THE BANDIT CHIEF by Moon 71
Summary: Hephaestion and Alexander form an early alliance
Rating: Utterly harmless, unless you have a dirty mind and want to read things into this that I promise aren't there…
Dedication: To Queendel, just for being such a faithful and regular reviewer to both me and all my fellow writers – it means so much!
Author's Note: Hope I'm not getting too silly and sentimental in my old age, but I've been coming up with fluffy little stories like this lately, probably as a sort of stress relief. (Well, come on, it's healthier than booze and fags!)
"Just a moment, Hephaestion." Amyntor tightened his grip on his son's small hand. Hephaestion looked up at his father with poorly suppressed impatience. He had already caught sight of Alexander and was straining to run and play with his new friend. Amyntor couldn't be more pleased that the two boys had taken so eagerly to each other, but one could not become careless. Amyntor crouched down in front of Hephaestion and put a hand on his shoulder. "Now remember what I told you. Alexander is younger than you and only a small boy besides. You must remember to be gentle with him! He's not one of your wooden soldiers!"
"I didn't do anything to him!" Hephaestion pouted.
"Now Hephaestion," Amyntor admonished, "Queen Olympias herself was complaining that Alexander was covered in bruises the last time you two played together…" Not that she wouldn't find something to complain about if Alexander was returned to her dipped in gold, he silently added to himself, then dismissed the thought. Whatever she was, she was Alexander's mother and she quite obviously loved him. "Promise me you'll be more careful this time!"
"Yes, Father," Hephaestion mumbled, glancing over his shoulder to where Alexander was waiting. "May I go now?"
"Oh, very well," Amyntor sighed, ruffling Hephaestion's dark hair, "give the old man a kiss to buy your freedom!"
It was an old joke between them; grinning, Hephaestion threw his arms about Amyntor's neck and kissed his cheek before hurtling away in Alexander's direction. In spite of himself, Amyntor shuddered as he watched his son give Alexander a violent shove by way of greeting. His dear little boy was as big and solid – and potentially deadly – as a siege engine.
"Joy to you, daughter of Dropidas…" Amyntor grinned amiably as he came across Alexander's nurse Hellanike, watching her lower her eyes and turn pink. It was rather satisfying that he could still make women blush with a smile and a particular tone of voice, and Hellanike in particular was charmingly susceptible. But this time she recovered quickly; glancing over her shoulder to the men who followed her. Amyntor recognised them at once as Hermias, steward of Alexander's small household, and Actaeon, one of Alexander's body-servants. It didn't take long for him to understand the situation. "Have they escaped again…?"
"Sir, it wasn't my fault!" Actaeon cried defensively, "I only took my eyes off them for a moment! And Alexander can be such a… such a … such a devious little tyke sometimes!" He gazed imploringly at Hermias, who put a reassuring hand on his arm.
"So can Hephaestion," muttered Amyntor wearily. It had been a long day full of endless discussions, arguments, questions and drawing up of plans. All he wanted now was to get far away from Court, back to the peace of his estate. I'm getting old, he thought wryly. "Where did we find them last time?"
Hellanike's face lit up. "The orchard!" she exclaimed, smiling brilliantly at Hephaestion's father, who was not a little unsettled to find his own face growing warm for once. Alexander's nurse set off at a pace her brother Cleitos would have envied, leaving the three men trailing behind.
"Oh no…!" Amyntor groaned aloud as he heard the shouting followed by Hellanike's squeal of dismay and found her amongst the maze of fruit trees. "Hephaestion Amyntoros!"
Hephaestion looked up from where he stood, lowering the wooden sword he had been pressing against Alexander's chest, his startled look shifting to an irritable frown. "Not yet, Father! Can you not come back at dusk?"
Too angry to reply for a moment, Amyntor glared at his son while Alexander's servants, recovering from the initial shock, hastened to untie the knots with which Hephaestion had tightly bound the little prince to the trunk of a tree. The unhappy look in Alexander's grey eyes said enough to Amyntor; he seized Hephaestion's arm and pulled him aside. "Hephaestion, you are the most wicked, disobedient little boy I have ever had the misfortune to come across! What did I say to you this morning? Didn't I tell you to be gentle with Alexander!"
