Hephaistion wasn’t worried, at first. What cause was there to worry? Certainly, the boy was beautiful; he’d have to be, to hold Darius’s attention for so long. But beauty was a dull-edged weapon and the wounds it left never deep; not on Alexander.
He wasn’t worried when the boy slowly worked his way into Alexander’s hemisphere; into his tent, routines, protection. His bed, eventually; even that no cause for concern. Such things passed fast, for Alexander.
But Alexander, the morning after, looked not mournful as usual, but content, almost happy. Hephaistion knew it then: the first, bitter sting of worry.
A time or two, Hephaistion, on his way to Alexander’s tent, would encounter the boy at the entrance, leaving. He’d move out of Hephaistion’s way, his fine-boned face a blank mask of respect, but with no trace of guilt.
Hephaistion did not blame him, truly. The sun shone on them both; there was no guilt in that.
Behind them, Gadrosia: the blazing desert with the iron shore, bodies strewn along it like notches in a sword. Hephaistion felt the boy’s gaze on him, exhausted and wary. Hephaistion did not look at him, did not answer the question he sensed written there.
For his sake, not for yours.
In his tent that night, Hephaistion fell asleep instantly and woke much later, in the gathering wind. Someone had come inside; reaching for his sword, he found his wrist stalled in a familiar grip, and relaxed.
Warm breath against his lips, a whisper. “Thank you.”
Hephaistion drank the kiss like water.
He had not, as a rule, been present when Bagoas danced, although he’d heard that he was good. Watching now, he was impressed despite himself, holding his breath as the lithe body spun and flowed like rippling water. The men’s roars proclaimed the boy the winner, though he looked surprised. Alexander kissed him, solemn and sweet, before them all, and Hephaistion leaned into the familiar comfort of the pain.