by Beckers

(This story takes place shortly after the H:TLJ episode, Bedeviled.)

It was midday and they walked, as they always did. A beautiful day with birds singing, the sun high in the sky and thoughts of their good friend, Jason, waiting for them in Corinth.

The two heroes needed the diversion of Chieron’s Academy, with all those eager to learn young students. After what they’d been through recently, screaming kids would be a welcomed blessing. And, of course, Jason was anxious to introduce Iolaus to his daughter, Seska.

“You seem a little thoughtful, buddy.” Hercules said to his best friend as they made their way down the pathway. He wasn’t used to Iolaus being so quiet. