Hephaistion rolled his eyes. «Yeah, chicks love nerds with weird names.»
«Like you're interested.» Alexander replied with a huff.
Hephaistion just stared at him, flabbergasted.
«Don't give me that look.»
Hephaistion sighed. Why on earth was he even talking with the star of the football team anyway? Popular guys usually didn't like to be seen with the ones sitting on the “nerd table” at lunch. And Alexander wasn't just popular, he was the king of the damned school. Girls loved him, guys wanted to be him, and the football team... well, they hated his guts, but since he had been promoted captain they hadn't lost a single match.
Alexander tilted his head in a pose that would have looked cute, if it weren't for the intensity of his gaze. Hephaistion felt himself shiver under that scrutiny. He wanted to protest, but all of a sudden forming coherent sentences seemed difficult.
«Man, you really are scared.» said Alexander «Well, sorry, I didn't want to creep you out, but it was you who got started on chicks.» he pronounced the last word with a grimace, like something he didn't really understand, or even liked. Which of course was impossible, since he probably had had tons of girlfriends. Although, now that Hephaistion came to think about it, he never saw him with one. But he wasn't much into the school gossip after all.
«Yes, because you said that being popular wasn't such a big deal.»
«It isn't. Who do you think will care, in a few years time? What will count will be what we really are, what we can do. And I've seen your last computer science project, and it's awesome» he was starting to sound really excited, and his smile was the most genuine Hephaistion had ever seen on him. Not that he looked at his smiles that much, of course. Not at all. «Actually, this was what I wanted to talk you about. I... hum» Alexander looked almost embarrassed «I'm trying to set up a team for... now promise you won't laugh at me.»
The conversation was getting weirder and weirder. «I won't.»
«Good. Now, I'm sure you'll have more serious things to think about, but I have this video game in mind, and I started working on it, but I usually get lost creating the plot and the graphics, and it's never going to work. So, if you're interested...»
Hephaistion cut him short. «If? If I'm interested? More serious things? Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me? I took computer sciences because of that! Of course I'll work with you!»
Alexander's smile grew impossibly wider. «Thanks! So, when can we meet?»
«I don't know... this week I'm kinda busy, with the Spanish assignment due on Friday.»
«Yeah, me too. What about Saturday, then? We can meet sometime in the afternoon and then keep working until we want to.»
«Saturday...» Hephaistion thought about it for a while, before realizing what was wrong about that Saturday. «But it's prom night. I mean, I hate the thing so I wasn't planning on going, but...»
«Then it's settled.»
«Don't you have a girlfriend to bring to the prom?»
Alexander grinned. «You're really clueless, aren't you?»
«What the hell are you talking about?» snapped Hephaistion, feeling slightly insulted.
«There's a reason if my gaydar works so well. And why I enjoy so much the showers after football matches.» he was laughing now, clearly amused «You should see the look on your face. All that brain, and you couldn't figure out that a football player could be gay. I'm sort of offended, you know? You're probably the only person in this school who pays so little attention to me that you don't know this.»
«Oh, shut up! I have, as you said “more serious things to think about”.»
«Whatever you say. So, Saturday, my place or your place?» Alexander giggled.
«What are you laughing about now?»
«Doesn't it sound like a date?»
Hephaistion had thought that conversation had reached its peak of awkwardness a few minutes earlier, but apparently Alexander had the ability to be endlessly embarrassing. «No, it doesn't.»
«Sorry. I promise I'll be more professional from now on.»
«Okay. Do you want to come to mine?» Hephaistion smiled, trying to make him understand he wasn't really angry «If we get tired, I have the last Battlefield for X-Box I still haven't tried out.»
Alexander lit up like a Christmas tree. «Battlefield? I'm not sure I'll be able to work at all!»
«Dude, you just promised you'd be more professional!»
«Sorry» said Alexander sheepishly, but with still the hint of a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. His beautiful mouth that Hephaistion totally didn't spend too much time looking at.
When the bell rang, Hephaistion had his headphones on and was listening to the soundtrack of Star Wars at such an embarrassingly high volume that he didn't even hear it. The knocking on his door, though, was a completely different matter. He didn't much hear as he felt it, especially as his mother had a way of knocking that made it seem like she wanted to break it down.
