Green-Eyed Monster

by Marcia

Story originally written for Hercules: the Legendary Journeys by: Steven Baum

PROLOGUE

The only light for travelers using the well-worn needle covered path came from dancing beams of golden sun flashing through a canopy of lacy green ferns and tree branches allowing just an occasional glimpse of bright blue sky. Two figures emerged from the shadowy forest blinking as they stepped into the brilliant sunlight-one a tall, muscular light-brown haired warrior and his companion a similarly muscular, compact blond.

“I’d forgotten what a cold, dark exhausting trip it can be through those woods, Herc. That sun sure feels good. How far is it to the next village?” The exhilarated hunter, basking in the warmth of the sun now permeating his soul as well as sinking into his flesh, asked his question and stood enjoying the moment as he awaited his partner’s answer.

Hercules too was enjoying the warmth of the moment-both the warmth of the sun and the warmth generated from being with his closest friend and seeing his pleasure.

“I think it’s just over those hills, Iolaus,”

“Good, let’s stop to eat before we split up. Might be the last good meal I get in awhile if Ania’s sister shares her cooking skills,” the blond jested-but not maliciously-as unshed tears rapidly filled his eyes. He’d trade all the feasts in the world for one more of Ania’s prepared with such love.

Noting his friend’s discomfort, Hercules quickly lightened the tone.

“Iolaus, when aren’t you hungry? Beats me where you put it all. Someday, it’s all going to catch up with you,” the demigod chuckled.

“Yeah, right, Herc, I’m just a growing boy. Come on-race you there. The loser has to pay the bill.” Iolaus took off like a bolt out of the blue, determined to be the recipient of a free meal. Hercules laughed and followed in his friend’s footsteps.

Sitting at a table in the corner of a crowded inn, Iolaus quickly devoured his second bowl of stew and some bread-washed down by a mug of ale. He noticed that his partner had slowed down and was just playing with his food.

“Aren’t you going to finish that, Herc? After all, you’re paying for all of this.” The twinkle in his eye and the giggle just below the surface in his voice were all the Golden Hunter needed to remind Hercules who had won the race. No sense rubbing it in.

“Be my guest, Iolaus.” No other words were necessary. The food vanished in record time.

“I rest my case-you must have hollow legs.”

“Thanks, Herc. Now will you tell me the real reason you didn’t finish your meal? Just not being hungry doesn’t work for me. What’s wrong?”

Knowing Iolaus wouldn’t quit until he got an acceptable answer, the Son of Zeus carefully planned a response that would satisfy his friend. During a separation of the two, no matter how long or how short, Hercules felt uneasy unless he knew where Iolaus would be and with whom. ‘Iolaus will call this mothering him if I blatantly ask this. Better watch my wording. I trust him and he knows that; still, I can’t help worrying about him.’

“Iolaus, exactly where is it you are going?” Hercules asked as nonchalantly as he could.

“I wondered how long it would be before the mother hen in you took over. I got a message from Ania’s older sister Lucinda who lives just a short distance outside Malidon with her son and daughter. Her husband was killed a few years ago when the kids were little. She’s having problems with the teens and asked for my help. See-you don’t have to worry about me. What kind of trouble can I get in there?”

Hercules laughed and shook his head, realizing how foolish his question had been.

“We’d better get going.”

At the crossroads, the two said their goodbyes and shared a warrior’s handshake.

“Herc, watch your back. That road to Corinth can be tricky. Tell Alcmene and Jason I’ll see them soon.”

Hercules’ glance assured his pal that he understood and appreciated the concern and would take no chances.

“Enjoy your visit with your family, Iolaus. See you in a few days.”

“Don’t take any wooden dinars, Herc!” Iolaus giggled as he disappeared from sight.

Hercules headed east, deciding to take the more difficult but less traveled route to Corinth, knowing the obstacles would pose no problem to him. The road led around the town of Malidon, and then abruptly turned in an even more easterly direction passing a lake and a dense forest which hugged the foothills of a mountain range. Just over those mountains lay the straight road to Corinth.

“It’s been far too long between visits,” the demigod quietly remembered, “and I promised mother this visit. Sure will be good to see her and Jason. And it sure will seem strange to call Jason ‘Dad’.” This idea brought a smile to his face. “Mother couldn’t have married a better man, even if Iolaus had to knock some sense into me to make me realize it.”

As Hercules neared the lakeshore he was puzzled by the lack of noises and sights usually prevalent in a natural setting - no birds chirping, no ducks on the lake - nothing. Then he heard why! Sounds of metal clashing against metal and men’s angry voices shouting at each other permeated the air. No self respecting creature of nature would remain here. Rushing to the nearby ridge where the sounds emanated from, the sight of the men brought an immediate reaction. The son of Zeus jumped into the fray, grabbing the two closest combatants and knocking their heads together.

“Fighting, fighting, fighting! Don’t you ever get tired of this immature behavior?”

The rest of the men ignored him and continued to attack each other. Hercules tossed several aside, breaking up individual fighting, but soon all had resumed their disagreements, ignoring the admonitions from the intruder. He wasn’t being challenged, but the men just wouldn’t stay down.

A swirling flurry of shining pink materialized at the edge of the fray.

“Well well, if it isn’t my little sister!” I suppose this is your doing?” Hercules growled to the stunning, well endowed blonde.

“Uh Herc, you know how much I hate fighting. Make love, not war, that’s my motto,” the Goddess of Love purred to her favorite half brother.

Meanwhile the fighting continued with increasing ferocity as the winners of individual battles moved on the winners of others.

“What do you want Aphrodite?” Hercules questioned. The look on his face was clouded with suspicion, yet still aware of the fighters looming closer, reached back and punched an assailant back without so much as a glance.

Aphrodite smiled back coyly, hoping to charm Hercules. “Okay, there is this one LITTLE favor I need. It’s Cupid,” she pouted. “He’s been hanging around with a really bad crowd. I’m worried that he’s headed for trouble.”

Hercules continued to stare suspiciously back across at Aphrodite. This was simply too easy, there had to more to it.

“So all you want me to do is talk to him?”

“Well yeah!” Aphrodite tossed her curls saucily. You are his favorite Uncle.”

Hercules snorted, hating when she used that tone on him.

“He won’t listen to me, that’s for sure,” she continued.

Hercules sighed, hearing the scuffle of feet closing in and threw out an arm, sending a fighter sprawling from the force of the Herculean punch.

Can I talk to him later? I’m a little busy right now,” Hercules commented dryly as he sent another soldier flying through the air.

Aphrodite was not to put on the back burner by her little brother.

“Watch this!” she laughed, her voice a soft tinkle like wind chimes. “Stand back.” She flapped her hand dismissively at Hercules and approached the brawling men. “Excuse me boys, can I have your attention please?”

Aphrodite’s’ request was soundly ignored as the fighting continued.

“You’re losing your touch,” Hercules chuckled as he watched his sister’s anger rise to the surface.

“As if!” she retorted saucily tossing back her flimsy robe to display her lovely figure. “I don’t think so!” Hardhead held high, she let a shapely leg move gracefully forward so that her gown slipped further away and the soft creamy flesh of her thigh caught the glint of the sun overhead. She settled her shoulders down strait, allowing her bosom to move forward alluringly.

As one, the men seemed to catch sight of her, standing like the loveliest statue they had ever seen. The men gasped in unison, and the clang of weapons dropping echoed in the now silent battle area. Unified finally, they stared with bulging eyes and dropped jaws in disbelief of the beautiful vision before them.

And then a murmur was heard. “Oh wow!” “Hmm!” The soft sounds of a pleasurable surprised replaced the thumping of fists.

Wrapping her rob back around her, the Goddess turned back to Hercules with a small justified smile. “There. Can we go now?”

As she turned away from the men, starting off alone, Hercules shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe I’m related to her.”

Aphrodite led Hercules to the far edge of the lake, and then discreetly disappeared as Cupid came into view.

Cupid sat moping on a log in the company of friends deeply in thought as his satyr friends played around him. It was only as Hercules appeared that Cupid seemed to finally react to his surroundings.

“Uncle Herc, all the years I was growing up the only time I ever saw Mom was when she wanted me to make some stupid mortals fall in love. Well some of them needed my help and some didn’t. Either way, I’m sick of it.”

The demigod saw the anguish in his nephew’s face and felt sorry for the youth. ‘Having Aphrodite for a mother can’t be easy’ he thought. Never the less, even gods had tasks for which they were responsible.

“But Cupid, It’s your job,” he reminded the boy.

“Yeah, okay okay,” Cupid waved his hand weakly at his Uncle. “I’ll get to the point. “Two weeks ago she shows up and says she wants to make some girl fall in love with a toad. Now you tell me, what’s that all about?”

“Are you sure you heard her right?” Hercules asked thinking this a strange request even for Aphrodite.

Cupid’s face softened, his eyes took on a faraway appearance and he sighed before he spoke, new warmth infusing his voice.

“Well she’s - uh - different, you know? She’s gorgeous really! Anyway as soon as I saw her I knew the whole thing was bogus. Her name’s Psyche.”

Hercules thought the name was familiar. He thought hard then responded, puzzled. “Psyche, the daughter of Holidas, the Inn keeper?

“Do you know her?” Cupid responded animatedly.

The son of Zeus nodded his head. “Yeah when she was a kid. Does she still live in Malidon with her father?”

“Yeah,” Cupid answered with a love struck sigh.

Hercules nodded with a soft “yeah,” beginning to see the reason for Aphrodite’s concern and knowing that he’d better check things out himself in the morning before heading on to Corinth.

“What, well, what are you going to do Uncle Herc” Cupid pressed.

“Uh, talk to your mother for starters. Oh, and I was supposed to tell you to stay out of trouble. Be careful of your friends, okay?’

Cupid could hear the concern and though he’d never admit it, it touched him. “I gotcha Uncle Herc,” he nodded. “Hey you know you’re almost cool.

“Thanks,” Hercules responded uncertainly. “I think.

Cupid turned to the playful Satyrs. “Hey, what are you knuckleheads doing?”

Hercules left Cupid, returning to an area where there was shelter as he prepared to set up camp for the night. He couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was around. Glancing over his shoulder he caught a glimmer of pink from the corner of his eye.

“Just the person I was looking for.”

Aphrodite shot him a condescending look. “You call THAT talking to him?” She wailed.

Hercules simply shook his head. “Hmmm.”

“You saw the kind of life he’s leading! Why didn’t you do something?” Aphrodite crossed her arms on her chest, tapping her feet.

