"We were initially born as one. At birth a lightning bolt struck us down the middle and split us apart. To the end of the world we were sent, only to find each other when the time was right."- Plato
"Friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies."- Aristotle
A full moon hung low in the sky at Mieza, coloring the landscape in its argent glow. The night was beautiful, one of the most beautiful and peaceful of Alexander's two years spent there under the tutoring of Aristotle. Yet on this night, beautiful and peaceful as it was, Alexander found sleep elusive.
It was, perhaps, the inherent splendor of the moonlit landscape outside that called him to wakefulness, but more likely it was the racing thoughts in his mind. Alexander, at fifteen years of age, found it difficult sometimes to keep his mind from racing, the innumerable possibilities of life burdening him with their ideas. Discussion with Aristotle, and even more with Hephaistion, made these thoughts even more difficult to suppress. Aristotle reminded him constantly of the possibilities of life while Hephaistion reminded him constantly of the possibilities of the true depth of friendship, caring, and even love.
Alexander let out a sigh, long and deep, recognizing the futility of trying to keep his thoughts quiet. Rather than soothe them, the magnificent glow of the moon through the curtains seemed to cultivate them, make them stronger and more profound.
Alexander stood up out of bed, wandering toward the window, the cold of the floor seeping into the skin on the bottom of his feet. Alexander didn't notice the cold of the floor, nor did he notice the cold of the winter air on his skin where he wore merely a chiton. He leaned his arms on the window sill, having to bend down a bit to do so, even with his short stature.
Alexander stared up at the moon, thinking perhaps it was the call of Artemis beckoning him. Or perhaps in his mother's Dionysian rituals, she was calling to him, trying to torture him even when he was away from Pella. He wouldn't put it past Olympias, for though she was the one who had borne him, Alexander knew his mother's true character; he made no illusions to himself about it. The letters he received from her at Mieza were proof enough of her intents.
Another sigh escaped Alexander's lips as Aristotle's words rung through his head like a gong. He thought of Hephaistion, of Aristotle's words, of his inability to reconcile it all into one clear, compact answer. Aristotle has said, 'Friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies.' The words had shaken Alexander; he knew that he felt Hephaistion to be the other half of his soul—yet was that not what love was as well?
But love of a man of one's own age—that was forbidden by all custom, both Macedonian and Greek. It would be acceptable then, as boys, but when they became men…what would one think if he, as the king to be, were to be the one to break this unspoken rule? Would he be forgiven by the men that had already begun to trust him—or would it be turned away by others as the simple folly of young boys? Alexander knew that it was not that; he knew that if he gave in to the thought that he was considering, he would never be able to give Hephaistion up, not even when their age made such things unacceptable.
But did he not think that his deep friendship with Hephaistion was enough? That was the thought that tortured him most; perhaps Hephaistion thought, too, that it was enough, and would turn away the suggestion. Hephaistion was well known for his Athenian properness—what some considered to be arrogance, even. Perhaps the mere idea would send Hephaistion away, and Alexander knew that he would surely not be able to survive that.
And yet—had it not been Hephaistion who had instigated most of their innocent touches? Had it not been Hephaistion who had often held his hand, put an arm around him? Perhaps Hephaistion would not be as adverse to such an idea as he would think. Alexander leaned more heavily onto the window frame, staring again at the landscape. Perhaps it was neither Artemis nor Dionysus who kept him awake that night; perhaps it was Aphrodite.
"Alexander, what are you doing?" came a groggy voice from the bed next to his own, and Alexander turned to spot Hephaistion propping his head slightly on his elbow to regard Alexander with tired eyes. The full moon outside cast a bright enough glow across the room that lamps were unnecessary to see.
"I couldn't sleep," Alexander replied simply, walking over to the edge of his friend's bed. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"Surely not, and you didn't. I awoke by myself," Hephaistion assured him. "What troubles your sleep, Alexander? Surely it's no noise; the house has been silent."
"No noise," Alexander confirmed. "I've been unable to quiet my thoughts."
"Is it those letters from your mother again? I know she troubles you with problems you shouldn't concern yourself with, and yet you do all the same."
Hephaistion shifted as Alexander came a bit closer, sitting on the edge of the bed. The blanket shifted a little, exposing more of his flesh to the cold. Hephaistion shivered, pulling the blanket up once again.
"It's not my mother," Alexander replied, noticing Hephaistion's shiver. "Are you cold, Hephaistion?"
