The air was stuffy and humid inside the tent Hephaestion was resting in. He lied on the floor, his left arm elevated his head like a cushion and watched the straw fabric of his temporary shelter flicker with the wind. All was quiet, and all was tranquil, just as he wanted it to be. The thought of peace cast his mind to his lover, Alexander, the great warrior of Greece and how he resented the idea of harmony; he much rather preferred conflict and wars, contrary to Hephaestion’s preferences. Despite their differences, however, they got along well and rarely ever argued… as couples should.
The soldier’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps outside the tent, followed by a groaning voice that he instantly recognised.
“Alexan...der”, his smug voice quickly turned to worry as he caught sight of the bloody scene on Alexander’s right hand. A deep gash was embedded into his skin and he sank to the ground on his knees and looked up to the man opposite him.
“Hello Phaesty,” the slight strain in Alexander’s voice yanked Hephaestion off the floor and he quickly crawled over to him and held the injured hand softly, swiftly scanning the wound and analyzing how he should tend to it.
“Oh Alexander, what did you do this time?” he muttered in a teasingly annoyed tone, not lifting his eyes from the lesion.
“I was examining a blade, and I’m not sure how, but I think I slashed my hand.”
“You think?” Hephaestion scoffed and raised a flirtatious eyebrow at Alexander who looked back innocently, “What? It all happened very quickly, I wasn’t actually able to see what I did…”
He watched Hephaestion reach to the side and grab a bottle from the corner of the tent and remove the cork. Alexander’s heart fluttered and he felt heat rush up from the back of his neck to his cheeks as he observed his love’s teeth grip the sides of the cork on the bottle and gracefully lift clumsily from it from its position. His stomach flipped like a gymnast when Hephaestion offered his hand for Alexander’s to rest in so that he could treat the wound; he accepted unhesitatingly.
"This will sting."
Hephaestion poured the wine cautiously and slowly, not wanting to put his lover in any more pain, even though it was inevitable. Alexander winced slightly, not wanting to make him think that it hurt. He had a strong, brave reputation for being a great king and he wasn’t going to allow it to falter, especially not at the sight of a man he loved. But Hephaestion heard him, and smirked secretly. He found it adorable when Alexander was at his weakest. The hard, strong king facade he put on for the people in the kingdoms he ruled seemed to fall whenever he was around him, and he appreciated that Alexander felt like he could be himself whenever he was around him because that was all Hephaestion ever wanted: just Alexander.
“You should really be more careful Alex, I can’t keep looking after you.”
“Well for one, you’re accidentally harming yourself in the silliest ways and who knows? You may even mistakenly kill yourself for all we…know,” Hephaestion’s stern tone softened as he felt a hand tilt his chin upwards to meet a mischievous, lovestruck gaze. He warmly replied, “I would allow myself to be shot a thousand times by a million arrows, just for these moments with you.”
Alexander pulled him closer and as Hephaestion closed the gap between them, his heart started racing as faster than a stallion. Alexander had kissed him many times before, but no matter how frequently he did, Hephaestion was always nervous. He quickly sank into this kiss and wrapped his arms around Alexander’s neck; the hand that once occupied his chin shifted down to his waist and he was pulled closer. Alexander slipped his tongue into Hephaestion’s mouth, chasing the faint taste of wine he found and leaned in harder, deepening the kiss and pushing Hephaestion back slightly. In response, Hephaestion released his arms from him and crawled back until he was pressed against the side of the tent. It wasn’t a solid wall so Alexander had to refrain from pushing him back as hard as he wanted to.
They pulled away after a good couple of minutes, breathless and beaming.
“You cheeky bastard,” Hephaestion vertically ran his finger along his lover’s lips, which started to curl at his soft touch. Alexander grinned mischievously, “That’s not the worst I can do…”
“Oh? Isn’t it?” Hephaestion goaded Alexander on and it worked. An arm wrapped around him and they picked up from where they left off earlier as if they hadn’t stopped, until Alexander cringed in agony. They had both forgotten about the red abyss on his hand amidst all the ‘commotion’. It had stopped bleeding, but it was still present, and painful.
“Maybe another time,” Hephaestion said, with a sad undertone in his response. Alexander nodded reluctantly. He thanked him for tending to it, got up and left the tent, but not before giving his dearest a goodbye kiss.
Hephaestion watched Alexander’s shadow move further away from the tent and lied back down on the floor, his left arm elevating his head like a cushion and he returned to watching the straw fabric of his temporary shelter flicker with the wind. He let out a happy, contented sigh and looked forward to the next time they would meet.