The One He Wished Had Gotten Away

by Cokie

"Mmmm, it feels good to be home," Hercules spoke while stretching out and crossing his long legs. He clasped his fingers behind his head and savored the light breeze after a long, hot day on the road.

"Don't it though," Iolaus agreed, intently concentrating over a small object in his hands.

The fire, which had cooked their evening meal, sputtered between them in the early twilight, while Hercules continued his musing. "We'll begin to see more travelers tomorrow. Thebes always has a wonderful festival. Everyone comes from miles around."

"I hope it isn't too hot this year," Iolaus replied, wiping sweat from his brow. "When it's this hot after dark, you know tomorrow is gonna be bad. And...since I can already smell your mother's cooking, I don't want it to be too hot for her to bake bread."

"If I know Mother, she and Jason arrived early and she has been cooking for days. But I'm glad we decided to stop here for the night."

"Brings back some memories, doesn't it," Iolaus looked around the clearing they had long ago cleared next to the bubbling river.

"It certainly does, my friend," Hercules agreed. "We've spent some great times here. Wonder how many other people know this is "our" fishing hole?"

"You mean other than our mothers? They always knew where to find us," Iolaus added.

"Yeah, because of some trouble YOU usually got us into!"

Iolaus giggled. "Remember how we used to try to hide from them? Trying to get out of a tanning?" He set aside the small object in his hands and picked up another short, straight stick.

"You know, Iolaus - that isn't going to work."

"Says who?"

"I says," Hercules replied.

"Well, Mr. Know-it-all - how do you know when you haven't even tried it?"

"You can't use a bow and arrow to catch fish. It just isn't done.."

"Oh really? Well, some people use a pole, others use a spear, and one so-called fisherman I know uses his bare hands. So, who are you to say that my bow and arrows won't work?"

"It won't work," Hercules again exclaimed.

"You're just afraid I'll catch the biggest fish in the contest," Iolaus argued.

"Not with that, you won't," Hercules disagreed.

"Watch me. These small arrows and my fishing expertise-" He was interrupted by a disbelieving snort-

"-My expertise will prove who the better fisherman is."

"If you show up with those itty-bitty arrows, you'll prove something, all right," Hercules continued to argue. "By the way, those things are so small, how do you plan to keep them on the bow? Have you thought that one out, Oh Great Inventor?"

"Yes, I have," Iolaus confidently replied, picking up a longer strip of wood. " I'm making the itty bitty arrows an itty bitty bow just their size."

Hercules stared at his friend in absolute amazement, slowly shaking his head. "I'm going to sleep," he muttered. "This conversation is getting too weird for me."

"Admit it, Herc - you're afraid I'll show you up in the contest."

"Never," Hercules replied, scooting his back away from the log he was propped against and stretching out on the ground. The last thing he saw was the stack of six little arrows piled on the other side of the fire. When pigs fly, he thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep.

Hercules awoke the next morning just as the deep blues and purples of night were chased away by Apollo's chariot. A steady snore had disrupted his sleep and he sat up to see Iolaus, spread-eagled, sleeping where he had worked last night, the now-completed bow still in his hand. Hercules stood and stretched, then made his way down to the river, thinking that he would catch a fish for breakfast even before his friend had arisen and had a chance to try out his new "toy".

The warmth had not disappeared during the night and even in the early morning, he felt clammy from the heat. Staring at the bubbling water rippling over the rocks, he made a quick decision to shed his clothing for a short dip. Remembering another swim in this same water long ago, he hid his clothing beneath a bush so that they would be there when he returned. He waded out, then dove under the rushing waters, bursting through the surface several yards away. Swimming upstream, he darted around the rocks that had fallen from above, then swam beneath the cool waterfall. Finally refreshed, he grasped a boulder, letting himself relax in the river.

Iolaus awoke and stretched in the morning sun, admiring his handiwork from the night before. Hah! he thought. Just wait until Hercules sees my prize catch tomorrow at the contest! Then we'll see who is laughing! He gathered his stash of arrows and walked toward the water, contemplating the possibility of fish for breakfast. He looked around and saw no sign of Hercules. Probably out looking for a rabbit for breakfast, he thought. I'll show him - and have my fish cooking over the fire when he returns! He walked along the riverbank, intently watching the water for a shimmer of fish. Spying movement next to a boulder, he carefully took aim with his small bow and arrow, and with a prayer to the gods, he let the arrow fly. The water churned from the frantic thrashing in it and an extremely familiar, although agitated voice began emitting curses that had to have come from the gods - ones that even Iolaus had never heard.

"Uh, Herc?"

"Iolaus, be careful," Hercules called from behind the rock. "There's something in the water - I just got attacked."

"Um...Hercules? I - ah - I think I know what it was. Where are you hurt?"

"My - ow - my rear end. I can't see what it is, but I'm bleeding.." His head popped up above the rock. "Stay out of the water." It was then that he saw the small bow in his friend's hand. "Iolaus? What have you been doing?"

"Who? Me. I, uh, I'm just walkin' around, kind of, you know, looking for fish. You wanna come over here and I'll take a look at your rear end?"

"Get my clothes," Hercules ordered gruffly. "If you can't figure it out, I'm buck naked."

Iolaus waded out into the water, and met his friend behind the rock. "Here, let me take a look. Gee, you are bleeding."

"If that is one of your arrows in my butt, you had best get it out right now. That little thing hurts."

"Well, Hercules, there could be a little bit of a problem. You see, I - um - how do I say this? Last night-"

"Spit it out, Iolaus. And get that thing out of my back side."

"I can't."

"You what?"

"I can't." He met Hercules' glacial stare with one of his own. "It's not that I don't 'want' to, but I can't - really. You see, after you went to sleep last night, I decided that the arrows needed little barbs that held them fast in the fish. I can't pull it out without really causing you a lot of pain...and a nasty wound."

Hercules' look would have withered any other mortal. "Then may I have your suggestion? Any will do! I'm standing, naked, -- bleeding I might add -- in the middle of a river with 'your' arrow in my rear end. And you can't take it out?"

Iolaus bent down to take another look at the small offender. "It's buried pretty deep in your muscle," he remarked. "I can go get a healer to dig it out."

"Iolaus, just pull it out. I'll take my chances. Come on, you've done it before on a worst wound than this."

"Okay, if that's what you want," Iolaus replied, and taking a deep breath, grasped the arrow. A small tug didn't budge it at all, so he ignored his friend's sharp hiss of pain and pulled harder, feeling the tear of muscle.

Unfortunately, the arrow didn't budge. " Herc, I'm sorry, I can't do this." He glanced up at his friend's pale, sweat-glistened face. " Hey, are you all right? I'm sorry, buddy."

"I'm okay," he replied through clinched teeth. "Try again."

"No - I don't think so," Iolaus disagreed. "I could really cause some major damage. Listen, let me go get help-"

"No."

"If you won't let me get a healer, how about your mother?"

"NO!"

"Then what do you suggest? You can't walk with that thing in there."

"Watch me," Hercules decided, pushing away from the rock. "Would you mind turning your head...and bringing my clothes?"

"Hercules - your pants won't fit over that arrow. Are you planning to walk to Thebes au natural?"

The son of Zeus reached around and tentatively felt the protrusion in his rear. "Get your knife, and cut that part off. And be careful."

"Hercules...I don't think so."

"Come on, Iolaus, time's wasting. I want to get out of here. Besides, I'm turning into a prune."

Iolaus unsheathed his knife. "I don't think this is gonna work."

"Just be careful with that thing," Hercules warned.

Several frustrating minutes later, Hercules finally conceded that he could not wear his pants with an arrow in his rear.

"I'm tellin' you, Herc, let me go to town and bring back-"

"No. I am not hiding in the bushes all day. I'll just have to find something else to wear."

"Okay, let me go out to the road. With all the travelers, I know I can find someone to help."

"You won't tell them why you need the clothes, will you?" Hercules asked, his tone more than threatening.

