephaestion, doubtless reading even at this hour, and a tinge of sadness that soon evaporated came with the image, overwhelmed by the love he did not try any longer to hide. "I would give the world for you," he whispered.

A pity he would not burn it.

Yes there is a whole chain of reasoning I worked out as to how Hephaestion's could forestall the premature collapse and civil war of the Empire even if not for long. It didn't fit in the fic, but if anyone is interested enough, I can tell them the details XD. Also I am aware that Ganymede actually replaced Hebe as cupbearer, I imagined that Hebe might naturally fall into old habits of helping others.

I seem to specialize in pithy one liners at the end of oneshots

Reviews welcome of course