Author's Note: I'm assuming that the readers have at least a rudimentary understanding of Alexander's life, but if not, Bagoas, the narrator, was a Persian eunuch who was rumored to have been a lover of Alexander. Hephaistion was one of Alexander's generals, who was also rumored to have been his lover. Roxane, Statira, and Parysatis were Alexander's three wives.
Alexander is one of the greatest of men. But even the greatest of men have their weaknesses. Alexander's was named Hephaistion.
That was something that took me years to accept. I had hated Hephaistion since the first time I had seen his nonchalant touches to my lord's back, the tender gazes across rooms that spoke of the greatest love, the smiles between them which none of us could interpret, in some secret melding of minds only Achilles and Patroclus could understand.
I wanted to kill Hephaistion, once. More than once, truly, if I were to admit it, but there was only once that I actually planned it out. I planned to get the poison and kill him secretly, for Alexander to be mine and only mine. Persians knew the eloquence with which to do such things, unlike the Macedonians.
But staring across the room at Alexander, sprawled over the corpse of the man he loved, I felt myself glad that I had not implemented my plan. I had thought that with Hephaistion out of the way, I would truly have Alexander all to myself. Now I saw the truth; with Hephaistion out of the way, there was no Alexander left for me to have.
I had heard tales of the absurdity Alexander had said of Hephaistion to the Queen Mother when I was still at Darius' court, yet I had never understood his words until I had heard the agonized wails from Alexander's mouth at first sight of his Patroclus' motionless body. I had never understood 'till I had found Alexander shearing off his hair, as Achilles to his dead lover.
Hephaistion, too, was Alexander. Hephaistion was now dead; so Alexander was as well.
Alexander ignored the pleas of his friends to let Hephaistion's body be tended to, ignored their pleas to take care of himself. I knew better than to plead, for there was nothing left inside to hear my pleas. Alexander was as dead as Hephaistion was, lying stiffly in his lover's arms.
I had recognized Hephaistion's importance to Alexander at the death of Bucephalus, called him to Alexander even. I had understood that there were certain parts of Alexander that I could never understand, and that Hephaistion, a friend of two decades, could understand better. But never had I understood this—no, never this.
The grief in the room was palpable, so real it could almost be touched. Alexander's wails of grief had long since quieted, but the near-silent sobs were much more agonizing. The madness that had caused him to order the execution of Hephaistion's doctor had remained, and I knew with a certainty that it would remain still until Achilles departed to join his beloved Patroclus.
I knew not if Alexander would ever take food or water again, or if he would just let himself rot here with Hephaistion's body. I suspected that that was not what Hephaistion would have wanted, though through the madness, I was unsure if Alexander recognized it was well. He was still unwilling to believe, unwilling to accept. I was sure he'd have a dozen doctors executed before he realized that nothing would bring his beloved Patroclus back.
I wished, almost, that I could have died in Hephaistion's place. Anything to have Alexander be happy again—anything for my lord. But what part of him was left to be happy? Hephaistion had taken nearly all of Alexander's soul with him when he had died; the last remaining parts lay there sobbing over Hephaistion's body. Even the part of his soul that had not been taken by Hephaistion still grieved for him. His whole soul belonged to Hephaistion.
And as his soul had already died, I knew his body would soon follow. This brought me grief but also acceptance of the fact that should have been so clear before now. I knew I should be thankful that Alexander refused to let Hephaistion's burial rights begin. Because once his beloved's remains were put to rest, I knew that Alexander would have nothing left to live for, and would surely follow his Hephaistion into oblivion.
I could hate Hephaistion no longer; only could I hate myself for not recognizing what lay in front of me sooner. I had been selfish.
Alexander had said that he loved me, and I believed him still. He loved me, his men, his kingdom, Roxane, and perhaps even Statira and Parysatis as well. He loved Sisygambis as a mother, and perhaps even his own mother, as mad as she was. But never as he loved Hephaistion—no, never like Hephaistion.
I always wanted Alexander to say he loved me best of all. Now, I am glad that I didn't ask, for the answer would not have pleased me. It was clear now that Alexander did not love me best of all—had never loved me so, and never could have. Even in death, it was Hephaistion who the great Alexander loved best of all, as Achilles to Patroclus. It was always Hephaistion.