The taller boy looked over immediately, his mouth full of apple. Since his mouth was too full to ask, his eyes opened wide in a question. But Alexander was looking away from him; over the hills again. Hephaestion studied his stern profile a moment, before turning to look at the same hills. As far as he could tell, they were simply medium-sized, normal hills, with the green grass that came in early spring. Alexander saw something else, though; he could see it in that clear blue eye. It might bother Hephaestion, but it didn't surprise him. Alexander always saw things he couldn't. Things nobody could.
Well, that was what gods did.
Mouth finally empty, Hephaestion asked, "Yes, Alexander?" He put a smile in his voice and when Alexander looked around at him, the smile appeared on his face as well.
Alexander flopped back against the tree, just another boy again. He sighed and plucked the apple from Hephaestion's hand, taking a bite big enough to sustain both him and his dreams. "I was just wondering if you knew what king ruled beyond those hills."
Hephaestion glanced down at his companion, eyebrows raised. "I should hope you know what king rules. It's one you are rather familiar with."
Alexander rolled his eyes; a new habit. These months away from his mother had changed him more than some realized. Olympias thought that her influence could go on forever, but Hephaestion wondered. "Don't be foolish. I meant before my father conquered them."
Hephaestion shrugged. "What does it matter? He rules now."
Leaning forward again, Alexander shook his head. "One day, when this is mine, that ruler will want his land back. I know I would. I should know him before that time." He turned and smiled at Hephaestion, tossing back the apple.
The apple was only half gone, but Hephaestion wasn't hungry anymore. He turned it over in his hands instead, noting where the bites changed shape and size. Alexanders' was the bigger, though to look at them, one would think Hephaestion older and stronger. Well, perhaps from a distance. Close in, things changed.
"What's wrong?" Hephaestion, startled, glanced up to see Alexander frowning at him. He hadn't been aware that Alexander was still watching.
"Nothing," Hephaestion smiled, laughing a little.
Alexander leaned forward onto his hands in front of him, looking earnestly into his eyes. "If you are to be my Patrokles," he shook his head, "you must not hide things from me. Friends do not."
If you knew the things I hid from you, Hephaestion thought, but he could risk this one small thought. "It's only that I cannot see the things which are so clear to you. And I fear being left behind when you pursue them." His hand was no longer steady, so he rested the apple on his lap. Whether or not he had Achilles' love, Patrokles was strong.
Before Hephaestion realized it, Alexander had taken Hephaestion's head in his hand and pressed a firm kiss to his forehead. He felt his hair slide through Alexander's fingers as the boy released him and sat back on his haunches. Looking once again into his eyes, he said, "I would never leave you. I know who you are, and I want you beside me. Don't doubt me."
With things settled, Alexander was once again happy and settled between the tree and Hephaestion's side, returning to his contemplation of things necessary to only him.
Hephaestion, returned to his own thoughts, still didn't understand why Alexander wanted him by his side. But then again, Alexander always saw things he couldn't.