Hephaistion almost laughed at the absurdity of Alexander's words. Alexander, who was always more concerned about the well-being of his friends than of his own. Alexander was concerned that Hephaistion may have been cold when he himself was standing barefoot and wearing merely a chiton, not a single blanket or coat around him.
"And what of you, Alexander?" Hephaistion pointed out. While Alexander had an immense amount of concern for his friends, so did Hephaistion for Alexander. "It's a wonder you haven't frozen standing out there such as you are."
It was the first time that Alexander had noticed the cold in the room and his state of dress. After it had been pointed out, Alexander began to feel the harsh cold on his skin finally, and he shivered a bit as well.
Hephaistion lifted the blanket in front of him in obvious invitation. Alexander stared for a moment before finally giving in and climbing into bed with Hephaistion, feeling his friend's arm winding around his body as he did so. The feel of Hephaistion's warm skin against his own was a shock to his flesh, though the warmth quickly began to spread to the rest of his body. He could easily curl his body into Hephaistion's larger frame, drawing off the other boy's warmth.
"It's rather fortunate that I woke when I did, Alexander. The cold would have surely killed you soon. Your body is as cold as stone."
Alexander laughed, letting the feeling of warmth and caring surround him, a feeling he always had at Hephaistion's touch. "I'm sure you'll save my life a thousand times over before our life's end," Alexander replied, noticing quite consciously just after that he had refereed to it as 'their life.' As if they were truly one—just as Aristotle had said.
"Well perhaps if you would pay a bit more attention to your body's needs, it wouldn't be required of me," Hephaistion pointed out with a small laugh of his own. He curled his legs around Alexander's letting his own warmth seep into Alexander's coldest part—his feet. The stone must have made them so.
"Truly, I didn't even notice the cold. It's just one more thing I can say I 'owe' to Leonidas, I suppose. And if I wasn't this way, it would prevent me from being able to show you how indebted to you I am—how much of my life I owe to you."
Hephaistion said nothing to the words; they did not startle or disturb him, but they meant so much. It seemed that anything he could say back to Alexander would devalue the words; he had not Alexander's capacity for expressing care. He simply buried his face in his friend's neck in unspoken assent to the words, a silent signal that it was clear Alexander understood. He felt acutely the cold of Hephaistion's nose upon his neck.
"You never told me what it was that was troubling you," Hephaistion pointed out instead. "Perhaps I could help.
Alexander sighed, shifting in Hephaistion's arms. "Do you remember what Aristotle told us today? About friendship?" he replied after a second, unable to deny Hephaistion anything that he wanted. Even if it meant that Alexander had to reveal something he'd rather keep to himself—some doubts he'd rather not voice.
"That true friends are one soul in two bodies?" Hephaistion answered after a second, obviously fighting to remember the words so late at night, when his mind was fatigued.
"Do you believe that, Hephaistion?"
Hephaistion sensed that there was something vitally important about the question that Alexander posed. He thought for a long moment about his answer, understanding perhaps better than anyone Alexander's need for reassurance. The love that he had neglected to receive as a child from his parents he searched so completely for from his friends; from Hephaistion and Ptolemy, from Philotas, Nearchos, and Lysimachus too. Alexander sought love from anyone who would give it; he craved it.
"I suppose with a true friend, it could be the truth," Hephaistion assented.
Alexander nodded; Hephaistion could feel the movement more than he could see it as Alexander's hair brushed against his cheek. He said nothing about it, though, just sat in silence for a moment. He started stroking lightly at the skin of Hephaistion's arm where it was curled around his body, but to Hephaistion it seemed that Alexander was unaware that he was even doing so.
Yet after a long second, the silence pregnant and hanging thickly through the room, Alexander spoke once again. "Do you remember what Aristotle has told us of his mentor, Plato? Do you remember all that Aristotle says Plato had taught him, despite their disagreements?"
It was Hephaistion's turn to nod, distracted just slightly by Alexander's continued soft stroking of his am. He was glad for an excuse not to pull it away. He knew that there was only a certain amount of time propriety could have allowed him to leave it there under the guise of providing warmth to his friend—yet with Alexander's touch keeping him there, how could he remove it? How could he deny Alexander anything?
"Yes, I recall. Aristotle has spoken of him often," Hephaistion answered quietly, unable to see where Alexander was going with his question. It was often difficult to keep track of Alexander's trains of thought, so complex beyond his years was he. "Why?"
