"You know," Iolaus said to the bush, "going alone on a fishing trip really, really sucks!"
This had been one rotten fishing trip almost from the beginning.
The day had started out pretty well. The previous day Hercules and Iolaus had been able to save Goldfishbowlis from a band of bandits and this morning they had decided to take the day off - well, as much as you could take a day off if you had no real job besides being a hero - and go fishing. The villagers had given them food and two skins of the wine the village was famous for and even pointed them to a wonderful small lake up in the mountains, that would be perfectly for fishing and relaxation.
Cheerfully they moved out of the town and up in the mountains. It was a perfect day for fishing and they made good way. It wouldn't be long before lunchtime when they would get to the lake and they were joking and teasing all the way.
Until ... well until, in a display of pink sparkles a scarcely glad woman appeared out of thin air.
"Hi, Sweetcheeks. Hi, big bro of mine. What's cookin'?"" Aphrodite put a hand on her well-formed hips and smiled at the two travelers.
"Hello, Aphrodite," Hercules greeted his half sister carefully. Where Aphrodite walked, trouble was usually walking not far behind.
"Hello," Iolaus was lifting his hand in greeting. He also was a little weary, though the view in front of him distracted him in such a way, he didn't really remember why.
"What are you two up to?" Aphrodite giggled that sweet giggle of her's and hooked her arms around Hercules' and Iolaus' arms and fell into step between the two of them.
All of the sudden Iolaus had to concentrate very hard on setting one foot in front of the other. A sweet smell emitted from the Goddess of Love and all of the sudden he remembered that it had been a while since he had been with a woman. Sure, there had been girls and wrenches enough to flirt with, but it's been weeks since he went the whole nine yards. He was glad his codpiece was made of stiff leather, else the arousing memories would have been highly visible.
In fact, he had been concentrating so hard not to show what he was thinking, that he missed half of the conversation between Aphrodite and Hercules and was startled when they both stopped, halting him in the process.
"Is that okay with you, Iolaus?" Hercules looked a little bit concerned. Surely he had noticed that Iolaus hadn't really been paying attention.
"Ehm, yeah, sure, why not?" Iolaus had no idea what he was agreeing to, but he would never ever admit that.
Hercules sighed. "I'll try to be back as soon as I can. The best thing would be for you to go ahead and wait for me on that lake Gerikon mentioned."
Hercules was leaving! Damn, he should have paid more attention to what the two had been talking about. "How about me coming along?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
Hercules shook his head. "Sorry, it's one of those family things. I would love to take you along, but ..."
"If I had anything to say, Goldie, I would give you a ride anytime you want," Aphrodite now piped in. "I think this is totally uncool, but sorry, no coming along for you today."
With this she and Hercules vanished in another display of pink stars.
This was so typical! One day, only one day, Herc wanted a quiet day, enjoy himself, and what happens? Puff, one god or another shows up and spoils the fun. Okay, usually it was Hera, Hercules oh-so-beloved stepmother and when she started to meddle in the lives of Hercules and Iolaus, there was more to be concerned about than a missed fishing trip. Usually monsters showed up and somebody would get hurt. No fun, no fun at all.
But a fishing trip alone wasn't really fun either.
It didn't take him long to arrive on the lake the villager had pointed out to them. Iolaus had to admit, this was one beautiful place to fish.
Crystal clear water was surrounded by tall trees. The lake lay at the middle of a wide, lush valley, at one end having a tall waterfall. Birds sang above and
Iolaus had seen a deer drinking on the other side of the lake. It ran away when it caught sight of the blond hunter.
"Oh well, run away if you want. It seems to be a common enough thing to do nowadays." Iolaus was still pretty miffed about Hercules sudden departure. Usually the lake and the fair weather and his surroundings would have squelched his bad mood in no time. But not today.
Grumbling to himself he set up camp and begun to unpack his fishing rod. He soon found a quite spot that looked like it would be comfortable enough for him to wait till a fish decided to bite and settled down. Having no one for company he opened up the first wineskin and took a deep swing.
"Wow!" he exclaimed after lowering the skin. "This is good stuff." Never having been one to waste any good wine when he came across one he took another deep gulp.
"Hercules will be pissed, when he founds out what he's missing here." He grinned. It would be pity revenge, but still ... "But then, he deserves it for leaving me behind."
This time it took even longer till Iolaus set down the wineskin.
"You know," Iolaus addressed the tree at his side, "being the sidekick to a demi-god sometimes is no fun at all."
The tree's leaves whispered in the wind. "Not that I don't like Herk. Hey, he is a great guy and the best friend I could ask for. It's not his fault his dad is of a more divine nature."
He took another gulp.
"And I really can't blame him for this step monster of his. Uh, she is a real mean -----. Trying to kill Hercules just because she couldn't control her husband. I don't think I will ever forgive her that she killed Deianeira and the kids, just because they loved him. Herk took that pretty hard and I can't blame him."
