The Wedding Night of the Pseudo-Alexander
Author's Disclaimer: Alexander and Hephaestion belong to history, not to me (I couldn't keep up the payments…)
Author's note: HOWEVER, having said that, the original idea for this extremely odd story came to me while I was reading about the character Melanippus in Aubrey Menen's "A Conspiracy of Women", one of the best (and certainly the funniest) novels ever written about Alexander (and probably the best ever featuring Hephaestion.) I would like to stress it was only the first inspiration and is not based at all on that novel, so no copyright infringement is intended. For anyone who has read it, I just couldn't help wondering what Hephaestion would have had to say about Melanippus.
Warning: Rated M (Adult) for adult content (i.e. mild swearing and sexy bits)
Of all the temporary entertainment establishments, whether they were selling alcohol, food or pleasure, this had to be the most repulsive. Not only was it ugly and gloomily lit, filled with only the most disreputable clientele and smelling of stale wine, rotten meat, urine and sweat, but it had a distinctly sinister atmosphere. It was perfect, he decided; the ideal spot for him to drink himself to death. Even if he didn't manage to drink a fatal amount before he either threw up or passed out, one of the other patrons would almost certainly cut his throat, either for the money he was carrying or just because they thought it might liven up their evening. He did feel a small stab of guilt at the thought of his parents' humiliation when he was found lying in a ditch, possibly having been violated by a gang of drunken soldiers before his death, but then he remembered the part they too had played in the shattering of all his hopes and dreams and decided it served them right.
Sinking down onto one of the rough wooden benches, he asked for wine. He stared down at the liquid they brought in response, looked up at the huge, sour faced man who offered it, then nodded and took a sip. It was without a doubt the most disgusting wine he had ever tasted. He gulped down the rest and asked for more. Just like the establishment it came from, it was perfect.
The refill was poured from a large, cracked and rather dirty looking pitcher which dribbled wine onto his sparkling white chiton. He looked up slowly at his host once more; his host scowled back. He managed a small smile and thanked him politely. His host snarled. "Are you a whore?"
"What…? No! No, I'm not…"
"You talk like one. And you dress like one."
"Do I? No, as a matter of fact I've just come from Prince Alexander's wedding…"
"Hah! That's what they all say! Next you'll be telling me you introduced him to the bride!"
"Well, oddly enough, I – "
"Now you listen to me," the landlord growled, "this is a respectable house! I don't want my customers complaining! If you pick up any soldiers here tonight you give me a third, or I'll have my sons break both your legs and cut off your bollocks, understand?"
"Oh, yes, I understand… but I was telling the truth," he went on, suddenly seized by the urge to confide in someone, "I really was at Prince Alexander's – "
His host had already gone off to serve someone else.
Feeling tears building behind his eyes, he gulped down more of the horrible wine and stared despondently into the crowd. So he was dressed like a whore, was he? He almost laughed as he looked down at the beautifully woven fabric he wore and recalled how much trouble Alexander had taken choosing it for him, picking the embroidery of golden leaves from hundreds of others.
"I want you to outshine everyone, Hephaestion," Alexander had enthused as he held the fabric up against him, "the gods know you'll be the handsomest young man there, myself included."
"Perhaps you shouldn't say such things to me anymore, Alexander," Hephaestion had whispered uncomfortably, "now that you're to be…" the word stuck in his throat, "…married…"
"What? Oh, Iphis won't mind, she's knows how pure our love is! Why only last night she quoted a passage from the Iliad which said…"
"You two read the Iliad together?"
"Well? Why not?" Alexander said with a defensive sniff, then recovering quickly, went on, "what a wonderful woman she is, Hephaestion, how blessed I am, how blessed! I never thought I would look forward to my wedding day, but now… I'm so proud of myself, I shall go to Iphis pure and unsullied… aren't you glad we had each other, so we never needed to go about chasing boys or women?"
"We never exactly had each other, Alexander…"
"You know what I mean," Alexander said a little irritably, "but then again that is exactly what I do mean! We never gave in to passing adolescent passions and now that we are men…"
"Were you ever tempted?" Hephaestion asked suddenly, unable to help himself.
