"You keep poking me with that and you're going to end up wearing it."
Hercules cringed knowing what would happen next. Antagonizing the guards was not a good way to start this but then Iolaus' mood hadn't been well suited to this mission to start with. There hadn't been time to figure out something else when this opportunity to get into the jail presented itself. He winced involuntarily as he heard the bone crack. The demigod hadn't bargained on that sort of response to Iolaus' smart mouth.
Still, he held himself in check and kept his face impassive as the guard unceremoniously kicked his partner into the cell. Had Bellicus turned to look at Hercules he would have seen a man, muscles taut and shaking, ready to spring, barely able to control his rage. Others saw this, some of the prisoners saw the man beneath the calm exterior.
Hercules knew he couldn't afford to let the guards see, couldn't let anyone see that Iolaus was his weakness. If Bellicus realized that he could use Iolaus against him, then they wouldn't have a prayer of finding Gladius and escaping easily. There were too many guards and the prison was too well fortified. Yes, he was Hercules, he could smash through the walls and lead an escape but that wouldn't help these people or Gladius' family. Maximus' guards would only pursue them and recapture some if not all of the weakened prisoners.
Hercules risked a glance at the crumpled, unconscious heap that was his partner. He had to remain to appear to be impassive, uncaring. Otherwise, Iolaus would be in more danger than he was now. Bellicus wouldn't hesitate to hurt him to control Hercules, he knew that without a doubt and Hercules would not allow that. So, he remained apathetic and used every ounce of will he had, every fiber of his being to hold himself in check as he, too, was shoved into the cell. At least it was the same cell.
The demigod turned and leaned against the bars appearing as though he didn't care but he kept his hearing tuned to the figure on the cold, hard floor behind him. His breathing be steady and even, a good sign, 'Hold on, Iolaus, in a moment I'll be able to help you. Just as soon as these guards leave.'
Hercules took a look at the other prisoners. Could they be trusted, any of them? Would they betray his weakness to the guards in return for favors? Maybe this whole plan wasn't such a good idea. Hercules looked more closely at his fellow prisoners. Some were ignoring the goings on, others returned his gaze with understanding. They'd already seen through his act. There were good people here, he could see it in their faces. They needed his help, but would they trust him when the time came?
Finally, all but a couple of the guards had left for other areas of the prison. As if on cue, he heard Iolaus roll onto his back with a soft moan. His partner had regained consciousness and lay listening, waiting for the situation to improve before he revealed himself. Hercules had heard the change in his breathing when he came to. Iolaus maintained that you could learn a lot while the enemy thought you were down for the count.
"Easy," Hercules whispered and risked a glance back at him. Still feeling the eyes of others in the room upon him.
Iolaus' hands gently explored his nose, smearing the blood that had continued to ooze.
Hercules called to the remaining guards, "Hey! This guy's bleeding al over the place, I gotta live in here, you mind?"
One of the guards motioned to the older prisoner who seemed to be acting as cook. He put down the potato he was peeling and quickly grabbed a bucket of water and a couple of rags. He set the bucket down outside the bars but in easy reach and handed Hercules the rags.
"You'll have to clean him up yourself."
"No problem, thank you."
Hercules wet the cloth and kneeled beside his friend for the first time meeting his wary eyes.
"So, any friends here?" He asked quietly allowing Hercules to begin wiping off the congealed blood.
He glanced around, "A few."
"I think we'll need more than a few to get out of this one."
"We'll find them. I won't let them hurt you anymore."
"You're doing a good job of that yourself, ow, ow, ow." Hercules lifted his hand away from Iolaus face. "I can take care of myself, Herc. It's my mouth, I'll take the consequences."
Hercules ignored him, "I think your nose is broke."
"I think you're right."
Hercules flipped open Iolaus' vest, "How're your ribs?"
Iolaus took a slow, deep breath, "Bruised but not broken. I can move."
Hercules helped him sit up, "Ok?"
"Yeah," Iolaus held out a hand and Hercules pulled him up. The hunter leaned against the table a moment gathering his bearings before pulling himself up to sit on it. While Hercules rinsed out the rags and finished wiping off the blood from his face. He handed Iolaus the cleaner of the cloths and showed him where to hold it until the bleeding stopped. Iolaus looked miserable.
"I know you don't want to be here, but there are people here that need our help. Maybe we would have figured out a better way to get in but we can't abandon these people now."
"You're assuming that they want our help, Hercules." Iolaus shook his head, "Nevermind, let's just get this over with."
Hercules nodded and changed the subject. "You're working on a couple of beautiful shiners there."
"Zigged when I should have zagged. I'm getting too old for this, Herc."
"You are not. You were just being Iolaus, hot of head and too quick with the mouth."
"Speak for yourself, Herc, getting us impulsively thrown in jail is more my style. You're supposed to be the calm, rational one with the plan." Iolaus sighed, "My head hurts."
Hercules clapped his hand on Iolaus' shoulder and squeezed, "I know it does, I'll get you out of here."
"Just do it before my mouth goes off again."
Hercules allowed himself a small smile. If Iolaus could joke, he'd be all right. He had gotten them into this and he'd get them out of it. "Iolaus, right now I don't even have a plan, but I will, my friend, I will."
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