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This is something that came from that "Rain" story I wrote a few weeks back. It's been hanging around since then bugging me to write it, so I did. It may be different from the conventional view of events, but hey, like I've said before - that's fiction for you.

Title: The Breaking
Summary: Pausanias seeks justice from his king.
Feedback: feel free.


It was late when Philip came to his rooms. It had been a long day; his temper had suffered for it. He had spent the morning sitting in judgment in the Great Hall, hearing this petition and that put to him by his people – a merchant who had objected to a new tax on his goods, an armourer seeking recompense from a sponsor who had reneged on a contract, a farmer with a long and complex tale involving a younger daughter and dowry and a cow that had gone dry. By the end of it, Philip had been ready to chew rocks. That, or laugh out loud. He had reviewed the accounts in the afternoon, reckoning how the yield from his mines and taxes managed to disappear at such speed from the royal coffers, and doing his best not to bite the heads off the harried scribes and clerks whose job it was to know about such things. Supper had been late and long, and somewhere in the midst of his day he had even managed to run afoul of his lady wife, who had come to hiss at him over some silliness to do with one of his guardsmen absconding with one of her maids. Since they were both of an age, and more than willing, Philip was not inclined to make more of that than he had to. Olympias, however, was less than pleased. He had snapped at her finally, and she had flexed her claws back … ah yes, it had been a long day indeed.

Longer still for that Pausanias was not here. The man had been granted leave away from Pella, a brief furlough as reward for good service. Philip missed him more than he had expected to. The young guardsman with his flashing eyes and serious expression had been in Philip’s bed for half a year now and more; at some point Philip had realised that Pausanias had found his way into his heart as well. He was not sure how that had happened, but he did not regret it. Philip had grown used to things – the way Pausanias would come to him at the end of the day, slipping in quietly when the lamps were lit; the slow heat and smoulder in his guardsman’s eyes as he watched his king sit in the Great Hall; the secret, private smile that was the barest quirking of his lips, and meant for Philip alone. They had a whole language like that, unspoken, unsounded. Philip found that he missed the feel of that almost as much as he missed the man himself. It was a thing that was their own, that no other man shared. It would be good, Philip thought, to have it back.

There were two men of the Royal Bodyguard at the door to Philip’s chambers, and within, a pair of Royal Pages to see the king to bed. Philip found he was in no mood for them tonight. Another time he might have kept them near, spoken with them of their training, charmed them and laughed with them and set them at ease. Tonight, he let them pour him his wine and take off his belt and boots, then dismissed them with a word. He could put himself to bed, he had no need of a couple of half grown boys to play him nursemaid.

Once they were gone, though, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He was tired, but too tense for sleep. His mind was restless, niggling at him over things he had done and things he was still to do. He paced his rooms briefly, poking idly at a letter he had begun the day before and had not had time to finish, stopping to look at a small bronze figure of a young Herakles with his lionskin cloak flung idly over one shoulder and his head turned as if he had just heard someone call his name. It had been a gift from one embassy or another; Philip had taken a liking to it. He picked it up, turned it in his hands, set it down. Damn, but he was edgy tonight. He sculled back his wine, considered pouring more and decided against it. Perhaps he should have kept one of those boys with him, after all. Perhaps tonight would have been a good night not to be going to his bed alone.

There came a soft, insistent scratching that brought Philip’s head up quickly. It did not come from his door, where the Royal Bodyguards stood. They had seen the expression on their king’s face tonight when he had come in; they had seen the Royal Pages bundled out in short order. They would not be sending anyone in to see him, after that. That, though, was not the only way into the king’s bedchamber. There was a small door, half hidden with hangings and shadows, that led to a passageway cut into the palace walls, so that the king could have his women brought to him with some discretion. Philip had tended not to use it, no matter who he was bedding – he was a man who preferred to walk through the front door, not slink through the back gates like a stray dog. His guards knew of it, of course. Whoever it was who was there would have had to get by them. Besides, Philip fancied he knew the sound of that scratching. Pausanias used that passageway sometimes, when he slipped in at nights. If he was expecting him, Philip would even leave it unbarred. The bar held it tonight; the king had not expected company.

