Strange Bedfellows

by Ceryndip

Answer to the September Challenge to write a story in 750 words or less that begins, "It was a dark and stormy night."

It was a dark and stormy night but the inn was warm and inviting or so Iolaus had thought a few hours ago. He had merrily danced by the fire to the lively tunes of the local musicians. He had, also, imbibed far too much ale than was good for him at this stage in his life.

He must have been drunk or he would never have invited the King of Thieves to join him for dinner. Autolycus had staggered from the storm looking like drowned cat. Like most of the other travelers he was trying to avoid spending the night outdoors.

Iolaus stuck one foot gingerly from beneath the covers and moaned softly as the cold air struck his bare skin. The fire had died out and the room had cooled. He could still hear the patter of rain on the roof making moving in his condition doubly miserable. He briefly wondered how long it would take for a burst bladder to heal and then decided he didn't want to know. He had to go and that was all there was to it. No choice, he'd better just get it over with.

Slowly to keep his head from exploding and quietly to not wake the sleeping demigod beside him, Iolaus slid from the bed. He pulled on his boots and vest. The hunter crept down the back stairs vowing all the while that he would never drink that much ever again. He grabbed an old blanket to hold over his head as he dashed toward the facilities out by the barn.

Much relieved but no less hung over, Iolaus draped the now dripping blanket over a chair. As he climbed the stairs, his head pounded unmercilessly with each step. He stopped at the top and held his head wishing it would just go ahead and fall off. He staggered towards the door and entered, leaning against it briefly as it closed behind him.

He should have known the room wasn't right from the start but Iolaus wasn't at his best. "Funny," he thought, "wasn't the bed on the other side of the room?" He shrugged his shoulders. It really didn't matter, maybe Hercules had rolled to his side of the bed and that made it look different. Lacking the strength to figure it out, Iolaus pulled off his boots and crawled into the bed.

He had nearly drifted back to sleep when his bedmate threw an arm across the hunter's chest and began mumbling in his ear.

"Oh baby, you smell so sweet, I could get lost in your scent."

Now, Iolaus had known Hercules for most of his life and in all that time, he'd never said anything like that. Iolaus threw off the arm, "Come on, get off. I'm not that kind of guy."

A tall man sat up in the bed beside him, "Huh? What?"

"Autolycus! What are you doing in my bed?"

"Your bed? I don't think so, blondie, not in your dreams. I've heard those stories about you and the big guy but I never-- Is this why you bought me dinner? Trying to lead me on..."

Iolaus leaped from the bed. "No, absolutely not, it was all a big mistake. I made a wrong turn that's all, believe me, I won't do it again."

"You sure won't. You can just sleepwalk yourself right out of here."

"I'm going. I'm going."

Iolaus beat a hasty, humiliated retreat to the hallway carrying his boots. With his eyes open this time, the hunter found the right room just across the hall. He'd stupidly gone right instead of left.

Entering the correct room and slipping between the blankets, Iolaus listened to the steady breathing of the demigod and began to think that his little faux paux had gone unnoticed. Perhaps the thief would think it was all a bad dream by morning. The hunter sighed deeply and closed his eyes.

"So, given a choice, you'd prefer sleeping with Autolycus over me, I'm crushed."

"Herc, I don't even want to talk about this. Just go to sleep." The hunter rolled over putting his back firmly toward his friend.

"That's ok, Iolaus. I know to err is human but to forgive is semi-divine.

4 September 2001

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