Iolaus and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

With Apologies to Alexander

by Ceryndip

Hercules walked through the door of the inn, shook off the rain and wiped his feet. It had been pouring buckets for a couple of hours and showed no sign of stopping. Hercules looked around expecting to see Iolaus telling some wild tale by the fire. He was surprised and somewhat concerned that his friend was no where in sight. When the two had separated a week ago, planning to meet here, Iolaus didn't have nearly as far to go and should have arrived long ahead of Hercules.

Hercules stepped up to the bar and flagged the attention of the innkeeper.

"Excuse me, but are there any messages for me? I'm Hercules."

"Messages? No, but your friend's already reserved you a room."

"My friend? Blond, about so tall?"

"Yes that's him. He came limping through just after the storm broke. He was soaked, dripped all over the floor."

"Limping?"

The innkeeper nodded, "Yeah, he was leaning pretty heavily on his staff. Come to think about it, the rest of him didn't look too well either."

"Where is he?"

"Upstairs," the man said offhandedly, "He reserved the rooms and hasn't come back down since."

"Which room?"

"Upstairs, all the way down the hall, last door on the right. Yours is directly across."

"Thanks," Hercules proceeded up the stairs taking them two at a time. All the while wondering what could have happened to Iolaus?

He paused outside the door and knocked quietly. He listened, but heard no response, slowly he opened the door. There was a fire burning in the hearth and there, lying atop the small bed, was Iolaus, eyes open and staring at the ceiling.

"Iolaus?"

"Go away."

Hercules was shocked, "Iolaus?"

"Herc, it's for your own good. You don't want to be near me. It's not safe."

Obviously, this was something serious. Hercules came in and pulled up a chair by the bed.

"Iolaus, I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. Now what is going on? The innkeeper was right. You look terrible."

"Oh, thank you for telling me that," Iolaus replied sarcastically. "If something happens to you, don't say I didn't warn you. I told you, it's dangerous to be too close to me, today. It's been one of those days, all day."

Hercules was exasperated, "Iolaus, I'm staying. Live with it."

Iolaus sighed and remained quiet still staring at the ceiling.

Hercules looked Iolaus over. His clothing was torn. He had scrapes on both forearms and the blackest eye Hercules had seen in a while. It amazed Hercules that the eye wasn't swollen shut. Iolaus had gone to bed fully clothed. He had removed his boots, Hercules observed, which was probably a good thing considering his right ankle was terribly swollen.

Hercules sighed and decided to try a different approach with his stubborn friend.

"Have you had anyone look at that foot? Is it broke or just sprained?"

"It's not broke."

"And no you haven't had it seen to. Let me see what I can do." Hercules gently lifted the foot and unwrapped the bandage. He frowned, "How far did you walk on this?"

"It's a long story."

"Then, we'll get to it, later." Hercules reached over and grabbed a spare blanket hanging over a chair, bunched it up, and elevated Iolaus' foot on top of it.

"I'm going downstairs. Don't go anywhere." He said sternly.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here until my day improves or at least nothing else happens to me."

"I'll be right back."

"It's your neck."

Hercules spoke with the innkeeper's wife who immediately took him into the kitchen. There, she helped Hercules prepare an herbal compress for Iolaus' ankle and gave him some salve for the other assorted cuts and bruises. Hercules completed his Make-Iolaus-Feel-Better Kit, at the suggestion of the Innkeeper's wife, with a hot mug of chamomile tea. It seemed she thought Iolaus looked like his nerves needed some soothing when he'd arrived. Hercules agreed.

Hercules went back up stairs and after fussing over Iolaus and bandaging him and fluffing his pillows and generally making him as comfortable as possible with much complaining on Iolaus' part, Hercules handed him the tea.

"Here, take a nice big swallow of that and get your throat good and wet, cause I'm ready for my long bedtime story."

Hercules pulled up the chair and waited expectantly.

"Well," Iolaus began slowly, "It all started this morning..."

Iolaus woke just before dawn. He stretched one arm over his head. The other arm was pinned beneath the lovely dark-haired beauty, lying at his side. Iolaus leaned over and took a long lingering breath of the sweet fragrance in her hair. He lay back thoroughly enjoying the early morning quiet and the feel of the fresh hay at his back. That was the nice thing about barns, they were always warm on cool mornings. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes.

Suddenly, a loud, grating voice bellowed from outside, "Cela! Cela! Where are you!"

Iolaus saw a huge man striding around the yard. The girl sat bolt upright, her eyes wide in panic. "Oh, you have to go!"

Iolaus was confused. "Huh? Who is that guy?"

"Cela! If I catch you with a man, you know what I'm going to do to him!"

"That's my brother. He's promised my fiancee, he'd take care of any suitors who came around before he comes for me."

Iolaus was astounded. "Take care of any? Fiancee?" Iolaus threw himself into his pants. "You didn't say anything about a fiancee last night."

She smiled mischievously, "You wouldn't have come home with me, if I had, now would you?"

"You're darn right I wouldn't have. You're crazy lady!"

"You better hurry. This is one of the first places he'll look."

Iolaus paused long enough to pull on his boots, grab his vest and other things. Then, slid down the ladder from the loft and ran out the back of the barn. He paused just a moment too long for Cela's big brother caught sight of him heading into the woods and gave chase.

Iolaus was amazed that a man so large, could move so fast. He was having a hard time gaining any distance in the trees. Iolaus ran not looking back and for a long time Cela's brother stayed right on his heels, yelling curses at him all the way. Finally, the crashing behind him became fainter. Iolaus realized he must finally be wearing his pursuer down. He risked a look back and as he turned, he failed to see a tree root in front of him and tripped, coming down hard.

Luckily, the brother seemed to have given up and turned back. Unluckily, Iolaus had turned his ankle and it was shooting agonizing pains up his leg.

"Great, just great! All this before breakfast even."

He sat there a few minutes, till the pain began to subside. He slid over and using the tree trunk for support, stood with all his weight on his left foot. Gingerly, he tried his right foot and found he could put some weight on it. It hurt, a lot, but it held him.

"At least it's not broke."

He closed his eyes and heard a stream bubbling nearby. He let his ears be his guide and hobbled off toward the gurgling sounds.

It wasn't a large stream, but certainly large enough for his simple needs. He plopped down on the bank, carefully removed his already swelling ankle from his boot and with a sigh of sheer pleasure, lowered his aching foot into the cool water of the stream. He reached down and splashed water on his face and took a long drink of the fresh clear water. He dumped the stale water from his water skin and refilled it.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him he'd missed breakfast. He looked around. No nuts or berry bushes in the vicinity. Even if the stream were large enough for fish, which it wasn't. He didn't have the time. He had to meet Hercules in Taygetos today and this foot was going to slow him down.

He looked down and talked to his stomach, "Sorry, you're just going to have to wait."

Iolaus lay back on the bank and closed his eyes. He knew he'd have to give the cool stream water time to do it's work "Iolaus, how do you manage to get yourself into these situations?"

When he felt it had been long enough, he sat up and pulled a piece of cloth from his satchel and proceeded to tightly bandage his foot with it. He gently slid his foot into the boot. It felt a little tight, but Iolaus was relieved to find it wasn't too uncomfortable. Again, he stood, shifting his weight carefully and limped off toward Taygetos.

About a mile or so later, Iolaus found the road. The going was a lot easier limping along the roadside than through the trees. The road was strangely deserted. Usually, there was considerable traffic through these parts.

"Wonder where everybody is? Probably found out what kind of day Iolaus was having and wisely decided to stay away. Keep their unmarried but betrothed daughters out of my way."

Suddenly, a wagon appeared round a bend ahead. It was moving at extreme speed. It actually seemed to veer toward Iolaus who had to dive into the bushes to escape being run down. Iolaus rolled to a stop with a, "Hey, watch where you're going," aimed at the reckless driver. He lay there a moment. He'd scraped his left arm from wrist to elbow and it smarted.

"Terrific! I just want to be somewhere else, anywhere else," he moaned.

