Author: victoria p. [victoria @ unfitforsociety.net]
Summary: Hephaistion wanted to keep the evidence of Alexander's promise with him always.
Disclaimer: This version of Alexander and Hephaistion is based on Mary Renault's Fire from Heaven. No copyright infringement is intended.
Feedback: Always welcome and more appreciated than you know.
Notes: Thanks to devildoll and mousapelli for looking it over. It was all devildoll's idea.
Word count: 1,514
Date: October 6, 2005
I am for you
time is a tree (this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough
Hephaistion turned the leaf over in his hand, the way he turned its meaning over in his mind, the promises he and Alexander had made to themselves, and to each other. He wanted to keep it forever with him, this visible symbol of their vow, the way he wanted to keep Alexander forever near, but he knew the leaf was too delicate, too easily crushed or mangled, to be carried around in his hand or in his money pouch.
It was Ptolemy who unwittingly supplied a solution. He was boasting of his latest conquest, a girl whose head he'd turned from Philotas, and showing off the necklace he'd had made for her, a gaudy, gilded thing he seemed to think would keep him in her favor, and her bed.
Hephaistion had no money for such baubles, and he knew Alexander could not be bought with them even if he had, but he went to see the jeweler anyway, his voice breaking awkwardly when he asked what could be done, and at what cost.
The jeweler was an old man, and kindly; he smiled at Hephaistion, but did not laugh.
"A leather thong," he suggested after a solemn silence in which he turned the gilded leaf over in his hand. "I can pierce it here, and line it with bronze so it doesn't wear away. Delicate work, this." The old man looked at him shrewdly and named a price well within his means. Hephaistion nodded, knowing the old man was indulging him, but caring only that the result was as he wished. He arranged to pick it up in the morning.
When the time came, he slipped off from the palace while Alexander was with his mother. The jeweler had polished the leaf to high sheen and wrapped it in soft black wool. When Hephaistion knotted the leather thong around his neck, the leaf settled over his heart. He smiled and counted out his coins.
"It is a gift from a special friend?" the old man asked with a sly smile.
"Something like that," Hephaistion answered politely, though his secret lit him up inside. It was none of the jeweler's business, and Hephaistion would not go bragging of Alexander's promises to him. To do so might bring the gods' attention, and their jealousy. Not to mention Olympias' meddling; already she narrowed her eyes when she saw him with Alexander, and he felt the cold shiver of a dagger between his shoulder blades under her gaze.
Once he'd put the leaf on, he didn't take it off. The feel of it -- cool and delicate and slightly scratchy against his skin -- reminded him always of his promises to Alexander, of the legend he had to live up to, and he strove always to be the perfect friend Alexander deserved.
Alexander made Hephaistion feel like he could be better, more, than he was. He wanted to be capable of all the great things Alexander seemed to expect from him, wanted to be worthy of that expectation, that look of interest in Alexander's eyes that flashed like silver fish in water, beautiful and fleeting.
And if there were other things he'd begun wanting from Alexander, other thoughts inspired by that look of interest, Hephaistion chose not to speak or think of them. He was secure in Alexander's friendship, and wary of pushing for more, when perfect happiness was his already.
One morning soon after their arrival in Mieza, Hephaistion woke before dawn, the early summer heat and the inchoate, burgeoning desires made manifest in his dreams combining to make further sleep impossible. Across the room, Alexander slept on peacefully. Hephaistion pulled on his chiton, grabbed a towel, and slipped down to the water for a swim, eager to cool off.
The water was cold and fresh against his skin and helped clear his mind of the haze of his dream-disturbed sleep. He dove deep, opening his eyes in the darkness, and when he surfaced, he was not alone.
"You weren't in your bed," Alexander said. He was fair in the grey half-light, as if carved from marble, a young Apollo preparing for the approaching dawn. Hephaistion's breath caught in his throat.
"I couldn't sleep," he admitted, taking a moment to find his voice, and even in the cool water, the heat of Alexander's appraisal warmed him. "I didn't want to wake you."
Alexander nodded. "You should have. You can, any time."
Hephaistion swallowed hard against the sudden tightness in his chest and throat. "Would you like to swim?"
Alexander shinnied out of his chiton and waded into the water. "I don't, generally." His expression was rueful. "I-- What's this?" He reached out, ran a finger over the leaf lying against Hephaistion's heart.
Hephaistion found it hard to speak. He was afraid Alexander would laugh, find him childish, or perhaps be angry at this odd treatment of his gift.
"I wanted it with me always," he said finally, excruciatingly aware of Alexander's nearness, the warmth of his breath, and the lingering touch of his hand, heating water-cooled skin.
Alexander laid his palm flat against Hephaistion's chest, and Hephaistion was sure his heart would burst.
"Brilliant," he breathed. He leaned in for a closer look, the sweet scent of his hair tickling Hephaistion's nose. He raised his head and smiled, then, dazzling in the dim light. He pressed a warm, chaste kiss to Hephaistion's lips, too quickly for Hephaistion to respond, and cupped his cheek, eyes gleaming like stars. "I shall do the same."
"Yes," Hephaistion managed, mesmerized by that bright gaze holding his, that warm hand on his cheek. "Of course."
Alexander led him back inside, still smiling. The air was cool against his damp skin, the sky lightening as the sun appeared on the horizon, and they could hear the others stirring now, getting ready for the day. Alexander turned the conversation to other things, but Hephaistion knew another bond had been formed between them.
Some weeks later, Alexander was called back to Pella by his mother; Hephaistion longed to go with him, but understood why he was left behind. Wise already, even at such a young age, he had no wish to draw her ire any more than he already had. Alexander was solemn and withdrawn upon his return, and his nightmares disturbed both his own sleep, and Hephaistion's, though they did not speak of it.
The next evening, though, as they readied for bed, Alexander drew a small wooden box from his trunk. The lid was carved with snakes, and inlaid with silver and ebony, no doubt a gift from his mother. It smelled of sandalwood and mint, and contained the few treasures of his childhood that Leonidas had seen fit to leave him, or which had been cleverly hidden from his unforgiving eyes.
Hephaistion once again felt anger rise at the thought of Alexander's treatment at Leonidas' hands, but pushed it away. Leonidas had no power over him anymore. Alexander reclaimed his attention by holding out a small, silk-wrapped bundle, and even before opening it, Hephaistion could feel the shape of it through the cloth, delicate and perfect, twin to the leaf resting against his heart.
"Mother discovered what I was doing," Alexander said, and from anyone else, the tone could have been called apologetic, but from him it just sounded bemused. "She wanted to have a silver chain made, but I told her no. She was angry, but I held firm." He took the bundle from Hephaistion's slack hand, opened it, and offered its contents to him. "I think she knows, but that can't be helped. Begin as you mean to go on, they say, and she must know I'll brook no interference from her with you." A chill shuddered down Hephaistion's spine, but he manfully ignored it and took the ends of the leather thong from Alexander's hand. Alexander turned and dipped his head, so Hephaistion could slip the cord around his neck. Hephaistion's heart hammered against the cage of his ribs, so loud he thought Alexander must be able to hear it. "I waited until we were together," Alexander said, and Hephaistion silently thanked the gods for this honor, too unsure of his voice at the moment to speak.
He tied the ends of the cord around Alexander's neck, fingers lingering for a moment on the smooth skin of his nape; he thought Alexander trembled just the slightest bit at his touch.
"There now," he said, his voice sounding odd and creaky to his own ears. "That knot should hold."
"Let no one sunder it," Alexander murmured, turning so Hephaistion could see the leaf against the fair skin of his chest, rising and falling with his breath as though it were fluttering in the wind, a mirror image of his own.
He rested his hands on Alexander's shoulders and basked in the warmth of his smile, another seal upon their promise. It was enough and more than enough, and Hephaistion swore to himself a second, silent oath as he lost himself in those clear, sparking eyes, that he would never take it for granted.
Notes: devildoll noticed that in the movie, from the Mieza scene on, Alexander and Hephaistion both wear matching necklaces of some sort, and we thought that was adorable, and wanted to fit it into Fire from Heaven, so this story happened.
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