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Under the Same Sun

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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.


For all they served the same man with equal single-minded purpose, they did not often meet. Hephaistion would see the boy sometimes, kneeling gracefully in a corner as he waited on Alexander. He never made himself awkward or obvious; he did not intrude.

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.


Hephaistion walked slowly, conserving his strength. Beside him, the boy lolled on the horse, clutching the water skin. Hephaistion’s hand on his leg was as much to steady him as to keep himself upright; though quenched, his own thirst had not yet moved into memory, and his limbs were leaden.

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.


He handed the boy off to Alexander’s servants, then went about his business. There were orders to give, losses to be tallied. He steeled his aching limbs and did not think beyond the moment. Some of the men died, despite his best efforts, from drinking too much too fast.

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.


At last, there came the time for games, to culminate in dancing. Hephaistion had known Bagoas would perform; the men had been looking forward to it with ribald but good-natured jests.

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.