“Like what, Aphrodite?” Hercules spoke with a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t know, whatever! I don’t care. Just get him in line.” She let her lower lip drop in a pout. Her voice softer, more plaintive she continued, “If you can’t do it, who can?”

“Maybe no one,” Hercules answered reasonably. “In case you haven’t noticed, he’s a grown man with a mind of his own. Aphrodite, your only concern is your son, right?

“Absolutely,” she answered looking innocent.

Hercules continued. “And the fact that Psyche is beautiful doesn’t bother you?”

Aphrodite’s bitter laugh enforced his theory. “What? Do you think I’m jealous of a mortal? PLEASE!” the goddess of love responded.

“Well, now that we’ve cleared that up, you don’t need me anymore.”

“Wait Herc, you’re just going to walk away? Some role model you are!” his indignant sister retaliated.

Hercules wouldn’t be baited. “Later, sis.” Hercules left his sputtering sister to think about his plans.

The sights, sounds and smells of the village tempted Iolaus as he strolled through on the way to Lucinda’s, but he resisted the appeal in his desire to reach his destination just west of town as quickly as possible.

“Darn, what a time to be in a hurry and have a commitment,” the hunter groaned as several lovely local women greeted him warmly. “Oh well, first things first,” he sighed and continued on his way. He chuckled as he saw the children at play, boys chasing girls, kids flying kites, “some things never change.”

“Looks like a male bonding meeting over there,” he commented, noticing a group of men in a heated argument. In their midst was a man selling flowers, haggling over the prices with the gathered customers. “Why would grown men be so consumed with the need to buy flowers? I’ll haste to check that out later,” Iolaus mused.

Iolaus continued on and soon came to a small cottage nestled at the edge of a grove of shade trees. Smoke curled through the chimney like a beckoning finger. The smell of fresh baked bread wafted from the home, a further invitation especially for Iolaus. Sounds of happy laughter rang from with in.

“Hey is this a private party or can anyone come in?” Iolaus questioned, passing through the open doorway into the warmth of the cottage.

Uncle Iolaus!” screamed a lovely young girl of sixteen who rushed to him, throwing her arms around his neck.

“This can’t be the freckled faced little girl I saw on my last visit!” Iolaus exclaimed, as he hugged his niece and kissed her on the cheek. “What a beauty you’ve turned out to be Marina! Your mom will sure have a hard time keeping the young men away from here.”

Marina smiled, turning shades of pink as Iolaus spoke.

The Hunter turned to another child waiting for his attention.

”And who is this young gentlemen? It can’t be Claudius. He was just knee high to a keroc bird when I saw him last! Claudius rushed his uncle, greeting him with a warrior’s handshake. “What a fine young man you’ve turned out to be!” Iolaus exclaimed proudly.

Finally he turned to address his sister-in-law. “Lucinda, I don’t know your formula, but the end product in front of me proves its success. You have two fine children, a credit to your mothering skills, and I know it couldn’t have been easy doing it alone.”

Iolaus’ voice softened as he saw in his sister in law so many features and qualities of his own Ania. After giving her a warm hug and a quick kiss on the forehead, he asked, “What’s a guy have to do to get something to eat around here?”

That’s all it took and another place was set at the table and hours were spent talking about the past and listening to Iolaus’ tales of adventures with Hercules. The two young people sat starry eyed and enthralled as the stories unfolded.

“Sorry to break this up, but it’s bedtime for you two,” Lucinda exclaimed as the night wore on and stars twinkled in the black sky. Groans came from the two teens but their mother wasn’t swayed from her announcement. “You don’t have to do the dishes, just get to bed. Iolaus and I will clean up.”

That did it. Getting out of their most hated chore made going to bed seem an inviting swap.

“See you in the morning Uncle Iolaus!” the kids called as they headed for their rooms.

Iolaus waited until the children were in bed and the house was quiet before he spoke softly to Lucinda, concern in his voice.

“Now Lucinda, what’s the problem you are having? I can see that these two could be a handful, but they seem like good kids to me.”

Lucinda washed another dish and handed it to Iolaus to dry.

“Don’t get me wrong Iolaus, they are good kids. They’ve never given me any trouble and they really aren’t now. It’s just they’re both experiencing their first romantic crush and I don’t know how to handle it. Immediately I thought of you, this is right up your ally.”

The hunter smiled. “You know there was only one love of my life and she had me wrapped around her little finger.” He paused as they both shared a moment from the past, remembering the closeness of Iolaus and Ania. Iolaus broke the silence first with a little cough. “But I DO have some experience along those lines. I’ll be glad to help. What’s the story?”

Lucinda lead Iolaus away from the dishes and over to a chair, settling on one opposite him.

“Well Marina has decided she’s in love with Cupid of all things, and Claudius is positive that Psyche is the girl for him. I feel like they’re setting themselves up to be hurt with these infatuations. Sure Cupid smiled at Marina, but a god falling in love with a fifteen year old mortal? You know it won’t happen. And what problems it would cause if it did!” She sighed and shook her head. “And Psyche, nothing wrong with her except that she is so gorgeous she could have her pick of any man. As sweet as my son is, I don’t see her choosing a sixteen year old boy. Maybe it’s just Mom thing, but it hurts me to think of the pain that lies ahead for my children. How do I help them with out making them feel unworthy?”

Iolaus sighed and stretched a hand across to Lucinda, feeling her pain.

“It is partly a Mom thing, Lucinda, but a good Mom thing.” He smiled reassuringly. “You are right about one thing though, nothing but trouble can come from this. I’ll go into town tomorrow and se this Psyche. I’d like to meet her to be sure there’s nothing there for Claudius.” Iolaus noticed the sudden worried look cross Lucinda’s face.

“Don’t worry,” he reassured her. “I won’t let Psyche know of his crush. As for Cupid, I have connections that will iron that issue out. I’ll handle it for you.” He squeezed her hand tightly and smiled wryly. “And they won’t know you had anything to do with it.”

Iolaus released her hand as he saw a relaxation come over her face. “Now, where can I bunk? I’m pretty tired and need to get an early start in the morning.”

Lucinda rose from her seat and Iolaus followed suit. She reached for him, hugging tightly the man who had made her baby sister so happy in her short life.

“Thanks Iolaus. I knew I could count on you.” She showed him to the guest room and watched as he flopped wearily down on the mattress.

“Breakfast is at 6:30. I know you won’t want to miss that, she called over her shoulder as she turned to leave, seeing the hunter settle himself with his thoughts.

“Another beautiful day - perfect for venturing into town!” The hunter sighed as he entered the village. His thoughts were quickly interrupted by the whirlwind appearance of a young girl garbed in an indigo robe who practically knocked him over as she flew by.

“Sorry!” she shouted, but she kept going.

“Wonder what’s got her in such a hurry?” Iolaus mused. He shook his head, turned back to the road and noticed a statue of Aphrodite unceremoniously covered with the evidence of many bird visitors.

Iolaus raised an eyebrow and murmured, “Hope Dite doesn’t see this. She’ll consider it an insult that the townspeople aren’t keeping her statue clean.” He shook his head, envisioning the wrath of his favorite goddess. “Wouldn’t want her mad at me!”

Again his thoughts were interrupted, but this time by a throng of men. They swarmed and undulated like seaweed in raging surf and the hiss of their collective voices rose up in query.

“Where is she? I know she’s around here somewhere!” A young man broke loose from the crowd, circling around Aphrodite’s statue and searching futilely.

“She’s not here, let’s keep going.” The voices of the mob grew in urgency.

“A finer beauty never walked the earth,” a love smitten man murmured.

“If she was mine, I’d kiss the ground she walked on,” Another young man added as the group milled around the statue murmuring comments of approval as they continued to seek the object of their affection.

Pelops, a vociferous and intensive man shouted above the crowd. “Where is she? Where’s my Psyche? Which way?”

A lanky man standing by the statue pointed down the street. That was all the crowd of men needed. As one they followed Pelops in hopes of finding Psyche.

Iolaus’s mind worked overtime imagining what this woman’s attributes were to cause such a commotion in all these men. Iolaus could appreciate the pleasures of woman as well as the next man, and he found himself thinking how he also would like to see her.

As he stood daydreaming he heard a “Psst! It’s okay. You can come out now.” The man he’d heard called Holidas whispered to someone hidden beneath the draping of the Goddess of Love’s statue.

Iolaus gazed in awe as a gorgeous young girl in a blue robe came out. No wonder the men in this town have gone crazy, he thought. She’s a knock out!

The shrill boisterous voice of a woman shouted, “Pelops, when I get my hands on you…” But the threat was cut off and the woman gasped as she saw the stunning beauty who’d emerged from her hiding place.

Taking hold of the beauty’s hand, Holidas appeased the belligerent woman with a smile.

“Excuse us,” he murmured as he led the girl to a spot just out of earshot.

“We had an agreement, Psyche. Not during the day, remember?” Holidas felt his anger melt away at the helpless smile of his daughter.

“I’m sorry Father. But I felt like a prisoner in there,” she pouted. “You know how much I like the outdoors. I just had to get out, Psyche cajoled, pleading for her father’s understanding with her eyes.

“Okay child, let’s just get out of here,” he conceded.

But their intentions were thwarted as men gathered, drawn to the site by the loud voice of Pelops wife.

“It’s her! Wonder of wonders it’s true!” A gasping male voice called out. Dear lady, these eyes have feasted on the most magnificent creatures on this earth, but never, NEVER have they seen your match. I am truly your servant.” The determined man turned to Holidas. “How much do you want for her?”

Possessively clutching his child to his side, the exasperated father responded. “You don’t understand sir. My daughter is not for sale.”

Intent on pursuing his desire, the suitor nodded in agreement. Of course she’s not.” Then in the next breath, “What will it be?”

Not to be outdone, another man shouted out “A thousand dinars? Two thousand?”

The golden hunter stood in the background, taking note of the increasing tension and potentially volatile situation, ready to jump in and defend the young girl and her father if he was needed. “Good for you Holidas,” he uttered softly when the man said his daughter wasn’t for sale.

From the edge of town, invisible to the crowd, another interested spectator watched the scene. A handsome young blond clad in a short white skirt, leggings and leopard suspenders and adorned with snowy feathered wings which gracefully protruded from his back, observed everything that happened. He was accompanied by several impatient satyr friends, one of whom called to the blond.

“Come on Cupid! Get it over with so we can have a party!”

Cupid ignored the remark, staring longingly at the stunning dark haired beauty, whose azure gown only made the blue of her eyes sparkle more deeply. He didn’t like the tone of the situation.

