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In Two Bodies

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On some level, Hephaistion always had an awareness of the rest of the world; he could not anticipate Alexander's every need without it, after all. Tonight he grabbed his hooded cloak without thinking as he followed his beloved friend out into the night, trailing silently in his wake. Alexander did not want him now, but he would, once he had walked himself out, and Hephaistion was prepared. Prepared for much, including the heavy raindrops that spattered his shoulders. He left the hood down, for now; he could not afford the muffling layer between his ears and the night-sounds, not if he didn't want to force Alexander into acknowledging him.

The full moon glinted through the cloud cover, providing a little light, but once under the trees Hephaistion was navigating mostly by memory and the faint rustling of Alexander's passage before him. Up into the hills and the night, and Hephaistion was focused so intently on filtering footsteps from raindrops that he nearly collided with the other man when he stopped. Alexander breathed his name, somewhere between relief and amusement, and took his hands in the darkness.

Hephaistion closed his eyes, breathing in the prince's scent. It was his mother, always his mother; and Hephaistion despised her for many things, not the least of which was how she always upset him. He wouldn't speak a word against her; there was no reason for both of them to hurt him, but he knew and harbored every injury she inflicted on Alexander in his secret heart. Instead, he opened his arms, and Alexander, cold and wet, joined him under the cloak.

"You always know," he murmured after his skin had started to warm again.

"How could I not?" Hephaistion asked, pressing his lips to Alexander's cheek. It was still chill to the touch, so Hephaistion pressed his own cheek against it, sharing his warmth.

"Am I so predictable, then?"

"Not that. Never that. But I know you as I know myself; your voice in my heart tells me where you are and what I must do." He ran a hand across the heavy, damp mass of golden hair, and Alexander pressed against him like a cat, a lion. The curl had fallen out in the rain.

"This way." Hephaistion followed him again, but this time Alexander did not let go of his hand, barely pulling away far enough to be outside the weight of his cloak. Higher still, until Alexander ducked under a branch that Hephaistion barely missed running into. Dry leaves crackled under their feet, and his beloved was unfastening Hephaistion's cloak to spread it across the leaves and drawing him down.

He occasionally wondered whether this would become ordinary, casual, something he took for granted. In ten years, perhaps twenty, would he see Alexander's hands, his lips, his body as less than an extraordinary gift? It seemed impossible to even consider. This trust, the love so powerful it tore at his heart, it could never be anything but a blessing from the gods. His touch in the dark was the only thing Hephaistion craved, beyond Alexander himself, the mere presence of him.

Under his parting clothes, his skin was hot, ecstasy burning across Hephaistion's chest and legs. He gasped and Hephaistion moaned.

After, with Alexander still lying trembling in his arms, he was told the details of this newest affront. "I told her it was impossible," he said at last, and Hephaistion kissed the edges of the scowl he couldn't see.

"She shouldn't ask such things of you," which was as harsh as he would allow himself to be about her, at least in Alexander's presence.

He shrugged. "I am her son."

"And his." Hephaistion thought rather that he was the god's, but in the undeclared war against Olympias, he would take alliance even with the King if circumstances required it.

"In her eyes, that shouldn't matter. Except perhaps when she is accusing me of taking his side."

"You do what you must." Hephaistion laid his cheek against Alexander's silky hair, stroking idly down his back.

"She refuses to see me as anything but a little boy, except when it's convenient for her to do otherwise." His irritated breath puffed across Hephaistion's chest.

He tried for a chuckle. "Mothers are all like that, I think. Even when their sons are men grown, all they can see is a child in a sword belt, playing at dress-up."

Alexander kissed him again. It was raining harder, the world around them becoming a soft roaring rustle that somehow couldn't reach them. Hephaistion wanted to keep him there, in that space and that moment, safe from his mother's intrigues and his father's wars and his own driving ambition. He wondered if Patroclus had felt that way, or if he had found comfort in the knowledge that his friend was nigh-immortal.

He spoke again, words of love, devotion, his hands stroking down Hephaistion's chest, across his thighs. Aristotle had said that a true friend was one soul in two bodies; this was nothing less than that. "Please," he whispered, and cried out as his plea was answered. The sound was throaty, womanish perhaps, but Alexander left him feeling unmanned. He would have been a woman for him, if that was what he needed; thought perhaps he had been born a man so that he could be at Alexander's side always, in war and peace. The gods had heaped Alexander with blessings, skill and wit and wisdom unmatched by ordinary men, perhaps unknown since Achilles himself, and yet he needed Hephaistion to temper him, to be the water to cool his glowing metal, to remind him that his noble mind still burned within a mortal's body that required such petty things as food and rest and love. Now, as he arched under Alexander's touch, whispering his dedication in response, love was all he needed.

Alexander gasped his name, bit down on his shoulder, and Hephaistion cried out again, in joyous release. Love, he could give, in all things and at all times.