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Another random excursion.

Title: Borrowed Glory
Rating: harmless.
Summary: Alexandros wants some of his own.
Feedback: Go ahead.


Alexandros had never seen Athens before. Right now, he did not care if he never saw Athens again – or anything to do with it, for that matter. Not the city with its high temples and long walls and even longer history, not the dried up conclave of old men who wanted to cast ballots on everything from breathing to taking a piss, not that thrice damned fool of an orator who had talked his city into a war it couldn’t win, and if he ever got his hands on one of those dratted waterclocks, he’d break it. For all the good that would do; it would take more than a broken jar and a puddle of water to keep these people from talking. Alexandros was beginning to wonder how they had time for anything else.

He had known, he supposed, that it would be like this. He had not been sent to Athens to play at being a tourist, after all. It was an official delegation, this. He had been sent to return the city’s dead, and to accept its tribute and its leaders’ careful, tight-eyed submission to his father, Philippos of Macedon, whom Demosthenes had taught his city to hate. Alexandros wondered if his city was regretting listening to him now. He thought that it very well could be.

If the Athenians were tired of Demosthenes’ voice, though, they had an odd way of showing it. They had given it to him to speak in honour of the dead who had fallen at Chaeroneia; the man was making a good fist of it. Alexandros had been a little surprised to see him – he had not thought, after such a loss as this had been, that the orator would be able to show his face. In Philippos’ army, an officer who led his men to such a defeat would not have kept his command; in Athens, it seemed, a man had to do more than only lose everything that mattered to be stripped of what he was. Demosthenes had wanted this war, had opposed Philippos and Macedon and everything to do with either of them with every breath he took. He had got what he had wanted, and Athens had paid the price for it. Was paying the price even now. Demosthenes had picked a fight, and he had lost. Alexandros was a long way from having any sympathy for that.

“Let it never be said that those men of Athens who have fallen on the field go down to the House of the Dead for nothing. Men fight for more than victory, men stand for more than only might. This is what it is to be a man, both in measure and in final proof. These men did not turn from courage, and whatever faults and flaws were theirs in life are blotted out by the gallantry of their deaths. They stood against an enemy of their land and home and families, and died as heroes for it. They stood against hubris and they stood as free men. May my weak words do some service to their strong deeds.”

Odd, how utterly ordinary he looked, this little man who had railed so loud and long against his father, whose voice had raised a great city to war. Narrow, stoop shouldered and balding, with deep set, bleak eyes and a voice like polished stone, all practised elegance and smooth, clear edges. Alexandros gave him the attention he gave anyone who would be his enemy – intense, singular, and utterly without pity. He noted everything, from the words the man said to the words he did not, and the carefully deliberate way that he never once let his eyes travel up and meet Alexandros’ own. Alexandros was good at reading men. He knew what that was. He had always hated to be ignored.

Nothing of that showed on his face, though. Alexandros was good at that, too. Stillness bothered him, bored him – he let that show instead. He lounged where he sat in the wide agora where half of the city was gathered, one leg stretched out in front of him and the other hooked idly under the leg of the fine chair he’d been led to, leaning back on one elbow as if he had a jar of good wine near at hand and was thinking about making a start on it. He looked nothing like what he was; he looked, even, quite harmless.

Hephaistion could tell at a glance how dangerous that was. Even from where he stood, a full spear’s cast away and more, he felt it on his skin. Alexandros, who was like a lion lying in the sun, all gold and tawny and half-lidded eyes, and pure intense focus that seemed to be nothing at all … ah, that was nothing like harmless. Watching without seeming to watch, without seeming to matter – lions were like that, before they hunted. Hephaistion almost knew what would happen next.

Not that he much cared. It almost might have been worth it, even – a display of Alexandros’ temper, that coiled intensity suddenly striking out, tearing away the veneer of civility and pretty words that served Athens as shield and armour both, laying bare the jagged resentment beneath. That would have been a more honest thing than all this careful posturing and the flickering, sidelong glances that went with it, at least. That would have been more real.

