To the Ends of the Earth

Author's Note: Werewolf!AU - and I don't even like werewolf stories as a general rule because of the power imbalance and consent issues. Oops? But I just fell in love with Lucas and Noah, the two main characters in McKenna's first Tameness of the Wolf marine!werewolves book. And then she goes and says this, so I really had no choice:

Then everything slotted into place. Two great male warriors believed to be lovers. Lucas' eyes widened in surprise. "Alexander the Great and Hephaestion?"
"Yes," Noah sighed, his defeated expression easing slightly. "The greatest military general and tactician who ever lived and his werewolf Mate."

- "Strength of the Pack", by Kendall McKenna

Table of Contents:
1. Pella
2. Mieza
3. Chaeronea
4. Troy
5. Persepolis
6. Maracanda
7. Gedrosia
8. Ecbatana
9. Epilogue: Babylon

End Notes

1. Pella

There was no reason Hephaestion should have stood out to Alexander - he was only one of a number of young men, some barely more than boys, sent to the palace to serve as companions to the crown prince. He was not even the only werewolf amongst them.

Alexander had grown up around shifters - they formed an important part of Philip's army, Parmenion being leading Alpha of the Companion pack as well as one of Philip's most senior generals. He knew from a young age that one day he would need to command their respect the same way his father did, or else his army would fall apart and his kingdom right along with it. Not that spending time with the Weres in the palace guard was a hardship - many of them had been around since Alexander's birth, and he'd played with their wolves since he was a little boy.

Compared to these warriors Hephaestion's wolf was nothing impressive, just an average-sized tawny-haired youngling, albeit one with rather piercing blue eyes. Still, the first time Alexander laid eyes on Hephaestion, he could feel something inside of him change. It was nothing he could lay a finger on, but it made him pay attention when they were introduced.

Hephaestion's shy smile felt like the beginning of something, a feeling that intensified when they were paired in the gymnasium and Hephaestion sparred with Alexander barely holding back his already superior strength. Not many people did that, and Alexander appreciated it - there would be shifters on the battlefield, and they certainly would not hold back just because Alexander was the crown prince. So when Hephaestion offered to show him some ways a human could fight Weres with their superior strength and speed, Alexander instantly accepted. Not even Cleitus had done this, maybe because he still saw Alexander as a child that needed protecting.

They were almost the same age, Hephaestion 14 to Alexander's 13 years, which was younger than most of the other companions Philip had selected for his son in order to remove him further from Olympias' influence. Soon the two boys were inseparable, Hephaestion seemingly immune to mutterings from both humans and shifters about 'Alexander's puppy'.

"Who cares what they say, Alexander," he said carelessly after one particularly insulting comment had reached the prince's ears, causing him to clench his fists in anger. "You'll be commanding all of us soon enough and it won't help if you lose your temper over so small a thing."

It was true, as always, and Alexander relaxed, leaning back against the sun-warmed wall again, where he'd been sitting with Hephaestion close at his side before the rude interruption. It also reminded him of something he'd been mulling over: "With some of you starting to transition into their place in the pack, do you think it'd be a good idea for me to come along on a moon run one of these days? Just to make sure they know who they'll be following?"

Hephaestion's eyes widened a bit at this, and Alexander wondered whether he'd broken one of the many rules governing shifter behaviour. Casting his mind back, he realised that Philip had not once accompanied the wolves, only making sure with Parmenion that they were free to run during the full moon. Finally his friend replied, his voice a strange mixture of shyness and reluctance: "I... Alexander, you must know that usually the only humans who come out with us are those that stand watch, those that are… mated."

For some reason Hephaestion's eyes had shifted to sapphire, and Alexander shivered slightly, as he always did when signs of the wolf slipped through. He always thought his friend handsome, already taller and broader than Alexander himself, with dark wavy hair that he'd started to grow out, and beautiful - if entirely human - grey-blue eyes and a warm smile. But there was something about the wolf that spoke to Alexander on a different level, and it might have been this that made him say, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world: "But - won't we be mated once we're old enough?"

They had never spoken of this, mating rituals - either human or Were - not a high priority in their view of the world as of yet. However, as Alexander had said, some of the older shifters among his companions, like Parmenion's son Philotas who was in the process of becoming a beta, had started finding their ranks as grown wolves in the pack. It was only a matter of time until Hephaestion went through the transition as well, and while Alexander didn't think he himself would ever be as interested in sex as for example Ptolemy with his string of girls, now that the thought was in his head, he realised he couldn't imagine anyone he'd rather have as a lover, a Mate, than Hephaestion.

Right now his friend was gaping at him, speechless, which would have caused Alexander to doubt, if it hadn't been for the way those piercing wolf eyes kept darting to Alexander's throat. He'd been around enough Weres to know what that meant and couldn't help but swallow, his mouth suddenly dry. Maybe neither one of them was as far away from moving from theory to practice as Alexander had thought. He could feel himself blush, cursing his fair skin, but refused to look away: "We are, aren't we, Hephaestion?"

It came out more like a question than he'd have liked, but the smile that dawned on Hephaestion's face more than made up for it. His friend scooted closer until their thighs touched and impulsively gripped Alexander's hand, too tightly, but Alexander found he didn't mind.

"Yes!" Hephaestion's voice was forceful and Alexander could see him taking a deep breath before continuing more calmly: "Of course, if you want. I… I'd been hoping, but I wasn't sure." He shot Alexander a sideways glance. "After all, you'll be king one day, and it's likely I end up somewhere in the middle of the pack. Then you couldn't properly stand watch, even if you wanted to - only the Mates of alpha wolves do that."

Alexander returned Hephaestion's look fondly and replied with complete assurance: "I don't need an alpha as a Mate, I'll command the pack either way once I'm in charge. My father isn't mated to a wolf, after all, except the wife from that Illyrian tribe, and she's no alpha, and not part of either the Palace or the Companion pack." He squeezed Hephaestion's hand with an almost shy smile: "And could you see me submit to a bossy alpha anyway? I'd still like to come out on a moon run, though, if that's alright with pack protocol - and with you."

"Of course. Maybe you should wait until we're in Mieza with that new teacher, though, then it'll be just us young ones. I can't see anyone having an issue with it, and I would definitely like having you there..." There was a twinkle in Hephaestion's eyes, once again human, but no less beautiful to Alexander, now that he was paying attention.

Impulsively he leaned in and pressed a chaste kiss to Hephaestion's lips. He pulled away just as quickly and grinned at the stunned expression that had once more spread over his friend's face. Yes, it definitely wouldn't be much longer...

2. Mieza

Being in Mieza with Aristotle was a breath of fresh air - both literally and figuratively - in comparison to the sometimes stifling air of the palace at Pella. For the first time Alexander had a teacher he could truly respect, although he certainly did not agree with everything the old man said.

For one, Aristotle really didn't know anything about fighting and war, but Alexander had had excellent teachers, including his father, in that area, and it was rather nice to learn about "useless" things like plants and animals for a change. The other thing was that Aristotle had very strange ideas about werewolves and their culture. That had caused some tension with the shifters among Alexander's friends and the handful of guards Philip had sent along, but in the end they reached a truce when Alexander put his foot down.

Aristotle still did not understand the way pack hierarchy worked completely differently from the human class system, but he could accept the crown prince as intermediary. This technically violated pack protocol, because it should have been the pack leader in charge, not the human Alexander, prince or no, but most of the wolves already respected him well enough - or if they didn't, they transferred the respect they owed to his father to the son. It helped that, so far at least, none of the shifters was an alpha.

