Actions

Work Header

Glad I met you

Work Text:

Little drops of rain were hitting the wooden windowsill, a chilly wind touching his shoulders, enough to be pleasant. Alexander stood on the canopied bed, his harp in his arms, repeating a calming melody. It was something he came up with; it wasn't much, but he liked to think that it was enough to please Apollo. Time wasn't really a problem, and he wasn't bothered by many things. He was listening to his song, concentrated on hitting the notes right everytime; he also knew dinner was soon, about which he was very excited. He was eleven.

He was so absorbed that he didn't notice the door opening. Suddenly, the canopy was raised just a bit, his mother's face peeking through, smiling kindly, as always. She was always so busy, and even at this age he could tell she was under an immense amount of stress everyday, but to him she would hide it all.

"What are you doing on my bed, silly? Have you finished your lessons for today? You better not be skipping!" She laughed.

He almost jumped off the bed to hug his mother. It was a side of her he would realize later in life no one else but him and his sister saw. Not even his father. Actually, especially not his father. Olympias was so full of life and creativity, all of which he inherited, but the court life was giving her little free time. She was constantly fighting. It felt as if she and his father, the king, were political enemies; and he barely saw them all day. He couldn't say he missed his father that much though, since the reason he was hiding in his mother's room right now was because the king hated seeing him play his lyre. He thought it was useless and effeminate, hardly something a heir should do, as opposed to training himself to exhaustion.

"I hope you were well behaved today. I just brought you something and it would be a pity to give it away." He could barely hide his excitement; every gift he received from his mother were his greatest possessions.

The gift was nicely bound in a silky material, and as he opened it he found out it was a beautiful gilded scroll. The first words on it were "The frogs, a comedy written by Aristophanes of Athens". His mother loved theater and philosophy, she even had certain ties to some philosophers that were now just beginning to gain popularity throughout Greece. She was convinced the future of this country was in its words, not warfare. She wanted to raise her son in this sentiment.

The play was considered by some an abomination and by others the pinnacle of comedy. It was, in a word, controversial. Alexander loved reading, it was some of his favorite things to do. He loved to immerse himself in a story and think about it all day, fantasizing about the characters and wondering how they'd act in real life. Theater was especially appreciated by him, it was the best way to see the story come to life. Even reading the play by himself in his bedroom would make his imagination run wild.

