"No, Iolaus, No!"
He woke gasping. He glanced at his surroundings shaken by the vividness of the nightmare. All was as it should be, modern furniture in a modern twentieth century apartment. His eyes rested a moment on Iolaus' sword adorning his living room wall with the other antiques. Antiques that used to be modern things he used every day. Sometimes he wondered if he was an antique, too.
The TV blared. Yes, that's what caused the nightmare, that silly Evil Dead marathon on the Scifi Channel. He ran a hand through his hair. He really should've known better than to fall asleep in the middle of that. How could he expect anything but strange dreams.
He took a deep breath and collapsed back on the sofa. He'd watched the movies because the writing staff wanted to use them as a basis for a story arc. What a ridiculous idea for a script, having the ultimate evil kill Iolaus again and Hercules not be able to save him. He caught himself thinking of Hercules as a third person. Was he becoming schizo as well? He needed a break long enough to remember who he really was again.
And Ireland? Where'd that come from? He didn't make it to Northern Europe until the Middle Ages. The fans would never buy it anyway. They are more intelligent than that. They know it's the friendship that's the important element in the series; the way the characters support each other against the evils that menace the world and how mortal Iolaus, no better than anyone else, is in there kicking butt, too, without benefit of any godly powers. Iolaus was always the real hero.
Besides Nebula was never a Sumerian Queen. She was a pirate until Iolaus got under her skin and reformed her. They settled down in Corinth and had a herd of kids. He knew that writing staff he dealt with played fast and loose with the myths sometimes. He smiled, but who ever said the myths were correct in the first place?
He'd been thinking about Iolaus a lot the last few years. He knew Iolaus was happy with Ania in the Elysian Fields, but he still missed his friend even after all this time. There had been other friends through the centuries but none Iolaus' equal. He'd kept track of Iolaus' children for several generations from afar but eventually lost them as the familial lines blurred and merged. Sometimes he'd meet someone and there would be something about them. He'd think, "Yeah, you're one of his." It was a comfort to see that smile or the flash of laughter in blue eyes and know that part of his Iolaus lived on in the world.
Sometimes when they were filming, in those brief seconds during a take, he almost felt as though Iolaus was at his side again. Iolaus would've liked this world with all it's gadgets, but then he got a glimpse of it that day he got hit by lightning, didn't he? Hercules still remembered the words, "Big, big metal flying thing and people ride in it!" He chuckled to himself. And the toys, Iolaus would've looked at the Iolaus action figure and made some rude remark about it taking 3,000 years to finally get the recognition he deserved.
Hercules rose and slipped on his penny loafers. He didn't have to be back in New Zealand for a few days yet. He had the time and it'd been too long since he'd been to the Elysian Fields for a visit. Being able to come and go as he liked without having to bribe Charon was one distinct advantage of finally accepting godhood. He wandered into the kitchen and packed a couple of sandwiches in his Hercules lunch box to tide him over before heading out the door.
The Iolaus action figure complete with catapult battle harness and little spiky balls was missing from the shelf when he left.
Hercules had kicked off his shoes and socks and left them in the corner of the hay loft where he lounged in the upper doorway, dangling one foot over the edge. Iolaus was similarly sprawled in a pile of fresh hay where the afternoon sun danced off his golden hair. His patchwork vest thrown in the same corner as Hercules' shoes. His eyes were closed as he dosed in the warm light.
"Oh yeah. Iolaus, this is the life. I envy you, my friend. I miss the quiet. It's never quiet up there anymore."
"You'll have to come to visit more often, then. It's plenty quiet around here."
Hercules sighed languidly, "Yeah, I should."
Iolaus sat up and gestured to the barn around them, "So, what do you think?"
"The barn! My new barn!"
"Yeah, I thought we'd never finish it. Jason is so picky about stuff. He wants all the boards cut exactly straight and the tools put away every single night. He drove me crazy!"
Hercules smiled. He remembered Iolaus' carpentry skills well. He was a much better blacksmith. Jason probably had a similar story about how infuriating Iolaus was. They had done a good job though. They'd even built on a new forge for Iolaus to work in.
Iolaus sniffled and casually wiped his nose on his arm. Hercules glanced over at him. It hadn't been the first time he'd heard that particular sound this afternoon.
"If I didn't know you better, I'd say you were catching a cold."
"Just getting over one actually."
"You caught cold in the Elysian Fields?"
"Well, I wasn't exactly in the Fields when I caught it. I was helping Charon patch a hole in his boat and Charon was trying to help and I fell in. Man, I didn't realize the Styx was so cold."
"You were helping Charon?"
"Yeah, somebody had to. I don't know, maybe I've been down here so long, I'm turning weird, but I kinda like the guy. He's not all happy, happy like some people around here."
Hercules shifted position to lay more in the sun, "So, where's Nebula?" He knew she and Iolaus had always had a pretty carefree relationship.
"Oh, she's around from time to time." He sighed, "I never did cure her of roaming. Can't stay in one place very long even now. All our kids were grown, so no reason for her to hang around all the time."
Hercules nodded watching Iolaus' two boys chase each other in the yard below, "You're boys look good."
"Yeah, we're great. Now that I finally talked Hades into letting little Iolaus out of the diaper stage. I know they'll never grow up but Ania and I've been changing diapers for 3,000 years and well, let's just say, the magic's gone...." Iolaus pulled the action figure out of his boot and started examining every detail about it. "So, you feeling any better?"
Hercules gave him a bemused look.
"You were feeling kinda sorry for yourself when you showed up." Iolaus pointed out.
"I suppose so, I just needed to reconnect with what's really important in my life again. Things get so strange and complicated up there. Sometimes, I feel like my whole life's a TV show."
"TV? Oh,I remember, you told me about that once. Pictures that turn into little bits of light and fly through the air. Thousands of people watch you and some other guy reenacting our old adventures. And I thought I used to come home with strange stories."
Iolaus put the battle harness back on the little doll. "So, they wanna kill me on this TV show and that upsets you?"
"Herc, I'm already dead. What more can they do to me?"
Hercules sighed, "I know, my friend, that's why I came. I knew you'd put everything in perspective for me. You always did. I think you'd like TV. I'll talk to Hades about setting you up with a TV and VCR."
"Herc, does everybody up there spell stuff all the time? Cause, I would hate that."
Hercules chuckled, "Not really, nevermind, I'll set it up and bring you some tapes."
"Iolaus, what are you doing with that doll?"
There was an evil gleam in Iolaus' eye and Hercules knew he'd asked the wrong question.
"I'm....playing with myself!" Iolaus fired a little spiky ball at Hercules.
"Hey! I'll get you for that."
"Oh yeah, I'm scared, I'm real scared."
Hercules launched himself at his friend and they both went tumbling through the neatly stacked hay.
Some things never change.
Iolaus kept telling him that Ania's cooking had gotten a lot better over the years. Well, maybe someday he'd give it a try but for now their fans needed him to give them a little faith in the world and to always make sure there was a happy ending.
Written 17 Jan 1999
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