Alexander stayed silent for another minute, Hephaistion feeling his breathing acutely beneath his encircling arm, could feel the slightly elevated breath that was the only evidence of disquiet from his friend. Their breaths rung loudly in Hephaistion's ears, his own breathing speeding up a bit in nervous anticipation of his friend's next words. Their breaths seemed one breath as Hephaistion waited for an answer.
"Would not Plato have said the same thing about love? That lovers are one soul in two bodies?"
Hephaistion's first instinct was to protest that there was no way either of them could know what Plato would have said, for he had died when they were still youths of nine; yet after a moment, the full scope of Alexander's words hit him, and he was taken aback by the implications in the phrase. Alexander's tension and nervousness was now fully understood. Hephaistion had no idea what to say.
He trailed off nervously. He felt Alexander tense in his arms, starting to struggle out of the grasp before he reached a bit further around Alexander's body, grabbing his hand gently to keep him steady. Alexander's movements stopped and he let Hephaistion turn him around so that they were facing each other on the bed.
Alexander and Hephaistion could barely see each other's eyes in the dim moonlight, but it was enough to see that the uneasiness was reflected in Alexander's grey and Hephaistion's blue. It was enough to see the way that Hephaistion was nervously nibbling at his lower lip in the most endearing of ways, seemingly contemplating his next words. It was also enough to see Alexander's obvious anticipation of those same words they both waited for.
"Alexander," Hephaistion said again, this time with so much love and longing that it was almost unbearable, that the word scratched his throat raw as he tried to utter it. Even Hephaistion was surprised by the blatant need reflected in his tone and the intensity he hadn't expected.
He had no words, nothing to reflect the sheer power of what he felt inside his chest in that moment. How could he tell Alexander of all that he felt—of the love that had been building for years, of the nervousness about how his friend would react? Of the constant need to be around Alexander and to protect him—a need so strong it was almost physically painful when they were apart? Could he tell his friend of the pain he felt when he thought of how Alexander would one day be king, would one day reign over Macedon and have to take a wife, produce a heir?
But he couldn't—the words deserted him before they even reached his lips. It seemed almost evil to tarnish such a moment with words. Instead, he reached across the distance between them, placing his hand on Alexander's cheek. He continued looking deeply, penetratingly into Alexander's eyes, hoping that even in the dimness of the room he could express all of what he was feeling. He hoped that Alexander would understand, would accept. He hoped that Alexander's words had meant what he had hoped them to mean.
Alexander kept his gaze for a moment before finally letting his eyes fall closed, leaning into the gentle touch on his cheek. He reached up, placing his hand over Hephaistion's and holding it to him, as if unable to let the touch go. He, too, wanted to savor the moment.
Hephaistion stared questioningly at Alexander, unaware of what he should do next. Alexander's eyes were still closed, his delicately long lashes brushing against his cheek as a whisper of touch on unmapped skin. When Alexander's eyes opened again, Hephaistion was astounded to see the purity of the love and longing in those swirling grey depths, a feeling such an acute echo of what he felt within his own breast.
Yet Alexander stayed silent and motionless, almost submissive in a way that Hephaistion never could have imagined from the brave young boy. It seemed that here was the place where his confidence didn't as far extend, but his trust did. It seemed that the son of the great Philip of Macedon, a conqueror, a fighter subduing all enemy forces; and Alexander, a warrior in his own right already…it seemed that here, Hephaistion had to be the conqueror. It brought a smile to his face at the thought of how deeply Alexander's trust in him had to extend, knowing that Alexander would never trust himself this way with someone else.
Hephaistion finally closed the distance between them, catching Alexander's lips with his own. He was tentative at first—they both were—as he placed the lightest of kisses upon Alexander's mouth, lips so soft and pliant beneath his own. Alexander did not resist, and his body did not tense, but Hephaistion still pulled away just far enough to see into Alexander's eyes, asking silently if his actions were all right. Alexander's reaction was more powerful than he had expected, his gaze nearly begging Hephaistion to repeat the motion, to not let their bodies part again.
Hephaistion obeyed the silent command without hesitation as he closed the space between them again, this time having no hesitance as he brought their lips together. Alexander, too, welcomed the kiss and drew Hephaistion closer with a touch, Hephaistion complying without so much as the tiniest protest. Both their bodies were trembling, whether with remaining nervousness or fear of the unknown—or uncharted territory—was uncertain.