It was these things he would latch on desperately, because he could feel that he, unlike other children, won't get to enjoy them forever. It was a terrifying thought, that slowly things will be taken away from him, in order for him to become the king. To become the ruler, the most powerful man. To become a tool.

~~~

He used to dream about his childhood a lot. So many faces he forgot over the time. Situations that were sometimes ridiculous and made up by his tired brain and some, just simply recollections. Right now as he was dreaming about his mother, a very strange feeling was creeping up on him; it was the feeling of not wanting to relieve the past. It was agitating, even as he watched his mother smile. He stirred in his sleep, and slowly he came to reality; for a second he was sure he was still in his childhood bed, the same dark ceiling above, the same uneasiness he used to feel. He wondered, it had to be four hours before the sunrise, or three. Or maybe less. He fumbled around searching desperately for something-- and yes, there it was. Hephaestion was his back besides him, they probably drifted off from each other while sleeping. He was instantly calmed, suddenly he forgot about the dream, he even forgot what was bothering him or what was just now on his mind, and he slowly tried to come closer but-- what was that?

He looked down and suddenly his stomach dropped. There was something, a dark mass just between the two of them. He was still dizzy from waking up, and his mind started working fast; his dog fell asleep just outside their tent, it was not it. If it was a wild animal, how could it get past his dog? Has it killed his dog? He felt a cold sweat wash over him. A demon maybe?....As he was thinking, all he could do was slap the other person repeatedly, more harshly with every hit, until he woke him up.

"What-" Hephaestion sat up in a hurry, completely disoriented, and immediately threw his arm over Alexander protectively. He looked around the bed but didn't see anything. "Light that damn candle!"

Screaming at his frightened beloved was the last thing he wanted to do but, being woken up so violently and suddenly, he really could do nothing but act erratic. Alexander fumbled around, his hand trembling until he managed to produce a flame.

Part of the room was now illuminated by a weak light. Now that everything around them was more discernible, Hephaestion's gaze was also caught by the strange bundle that was lying in the middle of the bed. It was...

"Oh, on Gods...." Alexander slapped his forehead and just simled. "I can't... it's little Ochus. It's really  him..."

As it turns out, the demon that had menacingly invaded their bed was no other than Darius' five year old child, the one he abandoned like the rest of his family. He, for some reason, liked them a lot, and especially cherished every bit of attention from Alexander.

Before, when things were normal, (as normal as they can be), Ocus didn't really talk. He understood from a young age his dad will not appear in his life as long as he was a child, and his mother used to scold him a lot. She was extremely distressed by the upcoming war, and she had no patience for her son's little wishes. She loved him a lot, but Ochus was just too young to understand this kind of love. The only one that was patient to him, through it all, was his grandmother, who always had kind words for him. His father scared him, and the generals he sometimes saw surround him also scared him. They were all tall, serious. Dangerous. The day after the war, he didn't understand what was happening, why his mother was crying so loud. He just remembered his grandmother holding him tightly. He caught glimpses of men, foreign men, so light skinned, with bizzare clothing, shouting and pushing everyone around, until as sudden as it started, they stopped. He remembered someone entering the room where he was hiding with his family; like his father's men, he was tall and serious. The king. No-

He didn't understand what his grandmother and the ones who came inside were talking about, since they used a different language, but now the first person he saw was standing protectively in front of another that just appeared, who was...To a little boy like Ochus, he simply looked like something he'd never seen before. It was the first time seeing someone with that sort of fiery hair color, and, since he was wearing an armor, Ochus just assumed that he was a 'he', but the person was so lithe and gracious he was stunned. He didn't look like the other men, and he found himself not being scared by him at all. Without fully realizing what he was doing, while his grandmother was conversing with the two, he stood up and run next to her, to see that weird person better.

Alexander's attention was drawn to the child. He was momentarily speechless, not having expected to be welcomed by what looked like a four or five year old. He started laughing and got down on his knees to get on his level, his slightly dirty curls falling to his face.

"Hello?" He tried, this time in Persian. He was slowly learning the language, especially since he found out how well some of the Persians could speak Greek. He was actually embarrassed by his lack of knowledge.

At the sound of the familiar word, Ochus let down of any hesitatation. It was clear to his little mind that what he had in front of him was a friend. As he was used to do to his family, he approached Alexander and hugged him. To him, this made complete sense. Why would anyone act otherwise?

Turns out it was indeed the right thing to do, because immediately Alexander was just overwhelmed by emotion and lifted the child in his arms, holding him him tight.

"Oh my Gods, aren't you a big boy already? Hephaestion, look at this!" He said it in Macedonian. Some secret language only the two of them knew. He turned to his family, speaking in Greek again. "He's so adorable, Mother, you really are lucky to have him. I'm just afraid, if Darius were to see me holding him like this right now.... well, that would be really awkward."

He laughed. Ochus was observing him, confused. He had a really nice laugh.

He talked to his mother and grandmother, and to his older sister, and they seemed to be enjoying the conversation. He was happy to see the scene. The days before the war have been just terrible, and even he, who didn't fully understand what was happening, could feel the tension in the air. It held on for so long that, now that it was finally over, he felt so light and at ease. He remembered drifting off to the sound of their voices.

~~~

And so, a few days later, they were still camped. The weather was constantly changing, and a particularly rough storm hit them. Ochus woke up in the middle of the night, scared out of his mind, as a loud thunder broke the rhythmic sound of rain. He had his little bed next to his mother, who was still sleeping. He tried to wake her up, but to no use. Actually, his entire family was so emotionally and physically exhausted after the whole war ordeal that nothing could bother their sleep. All he received from his mother was a hurried 'Go back to sleep.'

He wasn't going to go sleep again. Suddenly, he remembered his new friend and his tight embrance from some days ago. He learned that his name was 'Alexander'. A strange sounding name. He tried to visit him as much as possible, even though his mother would desperately try to stop him. She'd say he's too busy. He didn't understand.

