Rating/Warning: PG-13 for some frustrated metaphors.
Summary: Alexander has no idea how much Hephaistion wishes he were there instead of his letters.
AN: I think we all know exactly whose fault this is.
Prose and Khans
"Correspondence for the day, Lord."
Hephaistion looked up at the announcement of the slave Xanthius, glad to set down his stylus and flex his aching fingers. Being head of the cavalry was all well and good, but there was a daunting amount of paperwork involved, and the usual scribe had contracted some local fever and had yet to be replaced.
"The reports from Alexandria," Xanthius approached the desk and began to sit fat scrolls down in front of Hephaistion, "from Tyre, from Alexandria, from Sidon, from Alexandria… Alexandria, Alexandria, Alexandria…"
As the scrolls stacked up in front of him, Hephaistion rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand and swore that Alexander was absolutely forbidden to name any more cities.
"Oh, and one from the Lord Alexander himself."
"I'll take that!" Hephaistion said quickly, reaching out for it, but Xanthius held it just out of reach.
"It is my job to read your correspondence to you, Lord," he said dryly.
"Now, Xanthius," Hephaistion commanded, holding out his hand. The slave slapped the scroll into his palm with a small 'hmph'. "And don't you take that tone with me, after the contents of his Lordship's last letter passed through the camp faster than that lamb from falafel night."
"I hope his Lordship is not implying that my services have been imparted with anything less than the highest discretion," Xanthius said stiffly, frowning.
"I am implying that it will be a frosty day on the Elysian Plains before you read any more of my personal correspondence."
"Go away, Xanthius," Hephaistion ordered, not bothering to watch as the affronted slave stormed from the room. Hephaistion would have had him replaced, but he was the third one this campaign already, and it took longer to learn their names than it took for them to get into trouble.
He looked at the scroll in his hand, then at the scrolls on the desk, trying to decide whether it was better to get the disaster over with now, or whether he should try to get the work done in case he had to tend to a headache afterwards.
Work first, he decided, setting Alexander's scroll as far off to the side as possible.
When the last report had been dealt with, Hephaistion snatched up Alexander's scroll and headed for his sleeping quarters, yelling behind him that he was not to be disturbed. A wave of titters rose in his wake from slaves and workmen wearing knowing expressions, but sadly what they thought would be happening would almost certainly not be happening.
He did strip off his outer cloak and formal wear, but that was because it was hot and scratchy, and he did sprawl out on the bed, but that was because he might as well be comfortable for the trial to come. Bracing himself, Hephaistion unrolled the scroll.
Dearest Hephaistion—Days without you are Sisyphisian trials, and the nights are darker than the soft tendrils of your hair…
And it was all downhill from there. Hephaistion moaned a little. It wasn't as though it wasn't sweet that Alexander wrote him such letters, and Hephaistion did miss him with an equally sharp ache during the long weeks of these cursed campaigns, but honestly, Hephaistion wondered exactly how Alexander managed to find time to command his armies in between spouting off foot after foot of effusive prose.
Several feet into the scroll, Hephaistion's eyes were beginning to blur from squinting at the tightly-packed lines, and he had just closed them and laid his head back for a moment when there was some sort of ruckus in the hallway outside Hephaistion's room. Suddenly the door banged open and slammed shut again.
"Is this the greeting that awaits me?!"
Hephaistion thought about flinging the scroll at Alexander's head, but could barely muster up the energy to open his eyes.
"I'm laying in bed, half-dressed, reading one of your letters," he said, a small smile on his lips despite it all, because here at last was his Alexander standing before him, tan from battle and hair in disarray from travel. "What more could you ask?"
"I might ask about this letter I've received!" Alexander shouted, and Hephaistion winced when he saw the scroll clutched in Alexander's hand.
Damn. Hephaistion had been hoping that particular letter would miss Alexander on the road, and when it arrived he could demand that Alexander let him read it in his own voice, and tactfully say none of the words that actually appeared on the scroll. And then he could burn it. A lot.