The scratching came again, and quiet tapping of impatience. Philip heard his name whispered softly, in a voice he knew in his heart. He crossed the room, lifted the bar, pulled the door aside.

He had not known that Pausanias was back, until now. Even cloaked as he was, standing in the shadows of the passageway with his mantle drawn up, Philip recognised him at once. His heart kicked hard in his chest, quick and happy, and there was the familiar shift and flutter in his belly and groin, a mix of warmth and wanting. But then Pausanias stepped forward into the light of the lamps, and Philip knew at once that something was very wrong. His heart, on the verge of gladness, stuttered and clenched; his belly turned still and cold. He did not move to greet the other man, did not try to take him into a welcoming embrace. There was something about him that warned against that. Instead Philip stood where he was, and said, “Pausanias? What’s happened?”

There was a brief pause, and Philip heard the younger man draw in his breath and let it out, as if bracing himself to do something. On the back of the king’s neck, his hackles had started to rise. Without thinking, Philip squared his shoulders and let his face settle into its royal mask, controlled and impassive. He was bracing himself, too. Then Pausanias lowered his mantle and showed his face.

His eyes were the first thing that Philip noticed. Philip had seen that look before, on men’s faces after a city had been stormed or a village sacked. It was the look of a man who had lost a thing that was part of him, blasted too far out of himself to ever think he could be whole again. It was not a look Philip had ever thought to see on the face of a friend. Inside him, something began very softly to keen. Philip fixed his gaze on the man who stood before him, and did not look away.

There were bruises on Pausanias’ face and arms, and probably the rest of him as well. Philip noted without thought the tension in every line of him, in the way he seemed to hunch in on himself even as he stood with his head up in a defiance that was part pain and all pride. He held his cloak tight about him, though it was not cold. His hands made fists in it, as if they were holding something back by simple strength. That, or holding something together. Philip, in that cool detached way he had of noticing things, saw that the knuckles of Pausanias’ hands were swollen and scraped raw. He had fought, that was clear. Whatever had been done to him, he had fought.

His face was the worst. He was an attractive man, but he would not have his looks back again, after this. Philip had seen that at once – that, and the terrible eyes. The thin half-crusted cuts someone had sliced into his cheeks would leave scars, cross hatched on his face. Someone had wanted to make sure he would remember what they had done; the scars would serve to make him an example, and make sure he did not ever forget. They need not have bothered, Philip thought now. Whatever they had done, from the broken and burning look in Pausanias’ eyes, Philip did not think forgetting was even an option. He said, in a voice gone as cold as the rest of him, “Who did this? What happened?” It was the voice of the king, not the friend or lover; Philip knew that but he could not help it. If he were not the king, he might have wept.

Pausanias did not answer at once. He was standing so stiff and straight, Philip wondered that his spine didn’t crack. There was a flash of something over the young guardsman’s ruined face, gone before Philip could be sure what it was. What he did see, was the way that he steadied himself before he answered, clinging to what control he could find. He put Philip in mind of a man facing the lash, gritting his teeth and forcing himself through. His words, when they came, fell like stones into a pond – inexorable, one after another. A drinking party with Attalus and his kin, meant to lay to rest old grievances; a false friend who had won his confidence. Wine that had dulled his senses sooner than it should. Assault, humiliation. And, last and worst, rape.

There was no easing him through it, no room for words of comfort. Pausanias gave it to him spare and raw, a plain dry accounting of what had been done. It almost might have sounded as if it were a thing that had happened to someone else, and here was Pausanias as a guardsman reporting before his king, correct and without emotion. Almost, but for the tension in him, and the bleak burning look in his eyes. Philip was not fooled; he knew what the man was doing. Pausanias was always correct when it came to his duty. He was taking refuge in it, in the formalities of it. Better that than to lose control utterly. He managed it to a point, though his voice was tight to breaking and so colourless it made Philip flinch. No man should sound like that, least of all this man. Least of all Pausanias, who could seem so serious but who came alive when he laughed. Pausanias, who had told him what they had done to him, in words that had burned themselves into his brain like cold fire. They had come from the young man’s lips wet with his own blood, as if drawn from him like barbs. Probably they had been, a part of Philip knew. It was hard enough to stand and hear those things; how much harder to have to say them and by the saying make it real all over again?