He thought of slipping out of the tent. He knew the front was guarded by some of Alexander's men, and they never let him go in and out as he wanted. He remembered there was an entrance made to their quarters specifically for the servants to come. It seemed quiet as he was getting close to it; everyone was surely fast asleep. He stepped between their beds, his small feet barely making any sound as he passed. It was easy, really.

He slowly lifted the heavy sides of the tent, and he was immediately hit with the cold and the smell of the wet earth, as the rain was pouring out of the sky incessantly. He didn't think of bringing a cloak, so he just grabbed a discarded blanket from the room and prepared himself to go into the storm. His feet were bare, the mud staining them. He shivered.

He started to run, having memorized the way to Alexander's tent. He at least knew there was a tall tree beside it, and it was larger than any other tents. He saw that it was divided into more rooms, and one particular room was very beautifully furnished, where Alexander told him he liked to receive guests and hear out their problems. His room was at the very back, hidden away from everything, and there he would hold him and tell stories, whenever he was free. The whole camp seemed abandoned except for a few guards pacing around, or sitting by, conversing; some of them wrestling with the horses who weren't taking the storm well either. Ochus was sending mud everywhere, his feet almost frozen by the cold. He felt uncomfortable and just wanted to reach the tent already, his frantic run being hidden by the loud rain.

He was lucky that, since Alexander wanted to be sure he and his family were safe, their tent was moved closer to his, so he didn't have to run for a long time. He hid behind a tree as he observed; there were two people standing pretty close to the entrance, guarding it. They looked young but also rough and unwelcoming. They had their head covered in a cloak as they were also seeking shelter under a tree; quite a funny sight, actually. if Ochus passed through, they wouldn't even notice. They were more prepared for sudden skirmishes and arrows than a little boy causing mild trouble. Confidently, he hurried over, blending in with the shadows and the rain, and as he passed them he could hear them talking to each other.

"Why, for fucks sake, did my shift fall on this damned night, with you of all people? That's exactly what I'd like to know."

"Do you ever shut up? Fuck you and your family."

"What the fuck did you just say to me?" His voiced was muffled by the cloak, making the argument sound even more ridiculous. The man was frustrated enough to shove the other one in the shoulder, making him lose balance. "I swear to the Gods I'll...."

"What are you two doing over there?"

His sentence was cut off by another guard, an older looking one. He seemed even more miserable than the two, but too proud to show it; he clearly didn't have time to deal with petty fights.

"I didn't personally choose you boys to guard the king himself for you to start messing around. Does a little rain bother you? Do you want me to dispatch you as quickly as I appointed you? Don't make me warn you again."

"I still don't understand what's the point, though."

"The point of what?"

"Of us sitting here. He has his ugly bodyguard-boyfriend with him inside. I saw Alexander enter with him earlier and he never came out. It's not like we don't know, so what's the point?"

His companion turned to him at the statement.

"What, ugly? Are you blind? I'd climb him like a tree any moment if I could..."

"Ugh, stupid!" He shoved him again. "Shut up!"

"Enough! You two gossip like fish mongers, and expect to be considered soldiers? You sit here for as long as I say. Don't bother me again." The older man, who was clearly the one in charge, was just happy to remove himself from the awkward conversation. Fortunately, little Ochus didn't speak their language. He just listened to be sure that they would stay were they were, clearing the path. As soon as they were back to mumbling to each other, he quickly passed through the tent entrance.

It was immediately warmer inside. There was a big crapet on the ground, and his feet rubbed all their mud into it; there was a beautiful chair in the middle of it, used for Alexander's meetings with the people. Huge, ornamented, but at the same time humble. The ceiling was impossibly high, the type he's only seen once, when his father allowed him to take a look into his royal tent, during the campaign. Dark as it was, he could discern almost everything in the space around him. He remembered from last time; to the right, through the makeshift council room, there was Alexander's bedroom.