More real than this. Demosthenes was still talking, still lauding the dead and the city that had raised them. He was making a fair enough job of it, Hephaistion supposed; he had managed to avoid mentioning Philippos and Macedon at all – discretion learned late, perhaps, or simple guilt. After all, it had been his own fierce words that had brought them here, as much as any Macedonian king. It took two men to pick a fight. Demosthenes was wise if he understood that. He was brave if he admitted it. Hephaistion was not entirely sure that he was either. But then, Hephaistion was young and strong and his shoulders were remarkably free of weight; such loads as he had learned to carry did not yet include losing all the war with one battle. He could admit that, he supposed. Demosthenes had a far greater weight to bear.

He was talking too much, though. Hephaistion did not have to know oratory to know that. The man spoke well, resonant and sure and grave, but there was too much in it of art and too little of truth. Too little of instinct. The words carried to where Hephaistion stood at the back of the crowd with not a hesitation in the world. “… these sons of Athens, who answered their city’s call and offered up their blood and hearts and lives for the constitution and custom which have brought us through generations to greatness, and made Athens an example to all others. For such was the esteem of the fallen for Athens, that made them, that they would give up themselves as offerings that their city and we in it might be spared the cruel hand of fate – and such is our gratitude to them that we pay them all the honours their sacrifice deserves.”

Hephaistion thought of the dead sprawled broken and ungainly across the field at Chaeroneia, the smell of blood and bowels and the wheel of kites overhead, waiting to feed. The kites hardly cared why a man was dead, only that he was. Demosthenes, he thought, could have learned from that. Too many words, too much of trying to make it right, to make it matter. Hephaistion would have said it differently. They were men, he would have said. They lived, they fought, they held their honour dear. They died, and held their honour still. No man could need more words than that.

“It’s not quite Perikles, but it’s close enough,” came a dry murmur in Hephaistion’s ear. “Alexandros has had a gutsful of it, at any rate.” Ptolemaios, that was, no more inclined to take things any more seriously than he had to. He had a point about the prince, though. Hephaistion glanced sideways at him and grunted.
“Perikles was a fighter, at least. I could take it, coming from him. That idiot down there couldn’t tell one end of a spear from the other without help.”
“Nor could most of the men he’s talking about.” Ptolemaios shrugged, with an odd twist of his lips. Disgust was part of it, and resignation – but pity too, and an understanding that came of having been there. Ptolemaios had never yet faced an enemy he could hate, when it got right down to it. Too many other things to think of on a battlefield without wasting time on that. “Farmers mostly, and potters, and cobblers and merchants and masons. Citizen levies. They should be standing here listening to this, not burned down to dust. They would have been, if everyone had only had a little more sense. Philippos would have done this without a fight, if he could.”
“I don’t blame them for fighting,” Hephaistion said. Which was true – he didn’t. A man fought for what mattered, after all. “It’s the pompous oratory I could do without.” Actually, it was Demosthenes, standing down there with his head high and his thin shoulders set and squared and never once saying the only important thing that he could that grated the most. He had always been one to take responsibility for his actions, had Hephaistion. “How can he have talked them into such a defeat, and then stand there and sound so smug?”
“That’s Demosthenes,” Ptolemaios told him, as if it explained everything. Perhaps it did. “Supercilious bastard. Always has been. I’m picking that Alexandros won’t let him get away with if for long. How long before he loses his patience with this altogether, do you think? If you were laying money on it, I mean.”