"Hercules, of course not," he replied in a wounded voice. "What do you take me for, anyway?...don't answer that ."

"Just hurry," the demi-god pleaded, leaning his "good" bare cheek against a sun-warmed rock and covering himself with his shirt. As his friend rushed through the brush, he muttered to himself, "I knew those arrows would be trouble."

Iolaus reached the main road into Thebes in record time and greeted several travelers, looking for someone who looked wealthy enough to be traveling with spare clothing. "Gee, where's a toga salesman when you need one," he mumbled to himself.

As if on cue, he heard whistling around the bend in the road and turned to wait for the next pilgrim. Iolaus' eyes widened upon meeting the traveling-salesman extraordinaire in the bend.

"Iolaus?"

"Salmoneous?"

"My friend, it's good to see you. Hey, where's your sidekick - you know the tall, strong guy with all the muscles?"

"Ah, he's nearby," Iolaus asked, helping Salmoneous remove the large pack from his back. "This thing's heavy, what's in it?" he asked.

"Many, many wonderful things," the salesman replied."I'm on my way to the festival to hold a liquidation sale. You know...exchanging goods for dinars."

"You wouldn't happen to have any togas in there, would you?" Salmoneous managed to look quite offended. "Me? You're asking me if I have togas? Is the earth flat? Of course I have togas...all sizes...all colors. I never knew you were into that kind of thing. Here, let me show you."

"Well, it's not for me...it's for a friend. Hey, why don't you come back with me?"

"Hey, Herc, you won't believe who I found."

Hercules had turned toward the thrashing sounds in the woods and was ready to greet Iolaus, but emitted a loud groan upon seeing his companion.

"Hercules?" Salmoneous choked out, walking slowly around the rock. "Um,...you guys want to fill me in?"

"Well, it's like this," Iolaus started. "I-uh-um..."

"I got shot in the butt with an arrow and we can't get the arrow out and my pants won't fit, so you got a toga I can wear?" Hercules finished in one breath.

"Uh, sure," Salmoneous looked from one friend to the other. "I think I have just the thing."

They reached the open road several painful minutes later, Hercules dressed in his undershirt, a dark blue toga and his boots. "Are you sure you don't have anything longer than this?" he grumbled once more.

"That's it, big guy. Sorry, but you're a size XL, XT. Don't have it in stock. Had I known that you would want one--"

"I don't want one," Hercules disagreed through gritted teeth.

"You know, now that we're on the subject, I'm thinking endorsements here. Hear me out, Herc, old pal. I scratch your back, you make me a few dinars on the side."

"No."

"Listen to my idea Hercules."

"No."

"Then how about this - you give me back that toga when you are finished, I auction it off to the highest bidder -"

"Not listening."

"-and we split the profit. Say eighty, twenty? What'd'ya say? By the way, you're not bleeding on that are you? No - wait! Go ahead, bleed. Just think - a toga worn by Hercules, son of Zeus - still bearing his blood from the battlefield."

"Salmoneous, no, no and no. We've had this discussion before."

"Seventy, thirty?"

"NO!"

"All right, doesn't hurt to try, does it? Now, which one of you gentlemen are going to pay for the toga? That is top of the line - 12 dinars."

"Twelve dinars for that?" Iolaus squeaked. "Salmoneous, this is Hercules. Are you going to charge him 12 dinars for something to wear? After all the times he has helped you?"

"Okay, the guilt is working. Make it eight. A man's gotta make a profit, you know."

"Pay him, Iolaus."

"What? You expect me to pay eight dinars for that...that thing you're wearing?"

"Just remember why I'm wearing this 'thing' and pay him, okay?"

Iolaus reached for his money pouch. "I'll give you four," he groused.

"I'll take six," Salmoneous countered.

"Here's five - take it or leave it."

"Sold," Salmoneous quickly grabbed the coins. "Now, you know I love you guys and all, but this trip appears to be taking you a bit longer than normal. I've got to get into Thebes and get set up before most of the travelers arrive. So, if you don't mind, I'll be running along. Sorry to leave you like this."