The guards were betas for the most part, as were most of the regular Were soldiers in Philip's army, strong but used to following orders, and Alexander's companions were either still pups or only just transitioning. Nearchus was a full beta by now, Philotas was going to be one soon, and Peucestas, on whose family estate they were currently staying, seemed to settle somewhere in the middle of the pack hierarchy.

Being accepted as de facto pack leader certainly made it easier for Alexander to get his wish and join the pack on a moon run. They'd been at Mieza for a couple of weeks, having settled into their new routine, and at Hephaestion's prompting Alexander went to Euripides, the strongest beta among the guards, and announced his intention. The older man, who'd known Alexander for most of his life, looked at him for a moment, then shrugged and said: "As you wish, my prince. Just be ready - things are different during and after the full moon. Your friends might behave quite… unexpectedly."

Alexander didn't want to show his ignorance, so he just nodded and then went to Hephaestion, who had yet to refuse to answer any of Alexander's questions. After sharing his excitement over attending the pack during the next night, he therefore asked without hesitation: "Euripides told me to expect some… unusual behaviour during and after the run. What was he talking about?" Hephaestion blushed, and Alexander narrowed his eyes: "Is it one of those sex things again?"

The "sex things" were among the issues Aristotle did not see eye to eye with Were culture, trying to apply human morality to something fundamentally non-human. All Alexander knew for certain was that, after pack hierarchy and all that came with it, sex was where shifters differed the most from humans. He was still eye-balling Hephaestion, and finally his friend stopped fidgeting and returned Alexander's gaze: "Partly. After a run, we are all… excited, unsettled, especially with no Alpha around to keep us in line. Basically, there's a lot of fighting - nothing serious, just squabbles, really - and also quite a bit of… fucking."

Hephaestion turned his head away at the last word, but not fast enough for Alexander to see his eyes shift again, betraying his inner turmoil as always. Alexander's brain instantly jumped to a conclusion that had him curl his hands into fists. He tried not to sound as angry as he suddenly felt, since he had no reason for his fury - at least no good one: "So. You fight and you fuck. Out in the open, I assume, since you just came back from your run." Hephaestion whipped his head back around, anger now radiating from him as well, and something in his eyes made Alexander's next words come out small and quiet: "Do you, Hephaestion? Fuck any of them, I mean?"

Obviously Alexander didn't care about the fighting, it was the… other thing, the sudden image of Hephaestion entangled with one - or would there be more? - of the other wolves that had him on edge. Had he been wrong about Hephaestion not being interested in sex yet? Or that, if he was, he'd come to Alexander, the way they'd talked about in Pella? Maybe it only happened when he was in wolf form, and that was why.

Right then Hephaestion interrupted Alexander's racing thoughts by starting to grin and then laugh. It would have made Alexander even angrier, had it not been for Hephaestion's hands, cupping his face, firmly but gently, forcing him to meet his eyes: "No. No, Alexander, of course not. For one, I'm still a pup - we mostly just playfight. Also, I thought I'd made it clear that I'd like you to be my Mate one day - I know it's different for humans, but mated wolves have no interest in others."

Alexander was smiling now, too, and he reached up to cover Hephaestion's hands with his own: "That was rather stupid of me, wasn't it? I know better, I really do, I was just so mad all of a sudden."

Hephaestion's answer was a kiss, still gentle, although it seemed to Alexander that there was an undercurrent to it that had never been there before. When they parted, Hephaestion was looking at him seriously, consideringly: "You got jealous, jealous like a wolf. Alexander, if you're not sure about… us, maybe you shouldn't come tomorrow, after all. I think you being close might cause things to change faster than they normally would."

"You mean, you might change, start transitioning earlier, just because I'm there?" Alexander searched his mind for anything resembling fear or anxiety but found none. Hephaestion would never harm him, that was as certain as the sunrise - and a part of Alexander felt a thrill run through him at the thought that his presence alone was enough to make such a difference. "Is that because we're going to be Mates?"

Hephaestion was visibly pleased by the simple curiosity in Alexander's voice. He let go of Alexander's face, but only to rest one hand on Alexander's arm, the way he'd done a thousand times before: "Yes. I don't think I've ever seen it happen to anyone quite like this, but then, not many wolves find their Mate before they're grown. And no wolf has ever had a Mate like you, Alexander."

Those words stayed with Alexander through the next day, and he found himself sharing the wolves' growing excitement as nightfall - and moonrise - approached, fidgeting through Aristotle's lecture, although normally he would have been fascinated by the history lesson. When it was finally time, he walked with Hephaestion and the other shifters to the edge of the nearby forest. The others kept glancing into their direction, and Alexander began to wonder whether they were really as alright with his coming as they'd said. However, as they reached their destination and everyone started to strip off their clothes, he realised their attention was not on him but on Hephaestion.

Just then Hephaestion handed him his chiton, and Alexander used the opportunity to whisper: "Is something wrong? They seem strange around you all of a sudden." Instead of replying, his friend turned away, the lines of his naked body tense as his wolf eyes swept over the others, something like a growl escaping his throat. "Hephaestion?" Alexander was feeling completely at a loss for the first time, as the whole pack simultaneously dropped to their knees and shifted.

The only one left standing was Alexander - and Hephaestion, who still did not speak. Instead he closed the gap between them and rubbed his smooth cheek against Alexander's neck. Alexander could hear his friend breathe deeply, could feel the heat from his body, and couldn't suppress a delicious shiver that ran all over his skin. His voice stuck in his throat, and by the time he had command of his faculties again, Hephaestion had shifted and was loping after the pack, disappearing into the trees.

The rest of the night Alexander spent leaning against a tree, wrapped in both his own cloak and Hephaestion's. The cool night air carried with it the sound of wolves howling, much more than he could ever remember hearing before during the full moon. Alexander shivered and buried his face in Hephaestion's cloak, breathing in his friend's familiar scent - except that it seemed much stronger now, muskier. It was simultaneously comforting and, Alexander recognised with a hot blush, strangely arousing, just as Hephaestion scenting him earlier had been.

Finally the moon set, and the shifters started to return. However, they did not shift back, nor did they engage in any of the behaviours Alexander had been warned to expect. Instead they formed a loose half-circle facing the forest, just waiting, crouched low against the ground. Alexander rose to his feet and strained his eyes, trying to see through the shadows. Finally, he could hear rustling, and then Hephaestion came out into the open. He was still in Were shape, and Alexander gasped - the tawny wolf that was his friend was at least two hands taller than he'd been at the beginning of the night. He was also walking right towards Alexander, completely ignoring the rest of the pack, despite their strangely attentive behaviour. They were not exactly submissive, but none of them moved until Hephaestion had reached Alexander and shifted back, so close Alexander could feel wolf pelt being replaced by skin.

Then they were alone, the others obviously planning to go elsehwere to do... whatever it was that wolves did. The next moment Alexander found himself pushed against the tree he'd been leaning against all night, and Hephaestion's lips were on his. There was nothing chaste about their kiss this time, their tongues battling and Hephaestion's naked body pressed demandingly against Alexander's. It was intensely arousing, and Alexander could feel his cock hardening, mirroring Hephaestion's erection, which he'd been feeling against his stomach right from the first. He couldn't remember ever experiencing lust like this before, and now all he wanted to do was climb inside Hephaestion's skin.

"Alpha!" Alexander gasped, breaking away in sudden understanding. Hephaestion instantly tried to pull him back into a kiss, but Alexander put both hands onto his friend's naked shoulders and pushed him back gently. He was aware that nothing could stop Hephaestion with his superior strength if he didn't allow it, but he felt a bone-deep confidence that he would listen to him even now. He was right, Hephaestion moved back a bit, but rested his head against Alexander's shoulder, his breathing deep and ragged. Alexander stroked over his friend's back slowly, enjoying the feeling of warm skin under his hands, and whispered: "That's it, isn't it? You'll be an alpha, and it started tonight."