For a moment he looked out over the lake, his mind on the memory of Hercules' lovely wife and the three kids. How they always had run up to him when he had come for a visit and how they had called him uncle Iolaus.. He had to smile on that memory.
Till the memory was replaced by the face of Hercules, how he had stood broken in front of the ruins of his house, the day they died.
"To you, Deineira, may your smile light the Elysian Fields."
Then his memory moved on to some more recent events. Sahrina, the Golden Hind!
Hercules had been happy again, really, truly and deeply happy. Breaking up their partnership was the only thing Iolaus could think of to guarantee that this happiness lasted. He knew it had hurt Hercules deeply, when he walked away, but he would have forgotten soon enough and lived happily ever after.
And again Herk's family decided that he didn't deserved happiness. That cruel plot of Ares and Strife to kill Sahrina and twist everything in such a way that Hercules even thought that he had done the deed. It wasn't enough for Ares to destroy Hercules' happiness, no, he had to destroy him and his reputation at the same time.
"I thought I would loose him for good, this time," Iolaus whispered.
Without the help of Xena they would never have come out of this alive. For this, Iolaus would ever be grateful. Whatever Xena had done to him and Hercules previously, with this single act she had made good on it.
"To you, Warrior Princess."
Hercules had survived and triumphed once again. He had new scars on his soul, but only those who knew him were able to see them. And his reputation was intact.
The reputation of the invincible, heroic, chivalrous and whatever demi-god. The guy who slew hydras and she-demons, rescued damsels in distress and fought for the ordinary men.
And no mentioning of the guy who, though he was no demi-god, fought at his side and had his fair share of rescued damsels.
"Why does everybody always talk of him? Hercules the Mighty, Hercules the Demonslayer, Hercules the Monsterbasher. If there ever should be a theater play based on his name, would it be called 'The Guy Who Traveled With Iolaus'? I don't think so! They would call it maybe 'Hercules: the Legendary Journey', or something stupid like this. And no mentioning of me. Never!"
Iolaus threw the now empty wine skin between the trees.
Carefully he rose to his feet and walked back to the camp to get the rest of the wine. Somewhere deep in his mind he realized that he had already enough to drink and that maybe he should stop now. But right now he was on a role and he simply didn't want to stop.
Coming back with the second wineskin he sat on a boulder. Taking a deep draught he looked out over the lake.
"And now this," he continued his soliloquy. "Only onshe in a while Herk and I want to have a little bit of fun togesher, want to go on a fishing trip alone, and what happens? Poof, family time again. Of courshe only for him. The sidekick is not welcome. He ish only a mere mortal after all."
Iolaus' speech had begun to slur by now, but as nobody was listening to him anyway, he didn't mind. Neither the boulder nor the tree nor anybody else complained at least.
"As if being a god ish shomeshing shpeshial. Nope, it ishn't. Not at all. Itsh what you make out of it what mattersh."
Suddenly Iolaus wondered what he was doing sitting on the ground when moments before he had been sitting on a boulder.
"I shink I'm a little bit drunk," he deducted when he tried to get up and somehow couldn't find his balance. He almost lost the skin he was holding, but manage to grab it at the last moment. No sense in wasting the wine.
"I really could ushe Herk'sh .... Herk'sh .... Herk's help here getting up."
Without focusing he stared for more than five minutes across the see.
"You know," Iolaus then addressed the bush, "going alone on a fishing trip really, really sucksh!"
The bush didn't answer. Iolaus somehow had expected him to, but then, why should the bush answer, when the tree beside it and the boulder he had been sitting on hadn't uttered a word when he had spoken to them before?
Iolaus took another draught of the wineskin. At least he tried to, but there was nothing left of the very good wine that used to be in it.
"Oh, itsh empty!" he deducted brilliantly, but still tried to squeeze one or two last drops out of it. "Where ish the nex one?"
He felt at his side, but there was nothing there. Realizing that there was nothing to get out of the skin he was holding he threw it into the woods where the other wineskin had found a resting place not too long ago.
His attempts to get up were meet by more success this time and unsteadily he walked to the place where he had wedged his fishing pole between some stones on the ground. He tried to grab the line but couldn't really decide which of the three lines he could see was the real one, so gave up after some moments. There wouldn't be any fish to reel in anyway. There hadn't been any the whole day long.
He moved on into the direction he thought he had sat up camp.
"I shink .... I shink ... Ahm, what do I shink?" Caught in the puzzle what he was supposed to be thinking and not being able to remember what it was, he folded his legs and sat down on the ground. It was better sitting on the ground anyway, the trees didn't move that much when he was down there. Suddenly laying down sounded like an even better idea.
Within minutes a soft, snoring sound filled the forest.
He woke up the smell of fried fish. Normally a more than welcome odor at a cold morning, especially if somebody hadn't eating anything at the previous night. However this time the smell woke another feeling.
"Uaaaarghhhh!" Iolaus rolled on his side, got up to his feet and vanished between the bushes, before the urge to throw up could overtake him.