"Go," Hercules waved him down the road while trying to walk without limping. "Please," he added more quietly.

"See you there," Salmoneous turned around to face them. "And by the way, Hercules, great legs."

"Are you okay?" Iolaus asked, watching his friend's slow gait.

"I'm fine," he bit out, his cheeks still tinged with red from the salesman's last comment. "I swore I would never wear one of these things...and now I remember why," he muttered. "Let's move it," he added, realizing most everyone was passing them on the road and thankful that, so far, they had met no one else they knew.

By midmorning, Hercules was more than tired and exceedingly grumpy. The heat was bearing down on them and Herc had to continually stop to unstick the toga's material from around his legs.

"How's the hip?" Iolaus asked. "You want me to check it?"

"It's fine. Let's go."

The air around them was cooled by a gentle breeze whipping through the trees and they both looked up to see tiny pink and white pinpricks coalesce into the shimmering form of Aphrodite.

"Oh, no. Anything but this," Hercules mumbled as the goddess took human form.

"Hey, Big Bro. Hi, Curly," the bubbly blonde greeted them.

"Hi, Aphrodite. What are you doing in these parts?" Iolaus questioned.

"Well...I was on my way to the festival and glanced down and saw you, Sweet Cheeks and wondered who the cute guy with the great legs was." Glancing Hercules up and down, she sighed. "But it's just my brother."

"Don't start with me Aphrodite, I'm in no mood," Hercules warned.

"Why? You've got great legs. I think you should wear one of those more often."

"Aphrodite, I wouldn't go there," Iolaus warned. "This is a touchy subject."

"What?" she asked. "Speaking from a female point of view, you look really good, big brother. What's the problem?"

Hercules crossed his arms and stared at his sister. "Nothing. Now can we go?" People had been giving them wide berth while watching the two, seemingly normal, men talk to an empty spot in the road.

Aphrodite pouted. "Not until you tell me what's wrong. Gee, you take everything so critical. I was giving you a compliment. If you want to put your old pants back on, go ahead."

"He can't," Iolaus replied.

"Iolaus - don't," Hercules warned.

"Don't what?" she asked. "Why can't you wear your pants?"

"Herc, maybe she can fix it," Iolaus tried again.

"What?" the goddess asked once more. " Come on, guys. Duh...you're not making any sense."

"Hercules has an arrow in his, uh, backside and his pants won't fit on top of it"

"Oh, bummer, big brother. Let me see."

"NO!"

"Well, maybe I can help. Come on over here and let me take a look."

"Hercules, what have you got to lose?" Iolaus added.

"Maybe only the small amount of dignity that I have left," Hercules groused moving off the road into the wooded area.

Aphrodite walked behind him and reached for the hem of the toga. "Which side?"

"Over here," Iolaus showed her the wounded 'cheek'.

"Oooohhh," she sucked her breath in. "Cute buns."

Hercules jerked away from her grasp. "Aphrodite!"

"Sorry...but I can't really do anything. Not my field, you know." She brightened, "but I can go get Asclepius for you. He would-"

"No, thanks Aphrodite. You've done enough."

"I'm just trying to help you out, Hercules."

He took a deep breath as they reached the road once again. "I know, and I'm sorry, but... just...well, why don't you go on to Thebes? Maybe we'll see you later."

"You're sure?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"If that's what you want, brother. Gotta fly...see ya later, Curly."

Iolaus waved as she turned once more into a glistening pink light, then turned to his friend. "She was only trying to help, Hercules."

"I know, I know. I don't want to talk about it - let's go."

"You can't keep up this pace, Hercules. What are you going to do when you get to Thebes? You won't let me get a healer or your mother. Do you have a plan?" "Yep - I'm going home and getting out of this...this dress. After that, I haven't a clue."

"Well, you'd better start thinking about it. And by the way, we missed breakfast and it is passed time for lunch. We need to stop for some food.."

"You can stop - I'm not hungry." A bell ringing around the next corner caused them to look at each other. "What in Hades is that?"

Iolaus walked on ahead and stopped dead in his tracks, then turned around to face Hercules. "You're not going to believe this."

