"Come on. Get up sleepyhead. We've work to do." Hercules cheerfully greeted his sleeping friend and pulled open the shutters allowing the sun's rays to brighten the room.
Iolaus moaned and rolled over pulling his arm over his head.
"What's the matter? Too much fun last night?"
More groaning. "Come on, Herc. I went to bed before you did." Iolaus rolled over on his back with his arm still shielding his eyes.
"Yes, you did, hard as that is to believe." Hercules shook his head, smiled, and sat on the other small bed in the room. "I've been talking to one of the merchants on the square. We're going to fix the roof on his shed in trade for a couple of fur cloaks. It's going to get cold when we head into the mountains."
Iolaus sighed and rolled to a sitting position holding his head. "OK. Give me a minute."
"How much did you drink last night?"
"Not this much." Iolaus stood and dismissed his headache with a wave of his hands. "It's nothing. OK. So where is this roof we gotta thatch?"
"Are you two sure this is all you want?" The elderly merchant held up two cloaks. "That was a full morning's work you did out there and a fine job you both did."
"These'll be fine. It was our pleasure to help out." Hercules replied.
"You'll at least stay for lunch. Yes?" The man's wife asked.
Hercules glanced at Iolaus who was slouched against the side of the door frame. He nodded.
The merchant's slightly plump wife led them through the back of the shop to the small living quarters where she and her husband stayed. The place was sparsely furnished but clean and functional. The merchant's wife was an excellent cook. The food was delicious.
"Where are you two headed?" the wife asked as she filled Hercules' plate a second time.
"Corinth," Iolaus replied, declining her offer of a second helping. "We're delivering a birthday gift to King Iphicles."
"You boys have some traveling to do. Corinth is a full two days travel under good conditions and you won't have much time to spare," the old man called over his shoulder as he went back out front to help a customer.
The merchant's wife insisted on packing some bread and cheese for their journey. Hercules accepted graciously.
The walk was pleasant. The air was cool but not uncomfortable. By late afternoon the two had followed the little-traveled path well up into the mountains. A fine mist clung to the ground, chilling the air a little more. The mist thickened as they moved higher and they put on their cloaks as much to keep dry as to stay warm.
As darkness fell, they found a big tree with several low hanging limbs. The leaves were still intact and Hercules propped the limbs up with a couple of large sticks he found on the ground.
"Well, that should keep us mostly dry." He said as he surveyed his makeshift roof.
Iolaus built a small fire and after a meal of bread and cheese, they settled in close to the fire. The next morning there was a light covering of snow on the ground, rare for this time of year.
Iolaus sniffled and pulled his cloak tighter around himself as Hercules built up the fire.
"You didn't pick up a cold or something in that village did you?" Hercules asked.
"Nah, I always sniffle when it's this cold."
They decided to save the bread to go with dinner and finished off the last of the cheese for breakfast.
By early afternoon Iolaus' sniffles had been joined by a cough. Hercules had refrained from saying anything figuring he'd be told, it was nothing and to stop worrying. But he didn't stop and Iolaus' lack of keeping up the usual good natured teasing caused Hercules to be even more concerned. The farther they traveled the quieter Iolaus became. Eventually they stopped and built a fire to rest and warm up. Hercules decided it was time to discuss it.
"I think we should go back."
"Because I think you're getting sick."
"Oh, I'm fine, really," but Iolaus didn't meet Hercules' eyes. He stared at the fire. When he finally did glance up he found Hercules giving him a look that said he wasn't buying it.
"OK," Iolaus admitted, "I'm not fine, but I'm not going to keel over on you either. It's just a cold. I'll be fine in a day or two. Let's just get to Corinth, so your mother can make a big fuss over me." He smiled trying to lighten Hercules' mood.
Hercules rolled his eyes, "She probably will..."
The teasing conversation continued for a while. Then, as they hit the road, Iolaus fell silent except for the occasional sniffling and coughing.
As the day wore on Iolaus got slower and less steady on his feet. The coughing spells became more severe. Hercules watched him closely. Finally, he'd had enough. Time to get his friend by a warm fire.
"Iolaus, let's stop for the night," he suggested casually.
"Why? We still have a couple of hours of light left?"
