An epilogue to the Xena episode "God Fearing Child". This story answers two IWC challenge: the God Fearing Child Challenge and the Skouros Death Challenge.
The tavern was noisy and filled with people. Hercules didn't even want to go in but he had to find Iolaus. The place was dark and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He felt so tired. Finally, he heard the familiar call from the bar and saw the blond head, arm waving.
"Hey, Herc, I've got us a table in the corner," Iolaus motioned toward the far wall.
Hercules made his way to his friend, "No, let's go. I can't stay here."
Iolaus became serious, "Herc, what's--"
"Ok, sure let me grab my bag."
They made camp a short distance from the village. Hercules had said next to nothing since they left the tavern. He hadn't wanted to stay at the inn either. Hercules had said that he wasn't fit for human company. Iolaus had bit back a retort about his own status as human but he knew better than to say anything. There was something seriously wrong with his friend. Iolaus built a fire while Hercules sat against a tree and brooded. The hunter decided it was time to prod him a little.
"So, Herc, are the rumor's true? I hadn't believed them but--"
Iolaus swallowed and dove in, his voice quiet "That Zeus is dead."
"It's true." Hercules wouldn't meet Iolaus' eyes. He continued to stare at the small flames. "They saying anything else?"
"I didn't stop to listen. Herc, I'm sorry. I know you got along with your father about as well I got along with mine. I know it doesn't make the news any easier. I always thought that maybe I'd get around to reconciling with mine. I know he was never home and when he was all he did was yell. Not much chance for a real relationship there and I blamed him for it," Iolaus knew he was babbling but he needed to fill the empty space that had suddenly opened up between the two friends. So, he filled it with words, "I just wanted his attention and a little approval would've been nice. Then, he got himself killed in the war without giving me either one. Now that I've been a father, I think maybe he was just afraid. Afraid he might fail, that he wouldn't raise us right. Afraid he wouldn't be a good father. War was a convenient excuse to stay away and he wouldn't have to face his fears. I used to think I hated him but after seeing him on the other side, maybe he wasn't so bad. He was just scared."
"No, you don't understand. Iolaus." Hercules took a deep breath, "Your father didn't die by your own hand."
Iolaus felt his mouth fall open in shock, "What? How?"
Hercules swallowed a lump in his throat, "He was going to kill Xena's baby. He said the baby would signal the fall of the gods. I couldn't let him."
"Of course you couldn't. You did what you had to do. Is Xena ok?"
Hercules nodded his eyes never leaving the fire.
"And the baby?"
"That's good. I know you, Hercules. You did the only thing that you could. You wouldn't have been able to live with yourself any other way."
"I killed my own father. How can I live with that?"
"If you had it all to do again would you have done anything differently?"
Hercules sighed heavily, "No."
"Then you did all you could. You can't give more than you have," Iolaus paused before continuing. "Herc, I don't think the gods are going to disappear over night. I think it's a natural process. It happens slowly as people realize they control their own destinies. They stop going to the gods for help. I imagine they'll just fade away sort of. I don't think that Xena's baby could stop that one way or the other. It was just coincidental that it's all happening now."
Hercules wearily allowed his eyes to move to meet his friend's. He gave his friend a serious look, "And how would you know all that?"
Iolaus favored him with a small, shy smile, "I was a servant of the Light."
"I know you try to forget any of that ever happened but I can't."
Hercules nodded and scooted closer to the fire taking in it's warmth, closer to his friend.
"What about Hera?" Iolaus tentatively asked unsure how much he should ask and not wanting to push but the Hera he knew would not be happy with Hercules for what he'd done.
"Don't know. I think she's gone, too. She would have been there at the end if she was still around. She was helping me."
"Helping you? Really?"
Hercules shook his head in disbelief, "She really did reform."
Iolaus absorbed that, "and Ares?"
"I don't think he's ever going to reform," Hercules smirked.
"He's still around then?"
"Yeah and there's no protection order stopping him from taking us out now, you know?"
"Honestly, I never thought we were that protected to start with." Iolaus began unpacking the fruit and cheese in his satchel. He handed Hercules a waterskin. "You scared of him now?"
"Good. Since Ares is ok, you figure that 'Dite is too?"
"She wasn't involved so I don't see why not. Why do you ask?"
"Of all your godly relatives, she's about the only one I wouldn't want something bad to happen to, you know? She's the only one who's really been there for us."
Hercules took a long swallow of water and handed it back. Iolaus filled Hercules' empty hands with an apple and a piece of cheese.
"Eat. You look like you haven't ate or slept in days."
Hercules stared at the food, "I haven't, not since..."
"Eat. Tomorrow we're going back to that nice quiet little village over there and getting a room at the inn. Then, we're getting some real food into you and you're going to get some rest."
"I wonder if Aphrodite will ever speak to me again?"
"Of course she will. 'Dite will understand completely, you know how she feels about babies."
"Yeah, I guess I do still have some family left, huh?"
"Sure, there's me and Jason and Iphicles and me and 'Dite and Hephaestus isn't bad and there's me and well, Persephone's always been nice to us and there's always Iolaus and Nautica, you know they consider you one of their family and hey, you still have me," Iolaus finished with a grin.
Hercules smiled the first genuine smile Iolaus had seen all evening and draped an arm affectionately around the hunter's shoulders, "Yeah, buddy, I still have you and you're all the family I need. I thank the light every day for giving you back to me."
19 March 00
Continue with the next story in the IWC's God Fearing Child Challenge.
Continue with the next story in the IWC's Skouros's Death Challenge.
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