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This was written in about an hour several months ago. I don't like it much, but that's just me. In any case, it belongs here too. I can't remember where it was posted before, but apologies to those who have already seen it.

Title: A Wish Come True
Summary: Bagoas learns the hard way to be careful what he wishes for.
Feedback: Yeah, sure.


The seven walls were draped in black. Once, they had shone in the sun, the bright white of the stone and the colours of the friezes that ringed the city blazing out across the plains. Only a week ago, that was … a week, or a lifetime.

It felt more like a lifetime – surely the whole of the world could not have changed so in a week. Or maybe the not the whole of the world, but only the part with him in it, as if that made a difference. A week ago, Bagoas had counted himself cursed to shared the attentions of the Great King Alexandros with that man who was the king’s own sweet friend. Now … ah, now he would have counted himself blessed to simply see the king, to be in the same room and breath the same air. Now everything had changed.

It was strange, how a man could want a thing for so long, and then when he had it, find he did not want it at all. Bagoas had never thought he would grieve, when Hephaistion died. The man had been no enemy of his, that was true – and yet Bagoas had cheerfully wished him dead anyway, more times than only once. Perhaps he had thought that with Hephaistion gone, Alexandros would turn to him to take his comfort. Perhaps he had even thought that he could take Hephaistion’s place in his master’s heart. He knew better now. He had got what he had wished for, and he knew better.

The Greeks had a saying. At worst may the gods favour you, at best may they ignore you completely. They were cruel, fickle creatures, the Greek gods – Bagoas was coming to see that, far too late. Best by far that they had ignored him, with his fool’s heart and his petty jealousies. Best that Hephaistion had lived. Without him, Alexandros was breaking apart.

He had not realised it, how much that man with his quiet eyes and his wild smile had held Alexandros together. He had always thought that the king’s strength was his own, it had never occurred to him that he might draw it from another. He had never wondered at the capacity Alexandros had to love and be loved, his need to draw it in from those around him. To Bagoas, Hephaistion had always seemed to be a shadow across the sun. Now, without him, the world seemed darker yet.

The death had been sudden. Hephaistion had been ill with some fever or other, but he had seemed to be recovering. There was no reason why he should not, after all – he was young and strong, and he had the best doctor in the army to see to him. No reason, other than the selfish, secret wish of Bagoas’ heart. And now some god had heard it, and made it true, and Bagoas’ heart felt fit to shatter into pieces.

Alexandros’ certainly had. His heart, and , some whispered, his mind as well. They had tried to keep him out, Ptolemy and the others – Bagoas had come when he heard the commotion and seen that, seen Ptolemy reach for his king and take him by the shoulders, saying something in a low voice. Alexandros’ face had gone to marble, and his eyes had rolled white in the dark of the palace corridor. His voice had been clear enough, ringing out down the hall – “No! You’re lying, you’re fucking lying!” – and Ptolemy had spoken again, and tried to lead him away. Alexandros had surged against him, shoving him back, fighting past as hands grabbed at him, forcing his way into the room. Hephaistion’s room. Perdikkas had made to go after him, but Ptolemy had stopped him. Bagoas remembered very clearly the pain on Ptolemy’s face, and the way he had said, “Let him go,” in a voice slack with despair. And then, from Hephaistion’s room, there had come a sound like a soul breaking, high and keening and full of pain, and Bagoas had known that the king’s friend was dead. He had even, gods help him, in a deep secret place been glad.

Now there was no gladness in him at all. Alexandros had stayed with his friend, clinging to the body all day as it cooled and stiffened, the once warm flesh turning to stone. They had dragged him out almost by force in the end, and Bagoas had made sure to make himself scarce for that. He found he did not want to be remembered as one of those who had taken him from his friend. It was bad enough to know in his heart that he had wished the man dead; it would be worse for Alexandros to look in his eyes and see it.

The king’s grief was nothing that Bagoas could touch. It was a fortress of its own, with Alexandros at the centre of it, howling at the sky. He had killed the doctor – the man hung on the city walls, black with crows like mourning garb. The king didn’t sleep, and then when he did, he slept too much. He neither ate or drank unless someone made him. He had cut off all his bright gold hair, leaving himself a gaunt and ragged thing, with eyes that were halfway to madness in a face that had turned to stone. When they turned on Bagoas, those eyes, they did not recognise him at all.