Alexander's frown deepened ominously He never liked being interrupted."Tempted by what?"
"By adolescent passions. Did you ever… think you might…"
"Hephaestion, what is wrong with you?" Alexander tilted his head. "You've been in a funny mood for weeks now. Is this about Iphis?"
Hephaestion took a deep breath, "Alexander, I need to tell you something, something I've – "
"I think I know what you're going to say." Alexander's grey eyes grew dark with remorse. "Oh, my beloved Hephaestion, I've treated you cruelly…"
Hephaestion's heart skipped. "My Alexander, let me tell you…"
"No, I know it already." Alexander nodded. "It's about Iphis, isn't it? You cared for her a lot more than you ever let on!"
Hephaestion could not help releasing a small groan. "No, you don't understand – "
"I've never really forgiven myself for it. Some friend I've been to you! Achilles would never have stolen Iphis from Patroklos!" Alexander reached up and squeezed Hephaestion's shoulder. "Try to accept the will of the gods, my dear, dear friend… when you do, you'll find peace… we'll both find… Hephaestion, where are you going?"
Hephaestion didn't answer. He barely made it out of Alexander's room and back to his own before he threw up into the wash-bowl. When he had recovered himself, he called for his servant and ordered his things to be packed up and sent back to his father's house. It had been a mistake ever to accept Alexander's invitation to live in the palace; no doubt Alexander would be upset but for the first time in his life, Hephaestion found he didn't care. Let Iphis comfort the prince; it would soon be her duty after all!
Drawing in a large lungful of the smoky, oil-laden air, Hephaestion offered his cup once more to be refilled. He hadn't thought he could feel any worse than he had that day, but of course he was only skimming the surface of the misery to come. Today would still have been like an eternity in Tartarus for him, even without the addition of the happiness of everyone else. The King and Queen were happy, Alexander's marriage to Iphis of Athens had suited them both and reconciliation had begun between them. Hephaestion wished them nothing but happiness; he had always liked King Philip, but since the betrothal he had also seen a gentler side to Olympias that he had not expected. It seemed that Iphis had managed to charm even someone as difficult as her; the two women were already spinning, weaving and gossiping together like mother and daughter. Well such an achievement was hardly surprising for the girl who had managed to charm Alexander all the way out of Hepheastion's chaste embrace. Cleopatra was happy; she worshipped Iphis, who brought her closer to her brother and helped to restore peace between her parents. Even Hephaestion's parents were happy – Amyntor, who had originally invited Iphis to Macedon with her father, a leading pro-Macedonian dignitary in Athens, in the hope that she and Hephaestion might marry, had been unable to believe his luck when Prince Alexander himself fell head over heels in love with her! Alexander, who, at twenty-one, was the subject of much gossip and some anxiety in his refusal to marry or even take a mistress. Part of Amyntor's joy had, in fairness, been born of relief – he had had visions of Hephaestion being poisoned or sent on a suicide mission to Persia when the King and Queen's patience finally wore thin. Suddenly the future of their family looked very rosy indeed.
And of course Alexander was happy – not only had he silenced his critics by marrying, but he was utterly captivated by his bride. For months now all Hephaestion had heard was Iphis this and Iphis that. And Iphis herself… well, she was just perfect. Clever, beautiful, courageous, practical, charming. Alexander was even talking about taking her with him when they set out on King Philip's Persian campaign.
That only left Hephaestion himself, lonely, frustrated, and utterly desolate.
Of course things couldn't get any worse. Only they just had.