“Just name your price,” the shorter man instructed, hoping to win Psyche right out from under his friends nose. “Now if you won’t tell I want you to…”

Cupid had heard enough. He pulled back his bow and let an arrow fly.

The arrow struck and the man felt nothing. “Oh, come here Bartolomeus. You have the most beautiful eyes.” With his own adoring eyes the townsman gazed into the eyes of his friend.

Pushing away from an intended embrace, Bartolomeus retorted. “But this is so sudden…” and tore off away from his friend.

“Wait Bart! Come back,” echoed as the two friends fled the scene.

“I don’t get it Cupid. You were supposed to shoot the girl.”

“Yeah, well there’s been a change of plans. Let’s get out of here.” Before they could escape a swirl of pink materialized in front of Cupid.

“Mom!”

“Un-huh. It’s never taken you two weeks to get a job done, and now when I come to see what’s up you miss a clean shot. You’d better have an explanation Junior,” the Goddess of Love admonished her son.

“Yeah well, I’ve got one. I’m sick of doing your dirty work. I’ve got a life of my own you know.”

Aphrodite stood right in front of her boy, tweaking his cheek as she reminisced. “Aw, it seems like just yesterday that you were fluttering around with those chubby pink cheeks and those cute little wings.” Sighing, she continued. “And now look at you. Tell you what; just do this one gig for me and then we’ll talk. Deal?”

Cupid looked his mother straight in the eye. “No deal. From now on I’m my own boss.’

“Wait, don’t be stupid, Cupid.”

Cupid turned his back on his mother. Walking he called back without even turning, “Later.”

Aphrodite stood there alone, her mixed emotions reflected on her face, disappointment, hurt and rage raced fleetingly across her face, and then just as quickly she banished them, they’d only give her wrinkle. Instead she simply laughed and with a nod disappeared into little pink hearts.

Iolaus heard the echo. “I’d know that laugh anywhere,” he said. “Why are you here,” he called out, but his question went unanswered. Muttering to himself, he left to explore more of the town.

“Okay Cupid, it’s later. We need to have a little talk. It’s Psyche, isn’t it?” Her words were almost drowned out by the guttural sounds of Cupid’s Satyr friends playing in the background.

“Just leave me alone, would you mom?”

The Goddess of Love softened a bit. “I hate to see you looking so sad.”

Cupid turned to her, snapping. “Well how do you expect me to feel?”

“Cupid, I’ve told you time and time again. Mess around with mortals all you want, that’s what they’re here for. But whatever you do, don’t fall in love with one.”

“Why not?”

“Because, my baby boy, it can’t work. Believe me, I know. Just zap the chick so she’ll fall in love with somebody else, please! It’s the only way you’re ever going to be happy.”

Cupid simply glared at this mother speechlessly, his eyes saying it all. I don’t think so.

Hercules had spent a restless night thinking about Aphrodite, Cupid and Psyche. “I don’t envy Cupid; it can’t be easy having the Goddess of Love as your mother. No woman will ever be good enough for him in her eyes.” Hercules sighed, knowing that Aphrodite was vain, as well as beautiful, and Psyche represented competition on two fronts. Poor Psyche. Well, he looked forward to seeing her and her father.

Hercules forged on toward town. Just through the gates, he saw a gang of men milling about. His curiosity peaked he headed toward them. As he drew closer he could make out snippets of conversation.

“A girl as fine as that you can’t buy with gifts. Watch me, I’ll win her heart!”

“Psyche really has the men of this town crazy, but it’s making the salesman rich!”

“Buy a map to Psyche’s house!” A vendor hawked. “Come on, you won’t be sorry!” He handed a scroll to an eager buyer adding, “There you go sir.” He took the three dinars, thanked him and continued selling.

“Seems like it’s more than just the men of Malidon who have it bad for Psyche by the number of maps being sold.”

The son of Zeus walked on, stopping short as he recognized a familiar voice.

“Step right up! Get em while they’re fresh and dewy! Two, four, six, eight, flowers help you pollinate! Gooooo romance!”

Salmoneus felt a tug on his sleeve and then a voice said, “That’s very catchy.”

“I’d know that voice anywhere,” Salmoneous gushed enthusiastically. “Hercules! What a pleasant surprise!”

Hercules responded with somewhat less enthusiasm. “Mm-hmm.”

Salmoneous eyed Hercules, sizing him up. “Hold down the fort. Whoa- - -ho - - -you got it made my friend. I mean Psyche’s not going to choose anyone over you.”

“That’s not what I’m here for, Salmoneous.”

“Yeah, don’t be a kidder,” the affable salesman countered. “Hey, what’s it going to take to make the deal, huh? We have roses, we have lilies, impatiens - - - impatient, huh? How about a mixed bouquet?”

“Salmoneous, you’re taking advantage of these men.”

“No, I’m keeping their dreams alive,” Salmoneous giggled. “Now I’ll let you have this bunch for two dinars, and a deal on the wedding. That’s half my normal price.”

“Ah, thanks, but I’m here to talk to Psyche. And I think I know where I can find her.”

“Yeah I’m sure you do Hercules. I haven’t seen this Psyche yet, but I gather she makes Aphrodite look like a bow-wow. You know what I mean?”

“If I was you, I’d be careful,” Hercules warned.

“Careful don’t pay the rent, my friend,” Salmoneus shouted to the departing Hercules.

Salmoneous didn’t hear the sarcastic remark hanging in the air, but a blonde hunter just coming onto the scene did.

“A bow-wow huh?”

Hercules opened the door of the inviting old Inn, feeling comfortable right away in its well worn interior. “Hasn’t changed a bit since the last time I was here,” he spoke.

His old friend Holidas was busily working at his desk, checking over the figures for his weekly inventory.

“Whoever you are, we’re closed” he called out. “And my daughter isn’t receiving any visitors,” he added with authority.

Hercules laughed knowingly, taking in the frustration in his friend’s voice and replied. “Even if it’s an old friend?”

Holidas jumped up and grabbed his friend’s extended arm. “Hercules! So good to see you! You’re always welcome here.”

“How are you Holidas?”

The man’s shoulders drooped as he uttered, “Oh…” He was about to say more but Psyche’s appearance interrupted.

“Daddy, did you say Hercules? It IS you! Oh it’s so good to see you! The excited young beauty gushed, throwing her arms around the demi-god’s neck and hugging him.

“Psyche, the last time I saw you, you were just tall enough to put your arms around my waist - with pigtails and freckles. As I remember, all you cared about was climbing trees.

Holidas laughed. “You know, she’s still climbing them.”

“Knowing how to climb trees has sure come in handy. Sometimes it’s the only way to escape.” Psyche sighed.

Hercules saw the stress on the young girls face and responded, “After what I’ve heard, I can believe that.”

“Well YOU haven’t changed.” Psyche stood back apprising the son of Zeus from head to toe with a all the scrutiny a young girl employs when looking at a member of the opposite sex. “You’re still the world’s best looking, bravest hero. So you have to tell me what it’s like fighting the Hydra or Echidna, the Mother of al Monsters? How did you get rid of her?”

Hercules began to explain, “Well actually I didn’t, you see what happened was - - -“

“Oh you’re just as modest as ever.” Linking her arm in his, Psyche continued. “I just can’t tell you how good it is to see you Hercules.” She led him to a table where they sat down, soon joined by Holidas.

Hercules’ old friend echoed his daughter’s sentiment. “Yes, it is good to see you. It’s been a long time since you cam e to visit. How long can you stay with us?”

“I’m just passing through on my way to Corinth. I haven’t seen mother o r Jason since they were married.

Psyche, having never taken her eyes off Hercules’ face quickly asked, “Don’t you have a partner now? Where is he?”

“Oh, Iolaus has family just west of here, a sister in law, a niece and nephew. Maybe you know her, her name is Lucinda. He’s visiting them and will join me in Corinth.

Both Holidas and Psyche shook their heads. “This town has grown so quickly, Hercules. I only know the people who come in her,” Holidas stated.

“Well Hercules, you might as well stay for lunch. Because you know if you don’t, I’ll never forgive you.” Psyche offered the invitation and her father nodded his approval.

“Then lunch it is. I can’t go through life unforgiven. It will be good to eat something not prepared by Iolaus or myself, and to have such pleasant company.”

Iolaus’ amazement over the number of men grew as he walked around town mingling with the numerous wanna-be suitors. Then, he heard it again. That laugh and the sound of the familiar voice. He couldn’t see her, but he knew she was there.

“Well boys, this is it. Somebody’s going to score with Psyche today. Who’s it going to be?” Iolaus saw the evidence of her presence as she walked among the crowd of men, their hair moving as she touched their heads and various parts of their clothing shifting as she assessed their attributes.

“Mmm! Washboard abs! I like that. Oh, a man who doesn’t believe in bathing! I like that too.”

“Aphrodite, I know you’re here. Talk to me,” the hunter pleaded.

A shimmering sparkle of pink preceded her visibility, but still a visibility only to Iolaus.

“Hey there sweet cheeks! Don’t tell me Psyche has you spell bound too! That’s not good; I don’t want to share you with her.” The goddess leaned against Iolaus and gave him a warm welcoming kiss, sending shivers through her personal trainer.

“What’s all this about? Why are you here Aphrodite? Come on, fill me in.”

“It’s like this curly; my Cupid has the hots for this mortal babe Psyche. I want him to get over it fast. The best way I can think of is to fulfill the dreams of one of these men and have him marry Psyche. All he’ll need is a little motivation with one of Cupid’s arrows and my boy can get on with his life. Psyche will be out of the picture.”

Iolaus couldn’t help but notice the satisfaction the goddess of love showed, almost revengeful when she spoke of Psyche.

“Dite, are you telling me everything here? Are you sure this isn’t about you and Psyche, not Cupid and Psyche? She is a gorgeous young girl, any man would be proud to have her as his wife. Come on now, as beautiful as she is she still can’t hold a candle to you. No one can, mortal or god. Why don’t you just leave her alone and let nature take its course without any help from you?”

The hunter’s words made Aphrodite stop for a moment. Her outward appearance led Iolaus to believe his words had sunk in, but she was still a goddess and therefore couldn’t be trusted.

“I’ll think about it Iolaus.”

Before Iolaus could say more, a man’s voice called out. “You fool, she won’t choose you. I’m more her style.”

Aphrodite’s fragile concentration on Iolaus’ words was broken and that glean of revenge returned to her eyes and she laughed at the man’s comments.

