Someone To Believe in (Me)

by Wildkat

Iolaus was sitting in the inn, waiting for Hercules to show up. He had already finished two bowls of boar stew and three glasses of ale. He was contemplating ordering another ale when a disturbance outside caught his attention. He quickly got to his feet and went to investigate.

A dirty youth was being dragged by the magistrate towards the jail. A woman stood sobbing at the sight.

"Caught ya red-handed this time," the constable said with a sneer.

The unkempt young man struggled against the officer's grip. "Let go of me," he screamed.

"Pipe down, Tragus. You've been causing trouble here for years. Time for you to pay for your crimes," the magistrate declared.

The dark haired woman ran up the pair. "Let him go. He's a good boy," she sobbed.

"I'm sorry, Melena, but I saw him steal that money pouch myself. He's in a lot of trouble this time," the constable stated. He pushed the youth into the jail.

Tears streamed down Melena's face as she watched her son get arrested. "What did I do wrong?" she cried.

Iolaus walked over to comfort the lady. For some reason this situation seemed to affect him personally. "Are you ok," he asked kindly.

"No," she exclaimed. "My baby is being locked up, and I can't do anything about it. He isn't a bad kid. Tragus only started getting in trouble after his father died. How did I fail him?" She burst into tears again.

Iolaus pulled Melena into an embrace. He allowed her to cry herself out before he released her. "You didn't fail him. It's not your fault that he got into trouble," the hunter told her.

"How can you be so sure?" she asked.

The blond man replied, "I just know. I was like your son when I was younger. It wasn't my mother's fault, she did the best that she could. I did things, things that I'm not proud of, but I turned my life around, and I'm sure that your son can too."

Melena sniffed. "Do you really think so?"

"Sure," the blue-eyed blond replied.

Iolaus walked out of the jail with his arm around Tragus' shoulders. The black haired youth looked at the Golden Hunter suspiciously. "Why are ya doing this? Are ya trying to get close to my mother?" he asked sullenly.

"No," the hero replied. "I am doing this for you."

"What do you mean?" questioned the thief.

"I believe that you can straighten your life out, if you really want to. You don't want to spend the rest of your life in jail, do you?" Iolaus said. "It hurts your mother when you get into trouble."

A look of sadness passed over Tragus' face, but it was quickly replaced with a scowl. "So what do you get out of this? Am I gonna be your personal slave or something?" asked the youth belligerently.

"I don't get anything out of this. I know that you can stay out of trouble, you just need a chance," the blond warrior remarked.

"So what do I hafta do?" demanded the criminal.

"Well, first you have to apologize to the merchant you stole from, and then you are going to work for him to pay off your debt," Iolaus stated.

"And what if I don't?" Tragus retorted.

The former thief replied, "Then you'll go back to jail, and break your mother's heart. Look, Tragus, I know that this won't be easy, but I have faith in you. I know that you aren't a criminal-- not in your heart. The final decision is yours."

A few days later as Hercules and Iolaus were leaving town, they bumped into Miklos, an old friend and local merchant. He greeted his old friends kindly.

"How are you doing, old friend?" Hercules asked.

"Fine, fine. Business is good," Miklos responded. "By the way Iolaus, Tragus seems to be working out. He is a hard worker and seems to be trying to put the past behind him."

"Glad to hear it," Iolaus said with a smile.

"What's all this about?" the demigod asked in confusion.

Miklos replied, "Iolaus convinced me to hire Tragus. He had been caught stealing my money pouch, but our friend here persuaded both me and the magistrate to give the kid a second chance. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised at how it is working out. Well, I have to get back to my store. Hope to see you the next time you come to town."

Hercules waited until they had left the town before asking Iolaus about Tragus. "So saving people from monsters isn't enough, now you have to help people turn their lives around?" joked the demigod.

"Herc, everyone needs someone to believe in them. I don't know where I'd be now, if someone hadn't had faith in me when I was his age," Iolaus explained.

"Come on Iolaus. You weren't that bad, and look at ya now. You straightened out," the taller hero commented.

"Herc, someone gave me a chance. I was a thief. If I hadn't gotten caught and sent to jail, there's no telling where I'd have ended up. I could be in prison or dead, but they gave me a choice between jail and the Academy. Once I was in the Academy, I couldn't betray the trust that someone put in me. Someone believed in me, and I did my best to prove myself worthy of that trust. Just wish I knew who gave me that chance."

