This story is the result of a question discussed in a Texas Iolausian chat awhile back. Bwell and I had recently discovered The Sentinel and we'd been reading some of the fan fic. Sentinel fans like to write something called smarm (simply put, smarm is the physical manifestation of the buddy relationship. It is non sexual, a pat on the back, occasional hug, noogies, whatever, like that. It's when you look at the guys and see the affection they have for each other.) Bwell asked if we had any Herc smarm. I've given that a lot of thought since then, we have Herc angst and h/c but do we have any real smarm?This story was my attempt to write some. Ya'll tell me if I succeeded.
Hercules heard the stifled coughs and saw the dark circles and knew that his friend wasn't feeling well. He decided mid afternoon that they'd stop early and get a room in Ceros. He didn't mention it to Iolaus at the time knowing that his buddy would deny he was ailing and just try to hide it more. Why did he always try so hard to keep up?
Unknown to the two heroes before their arrival, they had walked into the middle of the annual festival. They managed to talk the innkeeper into letting them have the tiny room on the top floor. It was really more of an attic. Hercules would have to stoop and the one bed wasn't prepared, they'd have to make it themselves but beggars couldn't be choosers. Hercules led the way up the steep stairs from the second floor. He carried the pillows and blankets. He'd picked up an extra blanket in case they needed it later on. Iolaus followed being extra careful on the narrow stairs. He carried the lamp they'd need when the sun set. Hercules would go after wood for the fire later.
Hercules opened the shutters to air out the place. It smelled like no one had been there for ages. Iolaus set the lamp on the small table and fell into the chair beside it leaning his head against the wall and closing his eyes.
Hercules sorted through the blankets he'd dropped on the bed and began making it. He watched with sympathy as his friend drug himself up from his seat to help tuck in the blankets. When they finished, Iolaus collapsed crosswise on the bed, his feet dangling. He was instantly asleep or he appeared to be.
Hercules walked around the bed and knelt to undo the lacings on Iolaus' boots. He watched Iolaus carefully for movement before beginning to pull the boots off but his friend didn't move at all.
The demigod rose and held his hand over Iolaus' forehead, even without actually touching him, he could feel the heat radiating from his fever. He'd hoped to find the local herbalist shop still open but with the festival everything had closed early. If Iolaus wasn't better in the morning, Hercules vowed to go find the man and wake him up if necessary to open his shop for him.
Hercules took a deep breath and decided to go through with what he'd started. As if afraid of getting caught the big man began loosening the belts at Iolaus' waist. Still Iolaus didn't move. In fact, he rolled partially to the side as Hercules pulled out the belts.
As the demigod was contemplating how he was going to get Iolaus' pants off him, Iolaus spoke, his body not moving, eyes still shut, "Herc, just what are you doing?"
"Putting you to bed. Help me out here."
Iolaus raised his hips and allowed Hercules to pull his pants off. He sat up and Hercules helped him remove his vest leaving him in his loin covering.
Hercules pulled back the covers and Iolaus crawled over them and under them, only then did he ask, "Why are you putting me to bed?"
Hercules perched himself on the edge of the down mattress, "Because you've caught a cold and people who don't feel well should be in bed."
"Ok, I'm not feeling so hot."
Hercules rose, "I'm going to go downstairs and get some dinner. Can I bring you some soup?"
Iolaus thought about it, "Yeah, I don't want a lot but I think I ought to try and eat something."
"Good, I'll be in the tavern downstairs if you need anything."
"I'll be sleeping."
True to his word, Iolaus was sound asleep when Hercules quietly set the bowl of very hot soup on the table. He went back down for wood while the soup cooled. There was a roaring fire in the hearth when Hercules finally moved to the bedside.
"Hmmm? Do I hafta get up?"
"You need to sit up and have some of this soup. Come on, it'll make you feel better."
"Good, cause I feel terrible." With great effort Iolaus pushed himself up to lean against the wall behind the bed.
Hercules held out the bowl of soup. Iolaus took it with shaking hands. The hunter lifted the bowl to his lips and sipped the warm broth. Hercules fought the urge to help him hold it. He finished about half the bowl before he handed it back to Hercules, "Enough."
Iolaus slid back down in the bed. "You don't have to stay with me, you can go back down where the company's better."
"I think the company's just fine right here, Buddy," Hercules pulled the covers up around Iolaus' shoulders.
"Pretty boring if you ask me," Iolaus coughed a little and sniffled as he rolled onto his side and closed his eyes.
Hercules sat by the fire awhile listening to the music and revelers outside and watching his friend's uneasy sleep. He checked Iolaus' temperature again before venturing back down to the tavern for an empty bowl and a bucket which he filled with cool water from the village well. He took the time to rinse the dirt from the road off himself before heading back to the inn. He returned to their room and with a scrap of cloth from the innkeeper's wife he began to bath Iolaus' face and neck. After he'd similarly wiped the dirt from his friend's body, he draped the cloth over the fevered forehead and prepared himself for bed.
Hercules climbed in the opposite side of the bed and blew out the lamp. The room was still clearly visible by the fire's light. He felt Iolaus shiver through the mattress in spite of the roaring fire. Sitting up Hercules pulled up the extra blanket, tucking it in around his friend before lying back down.
Hercules awoke and knew without moving that Iolaus' fever had broke. He knew because sometime during the night Iolaus had nestled himself at Hercules' side. In his sleep the demigod had automatically wrapped an arm around his friend. He held him through the chills and was content to remain that way during the quiet rest that followed. He hated seeing his friend in pain or sick. It made him feel so helpless. Hercules brushed a stray curl out of Iolaus' eyes and gently felt his forehead reassured to find it cool as it should be. With regret, Hercules slowly extracted himself from beneath his brother and rearranged the covers around him.
He quickly dressed and headed out hoping that Iolaus would remain asleep while he ran his errands. Again with the help of the innkeeper's wife, Hercules gathered what he needed. When Iolaus finally woke some time later. The demigod had a cup of warm herbal tea to soothe his throat and ease his cough.
Iolaus insisted that he was better but Hercules insisted that they didn't need to rush to get to their destination. They could hold up here a day. He had seen how weak Iolaus was just last night and wanted him to have a chance to regain some of his strength. Hercules doubted that he could keep Iolaus in bed long enough to regain all of it. He tried to help Iolaus all he could without threatening his friend's sense of self-suffiency.
Iolaus took long naps that first day and shorter ones the second day. The festival was over by then and a slow, steady rain fell outside. Hercules used it as an excuse to keep them in the inn for another day.
Iolaus had gotten dressed and lay on top of the bed. His boots still sat by the fire, "Herc?"
"That first night we were here, were you....did you...."
"Just spit it out, did I what?"
"Did you...hold me?"
Hercules considered his answer, "Iolaus, you were sick. You had a fever. It's easy to imagine things when you have a fever."
"Yeah, I suppose. I just thought that when you were holding me, that it really did make me feel better, knowing that I had somebody I could lean on, that would take care of me."
"Anytime, buddy, anytime."
14 March 2000
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