"But Father, you don't understand…!" Hephaestion protested.
The fact that his son sounded more angry than frightened raised Amyntor's temper to new heights. "We are going straight home, boy, where you are going to get the whipping of your life, and then you're going to be put to bed without any supper! There," he added with grim satisfaction as he heard little Alexander burst into a flood of tears, "there you see – you've made him cry!"
But to the consternation of all the adults present, as soon as he was unbound, the smaller boy ran straight into Hephaestion's arms and buried his face in his now rather stained red chiton. Hephaestion glared at his father over the top of Alexander's head and Amyntor was damned if the look on his little boy's face wasn't the exact image of his wife Helena's – the look she had worn when, after she and the nurse had finally succeeded in getting baby Hephaestion down to sleep, Amyntor would clatter into the nursery to pick him up and kiss him and immediately set him off screaming like a harpy. The look that said NOW look what you've done!
"It's time we went home, Hephaestion," Amyntor suggested with a bewildered glance at Hellanike, "let Alexander go, now…"
"No!" Alexander tightened his grip. "No, I don't want you to beat him!"
"But Alexander," Hellanike cried in despair, "he tied you to a tree! And I heard him threatening you!"
"Don't be silly, Lanike," Alexander snivelled, "we were only playing a game! And now it's ruined!"
"But what awful sort of game has to have you being tied up?"
"Alé was pretending to be Iolaus, charioteer of Herakles," Hephaestion responded defiantly, "and he'd been captured by bandits, and I was the bandit chief so I was threatening to sacrifice him to my god of death, but then I was going to be Herakles and come and rescue him!"
"And now it's all ruined!" Alexander broke into fresh tears. When neither Hellanike's soothing and petting, nor Hermias' scolding, nor Actaeon's bribe of honey cakes after dinner made any impact, Amyntor crouched wearily down before the little boy, taking the cloth Hellanike offered to dry Alexander's tears and wipe his nose. "There, now, my dear," he sighed, "forgive your silly old Uncle Amyntor. Tell him what would make you smile again…"
"You mustn't beat Tion!" Alexander sniffed.
Amyntor suppressed a smile. "Oh… very well, my prince. Not if you don't want me to."
"You must swear it!" Alexander insisted petulantly.
"Alexander!" Hermias snapped, but Amyntor silenced him with a quick gesture, then made a great show of holding up his hand. "I swear…"
Hephaestion leaned and whispered something in Alexander's ear. "By Athene!" Alexander added quickly.
"I swear by Athene," Amyntor continued, glaring up at his son, "that I will not beat him for…"
"And you'll let us finish our game!" Hephaestion butted in.
"Hephaestion…" Amyntor hissed, but before he could get any farther Alexander favoured him with one of his sunniest smiles, melting him like ice at midday. "Oh very well…!"
With a cry of delight, Alexander threw himself at Hephaestion's father and kissed him before moving back to his tree. "Tie me up again, Actaeon," he commanded imperiously.
Throwing a smug glance at his father, Hephaestion picked up his sword once more.
"I will arrange for one of the sentries to ride over with Hephaestion to your estate, sir," Hermias suggested, but Amyntor shook his head, seating himself against one of nearest fruit trees.
"No need, Hermias… I'll sit with them until they're done. At least this way I know what they're up to!"
"Then allow me to send Actaeon back with a cup of wine for your refreshment…"
"A wise suggestion! But generously mixed, mind you!" Amyntor grinned at the steward, "I haven't a Macedonian's head for the produce of Dionysus!"
Just as he was settling back, he felt Hellanike's light touch upon his arm and looked up at her. "Don't be too hard on your boy, son of Demetrius," she whispered kindly, "my little Alexander needs absolutely no encouragement to be naughty, and they really are such dear little things, and so fond of one another, one really can't stay angry at them for long…!"
"Perhaps not," Amyntor replied, breathing out heavily as he watched Hephaestion threatening to cut off Alexander's head and Alexander shouting back defiantly that when Herakles came he would cut him up into tiny little pieces and feed him to his dogs, "but I can't help but fear for the world when those two dear little things are finally let loose upon it…!"