"Yes…" He could feel Hephaestion nod against his neck, and his friend's arms came up to hold onto him tightly. There was no hunger in the embrace now, although Hephaestion was still hard against him, and Alexander wished they could remain like this forever, fitting together perfectly. "Alexander, I swear I didn't know! I never wanted this, and it won't change anything between us. You're not just my best friend and my Mate, you're my leader and I'll follow you until the day I die."

There were implications to what Hephaestion was whispering urgently into his ear, but Alexander could not clear his head enough to understand them, not when Hephaestion was all around him, surrounding him with his body, his smell. Instead he lifted Hephaestion's head until their eyes could meet: "Why would I mind? You will be a great alpha, the perfect Mate for a great king…" This made them both laugh, until Alexander impulsively pressed a kiss against Hephaestion's throat, his teeth scraping gently over skin. This cut off the laughter instantly, and instead a deep moan, almost a growl, escaped Hephaestion. Then Alexander was being kissed again, Hephaestion's hunger infectious.

It would be a while yet until Hephaestion had finished his transition and they could be properly mated, but right now, nothing in the world existed except for the two of them. However, even as they rutted against each other, the tree the only thing holding them upright, Alexander could see the future stretching out in front of them, full of glory and an unbreakable bond.

3. Chaeronea

Alexander did not accompany the wolves on another moon run in Mieza, nor did he do so after their return to Pella. However, Hephaestion's changing status was obvious as the pack rearranged itself to accommodate the presence of a transitioning alpha, most of the younger wolves looking more to Hephaestion than Parmenion or any of the other older Alphas. It also changed Hephaestion's behaviour, in ways that pleased Alexander very much. Whereas before, while always the first to defend Alexander, Hephaestion would simply ignore slights to himself, he now no longer allowed any such insults. As he grew into his alpha status, his body also changed, becoming stronger and more physically imposing, and Hephaestion was quick to use this to his advantage.

During their first real battles his skills also increased, and among the Macedonians he soon rarely had to resort to actual violence, his growing reputation and the way he looked at people sufficing. After he saw his friend stare down an insolent Cassander until the older boy averted his eyes in a way not dissimilar to the respectful way most Weres now behaved towards Hephaestion, Alexander had been the one to pull him into the next quiet corner. They still were not properly mated, but Alexander could feel the growing bond between them, vibrating like a living thing in the back of his mind.

They were also becoming more seasoned warriors, and when Philip told Alexander he would have command of the prestigious left wing of the Macedonian army as Philip prepared to crush the remaining opposition of Greek cities, Alexander felt more than ready. They had not expected the Thebans to side with Athens, their traditional enemy, but when they reached the city of Chaeronea, it was to face an army mostly consisting of soldiers from these two cities. Alexander knew that his father admired both Thebes, having spent his youth there as a hostage and learning much from their famed battle tactics, and Athens, the symbol of traditional Greek culture, but to him it mostly meant that he would have the chance to really test his skills as a military leader.

When the two armies clashed, Alexander was quickly consumed by the usual rush of battle. However, as always he remained aware of Hephaestion's presence, feeling an echo of his friend's own elation as they met their enemy head on. Due to his superior eyesight it was Hephaestion who saw the Sacred Band first, and Alexander was surprised by the ferocity of the emotions rushing through him, much stronger than anything he had ever felt through their bond before. He could feel himself respond, baring his teeth and leading his men straight towards the famous group of Theban warriors.

Of course he knew, as everyone did, that the Band consisted of 150 pairs of mated shifters and that it was madness to charge them with his own mostly human soldiers, but the urge to challenge them was too great. It was a completely instinctual reaction, the first time Hephaestion's wolf had ever taken over, and Alexander could feel his friend shift from one moment to the next, leaving a pile of armour and clothes in the dust. He was dimly aware that the tawny wolf was much larger than he had been in Mieza, but then they reached the first row of the 300 famed warrior-wolves and Alexander had to use every trick he had ever learned to keep the upper hand.

However, suddenly Hephaestion let out a wild howl and Alexander found himself supported by what had to be every single shifter of their pack. Humans and wolves fought together as if they had done so all their lives, and Alexander felt deep in his bones that this was because they followed his and Hephaestion's lead. It was an exhilarating feeling, and Alexander lost himself in it. The battle lasted for hours, the Sacred Band holding out the longest, but finally the Macedonians gained a decisive victory, and Alexander found himself being actually commended by his father, a rare occurrence.

But it was Parmenion's reaction that left the deepest impression. They ran into the General after Alexander had made sure the almost 300 dead of the Sacred Band would get an honourable burial, and the older alpha mustered both Alexander and Hephaestion, dressed again and as always by Alexander's side, with intense scrutiny, as if trying to figure out something important. When he spoke it was not to Alexander but to Hephaestion, addressing him as an equal: "You called the pack to the prince's aid when you faced the Band. I knew you two were… close and would most likely mate - but I did not know you had submitted to him."

To Alexander's surprise, Hephaestion blushed, giving Alexander a sideways glance, but he met Parmenion's gaze head-on: "Yes. Yes, I have. We are not Mates yet, but Alexander is my Dominant, it was never going to happen differently." Alexander was not quite certain of the undercurrents between the two shifters, but he could sense Hephaestion's mind opening up to him even as he spoke, making him realise that for one, Hephaestion had most certainly finished transitioning and was now a full alpha, and that there was something special about their bond.

Parmenion nodded at Hephaestion's proud admission and turned to Alexander: "You now will be part of werewolf legend and I hope you will prove yourself worthy. There has not been an alpha with a human Dominant since Patroclus submitted to Achilles." Alexander realised he was gaping and quickly closed his mouth. Parmenion smiled at him: "You have shown great promise so far, my Prince." Then he turned and left them, and Alexander shifted his attention to Hephaestion.

"When were you going to tell me?" he inquired, not accusing, simply curious, because he could sense the wild mix of emotions coming from his friend - his Mate now, it seemed. There was love, and loyalty, and a good portion of lust, not unusual after battle but so much stronger ever since Hephaestion had opened himself completely. Alexander felt awed by the intensity and moved to touch Hephaestion's face almost before he realised he was doing so. Hephaestion sighed with pleasure and leaned his cheek into Alexander's hand, and Alexander dimly noticed that they were both hard.

Hephaestion stepped closer, into Alexander's embrace: "I was waiting until I'd finished my transition. I had to be sure - you have no idea how hard it was not to tell you every time you compared us to Achilles and Patroclus, especially after Mieza. But hardly any human knows anymore that Patroclus was a shifter, and an alpha at that, and I hardly dared believe that it was true." He smiled at Alexander, and it felt almost like a physical caress, making Alexander swallow hard. "You will be magnificent, Alexander, and I will always be by your side, giving you all that I am, alpha or not - you already knew that, so, really, not much has changed."

Except that they both knew that everything had changed. Alexander had imagined for years what it would be like to be truly mated, but nothing had prepared him for the reality of it. Hephaestion was a warm, strong presence in his mind, and right now Alexander knew that they absolutely needed to get away from everyone around them, or they would share more with the troops milling around in the chaotic aftermath of battle than either of them wanted to. It wasn't that they were ashamed or embarrassed - on the contrary, Hephaestion's pride in their relationship was a bright light - but this was personal.