The small youth darted between the merchants carts. He filled his pockets with their wares and then slunk off into the shadows. He carefully made his way to the Lowacks hideout, making sure that he hadn't been followed. The thief slid between the rotting boards of the abandoned house. The other punks watched as the small blond made his way up to their leader.

Cradus greeted the youth happily. "So what did you bring us today, Iolaus?"

The blond straightened his clothes and piled his loot on the table in front of the gang leader. "Hope this meets with your approval," the young man stated.

Cradus' eyes lit up at the amount of booty. "Great job Iolaus. No one saw you, did they?" he queried.

"Nope," Iolaus replied. "They probably haven't even realized that half of this stuff is missing yet."

"Are you sure?" Maladus asked with a sneer.

Iolaus glared at the taller boy. "You got a problem?" he asked.

"Yeah, you," the dirty blond replied.

"Want to settle this right now?" Iolaus baited. He dove at the larger boy, hoping to knock him off balance.

Cradus stepped between his bickering followers. "That's enough," he announced. He sent Maladus off to check on some of the other gang members while he rested his arm around the short blond's shoulders. "I'm planning something that I think you might be perfect for."

Iolaus looked at Cradus suspiciously. He wondered what the older boy had planned. The short blond had been a member of the gang for several months now, but he was starting to become disenchanted with the Lowacks. He had noticed that some of their activities were becoming more and more violent. Iolaus didn't mind stealing, but hurting someone was another matter. "What's up?" he asked the taller boy with long, dark greasy hair.

Cradus grinned widely as he told the youth about his plans.

The young thief ran his hand through his unruly blond mop of curls. "I don't know. Someone could get hurt," he said slowly.

"So what?" the large thug stated. "Are ya chicken or something?"

"No, it's just that, we shouldn't take chances we don't need to," explained the youth.

"You worry too much," the leader of the Lowacks informed Iolaus. "So are ya in or not?"

"I'm in," Iolaus replied after a minute.

Cradus smiled. "Good." He watched as the short blond walked away.

Neolun walked over to the leader of the gang. He was a tall gangly youth with dirty blond hair. "So what did he say?" he asked.

"He thinks it's too dangerous," the dark haired youth informed his comrade. They both watched as Iolaus slinked out the door.

"Do ya think we can trust him, or should I take care of him?" the dirty blond asked.

"Don't worry about him. He won't tell. Iolaus is loyal to a fault," Cradus said with a smirk.

The unruly blond snuck away from the hideout. Millions of thoughts crossed his mind. He wasn't sure if he liked the way the gang was going. It was one thing to steal from the merchants' stalls, but some of the guys had started breaking into people's homes or stores. Iolaus shook his head, blond curls bouncing around his face. Sometime soon, someone would get hurt.

The short blond teen made his way through the maze of alleys towards the food merchants. He was hungry, and he figured they would never notice if he took an apple or two. He was just about to make his getaway without raising any suspicion when a voice rang out.

"Hey Iolaus. What're ya doing?" the voice asked.

The blond whirled quickly, knocking over the vendor's wagon, and losing his lunch in the pile of fruit. A tall man with graying hair ran over to survey the mess. "What happened?" he growled. "Did you do this, punk?"

"Uh, well, uh..." stuttered the young thief.

"Iolaus, I thought that was you," a tall youth with wheat colored hair stated as he walked up. "Sorry to startle you like that."

"Could someone tell me what happened here. Why is my wagon tipped over and all of my produce lying on the ground ?" the merchant said angrily.

Iolaus stood quietly. He was trying to think of a reasonable and believable explanation. "Well you see..." he started.

"I'm sorry, it's my fault. I called out to my friend, and it startled him. In his surprise your cart got knocked over. Why don't you let us help you clean up the mess?" the taller boy replied.

"Ok," the man said tersely.

The bigger youth quickly righted the cart and started to replace it's spilled contents. Iolaus soon joined in, helping to restock the fruits.

"It's nice to see you again Iolaus," the youth remarked.

"Yeah, it's nice to see you again, too, Hercules," Iolaus responded. "So is it break time from the Academy?"

"Actually I just have a couple of days off, decided to come home and visit Mother. So how are you doing?" the demigod asked. He studied his friend. Iolaus looked good, better than the last time he had seen him. Of course then they had met during a fight, a fight in which Iolaus had gotten the brunt of the punishment. Hercules could see the fading remnants of a black eye, but no other injuries. He assumed that Iolaus' smart mouth had earned him that bruise.

"I'm doing ok," the shorter boy replied. He could tell that Academy life was agreeing with his friend. Hercules seemed more confident than when they had met a few short months ago. "How is Alcmene?"

