AN: Hii! First of all, thank you everyone who commented on my fic 'To Conquer and To Rule'. It made me so happy that you liked that one! Here's another short story, based, once again, from John McLeod's The Lion Of Macedonia. This time, I felt the need to write a much needed conversation between Alexander and Hephaestion. I hoped it would be in the book, but as the pages went and nothing seemed to be happening, I decided to write it myself. Don't read the next paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled.

So what happens in the book is that, basically, in a campaign against the tribes of the north, Alexander orders Hephaestion to go send a message to Cleitus, who's on the other side of the river and far from the inminent danger. Hephaestion notices this. Later, he asks Alexander if he did that in order to send him away from the danger, and Alexander denies it in a very unconvincing way.

Add to that another conversation between Alexander, Parmenion and Antipatros about the need to leave an Heir behind before the Persian campaign, and you get this fic! As usual, my apologies for any mistake, I wrote this very fast and barely checked it! I hope you can still enjoy it, though!

Dual Reality

complexly simple kiddo

"Can you believe Parmenion and Antipatros? If they really think I can't see past their facade, they really disapoint me. Do they think so little of me? I know they still see me as a boy, but by Heras! I thought they would be more sly than this!"

Hephaestion said nothing. He was holding a cup of watered wine, but Alexander suspected it was only to give his hands something to do. He was staring at the wall, his lips pressed tightly, and gave a non comital hum of agreement. Alexander stopped pacing and crossed his arms, raising one eyebrow at his friend.

"Say it," he said, almost resigned. Hephaestion simply turned his face, and raised one eyebrow. The king smiled, shaking his head. "that face of yours screams that you want to say something. So say it,"

Hephaestion smiled, looking away, and turned the cup in his hands, thinking. Alexander tried to be patient. He knew Hephaestion would take his time to say whatever he wanted to say, and, against his nature, he waited for it, but only because he knew whatever the man said would be worth it.

"We can hardly hide things from each other anymore, it is most inconvenient," Hephaestion said, managing that tone of his in which he joked but yet left clear that he was not really joking.

"Do you want to hide things from me?" teased the king, but Hephaestion merely humed in return, pensive. He was in one of those meditative moods of his, when he seemed to ponder the entire future. Alexander was prone to moods such as those too, but he was more a man of action. It was in his nature.

"It is not so much that I want to, but eventually we will need to learn," he said, his brown eyes seemed to be staring at nothing, or something far out of reach. Not leaving Alexander time to ponder what he just said, Hephaestion stood up, and faced the king "They are right, you know? You need to leave an Heir. I know," he said, as soon as Alexander opened his mouth to argue "you can't wait any longer for the campaign, and it's true."

"Then what is it? Parmenion's right, I'm right, everyone's right. What is your point?"

"Remember the Taulantii? The river?"

Of course he remembered. It had been only months, after all. But this was Hephaestion asking, and surely behind that question hid another, more meaningful one. It took Alexander a few seconds to understand.

"Don't tell me you're still angry over that? I told you, it wasn't to keep you out of danger. You were there, that is all there is to it"

"I'm not angry, I was never angry," said Hephaestion calmly "But you don't have to lie. I know you lied when I asked that first time, Alexander. We can't hide anymore, remember?"

The calm tone made Alexander drop his long sustained lie. He sighed explosively and let himself fall into a chair.

"Fine, so what if I did?" he asked, frowning, letting his challenging nature take over him. Always daring, always unpredictable, a force of nature that so far could only be stopped by Hephaestion's unmoving and endless calm.

Hephaestion looked at him, and let his face change to show more emotion. It was as if Alexander's exhabrupt made their conversation more personal. No king, no companion. Just two friends who shared far too much and would continue to do so. He smiled sadly at the blonde.

"You can't protect me forever, Alexander. You can't protect me from everything."

"I know, I'm not stupid! It was just that one time, I wasn't really thinking, I just..." he sighed again, and held his head with both hands, trying to calm down.

"And when the time comes..." Hephaestion continued, seemingly uncaring, merciless about Alexander's state, but he knew his role in the world, in this friendship. To say the things that hurt the most was a strange kind of kindness too. He sat down next to the king, his shoulder touching Alexander's, as a small gesture of companionship " when you have to take a queen, and produce an heir, will you hesitate?"

"What?" Alexander asked, confused, and raised his head to look into Hephaestion's calm brown eyes.

"I am your friend, Alexander,"

"You are my soul," the king amended, and his friend smiled brightly, proud, but then seemed to hold Alexander still with his gaze alone.

"And I don't, ever, want to stand between your duties as a King. I never ask you for anything. Let me be selfish this one time, and ask you this. Promise me"

"Your one and only act of selfishness, and you ask to be selfless? You trully are one of a kind, my friend," Alexander joked, trying to postpone the seriousness of what the man was asking.

It had always been there, in the air. Unnamed, untouched, ignored. Like a dull pain that you learn to live with, and you can almost forget about. Ever since they met, from the initial curiosity and hate, to the everlasting friendship, and then even more once they truly became lovers, they just knew one day, Alexander would be King. And as much as they said to be one soul in two bodies, only one of them was the heir of the kingdom, and the other was meant to obey his king. Over the years, they managed to avoid openly talking about it, but they knew, eventually, something had to be done. Some sort of dynamic, some arrangement, to deal with their dual reality. To understand when to treat eachother as a friend, and when not to.

The heaviness of the reality desceneded upon them with such ominous feeling that they stood silent for a while. The end of the idyl was here.

"Glory has a cost, Alexander, it's there, in every myth, only we choose to ignore it."

"I don't know if I can send you to battle just like that..." Alexander said, barely a whisper, a confession he hardly dared to make. It shamed him, to find himself being weak about it, and admitting to it just now.

"Then learn to," Hephaestion said, with an urgency that wasn't there before. Alexander looked away. He couldn't stand the density of Hephaestion's gaze when he was like that. He couldn't stare into the eyes of such great wisdom. As a kid, more than once he thought his friend had lived a thousand lives before. No young boy could possibly hold such solidity.

"Yes, of course," Alexander agreed, as if waking up from a dream. He turned back to stare at Hephaestion. His friend had not moved while he pondered the situation. He was there, as always, waiting for him to realize a truth he had long ago mastered.

"But you have to promise me something in return. I never ask you anything..." he said, smiling, a mild joke on Hephaestion's speech. The man laughed, the corner of his deep brown eyes cringing with lines.

"On the contrary, you ask me far too many things, Alexander!" he said, his stuborn and proud side showing more than ever. This was what had made Alexander love him. This daring, asking every man and woman to win their own place, no matter what they had been born with. Alexander had to fight the most to win Hephaestion's respect. "But go ahead, and ask me once more. I'll see what I can do about it"

"Promise me my kingship will never stand between our friendship,"

It was a harder promise to make. A far more unrealistic one. Hephaestion pondered the implications for a while, and he soon understood the sacrifices he was going to make to keep that promise. He sighed, smiled at Alexander, and mentally added one more thing to hold forever. It was nestled right next to loving Alexander.

"I promise"

That night, they realized many new things. They saw, in their minds, what the future might hold, other than their childhood dream of glory, but just like before, they would remain unsaid, unnamed and ignored, like a dull pain, until they had no other option but to move the game pieces of their lives and rearrange them into something they could work with.

For their history was always laced with a dual reality, and even years in the future it will show that along the myth of glory of the empire of Alexander the Great, run another, equally rich story of two friends struggling with the world.

AN: If you can spare a minute and tell me what you thought, it would be a huge help! But review or not, I thank you for reading my story. I hoped you enjoyed it!