Philip had listened much as Pausanias had spoken – with gritted teeth and tight control, impassive and giving nothing away. Now though, in the silence that followed, Philip felt his shoulders slump and his skin go cold. He found that he could not move, could most certainly not touch the man who stood before him. He could only stand and stare, taking in the eyes, the battered face, the careful way the other man stood as if something was hurt inside him. He could see that Pausanias was trembling a little all over. From holding himself together, that was. He had his pride, did Pausanias. It had brought him this far and kept him in one piece; he did not want to let go of it now, though he was at the edge of what a man could endure.

“For the gods’ sake Philip, say something.” It was barely above a whisper, all the voice Pausanias could find without howling. Philip heard it and gave a deep groan, dropping his head into his hands.
“Sweet Zeus,” he said, in a voice thick with grief. “Oh, love.” He allowed himself that much at least, then took a deep breath and schooled himself back to something like control. Practicality would help; he sought refuge there. “Are you … did they … have you had your wounds seen to, lad? I can send for a physician …”
“Herakles’ balls Philip, what do you bloody think?” There was a world of bitterness there, and a bright hard pain. What physician could help that? “I don’t want a bloody doctor, I want Attalus’ head on a spike!”

Of course he wanted that. Philip had known it, as soon as he had first mentioned the name. He had been hoping to avoid it – against hope and with a coward’s craving perhaps, but even so. He needed to give himself time, here. He turned away from Pausanias and those eyes that seemed to be burning through him, took a turn about the room. Anyone but Attalus and this would have been simple … ah, by Hades, that made him want to laugh. No one but Attalus would have done this. The man had always been cruel, and as vindictive as a woman. Philip found himself in front of the wine jar. Wine, yes. They both needed a drink, after that tale. The king poured for both of them and carried the cups back across the room. Pausanias had not moved. Philip put the wine cup into his hand. The younger man took it. Philip noticed how careful he was not to touch him. It made his heart clench and ache. Ah, gods. Pausanias.

A king should have been able to deal with this. Any man would think so, who was not a king himself. It was at the heart of kingship, surely – to deliver judgement and justice, the power and strength to rule. Philip of Macedon, who was a king to his bootstraps, knew better. Kingship had its power, but it also had its obligations, its duties … its limitations. A king was not always his own man, to simply look to himself and follow his heart. A king must do what was necessary for his land and for his people first. If that warred with what else was in him, then such was the price of what he was.

Until now, that had not mattered. Philip’s needs and Macedon’s had always been the same. Now though … now there was Pausanias, and what had been done to him, and Philip’s head and his heart were at war.

A king must be strong for his people. Philip did not have the luxury of being just a man. Not even now. Especially not now. Pausanias had said who had done this – Attalus, whose family were powerful still, powerful enough to split Macedon in two if they were pushed. Powerful enough to undo half of what Philip had done … or to strengthen it further and set the whole of it on solid ground. Attalus was too important an ally to turn away, and too powerful a man to make him an enemy.

Pausanias said, “I want him dead.” He had taken the barest sip of his wine. There was a bead of bright blood on his lip. Philip stared at it.
“Pausanias,” he said. “Love. I can’t.”
For a long moment Pausanias did not react to that. He only stood there, tight and trembling, and seemed to look beyond Philip, staring out through the palace walls. A muscle in his jaw clenched and relaxed, clenched and relaxed; that was all. Then, perfectly reasonable and with a control that had been won in blood, he said, “You’re the king. You can.”
“No,” Philip told him, heavy with regret. “I can’t. I need him. He …” Ah, Zeus but this was hard. “He’s important. To Macedon.”
“I’m important,” Pausanias said steadily, stubbornly quiet, still not looking at him, “to you. You always … you said I was.”
“You are.”
“Then help me.” Those burning eyes came back to him. Somewhere in them, Philip could see the flash that was Pausanias before this had been done to him. He understood, in a way that he could not explain, that there was a way to bring it back. He knew too that he could not do it, even before the other man said it. “Let me have my vengeance.”

Philip had outlawed the old blood feuds when he had become king; they had been tearing Macedon apart from the inside, until then. He could hardly go starting one of his own now, even for Pausanias’ sake. No matter what the provocation. He was the king. The king had to be subject to his own laws. And Attalus was Attalus, with all his many kin and allies … no, there could be no feud. No blood. Not if he wanted to keep Macedon whole. He took a deep breath, hating this.
“I can’t. Not against Attalus. The others, perhaps … his lesser kin, his men, I can tell him to have them called to account …”

The wine cup that Pausanias had been holding gave suddenly in his hand, caving to the pressure of his white-knuckled grip. It shattered, spilling wine and shards of itself to the floor. The young man seemed not to notice, though fresh blood welled where the rough edges of broken pottery had cut into his palm. What control he had been clinging to had fled him; he wheeled on Philip in raw fury. “He fucking raped me, Philip! He let me think I was a guest in his house, and he … he did that. He used me like a cheap whore and he fucking threw me to his men for sport, and you … you say no? He raped me and he cut me and he fucking laughed … and you say no. By all the gods Philip, can you understand that? Can you understand what it is to have your dignity, your honour, everything you are, fucked out of you? What am I supposed to do?”

“You could leave.” Philip heard himself say it as if from a long way away. There was a pain in his chest; he willed it away. It did not go far. Something was dying here, he knew, something that mattered to him very much. He went on anyway. “You could go where no one knows you, no one knows what they did. I still … I have friends still, in Thebes. Contacts in Athens. I could secure you a position, give you an annual stipend. You’d want for nothing.”
“Only my honour.” Pausanias made a harsh sound that might have been a laugh, and gestured at his face, at the long deep cuts there. “And this, Philip? How do I hide this?”
“Don’t hide it. Wear it with honour. It’s a sign of your strength, that you survived it.”
“Oh, shut up.” Disgust that, and anger. “That’s a sop for fools, and you bloody know it.”
Philip said nothing to that. It was true, after all. He tried again. “Pausanias. Ask me for anything else, I’ll give it to you. Wealth, lands, promotion. Honour. But I can’t give you Attalus.”
“Do you know,” Pausanias said suddenly, “he told me you’d say that. He … he had his … he made me swallow his cock and he told me …” The young man breathed hard, fighting it down, then he looked Philip right in the eye and went on. “He told me you wouldn’t touch him. He told me I was your whore, that I’d see if you cared for me or not. Maybe he was right.”
“No!” Philip said fiercely. “He wasn’t.” He wanted to reach for Pausanias now, hold him close, but something in the way the man stood, so still and so careful, told him not to. He had not wanted their hands to touch when Philip had passed him the wine, either. The king snarled to himself, cursing Attalus to the blackest hell he could think off. Pausanias had always been so sweetly shy in bed, and so sweetly passionate … that was gone now, perhaps forever. Philip wondered what else had gone with it. It hurt to think of it; he tried to stop. Tried, if he could, to explain. He wanted to rage; he held it back as best he could, by simple force of will. Rage would not serve him now. “Believe me, if I had a choice I would string that man up by his balls and skin him alive. I’d make a cloak from his hide and give it to you to wear, I swear it. I’d cut his fucking cock off and shove it down his throat until he bloody choked to death on it!” Philip’s hands had clenched into fists at his sides – he meant it, ah, gods he meant it. “If I were anyone but the king, I’d do it in a moment and be glad of it. But it’s politics lad, pure and simple. I need him, and he knows it. I just never thought you would pay the price for it.”

