The sun is heavy on their heads and Hephaistion feels the heat settle into him, making him slow. Even Aristotle is dimmed; only Alexander is as vivid as ever. He is kneeling in the grass, his eyes bright and his hands waving as if to draw a map in the air. Hephaistion watches him with silent emotion.
Aristotle ends the lesson earlier than usual; a drowsy class will not learn. Alexander leaps up, as lively as a young deer, and is off into the woods, calling over his shoulder:
"Come on, Hephaistion!"
Hephaistion jumps up, throwing off his sleepiness as one would a cloak. He follows Alexander as he would follow a god, if so commanded.
They are lying on Alexander's bed, so close that their sides are pressed together from knee to shoulder. Hephaistion's arm is pinned beneath Alexander's body while Alexander holds a scroll open above their heads. Hephaistion's eyes are fixed on Alexander's face: his full lips are moving soundlessly.
"...so let one urn, the golden vase your lady Mother gave you, hold our bones."
Hephaistion knows what he is saying even though it is not spoken aloud and he sits up. Leaning over, he puts his lips to Alexander's forehead, his cheeks, his nose. Alexander laughs, his attention to the scroll broken and he catches Hephaistion by the nape and touches his mouth to his. It is light, tender and everything Hephaistion has ever known he would receive from Alexander. He pulls away quickly and excuses himself to his own bed, trying to ignore Alexander's puzzled hurt.
The heat of the night makes it impossible to sleep and Hephaistion tosses and turns, kicking his sweaty sheets halfway down his legs. He has dreamt of Alexander two nights running and woken only moments before Alexander did.
Alexander's innocent touches are turned to lewdness by Hephaistion's imagination. Aristotle would disapprove and while that would be but little in the face of Alexander's desire, without it Hephaistion would prefer to be chaste.
You are young, he tells himself. This, too, will pass.
That it hasn't yet is only a testament to Alexander's love: always giving, but demanding everything of Hephaistion in return. This night, he fears that this desire will not pass away and that he will never possess his own soul again. He fears he no longer cares.
"Come and see her," he urges in low tones, and Hephaistion crawls over to look at the pregnant vixen. The languor of the day encourages want, but Alexander pulls him close and who can stand against him?
He can feel Alexander's breath against his throat and shivers. He turns to whisper something – he doesn't know what – but the expression on Alexander's face shakes him; he has seen it sometimes in bowls of water, in polished bronze and shining silver, distorted but still recognisable.
When Alexander kisses him, Hephaistion knows he is drowning in molten gold, but it doesn't seem to matter much; and besides, he is happy.