"She's doing fine," the demigod answered. "It's so nice to be home."

Iolaus gave the demigod a weak grin as he concentrated on finishing the task at hand.

"What have you been up to?" the cadet asked.

"Oh, a little of this, a little of that," the thief replied.

"Been staying out of trouble I hope."

"Come on Herc, me get into trouble?"

The demigod's blue eyes sparkled. "I seem to recall something about trouble following you around."

"You must have me confused with someone else, maybe one of your friends at the Academy," the smaller youth remarked.

Hercules smiled and put his arm around the other boy. "Do ya want to do something together while I'm home?" he asked hopefully.

Iolaus' cerulean eyes met Hercules' azure ones. He could see how desperately the cadet wanted to reconnect with him. They had become good friends after their first meeting. They had hung out together for Hercules' entire break, but once he had returned to the Academy, the two had lost touch. The unruly blond sighed. "It would be nice to catch up with Hercules," he told himself. Aloud he said, "Sure Herc, what do you have in mind?"

With the two of them working together, the merchant's cart was put to rights in several minutes. The merchant was grateful for their help, and as a reward, he gave both boys an apple. The young men walked away talking and munching.

Hercules stopped walking when he spied a group of punks swaggering by. He frowned as he watched them make their way through the crowd, pushing and shoving people out of their way.

"What's up, Herc?" Iolaus asked when he noticed the expression on the demigod's face.

"Just them," he said as he pointed at the retreating backs of the thugs. "Damn Lowacks think they own the place. They are nothing but trouble."

Iolaus fell silent. Hercules didn't approve of his friends. "Come on Herc, they aren't that bad," he remarked. "Maybe a bit rude, but they are ok."

Hercules stared his companion in shock. "Iolaus, they are the most dangerous gang of thieves around. Who knows what they are capable of doing?"

Iolaus didn't speak. He didn't know what to say, but he knew that he didn't want Hercules to find out he was a member of the gang.

The demigod took his friend's silence as agreement. "What do you say?" the taller boy asked. "Are ya up for some fishing?"

"Sounds good to me," replied the shorter boy.

They spent the next several days fishing. Every night Hercules brought Iolaus home with him. Alcmene was glad to see the young man, she always made him feel at home in her house.

On the demigod's last night at home, the young thief tried to get out of having dinner at the cadet's house. "Come on Herc, it's your last night at home, you should spend it with your Mom. You don't need me hanging around," Iolaus said.

"I want you there. Mother loves having you around. Please come," Hercules begged.

"I shouldn't," the unruly blond replied.

The taller boy put his arm around Iolaus' shoulders and steered him towards the house. "I'm not taking no for an answer," he informed his friend.

Alcmene had prepared what seemed like a feast to Iolaus. There was fresh bread, stuffing, rice, fish--that the boys had caught, and several types of pastries.

"I hope you didn't go to too much trouble," the young man stated.

"No trouble at all. I enjoy cooking, especially for people who love to eat," the blond woman said with a smile.

The boys quickly dug into the feast. The only sound for several minutes was of forks scraping against the plates and groans of contentment.

Alcmene smiled as she watched the young men clean their plates and go for seconds. She loved having her son home, and it was good to see Iolaus again. "I ran into Meigh today at the market. She asked about you. Wanted to know how you are doing," she informed her son.

"How is she? Has she recovered from the robbery?" Hercules asked.

"Seems like she's put it behind her," the blond woman replied.

"Damn Lowacks. I wish the magistrate would lock them all up. They are nothing but troublemakers," the demigod stated vehemently.

Iolaus paled slightly. He didn't say a word, just took another mouthful of food.

"Mother, they've never harassed you, have they?" the cadet asked worriedly.

Iolaus looked up, worry apparent in his deep blue eyes. "Have they ever bothered you, Alcmene?" the young man queried quietly.

"No, they've never come near me," Hercules' mother replied.

Both boys sighed in relief.

Alcmene glanced over at Iolaus. The young man seemed unnaturally quiet. She knew that he hung out with a few members of the gang, and he probably didn't want to admit that to Hercules. She shook her head. She really liked the youth, but he had to straighten out before he got into real trouble.

After dinner was finished and the dishes were done, Iolaus left. He refused to let Hercules talk him into spending another night at the house.

"Come on Iolaus stay," Hercules begged.

"Herc, I gotta go. Besides you should spend some time with your mother. It's your last night home, and I don't want to intrude," the short blond replied.

"But Iolaus," the cadet started.

"No buts, Herc, I'm going and that's that. See ya around," Iolaus stated. He quickly slipped out the door and into the night.

Hercules stared out into the darkness, straining to see his friend. "What could have made him want to leave like that?" he said aloud.

"Maybe it was all your talk about the Lowacks, dear," Alcmene replied.

"Why would that bother Iolaus? They are just a bunch of thieves and punks," the demigod stated.

"Maybe some of those 'punks' are his friends," Hercules' mother remarked. "Did it occur to you that maybe Iolaus is part of that gang?"

"Why would he..." started the cadet. "Oh man, I messed up, didn't I?"

The woman smiled at her son. "Don't worry. He'll forgive you."

"I just hope he doesn't mess up his life hanging out with those guys. They are nothing but trouble," the young man stated.

It was late when the youth snuck into the hideout. He just wanted to get some sleep. He crept quietly past the sleeping bodies on his way towards the area where he kept his few possessions.

"What do you think you are doing," a voice growled from behind the young man.

He spun quickly and saw Neolun standing behind him. "Hey, what's up?" the short boy whispered.

"I could ask you the same thing. Where have you been?" the taller youth asked.

"I've been out. Didn't know Cradus had a curfew," remarked the unruly blond.

"Where have you been the last couple of days?" the dirty blond pressed.

The shorter youth looked up at the older one. "I don't think it's any of your business where I spent my time," he replied.

Neolun pushed the smaller boy against the wall. "Where have you been?" he asked through gritted teeth. He pulled out a knife.

"Wow, you have such a way of asking questions," quipped the blond. "Do you really think that knife will make me tell you anything? Look, I decided to go away for a few days, if you don't like it tough."

"You think you are such a comedian. Why don't you just tell me where you've been, and maybe I won't make you bleed," threatened the tall thug.

"Why do you care where I've been? It's not like we are friends," the blond retorted.

"But I thought that we were," a silky voice answered from the shadows.

"Where have you been Iolaus?"

The young man looked over Neolun's shoulder and spied Cradus standing there watching them. "I was just visiting an old friend. I didn't think that it was such a big deal. I didn't know I had to check in with you guys," he answered, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Neolun narrowed his eyes and shoved Iolaus back against the wall. He looked from his knife to the blond jokester.

The leader of the Lowacks watched them carefully. "Let him down," he commanded.

"But Cradus..." the thug started.

"I am the one in charge here," he reminded the taller youth. He ran a hand through his long, curly dark hair. "It's not that you have to check in with us, but when we hadn't seen you for a couple of days, we thought that maybe the magistrate had captured you."

"Nope, don't worry he won't catch me," Iolaus bragged.

"Glad to hear that," Cradus replied.

Neolun scowled at the short blond. He was upset that his fun had been cut short.

Iolaus yawned. "Look, if it's ok with you, I'd like to get some sleep."

"Sure thing, we'll talk in the morning," the dark-haired youth replied. He watched as the smaller boy made his way over to his bedroll and soon fell asleep.

"He didn't tell us the whole story. I saw him with Hercules in the market two days ago, and they looked pretty buddy buddy to me," Neolun blurted suddenly. "I don't think we can trust him. You know what a goody-two-shoes Hercules is, what if Iolaus told him our plans?"

"I wouldn't worry about that. If Hercules knew about us, Iolaus wouldn't be here. We'll just have to keep an eye on our friend Iolaus," Cradus said with a smile.

Several months passed, and Iolaus' brief disappearance was soon forgotten by the members of the gang. He continued to take part in Cradus' schemes and robberies, but he was getting fed up. Iolaus didn't like the violent turn that he was witnessing in the newest plans. One day after the young thief had filched some food and ran into an alley, he heard some whimpering. He slowly and carefully crept toward the sound. When he found the source of the moanful howling, he saw a puppy, a small mistreated, malnourished puppy.

The small animal cowered at the sight of the scruffy young thief.

"It's ok boy. I won't hurt you," crooned the youth. He had always wanted a dog, but his father had never gotten him one. General Skouras was always too busy for his only son. "Don't worry I won't hurt you." The small youth kneeled down. Iolaus offered the dog some of his meager lunch. The puppy sniffed it, and after several minutes gobbled down his lunch. Pitiful brown eyes gazed up into the boy's bright cerulean orbs. "Sorry that's all I have," the youth stated. "But don't worry I can get us some more." He slowly reached down to pet the scared animal.

The dog flinched, but did not growl or snap as Iolaus patted his head. It was the first affection that the puppy had ever received.