He realized the rain wasn't as loud anymore. It was suddenly quiet, as he found himself in front of a grandiose bed. Even though it wasn't technically a real bed, and was constructed quickly by Alexander's servants for the few days they were going to spend in this particular place before and after the war, it was still big and looking very comfortable. Way more comfortable than the blanket pile that was Ochus' bed. He didn't think much about it; he just wanted to be close to Alexander, who was sleeping, breathing softly. He jumped on the bed, as well as he could. He felt even happier: besides Alexander there was his other friend, whom he loved just as much, but it was still really hard for him to pronounce his name. They were sleeping togheter, providing a safe space for the little boy. He discarded the blanket he wrapped around him earlier, which was now wet and heavy, and he settled between them.

~~~

When Ochus opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the warmth. The sun was just rising, and the room was glowing slightly. The storm had passed. He could feel the rise and fall of Alexander's chest and the calm beating of his heart. As he moved around he realized he was being held in a tight embrace. At some point in the night, Alexander noticed his presence and took him under the blankets. Another hand was lying over his lower body, coming from behind Alexander- Hephaestion's.

"Mm, waking up early?" Alexander was, of course, already awake. He loved early mornings. He would get outside and stretch, and have breakfast before anyone else; he enjoyed the silence. Right now, he was being lazy, hugging the child for a little longer instead.

"Your mother is probably terrified right now, I should put you back where you came from..." He was speaking in Persian. "What do you say about that?" He yawned.

In this very moment, Ochus couldn't say he'd rather be somewhere else. Actually, he didn't want to leave his warm spot ever again, so he turned to Alexander and gripped at him with his little hands. Just a few minutes more, maybe?

~~~

Tensions were arising. Now that the weather seemed to finally give in, everyone was anticipating to leave very soon, if not tomorrow. Alexander did not like to settle. Leonnatus woke up hoping to still find Alexander in his tent, before he went to exercise privately. Bad luck. There was also no signs of any other generals, only the page boys running around. One of them told him Alexander was on his way back, so he decided to wait outside his bedroom. The wait irritated him, and as he was fidgeting nervously, he heard a noise behind him. What, was as Alexander there the whole time? No, it was--

"Oh, Leonnatus?..." Hephaestion accidentally bumped into a random chair, forgotten from the generals' last meeting in the room. At the sight of him, Peritas, who was still lazily laying at the entrance, went berserk and was jumping all around him, his tail wiggling so hard it was short of breaking off. "Uh, good evening... I mean- I mean good morning..." He covered his face with his hand. God damn it.

"... alright." There was an awkward pause. "Good morning..."

He didn't know why, but it was always awkward catching the two having intimate moments, even indirectly, like now. It wasn't like he didn't know they were a couple- actually, that was the reason they met Hephaestion in the first place. It was so strange thinking about it now, when it's been around a decade since he came to Pella, since Leonnatus saw him for the first time. At the time he really didn't understand what was happening, or what was about to happen; he was actually quite stupid. Maybe he was still.

He remembered when Philip, in his desperate attempts to connect himself to Athens, decided to try to incorporate Athenian customs in Alexander's upbringing. That is, give him a lover- an erastes. Said lover was supposed to teach Alexander to behave, and be completely entrusted with his education, while also recieving... favors from him. The athenians praised themselves for it; well, some of them. The athenian people were divided in everything, always harboring polar opposite ways of thought in their city. But, like in everything he did, Philip had to do it his savage way. Alexander was far form the age of an eromenos, which was early adulthood. The rich young men of Athens were heavily guarded like praised possessions, sometimes even until they entered their twenties, and only then the talk about a lover began. Alexander was merely thirteen. Philip wanted the prestige of forming this sort of alliance, having summoned different men to be his suitors; and of course, they were all old enough to be his father, each eager and hungry to enter the king's favor. Leonnatus remembered the days when Alexander would lock himself up in his bedroom, crying for hours and refusing to communicate with any of his friends, making them all worry. He remembered when his sister was sent to marry, and she behaved the same way; he used to scold her, not understanding why a girl would act like this before marriage. He thought it was irrational, wasn't a woman supposed to marry? Now that he saw this happen to another boy, and not just any boy, but Alexander, the heir of Macedon, he was conflicted. He was so, so sorry. He finally understood.

And the moment Alexander thought his life was over, things suddenly changed for the better. And it was Olympias who, like any mother, couldn't stand to watch her child suffer. No matter how cold and unmoving a queen and a politician has to be in her household in order for her family to flourish, she couldn't bear the cruelties Philip was inflicting on Alexander everyday. He's once done the same to her. At that time, she wasn't exactly popular; she had to deal with a lot of disrespect. She was struggling to come out on top, but she never gave up. Not now that she was a queen. Not now that she had both Alexander and his sister Cleoparta to protect.

Philip's enemies were of course her own also. But his victims, those were sometimes her friends; they had something in common. One of them happened to be a budding philosopher, who once had his home destroyed by the king; the later well known Aristotle. They weren't particularly close, but they were on talking terms, especially now that Alexander was older. She wanted him to be open to philosophy, and wrote to Aristotle a few times, implying everytime that she would be extremely delighted if he were to be her son's teacher. And now she remembered him again. It was a short letter. A desperate one:

'I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you for the sole purpose of acquiring a little favor. And for which, if granted, I'm willing to talk to my husband, the king, to reward you greatly. I know you are now a prominent man who has many connections with many other great men. So I ask of you this- please find my son a companion. I trust in your wisdom to find someone suitable, someone who can protect him always, when I'm not around. And I know there will be times when Alexander will be away from me- so please, find someone who can guard him; an older boy who can giude him, fight for him, vouch for him, without any question. Find the best. I cannot thank you enough for opening this letter.

The queen of Macedon, Epirus and Molossia, your dear friend, Olympias. '

It wasn't the habit of Aristotle to bend to royalty; like any philosopher who has heard about the teachings of Socrates, it was an innate decision to not side with the rich. When he received the letter he studied it for some time. He felt compelled to grant Olympias this wish, even though he didn't really know why.

During the time Philip destroyed Stagira, he was a guest at a friend's house; an influential Athenian who helped him a lot, both monetarily and mentally. During Athens' ups and downs, he used to lend a hand to whomever seemed to be eager to bring the city a little peace.The news wasn't easy to take in. Years have passed since he stepped in his city, but the thought of everyone he left behind being enslaved at that very moment was too much to bear. He was lucky to not be alone; even though the reason for his visit was just to talk. His friend used to work for Philip, knew him. He fought in his army, back then. He knew the king was hard to deal with and that Athens was constantly threatened by him, and a war could be on the horizon.

He remembered taking long walks, thinking about what to do next. Think, think, think, that's all he could do; and all he knew what to do. He used to sit by and observe his friend's son training to calm his mind. The boy was simply incredible. Everytime he fell, which was not often, he would get up immediately with even more determination. He seemed to be a match for his trainer, even at half his height and weight. One day on one of his walks he met with him, and he was surprised to find him just sitting by and reading.

"I suppose that was enough training for today?" Aristotle tried to approach him as smoothly as possible. He was just fascinated with the boy.

"I think, yes."

"Would you mind some company?"

"..."

He was never someone that talked much. To Aristotle, he was kind of endearing; he liked seeing someone so young and so thoughtful already. It was clear the boy really wanted to be good for his father and the city, and when danger comes, protect it at all costs. Aristotle sat down beside him and looked at the scroll he was holding.

"Oh? Homer's Iliad? That's a good pick. Homer's works are always something many people read, but little understand."

"Yes."

"Well, how is it? Any characters you feel drawn to? Any you dislike? You must have noticed how fate has led them all to destruction. It's a hard thing, to accept that your enemies are also the victims." He thought about Philip. Was it so?

"Yes... I liked Achilles the most. I don't think it was fair, all that happened to him... The army and Agamemnon were in the wrong. If I were there..." He stopped for a while, seemingly embarrassed by his words. "If I were there I would have never let that happen. I would have protected him, and I wouldn't have died like Patroclus. How could he die? I despise Patroclus the most; he caused Achilles the greatest pain by his recklessness. I... I-" He caught himself ranting and turned his head.

Aristotle was amazed. He didn't actually expect that statement at all, and it seemed the boy was extremely passionate about the topic too. One of the reasons he loved teaching was that even now, he could learn so much just by hearing students talk. Maybe not understand more about the topic itself, but surely find out more about their personalities.

