Challenge

Aug. 2nd, 2004 10:42 am
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[personal profile] 3scoremiles_10
A short while ago, my friend Nicky extended the story challenge that I write a piece that involved Alexander posing for a sculptor. So I did. This has been posted on his journal, so apologies to anyone who has been there and done that. But I thought, well, I set myself up this journal thing, I might as well use it to keep things in one place, right?

Title: All in the Eyes
Summary: We've covered that. This is total fluff - harmless fun.
Feedback: Should you feel the urge ;)


For a young man from the back hills of Macedon, Athens was more than imposing. Hephaistion had thought Pella was impressive when he had first come there, with its great stone buildings and paved spaces and market stalls selling everything from food and wine to coloured cloth and sweet scented oils. Athens, though ... ah, Athens was grand and glorious and utterly sure of itself, and it made Pella seem horribly provincial.

On the surface it did, at least. Hephaistion may have been young, but he was no fool to simply believe in the surface of things. He saw deeper than that. There was an edge to this city, a certain quiet quiver of desperation and defeat, and beneath that too, of fear. Hephaistion knew what that was. Athens had been glorious, once, but her day had passed now - even before her army had taken the field at Chaeroneia only to hammer itself to pieces on the anvil of the Macedonian phalanx. The Athenians had fled the field then, and surrendered to Philip, and Athens had waited to be taken apart stone by stone. After all, Demosthenes had been telling them for years what Philip of Macedon would do if he took Athens. One could not, the orator had made clear, expect either mercy or reason from the tyrant king in the north.

In the event, Philip had proven Demosthenes wrong. He was, as it turned out, both merciful and reasonable when it came to Athens, in spite of the provocation he'd had. He could have made things very much more difficult for this city that had opposed him in every step he had made. He did not. He accepted their surrender, and returned their dead with honours - and along with the dead, he had sent his son. That had surprised the Athenians, a little; they had not expected that. Alexandros of Macedon was a young man, only 18, but he had led the cavalry charge at Chaeroneia. The Athenians had seen what had come of that. Any 18 year old man who could break the Theban Sacred Band was not going to be overawed by oratory and old temples. He had not come to Athens to play the tourist; he had come to accept his father's dues. It should have been easy to resent him, for that reason alone. Instead they found, somewhat to their dismay, that they actually liked him.

Hephaistion didn't blame them. Alexandros was being positively charming. It was the gods' own task to resist him, when he was being like that. It was a talent of his, to make people love him. Hephaistion thought it might have had to do with the light that came from him, and how he seemed to glow from the inside. Either that, or the Athenians were starting to see what impressive actually looked like in a man.

Alexandros himself, right now, was far from impressed. He was hiding it, but just barely; he had always taken his punishments well. He was a man who could not stand to be confined, but right now he could not so much as twitch without being hissed at by a wiry old stick of a man with a sketch book and a piece of charcoal. Alexandros had never liked to be hissed at, either. It was doing nothing to help his mood - Hephaistion could see that in his eyes and in the way his knuckles tightened to white and released, over and over. He was not inclined to offer much sympathy for it. So the Athenians wanted to put a statue of him up on the Acropolis - it was hardly the greatest of all hardships. It was, in fact, a considerable honour. It was only a shame that Alexandros had to be still in order for it to be done. It was rather a waste of a morning.

The others had sloped off hours ago. Kassandros and Philotas had gone off together, looking for girls and cheap wine. Ptolemy, who had tagged along to see Athens, not to watch Alexandros glare at a sculptor in the morning sun, had found something to do elsewhere. Hephaistion had considered, briefly, doing the same ... but then Alexandros had given him a look and growled, "If I have to sit through this, so do you," and he had stayed.

He was, surprisingly, glad that he had. There was some amusement to be gained from it, for one thing. For another, he had always liked looking at Alexandros. He was put together well, neat and solid and compact, and he moved like a lion about to spring. He stood still like a lion too - golden mane and piercing eyes and sure of himself in every line. His temper was a lion's as well. If he'd had a tail, he would have been lashing it.

It was not, Hephaistion knew, that this did not appeal to his vanity. Alexandros could be as vain as a woman, when it came down to it. In fact, his vanity was part of the problem. Alexandros would always care what people thought of him, and not only by appearances. He had seen enough of the statues around Athens to know what he did not want. He was making sure, right now, that he did not get it. "Draw me," he'd said to the artist. "Sketch what you see. And then make sure that it is carved that way. I don't want you to turn me into some over-muscled athlete who looks like he's never stepped out of a gymnasium in his life. And don't make me look like some effete young thing with big eyes and a pretty face - I don't want to look like someone's bedboy. You sculpt me like that, and no one will ever believe I had a thought of my own in my life."

It seemed simple enough to Hephaistion. Alexandros was right there, how hard could it be to simply look at him and draw what one saw? The artist, though, seemed to be having a time of it. His first two sketches had been summarily dismissed by the Macedonian prince - the second of them had in fact been torn into small pieces. The artist, whose name was Kleon, had thinned his lips and set to starting again with an air of deliberate restraint. He had heard that Macedonians were rough mannered and unruly; he should have known better than to think that they might appreciate artistic endeavour. So the prince wanted to be sculpted just as he was, did he? Kleon clenched his teeth on what he thought of that. There was no art in that - any fool could copy what was in front of him. It was almost an insult. Or it would have been, if this man had been of the normal run of men. Kleon, looking at him with clearer eyes, was beginning to see that he wasn't.

"How long is this going to take?" Alexandros shifted, flicking his hair out of his eyes and glancing at Kleon. The artist hissed in annoyance, nostrils pinching.
"That depends. If the prince will be still, it will be quicker. If the prince will move about, it will be longer. If the prince will not be satisfied with my poor skills, it will be longer yet."
"The prince," Alexandros said bitingly, "does not have all day. And stop talking about me like that. My name is Alexandros, and I'm right here. You can talk right to me, you know." And then, because he knew he was being difficult, "And your skills are far from poor. Your sketches are the best I have seen. I only want you to make me look like me. I know you can do that."
"It is not the usual style," Kleon told him, looking at him appraisingly. "Most people want to look like something else." Alexandros laughed.
"Ah, well, I make my own style. And I don't have to look like anything other than I am. What I am should be enough." It should have sounded impossibly arrogant, but for some reason, the Athenian found himself smiling. It was, after all, to judge by what he had seen this morning, very probably true. All he said to the Macedonian prince though, was "Turn around then. If you want this the way you say you do, I have to sketch you from all sides."

Hephaistion caught the prince's eye as he turned, and gave him his best smile. He was enjoying this. Alexandros tried to growl at him, but it turned into a chuckle half way. Hephaistion eyed him over as appraisingly as the artist just had, and said, "Nice arse." He spoke in Macedonian, which meant at least that Kleon would not understand, but it made Alexandros raise a hand in mock threat, biting back a laugh. Kleon, who had just started to sketch, snapped, "Be still!" Alexandros subsided, and settled for giving his friend a stern look.
"You're not helping, Phai. I should make you stand here and model for this, and see how you like it." He'd switched back to Greek, from habit as much as manners.
Hephaistion shrugged. "If you like. But they don't want a statue of me. You're the one who's been charming to them. I'm just along for the sights."
"Me, charming? What about you? You're almost properly Athenian!"
"My grandmother was Athenian," Hephaistion said mildly, with the slightest emphasis. "I'm as Macedonian as you are."

Kleon rolled his eyes privately, hearing them talk. As Macedonian as you are ... by grey-eyed Athene, they sounded almost as if that were a thing to be proud of! Then again, it probably was, now. Thirty years ago, Macedon had been nothing but a scattering of hill forts and clans fighting among themselves. That was before Philip, though. To be Macedonian now ... well, they were still the next thing to northern savages, but they were northern savages who ruled Hellas. Kleon had a feeling, looking at this young prince with his fierce eyes and his quick, cutting mind that knew what it wanted, that they would not stop there.

Someone wandered into the small courtyard and leaned up on the wall near where Hephaistion was standing. Kleon was about to tell whoever it was to leave, that he would deal with new customers later, but then the young man with the bronze hair and a face he would have died to be able to sculpt just once glanced at the newcomer and smiled. Kleon would have liked to try to sculpt that smile, too. He wondered how he could catch that in cold marble without making it a tame thing. But then, he had enough to worry about with Alexandros of Macedon. He was a wild and shining thing all over - it would be a challenge, making marble capture that.

Ptolemy nodded a reply to Hephaistion's welcome, and offered him half of a small loaf of bread, fragrant with herbs and filled with warm spiced lamb. Hephaistion took it happily and offered Alexandros a bite. The prince shook his head. "I'll eat later. What's the matter Ptolemy, wasn't she home?"
Ptolemy, who had left too well dressed and too freshly shaved to have had anything in mind but a woman, was nothing perturbed. He only shrugged. "She was not receiving callers, this morning. I wandered through the market for a while, and then I thought I'd come and see how you were getting on."
"He's being difficult," Hephaistion told the older man, with a glint in his eye. Alexandros gave him another of his looks. He needn't have bothered; it had been some time since Hephaistion had been willing to be quelled by only a look.
"I'm not being difficult, I just want this done properly. Kleon understands. Don't you Kleon?" Kleon, who thought he was coming to, only grunted.
"Turn around again," he said gruffly. Then, as the prince started to move, "No, the other way."