The short blond ran his hands over the dog. He found welts and scars from where the puppy had been beaten. "Don't worry," he murmured. "No one is ever gonna hurt you again."

Iolaus and the dog soon became inseparable friends. The young man named his pet Fidus, and they were often seen running around the village. Cradus wasn't too happy about Iolaus having the dog. The puppy seemed to get in the way and ruin his plans, but he needed Iolaus too much to complain and alienate the young thug further.

Iolaus started spending more and more time away from Cradus and the others, he was still robbing people, but mainly just for food for him and Fidus.

Cradus and the Lowacks continued with their reign of terror--robbing and terrorizing the people of Thebes. It was a cold dark night when Iolaus walked back into town after playing with Fidus all day. He was walking past a house when he knocked to the ground by several people fleeing. He recognized Cradus and was about to follow his friends when he heard a scream. Iolaus rushed into the house and saw it engulfed in flames. He saw a man and woman standing outside of the flames, they both had been roughed up by the gang.

The woman was sobbing and screaming, "My baby, my baby."

Over the roar of flames, Iolaus could hear a toddler screaming. Without any thought to his own safety, he ran through the flames, up the stairs, and to the child. He yelled to the parents that they were ok, and that he would go out the window. He grabbed some blankets and towels and tied them together to lower the baby to the crowd waiting below. Once the child was safe, Iolaus jumped down to the ground since the flames had made it impossible to escape any other way. He tried to sneak away, but the grateful family hugged him and thanked him profusely. Once Fidus saw Iolaus, he stopped the endless barking that had awakened all the neighbors.

Fidus walked over to Iolaus and licked the sooty thief's face and then sniffed the three year old that Iolaus had just risked his life for. The child grabbed the puppy and gave him a hug. He giggled when the dog gave him a kiss.

"I can't believe it, everything is gone," the woman sobbed. "And on Solstice Eve."

"Shhh dear, it's ok, we can rebuild," her husband reassured her. "At least we have each other and Thacis."

Iolaus looked at the people who had just lost everything they owned in the world. He thought for a minute. He leaned down to Thacis and Fidus.

"Fidus, you take care of this family. They need you more than I do," he whispered to his canine companion. "Thacis, I want you to take care of Fidus for me. Can you do that?" After he said those words, Iolaus disappeared into the night.

Jaros walked over to thank the young man for saving his son, but Iolaus had already left. "Where is that boy? Did you see him?" he asked his neighbors.

"No, Jaros. Who are you talking about?" asked an old man.

"The young man who saved Thacis. I wanted to thank him. Did you see him? Did you recognize him?" Jaros queried.

All of the neighbors shook their heads. None of them had seen Iolaus before he had slipped away in the shadows.

"Wook Daddy. Wook at me puppy," Thacis babbled happily.

"Where did you get him?" Jaros asked his son.

"Nice man gave him to me," the child replied.

Iolaus limped off towards the hideout. He had landed wrong on his ankle when he had jumped from that building. He really didn't want to deal with Cradus, but couldn't think of any other place to go. He snuck in the entrance and tried to stay in the shadows. He didn't want to talk to any of the Lowacks at the moment. He hobbled over to his bedroll and prepared to lay down when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and looked up into Neolun's smirking face.

"So you finally got rid of that fleabag," the lanky blond remarked.

Iolaus shoved the thug against the wall. He raised his fist and was ready to knock the smile off of Neolun's face when Cradus stopped him.

"Stop it," the leader of the Lowacks warned his friend.

Iolaus turned to face the dark-haired gang leader. "What were you guys doing? People could have died in that fire."

Cradus said smoothly, "It was an accident. We were stealing some stuff when they interrupted us. The fire started when someone bumped the table and knocked the lamp over."

The short blond's eyes narrowed. "How come the people looked like you beat them up? Did you know there was a child in that house? Did you even care that someone could have died in that fire?" he asked.

"Calm down, Iolaus. It was just an accident," the silver tongued leader replied. "We didn't plan on anyone getting hurt."

Neolun shoved the young man. "Did you tell anyone that you saw us?" he asked.

"No, but maybe I should go to the Magistrate and tell him everything," the blue-eyed thief stated.

The lanky blond started to throw a punch at Iolaus. Cradus pulled his arm away. "Now Iolaus you don't want to do that," the thug remarked. "Neolun, go check outside."

"But Cradus..."

"I said go," The tall dark-haired youth said through gritted teeth. "Iolaus, it was an accident. No one was supposed to get hurt."

