PERFECT by Moon71
SUMMARY: Hephaestion views loving Alexander as an exciting challenge…
DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything though I wished I owned a masseur, sitting at a computer for hours writing this stuff does terrible things to your back…
RATING: T for sexy stuff, sensual massage, scented oils and such…
DEDICATION: For Khepri2 - a dedication was long overdue, for your lovely dedication in "Hephaestion's Journal", for your brilliant "extension" of Joy and Health", for your kind reviews - and simply as a bribe, in the hope you will write more Alexander stories!
He had been looking for Hephaestion everywhere, but it was the screaming that finally helped Alexander to find him. His heart picking up a quick beat, Alexander ran down the corridor of the gymnasium towards the wrestling pits.
And there Hephaestion was, crying out in pain as he was pinned beneath the huge form of Aias, the favourite wrestler of Alexander's father Philip. For a second Alexander stared in horror as the powerful man twisted Hephaestion's arms behind his back and pushed his face into the sand. Then he sprang forward, ready to beat off the brute attempting to ravage his dearest friend.
But just as he reached the pit, the wrestlers parted and Aias sprang up, pulling the bedraggled Hephaestion with him and drawing him into a sporting embrace. "Better, my boy, better!" Aias boomed, "keep at it and you'll be as good as Leonatus in a few months!"
"I don't think I'll ever be good enough to beat you," Hephaestion declared breathlessly, casting a wistful gaze over Aias' bulging muscles.
Aias gave a grunt of laughter, slapping Hephaestion so hard on the back he might have knocked his teeth out before he stepped out of the pit and headed off in the direction of the baths. He didn't see Alexander, who had retreated behind a pillar to watch unobserved once he realised his friend was in no danger. His eyes fixed upon Hephaestion as the youth pulled himself up and began brushing the sand from his glistening skin. He seemed to grow taller, more manly, more beautiful with every passing day; each time Alexander saw him like this, naked and oiled for the gymnasium, he was assailed by a confusing mix of emotions – envy, admiration, pride, despair and, increasingly, a longing he was not yet quite ready to face.
"Hephaestion!" he called as his friend passed by.
"Alexander!" Hephaestion turned, his handsome face flushed and shining. He looked rather warily at the prince. "What are you doing down here?"
"I… came to use the baths," Alexander lied, "but what are you doing, Hephaestion – wrestling Big Aias! He could snap your neck with one hand!"
"I…" Hephaestion grabbed a towel, wiping his face. "I… just wanted help with my wrestling. I saw him practising and asked him if he'd help me improve…"
"There's nothing wrong with your wrestling!" Alexander exclaimed.
Hephaestion hesitated, glancing awkwardly at him. "Shall we go to the baths? I'm getting cold."
They sank down together in the hot, soothing water, heaving deep, luxurious sighs. For a moment they remained quiet, simply enjoying the pleasure of the warm baths and the equal pleasure of one another's company. Alexander could not keep silent for long. "Why do you do it, Hephaestion?" he demanded at last.
Hephaestion avoided his gaze. "Do what?"
"Compete against me – try to be better than me at everything!"
"I'm not trying to compete against you, Alexander," Hephaestion answered slowly, trailing his fingers through the water.
"You are!" Alexander insisted, "Whatever I do well at, you try to do better! First running, then archery, then throwing the javelin, now wrestling! I've noticed you're not even finishing your food anymore, tell me that's not because I don't! You push yourself too hard!"
Hephaestion chuckled. "Can't you stand the competition, Alexander?"
"It's not that!" Alexander protested, "I just don't want it to get out of control! I don't want us to be rivals, Hephaestion – I want us to be friends!"
Hephaestion suddenly became very still. "Alexander," he said slowly, "why do you do it? Push yourself so hard, go without things?"
"That's different! I'm a prince! I have to be worthy of my rank!"
Hephaestion nodded. "Exactly. And that's why I do it too. I have to be worthy of you."
