Chapter: 1 of unknown
Rating: As always, for anyone who wants to read, but there very well could be some mature, adult situations.
A/N: Hi everyone, I recently deleted the original start of Arrows. I've started over; the first two chapters are the same but everything else I post is new writing. Sorry that I haven't been here for so long! Read and Review, and as always, thanks for reading and I hope you like it! ~Michelle.
A/N: Yes, Cassander was not on these campaigns but his presence always make the tension in these stories a bit more entertaining.
The sun was hot against his skin, seemingly searing the dry, cracked skin that already covered his shoulders and most of his chest, back, and torso. Sweat still beaded on his forehead and the rest of his body and the longer they rode the more the sweat had sunken into his open wounds that were still on his hands, knees, elbows –they didn't cover his entire body but at the same time he truly felt as if they did. Pushing past the pain was the only thing that he could do to go on so this is what the general did. He remained still, eyes fixed on the horizon, and as he came around the great bend in the trodden jungle path it seemed that all went silent and still. He could no longer hear the soldiers behind him or the rustling in the trees, and the sun disappeared as did his wounds momentarily while a head slightly turned and darkened eyes met his.
The others' lips parted for a split second. He went from leaning over a table with a smile as he teased a page beside him to a rigid vertical space in the distance, brows furrowed together, smile subsiding back into a tightened frown. There was very little that he could have said to the general as he approached on the horse, but the kind would have, had there not been so many others present. In fact, he would have thrown his arms around him and pulled him close –he was glad to have him back. The general was not how he had left though, he seemed instead the other image's opposite. Whereas when he had gone he was orderly, no wounds, eyes sparkling, he had returned solemn it seemed, silent, eyes slightly defeated, his body broken and battered. The pen that had been in the king's hand fell to the ground and he took a few slow steps forward and stopped, still staring at Hephaestion as he dismounted.
As the general turned his back to Alexander, handing the reins to a younger page, the king was able to see the deep gouge on his back left shoulder blade. The wound was dirty, having been unclean for days, and Alexander thought for a moment that he had never seen a brighter shade of red –nothing could compare to the drop of blood that seeped out from the wound and slid down the rest of his back. Alexander had seen wounds, appreciated them even as tests and trials of war, but on Hephaestion they were different. Hephaestion had turned though, his jaw tight and covered by a small beard as he approached, and Alexander had only a split second to see the splinter of wood that was still stuck within the flesh of the wound, bobbing as Hephaestion walked forward.
"It has been done," Hephaestion should have said, had he not felt as if his throat were closing around him. He wanted so badly to merely throw his arms around Alexander and inhale the scent of him, have him hold him and reassure him that he was going to be alright, that he would forget all that he had seen in the last two weeks. Yet there was nothing to say and he dipped his chin slightly and then stepped past Alexander and toward a physician, who had already been called as Rumor spread throughout the camp of his returning state. Alexander did not follow. His eyes fixed themselves on the next man who approached as Hephaestion was lead away. The second general stopped before his king and even though he said nothing he was saying everything that Hephaestion denied himself the liberty of saying aloud.
"I did not ask him to take this task," Alexander said, his voice low so that no others could hear him as he spoke. As soon as he had said the words he would have gladly taken them back, because they were harsh. He also knew that they were rather untrue as well, for even though he had not sat down and asked Hephaestion, he had known since the first moment of mentioning it, of thinking it really, that Hephaestion was going to participate. The second general was calculative, and knew precisely when his words were needed. He reached out and clapped a hand on Alexander's bronzed shoulder and then moved away. As he did Alexander reached out, a commanding arms forcing Cassander to stop where he was.
"What happened," the king asked and Cassander turned slightly to face him. He drew in a breath and then slowly shook his head, showing his disappointment. For Cassander to have been disappointed it must have been an indescribable ordeal, because of all of the generals Cassander was the one who was always out for blood. He had approved of Alexander's orders from the beginning, had wanted the very outcome from the moment that they had taken the prisoners, and now he did not. Cassander in turn kept his voice low but his eyes remained piercing.
"Did you look at those captives?" he asked, one brow raised slightly even in his anger. "Did you walk through each of them and determine who was to live and die? You sent amongst the group warriors, true, but you sent also children. Boys. They were nothing to me, but to the only one amongst us that had any heart left they were still children. Who do you think looked after them on the way there, caring for them like a father, assuring the youngest that it would be okay? Who do you think took their lives?"