"I sent that in a fit of temper," Hephaistion admitted. He never should have sent it, either, but where he came from there were consequences when a man's nickname became 'glistening horseflank' throughout the camp for two weeks.
"Yes, well now you're getting it back in one as well!" Alexander snapped, yanking his cloak off and tossing it to the ground. "I can't believe the things you wrote! How dare you call me such names!"
"How dare I?" Hephaistion sat up on one elbow and glared right back. "After all the things you called me in your letters?"
"They were terms of endearment!" Alexander spat as he ripped off the rest of his soiled travel garments. "And I do not gush like a recently deflowered Corinthian slave girl!"
Hephaistion couldn't stop the bark of laughter, then threw up his hands to protect his face when Alexander hurled the scroll at him. When he lowered his hands, Alexander was still standing in the middle of the room, with his hands dangling helplessly at his sides.
"Are you so tired of me, then?" he asked, staring at the floor. "Shall I just go back to my armies? I won't bother taking any ink or papyrus with me if my letters bring you such displeasure, it'll make my bags considerably lighter."
Damn. Hephaistion scrubbed his face with his hands and sat up, throwing his legs over the side of the bed.
"Get over here," he ordered, and when Alexander didn't move, "come here."
The conqueror of the known world shuffled over like a petulant child. Hephaistion took his hand to pull him closer until Alexander stood between his legs. Pulling one of the linen sheets off the bed, Hephaistion dipped the corner into the jug of water that sat on the nearby table and began wiping the dust off Alexander's face. Alexander's shoulders relaxed the smallest bit.
"I should not have said those things," Hephaistion said in a low voice, smoothing back Alexander's hair with the hand that was not holding the sheet. "I was tired and frustrated when I wrote that. It is very tiring being the other Alexander." That at least won him a wan smile. "It has been a very long season for me. Too long."
"Even you, Hephaistion?" Alexander murmured, smile fading. "Do you advise me to return home as well? Everyone else does."
"My home is where you are." Hephaistion finished with Alexander's face and began rubbing down his arms, folding the sheet over to a clean part of the fabric. "Where I see your face every day instead of your letters. It is true that I hate them, but only because they are such a poor replacement."
Among other things, Hephaistion thought, but unlike Alexander, he knew when enough had been said. Wiping the last of the dirt from Alexander's hands, Hephaistion tossed the sheet to the floor.
"Then you have missed me?" Alexander asked, raising hopeful eyes from the floor at last.
"Idiot," Hephaistion chastised, tugging Alexander down to him as he edged back further onto the bed. Alexander climbed up willingly and stretched out beside him, burying his face in Hephaistion's shoulder. Hephaistion stroked the tense muscles of his back until they began to unknot, and Alexander raised his head just enough to kiss Hephaistion's jaw. Hephaistion turned his head into the kiss hungrily.
The first brush of Alexander's lips against his was like the glow of the sun on Orpheus' face after the gloom of the underworld, and even as he thought it Hephaistion was forced to forgive Alexander some of his ridiculous metaphors.
"Mmph, wait, what's this?" Alexander broke the kiss and squirmed around a little in a manner that Hephaistion found highly pleasing. When Alexander wedged a hand under his back and rifled the sheets, the scroll of his own letter, forgotten during the argument, came to light. "Oh."
"Yes, oh." Hephaistion reached for the scroll, but Alexander brushed his hands off and unrolled it. He grimaced after rereading the first few lines.
"This is awful, isn't it?" he asked, lips twitching. " 'The undulating oceanic depths of your eyes', what was I thinking?"
"Perhaps that you missed me. My personal favorite was 'the way your thighs quiver like a snared hare'." Hephaistion reached over to tap the scroll over the appropriate passage, and Alexander chuckled.
"It is no less true for being badly stated," he said, kissing the corner of Hephaistion's mouth. "But now, this one here…"
And by the time dawn found them curled up tightly against each other, sides sore from laughing, Hephaistion had to admit that it all sounded much better coming from Alexander's lips.