Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. If they were we all know the show would be very different
Summary: Sam never understood why the stories of the fabled Alexander the great pulled him in so much, Dean certainly didn't. Little do they realize that past lives have a way of reaching across time.
Rating: PG, but I promise it's not going to stay that way for long.
Acknowledgements: Dearest Flo, I love you. Thank you for putting up with this craziness. That is all.
Notes: This fic was written more on a whim in my Roman Republic class than anything else, I simply hope you like it. Also, Sander is the ancient Macedonian version of Sam, and Alexion is the ancient Macedonian version of Dean.
When Sam was 8 years old, his teacher, Ms. Ivy, assigned them a biography project. The second-grade theme was explorers, and she compiled a list to choose from. Sam was unfamiliar with all of the names on it, but fourth from the top, one stuck out to him: Alexander the Great. Before anybody else could grab it from him, he scrawled his name down beside it in thick marker.
When he got home that afternoon he was very excited to start researching. Dad had an old beat up encyclopedia, but the information was sparse and Dad kept saying he wasn't sure if it was even right. Dad made Dean walk him to the children’s library and while Dean had desperately wanted to play basketball with the neighborhood boys he went without too much fuss, probably because of the look of shining anticipation on Sam’s face.
As they left the house, Dean told him all he knew about the famous Macedonian king, which turned out to be more than the Children’s library. The books there were woefully inadequate and Sam hadn’t even had to ask, Dean led him right back outside and took him to the main library.
Sam checked out seventeen different books. The woman behind the circulation desk raised her eyebrows at him and offered a tote bag to carry it all back. Sam hefted it onto his shoulder, and decided he would be strong like Dean, and not complain the entire way back. They’d barely gone half a block when Dean pulled the straps off of Sam’s shoulder and assumed the bag himself. He never looked at Sam, but if he had, he would have seen the admiration present in his little brother’s eyes.
After dinner that night Sam dove straight into his books, puzzling at the big words, the whirlwind of names, and the anal attention to troop movements. He learned of the closest warriors to Alexander: of Ptolemy, Cassander, Nearchus, Perdiccas, Philotas, and always always Hephaistion. he ran into Dean's room every five seconds to regale him with some new anecdote.
"And then Hephaistion beat him at wrestling, and Alexander was mad. But Hephaistion said 'would you like it if I let you win' and Alexander said 'no' because that's lame, and then he made sure that Hephaistion never beat him again."
Dean looked up from his linear equations and nodded.
Sam went back to Alexander’s push to the Indus and then back to Macedon at the age of 18. Alexander had studied under Aristotle and had pursued his knowledge, even when his peers had been interested in other pursuits. He ran to tell Dad that one.
"Look dad," he said, pointing at a page in the chapter book. "Even Alexander thought reading was cool."
John mmhmed behind his newspaper.
It opened an entirely new world for Sam. He wrote a full three pages in smudgy dark handwriting, back to front on wide rule paper about Alexander. It was the longest report in the class. Ms. Ivy made them get up and read it and have people guess who they were. Only Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong were guessed correctly without help, but Sam wasn't disappointed. He hadn't known about Alexander two weeks ago either.
For weeks he pretended to be one of Alexander’s soldiers, a younger one named Sanderides--in the picture book at the children's library he'd been the tallest--charging out in the phalanx to defeat the Persians. He imagined Dean as Sanderides’ steadfast companion, Alexion, off marauding with him under Alexander’s banner. Together they were unstoppable. And Alexion always had a handy store of lollypops and paper airplanes. There, even the real Dean fell short.
“Gods above, where is he?” Ptolemy shouted, after doing a full search of the easterly granary with Alexion. Alexion shrugged and waved his land listlessly.
Alexander had completely and utterly vanished after his latest argument with Aristotle. He’d even--and this was despite knowing it was impossible that Alexander would be in there--peered into the giant terra cotta oil jars. The other boys had all done their own searches of different portions of the palace--stables, armory, kitchens, baths--but all of them had come back to Ptolemy without their prince. His patience was running out.
"I'm sure he'll turn up somewhere," Nearccus said, tugging on one of Ptolemy's curls. Ptolemy jerked and struck out at his hands, giving Nearccus a warning looking. The others laughed at his expression.
They'd all been fostered from different parts of Macedonia to helm Prince Alexander's guard.1 Nearccus, who came from the Southern Steppes, was dark to most of the other boys fair and showed a continued fascination with his pale hair.