After he had expelled what little he had in his stomach he felt slightly better. Only now his head had started to pound like the inside of a drum at an Amazon dance ritual. And his body ached at every possible - and some impossible - places. Dying sounded all of the sudden like a good idea.
Slowly he made his way back to the fire, most of his concentration on the effort to ignore the fish smell. In Hercules' face two contradicting emotions played. Though his eyes were clouded by the concern for his friend, a hardly suppressed smile played around his lips.
"How do you feel?" the demi-god asked then quietly.
"I'll live. I think! I've haven't decided yet." Slowly Iolaus lowered himself to the ground. "Since when are you back?"
"Sunrise. I hope you don't mind that I moved you to the camp you set up. I thought you might want to sleep at a fire."
For a while silence stretched between the two friends. While Hercules took care of the fish, Iolaus held his head, trying to will the pain away. Without much success though.
"Want some tea?" Iolaus hadn't noticed Hercules getting up and filling a leather mug with some herbs and hot water. The demi-god held the mug out to Iolaus.
The thought of filling his stomach with something, and may it just be tea, didn't really appeal to Iolaus. But he took the mug anyway, knowing fully well that Hercules had only his best interest in mind. After blowing at the surface of the liquid to cool it down a little, he took a careful sip, fully expecting to have to throw up again soon. Surprised he looked up when he discovered that the liquid not only stayed down without any trouble, but that his squeamish stomach settled down a little.
"What is that stuff?" It wasn't the first hangover he ever had, but it was the first time Hercules had produced something that actually helped. He took another sip of the hot tea.
"A little something Dyonisos gave me when I was up there." Hercules pointed towards the general direction of Mount Olympus.
"The god of wine came up with a remedy for hangovers? Kewl!" After Iolaus finished the cup he returned it to Hercules.
"Want to try some fish?"
Iolaus shook his head. "I might be feeling a little better now, but there is no sense in taking an unnecessary risk. Besides, you know, I'm familiar with your cooking," he joked weakly.
Hercules smiled for a moment. Then he furrowed his brows as if he was thinking about something. Iolaus stared into the flames.
"Are you mad at me, because I went with Aphrodite?" Hercules asked all of a sudden.
Iolaus looked up surprised. Where did this come from? "What gave you the idea I would be mad at you?"
Hercules lifted up the two empty wineskins. "I would have thought you would wait for me with the wine."
So Herk had found the skins. And had started to think about it. But Iolaus just couldn't tell Herk why he got drunk yesterday. "Aaaahhhh.. It's not that. Not really."
"Then what was it?" Hercules prodded.
Hercules didn't seem to believe Iolaus. "You don't empty two skins of wine on your own for nothing."
The demi-god simply didn't give up. Iolaus had to give him something. "Okay, I was feeling a little depressed, but I'm better now. And besides, the wine was good."
Hercules didn't go for his weak attempt of humor. "Why did you feel depressed?"
"Iolaus, if you feel depressed, then this is very important to me.. You are my partner, my friend."
All of the sudden Iolaus felt warm inside. He KNEW Hercules was his friend - this friendship was one of the few constancies in his life - but hearing him saying it was something else. Maybe he should tell Herk what was on his mind. But than, what could the demi-god do? Hercules couldn't change who and what he was and he couldn't change how the people reacted to him.
"You can't change it anyway," Iolaus mumbled.
Maybe he mumbled a little bit too quiet. He simply wasn't ready to tell Herk the truth. "Didn't your mom teach you that it's impolite to ask 'What?'?"
When Hercules used that tone he better say what he had to say. "Okay, okay. I give up. It's only that sometimes it's a little hard to be just your sidekick. You get all the fame, everybody is talking about the great adventures of the mighty Hercules and what is left for me? Most people can't even remember my name. Especially when you are around." Iolaus shrugged his shoulder. Now it was out in the open.
For a moment Hercules said nothing. He was thinking. Iolaus almost could see what was going on in Hercules' mind. It wasn't that Herk sought the attention he received the moment he said his name or even that he wanted it. Nevertheless he got it. And often enough Iolaus was left out. But what could Hercules do?
"Iolaus," the demi-god began but got interrupted by Iolaus who held up his hand.
"Herk, I know it's not your fault and I don't think there is anything you could do to change it. So, please, drop it. It's okay by me. It's not your fault that you are who you are. I certainly don't want to change you. And if the prize for our friendship is that some people can't remember my name, then this is okay by me." He smiled a weak smile, then he got up. "What do you think, should we see if we could catch some more fish? I'm starting to develop an appetite. After all we're on a fishing trip here, aren't we?"
Hercules got up as well. "Iolaus, I ..."
"Forget it, Herk. Come on, I race you to the lake," Iolaus said and off he went.
There was nothing for Hercules left to do but to follow his friend. And that he did. Like Iolaus always followed him. That's what friends are there for.
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