He wouldn't have done it if he hadn't been drinking throughout the wedding festivities. It seemed all of Macedon was in love with Alexander and Iphis and for every street party or fair that was planned, two more sprang up spontaneously. The palace and the streets all about it were crammed with singers, dancers, acrobats and players. Private homes were thrown open to offer wine and food; tents sprang up selling all sorts of edible and sensual delights. Prisoners were pardoned, debts cleared, even slaves freed and exiles recalled. It began to seem as though Hephaestion was the only person in the world whose soul was not brimming with joy. How much more could he take? He was twenty-two, he was a virgin and he was deeply, heart-wrenchingly in love with his best friend Alexander. And for all Alexander's reassurances, the prince simply didn't understand. If Alexander wasn't so obviously in love with Iphis, Hephaestion could have taken it in his stride. He had always known Alexander would have to marry, might take mistresses, might even take other lovers once he became King. It all came with the territory. But as soon as he had learned to identify the feelings he had for Alexander as lust as well as love, Hephaestion had wished, had hoped… sometimes had even believed… that he and Alexander would become lovers of the body as well as the heart. As long as he could depend on that, it didn't matter how many others shared Alexander's bed – he would know that he came first.
Why had it never happened? Oddly enough, when Hephaestion tried to puzzle it out, he found no answers. It simply… hadn't. The only thing he could recall was lying in his bed in Mieza, had he been fourteen? Fifteen? Aching with longing for Alexander who slept so close by, and wondering if he could work up the courage to take that first step. Alexander was younger than him, childishly affectionate but, like him, developing into a young man. They were surely leading up to it, an unnecessarily hard press of hands, a shy, fleeting kiss on the cheek, a comradely embrace which lingered… As he had lain there he had quieted his throbbing heart with assurances that it would happen soon enough.
And instead here he was, as if walking from a dream, a grown man, untouched by Alexander or anyone else and now about to lose the man who held his heart to another.
Hephaestion groaned loudly and buried his face in his hands, unable to shut out the recollections of the hours just gone. The wine was only making it worse and he still had not passed out or died. He could still see Alexander's beautiful face, sweetly flushed and bright-eyed. Only Alexander could look so endearing when he was drunk. He had just finished giving out purses of talents to his friends, but when it came to Hephaestion the bridegroom took his hand and drew him away from the revellers into the fresh air of the balcony. "There's something I wanted to give you, my dearest Hephaestion," he breathed, gazing lovingly up at his friend, "I didn't want anyone else watching…"
"Alexander…?" Hephaestion felt tears welling in his eyes as Alexander reached up and kissed him on the mouth. "Oh, Alexander, my love, I…"
"Hush now, beloved," Alexander whispered, pressing something into his hand. Slowly, uncomprehendingly Hephaestion looked at the small leather purse, heavy with gold. Alexander grinned. "You get twice as much. I didn't want the others getting jealous, I…" The happiness drained away from his face as he saw Hephaestion's pained expression. "Hephaestion? What is it? Aren't you pleased?"
"I don't want your gold, Alexander," Hephaestion told him, letting the purse slip from his fingers to land with a dull clink on the mosaic floor.
"Forgive me, I only wanted… tell me, then, tell me what I can give you! Whatever it is, name it and it's yours!"
Hephaestion stared hard at him, keeping himself steady despite the amount he had drunk. "I want to take you to your room… put you to bed…"
Alexander gave a besotted giggle, "oh, yes, I'd forgotten about that! Some bridegroom I am! But of course, when the time comes, you'll – "
"…and have sex with you."
It seemed at that moment that the entire world fell silent. Surely the revelling had continued around them, but Hephaestion could not hear it. He could hear nothing but Alexander's sharp intake of breath, could see nothing but the sparking anger in his eyes. Could feel nothing until he felt the sharp smack of Alexander's hand across his cheek.
Hephaestion hung his head and let the tears roll off his cheeks as he heard Alexander's retreating footsteps. Slowly he picked up the purse of coins and squeezed it hard in his hand.
He didn't bother to count the money; Alexander was generous to a fault, there would be more than enough to drink himself to death with. He could even have afforded to do it with better wine then the mix of cat's piss and pig's blood they were serving here, but it wouldn't have had the same charm.
He looked up, thinking he had begun to hallucinate, when a clear, rather high voice drifted across the noisy room like a breath of fresh mountain air in a swamp. A moment later the delicate resonance of a lyre accompanied it. The song was awful, bawdy without being witty and was strangely depressing. Hardly any of the patrons bothered to stop talking to listen but Hephaestion drew closer in spite of himself.
Seated on a bench, apparently oblivious to the unsympathetic crowd, sat…
The wine had to have rotted his brain. No matter how often he blinked, shook his head, even slapped at his own cheeks, he still saw Alexander sitting there, his golden-blonde hair neatly curled and crowned with a laurel wreath just like the one Hephaestion still wore. The straight, even features were the same, even the tilt of the head to the left and the dreamy grey eyes. Hephaestion was nearly upon him when a big, heavy man, contrasting sharply with Alexander in his coarse ugliness, shoved him back. Hephaestion considered drawing his dagger but his hands were so unsteady he decided there was a good chance the man would end up using it on him so he hung back.
When the song was over, Hephaestion was the only one who applauded. Alexander looked up as if surprised, then flashed him a quick smile before beginning a new song, even more vulgar and less amusing than the last.
I've finally gone mad, Hephaestion thought calmly, thank the gods for their mercy…
Alexander didn't get to complete his second song. Someone threw a wine cup at his head and told him to stop squealing like an alley cat getting laid. With a flash of that quick temper, Alexander sprang to his feet and began cursing his critic in language which was choice even for a young man used to the company of common soldiers. The giant who had restrained Hephaestion strode over, punched the customer in the face and knocked him flat, then began wagging his finger in admonishment at Alexander, telling him to stop complaining and earn his keep. This was too much for Hephaestion; he turned away, deciding insanity wasn't the answer either and began to pray once again for oblivion.
A moment later a cool hand was placed on his. He blinked blearily. "May I join you?" a gentle voice asked.
"Go away, Alexander…" Hephaestion croaked, gesturing for more wine. "Gods, can't you even let me alone when I'm drunk and having visions?"
"At least the effect isn't lost on you," Alexander sighed, "I told Thersites this place was all wrong, but he was afraid if we went somewhere with more class, someone would take offence and have us beaten up. But that's what he's there for, after all. Thank you for applauding me, it meant a lot. What's your name?"
Hephaestion shook his head slowly, looked at the young man more closely"Who in Hades are you?" he demanded at last.
"Alexander," the blonde replied with a grin.
"You're not Alexander!"
"Well, perhaps I wasn't born with the name, but it's the one I go by. You seemed completely fooled when you first saw me! Have you ever seen him? The prince, I mean? Do I really look like him?"
"Yes," Hephaestion groaned, "Gods, yes… and I ought to know…"
"So you do know him! How? Hey! Were you at the wedding today?"
"Oh, Great Zeus strike me dead now!" A sob broke from him.
The young man's gaze softened. "Please, I didn't mean to upset you! I tell you what, let's forget about that, here, my real name is – "
"Alexander! Get over here!" The big man Thersites bellowed across the room. The pseudo-Alexander made a face, then turned slowly.
"I'm busy," he said coldly.
"I said get over here! Now!" Thersites had been joined by a rather shifty looking man in a coarse hooded cloak. Hephaestion studied him dizzily. Despite efforts to blend in, something about him stuck out as much as Hephaestion's expensive chiton. An officer or a minor nobleman, he guessed, taking a walk on Macedon's wild side. "This gentleman wants you to… sing for him… back at his home."
"I have an engagement already," the pseudo-Alexander responded in the same firm tone; his back was to Hephaestion but one of his hands slid behind it to rest lightly on the one in which Hephaestion clutched his wine cup. Hephaestion looked up, startled, as the fingers pressed tighter.
"That boy!" Thersites grunted, "you stupid slut, don't you recognise another whore when you see one?"
"He is not a whore," the young man snapped before Hephaestion could rise in protest, "he's – he's a wedding guest from the palace! And he wants to hear me sing."
The hooded man began to shuffle restlessly, muttering something to Thersites, who put a hand on his arm before stepping forward to Hephaestion. "I know your game, boy," he grunted, "you whores like your little games! So come on then, Alexander, let's see his money!"
"He – has some friends waiting," the pseudo-Alexander said quickly, "they'll settle up at the end of the – "
"I knew it!" Thersites hissed, "trying to get out of a decent night's work! I paid off your debts, you flighty little tart, and don't you forget it! You owe me! Unless I get the money here and now, you go with him and his friends!" He jerked his head in the direction of the cloaked man.