"Yeah right. You guys didn't even stop to help them. Because of the Lowacks, they've lost everything. They almost lost their son, but you don't care do you? Someone could have died."

"No one was injured," Cradus replied.

Luckily," the short blond remarked. "but what about next time?"

The tall dark-haired man turned to the smaller thief. "I told you the fire was an accident. No one was supposed to get hurt."

"No one? Or none of the Lowacks? I saw those people, Cradus, and their bruises weren't caused by an accident, " Iolaus remarked.

"We couldn't let them recognize us," the gang leader answered.

"Did you have to set their house on fire? They've lost everything, they almost lost their son, and for what, Cradus? For a few trinkets? If this is the way the Lowacks are going to operate, then I don't want to be a part of it," stated the blue-eyed blond.

Cradus looked Iolaus in the eyes. "If that's what you really want, but remember I took you in, gave you a place to stay. Where will you go? Who can you turn to? You can't go home, and everyone here knows you are a thief. Do what you think is best, but think about what I just said." The older youth turned and walked away.

Iolaus stared at Cradus' retreating back, then he made his way to his bedroll. he was tired, hurt, and had a lot to think about.

Iolaus looked around the marketplace. Things were busy as usual. The young man took a deep breath, this was the last time he was going to work with the Lowacks. he had thought things through and had decided to leave the gang. The short blond was going to help rob one of the merchants, and then Iolaus was going to take his share of the loot and leave. he hadn't decided where he was going or what he was going to do, but the young man knew that he couldn't stay with the Lowacks anymore.

The short blond spied his mark. As he started to make his move, he signaled the others. Iolaus walked up to the jewelry vendor and started to look at his wares. The merchant saw the scruffy youth inspecting his jewels. he hovered over the youth, making sure that the young man didn't pilfer any of his wares.

Suddenly four youths appeared. They surrounded Iolaus, and one of them pulled out a knife. The knife plunged through the tattered vest and blood started to spurt out. The short blond grabbed his chest and fell to the ground.. The merchant yelled for a soldier and ran after the attackers. Iolaus laid still for several minutes. Once he thought it was safe, he opened his eyes, jumped to his feet, and started to grab as many jewels as he could. When he spied the vendor returning, the youth grabbed one last handful of gems and took off running.

The blond quickly got lost in the throng of people. He breathed a sigh of relief. "Home free," he thought. Suddenly he heard a loud voice yell, "Stop thief!" Iolaus didn't look to see who the voice was referring to, he just started to make his way through the crowd. He started to run when he saw a soldier heading towards him. He quickly made his way through the maze of merchant carts and alleys. Iolaus was about to duck out of sight of the authorities when a woman screamed.

"Laurie," Jayme yelled. The lady watched helplessly as a horse and wagon headed straight for her daughter.

The small blond saw a red-headed girl of about four standing in the road with a runaway horse and wagon coming straight at her. Without a second thought, Iolaus ran towards the small child. He pushed her out of the way just as the horse beared down on them. The short blond jumped out of the way of the raging steed, but the wagon clipped him, knocking him to the ground.

Iolaus blinked his eyes. He sat up slowly and grimaced as his head started to pound. He reached up to touch the lump on his head. He moaned aloud as his fingers explored the bump. Once his eyes focused in the dim light, the youth groaned.

"So do you like the accommodations?" a voice boomed. "We finally caught you. This time you'll be punished for your crimes."

The blond acknowledged the taunting and sank back down onto the cot. He laid down and closed his eyes, hoping to ease the pounding of his head.

The magistrate rubbed his temples. he supposed that he should be glad that one of the notorious Lowacks had finally been caught, but the fact that the only reason that the young man had been captured was because he had saved a child from certain death. Both the mother and child had protested Iolaus' arrest. "What am I going to do with you, Iolaus?" the magistrate murmured.

Alcmene was shopping in the marketplace when she ran into her friend, Livia. The two women had been best friends since childhood. Alcmene greeted the other woman warmly.

"Did you hear the news?" Livia asked.

"No, what are you talking about? What news?" Alcmene responded.

"They finally caught one of those Lowacks," the woman replied.

"That's good," the blond remarked. She thought for a moment. "Do you know the name of the young man who was captured?"

Livia looked at her friend in curiosity. "No, I don't think that I heard a name, but it was a short boy with wild blond hair."

Alcmene paled. One of her fears had been realized. She had hoped that Iolaus would straighten out before he had gotten into any trouble.