Iolaus shook his head as he left, knowing he had lost her. “I think I remember Herc saying Psyche lives with her father at an inn on the east side of town. I’d better go warn her.”

Salmoneous hurried down the street to relieve the assistant he’d left in charge. Time was money, and he was certainly the better salesman. Time was money and time away was less money. But his rush to the flower stand was cut short by a vision in pink. Almost bumping into Aphrodite, he fingered the shimmering gown that barely covered her.

“Nice materiel, oh beauteous one!” he praised with a passionate sigh. “Let me ravish - - -LAVISH you with a rose, sweet, proud and upstanding.”

He was rewarded with a laugh and smile from the Goddess.

“Business must be good!” she said knowingly.

Salmoneous was mesmerized by Aphrodite’s beauty, her sweet laugh, the fact that she actually was paying attention to him. Speechless, he struggled to answer, uttering only an “Mm-hmm.”

“It’s amazing the things a man will do to win the love of a beautiful woman,” Aphrodite purred knowingly.

Salmoneus laughed, encouraged by her friendliness, but his hope for a chance with the goddess of Love was shattered instantly as her next words sunk in.

“Especially anyone who makes Aphrodite look like a ‘Bow Wow!’”

“No your loveliness! You misunderstood!” Salmoneous apologized. “I said Wow Wow. Whoa - - -listen your gorgeousness; you were always my favorite goddess. I mean, even as a kid I collected your trading cards, and believe me, they don’t do you justice at all.”

Salmoneous could see that she wasn’t buying what he was trying to sell. Frightened, he decided to try another tactic. Dropping to his knees he bowed his head at Aphrodite’s feet and pleaded. “Please don’t hurt me.! Please, I’ll do anything!”

Aphrodite rolled her eyes. Mortals were so ridiculous sometimes. “Get Up,” she insisted.

Bewildered but grateful, Salmoneous questioned, “Why?”

“I have a deal for you, that’s why.”

Now encouraged, Salmoneous’ mood changed. “You do?” What’s my percentage?” he asked curiously.

Aphrodite took his face in her hands, sending Salmoneous’ hopes soaring with her words.

“I want to rock your world, stud muffin!”

“Stud muffin, huh? Is that good?”

Taking his hands in hers and looking him straight in the eye the gorgeous blond goddess promised, “Oh, yeah!” in a very suggestive tone.

Salmoneous almost couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Ohhhh,” he groaned in pleasure.

“Not so fast, there’s something I want you to do for me,” Aphrodite cajoled.

The feeling of her hands warm on his, the promise of her touch filled Salmoneous with a sense of love and desire. He was ready to do anything the goddess asked.

“Yeah?”

Iolaus knew that Aphrodite was up to no good, he’d had enough encounters with Hercules’ family to know when trouble lay ahead, and he knew he had to warn Psyche. Her father’s inn was somewhere in town, he remembered Hercules mentioning that. Well, better find out where, that would be the place to start.

Iolaus dashed through the dusty streets, past vendors hawking wares and women buying vegetables and cloth, past children playing with balls of twine and barking dogs. The Inn would be on the main road, where weary travelers would be sure to find it. Sure enough, he saw the gray wooded building, doors closed tightly and windows shuttered against Psyche’s sudden unwanted attention.

He knocked urgently on the door calling out “Holidas!”

But it wasn’t Holidas who answered.

Iolaus didn’t even attempt to hide the surprise on his face as the door opened.

“Hercules! What are you doing here? I thought you’d be in Corinth by now.”

“I could say the same thing to you,” he answered, grinning at his friend. “How are Lucinda and the kids?”

“I asked first. Answer my question, then I’ll answer yours.”

“Aphrodite and Cupid happened, Iolaus” Hercules looked grim. “It seems as if my nephew has a thing for Psyche and my sister isn’t happy about it. I thought I should come check things out and make sure that Psyche is okay.” Hercules nodded to the shelter of the inn, pulling Iolaus by the arm. “Don’t stand outside,” he offered.

“Guess we had the same thing in mind,” Iolaus sighed. “Turns out Lucinda’s problem isn’t life threatening at all. It seems that Marissa has a crush on Cupid, and Claudius is experiencing what he thinks is his first love, with Psyche. Those crushes I can handle, but this Aphrodite situation is a different story. I just left her and I agree with you, she’s not a happy camper.”

Hercules nodded thoughtfully.

“She’s threatened by Psyche,” Iolaus observed. And the fact that the towns people aren’t keeping up her statue makes the sting even worse. What are we going to do?” Iolaus mused.

Well right now, nothing,” Hercules answered. “You never have good ideas on an empty stomach. Come on in and join us for lunch, then we can all figure out what to do.”

No arm twisting was needed. Iolaus pulled up a chair next to his partner.

“Iolaus, this is Holidas, the owner of this establishment, and the beauty at his side is his daughter Psyche. She’s not the tomboy I used to talk about, eh Iolaus?” Hercules grinned.

“You’re a little far off on that description,” Iolaus grinned. “She’s a beauty,” Iolaus smiled across at Psyche, bringing a flush to her cheeks.

After dinner, Iolaus and Holidas retired to the front room to see Holidas’ hunting trophies, while Hercules and Psyche remained at the table talking of the past and the young girl’s dreams for the future.

“Hercules, do you think I’m attractive? Psyche asked coyly.

“Uh, you’re more than that, you’re beautiful,” the demigod reassured her.

Psyche’s eyes sparkled and glowed with the intensity of the sun streaming through the windows.

“So you like me?” she asked breathlessly.

Her tone rang an alarm in Hercules. “Well of course I do,” he answered hesitantly. “What’s this all about?”

“I want you to take me away from here Hercules,” Psyche breathed, leaning in to him.

A rather non-plussed demigod coughed in discomfort and replied, “Uh, come again?”

“Really, I’m serious!” Psyche pleaded her case. “It’s just that the men in this town have treated me like a prize or something. It’s disgusting and I can’t stand it anymore. I wanna see the world! I wanna have adventures - - -with you!”

Uh oh, trouble, Hercules thought. How do I handle this without hurting her? He feared neither man nor beast, but this situation frightened him.

“Psyche,” he spoke with hesitation. “I think you’re wonderful. I mean I really do, but you’re young. You need to have your own life not mine.”

Coyly batting her long eyelashes at the hero, Psyche cajoled, “But I wouldn’t get in your way, I promise.”

Hercules stammered, “You see, my life is” - - - Sighing, he gathered his thoughts, searching for just the right words. “The thing is, if you stop and think about it, it’s”- - -

Psyche interrupted. “I don’t want to stop and think about it. I just want to be with you.”

“Oh,” Hercules gasped as he realized that extricating himself wouldn’t be easy.

The crowd of men outside the inn grew, while off in the background Cupid and Aphrodite continued their mother son discussion.

“Go away Mom.”

“Now Cupid, you know this is for the best.” “Yeah Right!” Cupid snarled at Aphrodite, flashing her a look that might kill a mortal.

Meanwhile Salmoneous was busy. “Excuse me! Coming through, coming through!” He called, apologetically snaking his way through the men to the front of the line.

“Hey, watch who you’re pushing!” the last man who stood in the way called out.

“I’m not butting in, don’t worry, I’m not butting in. Message for the lady.” Turning to the angry man Sal commented,”Ooh, great flowers by the way.” But under his breath, Aphrodite’s messenger whispered. “Aphrodite, this is for you.”

Salmoneous listened as he rapped on the door, and was rewarded by the sound of Psyche’s voice answering.

“Who’s there?” she opened the door carefully peeking outside.

“A friend of your father’s,” he answered. “You look lovely today my dear.”

“Salmoneous, what are you up to?” Hercules muttered.

From the crowd a voice called out. “There she is! Take my flowers please Psyche!”

Salmoneous regarded Hercules and Iolaus and tried to look innocent. “Me? Up to something?” Then he turned. “Hey!” he chastised a townsman who pushed him.

Cupid and Aphrodite watched the events from a distance.

“I can’t.” Cupid refused his mother, lowering his bow.

“You muttonhead, give me that!” Aphrodite demanded, pulling the bow away from him.

“Hercules!” Psyche cried out in fear as a man from the crowd rushed towards her.

“Step aside buffoons!” the man shouted to Hercules and Iolaus.

“Gentlemen, this is no way to prove your love,” Hercules called out as the throng of men used the distraction to surge toward Psyche.

But the two Heroes would have none of that. They flew into action and in mere moments the ground was covered with want-to-be suitors, stifled in their attempts to reach Psyche.

“Nothing like a scuffle to work off lunch,” Iolaus exclaimed as he wiped his hands on his pants.

Meanwhile Cupid was trying to get his bow back. While Cupid and his mother struggled, pulling on the wood the bowstring snapped, suddenly sending an arrow flying straight towards Hercules, Iolaus and Salmoneous.

“Mom!” Cupid called out in disgust and concern.

At this moment, one last suitor appeared from nowhere and reached Psyche. “Get away!” she screamed. “Help, Hercules!”

Hercules moved from the group, turning towards Psyche, and at that moment the arrow reached them, striking Hercules in the thigh. Hercules slapped at his thigh in surprise at the sudden twinge surging through him. He managed to pull the arrow out before falling stunned to the ground.

Iolaus raced to his side. “Are you all right Herc?” he asked, concern in his voice. He turned to the spot where the arrow had originated, sighting Cupid and Aphrodite just before they disappeared.

“I hate it when they do that,” Iolaus sighed.

The damage had been done. Hercules locked eyes with Psyche and from his position on the ground he could see that she was of course the most beautiful and desirable female on the planet.

“Oh Psyche!” he sighed in a love struck voice.

Iolaus and Psyche rushed to Hercules’ side, concern etched on their faces. The demigod lay stretched out in the dirt catching his breath. His thigh tingled and the warmness where the arrow had struck was spreading through his body, comforting and pleasant.

“Are you alright?” Psyche murmured in a quivering voice.

The demi god turned his gaze on Psyche and let his eyes shine with adoration.

“Never better,” He answered breathlessly.

Iolaus reached for Hercules, pushing him out of the way of one of the angry townspeople as more jealous men came at them, ready to fight for Psyche’s attention. Iolaus tussled with them as Hercules propped himself up on an elbow to stare love struck into Psyche’s gorgeous eyes, oblivious to anything around him.

Psyche stared at Hercules, disbelief in her eyes. “Uh, Hercules, those men are trying to hurt you.” She cast a glance at Iolaus as he fought the men away from Hercules.