Alexander stared at him for a moment, then reached beneath the water to take Hephaestion's hand in his own. As he did so, he felt suddenly conscious of how close Hephaestion's thigh was to his, how smoothly muscular Hephaestion's chest and shoulders had become, how beautifully the oily water sparkled upon his skin, and how empty the baths were that evening. The two of them were virtually alone. "You don't have to, Hephaestion," he said gravely, "you don't have to be perfect for me! I'll still like you, no matter what…"
Hephaestion turned to look at him at last, his gaze startling in its dark intensity. "I don't want you to like me," he said softly, touching Alexander's face with his long fingers, "I want you to love me."
As he spoke, he leaned forward and kissed Alexander lingeringly upon the lips.
Alexander told himself it was the steamy heat in the bath-house that made him swoon dizzily against Hephaestion's shoulder when the other boy drew back. He whimpered feebly as he felt Hephaestion's hand stroking through his hair. "How was that…?" he heard Hephaestion ask.
Alexander sighed in defeat. "Perfect," he whispered.
"A massage," King Alexander explained, drawing the weary Cavalry Commander into his tent, "a relaxing massage."
"Relaxing…?" Hephaestion laughed incredulously, "you enjoyed something relaxing?"
"I always enjoyed the rubdowns at the gymnasium," Alexander replied defensively.
"I enjoyed them, Alexander," Hephaestion countered, "you talked all the way through them! The masseurs could hardly keep you still!"
"Well… I've calmed down a little since then… To tell the truth I didn't think I would enjoy it – it was Barsine who suggested it, and originally I only did it to please her… trying something Persian, you know… but it felt good, and…"
"Dearest Alexander," Hephaestion sighed, "ever changing… you look exhausted, my love, come, lets lie down, all I want now is to rest in your arms…"
"But what about the massage? Come on, my friend, try it," Alexander cried, "it feels so good… when he's finished I feel as if my bones have melted and I couldn't stand up if my life depended on it! I've never felt so utterly peaceful, except after… well… no, but do, Hephaestion, we've been on the march since dawn, you must be as tired as I am!"
"I didn't spend the morning jumping on and off a chariot," Hephaestion grinned.
"Come, I'll send for the chief masseur, he's a Persian, he looks about a hundred years old but by Zeus he's strong and what hands he has… a real expert…"
"He must be, if he's got you this excited! The question is, an expert in what…?"
"Oh all right," the other man sighed, "but you must share it with me. Come, let's take some wine, get our armour off, and then this wonderful Persian fellow can work his magic on both of us…"
Reluctantly Alexander agreed, ordering the pages on duty to undress them both and bring in a large jug of wine and another of water. But just as he was about to tell them to send for two of the Persian masseurs he had inherited along with the tent he occupied and the bed within it when he had overrun King Darius' camp, Hephaestion stopped him. "In a while, Alexander," he said gently, "let us enjoy the wine and one another's company first…just the two of us..."
Seeing the sincere look in Hephaestion's eyes, Alexander nodded and dismissed the Pages.
"This masseur," Hephaestion murmured thoughtfully as they reclined lazily on the vast bed, "what does he use?"
Languidly sipping his wine, Alexander nodded towards the dresser. "That phial of oil there. It's almond oil, fragranced with the extract of some exotic tree bark, good for soothing the muscles, along with oil of lavender and rose. He mixes it himself." He protested softly as Hephaestion slid away from him, off the bed. He had grown drowsy and comfortable with the wine inside him, the warm evening air caressing his naked skin and Hephaestion's hand slowly combing through his hair. "Where are you going…?"
Hephaestion stopped by the dresser, uncorked the phial and sniffed. "A strange fragrance…" he wrinkled his nose, then inhaled again, "but rather pleasing…"
"It's cooling on the skin at first, then gradually it warms you," Alexander murmured, "shall I send for the masseur then…?"
Hephaestion did not answer. He poured a small amount of the scented oil into his hand. "How do you lie when he massages you…?"
Alexander shrugged drowsily. "On my belly."
The king frowned at his general, but then turned over onto his front. A moment later he felt the mattress shift as Hephaestion came to sit upon the bed. "Hephaestion…?"
"Where does he start? On what part of you…?"
"I'm just curious!"