Iolaus hobbled into a village just about lunchtime. He was famished. His head ached for lack of food. Luckily, there was a tavern on the main street, but that was as far as his luck went.

Iolaus sagged wearily onto a stool at the bar, ordered an ale and inquired about the lunch specials.

The bartender sat the ale in front of him and said gruffly, "Got stew."

Iolaus sniffed the air appreciatively and was less than impressed, "Got anything else?" he asked hopefully.

"Got stew."

"OK, a bowl of stew it is." Iolaus picked up the ale and nearly gagged on it. "Hey! This is warm!"

"Yeah, it's a warm day out." the bartender shrugged and moved to wait on another customer.

"What, you keep your ale outside? Room temperature is one thing, this is ridiculous."

Iolaus sighed. He was resigned to his fate by the time it arrived. He watched the steaming hot bowl of stew bubble evilly in front of him a full minute while he debated starving, but he knew he needed to eat something. His stomach kept telling him so. Stew that smelled like boiled cat usually tasted like boiled cat. Iolaus was not disappointed and the warm ale did nothing to console him. He choked down as much of the stew and ale as he dared, paid for his meal and left.

"How did I just know it was gonna be one of those days?"

The bartender was right about one thing, it had turned into a hot day. As he cleared the opposite side of the village, there had been a breeze, but further into the countryside even that had disappeared.

Iolaus paused to wipe the sweat from his forehead. His ankle was beginning to throb. He needed to get some of his weight off of it. He hobbled over to a tree and used his sword to hack a small branch off. Iolaus, then, sat down in the shade of the tree and stripped the rest of the smaller branches from it.

"There, that should make a decent walking stick, functional anyway."

He laid the stick beside him and leaned back closing his eyes. The heat of the day wasn't helping his still protesting stomach which was now making him feel nauseous.

Again he addressed his stomach, "Look, you wanted food, so I fed you. It's not my fault it was lousy stew. Get over it."

It did. A few moments of extreme nausea ended when Iolaus threw up the stew and ale. He leaned back and rested his still aching head against the tree trunk.

Iolaus sighed and reached for his water skin which he found disturbingly light. On closer inspection he discovered it was empty. There was a small hole which Iolaus set about patching immediately as he rested his body and foot.

"Wonderful just wonderful. What I wouldn't give to be somewhere else about now."

Upon finishing his little patch job, Iolaus hoisted himself up with his stick and continued on his journey.

The world left Iolaus alone for a couple of hours and he made good time. He still had enough optimism left to think that maybe, just maybe, he'd left all the bad stuff behind him.

Then, a shimmering golden shower of sparks became Aphrodite before him and somehow he knew he was doomed.

"Hiya, Sweet Cheeks, what's shaken?"

"Leave me alone, Aphrodite. I can't deal with anything else right now. Life itself is attacking me and has been all day." Iolaus pushed past her and continued down the road.

Aphrodite's mouth dropped open and she put her hands on her hips. "Since when am I trouble to deal with? I just wanted another lesson."

When he didn't stop, she called after him sweetly, "You are my personal trainer. What'll I do if you don't help me?"

Iolaus stopped. He knew he was going to regret it, "Help you with what?"

She walked seductively up to him and he noticed she wasn't wearing her usual, revealing pink floaty stuff, but a pair of leather shorts and what looked like one of Herc's old shirts.

"Fighting lessons, of course." She bit her lower lip and looked at him with big, wide innocent eyes.

"Aphrodite, I really don't feel up to that just now."

"It won't take long, I promise. I want to try using this stick-thing again. I've seen people fight with these. They just look sooo Kewl!" She materialized one for herself. "Oh, come on, Sweetie, show me how to use this stick thing. Just a little, please?" she said in her best pouty voice that always got her what she wanted.

Iolaus sighed. Women were his weakness, he knew that, and where Aphrodite was involved he always ended up regretting it. Iolaus shifted his weight to his left foot, picked up his stick and held it in front of him.

"OK, I'll show you how to block, you hold the stick like this..."