"I – " the singer let go of Hephaestion's hand, his blonde curls tumbling forward over his brow as he hung his head.
Without knowing what he was doing, Hephaestion dropped the purse of gold coins down onto the table in front of him. Thersites and the pseudo-Alexander both stared, but he ignored them. "Count it," he said dully, "I don't know how much you owe, but I'm sure there's enough there to pay it off with interest. Oh, and by the way," he added to Thersites, staggering to his feet, "I'm really not a whore – but you really are ugly"
Such was the charm of the gold, the brute did not even look up at him. So a last attempt to get killed failed. Sighing, Hephaestion took careful steps towards the exit.
He didn't. He had to make it into the fresh air before he was sick.
He just made it. Bending double in the gutter, he heaved and vomited, groaning weakly. A gentle hand began to stroke his back; someone whispered soothing words in his ear. For a moment he thought he would faint at last but someone was steadying him, even wiping his brow, then his mouth.
"There… easy now… feel any better?"
"I want to die…!"
"After drinking in that dive, I'm not surprised!"
Hephaestion straightened giddily and looked at the face that so closely resembled his love. "What… what do you want…?"
"Just to say thank you." The pseudo-Alexander smiled as brilliantly as the prince. "I can't begin to tell you what it means to me… that revolting old goat Thersites, he paid off my debts after the head of our troupe ran off with our wages, and then…" Suddenly the smile faded. "I'm sorry about what he called you. I know you're not a wh – I mean, I know you're not some street-boy. I'm not either… really, I'm not, at least… I was trained as a singer, a musician, I can act, too. I thought, now the Prince has got such a high profile and seems to go everywhere with King Philip, I'd have it made as "Alexander." But as my charming friend Thersites pointed out, there's more money to be made from people who want to sleep with Prince Alexander than people who want to hear him sing…I'm sorry, I talk too much when I'm excited…!"
"It's all right, so does he," Hephaestion muttered, clearing his aching throat.
"He? You mean the Prince? Just how well do know you him?"
"I think… I'd better go home." Hephaestion glanced blearily about him. "I've made enough of a fool of myself today." He gave a short, bitter laugh, nearly tripping over his own feet as he changed direction in mid stride. "Now if I… could just remember which way…!"
"You'll never make it in that state… why don't you come back with me instead?"
Hephaestion looked blankly into the grey eyes. Then he shook his head with a small, dismal smile. "I didn't pay off your debts so I could sleep with you."
"I know…" the pseudo-Alexander smiled back. "But what you did was kinder than you'll ever know… if you hadn't rescued me from that bastard I… well, I wouldn't be earning a living singing songs, even vulgar ones like those! And besides, I'm on my own and so are you, or so it seems, and I know I've got no right to assume it, but I think you're as lonely as I am…"
"Lonely," echoed Hephaestion as the pseudo-Alexander's arm slipped about his waist, guiding him down the street, "Gods… what a hopeless word that is…"
The next thing he knew the pseudo-Alexander was leading him up a poorly lit staircase into a small room which smelled of damp. As his companion lit the lamps, he gazed about him. It was plain and cheaply furnished with a single bed that looked as if it had been stolen from an army camp, but it was neat and clean and had a curious charm. "I won't offer you more wine," his host said with a grin, "but I have some bread and cheese if you're hungry… sit yourself down, I'm sorry, there's only the bed… by the way, you haven't told me your name!"
"Hephaestion. It's Hephaestion." Hephaestion sat down dazedly.
"That's an unusual name! But… just a minute, I've heard it said Prince Alexander has a beautiful lover called Hephaestion…!"
Hephaestion shut his eyes and groaned. "We were never lovers!"
He heard the floorboards creek as the pseudo-Alexander came closer. "You mean – you're that Hephaestion? But… then why - ?"