Their kisses continued, some deep and slow, expressing every feeling of love but also of anxiety. Some were harsh and demanding, as if they wanted to swallow each other whole and truly let their souls, as well as their bodies, become one as they were meant to be. Yet they worked in perfect harmony, as if the two were truly meant to be together—the harsh and the slow—making up the perfect companionship that was Alexander and Hephaistion.
Slowly, and by some means that neither of them could fathom, Hephaistion came to be atop Alexander. They melded together with their kisses, their bodies pressing as tightly to each other as they could manage. This being the case, both became almost immediately aware of the reactions of each other's bodies to the proximity.
Hephaistion, now overcome by his own uncertainty, pulled away and looked down at Alexander in question, though he was comforted, in part, that Alexander's body had the same reaction as his own. But Alexander's gaze held that same pleading edge; that same raw, needy expression that Hephaistion couldn't bring himself to deny. It would break his heart to do so.
Hephaistion did not catch Alexander's lips in another kiss, but instead let his hand find its way to the inside of Alexander's thigh, his gaze still questioning, searching. Alexander arched into the touch, his breath speeding up a bit in assent to Hephaistion's act. Encouraged, Hephaistion let his hand wander further, under Alexander's chiton to be met with the hot, hardened area of his loins.
The heat, the sensation was indescribable for Alexander as Hephaistion's hand moved beneath his chiton. He groaned and gasped, hands grasping at the back of Hephaistion's own clothing desperately, fingers scrambling for some anchor as Hephaistion's hand curled around his hardened flesh. Hephaistion, overwhelmed too by Alexander's reaction, moved forward to lean his forehead down upon Alexander's own, letting their breaths mingle between their parted lips.
"Alexander," Hephaistion gasped out, forming the first words for what seemed to have been nearly a lifetime to them. His hand continued its work, the air of the room thick with an intensity neither of them had ever felt before. "I love you."
Hephaistion's hand continued its movements as Alexander arched back into him. "Ah…gods Hephaistion! I could love no other as I love you."
Alexander's hands began to wander as well, his eyes misty at Hephaistion's words. Trying to ignore his own nervousness, he trailed his hand around Hephaistion's body and under his chiton as well, mimicking Hephaistion's own actions. The two moved in unison, as reflections of each other, with gasps and moans and tiny confessions of love intermingling between them, such that neither was sure from whose lips such declarations had been spoken.
It was then, almost simultaneously, that they both let out a loud moan, the most pleasurable of sensations assaulting both of them. Hephaistion collapsed, spent, atop Alexander, resting his head on the other boy's chest. Their breathing was harsh, labored, but still shared as one in their euphoric bliss.
Alexander's arms wove around Hephaistion's body as he lay a light kiss upon the crown his new lover's head. "I'll never be able to give this up, Hephaistion," Alexander whispered quietly in the other boy's ear. "No matter how long we live or how many royal duties I'll have, I won't be able to ever let you go."
Alexander could feel wetness soaking his chiton just where Hephaistion's head lay, and he knew that his words had brought tears to Hephaistion's eyes, and caused them even to fall. "I hope you never do," Hephaistion whispered back after a moment, his hand coming up to rest flat atop Alexander's chest, where his heart beat strongly. "I hope that I stay right here, next to your heart, forever."
Alexander placed a finger beneath Hephaistion's chin, lifting it up so that he could look into Hephaistion's eyes once again. He could see the tear-tracks on Hephaistion's face, could feel similar tears forming in his own eyes. Hephaistion looked more beautiful than Alexander had ever seen, his heart and soul exposed for Alexander to see. Alexander felt tremendously fortunate that his friend had grown to trust him so much.
"You'll stay not beside my heart, Hephaistion, but inside it, forever. You are the other half of my soul, Hephaistion. I truly believe that," Alexander promised, a solid pledge he vowed to himself that he would keep until death. He pulled Hephaistion toward him and kissed him again, slowly and tenderly, trying to truly seal the promise with both of their lips.
And under Artemis' moon that night, the two lovers made a vow, solemn for all the years of their lives. Under the glowing full moon, Alexander made his vow to keep his one, truest love in his heart forever. A vow in the hearts of two teenage boys became a vow in the hearts of two men, which neither wives nor war, nor even death could break. That night their sleep was peaceful, troubled not by the wars they knew to be coming or the hardships they knew they would face. That night, Alexander slept serenely, not as heir to the Macedonian throne, but merely as Alexander, the boy, the lover, and the other half of Hephaistion Amyntor's soul.Back