The Cephissus lay deserted, so that was where they went without having to discuss it, finding the shade of some trees growing on the river bank. There Alexander finally kissed Hephaestion, and they both sighed with relief as they drank one another, each feeling the other's pleasure at every slide of lip or tongue. In between long kisses, they stripped off their dirty armour, Hephaestion's fingers making quick work of Alexander's cuirass, as they had many times before after battle, yet never filled with so much anticipation. When they were both naked, they tumbled to the ground, laughing breathlessly as Alexander landed on top of Hephaestion, their erections touching deliciously. It was then that Hephaestion bared his throat to Alexander and whispered hoarsely, his eyes once more the dark blue that always sent shivers down Alexander's spine: "I submit to you, my Alexander. Mark me, make me yours…"

Alexander had never seen shifters mate, but even if the significance of the bared and marked throat had not been more or less common knowledge, Hephaestion's burning desire would have led him to lean down and press his teeth, blunt and human though they were, to the spot where neck and shoulder met. Hephaestion groaned and heaved underneath him at the contact, and Alexander bit down deeper, knowing that he would leave a mark for certain and exulting in the knowledge. Suddenly Hephaestion went limp against him and his seed coated both their stomachs, the sudden release rushing through both of them.

Now it was Alexander's turn to groan and he began rutting against Hephaestion's thigh in earnest, wanting to follow his Mate over the edge. However, Hephaestion's strong thighs stopped him all too soon, flipping them over and propping himself up on his arms so that only their mouths were touching. Alexander bucked upwards, trying to regain friction, but Hephaestion held him in place effortlessly, and Alexander stopped struggling as an image came through their bond, even before Hephaestion confirmed it by scooping up his seed, lifting himself up on his knees and reaching back. Alexander closed his eyes with a groan, but it was useless, as he could still feel what Hephaestion was doing to himself. He had to bite his lip to keep from coming when Hephaestion touched his cock with sticky fingers but managed to say, his voice hoarse: "This isn't enough. I'm going to hurt you."

Hephaestion leaned down and whispered in his ear, grinning because he knew what it would do to Alexander: "There are advantages to being a shifter, Alexander. You're not going to hurt me - or at least not more than I want you to. I want to feel you every time I move tomorrow." The truth of his words was more than apparent through their bond, and again Alexander had to fight to keep from falling apart. However, he managed to hold on until Hephaestion was sinking down onto him, surrounding him with tight heat and causing both of them to curse. They were truly one now, mind and body, and Hephaestion's cock once again stood hard against his stomach as he moved, meeting Alexander thrust for thrust.

Finally, Alexander could no longer hold on and came with a hoarse cry of Hephaestion's name, his mind urging his Mate to follow him over the edge, which he promptly did. They collapsed against one another, and Alexander held Hephaestion tightly, whispering with a mix of regret and wonder: "I will always need this, now." He felt Hephaestion press a kiss to his throat and was almost overwhelmed with the fierceness of the love his Mate bore him, aware that he felt the same. No, he would never regret this, even if it meant that he would go mad like Achilles should he ever lose the man in his arms. So he whispered again: "Always." And this time it was a promise.

4. Troy
Standing at the bow of the ship, the coast approaching quickly, Hephaestion's elation fueled Alexander's own, causing him to laugh out loud into the wind and the spray of the sea. Soon, they would reach Troy, and it felt like, finally, Alexander could begin to stand on his own, out of his father's shadow.

Until now, ever since Philip's assassination and Alexander's ascension to the throne, he had had to focus on re-establishing Macedonian control over Greece. But now Antipater was Regent back in Macedon and Parmenion was readying the army to free Asia Minor from Persian rule, while Alexander was about to land at Troy in order to pay homage to Achilles. And to Patroclus of course.

Alexander smiled as he sent that thought to Hephaestion and felt his Mate's pleasure vibrate through him. Their connection was especially strong today - it had to be a good omen that they reached Troy during the full moon. It meant they would get to spend the night together, just as Achilles and Patroclus had on that very same beach all those years ago, no royal duty being more important than Alexander taking care of his Alpha and his pack.

With a shout Alexander let his spear fly. It buried itself deep into the earth and stood firm and proud, doubtlessly yet another positive sign for the upcoming campaign. Hearing and feeling the ship's prow touch the sand, Alexander vaulted over the railing and planted his feet on the sacred ground. He leaned his head back and shouted: "The Gods are with us, can you feel it?" The men replied with fierce battle cries, but overshadowing them was Hephaestion's pride and complete faith in Alexander and his ability to not just follow but surpass his hero.

Wrenching his spear out of the ground, Alexander lifted it and screamed triumphantly. He knew at least part of it was him mirroring the shifters' moon excitement through Hephaestion, but it felt fitting to celebrate this moment, standing here where so many of his dreams had had their beginnings and where he was about to start fulfilling what he felt was his destiny. First Asia Minor, then the rest of Persia, and then…

Hephaestion's laugh in his ear and warm hand on his shoulder brought him back to the present. "Let's pay our respects first, shall we, my King? The rest of the world can wait until tomorrow." He leaned closer and lowered his voice: "Until after the moon run." Even if no one else could, Alexander heard the hunger in his Mate's voice as well as the way he breathed in Alexander's scent deeply.

With a grin, Alexander elbowed Hephaestion none-too-gently, knowing he could take it. He deserved no less, considering that Alexander could do nothing about the heat now pooling in his belly. "Yes. Let's go find the priests and conduct the proper sacrifices - as well as our own, more personal ones…" He sent Hephaestion an image of what he had in mind at the tombs of Achilles and Patroclus and was rewarded with a hot rush of happiness and approval as well as the sight of his Mate's eyes taking on the sapphire hue of his wolf. Alexander sighed impatiently in anticipation - he really could hardly wait for the formalities to be over.

In the end, however, the formalities were completely worth it, as Alexander was presented with Achilles' own shield. It was too unwieldy for him to carry it into battle, but it was beautiful, made even more so by the thought that Achilles' own hands had touched it and worn it as he faced Hector and the Troians. The demi-god must have been a good bit taller than himself, Alexander thought ruefully and was rewarded with amusement from Hephaestion at the old complaint. Along with it came an image of what Alexander looked like to Hephaestion, equally glorious in battle as in love, and there was no doubt his Mate considered him to be exactly the right size. Alexander blushed a little and handed the shield over to one of his attendants with a small, private smile.

After admiring everything the villagers wanted to show them as well as burning a sacrifice at the temple of Athena, they were finally led to the tombs of the heroes. Here Alexander thanked their guides and gestured for his companions to come forward. The men crowded around the most splendid of the tombs, the one belonging to Achilles, and Alexander poured a libation of wine he had brought especially from Epiros, Achilles' ancestral home - and his own mother's, of course. It felt completely right to be standing here, surrounded by these men who had helped him reach this point and would continue to fight alongside him, laying their lives on the line for honour and glory, like Achilles' Myrmidons.

Then, shrugging off his coat, and with it the mantle of kingly responsibilities, it was time for Alexander the Man to pay his respects. He looked over to Hephaestion and laughed with pure joy as he saw that Hephaestion was already stripping off his chiton. There were a few confused looks, but by now most people were used to the way words were often unnecessary between their king and his Mate. Alexander followed suit quickly, until they were both standing there naked like athletes in the gymnasium. Hephaestion took out a bottle of oil from among his things, Alexander noted with fond amusement at this preparedness, and they applied the oil to each other's skin until they both glistened in the late afternoon sun.

Hephaestion was stunning, all tanned skin, dark hair and light eyes, and Alexander showed him what he looked like in his eyes, grinning as Hephaestion ducked his head, hiding behind his hair as he always did when embarrassed. Then he looked up and Alexander was hit almost physically with the full force of his Mate's love and adoration. Without thinking Alexander took a step closer and caressed Hephaestion's cheek. As always, those beautiful eyes slid shut and Hephaestion turned his face into Alexander's hand, basking in his scent.