It made sense, Bagoas supposed, in a bleak sort of way. He would be set aside. It would be a sacrifice, of sorts – Alexandros was fond of making sacrifices. His tall lover, with his dark bronze hair and his quick laugh, would be his lover forever now, enshrined and untouchable. Nothing mortal could come close to that. Nothing mortal should. It might cause the king some pain, to turn him away, but he would do it for his friend. For Hephaistion’s shade, and because pain such as this should not be lessened with baser things.

Yet it had to be. For Alexandros’ sake, and for the sake of his kingdom. And, if truth were known, for the sake of a Persian eunuch who had gotten above himself, and wished for more than was his right to have. The gods had given him a great gift, that he had had so much of Alexandros’ regard as he did. He had been a fool to wish for more. It had come to this, in the end – and Bagoas had no idea how to undo it.

Ptolemy, he thought, might. Ptolemy had known Alexandros for long and long, since he was a child – and Ptolemy had always been kind to the pretty young eunuch who served his king. It did not take so much courage to search him out as Bagoas might have thought that it would. He would rather face Ptolemy than venture those mad blank eyes again.

He found him alone, which was to the good. Ptolemy might have been kind to him, but that was not true of all of Alexandros’ officers. Most of them had no more time for a barbarian eunuch than they would have had for a starving dog. Less, even. They might feed a starving dog, but Bagoas could count on no such kindness. They were like wolves, these men of Macedon – tall and rangy and sharp, and not at all given to softness. Bagoas had learned which of them to best avoid.

Ptolemy looked up as he came in, and even smiled a very little. It was a half hearted thing that didn’t take the sorrow from his eyes, but it made the effort to look brave.
“Bagoas. I’ve been wondering where you were. How are you?”
Bagoas could have wept. He didn’t, though – Macedonians were not much given to tears either, he had noticed … at least, not where anyone could see.
“I … I am …” What was he going to say, he was well? His world had been shattered and his own wishing had been at the heart of it, and his sweet lord was paying the price of it in full. What could he say, to that? “My lord, I fear for the king. This grief he has … this is madness.”
“Do you think so?” Ptolemy did not seem surprised, only more sad than before. “Ah, gods, Bagoas, you knew them … what did you expect?”

What did you expect? It hit him like a blow, making him flinch. He, who had thought he knew so much, who had thought himself so much a part of the king’s soul … how much he had been wrong. He had wanted Hephaistion gone, and had thought no more of it than that the king might then turn to him and spend no more nights in the tall man’s arms. He had thought, even, that the king might forget that other, and remember only him. He had been a fool, and more than a fool. He had thought of himself, only. He had never once thought of Alexandros. You knew them …

He had not, he knew, all in one moment, known them at all. Oh, he had known their names, and some of their habits – the way they had of laughing together over jokes he couldn’t see, the way they seemed to speak to each other sometimes in sentences only half finished, as if words were a thing they did not need – he had known, too, a little of what they were to each other. He had never been able to understand it – it was not the Persian way, for a man to give himself to another man like that – and yet he could see that neither of them were any the less for it. He had never been able to understand, and he did not really know them. He said so. “No. Tell me.”