"Besides, there's supposed to be a group of bandits attacking travelers through here. Remember what they were saying at the tavern? Maybe we'll run into them. I can use a workout." Iolaus playfully punched the air.
Hercules smiled at his friend's attempt at levity but his smile turned to a frown as Iolaus' laughter dissolved into a coughing fit that nearly doubled him over where he stood.
Hercules spied a rabbit in the bushes and went after it calling over his shoulder, "Be right back, I'm going to snag dinner." Hercules headed after the rabbit at a run. He disappeared between the trees. He was only gone a few minutes and returned to find Iolaus sagging wearily against a tree. He appraised his friend critically while he absently pulled and pocketed a few eucalyptus leaves from a tree for later use and made a decision.
"Come on, Iolaus, we're making camp."
He headed toward a small clearing just off the path. Iolaus slowly followed. Hercules built a fire and set the rabbit above to cook. Iolaus pulled his cloak tighter about himself and huddled next to the fire.
They passed the time quietly. When the rabbit was done, Hercules tried to get Iolaus to eat but he refused.
"Come on, Iolaus, you need to eat a little."
"I don't want any." Iolaus pratically yelled at him.
Hercules ignored him and continued calmly, "You need to keep your strength up. We've hardly ate all day. A little cheese for breakfast isn't going to be enough."
After much protest, Iolaus finally relented and agreed to eat a little of the bread. It was a mistake, Hercules realized as Iolaus fled the camp ending up behind a tree losing what small amount he'd eaten.
Hercules immediately regretted forcing Iolaus to eat. Iolaus slowly walked back to the fire, pale and shaking.
Before Hercules could say anything, several bandits leapt out of the trees and the battle was on. Hercules and Iolaus instinctively positioned themselves back to back. Hercules mentally kicked himself for not paying more attention. He was so concerned about Iolaus, he hadn't even sensed them coming. Hercules was relieved to see that the momentary danger seemed to have revived Iolaus, who punched and kicked with his usual enthusiaism. The bandits were overmatched and ill-prepared to defend themselves.
Iolaus lashed out with his foot and cracked a kneecap on one while punching another. Hercules grabbed two of them and bashed their heads together, not with enough force to seriously injure them, but they would definitely have headaches for a while. The would-be attackers were quickly sent limping back into the trees.
Iolaus bounced around, still on the alert, and saw the partial loaf of bread on the ground. He picked it up and surveyed the empty spit. The bandits had snagged their dinner. "I guess they were hungry. They could've had my half. I didn't want it. All they had to do was ask." Iolaus swayed.
Hercules moved toward him.
Iolaus was breathing heavily. His world began to tip. He felt Hercules' arms catching him before he hit the ground and the world faded to darkness.
Hercules used his foot to spread out Iolaus' fallen cloak on the ground near the fire and gently placed him on it. He laid the back of his hand against Iolaus' cheek. He could feel the heat of the fever. Iolaus was shivering slightly. Hercules covered his friend with the other cloak. Iolaus' breathing was ragged and occasionally he coughed deeply. Hercules wished he could do something to soothe the cough but it was the wrong season for those herbs. He could, however, do something for his congestion.
Hercules glanced around the camp. He checked the satchel he'd been carrying and was pleased to discover that Ipicles' gift was still intact. The food was all that was missing, not that they traveled with much anyway. Well, if the bandits were hungry, they were welcome to it. He had other worries. Hercules took stock of the nearby vegetation. Not wanting to stray too far from Iolaus, He gathered some echinacea root and put it with the eucalyptus leaves. He began brewing a tea. As he worked he noticed a darkening of clouds on the horizon.
Hercules frowned, "This is not good," he said to himself. Hercules weighed their options. Could they make it to Corinth before the storm front arrived or should they turn back and find an inn for Iolaus to ride out the fever at? Either way Iolaus needed to be kept warm and dry.
Iolaus moaned softly and Hercules propped him up against a fallen tree and made him drink some of the tea.
"What is that?" Iolaus made a face like it was the most vile stuff in the known world. Eucalyptus was not known for its pleasing taste.