“They are?” Hercules asked, not even listening to Iolaus’ grunts and the thud of fists on flesh. He turned, glancing at his partner and waved a hand distractedly. “Oh yeah, Iolaus can take care of them.”

“Hercules!” Iolaus called in exasperation. “Come ON!”

Hercules sighed and rolled his eyes, but slowly dragged himself to his feet and headed over to help Iolaus.

As the last man fell, Hercules left Iolaus’ side and rushed to Psyche.

“Are you all right?” he questioned, gazing into her eyes. “I wish I could find the words to tell you how beautiful you are, but all I can say right now is I love you.”

From the distance, Cupid watched the aftermath of his misdirected arrow.

“That’s it, I quit!” he spat as he heard Hercules’ vow of love to Psyche. He turned away as Aphrodite reached for him, jerking away from her.

“Cupid! Cupid come back!” Aphrodite commanded as her son ignored her and put as much distance between them as possible.

Meanwhile the dust cleared and the noise dulled to the soft talking of Hercules and Psyche. From his hiding place, Salmoneous judged the coast was clear and he could emerge and remain unscathed. He stared around at the fallen and cleared his throat in an effort to get some attention. But all eyes were on Hercules.

Psyche stood dumbfounded by Hercules’ behavior. “What’s come over you Hercules? She asked, bewildered.

“It’s the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever head, Hercules fawned.

Excuse me,” Salmoneous interrupted, wanting his say but still being ignored.

Psyche couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Shaking her head in disbelief she spoke to the demigod. “But earlier today you couldn’t wait to get away from me, and now” - - - Her words trailed off.

Hercules grabbed her hands, finishing the sentence for her. “And now I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Whistling, Salmoneous tried again to break into the conversation. “Fine, be that way!” He finally gave up. “I got somebody special in my life too you know. Good bye!” The salesman trudged off, giving Iolaus a look of concern and raising his eyebrows in question.

In their own little world, blocking everyone else out, Psyche and Hercules continued their conversation. “This is like a dream come true,” Psyche sighed. “Meet me in an hour.”

“What are you going to do?” the dismayed warrior asked, hesitant to let her out of his sight.

“Make myself beautiful for you,” she answered coyly.

“Okay,” the smitten Hercules sighed. “Just don’t be too long.”

Muttering to himself as he went, Salmoneous called out, “Aphrodite! Where are you my passion flower? I’ve got to pick your flower.” Sal stopped as a glint caught his eye, a curve reflecting the sun overhead. He reached down to pick it up. “Oh look at that, it must be an heirloom.” He examined the object assessingly. “It’s exquisite craftsmanship.” He turned it over in his hands declaring philosophically, “Oh well, if you can’t hold a beautiful woman, at least you can hold something that might make some money.”

He headed off, not realizing what he’d found - - -Cupid’s bow.

Cupid’s Satyr friends still frolicked in the background, this time tossing knives. They muttered among themselves, not bothering to lower their voices or caring who heard them.

“Wish Cupid would lighten up!”

“All he does is pace, pace, pace!” another called out.

“Boring!” the loudest voice shouted. “We should party. They shouted in accord, “Yeah! Party!”

Cupid sat on a tree limb down cast and frowning, glaring as he watched his mother’s arrival. “What do you want?’ he sniped.

Uncharacteristically, the Goddess of Love spoke humbly. “To apologize. Hercules is right; you’re not a kid anymore.”

Cupid’s shocked look supported his response. “I don’t believe it! Did Tartarus freeze over?”

“Alright, alright, don’t push your luck.” Aphrodite rolled her eyes. “Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, but what happened back there is probably for the best. You and Psyche never would have worked out.”

Aphrodite’s son shook his head. “What makes you so sure?”

“Because Psyche is mortal. Mortals are like plums, you know? They taste great for a while, but before you know it, prunes.”

Cupid’s boiling point was rising. “Let me tell you something, mom. I can‘t imagine living another day without Psyche.”

Sighing, Aphrodite admitted, “Look Cupid, I know I haven’t been much of a mother, but if you try to win this girl’s love you’ll feel a jealousy so strong it’ll change you, all right? Big time!”

“Jealousy, Huh?” Cupid didn’t bother to hide his disrespect and anger. “That’s rich coming from you. You’re the one who’s jealous because everyone’s talking about Psyche and not you! Of course it’s even worse because she’s a mortal.”

Aphrodite felt the sting of Cupid’s words clear to the bone.

“Just stay away from her Cupid, please?”

“No! I have a better idea, why don’t you stay out of my life mom.”

Cupid left his mother standing with tears in her eyes and jaw slack as he went to be with his friends.

Salmoneous was waiting impatient for Aphrodite to visit and reward him for performing her request. He relaxed on his soft bed, in his opulent tent, sighing with the thought of what the goddess of love could do for HIM. A knock sounded on the door.

“Enter oh vixen of vixens,” the elated merchant purred, looking toward the entrance. His face fell in disappointment as he saw his guest.

Hercules! I was just, uh, taking a nap. Hope I hid the handcuffs.

“Do you normally nap in these?” the demigod gestured at Sal’s fancy tunic and pants.

“Yeah,” he answered a little too quickly. “They’re very stylish, don’t you think?”

Hercules gave Salmoneous funny look unsure whether the sales man was joking or serious and blurted out, “Yeah,” then changed the subject. “Uh, this is quite a place you’ve got here.”

Sal puffed up with pride. “Ha-ha! I decorated it myself.” He glanced around. Aphrodite was due anytime. He needed to be alone. “I don’t mean to be rude, but shouldn’t you be off somewhere, you know, making the world safe for those of us who are lovers and not fighters?”

The son of Zeus answered in an instant with an uncharacteristic response. “Uh, no-that can wait. I saw these flowers outside and I was wondering if”- - -

Salmoneous interrupted, his haste to make Hercules leave evident.

“Take them with my compliments.”

“Really?” Hercules answered in surprise, that a merchant whose life centered on profit would so readily give something away for free.

“Yeah, friend. If you could just kind of” - -

“Sure,” Hercules nodded and turned to leave.

But Salmoneous had a sudden thought. “Wait,” he called. “Wait, wait, wait a minute! Hercules, you know Aphrodite, don’t you?”

“Yeah, she’s my half sister,” he answered warily.

A Salmoneous now eager to have the demi-god stay a bit longer spoke to Hercules with renewed interest. “Well, with all due respect, she has a reputation for being a little, uh, whoo! Hah! And I have it on good authority that she’s hot for my body.”

“You’re kidding?” Hercules chuckled.

“Don’t laugh,” Sal chided. “Now my question is this, should I play hard to get? Or should I let her have her way with me? What do you think?”

“I won’t touch that with a ten foot pole. I’m leaving. Here,” he handed the flowers back to Salmoneous.

“Not fresh enough?” a bewildered Salmoneous questioned.

“No, I just had a better idea,” Hercules admitted as he headed through the door.

Salmoneous settled back on the bed with a lusty sigh.

”Aph-ro-dite!”

“Oh Hercules! You’ve made me so happy!” Psyche exclaimed ecstatically, throwing her arms around his neck.

Hercules looped his arms around her. “Good. I hope this makes you even happier.”

Psyche accepted the offered scroll with a look of puzzlement. “What is it?”

“It’s a poem that I wrote for you.”

“Oh Hercules, that’s so sweet,” she gushed.

The demi-god glanced over Psyche’s shoulder, spotting several suitcases, boxes and bags.

“Well what’s all this?” he queried.

“I know, it’s a lot,” she smiled. “But if I’m going to meet your parents Hercules, I” - - -

“My parents?” he gasped in surprise.

“Yes. You were on your way to see them. I decided to come along and find out all those things that you’re just a bit modest to tell me.”

“Psyche, I thought we would” - - - Hercules stammered.

The talkative young girl interrupted again. “Listen, we can talk about things on the way. Let’s go tell my father the good news.”

Iolaus and Holidas were intensely engaged in conversation as the excited love struck Hercules and a glowing Psyche burst into the room.

“Guess what father! Hercules and I are getting married!” Psyche exclaimed to her bewildered by happy father.

“Guess there’s only one thing I can say, welcome to the family, Hercules.”

“Well, I’m honored. I couldn’t wish for a better family.

Iolaus stood grim jawed and seeing his chance, pulled the demigod to the side, leaving father and daughter in serious conversation.

“Are you sure this is what you want Herc? It’s all so sudden, and you know,” he sighed, “The gods are playing a role in your sudden urge to be with Psyche.”

“Before his best friend could reply, Psyche broke in - - - “I can’t wait to travel the world with you Hercules. And you know, with me at your side we’ll be able to help more people than ever.”

Iolaus flinched at the words, knowing they were meant for him, even though spoken to Hercules. Psyche’s message stung.

“Whoa, slow down Psyche.” Hercules put his hands on her shoulders, looked directly into her eyes and admonished, “Those days are over.”

“And then you can” - - -a startled Psyche pulled away in surprise. “What did you say?”

The son of Zeus firmly responded. “No, we’re going to stay here, get married, put down roots, have a family; Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”

Iolaus’ expression said it all. ‘Finally he’s coming back to his senses. Maybe this will turn out okay after all.’

Psyche batted those long eyelashes and purred to Hercules. “No, but you can’t do that anyway. You’re a hero.”

Hercules stared earnestly into her eyes. “Everything I do will be to please you. I’ll cut down my hours. I’ll travel less. I’ll be the best husband there ever was!”

“Oh no,” Iolaus sighed, realizing that he was still under the spell. The gods had reduced Hercules to a simpering puppy.

Psyche’s mixed reaction confused her intended. “Tell me I’m dreaming,” she murmured.

“We both are. And I hope we never wake up.”

Hercules leaned forward to kiss her just as he heard the beating of wings and looked up to see an evil looking, scaly green monster flying right towards them. It snatched Psyche from Hercules’ arm so quickly he didn’t even have time to react, then spinning around, it flew away with her.

“Hercules!” was all he could hear as his intended was flown away. And then more screams.

The mighty son of Zeus stood helplessly as the monster flew away, soaring high in the sky until it was simply a spot of green against the white and blue of the clouded sky.

Come on Herc! Snap out of it!” Iolaus pleaded. “We’ve got to follow that thing and get her back.” Iolaus didn’t particularly want Hercules and Psyche together, but he most certainly didn’t want Psyche to have to spend her life with that monster, or worse be killed by it.

”Listen to him Hercules,” her frantic father griped the demi-god’s arm. “My little girl, you’ve got to save her.”

Hercules focused on Iolaus, the familiar face etched with concern, and felt himself being grounded again.