"Don't tie your insides in a knot," Alexion said, leaning himself up against the wall. "He's been disappearing on us for years."
Alexander was always getting himself lost just when they had all settled on a game or just in time for lessons with the caligraphy master. Alexander never missed a chance to argue with Aristotle or fight on the practice courts, but penmanship was beyond him. Hephaistion found himself doing most of his prince's copying, while Alexander dreamed big and told his grand plans to the other boys like a reward.
Unfortunately, Alexander seemed to be off making one such grand plan realized. They could find him nowhere and they were getting restless.
Antigonus, who was the smallest of them all and looked like he’d just run about in the muck of a battlefield, let out a heavy breath of air, leaning against Cassander. “I looked everywhere in the stables. You keep saying he has to be there, but he’s nowhere to be found.”
Ptolemy sighed and looked around the circle of boys. They all shrugged.
“Did you look in the stables, or roll around in them?” Cassander asked primly, shoving at Antigonus. The other boys moved out of the way as a small scuffle broke out between the friends. Antigonus raked his nails down Cassander's cheek and he nearly shrieked.
Cassander was easily the prettiest, except perhaps Alexion, whose beauty was gentle and careless where Cassander’s was blade-sharp and dangerous. Olympias’ younger handmaidens had already started to take notice and his head was big with it. However, Antigonus, whose wit was as keen as Cassander’s looks, had always been able to penetrate past the other boys’ arrogance.
“Quiet, you! Not all of us spend all our time in front of a glass!” Antigonus tugged Cassander’s shiny straight hair and then shoved him away.
They all groaned, but they quickly sobered up at the look on Ptolemy’s face. “It isn’t like him to go off and sulk just because Aristotle called him wrong." He put his hands on his hips. "We'll never be able to play Kyria without him, the teams will be uneven.”
“Well then, that makes it easy.” Antigonus replied, peering down the long hall as if Alexander would suddenly pop out of one of the many nooks and alcoves leading off of it. “He must be doing something other than sulking.”
“Yes, melon-head, I know that!” Ptolemy crossed his arms. He scanned the faces assembled. “Wait a moment, where’s Hephaistion?" The other boys looked blank-faced. "Mighty Zeus, has he gone missing too?”
“He’s probably already found him,” Nearccus said.
“He could have told us that he knew where he was!” Cassander replied darkly, his dark brows drawing together. Ptolemy rolled his eyes.
Alexion pushed off the wall and said, “Is there anywhere we haven’t looked yet?”
Ptolemy shook his head at Alexion’s question. “I guess we haven’t checked in the King’s audience.”
Cassander stiffened and Antigonus winced, if Alexander wasn’t anywhere else, he could only be there. “Olympias will be there.”
Alexion shrugged his 12-year-old shoulders. “Well, if you would like for Alexander to be in a state later…and we can’t play until—”
“I don’t even like Kyria!” Cassander interrupted, turning to Ptolemy. “So why do we need to find him?”
Before he could answer, Alexion interrupted, “You’re just afraid of Olympias.”
“No such thing!” Cassander replied, his face flushing red. He was already moving to start a fight, a bad idea. Alexion was the oldest next to Ptolemy, with far broader shoulders, and a left cross that made bones ache into next week.
“Don’t!” Antigonus grabbed Cassander’s wrist, winking at Alexion over his friend’s shoulder. “Let’s just go.”
Ptolemy and Alexion shared a look before following after. Cassander rubbed Alexion the wrong way in ten different directions, and the playful Alexion could rarely resist baiting him when he was so easily provoked. Alexion amused himself by making faces at Cassander's back, quickly replacing it with a calm and serene smile every time a palace courtier walked by.
It took all of them to heft the heavy stone audience chamber doors open just a crack, and Ptolemy was granted the right to look in first.
“Yes, he’s in there, all right!” Ptolemy whispered to them. “It seems like half the palace is in there.”
Cassander shoved at him. “Let me see!”
Alexion flicked his ear. “Wait your turn!”
Cassander was about to reply with something nasty when a booming voice called through the door, “Is there a good reason you’re hiding at the doors?”
They all froze. “Well? Get in here!” King Phillip called. The boys slipped through the doors quietly, the crowd of courtiers parting in front of them. Alexander and Hephaistion stood with a lanky little boy with chubby cheeks and dark hair. He certainly didn’t look like much.