"Tea. It tastes terrible, but it'll help make you feel better. So, shut up and drink it." After Iolaus took another grimacing swallow, Hercules asked, "How do you feel?"
"Lousy. My head hurts and my stomach has betrayed me terribly." Deep rasping coughs wracked his body as he slid back down on the cloak.
Iolaus quickly fell into a fitful sleep, still shivering. Hercules threw another log onto the fire. He gauged the clouds on the horizon as he quietly asked the sleeping Iolaus, "Well, my friend, what are we going to do?"
Corinth was as far ahead of them as the village was behind them. He decided to try for Corinth. If they were going to make it before the brunt of the storm hit they'd have to leave now. Hercules found two nearby branches and after stripping them of the smaller branches, fastened them to either side of the cloak under Iolaus. He broke camp and with Iolaus still asleep, set out for Corinth dragging the makeshift stretcher behind him.
It was more dangerous traveling at night, especially with the bandits still about. Hercules just hoped that if they were watching, they'd received enough knocks the last time and would leave them alone.
Hercules stopped occasionally to rest briefly and check Iolaus. His fever was still high. Hercules knew that fever was the body's way of fighting sickness. It was best to leave it alone as long as the fever didn't get too high. Hercules rubbed his cold hands together to try and warm them before continuing. He'd be glad when they got out of the mountains.
It was well into the next morning before he heard Iolaus stirring. He pulled to the side of the path and laid the stretcher on the ground. Iolaus' face told the story of how miserable he felt. He was pale, eyes red rimmed, nose stuffed up, so he sounded funny when he talked. His voice was hoarse from breathing through his mouth. Hercules gave him a drink of water and built a fire. He put on some more tea to brew. Hercules couldn't get Iolaus to share the last of the bread with him but he did convice him to drink the tea.
Hercules warmed his body next to the fire. He tried not to let Iolaus see how cold he was. Iolaus needed his cloak more than he did and Hercules didn't want Iolaus feeling guilty about it.
"So, where are we going?" Iolaus croaked.
"I'm trying to get you to Corinth, but I don't know if we're going to make it ahead of that storm."
Iolaus looked west and saw the line of dark clouds slowly marching towards them. "That'll be here by evening."
"If I can make good time, we'll be at mother's by evening."
"It'll be close."
Hercules didn't want to think about it and changed the subject. "Are you feeling any better?"
Iolaus shook his head. "I just feel so weak. I can't breath and my head hurts."
Hercules patted Iolaus on the shoulder sympathetically as he rose to put out the fire."We'd better get back on the road. Try to rest."
"Try not to hit every pothole in the road." Iolaus tried to smile, but it was a dim copy of his usual radiance. Still, Hercules appreciated his friend's attempt at humor. The fact that Iolaus had not tried to get up and continue under his own power was testament to how he felt. In fact, Iolaus hadn't even mentioned the stretcher.
Hercules had not slept in over a day and he had another full afternoon of traveling for the both of them. He didn't look forward to it. The temperature had risen somewhat and Hercules tried to stay in the sun as much as possible but he still felt cold.
Iolaus slept fitfully, occasionally moaning from the fever that still raged within him. Hercules didn't stop to rest now. As the clouds moved closer, he realized they probably wouldn't make it. The wind rose making the very air feel colder. Hercules had hoped it would be warmer once they cleared the mountains, but his luck was not holding today. The icy downdraft from the storm front was dropping the temperatures even farther.
They were close. Just a little farther through the open, rolling hills and they would reach Alcmene and Jason's warm home. Hercules stopped just long enough to cover Iolaus' head with the cloak as it started raining. He'd already fastened it down to the sides of the stretcher so it wouldn't blow off. Iolaus didn't move. Hercules noted that, in fact, he seemed to be sleeping a little more peacefully.
Hercules trudged on. He was rapidly soaked with the cold rain. It didn't really matter, he felt numb already. The path turned into a road. There were only a few miles to go. The sun set leaving Hercules once again pulling Iolaus through the darkness. Only now the pulling was doubly hard because the road had turned to rain-slicked mud.