The rapid flow of questions was cut short when Hephaestion began to weep, violentlypainfully, bitterly, his whole body convulsed with grief. He sank gratefully into arms opened in invitation, clinging tightly to the slighter man. Even while he sobbed, inarticulately babbling out his woes, reality and dreams seemed to blur as the pseudo-Alexander began to rub his neck and shoulders and press light kisses into his hair, just as the real one might have done, murmuring over and over, "hush… hush now, beloved…" He even smelled like Alexander, Hephaestion realised as he buried his face in the boyishly soft neck and breathed in that combination of spring flowers and honey with the faint suggestion of almond which both beguiled and mystified, lingering even on Alexander's clothes and bed sheets… a memory appeared unbidden of those days of innocent optimism when after a night of sweetly wicked dreams of Alexander, the fifteen year old Hephaestion would wake and find, impossible as it seemed, the scent of Alexander lingering on his pillow – even on his skin.
"Being born a prince doesn't automatically bless a person with brains," the pseudo-Alexander declared, drawing back to wipe Hephaestion's tears as if he were a small boy, "any man who lets you get away deserves to get shackled to a domineering cow like that!"
"Iphis isn't that bad!" Hephaestion gave a bleary chuckle. "I know they say women are inferior, but she has the intellect of a man!"
"Married to him she'll need it!" snorted his companion, smoothing back Hephaestion's dark hair. "The gossips didn't get it all wrong… you are very beautiful." Leaning forward, he kissed Hephaestion warmly on the mouth. "And only a fool would pass up lips as sweet as yours…" he ran his hands gently over Hephaestion's biceps, sending a hot shiver through his body, "or arms as strong…"
With the grace of a dancer he slipped from the bed to kneel in front of Hephaestion, carefully beginning to unlace his sandals before rubbing his ankles with firm, soothing strokes. "Come, take your chiton off, I'll send a servant to have it cleaned, ready for the morning."
"Morning!" Hephaestion tensed once more. "Gods! I can't go back there, I can't face any of them, I can't face their – their – happiness! I can't!"
"Then don't." The pseudo-Alexander regarded him gravely. "Come with me. Even a fake Alexander needs his Hephaestion!"
"These days he's more likely to need a fake Iphis," mumbled Hephaestion, unwilling to admit how much the offer appealed to him.
"No… she'd need too much baggage. I'd have to buy an extra mule for her! Come, let me help you…"
Mutely Hephaestion let the young man undress him, starting only a little when his loincloth was unbound. The pseudo-Alexander looked down into his lap. "Prince Alexander really passed you up? I thought it was his brother who was the half-wit! Gods grant King Philip immortality!" With a sigh he leaned forward, kissed Hephaestion again, then began brushing soft kisses over his chest and belly before moving lower. "Lie back, my love… let me make you feel better…"
A deep gasp broke from Hephaestion as he let himself flop back onto the narrow bed, as if his mind and body were only now registering what was happening. Agile fingers were trailing lightly up and down his erection while the golden-haired man nuzzled beneath it before beginning to press quick kisses on the inside of his thighs. Whimpering and squirming, Hephaestion stretched out his arms to grip at the pillows, then froze as his hand struck something cold and metallic. His head spun as he drew out a dagger with an elaborately jewelled handle. "But… this is Alexander's…!"
A muffled ripple of laughter. "I am Alexander…!"
"No… I mean… this really is Alexander's!"
"Of course, my love…!" The pseudo-Alexander raised his head, his moist lips curving into a mischievous smile, "I told you, I am – "
"But you're not! You can't be!"
"Can't I?" The young man drew himself up, straddling Hephaestion's thighs. "Maybe I'm the real Alexander… and the one back at the palace is the fake! After all," he added, leaning over Hephaestion and kissing his way along his collarbone, "I love you more than he does…" Suddenly his mouth fixed over Hephaestion's in an urgent, possessive kiss; when he drew back, his eyes were bright with a cold fire. "And I know your true value… which he doesn't. And I know it can't be reckoned in gold talents!"
Hephaestion struggled to think straight. The pseudo-Alexander's hands seemed to be everywhere at once, and where they weren't, his lips were. "How… how could you know they were from… him…? I never said…"
"I told you, my sweet love… I'm Alexander!"
"But if you're Alexander… who just… got married…?"