Cassander said no more. He walked away then, Alexander unable to retain him. The king paused for only a few moments before he turned around and made his way toward the physician's tent. As soon as he entered everyone seemed to freeze, apart from Lorikus, who was still wiping dried flakes of blood away from Hephaestion's exposed shoulder blade. The layer of skin that was missing was substantial, and there was more carnage exposed now that Alexander had not seen before. The physician pulled the remnants of a leaf out of the wound and then tsked the general before he placed it on a page's outstretched hand. The page seemed slow in his movements, unsure of why his king was watching him. Hephaestion remained still, unmoving as he lay on his chest and the physician dug into the wound. Finally Alexander could stand the silence no more and ordered the physicians out –luckily Hephaestion was currently their only patient. Lorikus seemed as if he considered staying but in the end he placed a gentle hand on Hephaestion's head, patted as if he were some sort of pet, and then sauntered away as Alexander crossed his arms over his chest. The silence only returned.
"Say what you have to say," Hephaestion murmured, clearly in some pain but he was unwilling to admit that fact. Instead he turned his head so that he stared at the side of the tent, not Alexander. There was more silence, more pain, and finally Alexander sat down on the stool that Lorikus had left behind. He picked up the watered cloth and draped it over Hephaestion's shoulder, careful not to touch him. Hephaestion tensed underneath the pressure of his hand. Even as Alexander pulled his hand up, leaving only his fingers gently resting against the broken flesh, the general tensed and attempted to shift away. The king did not let him.
He slid his hand down to the small of Hephaestion's back and rested it where his back dipped down, just before rolling like a hill to the curve of his buttocks. With his other hand he moved the cloth, but he was a poor impression of a physician and soon stopped. The hand that he rested on the small of Hephaestion's back seemed to warm and he rubbed gently, hand sliding back and forth as the body beneath it attempted not to tense or squirm. After setting the cloth back into the water basin Alexander moved his hand to Hephaestion's hair. Tangled, matted, bloodied, it did not matter. It was still the softest hair he had ever touched. As he stroked his hair Hephaestion let out a breath so full of tension Alexander felt it in his bones.
"What makes you think I have something to say?" Alexander asked. Hephaestion still did not look at the king. Instead he flexed his unwounded shoulder before pushing himself up. Alexander let him slide off of the cot and walk to a bench where he picked up a Persian robe. Every muscle in Alexander's body began to tighten as the silk slid over Hephaestion's bare back. There was one muscle in particular that ached with more need than the rest, but he swallowed and tried to lock the anguish away as he had been doing for months. It was only after he had tied the front of the golden lined red silk that Hephaestion turned around to face him.
"I know you," he answered. "You have a look."
"I want to know why you went with Cassander." Hephaestion stared back at him for a silent minute, as if to determine what it was Alexander really wanted to know. There was a lingering accusation hidden beneath what Alexander had been bold enough to say aloud. Hephaestion wanted to tell him that he hadn't "gone" anywhere with Cassander. Despite this, had he decided to go somewhere "with" Cassander he should be able to do so without needing Alexander's approval.
"I do not trust Cassander to carry out your orders, remember that you don't either," he answered, hoping to stop Alexander's rant before it began. Alexander sucked in a breath but he didn't let the conversation calm down in the slightest.
"Fine," he sighed, rubbing his hands over his tired eyes. "Do whatever you want Hephaestion, disobey my orders openly. Why wouldn't you? I've never treated you harshly before so why would I now! You're like a child, a child without discipline. Half of the army despises me, and now I have revolting generals. Perfect!"
Hephaestion had liked it better when he could avoid looking at Alexander. It was far less depressing to have to watch him make and ass of himself in comparison to merely hearing him do it. With nothing left to say he moved past Alexander, leaving him sitting in the physician's tent. Outside the camp seemed to have noted his return, and men glanced up from their daily activities to stare at him. Ignoring their stares, the general made his way back to his tent, which was surprisingly already raised. He thanked the few pages standing outside, finishing unrolling bedding, and grabbed a blanket and entered the tent. Taking the blanket he shrugged the Persian robe from his shoulders and wrapped himself instead in the blanket. After doing so he started to lay down before he heard Alexander approaching outside. He had not heard him stomp so furiously in a month, but he knew this apart from any other.
"My words were harsh," Alexander said as he entered, forgetting to invite himself. He had a habit of this and Hephaestion ignored it instead of creating a new rift between them. "I have been through a great deal of stress, and I haven't slept much. I was worried about you. I don't want you spending time with Cassander if it is not necessary either. You're right, I don't trust him."
"You don't trust me?"
"I have never said that. I said I did not want you spending time with Cassander, just as I would have preferred if you did not involve yourself in dispatching the prisoners. Stop turning my words against me Hephaestion."
"Get out Alexander."
"If you do not tell me, I will ask Cassander."
"Then ask him," Hephaestion said, turning his back to Alexander. He heard no movement behind him and glanced over his shoulder. "Are you leaving?"
Defeated, Alexander did exactly that.
A/N: Please read and review. I will attempt to get the second chapter up shortly –it will be the beginning of a few flashback chapters where you can see where the conflict between Alexander and Hephaestion begins. Thanks for reading! ~Baliansword