«Come in.» he huffed, lowering the volume and closing the window of Firefox open on LiveJournal where he totally wasn't reading angsty slash. He was a guy, not some rabid, masochistic fangirl. If he sometimes stumbled on some fanfiction...
When, instead of his mother, it was Alexander to come in, he jumped out of his chair.
«I didn't want to give you an heart attack, but your mother said the only way to get you to open was to knock» he laughed and made air quotes «“like that door is the Gate of Mordor and you are a very angry Nazgûl that forgot his key”. I have to say, your mum is awesome.»
Hephaistion smiled back. «She's a worse geek than I am. She's nuts about Tolkien. I narrowly escaped being named after one of his characters... but ended up with a crap name anyway, thanks to my father.»
«I don't know what's the deal with your name. I like it.»
«Because you don't have to face people asking you how to spell it every day of your life.»
«You got a point there.» he didn't expect an invite and sat down on the bed «So I guess if we have to be partner in crime I'll have to find you a nickname. You know, something we can put on the cover of our video game, and that will be easy to remember.»
«You're assuming a whole lot of things here.»
Alexander's smile didn't falter for a moment. «You've got to dream big. And, mh, let's see... what about Phai?»
«A helluva lot shorter than Hephaistion, don't you agree?»
«It sounds...» he was about to say “weird”, because it did, no one had ever called him like that before, but somehow the way Alexander said it made it sound... «good. It sounds good. But your name is long as well. If both of our names are to be featured on the cover you'd better shorten yours as well.»
«Then you get to name me. Just... not Alex, please.»
«Not Alex, then. Xandre?»
«Exotic. I like it!»
A few months later
«I'm telling you, Xandre, if you create a map that big, no platform will have enough memory to support it.»
«Then I'll make a new platform!»
«Hephaistion is right, you know.» Leonnatus tried to intervene, practical and calm as usual.
Somehow, this crazy idea of Alexander's had turned into their collective final project for computer sciences. So they were currently in the school lab, with their teacher, Mr. Parmenion, and the rest of their team.
«If I were you, Alexander, I'd try to change the code here, and-»
«If I were Parmenion I'd do the same. But I'm Alexander and I'm going to do this my way.»
Peucestas whispered, loud enough for everyone to hear it: «Why did we accept him as a leader, again?»
«Because his boyfriend is the best in this field and we need to be on board with this project if we want good grades.» answered Cassander malignantly.
Hephaistion had long since stopped paying attention to him. He was envious of his brain and jealous of his friendship with Alexander. Even though all he cared about was how popular Alexander was, and he didn't even liked him as a person. Still, it did hurt a little that people would imply they were dating just because Alexander was gay, and Hephaistion... well, he wasn't exactly out, but people talked. Why no one believed they could be friends? It was like the old “man and women can't be friends” story all over again and it was annoying.
Summer after graduation
Alexander had a beer in his hand, and was currently very busy doing nothing at all by the pool in his garden. «I'm so tired, I feel like I've walked all the way to India and back.»
«You're the usual drama queen, Xandre. You just graduated, people do it all the time.»
«And you're the usual killjoy, Phai. Sometimes I wonder why I even invite you any more.»
«To save you from dying of boredom. Who would you annoy, otherwise?»
Alexander took a long swallow of his beer and glanced at him from over the bottle. «I could try with my father.»
«Don't even start. You're going to be out soon, don't try to make things worse.»
«There's World War III going on all the time anyway, with or without my help. I mean, he's an asshole, I get it, but my mother... she can be one mean bitch.»
Hephaistion's eyes narrowed. «How many of those did you have already?» he asked, pointing to the beer.
His friend tried to look casual about it, but Phai knew immediately he'd had one too many. He didn't even bother talking to him, he just snatched his beer away and drank what was left of it in one swallow. He could have as well emptied on the ground, but, hey, you don't just waste good beer like that.
To his credit, Alexander didn't protest. He wasn't drunk enough to let his bad temper ruin a good moment. He wasn't even drunk at all, just slightly tipsy.
Instead, he changed topic. «So... college.»