Hercules tried to watch for puddles and holes in the road, but the heavy clouds left little light to see by. Hercules stumbled more than once and went down on his knees. The mud splashed his legs and chest. He turned to check Iolaus and saw no movement beyond the regular rising and falling of his chest beneath the cloak. Still asleep. Thank the Gods for small favors. Iolaus would hate to have his head covered. Hercules knew they should stop but they were so close...
Hercules was exhausted. He trugged on, not seeing anything but the road in front of him. Finally, he realized the house he sought stood before him. Relief overwhelmed him as he pulled his burden through the gates. His knees felt weak. The house was dark. It was late. He'd lost track of time. They were all probably in bed by now.
Hercules banged on the door and waited for someone to come and move the sliding bar so they could get in. It took an indeterminate amount of time and it was several loud bangs later before a bleary-eyed Jason finally opened the door. A drenched Hercules stumbled into his arms.
Jason pulled them both inside. Alcmene ran over and led Hercules to a chair by the fire. Jason pulled the stretcher over and set it down in front of the fire. Alcmene saw the covered body and her heart stopped. Her face paled. She feared the worst. There was only one person it could be. How could it have happened after all the times he'd been brought back from the other side. She couldn't have lost him now. "Oh, Hercules, how did it...?"
Hercules suddenly realized what it looked like. "Oh, no, Mother. I was trying to keep the rain off him. He's been sick with a fever. I'm sure he'll be fine."
Alcmene closed her eyes in relief, "Thank goodness. For a moment there...oh, I don't even want to think about what I thought." She knelt beside Iolaus. Jason untied the cloak and uncovered his face.
Iolaus stirred as Alcmene touched his forehead. His eyes fluttered. She smiled at him, "Shhhh, lie still, Iolaus. We'll have you in a warm bed in no time."
She called servants to make up a room and to heat up the leftover soup they'd had for supper. Hercules was shivering. Alcmene wrapped a blanket around his shoulders. "We've got to get you out of these clothes." She disappeared up the stairs.
Iolaus wearily sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Would you listen to that rain? Were we out in that?"
Hercules nodded and laid his head against the back of the chair and closed his eyes.
"I'm glad I was asleep." Another coughing spell over took him.
Alcmene returned in time to hear the coughing fit, "You don't sound good at all. And you," she turned to Hercules, "get out of those wet clothes before you dirty my house anymore."
Hercules looked down and saw he was covered in mud. He mumbled a "sorry" and smiled sheepishly at her.
She handed him an old night shirt and smiled back. Then, she turned to Iolaus. "Your fever's broken. I'd say the worst of it has passed. Do you think you can make it upstairs to bed?"
"I think so with a little help."
As she gave Iolaus a hand up to a standing position, she turned to Jason, "We'll put them both in Iolaus' room." She put her arm around Iolaus' waist and slowly led him from the room.
At Hercules' quizzical expression, Jason sheepishly explained, "The roof is leaking in your room. One of the servants discovered it earlier this evening. Guess I'm not much of a handyman on land," he shrugged.
Hercules nodded and began peeling the wet clothes from his body. Jason handed him the towel Alcmene had brought him to dry off with. After climbing into his old night clothes, he still felt chilled, so he wrapped up in the blanket again. Jason walked beside Hercules as he wearily made his way down the hall and up the stairs. Jason kept a close eye on his friend, now stepson, ready to catch him if he should stumble.
When the pair reached Iolaus' room, they found the fire had already warmed it considerably. Hercules thought it felt awfully good. Alcmene already had Iolaus in a borrowed nightshirt of Jason's. He was closer to the right size. She had him tucked into bed and was feeding him soup and more herbal tea.
It was then that Hercules noticed the pot hung over the fire. The smell called to him. Jason saw his interest and gestured for him to sit in the chair by the fireside. Jason picked up the bowl and ladled some soup into it.
"How long since you've eaten?"
"I had some bread this morning. Last actual meal was last night when Iolaus first got sick." He looked over toward the bed. Iolaus was sleeping again. Alcmene pulled the covers up and kissed his forehead. She, then, moved to sit on the hearth next to Hercules' chair.
They chatted about family news and the state of the roof, in general, while Hercules slowly ate his soup. He relished the warm feeling it gave him inside but he still shivered on the outside. Noticing, Alcmene exchanged concerned glances with Jason.