"Well, I heard that they caught him after he pushed Jayme's little girl out of the way of a runaway horse and wagon," Livia continued.

"That sounds like the Iolaus I know," Hercules' mother stated with a small smile.

"You know him?" the other woman queried.

"He a friend of Hercules'," Alcmene answered.

"That boy needs better judgment in choosing friends," the older woman remarked.

The blond woman shook her head in disagreement. "Iolaus is a good boy at heart. He just got mixed up with the wrong people."

Livia smiled sadly at her friend. "Well, he'll pay for his crimes this time."

Alcmene knew that her friend had a point. She said her goodbyes and went to the magistrate's office. "What are you going to do with Iolaus?" she asked.

The older man sighed. "Hello Alcmene. So are you here for Iolaus, too?" He rubbed his temples wearily.

"Have there been others here on the behalf of him as well?" the blond woman asked.

"Lots of people have been here. Some want me to set him free, while others want me to lock him away," the magistrate remarked. "He's certainly well-known. This would be much easier if he had just stolen from people, but no he had to go and help people as well."

Alcmene laughed at the older man. "I always knew that Iolaus was a good kid, he just got mixed up with the wrong people."

The man ran his fingers through his short graying hair. "I am not looking forward to deciding on a punishment. Did you know that Iolaus rescued a young boy from a burning building recently, or that he took food to Shylar's family when Shylar was laid up with a broken leg. And that's just a few of the noble things he has done. Of course I also have a long list of transgressions-- mostly thefts. He needs to be punished, but I don't want to be too strict since he's proven that he isn't all bad."

"It sounds like you have a tough decision in front of you," the blond woman remarked.

"Are you here to plead for leniency on Iolaus' behalf as well?" asked the magistrate.

"Actually, I just wanted to see him for the moment. I am sure that whatever punishment you choose will be fair and just. Just remember that he's still a boy and has his entire life in front of him," Alcmene replied. "Now can I see him?"

"Sure Alcmene. I just have one question, why do you care so much about this thief?" the older man inquired.

"Iolaus is a friend of my son's," she replied.

"Ahhh. How is Hercules? I haven't seen him lately," the magistrate remarked.

"Hercules is fine. He's a student at Cheiron's Academy. I had always hoped that Iolaus would straighten out. He's a good boy, but he just needs some guidance." the woman said.

A guard stood in the doorway. The magistrate nodded in acknowledgement. "Taran, please take Alcmene down to see Iolaus."

"Yes sir," Taran answered. He waited for the blond woman to walk out the door, and then escorted her down to the cell where the young man was being held.

The magistrate sat at his desk. A germ of an idea was forming. Maybe deciding on a punishment wasn't going to be that difficult after all.

The guard knocked on the door awakening the prisoner. "There's someone here to see you," he announced.

Iolaus blinked his cerulean eyes. he wondered who his visitor was. "Probably the magistrate or one of the soldiers," he told himself.

"Hello Iolaus. How are you feeling?" a feminine voice asked.

The young man groaned when he realized that it was Hercules' mother inside the cell with him. One of the few people in the world who's opinions mattered to him. "Hi Alcmene," he said.

The blond woman noticed the lump on the youth's head. She quickly went to his side. "Does it hurt?" she asked.

"I'm fine," Iolaus replied. A puzzled look was on his face. "Why are you here?"

"I heard that you had been captured, and I came to see you," Alcmene informed him.

"But why?" the young man with unruly blond curls asked. "Why are you here? Why do you care?"

Hercules' mother smiled at the confused youth. "I care about you, Iolaus," she said as she laid a hand on his arm. "I know that you aren't a bad kid."

"But I've stolen things, robbed people... How can you care about me?" Iolaus asked.

"Yes, you have done some bad things, but you've also risked your life to help innocent people," the blond woman reminded him.

"What are you talking about?" the youth bluffed. "I'm just a good for nothing thief."

Alcmene shook her head at the from the young man was putting up. "I know that you were captured because you stopped to help that little girl. I know that you rescued Thacis from a burning house, and that you gave him your dog. Don't try to hide it, Iolaus, I know that underneath your rough exterior, beats the heart of a hero."

Iolaus sighed. Hercules' mother had always been able to see inside him. "How is the little girl?" he asked.

Alcmene pulled the young man into her arms. "She's fine," the woman whispered in his ear. "She's just fine because of you."

"What's going to happen to me?" he murmured.

"I don't know, Iolaus. I just don't know," Hercules' mother replied.

Cheiron reread the scroll for the third time. He wasn't quite sure what to make of this request.

