LOVESONG by Moon71
SUMMARY: A marshmallowy fluffy bunny of a story for Valentine's day: this one goes out to all you lovers out there! (Ooh, I've always wanted to say that!) Bagoas glimpses Alexander and Hephaestion sharing a very private moment.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just in case anyone has doubts - no, this isn't a kinky threesome!
DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything; tragically not even shares in Amazon.
WARNING: There's no sex in this story; you've been warned. Needing a warning about my rather facetious attempts at wit is another matter entirely.
DEDICATION: To Parisad - sweets for a sweet xxx
Staying clean in an army camp was no easy task. Even when I had travelled with King Darius and all the luxuries he considered necessary while on campaign there had always been the problem of finding fresh water, of maintaining supplies of perfume and soap – and of getting rid of the dust. The accursed dust! At least as a concubine of Darius I had carried an automatic respect; his soldiers might desire me but they would never dare touch me or even speak without respect. Now I was King Alexander's, and though he treated me kindly and expected others to do the same, I found there was some justification in my people's belief that all Greeks were barbarians and Macedonians doubly so. If I managed to make it to the latrines and back without encountering at least one lewd remark from a foot soldier, one or two wolf-whistles, some clumsy proposition or, less bearably, some abusive remark about "stinking Persian whores", I considered myself blessed.
I could live with the Macedonians, crude as they were; I did not know how much longer I could live with the dust. It got into my long, thick hair and took an age of washing and brushing to get out every evening. It got under my carefully manicured nails and into my eyes, it even seemed to impregnate my skin. Though I considered myself well above any common Greek prostitute, I did sometimes find myself exchanging a weary, sympathetic look with hetaerae such as General Ptolemy's Thais as they too struggled to look captivating and think of witty things to say after a long day on the road.
And I couldn't let myself grow slack. Unlike some of his men, around whom I preferred not to be downwind after a long march, Alexander was fanatically clean, bathing in the morning and again and in the evening and even once more if he and I had been intimate. Far from being offended by it, I took it as a sign of rare breeding in one of his people. All the same, there were times when I did wish I could simply flop down onto my cot with dusty hair and sweaty skin just like one of his soldiers.
At least I did not suffer alone. Even his beloved Hephaestion was not granted special privileges where grooming was concerned. I can still remember the first time he returned from one of his long missions of city-founding or bridge-building or separate campaigning, exhausted and bleary eyed; Alexander had been as overexcited as a child awaiting his return and seemed to devour him with his eyes when he rode up and saluted his King, yet before the poor man was even granted a kiss or an embrace, he was forced into the bath I had been ordered to prepare in Alexander's tent. Having said that, he was scrubbed down by the King himself, while I and my fellow Persians gaped in utter consternation from the shadows.
Once more we made camp; once more I struggled to wash the dust from my hair and my skin, to rub myself with softening lotions and douse myself in perfume, to dress myself becomingly in colourful silks and subtly apply my makeup, ignoring the aches and pains from walking and riding and stretching my limbs in case Alexander should get it into his head to ask me to dance for him. There was rarely time for such frivolity; there was actually little time even for the arts of the bedroom, and most of the time my efforts were wasted. (Had I known just how long and how far Alexander's campaigns would stretch out and how much time I would end up spending on the march, I might just have reconsidered surrendering myself to him.) But to be caught unprepared for my master would be absolutely mortifying, so I readied myself, night after night after night.
When I reached the royal tents, I thought I heard the faintest sound of music. There was nothing very strange in that; plenty of musicians and other entertainers followed the army. But when I stepped into the outermost tent, where Alexander might drink or talk with his Companions, the delicate sound of the stringed kithara was accompanied by a perfectly pitched voice, high and sweet but too strong for a woman. For a moment I thought I was hearing another eunuch, because eunuchs trained to sing gained an impressive vocal range from their flexible bodies and I was now not the only eunuch in the camp, let alone the only Persian. But as I listened, I realised I was hearing a gifted amateur, not a true professional. What it sounded most like was a boy.
I moved closer, treading very softly in my silken Persian slippers. The song was in Greek and the voice was undeniably familiar. Perhaps this was one of Alexander's pages. He did have an eye for the pretty ones, in spite of vigorously promoting his own image of self-restraint and chastity; far from bothering me, it made me more comfortable, it was a sign that this baffling, unpredictable, chameleonic person was human after all. All the same, it never hurt to size up the competition.
Even as I shifted close enough to spy into the inner tent, I already had a sudden inkling just who I was hearing. All the same I silently caught my breath as I surveyed the scene within.
King Alexander sat on the couch, dressed in a loose robe of royal purple Persian silk. His silver-grey eyes were dreamy as he plucked at the kithara with expert fingers and began a new verse of the song, one of the saddest love-songs I had ever heard in any language, a lament from Achilles to his beloved, lost Patroklos. I had made a point of learning the story of the Iliad and knew the song was Achilles trying to call back his lover's shade after it had visited him but melted away when he had tried to take it in his arms.
I had never heard him sing or play; gossip reported that no-one had since he had been a boy, when, after performing publicly for his father, King Philip had scolded him that he should be ashamed to sing as sweetly as a girl. As I could not imagine the Great King or any Persian prince serenading anyone, it was not something I could venture an opinion upon, though I had heard enough of the contrast and the resulting friction between Philip and Alexander to guess that this comment must have wounded the boy. Well, he was not performing publicly now – but nor was he without an audience.
Hephaestion's head rested in his lap. His handsome face was perfectly still, his eyes half-closed and as entranced as Alexander's. Only the fingers of one hand stirred, tracing the curve of Alexander's knee.
I pressed my lips tightly together, terrified some sound might escape to shatter this bewitching moment. If I had not been invited to share it, nor did I feel I was intruding upon it; it was more as if between them they had drawn me and held me here so I might be a witness to their perfection. Only when the song was finished and Hephaestion slowly drew himself up did I feel able to step back. I saw Alexander incline his head and meet Hephaestion's proffered lips with a slow, tender kiss. They gazed into each other's eyes for a long moment before Hephaestion whispered, "once more… please…"
A faint frown creased Alexander's brow. Perhaps that old wound had scarred over but not truly healed; that was something I could understand only too well. Still they looked at one another and I swear neither blinked. Then the frown softened away and Alexander took up the kithara once more. Smiling very slightly, Hephaestion put his head back against Alexander's thighs and resumed the caressing of his knee.
I could not begrudge anyone such bliss. All the same, it was hard not to sigh as I retreated to my own section of the subdivided enclosure; once again I had washed my hair for nothing.