When Hercules finished, she took his bowl, and said as she touched his arm, "You're still chilled. Let's get you into bed." He let her lead him over to the large bed and tuck him in. She sat on the edge of the bed.
"I'm glad you're both home." She smiled and kissed his cheek, "Sweet dreams." Hercules nodded and closed his eyes, sinking into the warm, soft bed and the feeling of security that came with being home.
The rain pattered on the roof above the darkened room. Below, the sound of quiet breathing filled the room, until a violent coughing interrupted the peaceful night. Iolaus opened his eyes and cleared his throat. He peered around the room by the glow of the embers until his eyes adjusted. Once he recognized the room, he laid back on the pillow. He rubbed his still swollen eyes. The last day or so was little more than a blur in his memory. His throat was dry. He debated if it was worth getting up to get a drink. He felt the bed shiver slightly beneath him and he realized he wasn't alone. He turned to see Hercules sleeping on the other side of the large bed.
Iolaus laid back smiling, remembering all the nights they'd spent in a room like this as kids in Thebes. Laughing and telling stories till all hours. Since they'd grown up, Herc usually slept in his own room across the hall when they stayed at Alcmene's. So, why was he here now? Iolaus' musings were interrupted by Hercules moaning in his sleep. Iolaus reached over to wake him from what he assumed to be a bad dream, but before he even touched Hercules' arm he could feel the heat radiating from his body. Iolaus sat up and felt Hercules' forehead. It was terribly hot. His body shuddered with another passing chill and Iolaus pulled the covers up more tightly around his friend.
"This is not good." Iolaus mumbled quietly to himself. Hercules was usually healthy as a horse. In all the years they'd known each other, Iolaus could only remember a couple of times that Hercules had actually come down with something and that was years ago. Being a demigod had its advantages.
Iolaus, quietly as he could, got out of the bed and stepping briskly on the cold floor, padded to the door and into the hallway. He knew what needed to be done but he wasn't sure where everything was. They hadn't stayed at Alcemene's often since she'd moved to Corinth. He was going to need her help. Iolaus moved down the hall to the door of Alcmene and Jason's room. He slowly lifted the handle and opened the door. He stepped into the room and waited until his eyes adjusted from being in the torch-lit hallway. Iolaus stifled a cough and walked quickly to the edge of the bed.
Iolaus smiled as Jason snored loud enough to wake Hades. He reached down, grasped Alcmene's hand and touched her shoulder with his other hand. He called her name softly. She woke with a start.
"I'm sorry," Iolaus whispered, "I didn't mean to frighten you."
"Iolaus? What's the matter? Are you feeling worse?"
"No, I'm feeling better. It's Herc. He has a fever and chills."
"I was afraid of that," she whispered back. "It was so cold and he was soaked to the bone. He didn't have anything but that light, little shirt. His arms were like icicles."
Then, Iolaus realized the sacrifice Hercules had made for him. He remembered vividly the way Hercules had been huddled at the fire, eating the last of the bread. Iolaus mentally kicked himself for not noticing at the time. Hercules must have been freezing and that was before it started raining. Iolaus had a sick feeling in his stomach. He looked at the floor and said quietly, "That's my fault, Alcmene."
"Oh, Iolaus, no. You were sick. Hercules did the right thing. You had to be kept warm and dry or we could have lost you again. A mother can only stand to lose a child so many times, you know," she smiled at him in the dim light from the doorway.
"Huh?" Iolaus looked confused.
"Iolaus, you've been a part of this family for so many years. Of course, I think of you as one of my children. I just wish you boys would think about traveling a little less lightly than you do. It wouldn't hurt to carry a bag with a few supplies." As she chidded him gently, she pulled on her robe and slid into a pair of rabbit skin slippers. Iolaus recognized them as ones Hercules had made for her with the catch of one of their first hunting expeditions as kids.
Following his eyes she said, "Yes, they're the same ones," she pointed at his feet. "And you should not be running around here barefoot. You will make yourself worse. Come on," she took his arm. "Let's get you back to bed and see about my 'other' sick son." Jason let out another prodigiously loud snore as they closed the door behind them.