"You wanted to see me?" the dour balding man asked.

"Yes, Feducious," the centaur said. He handed the parchment to his old friend.

The older man quickly read the scroll. "So this magistrate wants to send one of his prisoners here to the Academy. What does he think we run here? Does he think we are running a reformatory?"

Cheiron considered the teacher's words. The centaur started to pace. "From what it says, the young man is only fifteen, and he has risked his life for others more than once. It would be a shame for him to be locked away."

"You are actually considering this request?" Feducious asked incredulously.

"You can't mean that you'd actually allow this..this criminal to become a student here. Think about the Academy's reputation."

The centaur smiled at his friend. "There has to be something special about this young man for the magistrate to take the time and effort to request this favor."

"But you just can't admit that thief into the Academy," the dean sputtered indignantly.

"We will set some conditions on his admittance, such as having to pay tuition and passing all classes," Cheiron stated.

Feducious shook his head as he walked away. He muttered, "That boy will probably steal the place blind. What is the world coming to? First he has us admit a criminal, what's next? A God?"

Iolaus stood quietly, looking down at the ground. He had been dreading the day when he'd be taken to the magistrate for sentencing.

The magistrate cleared his throat. He looked at the prisoner standing before him. He quickly recited a list of crimes that the young man was being charged with. "Iolaus," he said. "Do you have anything you'd like to say before I pronounce sentence on you?"

"No sir," the youth responded. His blue eyes met the older man's grey ones. "I'm guilty. I did everything that you said, and I'm ready for my punishment."

The magistrate smiled grimly. "Iolaus, you are a very well-known young man in this village. I can't tell you how many people came to me voicing their opinions on your punishment." The thief made a wry face. "It took me a lot of thought, but I think that I've come up with a fair and just punishment. You were a very difficult person to judge. On one hand you are a thief, but on the other hand you've gotten quite a reputation for saving children. So I've decided to give you a choice-- jail or Cheiron's Academy."

Iolaus looked up in surprise. "Ch..Cheiron's Academy?"

"Yes. You have the option of spending the next five years in prison or going to Cheiron's Academy and straightening out your life. It's all up to you," the magistrate informed him.

"But....but How? Who?" he asked flabbergasted.

"You've been given a second chance, if you want it," the older man stated. "So what's your decision?"

"The Academy," Iolaus whispered.

The magistrate smiled. "There are a few conditions. You will be required to pay tuition and pass all of your classes. If you do not meet these requirements or if you are caught breaking any laws, then you will be brought back here to finish out your original prison sentence."

The thief shook his head in agreement. His mind was spinning. He couldn't believe that he was being given this chance.

The young man shifted uncomfortably on the wagon seat. The guard looked at his squirming charge. "Calm down, we are almost there. You are lucky to get this chance."

Iolaus was nervous. He wasn't sure if he could go through with this.

"We're here," the guard said interrupting the youth's thoughts. He left the wagon in the middle of the compound and led the prisoner towards Cheiron's office.

"Wonder who that was?" Jason mused aloud as he looked at the wagon.

"Not sure, but the kid looked familiar," Hercules replied. "I think I know him from somewhere."

"Probably a new cadet," the older boy stated.

"Yeah," the demigod replied. He stared at the young man's retreating back. There was something familiar about that boy. It was as if he knew him.

"Welcome to the Academy, Iolaus," Cheiron stated.

"Thank you sir," he replied.

The centaur studied the criminal standing in front of him. "You have been informed about the conditions of this arrangement, I assume. I also expect you to follow all the rules and regulations of the Academy."

"Yes sir," Iolaus answered.

Cheiron smiled at the youth. He had the feeling that the young man would make a good cadet. He dismissed the guard and escorted Iolaus to the dorm.

"Sorry sir," a young man said as he narrowly missed running into the centaur and the new arrival.

"You have to watch where you are going, Hercules," the centaur chided.

Hercules stared up at his teacher. "Sorry it won't happen again." His eyes landed on the young man standing next to Cheiron. "Iolaus? What are you doing here?"

"Do the two of you know each other?" the centaur asked.

"Yeah," the short blond admitted.

"Yes sir," the demigod replied.

"Well then, Hercules, can you show Iolaus around? He's our newest cadet," the centaur stated. He started to head back to his office as the young men got reacquainted. he turned and watched as Hercules greeted his old friend warmly. He saw the demigod introduce Iolaus to Jason as his old friend from home. Cheiron smiled to himself. "I hope this works out. I hope that Iolaus makes the most of his second chance."

The End

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