He used to talk to him often; under the tough exterior the boy was actually very smart and surprisingly empathetic. Aristotle sat at the table thinking. It was almost a year since his own teacher passed away. He was rereading Olympias' letter as though more words could appear under his gaze. He knew at that moment that this old friend's boy, Hephaestion, was one of a kind, and if there was someone who could make the son of a barbaric king like Philip grow up to be civilized, it was him. He was seventeen this year, almost fully an adult and already wise beyond his years. Under the table there was a small chest where he kept his letters, a particularly thick stack being Olympias' alone. There was something about her that he has never seen in another woman; not that he knew many women, actually. By all means, her brains and ways of thinking were that of a man, and against his old convictions, he enjoyed her writings. Every single letter she was, in a more or less direct way, asking for him to teach her son. Until now he never actually thought of doing it, but maybe there was more to little Alexander than he let on. If he was like his mother, there certainly was.

It was a sunny spring day when he decided to ride north with the boy in tow. His father was excited about it, he not so much. The idea of leaving Athens was not taken lightly, and being a heir's 'slave' (as he put it) an absolute horror for him. Hephaestion was used to listening to his parents and his elders, but this time it took some convincing from Aristotle's part; and he agreed because the two became very friendly and the idea of studying under him was something he deeply desired. Even if that meant babysitting a fussy kid.

And that was how, one day, Alexander's friends came to know him too. He was properly introduced by the king. Miraculously, Philip agreed with Olympias once in their entire marriage: it was better for a boy who was not far from his age to be his protector and lover, so he could fight along him and be with him at all time. It was a sacrifice for Olympias; now all of her husband's friends harbored even more animosity towards her, and court life was going to be difficult in the next months. They knew a fierce political enemy when they saw one. They kept trying to make Philip marry their daughters, or promise them to Alexander, or urge him to have more children with his other wives, anything that would illegitimize Olympias' power. It was always a constant battle.

Hephaestion was beyond uncomfortable. Everything was different, and the difference between him and the others was painfully palpable. The heir, Alexander, was looking at him strange since the first day and wasn't speaking much. Those big eyes were always on him, it was unnerving. The weather was colder, and he tried to hide under his cloak most of the time. He tried to open conversations with Alexander but it was a bit difficult; the kid was acting emotional and embarrassed at the slightest things, and he would simply excuse himself. Hephaestion thought it was the 'lover' aspect of his role that was making him like this; but he himself didn't even think about it. It wasn't like he was going to actually be his lover, right? With a child that barely reaches his chest? That was so absolutely ridiculous; he wasn't going to come near him, at least not anytime soon. Some of his friends were a bit older, some his age. That made him feel a bit better, but it still felt strained. He accompanied Aristotle instead, most of the days, and other than that he would just enjoy his alone time.

Alexander's parents were beyond pleased to have Aristotle as their guest. Philip began preparations for restoring Stagira, his city, as a gift. It wasn't clear if he was sorry for destroying it, or if he was capable of ever feeling sorry for anything, but Aristotle knew better than to complain about good things. The enslaved population was to be freed again; people were like toys to Philip. Those were people he once knew, and he didn't feel ready to see familiar faces again. Where was he, when evil befell upon them. Where was he.

He was looking through his things, putting them in place. Soon he will have to leave and teach not only the prince and Hephaestion, but an entire herd of boys chosen by the king. He was happy about it, really. It was maybe the first time he would actually put his skill to the test, and he was planning on making the most out of it. Maybe fate was finally showing kindness to him. While lost in thought, there was a slight knock on the door, and a head shyly poked through.

"I... I'm sorry, I didn't want to bother."

It was Hephaestion, of course.

"You could never be a bother. Come on, sit. Is there something you'd like to discuss specifically?" It was true. He liked the lad's company, and always encouraged him to speak his mind.

"I'm not sure the prince likes me very much. I tried everything but I'm a bit at loss of what to do... I really don't think I'm the right person for this, I'm sorry. "

"Nonsense, he's very in love with you. That's why he acts like that. Don't worry about him. What about you, do you like him?"

Hephaestion was taken aback. That very far from the answer he expected to get.

"What?... He's just a kid. I don't know? It's not like he's doing much."

Aristotle laughed. "He might be doing a lot in the future, though. Be on the lookout for that."