"Well let me send for the man and he'll…"
"No, just tell me…"
"Oh very well." Alexander rested his head on his folded arms. "On my feet. Then my legs, then my arms and shoulders… finally on my back. He – Hephaestion!" Alexander squealed in protest as he felt his friend's strong fingers curve about his foot. "Hephaestion, no, you mustn't, it's undignified, not my feet!"
"Nothing I could do for you would be undignified," Hephaestion replied calmly, pressing the palm of his hand hard into the arch of Alexander's foot. "I would cover your feet in kisses before the entire army if you asked it…"
The strength of his lover's words made Alexander feel as giddy as he had the first time Hephaestion had kissed him, so long ago in the baths back in Pella. He could not find the energy or the will to protest as strong hands rubbed hard at his aching feet. "Hephaestion… what are you doing…?" he moaned at last as he felt Hephaestion's hands glide up his calves, spreading the fragranced oil over his skin.
"You seemed so taken with this… relaxing massage, Alexander," Hephaestion answered slowly, "I was curious to see how it was done…"
"Then let me… oh gods… that feels… let me send for… for…"
"Then you want me to stop…?" Hephaestion was now kneading his thighs rhythmically.
"No…" Alexander groaned, "no… not yet…"
Powerful hands began to knead his thighs, working deep into the firm flesh to unknot tired muscles bruised and aching from gripping the back of his charger. Hephaestion's instincts for how to apply pressure and his knowledge of where exactly Alexander was hurting were almost uncanny. He was tempted to ask his friend if he had ever done this to anyone before, but decided he did not want to know. He caught his breath as he felt the warmth of Hephaestion's body close against his own as the other man straddled him, leaning down hard to rub his back in long, slow, deep strokes, his breath warm against Alexander's neck. "You have changed," Hephaestion observed with some amusement, "only a few months ago I could never have imagined you lying so still with me so close to you… on your bed…"
"I haven't changed… that much…" gasped Alexander, "not… where you are... Hephaestion…!" he cried as he felt Hephaestion's hands kneading his bottom, then, very gently, a finger sliding purposefully downwards. Too comfortable to even consider protesting, Alexander lay quiet, sighing deeply as he felt Hephaestion's lips against his shoulders and back and his fingers slipping inside. He did not know how long the gentle rubbing had lasted when all at once he felt the full weight of Hephaestion's body against his own and the full force of Hephaestion entering him. Even then he only moaned softly, arching his back as Hephaestion's hand pushed beneath him to clasp his manhood in warm, oily fingers. "Oh gods… oh gods, Hephaestion…" he panted, "no, don't stop… don't… oh gods…"
"I can't believe you, Hephaestion," Alexander sighed as they curled up together on the bed once more, "are you competing against some aged Persian masseur now?"
"Of course not," Hephaestion answered dreamily, allowing Alexander to draw his head down upon his breast, "I just like to understand what pleases you now, so I can still be worthy of you…"
"What pleases me now is what has always pleased me," Alexander replied stubbornly, "nothing has really changed."
"Everything has changed, and keeps changing," Hephaestion murmured, stroking Alexander's chest, "that is what keeps it exciting… you, my love, most of all."
"How have I changed?" Alexander demanded.
"In every way, even in your lovemaking… when you first took a boy, you became more dominating when you and I made love. Since you've taken Barsine, you're more attentive, more patient, less frantic… The further we get away from Macedon, the more you change… I want to understand that. Even as we explore and conquer unknown lands, I want to explore and conquer everything that is Alexander…"
"You already know far more of me than I do of you," Alexander replied plaintively, "you seem to keep so much to yourself…"
Hephaestion chuckled. "I don't hide things from you, Alexander," he said, "its all here for you to find… laid out before your eyes… the problem is you never shut up and stay still long enough to hear and see what's there…!"
"Then perhaps I have changed after all," Alexander breathed, "because I want to look, I want to hear. I want to know you as well as you know me."
"Whatever you want to know, I will tell you," Hephaestion told him, drawing himself up to lie on his side, facing Alexander. "But first tell me this… how was the massage?"
Alexander gave a very deep, almost despairing sigh. "Perfect," he replied.