Hephaistion shifted at that, turning to look at Ptolemaios and glancing back to where the others were waiting. Philotas was there, and that whoreson Kassandros, and Harpalos who had tagged along for the sights. Philotas was amusing himself throwing pebbles and small pot shards at the pigeons that strutted nearby. His aim was out, Hephaistion thought, or the birds were bolder than they had a right to be; the most they did was ruffle their feathers and strut a little faster. Gods. Even Athenian pigeons were smug. Kassandros was watching Philotas, arms folded and a bored, piggish expression on his face. He saw Hephaistion looking and scowled, then deliberately turned away. Harpalos, who had been kicking his heels against the wall he was leaning on, smothered a yawn and grinned from behind his hand at the same time. He winked at Hephaistion, then stuck his nose in the air and affected a tight, mincing turn in what was an uncannily accurate impersonation of both Kassandros and the bloody pigeons. Hephaistion bit down on a laugh. Demosthenes might have been supercilious and dull to boot, but there was such a thing as decency. He was not so far gone that he would laugh at a bloody funeral. He glanced over at Alexandros, catching the quick, flat glitter of his friend’s eyes and the brittle quality of his stillness, and looked back at Ptolemaios. “What, do you have a bet going?”
“Philo and the Piglet do. I’m not fool enough to bet against Alexandros.”
“Oh?” Well, Ptolemaios had always been the sensible one. “What’s the bet?”
“Philo has good silver riding on Alexandros to yawn before the end of Demosthenes’ speech. The Piglet is backing him to get up and walk away. No one has any money on him yet to lose his temper outright and tell Demosthenes to just shut up. I’m wondering if I should get in on it.”

He was – mostly – joking. Hephaistion knew that. He snorted. “Save your money. He’s not going to do any of those things. You can tell that just by looking.”
Ptolemaios blinked. “He looks like he could do any of those things.”
“Exactly. Which is why he won’t. He hates to be predictable.” Hephaistion’s lips twitched a little, dry and very knowing. “He’ll save all of that for later.”

*****

Hephaistion had been right. Alexandros did save all of it for later. He had sat through the formalities of the funeral oration with perfect, languid poise, and he had accepted Athens’ fealty on his father’s behalf with good grace and all the dignity it deserved. He had been perfectly charming, and perfectly polite, and perfectly, utterly terrifying. The first two he knew about; he had been working on them. The last was nothing at all that he did; it was simply what he was. Alexandros in a temper was not an easy thing, even when he was hiding it.

Right now, he was not hiding it at all. Right now, he was seething – a clawing, spitting fury that made Hephaistion think of a cat dunked in a basin of water. Or a lion, when jackals had stolen its kill. He was stalking about his room in the house they had been given, flinging curses and clothing with rancorous abandon. Hephaistion ducked out of the way of a sweep of well worked wool as Alexandros’ cloak was hurled in the direction of the bed, and thought that Demosthenes had more to answer for than he knew.

“That man,” Alexandros growled. “That bloody man. Who in all hells does he think he is? Did you hear him? Did you see …?”
“Of course I heard him, everyone heard him. That was rather the point,” Hephaistion said. “Funeral orations are meant to be heard.” He’d had time to get ready for this. It didn’t mean he could not be provocative. “You could hardly have expected him to laud you to the skies.”
“No,” Alexandros conceded. It came out half a snarl, muffled a little as the prince tugged his chiton free and flung it on the floor. He bent to tug his sandals free, kicking them across the room. One skittered sideways under the bed. The other landed upside down by the door. “But I did expect him to at least acknowledge me.”
“As what? The face of the enemy? The tyrant king’s heir?”
“No,” Alexandros said again, more tightly this time. He was rummaging in a coffer, pulling out an old rag of a chiton and his boots, scuffed and worn to comfort. He shrugged into both with quick, sharp little movements. “I expected him to acknowledge me. Not his speech – him. He ignored me. I might as well have been made of stone, for all he cared that I was there.”