“Don’t worry, we will,” he promised Holidas, picking up the scroll that Psyche had dropped and handing it to Iolaus.

Holidas looked at the scroll, perplexed, wondering if it was something that his daughter left for him. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s something I’m going to give back to Psyche as soon as I find her,” Hercules promised, evading the answer.

As soon as the two heroes were out side, Iolaus grabbed the scroll. His partner’s evasiveness had him more than curious. “Let me see that Herc.”

He rolled the scroll open and began to read.

“Psyche, Psyche you are so sweet,

Without you life is incomplete.

Before I met you I was lonely,

Now you are my one and only.”

Iolaus shook his head, fighting to keep his mirth controlled. This was a gem, and when Hercules was back to his old self, Iolaus knew he could milk it for quite some time. “I don’t know Herc,” he grinned. “Hope you never have to quit your day job!” That was all he had to say as Hercules chased him down the road.

The monster had flown Psyche to an old deserted castle high on a bluff, a castle once elegant but now filled with nothing but cobwebs, spiders and dirt. He flew, cradling her in his arms, directly through a shutter less window into the upper floor. Placing her gently down and releasing his grip on her, Cupid regained his godly form.

Psyche was overwhelmed. One minute she was planning her wedding to Hercules, the next she held captive by an ugly green monster, and now a handsome blonde man with incredible snowy feathered wings sprouting from his shoulder blades stood before her. She screamed in panic, begging, “Please don’t hurt me. Oh what’s happening? Who are you?”

Cupid shyly and apologetically tried to allay Psyche’s fears. He reached a warm hand out to touch her. “I’m Cupid,” he spoke softly.

“No you’re not! Your, you’re some kind of monster!” Her voice quavered and eyes were round. She spun her head, searching frantically for a way to escape.

Cupid watched her sympathetically. “You’re wasting your time. There’s no way out.”

Psyche spun around, seeing it was true. Cupid tried to approach, but she cried out in panic. “Don’t come any closer, please.” She backed away, preventing any physical contact.

“Look, there’s nothing to be afraid of, I don’t bite,” Cupid cajoled.

“If you are so nice, then why don’t you let me go?” Psyche countered.

Her pleading eyes and words brought a moment of uncertainty to Cupid, but he knew what his answer must be.

“Because you’d run right back to Hercules.”

Psyche nodded in confirmation. “You’re right, I would. He wants to marry me.”

Shaking his head, the winged god sadly admitted, “Yah, well I’m not surprised. It was my arrow that made him fall in love with you.”

Puzzled, Psyche cast those soulful eyes on Cupid. “It was?” Her voice was small with the sudden realization that for Hercules at least this wasn’t true love. Psyche pulled herself together, trying to seem strong. “Well that’s too bad for you, because I’ll bet he’s on his way here now to rescue me.” She placed her hands on her hips defiantly.

“Yeah, “I’ll bet,” Cupid agreed. “Listen there’s someone I’ve got to see. I’ll be back in a while Psyche.”

Her bravado quickly melted as Psyche pleaded with Cupid. “You mean you’re leaving me here all alone?”

Cupid gently reassured her. “Don’t worry; I’d never do anything to hurt you. Okay?”

An even more confused and bewildered young woman questioned shyly, “You wouldn’t?”

Hercules strode through the forest, looking for his sister, ready to have it out with her about Cupid’s arrow. He hadn’t gone far when the usual bright pink swirl appeared.

“Herc, I need to talk to you.” Aphrodite’s voice sounded more businesslike than usual.

“Yeah well, I’m busy Sis,” Hercules shot back.

“I know just what happened brother, don’t YOU want to know?”

Hercules stared at the Goddess of Love. “I should have known,” he muttered than louder, “You know what happened?”

“Yeah that monster who ran off with your new girlfriend? Well that’s my darling boy.”

“Cupid?” Hercules answered astonished. “You’re saying that ugly thing was Cupid?”

“Right on Bro.”

“Since when did he start looking like that?”

“Well it’s a gnarly curse, dude,” Aphrodite sighed. “Whenever he feels the pain of unrequited love with a mortal, he turns into this green eyed monster.”

“Where did he take her?”

“I don’t know, but my guess is Hephestus’ old cathedral. The place is a total bummer, but Cupid always liked it. Go figure.”

“Okay Aphrodite, let’s figure something out here. First, I fell in love with Psyche because Cupid hit me with one of his arrows by mistake, right?”

“Yeah, exactly, lover boy.” Aphrodite smiled knowingly. Best he not know it was her that pulled the bowstring.

“That’s cute. Which one of the gods put this curse on him?”

“Old cow face, who else,” Aphrodite pouted.

Hercules let a brief look of hatred cross his face, which switched to disgust in one easy motion.

“Hera!” He bellowed.

“Yeah, she got jealous because I stole one of her boyfriends. He wasn’t even that cute,” Aphrodite said with a shake of her head and turned up her nose at the memory. “Anyway, she knew she’d never be as beautiful as me so” - - -

“So she punished Cupid,” Hercules finished cutting the story short.

The Goddess of Love fixed Hercules with a knowing smile. “Yep.”

“But it’s not permanent?” Hercules questioned.

“Not the first two times, but if it happens again”- - -

“Three strikes and he’s out?” Hercules asked.

Nodding Aphrodite replied sadly, “Yeah.”

The air was filled with raucous laughter and the shouts of men engaged in good natured fun as Cupid strolled among them. Comments rang out, eager to please the god.

“Am I good or what?! Bulls eye!”

“Hey you guys, quit horsing around!” Cupid didn’t usually let the antics of his friends bother him, but today was different.

His comment momentarily stopped his friends.

“Horsing around? Hey, we’re not Centaurs!”

“Very funny,” Cupid snapped dryly. “I’ve got a job for you two chuckleheads. Are you listening?” Seeing and hearing no response Cupid facetiously repeated himself. “I said, are we listening?”

“His two thugs then murmured a response. “Mn-hm, yeah.”

“Good. I want you to go back to Malidon. I’ve left my bow there. Find it.”

The two chosen ones headed out, leaving a slightly disgruntled group remaining, miffed at not having selected. They milled around the old building muttering, “What about us?”

Cupid proceeded to give them their assignment

“The rest of you, keep your eyes open. Stay sharp!”

Expecting trouble Cupid?” a voice called out.

“Yeah. Hercules.” Was the response.

“Ooh, this could be fun!” the now excited men shouted.

Clad in her filmy pink peignoir set Aphrodite cajoled her brother. “I know it sounds crazy, but at the time it was really a great idea.

Hercules gave her an answer short on words yet long on meaning. “Hmm” not bothering to hide his displeasure.

“Come on Herc, think about it. Cupid’s arrow hit’s Psyche, she falls for the sex starved florist - - - what’s his name?”

“Salmoneous,” Hercules supplied and was halted before he could offer any more information.

“I know I recognized that voice,” the compact blond warrior called out. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, Hercules,”

“Hey Sweetcheeks, you’re just in time to hear me explain everything to Herc, how my plan was so brilliant. Fast forward a few years, Psyche’s a fat happy housewife, Cupid is over her and everybody wins.

“Yeah right, nobody more than you Aphrodite,” Hercules interjected.

“Come on Herc, if the arrow had just hit her, everything would be fine.”

“Aphrodite, you shouldn’t interfere with mortals. Other gods may use them for play toys, but I thought you were different.” Iolaus hoped simple reasoning would work.

“He’s right,” Hercules affirmed. “You can’t play with people’s lives like that. And I can’t walk away without knowing that Psyche’s safe. Once I’m sure, I promise I’ll leave and never see her again.”

Aphrodite stared at her brother and burst out laughing

“What?” Hercules questioned an edge of anger in his voice.

“If you think you can escape Cupid’s arrow, Bro, I’ve got news for you. Nobody is that strong.”

“I am!” Hercules responded with determination, taking up her challenge.

“Okay, let’s put it to the test. “Whatever I say, you must say the first thing that comes into your heard, okay?”

“Fine sis, you’re on.” He turned to his buddy. “Iolaus, watch to see that she doesn’t do anything sneaky. “

The golden hunter gave a ‘what can I do’ look to Hercules and a captivating smile to Aphrodite and agreed.

“All right Hercules. Sun.”

Hercules replied, “Moon.”

“Bread.”

“Butter,” He replied with a raised eyebrow.

“Psyche!!”

In an instant Hercules’ dreamy eyed countenance had returned. “Smart. Sexy. Funny. Perfect.”

Aphrodite shrugged knowingly and placed her hand comfortingly on Hercules’ shoulder. “Okay, you stay here. I’m going to save my son.”

“No you don’t. I’m going with you.”

“That goes for me too,” Iolaus bellowed.

“Bet I get there first guys.” With a flash of pink, Aphrodite was gone.

“You know Herc, I hate when she does that.”

“Me too Iolaus, but she’s been doing that for centuries.”

Inside the old building, Psyche had been tied to a chair, feeling trapped and watching in fear as the satyrs continued their foolishness, cavorting and uttering inane remarks.

“Hey hey! Party down with us sister!”

“Yeah you’ll live til you die!”

Psyche was shaking; this threatening satyr was so close she could smell his hide. She tried to keep the tears inside, not let her fear show, but it was no use.

Cupid’s sudden appearance changed things. He took one look at the teary eyed, trembling Psyche and couldn’t hold his rage in. “What do you think you’re doing!” he screamed. “I never told anyone to treat her like this.” Get - - -outta - - -here!”

Grumbling and muttering under their breath, the Satyrs hurried out, casting disgusted looks over their shoulders at Cupid and calling him “party pooper.”

Psyche was both bewildered and angry. “You know, I don’t believe this,” she confronted him. “For years people have been telling me how nice you are, and you’re just - - -you’re just as much of an animal as they are!”

Down on his knees before her untying the ropes, Cupid apologized. “I’m so sorry! They didn’t hurt you did they?”

“What do you call what they did to me?”

Cupid stood up, pulling Psyche to him. “Well I care a lot. I mean I know what it’s like to feel trapped. When I was a kid, I used to come out here a lot because it was the only place I knew of where I could get away from my mother.”

Psyche’s attitude softened. “Then why don’t you let me go?”

“I can’t Psyche.”

“Why not?”

Cupid stared with longing into her eyes and whispered, “I don’t want to lose you.”

Cupid’s attention switched to a small room at the end of the hall where he saw a familiar flash of pink.

“Oh no! Just what I need right now, Mom!” he groaned

He let his arms fall away from Psyche and turned to face his mother. “Mom, if you’ve come for Psyche, you’re wasting your time,” he shouted in anger.