Alcmene shook her head and smiled sheepishly, "A raging Hydra couldn't wake that man up."
She left Iolaus at the door to his room after satisfying herself that his fever had not returned. Alcmene went to the cupboard where she kept her medicinal herbs and gathered what she needed. Then, after another quick stop to pick up a clean, small kettle, she headed back to the bedchamber.
Iolaus hadn't gone straight back to bed as he was instructed to. He'd come into the room to find Hercules shivering violently. Iolaus spread another blanket over the bed. He rebuilt the fire. Then, he half-filled a bowl with water and found a cloth. When Alcmene came in, Iolaus was, at least, sitting on the bed, applying the damp cloth to Hercules' face and neck. Alcmene felt her son's forehead and exchanged concerned glances with Iolaus. She nodded her approval of his attempts to cool the fever and set to work making a mix of the herbs she'd brought. She set the kettle on the fire and returned to Hercules' side. She took the damp cloth from Iolaus, wrung it out and laid it on Hercules' forehead again.
The storm still raged outside. Iolaus laid back down and listened to the wind rising, rattling the shutters on the window and worried about his friend.
Iolaus helped Alcmene lift Hercules' head as she dribbled the thick liquid from the bowl into his mouth. It must have tasted terrible because Hercules opened his eyes and made an awful grimace.
"Shush. Now swallow it. It'll lower your fever."
Hercules did as his mother told, grimacing at the taste all the while. He closed his eyes again as soon as Iolaus gently lowered him to the pillow. Alcmene stayed until she was certain the fever was dissipating. Iolaus didn't know how long because he, too, had drifted to sleep.
The next morning Hercules' fever was down. He still felt warm but it wasn't dangerous and the chills had passed. Alcmene came in frequently to check on them both. Iolaus' cough and sniffling persisted even though he felt much better. However, Alcmene would not tolerate him out of bed. Iolaus used every ounce of persuasion and charm he could muster on her. All it got him was a, "Maybe tomorrow," and a kiss on the forehead as she handed him another mug of steaming peppermint and elder flower tea. At least it tasted better than that stuff Hercules was feeding him and it did keep his sniffling to a minimum.
Later, Iolaus decided that she was probably keeping him in bed so he could keep an eye on Hercules for her. At least that's what Iolaus told himself. Hercules woke a couple of times just long enough to take a couple of sips of water before sleeping again.
It was still raining. Jason came in periodically to keep the fire tended and commiserate with the bed-ridden Iolaus until Alcmene chased him out. Iolaus spent the morning dozing and listening to the steady drops hitting the roof. It was good sleeping weather. There was probably a foot of snow on the mountain pass they'd come through by now. Corinth, being on the coast, just got the rain.
Lunch consisted of soup again. This time Iolaus fed himself. He helped himself to a second bowlful as he sat, wrapped in a blanket in the chair by the fire.
Alcmene went to wake Hercules to see if he would try some soup and found that his fever was again on the rise. The fever returned with a vengeance and, once again, they poured the evil tasting brew down his throat. Again, the fever subsided. His fever came and went and came again through the afternoon.
In the evening, Jason went into town to join Iphicles' birthday celebration and to explain that Alcmene had two sick men to care for and she'd arrive for her piece of cake as soon as they were well enough to care for themselves.
Hercules' fever continued to spike and fall through the night. Alcmene and Iolaus took turns with the damp cloth between doses of the herbal mixture. The fever finally broke in the early hours of the morning. After some coaxing, Iolaus persuaded Alcmene to go to bed.
"I promise to come for you if anything changes." Iolaus reassured her with a smile as he pushed her out the door. He leaned a moment against the closed door and sighed.
Hercules was finally sleeping peacefully. Iolaus was surprised to find how tired he was. It seemed like all he had done was sleep the last couple of days. Still, he settled in and soon joined Hercules in soft slumber.
Iolaus was up just after dawn. He had ideas about sneaking out for a walk in the sunshine that was filtering between the slats in the shutters. He looked around for his clothes but they were nowhere to be seen. He opened the closet and found a pair of soft blue pants and a matching tunic.
Alcmene came in to find Iolaus holding the clothes looking bewildered.
"Go ahead, put them on. I bought them for you."