Then the moment ended and they stepped apart, grinning as they took up starting positions. The others had by now realised what was going on and there was a crowd gathering to watch the Macedonian King and his closest friend honour the fallen heroes with a race. Alexander knew he stood no real chance against a shifter's speed, but he was fast for a human and put everything he had into this friendly competition. He also had the advantage that Achilles' tomb had an actual path going all the way around while Hephaestion had to take a more indirect route around the tomb of Patroclus that lay right beside that of the prince's Dominant. So in the end Alexander claimed victory by a hair, although Hephaestion protested the unequal conditions. They were both out of breath and laughing hard, until Alexander took the laurel wreaths he'd brought for this purpose from the pile of his clothing and gave one to Hephaestion. Their fingers brushed and they both felt the familiar spark run between them.

Even when they turned from one another to the respective tomb, a tingling warmth remained, and Alexander closed his eyes with a smile as he knelt down. He laid the wreath down and remained kneeling for a moment longer, praying to Achilles in the Elysian Fields for a life full of victories and with his Mate by his side: "If I die young in the name of glory, the way you did, I only pray he'll be by my side until the end. You must have known Patroclus' love and submission was a precious gift, and I won't squander mine on blind pride!"

"Hubris, my Alexander," Hephaestion's soft voice reached his ears and a sword-calloused hand came to rest on his shoulder, squeezing gently. "You have the favour of the Gods, and I know your deeds will surpass those of Achilles' himself. Just… don't tempt fate. I couldn't bear it." Alexander looked up and as always was awed by the absolute love and loyalty Hephaestion felt for him.

He rose and embraced his Mate tightly, holding on as if for dear life: "You will just have to be my anchor, Hephaestion." It was a whisper, and he continued louder, pulling away slightly but still touching Hephaestion's warm skin with both hands, just because he wanted to: "However, tonight is the full moon, time to honour faithful Patroclus in his other form, to ensure the blessings of the Heroes of old, human and shifter alike - and my turn to keep watch over you, and our Pack."

The men had been shouting all through the race, only falling silent when Alexander knelt down, but now there was another approving roar, this one coming mostly from the shifters among the Macedonians. Excitement raced through Hephaestion at this show of pride and support from the pack, waking similar emotions in Alexander. This would certainly be a memorably moon run, of that he was certain, and he closed the distance between them again, this time to kiss Hephaestion. Because of Alexander's status among humans they rarely did this in public unless it was fueled by a werewolf ritual, but Hephaestion's mouth opened under his more than willingly, and their kiss deepened as their bond thrummed between them.

Alexander felt sure that Achilles and Patroclus would approve.

5. Persepolis

Watching the palace burn from his vantage point in the garden of the Western Palace Alexander felt not quite sure whether he was happy or sad. For one, being here in the ancient capital somehow made it feel actually real that to all intents and purposes he was now the Great King of Persia, even if the old Great King was still somewhere out there. On the other hand, after forbidding the troops all looting in Babylon, he had had to cut them loose here, and not only did he detest the violence that was being wrought against innocent civilians, now the beautiful Eastern Palace was in flames, the result of a celebratory feast getting out of hand. No one had cared enough to put a stop to it, since the palace had belonged to Xerxes', who had burnt down Athens after Thermopylae. Sighing he leaned back into Hephaestion arms and said, his voice low: "Did I do the right thing? This city has been here for eons and now it's in ruins - and I'm supposed to be King to the Persians now, too."

His Mate embraced him, not just with his body but also with the warmth of his love, and stated with the complete faith he had in Alexander: "You will rebuild it, and it will be more beautiful than ever! Just think of the Alexandria you founded in Egypt only last year - and it's already becoming a centre for trade and culture." Hephaestion rested his chin on Alexander's shoulder and pressed a kiss to his neck, sending the familiar shivers through Alexander's body. "You can just as well blame me, for not stopping the Pack from looting - I could probably even have forced them to keep the other soldiers from doing it. I am their Alpha, after all."

Realising that he was not just saying this but was actually feeling guilt, Alexander turned in Hephaestion's arms and regarded him seriously: "No, my love - you know as well as I do that this sort of thing is part of war, and if we'd stopped the soldiers again, I'd have a mutiny on my hands and you'd be forever fighting challengers." He embraced Hephaestion again and held him tightly, their bodies fitting together perfectly with years of practice. Touch was comforting for shifters - and not only for them, Alexander having long ago admitted that he found peace in it as well.

There had been so much battle, so much death, since the beginning of this campaign, with only Egypt offering respite, and while Alexander still relished the challenge of it and had no thought of stopping, it felt good to be at rest for a while. They had stayed in Persepolis over winter, before he had to hunt down the fleeing Darius, giving Alexander the chance to start understanding his new subjects, his new Empire. Both him and Hephaestion were wearing beautiful Persian robes, although they had drawn the line at putting on trousers. Already the Macedonians were grumbling over this concession to 'barbarian' customs, and Alexander buried his head against Hephaestion's shoulder, unwilling to deal with politics tonight. His Mate laughed softly and pressed a kiss to Alexander's hair, his pleasure at their closeness clear, innocent though it was.

A door to the garden flew open, laughter drifting outside, but Alexander would have been content to remain in Hephaestion's arms. However, with a slightly wistful smile his Mate pulled back, and through their bond Alexander realised that Hephaestion's keen ears heard someone leaving the palace, his nose telling him who it was. Alexander laid an apologetic hand on Hephaestion's arm, although he knew it wasn't really necessary, before he turned to greet the newcomer with a smile: "Barsine, what brings you out here? I fear I was not feeling very festive and therefore decided to leave the party."

The beautiful woman that had been his mistress for two years now graced him with an understanding smile: "I thought that might be the case, my King, I just wanted to make sure you were taken care of." She bowed her head slightly to Hephaestion, and Alexander could feel Hephaestion's answering smile. "I should have known that you would be here, General, and I'm glad of it." There was no double-meaning to Barsine's words, no hidden slight - Alexander might not be able to actually look inside her mind, but he was reasonably sure she actually liked and respected his Mate.

He knew with absolute certainty that the latter felt the same, had done so ever they had met her after conquering Damascus, having just lost her second husband - the brother of her first, the valiant Persian General with Greek roots, Memnon. Alexander had actually known her at court in Pella when he was a young boy and she already a woman of marriageable age, and he'd extended his protection to her, as he had previously done for King-Mother Sisygambis and the rest of Darius' family after the battle of Issus. It had not been long until he'd felt her attraction - in addition to her undeniable beauty she was also of a kind disposition and possessed a sharp mind, her knowledge of Persia and its customs having proven valuable several times already. It had been an irresistible combination to Alexander, throwing him into complete confusion for a time.

Even today it still felt strange sometimes to want someone who was not Hephaestion, and he would never have pursued her if his Mate had not been understanding of human ways. Not many wolves would be, even ones with human Mates, Alexander knew, and it made him treasure their bond even more. After all it was thanks to its strength that Hephaestion felt the depth of Alexander's enduring love every single day.

What he felt for Barsine was completely different, but he did love her, and now he smiled gratefully at Hephaestion while taking his mistress' hand in his: "You never have to fear that I'm alone, my dear - he will always be there when I need him." Sending a wave of love and appreciation to Hephaestion, he led Barsine back inside, enjoying the feeling of her soft curves against his body. Having her - and Bagoas, sweet Bagoas, the most precious jewel Alexander had found in Babylon - close made the times easier when he had to send Hephaestion away to guard his rear or fulfil a diplomatic mission, although he did not want to know what it would feel like if they ever had to spend a full moon apart.