“Politics,” Pausanias echoed in a hollow voice. A part of him wanted to howl, to beg, to fling himself at the king who was his lover and wail like a child, “Philip please, what about me?” He didn’t though. He couldn’t. If he did, if he even thought about it too much, he would break. He had already been broken once. He had begged Attalus too, in the end. It had not helped him then, either. No, he would not think that. It was hard enough holding himself together as it was. “He does this, and you call it politics.”
“No,” Philip grated through teeth that kept wanting to clench. “I call it what it is. And I pray that the gods will serve justice on him for your sake.”
“But you won’t.”
“I can’t.”
“You won’t.” Pausanias nodded, in a stilted, almost detached sort of way. “He told me you’d say that. He told me, I could give you pleasure, but he could give you power … and you would chose power over pleasure any day. Him over me. And damn you Philip, he was right.”

That was more than even Philip’s control could stand. He threw his hands up, snarled in anger – at Pausanias, at what had been done to him, and the man who had done it; at his kingdom and its politics and what it demanded of him that a man should not have to face.
“You fool of a boy! Will you listen?” Philip glared at the young guardsman, his one good eye sharp with frustration. “It’s not about you, or me, or even Attalus … it’s about Macedon! It’s about doing what Macedon needs, even if it’s so hard to swallow I damn well choke on it. And what Macedon needs is to be strong and whole. Attalus has influence enough to make that happen, or to stop it from happening altogether. As little as I like that, I can’t overlook it. Not now, not placed as I am. He can support me and put his weight behind my campaigns, or he can support my enemies and set Macedon back to tearing herself apart from the inside out. And what are you, boy, compared to all of that?”

That was an ending. Philip knew it even as the words left him, words he could not call back even if he had wanted to. Words that he had had to say, though his heart hurt with a high, clear ache. He saw it in Pausanias’ eyes that had been so bleak already, and so burning; the rage there flared, then banked, then grew cold. So too did something else, something softer and kinder that had always been their own. Philip knew without thinking that whatever they had had, it was over.

“Compared to that?” Pausanias’ voice matched his eyes, quiet, contained, cold. Lost. He looked away and shrugged with one shoulder, careful of where he had been hurt. “Nothing, I suppose. No one.” He stood in silence for a moment, and Philip had the sense of doors shutting and gates being barred. He knew what that was. Pausanias was going inside himself, away from him, away from all of it. He would not give so much of himself to anyone again. After this, he couldn’t. It would have been easier if he had raged and railed and fought; Philip would have known what to do with that. This silence, this stiff and quiet drawing away … there was nothing Philip could do in the face of this. A part of him wanted to touch Pausanias now, to give him something back. If he had had only slightly more courage, or slightly less, he would have done it and be damned. Then Pausanias lifted his head and looked back to his king.
“What happens now, Philip?”
“I don’t know. I’ll do whatever I can for you. If you want to resign your post, I’ll see that …”
“No.” That was stone. Cold and unyielding. “My duty is all the honour I have now. I won’t give the bastard the satisfaction.”
Philip nodded, sighed, dragged a hand over his face. He felt ill and old, suddenly. His head hurt, he felt as if he had swallowed rocks. They sat in his chest, making his heart kick painfully. “There will be talk, you know. I can’t stop that. Attalus will see to it that people know.”
There was a flicker in Pausanias’ eyes down deep, but he did not flinch. “I know.”
“You can …” Ah, Hades, this was hard. Philip drew in a steadying breath and tried again. “You can deal with that?”
“I know my place, my lord.” The bitterness in that hit like a blow. Philip took it; he deserved it, after all. He deserved it. “It is my duty to keep you safe.”

Gods. Philip closed his eyes and let that sink in. It went both ways, that did; he knew what he was being told, there. A king had a duty, and so did a man, and in the end he chose which to follow and which to cast aside. My duty to keep you safe. Oh yes, he deserved that.

There was no answer in the face of that, no way to make this right. Philip said the only thing he could. “I can think of no one better. I’d set my life in your hands any day. I know you will not fail me.” Even, he did not say, even when I have failed you.

There were choices that kings must make. The two men looked at each other long in silence, and then one of them turned away.
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August 2006

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