"Why help him?" Hercules asked.
Iolaus turned in the doorway and shrugged a little, "He's my friend," he said simply and left. Hercules knew that said it all for Iolaus. His friends meant everything to him.
Hercules followed and quickly caught up to him, "May I help?"
Iolaus gave him a wary glance as if trying to guess his motives and finally nodded. "Sure, I'd appreciate it. I don't know how many there will be waiting for us. "
They spoke as they ran through the village and then the trees as they made their way toward the swamp.
"You make friends fast. You've known this guy, what? Two days?"
"Look," Iolaus replied. "I said I'd be there for him. Watch his back and whether he's right or wrong, I'll keep my word to him." Iolaus glanced toward Hercules, "You still wanna help?"
Hercules smiled and nodded.
"You may not know who you are, but you're still Iolaus."
Hercules pulled the rope. His heart pausing as he waited to see Iolaus' blond head come to the surface. It's beating resumed with relief as the two coughing, spluttering men made their way to the shore. Hercules grasped their arms and lifted both of them bodily from the water. Iolaus and Zeno collapsed on the bank as he released them.
Panting, Iolaus looked gratefully at Hercules, "Thanks."
Zeno was still having a hard time of it gasping for air. Iolaus moved over to untie his hands.
He gave Hercules a confused look.
"We'll just have to tie him back up again." Iolaus' face became very serious. Hercules knew he'd better explain quickly or he'd have a full fledged rebellion on his hands. "Zeno is wanted for running a protection racket, attempted theft of the money sent here to help these people, who knows what else. If he's found guilty by the magistrate, he'll have to serve his punishment. He deserves a fair hearing, not the kind of justice his men were dishing out here today. The Magistrate will protect him until the trial. Turning him over is the right thing to do. I know you don't remember but," Iolaus met Hercules' eyes, "This isn't your life anymore. You've found a better way. I can help you, if you'll let me." It wrenched Hercules' heart to see his friend looking so lost and alone, not knowing where to turn.
"You're right," he said quietly. "It's not my life. I don 't have a life." Iolaus turned to Zeno who had quieted and appeared resigned to his fate. "You might as well turn me in, too. I'm just as guilty as Zeno."
"Guilty, maybe, but not responsible," Hercules replied. "You didn't know better because you forgot that part of your life. No honest magistrate would hold you responsible after they heard the truth of what's happened to you."
"Planning on sharing that information?"
"When you're ready to believe me."
"Your friend is right, you know, "Zeno advised. "You have a life beyond this. If he can help you find you way back to it, let him. I won't give you any trouble. I haven't the strength if I'd wanted to."
Iolaus nodded but he didn't look happy about any of it. He helped Zeno to his feet and they headed back to toward town with Hercules trailing a step behind. He couldn't tell which way Iolaus was leaning. Either way, they still needed to talk. He had to convince him to let him call Fortune back and straighten all this out again.
The three men made their way slowly back toward town. Finally, Iolaus broke the silence. "I remember a Hercules that was around where grew up. Are you telling me that you're him?"
Hercules nodded calmly but his heart soared, "Iolaus, what's the last thing you remember?"
"Knocking over a jewelry cart in the market in Corinth."
Hercules nodded, "That's when we weren't getting along too well."
It was Iolaus' turn to agree, "Yeah, your high and mightiness didn't approve of some of my 'other' friends."
"I didn't approve of your petty theft as a means of survival over real work. It nearly got you into real trouble."
"Nearly?" Iolaus looked thoughtful, "Why didn't it?"
You were given a choice between prison or being my fight partner at Cheiron's Academy."
"The Academy? Imagine that. So, how long were we partners?"
"Partners * and friends * ever since, until yesterday. I wouldn't' know what to do without you guarding my back."
Iolaus considered Hercules' words. When he caught Hercules looking back at him, he averted his eyes to the ground. "So, what happened yesterday?"
Hercules took a moment to think, "Something tragic. You did all you could but you couldn't stop it. You blamed yourself."
"I made myself forget?"
"Not exactly, this is where the story gets a little strange, "Hercules pointed down a street. "There's the magistrate's office." He spared a questioning glance toward Iolaus.
"I'm not making any promises but I'll think about what you've said."
"That's all I ask."
Written 14 October 1998
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