Alexander put a hand on the boy’s soldier. “This is Sanderides of Mycenae who has come to be fostered here.”
The boy was very far from home; even Philotas who had been born in Crete had lived most of his life in the Court of the Philip II at Pella. Sanderides’s parents must have seen the need for an alliance, although it was doubtful he was an eldest son. Mycenae2 wouldn’t waste their heir on Phillip’s court.
“Take him to the practice courts, this is no place for you lot!” King Phillip said with an arch look.
They all bowed their heads and turned and fled, the members of the court tittering behind them.
Alexander and Hephaistion walked with Sanderides at the forefront. Alexion wasn’t sure what to make of the youngling. He had to be at least four years younger than Alexion himself, and Ares only knew if he had any training of any kind. Wouldn’t it be awful if they had to start from scratch with him?
“He looks completely useless!” Cassander whispered to Antigonus as they walked behind. Sanderide’s ears went pink and he stiffened between Alexander and Hephaistion. He didn't rise to the bait, merely fastening the older boy with a cool calculating look.
“It’s all right, youngling,” Hephaistion said, a warm hand on Sanderides’ shoulder. “We’ll take you to the archer’s yards to see what you can do.”
Sanderides looked up at him, his expression impassive. Alexion had already decided he was a complete block of wood and entirely too somber for his tastes, and if Cassander was right about him being useless it would be an absolute bore.
They reached the yards quickly, and found the soldiers in Phillip’s army laughing and making jokes about the young lions come to oust them from their practice.
“You’ll get your turn,” Alexander cried back as one of the boys ran and fetched a bow and quiver. Sanderides took the proffered bow and set the quiver on the ground, he looked up at Alexander.
“If you can’t string it, that’s all right, in time maybe…” Alexander said, Alexion could already tell his liege didn’t have much hope for the boy either. Sanderides shook his head and cleared his throat; he stuck six arrows in the ground next to his feet.
“That’s a little ambitious!” Antigonus whispered to Cassander. The youngling accepted an oiled packet with the coiled bow string inside. He turned around and gave Antigonus another one of those impassive looks. Then, with a smooth movement that Alexion would almost have described as beautiful, he looped the arrow string over one end, curved the bow and looped the other. With barely a pause he’d pulled an arrow out of the ground, notched it and let it fly. He continued to fire until all six were in a tightly clustered ring at the center of the target. He hadn’t even paused to aim, all the arrows had flown true. As Alexion watched, a child who could only be described as adorable at best became a fierce wild thing of power and beauty.
The other boys all stood in silence, looking at each other in shock. None of them knew how to shoot like that. Nearccus ran up to the target and tried to pull one out. “They are so deeply embedded we will have to cut them from the target!”
Alexander looked at Sanderides with clear appraisal. “You must have counted Philoctetes3 a member of your ancestors.”
For the first time since Sanderides had arrived, he smiled. “Maybe, my liege.”
“Aiyi!” Alexander yelped at the title. “Alexander will do just fine.”
Sanderides nodded, and the other boys came forward to cluster around him, all asking him questions about what else he could do with that arm. Could he cast a spear? What about ride? How was he at wrestling? He was flustered under all the attention. Alexion could see it at once, and he pulled the youngling from the circle of marauding boys.
“You can partner with me, youngling.”
Sanderides smiled again, his green eyes alight, and Alexion knew without asking from the look in Sanderides’s eyes that that would be all right. They split up into pairs and got bows of their own, each glad of the arrival of a new boy, because it meant escape from the monotony of drills. Sander kept the bow he was holding and Alexion gathered another. Slowly they set off into the woods together, fording the stream, and chasing each other over rocks. There wasn’t much living in the woods to hunt, but Dymanthippas, King Phillip’s training master, had advised them to shoot at anything that moved.
Alexion’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest when Sanderides did just that in whip like movements that left him wondering whether or not he’d actually seen it. The arrow made a sharp zing and then it was buried in wood.
“I don’t think he meant for you to hit the tree!” Alexion teased, looking back over his shoulder as he went to pull the arrow out of a gnarled cypress. Sander shrugged and Alexion laughed to himself. However, he was tugged out of his amusement by sheer wonder. Sanderides’ arrow had neatly pinned a falling Kava leaf to the trunk.
“You really are a splendid shot,” Alexion whispered when he came up beside him.
The youngling colored. “I’m absolutely bollocks at anything else.”