Aphrodite, dazzling as ever but with a troubled look on her face responded. “I told you there would be problems. You should have listened to me,” she shook her head and stared at her son.

Cupid stood face to face with Aphrodite and adamantly shaking his finger in her face asserted, “NO! YOU listen to ME, Mom! I love her and I am NOT letting her go.”

“Okay, I guess it’s time to tell you the facts of your life. This thing that happened with you and Psyche - - -it’s a curse from Hera.”

Her words infuriated him even more. “Thanks for warning me. Why couldn’t you have told me all this before?” He shouted, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Aphrodite ignored the tirade and continued. “And if it happens two more times you’re this green eyed monster forever.”

These words hit home, bringing Cupid to a more rational state. His attitude and his words touched the Goddess of Love.

“I don’t get it? Why can’t be just like everybody else? All I want to do is cherish Psyche forever.”

Oh, you really are the romantic type, aren’t you?” his mother cooed in a soft, comforting whisper. She thought for a minute then spoke louder. “Okay, I’ve got it. Why don’t you just take your bow and shoot her?”

Cupid’s response was an immediate “NO!”

“Yeah,” Aphrodite continued oblivious to Cupid, enjoying her plan. “Make her fall in love with you.”

“No,” Cupid spoke forcefully, drawing his mother’s attention finally. “I want Psyche to fall in love with me because she WANTS to, not because she’s forced to.”

“Oh that is so sweet, and so old fashioned too, but not a good idea,” Aphrodite shook her head. “Now please get Psyche out of here before Hercules shows up.

“No, YOU stay away from her, you hear me?” Cupid insisted. “Or I swear I’ll make Hera look like your best friend.”

At the edge of the forest on a bluff near Malidon, three men were involved in a heated discussion.

“I’m telling you, it’s one of a kind,” the voice of a portly, demonstrative man spoke silkily holding up a bow in front of the other two. “This is the bow that will make you crow,” he continued. “This is the thing that will make you song.”

“What are you saying?” the taller man asked.

“I’m saying you need to buy this priceless heirloom for its conversation piece value alone,” Salmoneous responded. “Let me see!” the excited man exclaimed.

“Hey, you can see with your eyes, not your hands,” the salesman warned, pulling the bow out of the man’s grasp.

The tall man wouldn’t be put off. He continued his attempt to hold the bow. “I wanna see, he shouted.”

“This is not professional!” Salmoneous yelled as he tried to keep the bow and the man apart, with no success. In the struggle, an arrow was shot, inadvertently striking the man, who immediately stopped his struggling and turned to his companion.

“I love you man!” he smiled, smitten.

His surprised and frightened friend shook his head. “Uh uh! I’m already committed to a monogamous relationship!” he spoke panicked, stepping back and away from his companion. Turning he raced back towards town, his taller friend in pursuit.

Salmoneous’ face lit up and his voice took on a happier tone. “I know what this is! This is Cupid’s bow. This is my reward for a life of virtue and thrift. Oh the riches! Oh the fame! Oh the fabulous babes!”

Salmoneous glanced up to Olympus. “Thank you gods, I owe you one!”

Just at that point Hercules and Iolaus caught up with him. “Down boy,” Hercules admonished.

“What are you up to now?” the Hunter asked.

“Hercules! Iolaus! Don’t be such spoil sports. I’m sure Cupid has a lot of these lying around. I’ll just take care of the love birds he can’t get to.”

“For a price of course,” Iolaus pointed out.

“Of course! I have a reputation to maintain,” Salmoneous replied.

“What reputation, Salmoneous?” Hercules questioned.

“Don’t start with me Hercules!” Salmoneous warned.

“Not unless you start respecting the power of Cupid’s arrows. They can turn your life upside down you know. They can drive you out of your mind with love and make you do things that are absolutely crazy.”

The intensity of Hercules’ remark put a scare into Salmoneous. “What’s the matter with you? Take it easy.”

“Hercules continued his tirade. “Hey, you need proof? You need some proof? Watch this!”

The son of Zeus ran to the edge of the bluff, finding Iolaus already there.

Salmoneous called after him. “What are you doing? Her-cu-les?”

“Stop Hercules! You don’t want to do this!” Iolaus stood between his best friend and the bluff overlooking the lake.

“Oh yes I do!” Hercules yelled, pulling Iolaus with him, tumbling head over heels into the water.”

“Herc, I know you said a dip in a cold lake will cure a romantic urge, but don’t you think that this is taking it a little too far?”

Hercules helped Iolaus to his feet. Hercules helped Iolaus to his feet. 'I just needed to show Salmoneous how dangerous those arrows are. Hercules stopped and stared. Look Iolaus! There’s Psyche! There she is!

Iolaus looked puzzled. “Look again my friend. See how young Psyche is? You’re old enough to be her father! She’s infatuated with the famous legendary Hercules and you are under the spell of Cupid’s arrow. Herc, you’ve had the best. Can you really deprive this young girl of the same thing? She deserves a long happy life with a boy her own age? Do the right thing, Herc - - -set her free. Some where out there is a woman who is right for you and a boy who is perfect for Psyche. Don’t let a misguided arrow change the destiny of two good people.”

“Hercules stared intently at his best friend, listening closely to his words. After a few moments of silence the demigod reached out and placed his arm around his partner.

“You are so right Iolaus. Again you have shown me the right thing to do. You know, remembering the past can change the future. A lesson learned can set a man free. Thanks pal.”

“The spell is broken?” Iolaus questioned skeptically.

Hercules nodded. “It’s one of the few good things about godly blood. Zeus evened the playing field, so Cupid’s arrow can effect a god, but there’s always a way to negate its spell. I guess it’s not just strength of body, but strength of mind as well.”

“So it wouldn’t work for me?”

Hercules grinned, seeing the despair on his friend’s face.

“Nope. I’m afraid you’d just have to spend your life mooning after whoever Cupid chose and hope it was the true one.”

Iolaus shuddered. “Watch my back,” he said with a shake of his head.

“Are you two okay?” Salmoneous called out, steeling himself for the view as he leaned tentatively over the edge. “Are you sure you didn’t hit your head Hercules?”

“No,” Hercules dismissed him. “This is about my heart. “I’m fine. Now we have to rescue Psyche.”

“Okay,” Salmoneous quipped. “If you won’t be needing me, I’ll just” - - -

“Salmoneous, be careful with that bow.”

“Hercules, I’m shocked that you’d think I wouldn’t be.”

The demi-god and the hunter looked at the climb they’d have to make to get up to Psyche’s place of confinement and shook their heads.

“Why is it never easy for us, Iolaus?”

“If it was, anyone could do it. By the way Herc, I wouldn’t give that poem you wrote to Psyche, and I wouldn’t quit my day job either.”

Cupid approached Psyche humbly, holding out a plate. “I brought you some food,” he stated simply, not trying to hide the caring in his voice. “I thought you might be hungry.”

Touched by Cupid’s effort, Psyche responded in a small voice. “I never knew that Gods got lonely too.”

“What did you say?” Cupid asked, unable to believe the kindness he heard in her voice, in spite of all she had been through.

“Nothing Cupid,” she answered quickly, suddenly feeling foolish. “Thank you for the food.”

“Oh,” Said the disappointed god with a nod of his head.

The moment was interrupted by the arrival of a Satyr with news that Hercules and Iolaus were there.

“What!? Here already?” Cupid spoke, stunned and thinking he’d misheard.

“Yeah, they’re here!”

“They are even faster than I thought they were.” Stay here, Psyche.” Cupid spoke softly. “You’ll be safe here.”

Cupid and his Satyr friends met the two heroes at the entrance, standing across the open door like a solid wall. Cupid stared angrily across at his uncle, feeling the jealousy rising. He had trusted Hercules, but now they were simply rivals.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Hercules.” Cupid’s voice rose.

Hercules stood calmly in the face of Cupid’s wrath. “Before you decide that, you’d better hear what I have to say.”

“We don’t HAVE anything to say!”

“What if I told you that your arrow didn’t work on me? I’m not in love with Psyche.” Hercules stated plainly.

Chuckling, Cupid responded, “You’re lying. You must think I’m a fool if you think I’d believe that.” Cupid didn’t try to hide his jealousy, letting it rise to the surface like bubbles in boiling water.

“You know me better than that Cupid,” Hercules shook his head, speaking soft and seriously. “I just want to make sure that Psyche’s safe.”

“From what?” Cupid shot. “The green eyed monster?”

Placing his hand on Cupid’s shoulder Hercules compassionately urged, “No, from Aphrodite. There’s no telling what she might do. You know how she gets. Call off your Satyrs.”

“Sorry, can’t do that,” Cupid replied as he threw Hercules arm from his shoulder. Turning to the satyrs, he encouraged, “Okay, get them boys.”

“I thought I was your favorite Uncle!” Hercules shouted as he and Iolaus began battling their foes.

Psyche listened with her ear pressed to the door of her chamber, trying desperately to hear what was happening. She would obey Cupid and stay in the room, but her curiosity had gotten the better of her. She placed a hand on the door knob.

“No way girlfriend. Don’t waste your time!”

Psyche jumped back startled. Her mouth dropped open when she saw the speaker, a beautiful vision in pink.

“Aphrodite!” she exclaimed, awed to be in the presence of the goddess of love.

“In the flesh. Now come on, let’s get you out of this dump,” the goddess declared, taking hold of Psyche’s arm.

The young lady’s reaction surprised Aphrodite.

”I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on and why you’re doing this!”

“Hello - - -I’m trying to help here,” Cupid’s mother replied, miffed that a mere mortal would doubt her motives and resist her help.

“No you’re not! I heard you before with Cupid. I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on.” Psyche crossed her arms and stood defiantly in front of Aphrodite, making her position fully clear on the matter.

An intrigued Aphrodite glared at the girl and then spoke. “I get it. You’re copping this ‘tude because everyone’s been saying you’re more beautiful than I am. Now that I see you, it’s obvious they’re clueless,” the stunning goddess snickered.

“Do you actually think that I like being compared to you? Not being able to go anywhere or do anything? People treating me like some kind of freak” - - -

“Don’t sugar coat it honey. I’m just here to save Cupid

Psyche thought for a moment, then told Aphrodite, “But I never thought you would” - - -

Interrupting, Aphrodite commented, “It’s a mom thing. Come on.”

To her surprise, Psyche agreed. “Okay.”

“That was easy!” Aphrodite exclaimed.