"With my luck today, nothing would surprise me," Herc muttered.

Hercules was wrong.

"Welcome, my friends!" an over-exuberant voice called to them from a small field along the side of the road.

"Falafel?" the duo spoke in unison, staring at the scene before them in awe.

"My friends," the entrepreneur greeted them with hugs. "Welcome to Falafel's Food Court."

"To...what?" Hercules asked, still staring at the odd assortment of "establishments" around him.

"My Food Court," he once more told them. "A delectable morsel to satisfy any of your possible cravings. Come, I will give you the grand tour."

"A food court," Iolaus muttered. "Now, why didn't I think of that? Hey, Falafel, what happened? I thought you cooked for King Iphicles."

"Of course I do," the chef quickly explained. "The good king, generous that he is, gladly gave me the summer off to tour the countryside with my new venture. I'm setting up at all the major festivals in Greece. Besides, he said that his stomach could not take twelve months of my wonderful cooking."

"Yeah, I bet that's what he said," Hercules mumbled. "Let's get out of here," he whispered to Iolaus.

"Herc, come on, I am hungry."

"Do you remember the last time you ate his food?" Hercules reminded his friend.

"Well, he has gotten better since then...remember your mother's wedding?"

"It isn't the food that I remember most, let me tell you."

"Oh, yeah."

"Come along, come, come," Falafel interrupted them. "First, is my famous falafel - the original in all of Greece."

"I would believe that one," Hercules told Iolaus. "Who else would make that thing up?"

"And here, under the bell-" he clanged the item in question quite loudly - "is the taco stand"

"Joy, joy," Hercules whispered once more.

Oblivious to the commentary, Falafel continued, pulling them along by the arms, "And here at the golden arches is where I sell my famous goatburgers and shakes. Over thirteen now sold."

"Wonder if the other twelve are still living," Iolaus muttered.

"What are the bubbles over there?" Hercules asked.

"That is what I call 'Dogs and Suds'," he replied. "My hot dogs were made famous at the Herculean Olympics, and the suds are a new creation -- a wonderful, fermented drink made of corn."

"Corn?" Hercules questioned, his nose turned up in disgust.

"Fermented corn," Falafel replied. "A most delightful drink."

"Not in my life time," Iolaus added. "I'll throw it in the fire and let it explode before I'll drink it!"

"And my last delicacy is the newest - Long Falafel Silvers - seafood - you name it, we got it and cooked any way you want it."

"I want it cooked elsewhere," Hercules whispered once more.

"My fishermen catch only the freshest fish around," Falafel bragged. "And I will pay for biggest catch you can bring me."

"Well, I snare them pretty big," Iolaus replied, grinning at his friend's glare.

"Speaking of which, I think we'd better be going," Hercules remarked, pointedly looking at Iolaus. "If you want to eat, do it now."

"Oh, no, I'm pretty full," Iolaus decided after eyeing all of his choices.

"Well, there's plenty of time later," Falafel assured them. "Another food court has been set up in Thebes. I set this one up here to entice people with the aroma."

"That's one word for it," Hercules whispered.

"Have I mentioned franchises?" Falafel asked. "Many fabulous business opportunities."

"Uh, no, thanks Falafel. We're pretty busy," Hercules assured him.

"Yeah, you know, this monster business is a full time job," Iolaus added. "We'll, uh, catch you later."

"Of course, my friends. And may I add, Hercules, you look especially wonderful today. I love the new look. Those leather pants were quite passe."

"Well, we really need to be going," Hercules turned away to continue his journey.

"And, in my humble opinion, your legs are much too nice to hide under all that leather."

"Well, thank you...I'll take that into consideration. Iolaus...are you coming?"

Iolaus tried to wipe the smile off his face, but it erupted into a giggle before he could contain it. "Yeah, Herc, I'm right behind you."

Once out of Falafel's earshot, Hercules once more glared at his friend. "Thank you for your help."

"Well, I think I have mentioned, Hercules, those leather pants are very passe. I'm so glad you updated your wardrobe."

"Not funny."

"I know it isn't. How's your butt?"

"Since you ask, my butt feels like Haephestus has set it on fire, my dignity is shot to hell, and my mood is going down-hill real fast. Now do you think we can get to Thebes before we meet anyone else?"

"You know, it's been a while since we met up with Xena and Gabrielle," Iolaus replied with a smirk.

Hercules pointed a finger in his friend's face. " Don't. Even. Go.. There. Do you hear me? I'm in no mood for this."

"Okay, okay," Iolaus agreed. "Let's get to Thebes." Muttering beneath his breath, he ended, "don't know what we'll do once we get there, but let's go."

One hill to go and Hercules stared at the small slope as if it was Mt. Olympus itself.

"Let's stop and rest," Iolaus suggested, glancing at his friend's pained features and feeling quite contrite for his comedy earlier.

"No, I want to get home," Hercules argued.

"Herc, I want you to know I'm really sorry about this. You know I didn't intend to shoot you in the butt."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Hercules replied. "I don't want to talk about it."

"We're gonna have to talk about it," Iolaus continued. "I'm sensing a little anger here."

"A 'little' anger?" Hercules mumbled. "Just wait, my friend...we'll get even," he promised as he took off again.

"Wait up, Herc. I didn't hear you."

"I said, come on," Hercules yelled.

"Yeah, right."

They had reached the crossroad...one branch went to Thebes and the other went past the small house where Hercules had grown up. Both Alcmene and Jason enjoyed visiting Thebes and maintained the upkeep on the home. They were to meet Hercules and Iolaus there for the festival. Hercules stopped at the "Y" in the road, hesitant to make his move.

"Well...which way?" Iolaus questioned. "Your mother, or the healer?"

"I don't know," Hercules mumbled. "Mother, I guess."

"Hercules?" her sweet voice called to him.

They looked down the path and found Alcmene and Jason coming toward them.

"Mother! Jason," Hercules replied. "Is anything wrong?"

"No, of course not," Alcmene told him. "I just...well, I wanted to come meet you."

They looked toward Jason who simply shrugged his shoulders. "I don't understand it...she said a voice told her to meet Hercules."

Hercules turned toward Iolaus. "Aphrodite."

"She gets my vote," Iolaus agreed with a grin.

"Hercules," Alcmene glanced down at his bare legs. "I see you finally took my suggestion. I always knew you would look great in a toga."

"Don't start, Mother," Hercules mumbled, crossing his arms, while Iolaus began shaking his head, waving his arms and drawing an imaginary knife against his throat.

"Whatever is wrong, Iolaus?" Jason questioned.

"Uh, well, nothing," he stammered.

"Dear, I know something is wrong." Alcmene remarked." You're not looking good. Let's sit down so you can tell us what it is."

Iolaus managed one giggle before the look on Hercules' face froze the laughter. "Sorry, Herc. It was the 'sit down' part that got me."

"What?" Alcmene asked once more.

"Mother, I've got a little...problem," Hercules began. " I have a.... well, there's a.... Mom, Iolaus shot me in the butt with an arrow and now he can't get it out," he finally whined.

Alcmene's hand flew to her mouth and she managed a quiet, "Oh, dear," before Jason erupted with a loud guffaw. That was her downfall and she also began giggling. "That is a problem, isn't it?"

"It's not funny!" Hercules glared at them, arms still crossed.

"I know it isn't, son," she replied. "Where...and how did this happen?"

"Well, you see, I've got this new invention for catching fish-"

"Not now, Iolaus," Hercules muttered.

"-and, well to make a long story short, Herc's tushie got in the way."

"Then I suggest we go home and get that arrow out of there!" Alcmene replied, trying to wipe the smile off of her face.

"By all means," Jason agreed. "Hercules, do you need any help?"

"NO!"

"OUCH, Mother, that hurts!"

"I'm sure it does, Hercules, but I can't get the arrow out without hurting. I'm not doing it on purpose. Iolaus, you intended for these things to find their mark and stay there, didn't you?"