Even as he walked with Barsine to her chambers, he could feel Hephaestion's iron determination that they would never have to find out. He smiled at this, and Barsine, attentive as always, took note and said softly: "I can always tell when you're thinking of him, my lord." He began an apology, but she continued: "You always look happier and more relaxed - I would never begrudge you that." Then she gave him a mischievous smile that reminded him of why he enjoyed her company so much: "After all, he was there first and he will be certainly also be the last, long after our ways have parted."

Alexander did not contradict her, Hephaestion's light in his mind a thousand times brighter than the flames of the palace outside.

6. Maracanda

He had been crying for what felt like days, having Bagoas turn everyone away, unable to face anyone except the unjudging eyes of the faithful eunuch. He had even closed off his mind, losing himself in the misery of his guilt. It should not have surprised him when he found himself shaken by both shoulders, Hephaestion's voice low but furious, a deadly combination: "How dare you, Alexander? How dare you shut me out? Haven't I always been at your side, on your side, against everyone who doubted you, even when it went against my own culture?"

The last time his Mate had sounded this angry had been after Philotas' treachery a few years ago - Alexander was pretty certain Hephaestion had physically torn the beta apart, both for daring to plot against his King as well as betraying the Pack. Afterwards he came to Alexander, exhaustion visible in every line of his body, and they instantly sent Perdiccas, Hephaestion's loyal Beta, to kill Parmenion. They both regretted this decision, but in both human and shifter culture it was the only way to avoid an all-out war with the old Alpha. Still, the cold fury in Hephaestion's eyes was not something Alexander would ever forget, and seeing it directed at himself chilled him to the bone and broke his self-imposed isolation.

Their bond came rushing back in, and they both took a few shuddering breaths, having felt its absence like a missing limb. Alexander did not dare lift his eyes, turning his head away and baring his throat to Hephaestion the way he had seen countless Weres do when faced with their Alpha's displeasure. He could not see his Mate's face, but he could still feel the rage that burned hotly, searing Alexander's mind. It was eerily similar to the mindless passion he had sometimes felt when a moon run fell on the night after a great battle, and in his current state Alexander welcomed it.

"Bagoas, leave us!" Hephaestion did not quite snap, but there was no question of the Persian disobeying. The moment the door closed behind him, Hephaestion was on top of Alexander, pushing him roughly onto the stone floor that Alexander had been cowering on in self-flagellation. Alexander did not put up a fight, broadcasting his complete surrender with both his body and his mind. Teeth scraped over his neck, stubbled from days not shaving, and Alexander shivered, half in fear and half in anticipation. However, Hephaestion did not bite down - instead he hissed right into Alexander's ear: "Oh no, Alexander, this is not how we will deal with this."

Strong hands grasped Alexander by the collar of his dirty chiton and dragged him upright, Alexander letting himself be manhandled until he rested against the wall. With the bond between them wide open again, there was no denying the deep tenderness and lay underneath the anger, and almost against his will Alexander finally looked up to meet Hephaestion's eyes, unsurprised that they were glowing with dark blue fire. "I killed him, Hephaestion, I killed Cleitus," Alexander whispered in a small voice, a voice he had not heard coming from himself since his father had died. There was no pity in the wolf eyes, but Hephaestion's hands were cupping Alexander's face with great care, and Alexander leaned into the touch, mirroring what Hephaestion often did, even if he was not able to scent his Mate the way the shifter could.

"Yes, you did. You got drunk, you let him goad you, and you lost complete control. Believe me, if I had not been on the other side of the province, I would have separated the two of you by force. What a waste!" The tightly controlled grief in Hephaestion's voice reminded Alexander that, while Cleitus' dark form had loomed great in his life for as long as he could remember, the older man had also been a pack mate ever since Hephaestion became Alpha after Parmenion's departure for Media. They had clashed early on, but in the end Cleitus had submitted, content with being the younger man's superior on the battlefield if not in the Pack, and when Alexander had split Philotas' command between the two alphas, there had been no resistance.

Guilt flooded Alexander again, but Hephaestion cut right through it with one quiet word: "Enough." Alexander obeyed, struggling to raise himself, both physically from the ground and mentally from the darkness he'd allowed to overwhelm him. As always, Hephaestion was right there, his arms supporting Alexander's body and his mind coaxing him towards reason until they stood facing each other, almost but not quite embracing. "You're the King, Alexander, the men need you to function, and they are as distraught as you are. They have even begun to concoct rumours of treason on Cleitus' part - preposterous, of course, but it shows how much they love you and how much they worry."

Unspoken remained the fact that Hephaestion had worried even more, and Alexander knew he would have to work hard to make up for shutting his Mate out. He leaned forward until their foreheads touched and put his hands onto Hephaestion's shoulders with hesitation, if no longer with trepidation. "Never again, my love, you have my word," he whispered, knowing spoken apologies were needless as he felt some of the angry tension leave Hephaestion's body. Alexander dared to press a close-mouthed, chaste kiss against his Mate's neck, and Hephaestion's arms came up to crush Alexander against his broad chest, a low growl escaping his throat.

Relief washed through Alexander like a physical thing. He was not quite sure how much of it was his and how much Hephaestion's, which was as it should be between them. They both still felt grief for Cleitus, but Alexander was now shaking off the paralysing effects of it, clinging to Hephaestion's unmovable strength and love for Alexander, even after what he'd done. It was, indeed, enough, and Alexander pushed his thigh against the sudden hardness of Hephaestion's cock, a different kind of heat now vibrating between them. Hephaestion's kiss, when he took Alexander's mouth, was still not gentle, but Alexander welcomed it, responding in kind.

They stumbled backwards, towards the bed Alexander had not slept in for the past three days, until Hephaestion simply threw Alexander onto the sumptuous fabrics, startling a laugh from him. Then he was covered by his Mate's strong body and Hephaestion buried his head against Alexander's throat, sucking and biting until he was sure to leave marks, while Alexander groaned and uselessly scrambled at Hephaestion's chiton with impatient hands, desperate to touch skin. Finally satisfied with the result of his efforts Hephaestion sat up, straddling Alexander, and pulled his clothes over his head quickly before baring Alexander similarly by simply tearing apart his chiton. Their naked cocks moved against each other and, gasping, Alexander reached up, trying to pull Hephaestion back down to him.

However, his Mate was having none of that, grinning hungrily, all teeth showing, and easily held Alexander back with one hand on his chest. Alexander resigned himself to simply laying there, panting, their hips the only point of real contact between them. It was a delicious slide of skin against skin and he lost himself in it until Hephaestion reached over with his free hand to get the jar of oil on the side table, showing the still-red line of his latest battle wound in the process. Alexander reached and traced it gently, a habit he had acquired early on, wanting to memorise the stories Hephaestion's body told.

"You didn't shift right afterwards," he said, almost to himself, "or there wouldn't be a scar." Hephaestion dropped the oil onto the bed and leaned down, kissing Alexander so sweetly it almost hurt, and through their bond Alexander saw once more the pride his Mate took in every mark he had received while fighting for and defending his King, his Dominant. Still, Alexander wished he had been there, despite knowing that Hephaestion had been exactly where he needed him to be as they fought to put down rebellions in Alexander's empire.

Their gazes locked, Hephaestion shook his head indulgently at Alexander's familiar foolishness, then narrowed his eyes and leaned down to press lips and teeth against the marks he had left earlier. Alexander shivered and buried his hands in Hephaestion's long hair as pleasure and pain mingled deliciously. A strong hand covered in oil snuck in between their bodies, easing the rocking motions of hard cock against hard cock. The clever fingers then moved on as Hephaestion rolled them onto their sides in order to trace a line along Alexander's ass, clenching in eager anticipation of what came next.