"I did, of course! Have you forgotten already? This is my wedding night!"
"Then… who did you marry…?"
"You great silly thing… why, you, of course!"
"Oh." There seemed no point in arguing further; he gave up on thought when his lover began to rub his body hard against him. Throwing out his arms, Hephaestion seized him in a grip his wrestling-master would have been proud of…
Alexander gave a high-pitched, almost girlish shriek of alarm as Hephaestion suddenly rolled him over, pinning him down beneath him as his mouth clamped down upon Alexander's and drew the breath from him.
It was not the first time he had crept secretly into Hephaestion's bed, foolish and undignified as he felt, sneaking over to share the warmth of his friend's body. Or at least that had been his intention the first few times. Now, with his fifteenth year approaching, he was troubled by new sensations, new impulses. Thank the Gods that Hephaestion was a true worshipper of Hypnos and slept like the dead, or he would have been woken by the timid kisses Alexander stole, by the tentative caresses he placed upon his face and neck, by the pressure of Alexander's head on his firm, muscular chest. Alexander told himself he was an idiot, that Hephaestion would laugh at him if he caught him, but he simply couldn't resist it; he had become as addicted to these secret moments as some men were to wine.
He knew Hephaestion loved him; he had even stopped wondering why. But love was one thing, lust another. Lust disturbed Alexander but he could not deny he felt it. But what about Hephaestion? What if he tried his luck and Hephaestion rejected him? Worse, what if Hephaestion tolerated his advances because he was a prince? Amyntor's son loved him for himself, he was sure he did, yet people made comments, his own mother worried and spied, and in spite of himself Alexander was just a little afraid that he didn't know his friend as well as he thought.
If only he knew what Hephaestion really felt! Alexander pressed his face against Hephaestion's shoulder, inhaling his musky scent, so much more traditionally masculine than Alexander's own; Hephaestion would surely die laughing if Alexander admitted to using the delicately fragranced oils and balms that his mother prepared for him, yet he loved to feel clean, to keep his skin soft and supple. It was bad enough being caught rinsing his hair in camomile because Olympias said it would make it shine.
Telling himself tonight, as all the nights before, that he would leave it to Hephaestion to make the first move, Alexander had settled against his friend's supine form and decided to allow himself a few more minutes of bliss before returning to his own bed.
What had gone wrong? Like an idiot he had been lulled to sleep by the steady rise and fall of Hephaestion's chest. The next thing he knew he had been woken by Hephaestion's arms tightening crushingly about him and gasped as he felt his friend's erection pressing hard against his own groin. A moment later Hephaestion was on top of him, kissing him ravenously as he ground his hips against Alexander's. Alexander groaned as his loin cloth fell away and bare flesh connected, his own body responding with treacherous enthusiasm before he could free himself. When Hephaestion's lips came back to his Alexander met them desperately. This was madness! He had to stop Hephaestion – he had to stop himself! If they didn't stop soon he would –
"Oh Zeus – Oh Eros – Oh HEPHAESTION - !"
" – ALEXANDER - !"
Shattered by their sudden release, the two boys parted, lying side by side in silent consternation for what seemed a very long time.
Finally Hephaestion spoke, his voice soft and husky. "…Alexander…"
"…Yes…?" Alexander whispered, not moving.
"How… old am I?"
Alexander turned his head towards his friend, astonished by the question. "Fifteen, of course. Sixteen next month."
"Is that all?"
Another long silence.
Alexander frowned. "What were you dreaming about?"
A pause, then a soft, breathy, rather bewildered laugh. "My…my wedding night…"
"Oh." Alexander felt a lump gather in his throat. So it was pure accident – he just happened to be on hand when Hephaestion was having a heated pubescent dream. Feeling tears build behind his eyes, he managed to ask, "who… who were you marrying…?"
He tensed as he felt Hephaestion shift onto his side and look down at him, shivering as Hephaestion's gentle fingers brushed against his chest. "You great silly thing…" he heard his friend murmur in a voice so tender it made Alexander's heart squeeze. A kiss was pressed to his cheek, then, more hesitantly, to his lips. "You, of course…!"