A snippet written for the Wedding Night Challenge at the Mary Renault Live Journal community, a bit of A/U teasing only fit for those who won't revolt at the idea of Hephaistion/Bagoas.

Alexander has married Roxane, and Bagoas has parted from Ismenios and lost himself in the crowd, until now.


Under the Cold Stars
by Laura Mason

"Whoever it was, you reek of him." The too-familiar voice came from the shadows beside the privy. "What would the King say?

"Does it seem to you, Macedonian, that either of us will be invited to attend him in the bridal chamber?" Bagoas entered to take care of his business, not caring if Hephaistion followed him or not.

"You're drunk. Did someone take advantage of you? I'll kill them myself..." Hephaistion stood in the doorway, watching Bagoas' somewhat unsteady progress. He'd taken too much of the strong wine, but he wouldn't admit any weakness before this man. Hephaistion might also be pained this night, but he did not fear being set aside, reduced to a mere servant and camp-follower.

"Oh, forgive me, my lord." It felt wonderful to use that title with all the contempt he could muster. "Of course I must be intoxicated if I, a lowly eunuch, speak as though I were still a man."

"And now self-pity. When does the crying jag begin? I only ask so I can be well away from you by then."

Oddly enough, Bagoas did feel like crying, but he had enough pride to save his tears for the privacy of his bed. The ordeal of pain brought on by Ismenios' unquenchable lust had left him raw.

"I would not care if you rode west this moment, my lord, and never turned back. Wouldn't that assure sufficient distance from me?" Bagoas tried to shove past Hephaistion as he spoke, but large, strong hands grasped his shoulders and held him still.

"I could kill you," Hephaistion whispered close to his ear. "You won't be missed for days, and even if someone saw us together in all this madness, no one would speak against me for your sake." He shook Bagoas as he spoke, then slammed him into the wooden wall. "If I'd caught you betraying him on any other night, Persian, I would have killed you."

Hephaistion released him then and turned away, adjusting his cloak, and began to walk back toward the celebration.

"If I have been untrue then you should kill me. Do you think I want to live?"

His words caused Hephaistion to turn back. "Do you think he's stopped loving you? All this time, and you still do not know him."

"He never turns away love," Bagoas whispered. "But you know as well as I that it isn't always enough. I want more..."

The moonlight showed his mouth tightening with anger. "It should be sufficient."

"Perhaps it is for you, my lord Hephaistion. But is it because you are more noble than a dancing boy -- or because you have always been first with your Hercules?"

Bagoas turned away and began walking into the darkness, not caring if the man followed him. But he did, so he was there when Bagoas tripped and fell to the ground. He stayed on his belly, humiliated his enemy had seen him so clumsy. It was ridiculous, yet it burned in his heart with the other pain there.

Hephaistion tried to help him rise, but Bagoas pulled away, hissing, "Leave me! With all you have, knowing all I have lost, how dare you condemn me for greed?"

Those much-hated hands grasped him more gently, then, holding him steady, while one heavy paw touched his neck, stroking the damp hair away where it stuck to his face. Hephaistion forced Bagoas to turn back and look up at him.

"I won't judge you, then. I do understand. But tomorrow you'll hate me again, and spurn any kindness as pity, won't you?"

Bagoas laughed bitterly, nodding in agreement. "As I always have."

"It isn't pity for you, it's love of him. I see how you care for him and ... bring him ease. I cannot despise what he loves, even knowing how unworthy -- we all are, compared to him. She will bear him heirs. More people to give him love." That hand was still finger-combing Bagoas' hair, and he shivered but did not pull away.

"He could have any woman for breeding, but he wants her -- enough to ignore all that is inferior."

"He has never felt passion without affection," Hephaistion said, his voice thick with memory.

Bagoas looked away, wishing he could run away. But there was no home, no place -- he had nothing. "My service is all I can offer him. I know he has given me much more."

"The horses? Your fine clothing?" Hephaistion looked straight into his eyes. "No, you could live without those things. And you hold your life cheap."

"He allows me near him. Sometimes, he shares his thoughts with me."

Hephaistion was staring at him, his eyes fixed on Bagoas' lips. They'd both been drinking too much this night. "Sometimes," he repeated.

"I know he shares everything with you, my lord," Bagoas said, pulling away at last. "You needn't gloat, I feel your victory every moment."

"It's not a battle between us, boy. Alexander is the conqueror. No matter what you've done this evening, he owns you, body and soul." Hephaistion moved closer. "If he did not own us both, this conversation would be over now. Instead of all this talk, I'd be riding you for the rest of this damned, interminable night."

The storm of emotions in his face, the shaking of his arms -- Bagoas had never before seen beauty in Hephaistion, though he'd catalogued his features many jealous nights. Now Bagoas felt his power, so like that vitality which flowed through Alexander. It was muted but recognizable, and it was enough to open his eyes at last.

With no clear thought, Bagoas reached up and locked his mouth on Hephaistion's, a wild, cruel mashing of lips completely unlike the kisses he shared with Alexander. He expected to be pushed away, even struck -- Instead, Hephaistion opened his mouth and took control of the kiss, devouring him in turn, arms locking around Bagoas bruisingly.

He never knew how much time passed before they pulled apart, gasping for breath. The lights of the many fires were far away, but they were still within earshot of the revelers, close enough to smell the privies -- too close to camp for what they'd just done. It had been a madness, and they stared at each other in shock and dismay. Then Hephaistion shook his head.

"I will not do this."

"No, we will not," Bagoas agreed. "Not even the finest of men can turn my heart from my lord Alexander."

"It would not be possible." Hephaistion smiled, fond but patronizing. "Despite your many experiences, Bagoas, I don't believe you've been with any truly fine men save our King."

"I never had until this night, my lord Hephaistion." Their eyes were locked together, and Bagoas knew he'd been understood even before that big hand once again touched his face.

"I would have you know, I was not seeking a substitute, or some kind of revenge. I think... I have always wanted to understand him."

"And you did not."

"No, but now I do." He leaned forward, as if for another kiss, then stopped and looked around. The sky was growing light. "The camp is too wild tonight for you to be walking alone. May I escort you to your tent, Bagoas?"

He nodded, and couldn't help the smile on his face when Hephaistion placed an arm around his shoulder as they walked back under the dawn sky. When they reached the light from the fires, they separated, but Hephaistion remained protectively close by his side. Thus, as they passed the feasting pavilion, where a woman was flapping the stained bridal sheet, it was easy for their hands to meet and press together tightly.

No one noticed; all were engrossed in the celebration. And neither of them realized how crushingly they gripped the other, for the ache in their hearts overwhelmed any physical pain.



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