Hephaistion would have laughed at that, if he didn’t know better. Alexandros had his belt in his hands right now though, and a sharp knife with it, and laughter was not the best option. He watched his friend set the belt about his hips and cinch it tight.
“I wouldn’t worry about that. He knew you were there. He looked at everything but you. That’s an acknowledgement in itself.”
“Acknowledgement.” Alexandros made a sound that was part disgust, and part plain pique. “He didn’t even bloody stutter. He could have given me that, at least. He stuttered for my father, and all Philippos did was smile at him.” An old tale, that one – Demosthenes had been haunted by it for years. A delegation to Macedon to treat with her king, and Philippos had received them with civility and ceremony and waited to hear what would be said, and Demosthenes had looked the king in the eye and stammered himself into silence. Hephaistion supposed that if they needed a reason why Demosthenes had railed at Philippos for so many years, they could do worse than start with that. A man had his pride, and a wounded orator was a dangerous beast. All the same, he gave Alexandros an exasperated look.
“Stutter.”
“Yes.”
“You’re angry because he didn’t stutter.” It was not a question; it was far too flat for that. Far, far too dry. Alexandros drew in a pinched breath and let it out in a sharp huff. He glared at his friend. Sometimes, he thought, Hephaistion could be deliberately obtuse. Well, two could play that game. The smile he cast at Hephaistion was too sweetly sharp to be safe.
“I was giving him my best glare.”
“He wasn’t looking at you.” Hephaistion had already pointed that out, but he said it again, just in case Alexandros had not been paying attention. He could be sweet too. “If he had been, I’m sure you’d have knocked a stutter or two out of him.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
“Shut up. They laid their city at your feet. You can afford to let them have a speech or two to salve their pride.”
“They laid it at my father’s feet,” Alexandros grated. “I never got so much as a look-in!”

Ah. So, now they came to it. Hephaistion blinked, taken aback in spite of himself.
“But,” he said. “Alexandros. This … this is … It is your father’s victory. It was your father’s war.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Alexandros snapped impatiently. He was dressed now for hunting, or riding, or anything but sitting about listening to dried up old men chirp at each other like crickets, endlessly and pointlessly. One hand scrubbed through his hair, leaving it a rumpled mess. He was pacing, quick and tight, making the room seem small. It was his energy that did that, filling up spaces with movement and thought and that peculiar intensity that was all his own. It tended to sweep others up in its wake, Hephaistion knew. He was only partially immune. Alexandros was still talking, low and hard. “You think I don’t know every bit of that? He took his war and the victory I gave him – I turned the Band, that wasn’t his doing and he knows it – and he’s damned near cast me to the wolves.”
Hephaistion raised his brows. “I’d hardly call an embassy to Athens being cast to the wolves.” More like being cast to the lapdogs, he thought privately. Lapdogs with pompous oratory.

Alexandros was not so sure. “Really?” he said. “If my father has enemies anywhere, it’s here. And he’s set me in the middle of them. Or hadn’t you noticed?”
“Yes, I’d noticed.” Hephaistion was getting tired of this. Alexandros could be like this sometimes, when he had not enough to do and too many walls between him and they sky. Sitting still always made him feel trapped. “And yes, he did. So that you can charm them senseless and accept their tribute and their fealty, and they don’t have to look him in the eye and choke on it. It’s called diplomacy, you idiot. It’s nothing you can’t deal with. Are we going riding?”
“I thought we could. Along the walls, maybe. And of course I can deal with it, that’s not the point.”
“No?” A tilt of the head answered that, half of question, half challenge. “What is the point then? If it’s not stuttering orators or playing message boy for your father? And what about the others, are they coming too?”
“Philotas and Kassandros were taking bets on me making a fool of myself,” Alexandros scowled. “They can bloody well stay out of my way. And the point, since you ask, is that if anyone should have had to sit through that bloody pretentious ceremony today, it’s Philippos. It’s his damned victory, and his tribute. The point is that I don’t want to accept the wreaths for my father’s victories, or anyone else’s for that matter but my own. The point is, I don’t want to spend my life laying claim to my father’s empire on my father’s behalf.” He paused, then looked Hephaistion straight in the eye with eyes as sharp and sure as lightning. His voice was the same – bright and searing and burning the words into his bones. “I want to claim my own.”

It should have sounded thoroughly unreasonable, like a child demanding a slice of the moon, or announcing that he would sprout wings and fly. Or, it would have sounded unreasonable, if anyone but Alexandros had said it. As it was, Hephaistion did not think it unreasonable at all. It was the only thing that made sense. Of course Alexandros would have his own empire – and wings and the moon too, if he wanted them. It startled him a little, knowing that … but then, it always startled him a little to know that, no matter how many times he had been shown it before. This was Alexandros, and Alexandros could not be anything other than what he was. He nodded, tasting the words slowly. “Your own empire.”
“Do you think I can’t?” That was challenge pure. Hephaistion laughed at it, quite unfazed.
“Oh, I know you can. And your own legend to go with it. But it won’t get you out of listening to boring speeches, you know.”