"Works, huh?" Iolaus whispered, moving to stand next to Jason.

"Then what do you suggest?" Hercules asked, standing up from his embarrassing position of leaning over the dining table.

"I can mix a tea of poppy leaves and belladonna." she offered.. "Mixing it with wine would dull the pain."

Jason moved to stand in front of Hercules. "Iolaus and I can handle this one, dear," he smiled at Alcmene.

"What are you going to do?" Hercules demanded, a look of panic flaring in his face a milli- second before a blow from the hilt of Iolaus' sword struck him from behind.

"Catch you when you fall," Jason calmly answered the unconscious hero who had landed in his arms.

"Or we could bash you over the head and be done with it," Alcmene stated, matter of factly. "You know, he's going to wake with a helacious headache and the temper to match."

"Yeah, well maybe he will quit whining about his rear end," Iolaus muttered, setting aside his sword and picking up his best friend's legs. "Now, where do ya want him?"

Hercules awoke to find himself laying face down in a pillow. He opened his eyes to the bright sunshine of afternoon and blinked, trying to remember going to bed the night before. He started to roll over when a pain stabbed his head...which mirrored the one in his rear end. His morning's excitement came rushing back to him and he groaned, dropping his aching head back down into the pillow.

"Hello, dear, I see you're awake," Alcmene moved over to the bed. "How do you feel?"

"Awful," Hercules pouted into his pillow. "Where's Iolaus? And what'd he hit me with? I'm gonna..."

"Hercules, he did what needed to be done at the time. Iolaus feels horrible about what happened and you're not going to do anything to him. Do you understand me?"

"But, Mom, he-"

"No buts, Hercules. No pun intended."

"Very funny. Is it out?" he asked, finally looking at her.

"The arrow is out and I put a few little stitches in your backside...you'll have a little problem sitting down for a few days, but other than that, you're good as new."

Hercules rolled to his side and propped his head in his hand. "Just where is the great inventor?"

"Jason and Iolaus went fishing," she replied. "I think Iolaus was planning to try out his little arrows on something other than his best friend."

As if on cue, Iolaus and Jason came bounding into the small home.

"Herc, you're awake. Get a load of this," Iolaus proudly held up a string of fish.

"Hercules, I think he might have something here," Jason smiled at the catch, handing it over to Alcmene.

"I don't want to hear it," Hercules grumbled.

"No, listen, Herc. You see, thanks to Jason, I made a slight change. Now think about it. If I didn't hit the fish dead center, he could swim off with my arrow still in him, so-"

"Lucky fish," Hercules muttered.

"-so I added a line from the arrow back to the bow. And you see....I just pull the fish back in."

"You've got to be kidding," Hercules looked from Iolaus to Jason.

"You saw for yourself, Hercules," Jason told him. "It worked."

"Yeah, and since you were the first thing I caught, I just might name my invention after you," Iolaus proudly told his friend. "Now what could I call it? A Hercbow...Hercspear, nah, don't like them. How about a Hercpoon...that's got a ring to it."

"Iolaus, I don't think so. I don't want a 'Hercpoon' named after me. In fact, I don't want anything to do with your itty bitty bow, itty bitty arrows or itty bitty anything else. Do you understand me?"

"Well, I think maybe the fine folks in Athens may have missed it, but I understand you. Man, Herc, you sound just like a harpy. Hey, I think I'll call it a Harpoon and forget about you altogether."

"Thank you!" Hercules caustically replied.

"Fine!" Iolaus spat back.

"Boys!" Alcmene stopped them. "Since you were so late with dinner," she bestowed a pointed look at both Iolaus and Jason, "I have a surprise for you. I met Falafel in the market this afternoon, and he has a wonderful new idea. It is called 'carry out'. A woman can pick up prepared food at his establishment, then bring it home and serve it to her family. She doesn't have to slave in the heat of the kitchen all day. Isn't that wonderful?"

That time, the grumbling of the three male voices echoed to Athens and beyond.

DISCLAIMER: Hercules' tushie was only slightly marred during the writing of this story.

***The End***


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