Rating: PG-13 for some blood.
Summary: Alexander has the attention span of a tsetse fly, and Hephaistion has the oratory skill of a giraffe.
AN: For musesfool who is having a rough morning and GODDAMMIT VIC NO MORE FANDOMS.
"Tell me the story."
Hephaistion looks up at Alexander's demand, not because he is entertaining the ridiculous idea of refusing Alexander, but because Alexander knows the story of Achilles just as well as he does. His mother had told it him countless times before Hephaistion ever met him, which was in part what had inspired him to use the teasing nickname a moment ago.
"You know it already," Hephaistion answers at last. When Alexander's gaze doesn't waver, Hephaistion gives a self-conscious roll of the shoulder and sighs, "He was the greatest warrior in Greece because his mother had dipped…"
"I know all that," Alexander waves Hephaistion's words away, already ruling conversations at eight years old, if nothing else yet, and Hephaistion bites down on an irritated retort, knowing it won't help. "I want to hear the story of Achilles and Patroclus."
Hephaistion stares back at Alexander for a surprised moment, all coltish limbs and hair glowing in the afternoon sunlight that pours over the Macedonian hills where they are sitting, and like the sun, Alexander's gaze is too bright for Hephaistion and he must look away to gather himself.
"They were great friends," he says at length.
Alexander is terrible listener, he has little patience for things that do not end with the both of them grass-stained and bruised, possibly bleeding on a good day, and even Hephaistion's stories are no exception.
Hephaistion has barely stumbled through a few sentences of what he knows about Patroclus before Alexander is leaping to his feet and dragging the taller boy up with him. Hephaistion goes willingly, glad to escape the net for the moment.
"Tell me the story," ten-year-old Alexander demands without warning while they are walking the horses they have just nearly exhausted by their racing to the river, and Hephaistion is caught flat-footed for a moment until Alexander reminds him of what story he means.
Hephaistion is a terrible story-teller, details and names escape him, and the Greek myths are no help with their winding knots of 'to tell this story I must tell the one before it, and the one before it, and the one before that'.
Even Achilles' bloodlust and glory can barely hold Alexander's attention for five minutes in Hephaistion's hands before Alexander tackles him down in the mud of the riverbank to wrestle.
"Tell me the story," thirteen-year-old Alexander rasps, forehead still burning with the fever that has kept him in bed for three days. The forehead is pillowed against Hephaistion's thigh, too warm even through the linen of his chiton, but Hephaistion does not ask him to move although summer in Macedonia can be less than pleasant.
Hephaistion no longer needs to ask which story, and is prepared this time. The new tutor has only been here a few weeks, and has not even made a dent in Alexander's reckless exuberance yet, but it's been more than enough time for Hephaistion to ask him aside and get the details of Patroclus' story straight.
"They were the best of friends," he starts again, and Alexander does not interrupt for an adventure this time because his disease has left him too weak to, but he fidgets with his bedclothes and shifts restlessly, and falls asleep by the time Hephaistion is halfway through, mouth wide open and each breath catching on the edge of a cough.
"Tell me the story," sixteen-year-old Alexander whispers, head cradled in Hephaistion's lap, with Thracian blood flaking off his hands with every movement. The fading light makes the blood look darker, less real, but the smell still fills the air, and they are not so far from camp that they can't hear groans every now and then.
Hephaistion starts up without a second thought, touching Alexander's hair softly, heedless of the blood on his own hands. The story seems to tell itself at first, they have done the beginning so many times, but now Alexander does not interrupt or fidget, even when Hephaistion reaches less familiar parts and his words stumble over each other.
When the words run out, Hephaistion blinks in surprise, hand stilling on Alexander's hair. They have never reached the end before.
"What happened then?" Alexander asks, fingers bunched in Hephaistion's blood-stained chiton, and Hephaistion pulls him in a little closer, ignoring the graze on his shoulder from the arrow that was meant for Alexander's throat.
"They were buried in the same urn, their ashes mingled."
Alexander is silent, so silent, until Hephaistion can't bear it anymore, and he pulls Alexander up and kisses him. They even taste like blood, Hephaistion from a split lip and Alexander from a gash across his cheek, and Hephaistion kisses him harder until he can taste Alexander underneath and Alexander is making soft noises against his mouth.
Alexander pushes him down suddenly, and Hephaistion gives a small 'oof' as the back of his head strikes the dirt. Leaning over him, Alexander looks like a stranger, hair dark with sweat and eyes like a spooked horse, and the cuts and bruises littering his body are nothing compared to the pain this causes Hephaistion.
He seizes Alexander around the waist and rolls them over, so that Alexander is sheltered firmly underneath his body.
"It is said," he murmurs, pinning Alexander with elbows on either side of his shoulders, "that Patroclus was the lover, and Achilles the beloved."
Alexander goes rigid for a moment, then blinks, and his eyes clear a little . Hephaistion kisses him again in relief, Alexander pressing tightly against his body, and does his best to make Alexander forget.
Afterwards, when Hephaistion has collapsed on Alexander's chest and is having his hair stroked for once, he wonders if perhaps this wasn't the best time for such rough wrestling. Quietly, he asks if Alexander is all right. The only sound is the breath leaving Alexander's chest for a few moments, before he laughs softly.
"Aristotle is always saying we should follow the ancient examples," he says, and Hephaistion laughs a little too despite the heaviness of his head and the ache of his shoulder.
Asking if Alexander intends to follow Achilles' example every time earns Hephaistion a thump between the shoulders and another kiss.