Alexandros gave him a hard look, then grinned suddenly. “Gods. Phai. You won’t let me get away with anything, will you?”
“Probably not,” Hephaistion admitted. He did not sound concerned. “No.”
“Come with me?”
“Riding? Or to find this empire of yours?”
“Both. Idiot.”
Hephaistion pretended to think about it. Alexandros mock-growled at him and threw up his hands in frustration. Obtuse. Stubborn. Deliberately so. Hephaistion relented, laughing in the glitter of his eyes and the quirk of his mouth.
“Yes. I’ll come. I think I have to. You don’t even know where you’re going.”
“Are you talking about riding, or winning empires?”
“Both,” Hephaistion said sweetly. “Idiot.”

That was truth any way that Alexandros looked at it. He grinned and bowed his head to it, slanting Hephaistion a look that was all sharp white teeth and eyes that did not understand limits. “I’ll know where I’m going,” he said. “As soon as I get there, I’ll know.”
“How?”
“You’ll be there.”
“I’m here now. I’m always here.”
“That,” Alexandros told him, in a voice as sure and as limitless and as intimate as his eyes, “is because you’re my empire too. You’re the heart of it. You have to be.”

And that, Hephaistion decided, as Alexandros leaned in to seal it the best way he knew how, was truth too. Any way he looked at it.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-10 08:40 pm (UTC)
ext_1059: (Default)
From: [identity profile] shezan.livejournal.com
Absolutely lovely! Lovely! "Cast to the lapdogs" indeed! And the crackle of energy from Alexander is just brilliant!

Small quibble, I think Athens's long walls had been destroyed by the time Alexander went there, during the Spartan occupation, by order of Lysander. Yup, have just googled it. 404 BC.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-10 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Ah, nice spotting. Though with Alexandros being kind of a history geek, I figured he'd have wanted to check out what was left of their once-vaunted defenses. Heh, and I just called Alexandros a geek.

Thanks. ;)

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-11 04:27 am (UTC)
ext_1310: (Default)
From: [identity profile] musesfool.livejournal.com
“I’ll know where I’m going,” he said. “As soon as I get there, I’ll know.”
“How?”
“You’ll be there.”
“I’m here now. I’m always here.”
“That,” Alexandros told him, in a voice as sure and as limitless and as intimate as his eyes, “is because you’re my empire too. You’re the heart of it. You have to be.”


*meep*

Wonderful!

(no subject)

Date: 2005-04-11 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Thanks. Very kind of you to say so.

its been a while

Date: 2005-05-14 02:30 am (UTC)
ext_35110: (Default)
From: [identity profile] my-cnnr.livejournal.com
*scrolls thru [livejournal.com profile] 3scoremiles_10 journal, praying there's a story she's missed *

*sighs, rereads All in the Eyes *

*tries again - maybe there's one behind a cut or something*

*sighs, rereads Comfort from the Cold *

*googles 'Alexander', gets scary stories written by very bad people*

*sighs*

Re: its been a while

Date: 2005-05-14 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
Hehehe. Right, yes, okay, I get the picture. I know I've been neglecting this journal stuff, but other things have this way of coming up ... you know how it is. Haven't been neglecting my writing, but that's a different thing from these little scribbles. Don't abandon all hope yet though, one way or another I'll get to it.

a different thing

Date: 2005-05-14 12:56 pm (UTC)
ext_35110: (Default)
From: [identity profile] my-cnnr.livejournal.com
oh...oh...oh ... *jumps up and down* ...would that be the book?...

*shakes finger at monitor*... bad,bad lj - stop interrupting nice writer lady!

*recalls standing in line for seven and three quarter hours in hot Florida sun to have first edition signed by author* (ok, there was beer, but it was still hot)

*decides its worth waiting for*

Re: a different thing

Date: 2005-05-15 05:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 3scoremiles-10.livejournal.com
*recalls standing in line for seven and three quarter hours in hot Florida sun to have first edition signed by author*

Oh wow, people actually do that? *blinks* Huh. I'll work on my signature. ;)

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