More oil was applied, and soon Alexander was moaning wordlessly, moving against his Mate's fingers and demanding more. He slung one leg over Hephaestion's hips, opening himself further in invitation, and with a deep, hungry kiss, Hephaestion removed his hand to hold Alexander in place and pushed upwards. Alexander welcomed the invasion, Hephaestion sharing and thus lessening the usual discomfort, although Alexander always insisted that he could take it and that Hephaestion was being ridiculous. But conscious thought soon fled them both. Alexander was on his back again, legs wrapped around his Mate's waist, his hands gripping the elaborate headboard for leverage, as Hephaestion pounded into him.

Sharing the pleasure they both felt had them mindless with lust after only a short time, and Alexander urged his Mate on, relishing the unleashed passion, rarely allowed to be so uninhibited. As Hephaestion neared the point of release, he bit out, his voice rough: "Now, Alexander, now!" Alexander obeyed and followed his Mate into sheer bliss, shudders wracking them both as they clung to one another, both physically and mentally drained. Hephaestion sounded stern, but Alexander could feel the irrepressible warmth underneath: "This is how we deal. Not alone but together."

Alexander felt utterly wrecked and unable to speak, but luckily the Alpha didn't need words to know that his order, and it had undoubtedly been one, would be followed. Forgiveness and love flooded him, gentle hands stroking down his back, and despite some physical discomfort Alexander drifted off into a peaceful sleep, curled around Hephaestion, safe in his strong arms.

7. Gedrosia

Nights in the desert were cold, no matter how hot the days. Alexander was most grateful for the warm presence of Hephaestion at his back, wolf fur the perfect protection against the biting air. It was the only positive in the midst of what undoubtedly the most disastrous decision he had ever made - and the fact that he had done it mostly out of sheer stubbornness made it so much worse…

At the shores of the Hyphasis the men had let him know that they loved him but that they had had enough, that enough of them had died in India and there was no end in sight. Even Hephaestion had told him that, while he might be able to force the Pack onwards, it might really be time to turn back: "You have a wife now, my Alexander, who is already with child - and doesn't your son deserve to have a real home? Doesn't your empire deserve its Great King to lead it in peace as well as in war?" So Alexander had acquiesced, but he had sent Roxane with Craterus and most of the men along the safer roads to Carmania, insisting to take the route through as-yet unconquered Gedrosia and Makran. He only thanked the Gods that most of the Pack had followed their Alpha, because the shifters were hardier, better able to withstand the thirst, the hunger and the illnesses that spread quickly as men weakened. Still, the cost was too high.

Every time he saw Bagoas, who had insisted on coming with him and whose lithe dancer's body was slowly losing the fight against deprivation and hardship, Alexander remembered Hephaestion's voice, all those years ago in Troy. Hubris. It had not felt like hubris but like destiny to conquer Persia or be the first Greek since Dionysius to set foot in India, with its marvels and its dangers - a destiny worthy of the son of Zeus, if his mother and the Oracle at Siwa were to be believed. But now, now a sleepless Alexander lay in his tent, parched and near starvation, and his only thought was that he was grateful that Hephaestion would likely survive and be at his side as he perished.

Suddenly the pelt against his back disappeared and Hephaestion loomed over him, no longer wolf except for his eyes and the growl deep in his throat. Strong fingers lifted Alexander's chin: "You are not facing this alone - the men are following you, as is the Pack, and they need you not to give up. Look at the desert as yet another enemy and lead us to victory once more, Alexander!" Alexander felt Hephaestion's determination through their bond, felt it strengthen his own faltering resolve. Grateful he reached up and pulled his Mate into a kiss - their dry lips scraped against one another almost painfully, but when Alexander curled around Hephaestion's wolf again, he had left the crippling self-doubt behind and was Alexander again.

The next day he not only sent out some Weres to scout for water, their first priority even if it sometimes made the men sick, he also ordered a small pack to follow the coastline in case Nearchus' ships made it to shore with the supplies Alexander had counted on. It did not change their present situation, but the simple fact that Alexander had decided on a course of action, that they were no longer simply trudging along waiting to die, visibly lifted the men's spirits. Hephaestion's faith and approval felt like a physical caress, and Alexander sent back all his love and gratitude.

Once, on the day of a full moon, Hephaestion had shifted during an argument with Craterus, a lesser alpha, and Alexander, furious at this dangerous loss of control that normally only happened to young, inexperienced Weres, had lost his own temper and given them both a public reprimand, screaming angrily: "How dare you break the peace in my camp - you who would be nothing without me!" He had soon apologised to his Mate, all too aware how much Craterus had provoked his Alpha, and that dealing with this sort of infraction was part of Pack protocol in any case and therefore not Alexander's business. It was part of the reason he had made sure that Craterus was given commands that separated him from the main army, making Hephaestion his sole second-in-command. As he was riding through the dead landscape, exhausted but filled with new purpose, Alexander knew his words back then for the complete falsehood they were - on the contrary, without Hephaestion there would be no Alexander.

Sensing his Mate's thoughts, the tawny wolf keeping easy pace with Alexander's tired horse gave him a long look, and Alexander managed a grin, even if it made his skin crack: "Well, it's the truth. Just wait, once we're back in Persia, I will make you Chiliarch, I promise!" The sapphire eyes turned away in disgust at the teasing, and Hephaestion ran back to check on the stragglers. Alexander added, lower but knowing the wolf could still hear him: "Don't think you can talk me out of it. You wanted peace in the empire, so who better to rule at my side?"

When a soldier approached him with his precious water ration, Alexander shook his head with thanks and had him share it with Bagoas instead. He was thirsty, hungry and sunburned, and men were still dying, but the constant hum of the bond was drink, food and soothing balm, and Alexander was determined to lead them out of the desert somehow. He had a promise to keep.

8. Ecbatana

When they reached Ecbatana and its beautiful summer palaces, Alexander finally felt that his dream of uniting the different peoples he now ruled over might stand a chance. Even after their reconciliation at Opis, the Macedonians were still grumbling over Alexander's observance of Persian customs, even if he had never asked them to follow the ones that went against their pride. Hephaestion had told him he could make the shifters at least approximate prostration, since it resembled a wolf showing its belly to a superior, but his reluctance had been obvious. In the end it had been his suggestion to simply make them all King's Kin, which meant they kissed Alexander and Alexander kissed them in return, an acceptable compromise. The weddings had gone over reasonably well as well, especially since Alexander sweetened them with gifts - and the Persian girls were pretty, no one could dispute that.

Alexander grinned and remembered the look on Hephaestion's face when he realised that this meant he was to take a wife as well, and a royal one at that. Not just because Alexander would not accept anything less for his Mate and the Chiliarch of his empire, he had set his mind on their future children being blood-relatives. "It's a nice thought, but we have had this conversation, Alexander - several times, as a matter of fact. It's different for us shifters, I am simply not interested in anyone except for you." It had taken all of Alexander's not inconsiderable powers of persuasion, including some that Hephaestion, laughing breathlessly, called underhand and not fit for a king, be he Macedonian or Persian.

After he had won Hephaestion's acceptance, he went to see Sisygambis and explained the situation to the former King's mother. The only Weres at court were the members of the King's bodyguard, the Immortals, but the old lady had a good head on her shoulders and Alexander truly respected her. He had done so ever since she took Hephaestion for himself after Issus, a mistake he could not blame herself for in the least. He also trusted her to prepare her grand-daughters, which she did admirably, making explanations on the day itself unnecessary.