Ptolemy wandered over to stand at the Athenian's shoulder, looking with interest at the quick, precise lines he was drawing. Licking the last of the juice of spiced lamb from his fingers, Hephaistion joined him. Alexandros said, "Well?"
"Not bad," Hephaistion told him. Kleon shot him a thin lipped glance at that, and sniffed pointedly. The young Macedonian smiled that smile again, and made a placating gesture. "Very good, in fact. It's only ..."
"What?" Alexandros wanted to know. Kleon wanted to know too. His voice was only a little sharper than the prince's.
"What?"
"The eyes. You haven't quite captured his eyes."
That made Ptolemy laugh quietly. Ah, well, when it came to Alexandros' eyes, Hephaistion should know. He was right though; they were not quite right. He said so. Kleon the Athenian took a very deliberate breath and let it out again. He had never liked to work with people looking over his shoulder. Especially not great tall rangy Macedonians who stalked about him like a pack of wolves. In a rather tight voice, he said, "It would be easier to get his eyes right if the prince would stop glaring at me."
"You'd know if I was glaring. I'm not glaring."
Hephaistion considered that. "Yes, you are. A little bit." Alexandros glared at him, then caught himself and swore. Hephaistion laughed.
"Herakles' balls! Don't carve that Kleon, it'll scare the children!"
"You're still not helping, Phai."

For a moment Hephaistion only looked at him and at the artist's sketches, from one to the other. Then, almost to himself, he nodded. He bent, murmured something in the Athenian's ear. Kleon's face didn't change, but he paused in his work. Alexandros said, "Hephaistion ..."
"Be quiet, I'm helping." Hephaistion moved to where his friend stood in the clear morning light. He took him by the shoulders, moved him slightly to face Kleon. Alexandros let him, with a small quirk of his eyebrow.
"What is this going to ..."
"Just be quiet," Hephaistion told him, and then sealed that by stepping in and kissing him, deep and soft and long. He felt the prince's body stiffen against him, and his hands come up to push him back, but then they stopped and only rested against his chest, and then there was a shift and a pause and Alexandros was kissing him back as if he couldn't help it. Hephaistion stepped away when they were done, looking long into his friend's eyes that had gone soft and smoky and clear all at once. Then, with only the slightest blush, he turned to Kleon.
"Did you get that? That is how his eyes should look. Do it like that."

He was right, Kleon had seen at once. The eyes were the key, and that look ... oh, that look was perfect. That was a dreamer's soul and a lion's spirit and pure beauty, even in this man whose looks were not ordinary enough to be beautiful. The artist did not even pause to think how that look had been won, he only set at once to drawing it before it was lost.

Alexandros blinked and gave himself a slight shake, coming out of it. He looked at his friend, and then at Ptolemy who was smiling as if at some private joke, and lastly at Kleon. The man was sketching like a fiend. "Hephaistion? What ...?"
It was Kleon who answered him, though. He set down the charcoal, and held up the sketch. "Here," he said. "Here."
Alexandros looked at what the man had drawn, long and hard. Slowly, smiling just slightly, he nodded. "Yes. That's ... yes. Do that."
"Are we done here, then?" Ptolemy sounded as if they did this every day. "Because if we are, there's a place in the market that has the best honey cakes I've ever tasted. And I wouldn't mind a drink, either."
Kleon stood, waving them away. "Yes, yes, we're done. I have what I need, young prince. You will not be disappointed, I will see to that." He wanted to start now, at once, while he could still remember that shine. Could marble hold that? He supposed he would find out.

The young men left, polite in their rough northern way, joking with each other and swaggering like kings. Kleon looked again at his sketches and thought of those eyes, deep and still and seeing forever. Alexandros of Macedon. He had a feeling he would remember that name, and for more reasons than that he had sketched and sculpted him once. There was something about him that made Kleon pay notice, and something about his bronze haired friend too. Kleon shook his head. What I am should be enough. Most people wanted to be sculpted in the likeness of some god or hero. Not this man, though; not Alexandros. Alexandros would always be himself, and the time would come when gods and heroes would be sculpted to look like him.

Kleon did not think that that time would be very far away at all.

(no subject)

Date: 2004-08-01 04:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] florachan.livejournal.com
That was sooo sweet...^^

And the kiss...ah, the kiss...!!*blush!*

Ooops, sorry, I don't think that was a clever feedback, is it however all right with you?
Kisses have often this effect on me!^^

Flora

(no subject)

Date: 2004-08-01 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susa-938.livejournal.com
Not fluff at all! This fits so well within your own A/H canon, lighter in touch maybe than some of your other fiction, but still so well written, with beautiful characterisation and always with that element of historical truth:

*Alexandros would always be himself, and the time would come when gods and heroes would be sculpted to look like him.*

Lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2004-08-02 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Glad you enjoyed it. It was a fun little piece to write - after all, it can't all be high drama and emotional angst ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2004-11-27 03:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bagoasalexander.livejournal.com
If this is fluff, you do damned good fluff! LOL!

B

(no subject)

Date: 2004-11-27 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Well, to be fair, Hephaistion is not really likely to have kissed him like that in front of just anyone ... so it's just me fooling about with a lighter sort of story, really. But hey, it worked in terms of the fiction, so it's all good.

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