Hephaistion smiled. «I'm glad we're going to the same place.»
«Really, you idiot. Will you ever stop asking stupid questions?»
«That was a stupid question.»
At that, Hephaistion couldn't help but laugh. He threw an arm around Alexander's shoulders and pulled him close. «I'd miss having someone to ask me stupid questions, if we weren't to go to college together. Besides, our precious child» he didn't even remember when nor why, but they had started to call their video game their child «needs us. The parts we did for the school projects were fine, but... we need to dream big, wasn't it what you said?»
«Dream big, uh?» Alexander said with a smirk «Why not?»
And, just like that, he kissed him.
Hephaistion's head promptly provided him a list of reasons why this was wrong:
1) They were friends.
2) They were best friends.
3) They were going to split up and all their projects would be ruined because of that.
4) They were friends, dammit!
The list would have gone on much longer if it wasn't for the fact that kissing Alexander felt oh so good, even with that awkward angle and uncomfortable position.
«What was that?» he managed to ask as soon as they parted.
«You seemed to know quite well what that was.» Alexander raised an eyebrow, shooting him a nasty look.
Hephaistion rolled his eyes. «You know what I mean!»
«I still don't understand how the hell did I manage to fall in love with such an insufferable idiot!»
Hephaistion remained silent, frozen.
«No, I get it, you just pretended not to notice because you didn't feel the same. And there I thought you were completely clueless... I'm so stupid sometimes.»
When Alexander made to stand up, Hephaistion suddenly snapped out of his trance. «Yes, you are, because this is by far the worst declaration I've ever heard.»
Hephaistion cursed himself, because... what the hell did he just say. «I mean, you could, you know... try the kiss thing again. Instead of calling me an insufferable idiot for not understanding what you were clearly making every effort to hide.»
Before the King of Stupid Questions could start again, Hephaistion kissed him. He somehow managed to slide from his chair into Alexander's lap, and wasn't it better than the best of his dreams? He felt he had something to confess as well, so he drew back for a moment.
«I had a crush on you. Like, epic crush.»
Alexander chuckled. «And there I thought you weren't paying attention to me.»
«I was, I just didn't know any of your friends, and I didn't know anything about you. The real you.»
«How did you find the “real me”, then?»
Hephaistion felt himself blush, but he couldn't care less. «I... I kinda fell in love with the guy.»
«And you were talking about crappy declarations?» Alexander accused him. He started to tickle him, and they ended up rolling in the grass like overgrown puppies.
A few years later
«Playing video games with other people is starting to get boring, you know?» complained Alexander.
«Because people always let you win. You know, you being the creator of the best sellers of the last few years and all...» Hephaistion gave him a challenging look «But I won't.»
«You'll loose honestly, because I'm still better than you.»
«The hell you are!»
A cough interrupted their banter. It was coming from Mrs. Thais, their secretary. “And babysitter”, as she would usually add. «Now, gentlemen, if we could talk about these contracts with Nintendo, we might have an answer ready for them before tonight, and we'll all be able to leave the office before midnight.» she shot Alexander a dirty look, and he had at least the decency to look slightly guilty. He was usually the one who worked crazy hours, dragging everyone else with him.
Hephaistion adjusted his glasses over his nose and took the papers Thais was handing him. He usually didn't mind working late, but now he really wanted to get things done and get home as soon as possible. One of his hands went to his pocket, feeling the reassuring weight still there. When Alexander shot him a curious glance, he just shrugged and resumed reading.
When they got home it was earlier than most nights. The sun was already hidden behind the skyscrapers, but there was still a faint light and the sky was incredibly clear.
«So,» Alexander blurted as soon as they closed the door «are you going to tell me what's eating you? You've been weird for days.»
Hephaistion smiled. «Sit down.»
«Hey, now you're making me worried!»
«You've got nothing to worry about, Xandre.» he sat down next to him on the couch. His hands were shaking slightly as he took the little box out of his pocket, and opened it.
Alexander's eyes went wide, his expression almost comical and Hephaistion couldn't help but kissing him.
«That is,» he then said, taking the simple ring of white gold out of the box «unless marriage is something that worries you.»
«Shut up and just put that ring on me already, Phai.»