The princesses Stateira and Drypetis had been calm and collected during the ceremony and had proven equal to the slight strangeness of a wedding night which had to happen in adjacent rooms with the doors open, in order for Hephaestion to still be able to smell Alexander. Since Hephaestion kept their bond wide open, they shared this night in a way they had not been able to with any of Alexander's lovers, and Alexander found himself spurred on by the echoes of Hephaestion's pleasure. After the first night they usually found themselves entwined on Alexander's bed once they had left their new wives, something Hephaestion had not abided with anyone else.

Not that all had been easy: Stateira might have been accepting, raised among the politics of the women's quarters to become a queen, as well as very beautiful, but Alexander had been all too aware of the poisonous looks Roxane had been giving the wedding party, Hephaestion and the attending Bagoas included. If Hephaestion had learned years ago to share Alexander, his queen certainly had not, despite being pregnant again after the loss of their first child. It had reminded Alexander uncomfortably of his mother's reaction at every single one of his father's weddings.

It had been yet another reason to leave Susa - and then Hephaestion had fallen ill, and Alexander was doubly glad they were in the clean air of Ecbatana. At this point there was probably not a single soldier in Alexander's army who had not been either grievously injured or sick at some point during the years of war, including the shifters with their stronger constitutions, but so far Hephaestion had only suffered battle wounds. Still, the fever did not last long, and finally Hephaestion sent Alexander from his side: "Go, Alexander, you have duties to fulfil - and your presence is making the physicians uncomfortable. Not that they can do much, I'm almost healed. It takes more to break a shifter's constitution than a small fever." He smiled at his Mate, and Alexander knew that Hephaestion was not just trying to calm his Dominant's worries but was truly almost well again.

"Feel better, beloved," he said, leaning down to kiss Hephaestion, a promise of things to come once he was back on his feet. "I think I will go see the Games across the river, it will make the young men proud." He looked in on Hephaestion once more before he left and was graced with a smile full of the the pride his Alpha always displayed when his Dominant wore royal robes. It never failed to make Alexander feel warm all over, as if his insides were blushing, even if he had outgrown such displays on the outside. The warmth stayed with him, and he enjoyed the afternoon watching the competitions and handing laurel wreaths to the victors, remembering other wreaths, many years ago in Troy.

Slowly, however, unease settled over him, and he was almost not surprised when the messenger came from the palace with news that Hephaestion had taken an unexpected turn for the worse. Riding as fast as his horse would go - and what wouldn't he have given for trusty Bucephalus, dead since India - Alexander felt panic rising as the feeling of wrongness increased. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he reached the palace, throwing his reigns to someone and entering at a full run, ignoring everything and everyone in his way until he reached Hephaestion's rooms.

There he came to a sudden stop, his heart ice cold. He did not need to see the deadly stillness of his Mate's body to know that he was too late: The part of his heart and mind where Hephaestion's presence had shone warm and bright for most of his life was suddenly barren and dead. They had reached the end of their journey in this world, and he had no intention of traveling even one step further without Hephaestion by his side. There was only one destination now, and it lay in the dark peace where Hephaestion was waiting.

Dropping to his knees and clutching a lifeless hand, Alexander let out a howl that people would later whisper sounded like that of a wolf and allowed the emptiness to take him.

9. Epilogue: Babylon

They said it was poison, afterwards, and Alexander was inclined to agree, was even quite certain of who the culprit might be, dark eyes behind a veil flashing with jealousy in his memory - but it was not the fault of his unborn child and, in any case, it did not matter much how fate had robbed him of his other self.

For a while he contemplated following Hephaestion at once, knife and poison beckoning sweetly, but then he realised that Hephaestion was currently in Hades, and according to all the Oracles Alexander himself was destined for the Elysian Fields. Being separated in life was bad enough, Alexander could not accept the possibility they would be apart in death as well. So, fleeing Ecbatana the way he had never fled from any battle, he threw himself into arranging a funeral worthy of a God and sent to Siwa for confirmation that Hephaestion's place at his side would be secure.

The rest of the time he sleepwalked through the palaces of Babylon, only half-aware of meeting concerned friends and advisors. When he bothered to pay attention, he heard himself tell them to prepare for another war, to conquer Arabia, but those were just words. Everything was just words and shadows now, except for the night he saw Hephaestion's body burn, accompanied by the howls of grief coming from every single shifter in the army. He wished he could join them and even managed a smile when Perdiccas, the Pack's Beta, told him that they had decided not to choose another Alpha for the time being. With Craterus on the way back to Macedonia there was no one who would challenge this state, and Alexander felt it a suitable tribute. For his part he ordered a period of mourning worthy for a king and sacrifices to his dead Mate across his empire. He had to ensure the Oracle's reply would be favourable.

The day he received word that Zeus-Ammon had granted Hephaestion the status of Divine Hero, a weight lifted of Alexander's shoulders. "I'm coming, my love, just wait for me in the Fields…" he whispered - or maybe he screamed it, because there were worried faces around him, Bagoas holding him upright. Inside, where Hephaestion's absence was constant proof of how wrong the world was now, Alexander felt nothing but calm determination. Not much longer now.

In the end, it took him eight months from that fateful day in Ecbatana, but finally, Alexander closed his eyes against the crowds surrounding his bed. Let them squabble over the throne, meaningless without his beloved by his side - he could not even muster the interest to provide for his pregnant wives, only felt a dim sorrow for the two children who would be born into unrest and chaos. He spared a thought for the son Barsine had claimed to have born him a few years ago, but suddenly, unbelievingly, he could feel the Mate bond flare back to life, a vibrant golden thread taking root in his heart.

Alexander followed it like a lifeline, down, down, ever further away from everything else, into the quiet darkness and the promises it held. Soon, he imagined he could make out the familiar howling of a wolf and the glint of sapphire eyes appearing far off in the distance. Alpha and Dominant had conquered the world together, now it was time to begin another journey, into an unknown land… Alexander took his last breaths - Hephaestion was waiting.

Noah came up onto his knees, gripped Lucas' thighs and leaned in so their faces were a breath away. "When I realized you were my Mate, I gave myself to you willingly. It was my idea and my choice. Your rank, your authority over my job and my life never figured into any of it." [...]
"Alexander didn't die from mysterious circumstances. He wasn't assassinated. He died of grief." Noah's voice broke on the last word as his expression crumpled.

- "The Strength of the Pack", by Kendall McKenna

End Notes
Some of my sources:
- Obviously, Mary Renault's 'Alexander' trilogy and Oliver Stone's 2004 movie.
- "The Nature of Alexander" by Mary Renault
- "Alexander the Great" by Robin Lane Fox
- "Murder in Babylon" by Graham Phillips (with caution)
- Wikipedia (sorrysorrysorry *g*)

Some notes on "my" werewolf lore:
- I use 'shifter', 'Were' and 'werewolf' pretty much interchangeably, just to have more choice.
- The concept of an alpha submitting to a human 'Dominant' is stolen from McKenna, where it's specifically stated that it's a) a rare, legendary phenomenon in werewolf history, and b) has been used as a weapon at several points in history (I especially liked the alpha/Dominant pairs of Eleanor of Aquitaine/Henry II & Shiva/Kali). I have deviated insofar as they can be physically separated, because Hephaestion being given independent commands is a historical fact and to take into account Alexander's known other lovers.
- 'Alpha' (with a capital A) is the title used for the official leader of a pack, while 'alpha' indicates simply a wolf's status, on the assumption that (while every alpha has the ability, for example, to force lesser Weres to shift) there are more alphas than packs. (The same goes for 'beta' and 'Beta'.)
- I also assume that, at least in this military setting, several packs are united in one big 'Macedonian Army Pack' (in the beginning led by Parmenion as Alpha).
- Just for the record: there is no omega mpreg in this world. 🙂

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