“I believe it not.” Alexion laughed and shoved his shoulder and Sander finally smiled back. “Well, you’d best show me how to shoot like this.”
Sander blushed. "If you like." He walked over and kicked a tree until more leaves fell and then instructed the older boy to shoot.
"Merciful Gaia," Sander called, diving out of the way. "Don't take my head off."
Sander was at first very hesitant to give the older boy any hints on how to hold his bow or alter his stance so that he wasn’t merely a competent archer but a good one. But then he got so annoyed with Alexion's feet that he brought his bow down against the older boy's shins with a sharp thwack.
"The kitchen drudges can shoot better than you," he mouthed off. Alexion laughed to see the eight-year-old with his hands on his hips and his eyes so frustrated.
After what felt like his sixty-fifth failed attempt to draw the bow back in that fluidly graceful way that Sanderides did so easily he was ready to give in and break it. He hadn’t felt like such an idiot in a long time, and he imagined his arm would be a bruised mass if it weren’t for his armguards. Sanderides for his part was practically rolling in the dirt laughing, he'd discared his exasperation for amusement after the second time Alexion had dropped his arrow attempting to copy Sander's motion.
“All right, all right! So I can’t do it! I don’t find that even mildly amusing!” he finally burst out. Sanderides paused in his laughter, and Alexion realized he should probably be incredibly embarrassed that an 8-year-old found him wildly hilarious, but he wasn’t.
“I’m sure there are other things you are more suited for…” Sanderides offered in reconciliation.
“Oh, haha, that makes me feel so much better.” He shoved Sanderides's shoulder lightly.
“Well I’m trying—” he started only to be interrupted by the arrival of Antigonus and Cassander.
“Mucking about as usual, Alexion?” Cassander asked in a lofty tone that could’ve frozen over the swiftly flowing stream they stood next to.
Sanderides whirled around, recognizing the boy who had insulted him earlier. “He’s trying to improve his draw!”
Cassander’s tone was blatantly patronizing as he replied, “Oh, he is? From a brat like you?”
“That’s what I said isn’t it?” he crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes. “You aren’t deaf, are you?”
“Got a bit of a mouth on you, youngling?” Cassander snarled.
Sanderides ignored his jibe. “I mean no harm to you and yet you reserve nothing but contempt for me.”
Cassander rolled his eyes and shoved him. Next thing Sanderides knew, he was tripping over his own feet and falling into the stream, knocking his head on a rock as he plunged in. Alexion watched in muted horror as his body stilled and the current caught him. Before he even realized what he was doing he’d dove in after his new friend, carefully navigating rocks to tug him back to the shore.
He pulled them out on a rocky outcropping fifty feet away from where they’d first fallen in. Sanderides was no help at all, his small body limp and unwieldy in Alexion’s arms. For one desperate second he thought the youngling had stopped breathing, but then he realized he could feel Sanderides’s heart beating thinly. With a sigh of relief that rocked him to the core, he gathered Sander tighter into his arms and called for Antigonus to get help.
Cassander stood still and pale in shock, his eyes on Sanderides’s rising and falling chest.
“He’ll be all right, idiot!” Alexion called out to his least favorite person. Cassander’s face twisted and then he turned and ran after Antigonus, leaving Sanderides and Alexion alone. He looked down at the boy in his arms shallowly breathing but breathing nevertheless. “You’ve got fire, youngling, that’s for sure.”
Alexion waited for help, his palm firmly over Sanderide's heart feeling it echo his own.
1 Several of Alexander’s generals were the children of his father’s generals who were, of course, of gentle blood, but others were the children of aristocrats. Ptolemy was one such. He was the son of Arsinoe, a powerful Macedonian noble-woman, and some say Phillip II. This would have made him Alexander’s half-brother. For the purposes of this story, we shall say that this fact is the truth.
2 Like Macedon and unlike the other Greek City-States, Mycenae had a hereditary monarchy. Sparta also had a monarchy, but like Rome’s regal period, they elected their kings. All of the others would have been Oligarchies calling themselves democracies and republics.
3 Philoctetes was the archer in the Trojan war who had the misfortune of being dumped on the Island of Lemnos by the Achaeons when he received a snake bite that festered and smelled terribly. Thus Oddyseus, in his supreme wisdom, decided to dump him, after all can’t have any warriors smelling bad. Later, they realized they needed him to kill Paris, so they went back and fetched him. They were lucky he hadn’t expired in the ten or so years they left him there to rot.