Ptolemy looked at him long, in silence. He sat back on a chair, and reached without thought for his cup. It was empty; he poured the wine himself, offered some to Bagoas. The eunuch shook his head. He had gone off wine, for some reason. Hephaistion had had a cup by his bed, half drunk. No one much seemed to have noticed. Ptolemy shrugged, one sided, and set the jug down.
“Hephaistion came to Pella when Alexandros was 13. They were the same age, almost – less than a month between them. I don’t know what made them seek each other out, only that they did. I don’t think they could help it. They were friends almost at once, inseparable. Twenty years later, and nothing’s much changed … until now.” He made a sound that might have been a laugh, in happier times. Now it sounded of nothing so much as despair.
“They hunted together, went to school together,” and oh gods, he remembered them like that so clearly it hurt, he could almost see them with their heads together, planning to sneak toads into Aristotle’s bed to see how far the old man would jump. “They campaigned together, even bloody conspired against Philip together. Hephaistion did try to keep him from that, he always was the sensible one, but Alexandros … once he’s made up his mind good sense doesn’t come into it. Hephaistion never played him false, never bowed to him, never told him anything simply for the sake of currying favour. But any man might have done those things, who was a good friend.” Ptolemy sighed. He had tried to do those things himself, in as much as he could. He loved Alexandros too. The eunuch was still watching him, still and grave. Ptolemy stirred himself, tried to find the answer the boy wanted.
“When we went to Troy, they did a thing that set the pair of them in stone. You know of Achilles and Patroklos, yes? And the great war of Troy?”
Bagoas felt himself nod, not too smoothly. He knew the story, the bones of it at least; the Iliad was Alexandros’ favourite book, he had made some effort to understand it. Most of it had seemed to be about blood and death and the anger of the gods. It had left him cold. Achilles he knew though – Alexandros’ ancestor, a great hero and warrior. Ptolemy was talking; Bagoas made himself listen, though he thought he knew what was to come. He had asked for this. He made himself listen.
“Achilles had a friend who was more to him than all the world, more than life. Patroklos. When Patroklos was taken from him, Achilles’ grief was matched only by his rage. He demanded vengeance on the one who had killed him, even though he knew that it would mean the death of him. Life doesn’t mean much when the thing you have been living for is gone, I suppose. Achilles got his revenge, and died as he was destined to, and when he crossed the Styx he met Patroklos again on the other side.
“At Troy, there is a monument to them, to everything they were. We landed there, and Alexandros looked …” Gods, he had looked like divine fire made flesh that day, leaping from the ship to claim the beginnings of this new empire he had made. Ptolemy remembered wondering how Hephaistion could stand so close to him and not be turned to ash. “He looked every inch the king. And he called Hephaistion to him, in the sight of all the gods and the whole bloody army, and they paid tribute to Achilles and Patroklos. Not just because they were heroes, or because Achilles was an ancestor of Alexandros’ … they did it because of what they were to each other. Do you understand? They saw themselves echoed in that place, and they brought the legend back to life and made it their own.” Ptolemy blinked hard, and swiped at his eyes. He looked at the soft strange creature standing across from him, and shrugged again. “That’s what they were boy, one soul in two bodies. Yes, Alexandros grieves, and yes, it looks like madness. It probably is madness – he’s lost the other part of himself and Hera’s tits, I wouldn’t wish pain like that on my worst enemy. We can pray he will come through it, for all our sakes, but … for the sake of the gods boy, what did you really expect?”

He had not known them. He had not known them at all. To be so close to so much, and not see that … he had been blind, and a fool, and far too concerned with himself. He heard himself speak then to Ptolemy, heard himself say “But he must come through it, some one must help him …” and he heard too the tired, worn sigh that answered it.
“Boy,” Ptolemy said in a voice that was nine parts sorrow and the rest pain, “Bagoas, the only man who could ever help him was Hephaistion. And he’s gone. What are any of us, to that?”

What indeed, Bagoas thought, as he turned and stumbled away. What indeed.

(no subject)

Date: 2004-11-09 06:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] qaddafi.livejournal.com
You wrote all that in an hour? That's fast. I'm totally impressed.

It's so sad, and also makes me feel bad for Bagoas. He wouldn't have made the wish if he'd known what it would mean and now he has to deal with the guilt of it. I especially like the line, "He had always thought that the king’s strength was his own, it had never occurred to him that he might draw it from another." Very nice.

(no subject)

Date: 2004-11-09 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Well, maybe it took a couple of hours ... I don't remember specifically, except that this was not one of those stories that I had to work on. It didn't take long.

As for Bagoas ... his feelings of guilt are of course unfounded, he had nothing to do with Hephaistion's death. But sometimes just knowing that you thought a thing is enough.

(no subject)

Date: 2004-11-27 01:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bagoasalexander.livejournal.com
This is Bagoas in ways that Renault could not have expressed.

Bloody PERFECT portrayal of Bagoas' misunderstanding of Hephaestion and Alexander...and the consqences of his own arrogance. Pride goeth before a fall, for everyone, eunuch, king, and courtier.

B

(no subject)

Date: 2004-11-27 03:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
You could even almost feel sorry for him, huh? ;) It was one thing about Renault that did bug me ... she dropped these little tantalising hints every now and then that indicated that maybe Bagoas really could see the truth of what was between Hephaistion and Alexander, but then he'd turn away at the last minute. Of course, I don't write in Renault's universe (I'm guessing you picked that) but this is probably as close as I get to her Bagoas. Glad you liked it.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-02-26 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] annakas.livejournal.com
Liked this.
Was sad thought that Hephastion was dead the entire time and Alexander mad with grief but still Hephastion was felt the entire fic. Ai and Bagoas finally understood what Phai was to Alexander.

annakas

(no subject)

Date: 2005-02-27 07:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Hephaistion's a strong presense here, even in his absence. It's ironic perhaps that it takes the loss of the man for Bagoas to see just how important he was. Better late than never, huh?

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