When Aristotle saw Alexander on that first day he reached Pella, the first feeling he had was relief. He's never seen him before until now, but he was immensely pleased to see that on his head there were ruddy locks coiling around his face like ivy, revealing a pair of innocent looking eyes. His mother's features. He was still young though; Aristotle knew better than to judge a book by its cover. The biggest tyrants could be the sweetest little saplings, it was only a matter of time until they would reveal their true colors. If there was one practical thing he should have learned from Socrates' life, it was surely this. Hephaestion was nothing like him; he was handsome but in a different way. He had those features greatly appreciated by the Athenians, and with his dark hair always cropped short, his skin always a shade darker from hours spent training in the sun, he was a southerner through and through.

It was not long befoe their studies began, and days strated flowing smoothly. The two boys became very close; Aristotle saw many relationships, and good ones, but this one had something otherworldly to it. There was something special about them. Whatever made him come here and bring Hephaestion with him, he started thinking it wasn't purely his decision. Fate truly sometimes worked in starnge ways...

~~~

It was merely a few minutes before Alexander came back from his daily morning exercising. He stumbled into the council room before reaching his bedroom, only to find Leonnatus and Hephaestion sitting awkwardly there.

"So, everyone's an early brid today?..." He laughed. "Why is everyone so tense? You guys would be more comfortable with yourselves if you just relaxed for a bit. I'll go wipe down my sweat and change." He passed by them, his dog following happily. "Don't start a cockfight!" He shouted from inside his room.

The makeshift council became a little tight as Ptolemy made his way through, very suddenly as he always liked. When he was in a room, the air became heavy with his ego. It was clear he came up with some kind of plans for the route to take next, and was about to talk about them for hours to Alexander, who was to sit and listen and not interrupt. When Alexander was young, he used to worm his way to Philip in every way imaginable. He claimed he was the king's illegitimate son, and used this piece of information to exhaustion. Being thus Alexander's supposed half brother, Philip would make him guard the little boy often. In a word, he was cruel; he never had any patience for the boy and was quick to anger. He used to boss him around all day, but never torture him too much- he knew that maybe one day his status would depend on him. And as it turns out, he was right about that.

Just as he was about to ask for Alexander's whereabouts, he appeared again.

"What in the name of Zeus is that?"

What Ptolemy was referring to, the other two found out as they turned, was the fact that Alexander came out holding a bundle of blankets in his arms. A living bundle of blankets. Ochus was sitting close to his chest, his eyes impossibly big as he scanned his surroundings.

"A baby."

"..."

"Now please excuse me, I have to take the baby back to his quarters. Proceed to run your mouth to Hephaestion in the meantime, I trust that he'll summarize the basics to me when I'm back."

Rude. Ptolemy was not the one to not take things personally, and something about Alexander's carefree attitude annoyed him to no end. There was a deep envy he held towards him, but always masked. He was his friend, afterall. One of the King's Companions. One of the closest people to him. He couldn't stop but wonder sometimes, how did the dreamy, ridiculous child he used to search for everywhere and put into place become his king now.

"I see how it is. You take these barbarian children and pamper them like a woman now but you're not even able to have your own heir? I asked you so many times, Alexander, to-"

"So is that how you talk to your king, Ptolemy? Maybe you need to be reminded of what's going on, I suppose?" When it came to Alexander, it was impossible for Hephaestion to just sit and watch. He was always the one who was the most collected and rational of them, but when it came to someone attacking his king, he became impulsive and dangerous in a second. He knew Ptolemy well. They're weren't close.

Alexander, at this point in his life, couldn't be bothered to have petty arguments. He had them so much growing up that he understood finally they go nowhere. He especially hated to have Hephaestion get in trouble because of them; he was way too quick to jump into a fight to defend him and it stressed Alexander to no end. "Stop it, the two of you. Alright Ptolemy, whatever you say. I'll be right back. Now please excuse me!" He hurried out of the tent, the child starting to get agitated in his arms.

It was extremely hard, sometimes, dealing with everyone. They all wanted a piece of him, and he was afraid one day he will break apart. Sometimes it was hard for Alexander to understand why certain things seemed to bother his generals and friends; he always made sure to do everything well and there would always, always be something they would find amiss. He held Ochus tighter to his chest as he walked on. He knew well he'll come back to an unpleasant conversation in a bit, and wasn't looking forward to it at all.