"Yes," she smiled and explained, "The way I see it. This is the closest thing to a home you have right now. If you're going to have a change of clothes somewhere, which you don't. It might as well be here. Besides, I saw this and just knew it would match your eyes beautifully."
Iolaus blushed, suddenly embarrassed, "You shouldn't have."
"Yes I should. It's a mother's prerogative. I meant what I said. I am a very lucky woman to have three wonderful sons. Two by blood and one by choice and my heart doesn't know the difference. I want you to know, Iolaus, you always have a home here. Healthy or not."
Iolaus didn't know what to say so he settled for a hug. Alcmene patted his back and said quietly into his ear, "You take it easy for a couple of days, OK? No monster slaying for awhile?"
"OK," he promised smiling sweetly.
Alcmene went over to check on Hercules as Iolaus changed discretely in the corner. Hercules was still sleeping soundly.
"I think the storm has passed." She said.
Iolaus nodded his agreement. "It has outside, too." He pointed to the crack of sunlight coming through the shutters. He opened the window and was met with a warm, fresh, spring breeze and the sound of birds playing in the trees.
Alcmene nodded her approval as she joined him at the window. She put her arm around his waist and patted him on the shoulder. "Let's go find you some breakfast."
Iolaus nodded and they quietly closed the door behind themselves.
Later that morning, Hercules woke to the sweet smell of spring in the air. He opened his eyes to find a smiling Iolaus sitting by the open window, looking the picture of health.
"Hey, you're finally awake. How are you feeling?"
"Why are you out of bed? You're supposed to be sick."
"That was two days ago, my friend." Iolaus rose and moved to sit on the edge of the bed.
Hercules laid back down, confused, "Two days?"
"You have been pretty out of it. You've had a high fever off and on."
Hercules' brow wrinkled in thought, "Mother made me take that potion..."
Iolaus smiled, "Must be pretty evil tasting stuff from the look on your face while she was pouring it down your throat."
Hercules nodded, "It is." He shuddered at the very thought of it.
"So, how do you feel?" Iolaus asked again.
"I must be feeling better, since I was so sick, I don't even remember being sick. Still, I do feel unusually weak."
Hercules raised his head off the pillow and gave Iolaus the once over. "Where'd you get those clothes?"
"Your mother bought them for me. She said they matched my eyes."
Hercules rolled his eyes and laid back on the pillow, chuckling. "Mother's always had a soft spot for you. You make her laugh. You were such a klutz as a kid. She had to feel sorry for you."
Iolaus was indignant. "Hey, I turned out OK!"
Hercules let Iolaus off the hook. He didn't feel up to starting any serious teasing yet, "I suppose you did." He smiled and changed the subject. "I'm hungry."
Iolaus nodded, "I'll be right back. Your wish is my command." Iolaus returned with a bowl of steaming, hot soup for Hercules and more tea for himself. He finally had the sniffles on the run and he was keeping it that way.
"Alcmene made this for us before she left. And no comments about how glad you are it's not my cooking." Iolaus resumed his seat by the window and propped his feet up on the sill.
"Yeah, she went to join Jason at Iphicles' "
"Two days. We missed his birthday."
Iolaus nodded, "Yes, he sent a message for us to join them when we feel up to it. Now, before you start getting up, I promised Alcmene when she left this morning, that I would keep you in bed today, and we wouldn't go until tomorrow at the earliest. And I don't want you getting me in trouble with your mother."
Hercules nodded his surrender, "I wasn't in the mood for a long walk anyway."
"Good. Hey, how long will cake last? They said they were saving us some."
Hercules shrugged his shoulders, "You know, we're going to have to come back here, after, and fix the roof, don't you?"
"I figured, but that's what family is all about, right?"
"Maybe I'll just tell mother that I still feel a little under the weather and you can fix the roof. That is if you don't fall off." Hercules rolled over so his back was toward Iolaus and grinned as he waited for the repercussion. "
Now, that's not fair. You wouldn't do that. Would ya? Ah, Come on Herc...You've been sleeping for two days. Your strength always comes back faster than everybody else's. Alcmene wouldn't believe that...Would she?"
Written by Ceryndip in May 1997.
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