Hercules and Iolaus made short work of the Satyrs. Fighting back to back and employing some of their best moves they soon had Cupid’s friends motionless on the ground unconscious. The only one left standing was Cupid.

“Iolaus, go see if you can find Psyche. Aphrodite is bound to show up. Maybe you can reason with her. I think she likes you better anyway,” then whispering, “Sweetcheeks!” He shot his friend a grin. “I’ll handle Cupid.”

Iolaus shot Hercules a warning glance. “Okay Herc, just be careful. That green eyed monster could be a bit much to handle, especially since he’s family.”

Psyche and Aphrodite were walking towards the door when Iolaus entered. The Goddess of Love was just offering Psyche a drink.

“Here Psyche, drink up!”

“How is that going to help Cupid?”

“I’m his mother, would you trust me?”

Psyche looked first at Iolaus, then back at Aphrodite. “Fine,” she agreed and downed the liquid.

“Aphrodite what was in that cup? What have you done?” Iolaus asked forcefully. “Psyche, do you feel okay?”

“Come on honey buns, would I do anything to harm this cute girl? I like you Psyche,” she declared turning to the girl. “It’s just a shame you’re so cute.

It was here that Cupid rushed through the door, breathless and fearful as he heard his mother’s words.

“She’s not cute, she’s beautiful. Come on Psyche, I’m taking you away from here, from all of this - - -now.” He reached for her arm.

“Don’t do it Cupid. You know what will happen,” Iolaus warned as he moved between Cupid and Psyche, determined to let Psyche make her own decision and not be swayed by either Cupid or his mother.

“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?” Psyche begged.

Hercules pushed through the door. “Perhaps I can.”

“Not a chance!” Cupid threatened as his snowy white wings and golden blonde hair disappeared and he morphed into the hideous scaly, spotted monster with green eyes for the second time in his life.

“Wow! That cliché about jealousy being a green eyed monster just took on a whole new meaning!” Iolaus muttered aside to Hercules. But Hercules had set himself in a fighting stance, and Iolaus ushered Psyche and Aphrodite back towards another room.

Hercules and the monster fought furiously. “Jealousy sure can make a person ugly. This isn’t any fun!” Hercules bellowed as Cupid dropped him from his clutches only to swoop down and pick him up again.

“Don’t hurt him Hercules!” Dite shouted.

“Me, hurt him? You’ve got to be kidding!”

The fighting continued as the two men battered each other, neither backing away from the fight. Finally Hercules ducked just as the monster reached him, getting away from him, But Cupid was less agile, unable to stop his aerial approach and slammed into the rocks, momentarily stunned. An exhausted Hercules watched as the as the beast faded away and the blond haired, white winged Cupid returned to his handsome self.

“Cupid, can’t we at least talk about this?” Hercules asked in frustration.

Suddenly an ear splitting shriek rang out. Hercules and Cupid recognized Psyche’s voice and dashed to the next room. Both men stopped suddenly as they saw why the young girl was upset. Psyche was still beautiful, but she was no longer young. Her hair was gray and skin softly lined, but a matronly beauty still shined as Iolaus held and comforted her.

Cupid rushed to her side, took her hand in his. “Mother,” he spoke sadly. “What have you done?”

“If it’s any consolation Cupid, she’s not as old as she looks.

“Mother, for once in your life, can’t you just give a straight answer? What have you done here?” Cupid squeezed Psyche’s hand lovingly in his own.

“I did what any mother would do, I tried to protect you.”

“Sis, this is a little extreme,” Hercules interjected.

“Mom, you’ve got to learn to let me live my own life.” He turned to face Psyche, his voice softening and eyes sincere. “Oh Psyche! I’m so very sorry! I love you!” He took the gray haired Psyche tenderly into his arms and cradled her there.

“You don’t have to say that,” Psyche offered, her voice lower, more mature.

“Listen to her Cupid. I told you things get complicated when mortals get involved.”

Cupid ignored his mother, intent on comforting Psyche. “I don’t care what you look like, I know what a wonderful person you are, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

Psyche gasped, the events of the day overwhelming her. “Oh!” she cried out in surprise.

“I’ll take that as a definite yes,” Cupid pulled her closer and kissed her long and passionately.

“Come here Herc,” Iolaus jerked his head indicating a quiet corner, where they both huddled in whispered conversation.

Hercules nodded and went back to approach his sister. “Well Aphrodite, it really is love. You can be happy for these two kids or you can play the old shrew. What’s it going to be?”

“What do you want ME to do about it?” Aphrodite exclaimed, feeling sorry that she had hurt her son and his soon to be wife.

“Come here,” Hercules instructed and he whispered in her ear.

“Cool! I like it!” Aphrodite nodded enthusiastically. “Okay kids, here’s the deal, complements of Iolaus and Hercules.” Clearing her throat, she continued. “I’ll restore Psyche’s good looks on one condition.” The goddess brought another goblet filled with sweet smelling liquid and offered it to Psyche.

“Oh I’m not sure,” the matron commented as she thought about the last drink she’d taken from Aphrodite.

“Chill, will ya? This is ambrosia. One sip and it’s off to Olympus.”

“You mean you’re going to make me immortal?’ Psyche asked, startled.

“You got it, sweet pea.” Aphrodite smiled with superiority.

Psyche wasted no time in downing this drink and in seconds her looks and her figure were restored.

“Oh Psyche,” Cupid sighed as she took him into her arms.

“They sure make a cute pair, don’t they?” Iolaus commented.

“Thanks Mom,” Cupid gratefully said as he kissed his mother on the cheek.

Aphrodite turned to her brother, stunned. “He thanked me and he kissed me!”

“Uh-huh,” Hercules grinned.

“What are you smiling at?” Iolaus asked, wanting to hear Hercules’ reply to this one.

“I’m just thinking about those two up there with Hera. It’s going to make her go crazy with jealousy.” Hercules burst out in laughter.

“Let’s not keep her waiting,” Aphrodite declared. “Come on kids, let’s go.”

Psyche turned to Hercules. “Um, Hercules, I just” - - -

“You don’t have to say anything. As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

“Thank you, all of you,” Psyche said as she bestowed soft kisses on Aphrodite, Iolaus and Hercules’ cheeks.

“Uncle Herc, I owe you an apology. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay Cupid. I know it was really Hera not you.”

“Yeah,” Iolaus interjected. “Just don’t turn into that green thing anymore.”

“Gotcha. Iolaus, show Uncle Herc how to be cool, he’s almost there. Come on Psyche, I’m going to show you Olympus. You’re going to flip.”

As they headed upward Psyche’s voice could be heard. “Bye Iolaus, bye Hercules, bye Mom.”

“Aw, how humiliating! This means I’m a mother-in-law!” Aphrodite whined.

“Don’t start pouting sis. You did the right thing, that’s all that counts,” Hercules stressed as he and Iolaus consoled the Goddess of Love.

“Hercules! Help me please!” Salmoneous shouted as men chased him, demanding Cupid’s bow.

“They look too tired to be dangerous. How did you get up here so fast?” Hercules questioned.

“I was motivated. I was running from that!” He cast an arm back at the mob.

Aphrodite, Hercules and Iolaus burst out laughing as one. As if on cue a small goat bounced into the room and headed straight for Salmoneous.

“Stay back!” Salmoneous worried. “She got in front of one of my arrows. Aphrodite, is there an antidote for this?”

“No, not really,” The Goddess giggled, putting her fingers to her lips.

“Are you sure oh beauteous one?”

“Mm-hmm,” was her response.

“Would she kid you?” Hercules laughed.

EPILOGUE

Iolaus seemed down, even after a peaceful ending to the latest adventure.

“Want to tell me what’s wrong, Iolaus?” Hercules asked.

“How am I going to tell my niece and nephew that their first loves have gone and gotten married? I’d rather fight ten Hydra’s or she-devils than do this.”

Hercules saw his partner’s dilemma. “Since I’m already here in the area, want me to come with you?”

“Is the Aegean Sea wet? It would be so much easier with you along for moral support. Come on, the house is just on the other edge of town.”

Hercules and Iolaus neared the home and heard the sounds of a party. “Now we’ll be remembered as party poopers when we tell them the news and ruin their fun,” Iolaus sighed.

“The best thing is to meet the problem head on,” Hercules advised, “Get it right out in the open and be honest.”

The two friends stepped inside.

“Glad you’re back safe and sound, Uncle Iolaus. Boy do we have news for you.”

“I have news for you two, but you go first.”

“Well do you remember us talking about Marina’s best friend Chloe?” Iolaus didn’t but he let the boy talk on anyway. “She and her brother have been away at private school for a year and just got home. Well, is she ever a knock out! Psyche can’t hold a candle to her!” He smiled and added with a sigh, “I think I’m in love!”

“And you should see her brother,” Marina spoke up. “Bartelemous is as handsome as a god. I can’t imagine what I ever saw in a guy with those flapping white wings. Bart is so down to earth, so human. I’m glad he came along when he did.”

Hercules and Iolaus exchanged glances.

“Now, what was it that you two wanted to tell us?” Marina asked.

Iolaus stammered, “Hercules and I just shared an adventure we’ll tell you about some time. Right now, we’re going to head to Corinth. Neither of us have seen Herc’s mother since her wedding and we’re anxious to get there.”

Lucinda came in when she heard Iolaus’ voice and made the two promise to stay for lunch before taking off to return for a longer visit soon.

“That was delicious. You can be sure Iolaus will be back when there’s good food and family around,” Hercules told Lucinda.

Iolaus said his good byes. When he came to his sister in law he had a few extra words. “You’re doing a great job raising these kids. Nothing to worry about them, they have good level heads on their shoulders. I don’t envy you these teenage years, but the three of you will be fine.” He gave Lucinda a hug, thinking he wished he could have seen his own boys through those turbulent teen years, but with a sigh, he held that in, there’d been too many tears shed already.

As the partners headed towards Corinth, Iolaus joked about Hercules having to see Jason for the first time as his father.

“Wonder if he’ll give you the birds and bees speech? Just kidding Herc. Alcemene’s lucky to have Jason with her. We’ll never need to worry about her safety now.”

“Nope, Iolaus. The only thing mother will have to worry about now is having enough food on hand when you’re around!” He threw an arm across Iolaus’ shoulders companionably.

“Speaking about food,” Iolaus grinned. “Let’s get going. Enough of this slow pace. I can taste your mother’s pastries right now,” Iolaus called back as he took off at a fast trot.

“Some things never change,” Hercules commented, and hurried to catch up with his friend.

THE END



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