"...And the other guy swings like this," she swung wildly and made contact, not with Iolaus' stick, but with the side of his head sending him reeling off the side of the road.

"Oh, oh. That wasn't right. Ummm, maybe we should continue this later, huh?" She shrugged, "Sorry, see ya around Sweet Cheeks." Aphrodite promptly vanished in a golden sparkle.

Iolaus sat on the ground and held his hand next to his left eye, "Great, now I'm probably going to have a black eye. Just great! My head already hurt, now it hurts more. My foot hurts, my arm hurts. Iolaus, you're going to fall apart before you even get to Taygetos."

Iolaus continued down the road fervently wishing he were somewhere else. He stopped when the road ran parallel to another stream. Iolaus quenched his thirst, washed his face and tried to examine his eye in the reflection, but the water wouldn't hold still enough. In his attempt to see how badly Aphrodite had wounded him, Iolaus leaned too far out, lost his balance on the slippery rocks and fell head long into the water.

"Why me?" he asked no one in particular, "Iolaus, how do you manage to get yourself into these situations?"

He stood up, shook himself off, refilled his repaired water skin right there in the middle of the stream, trudged out, and back to the road.

There still had been no traffic on the road. Iolaus had been half hoping that someone would come along and feel sorry enough for him to pick him up and give him a ride. A ride into Taygetos would be really nice about now, but no one came.

Finally, Iolaus heard the sound of hoofbeats and wagon wheels behind him, but something wasn't right. The hoofbeats were too fast for an ordinary wagon. Iolaus turned just in time to see the same wagon from this morning coming back at the same breakneck speed.

"Oh no, not again!"

Just like this morning the wagon veered straight for poor Iolaus who dove into the bushes. This time in an unconscious effort to favor his already injured left side, he scraped his right arm when he landed.

For a long time Iolaus just lay there. Finally, he pulled himself into a sitting position, "Iolaus, you are having the all-time worst day of your life. I'll be surprised if you make it to Taygetos alive. Ohhhh," he moaned, "I just wanna go back to bed."

At long last, Iolaus saw the village ahead. He quickened his steps not just because he was finally nearing his destination, but because for the last hour he'd been watching the storm clouds build. Maybe he could make it to the inn before he got wet again. Fate, of course, had plans of her own. The rain began as a few light drops when he entered the city gates, by the time he reached the inn, he was soaked clear through in the heavy downpour. He didn't care anymore, he was going to bed, period, end of discussion.

"So you see, Herc, that's why I just came straight up to bed and I'm staying in this bed where nothing else can happen to me."

The rain beat rhythmically on the roof. Hercules sat staring at him, "I don't believe it. I don't believe all that could happen to one person in one day." He shook his head.

There was a terrible creaking from the ceiling. Hercules looked at the roof over his head, "That didn't sound good."

Suddenly, a whole section of roof, right over Iolaus' bed came crashing down raining old thatch and dumping a ton of water on him. Hercules was able to leap out of the way. Iolaus hadn't had a chance.

"Iolaus? You OK?"

Iolaus nodded miserably.

"Iolaus, I believe you. If it had been anyone else but you..." Hercules tried to stop it. It just had to come out. He started with a giggle and ended up doubled over, roaring with laughter.

"Go ahead, laugh at my predicament." Iolaus looked around and saw the innkeeper and his wife in the doorway staring at the hole in the ceiling. A hole through which it was now raining only on Iolaus. He realized how ridiculous it must look and couldn't help giggling himself. Actually the whole day had been pretty ridiculous. The innkeeper and his wife shook their heads at the two laughing idiots, decided no one had been hurt and left them to whatever they thought was so funny.

By the time the laughter subsided both were gasping for air. Iolaus decided that, wet or not, he felt much better.

Hercules helped him up, "Come on, let's move into my room and Iolaus? People have bad days other places, too. So, you might as well stay where you are."

End
Written by Ceryndip Oct 6, 1997.

(Author's Note: If you haven't read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst, you should put it on your reading list. It's in the Children's Section of any public library.)

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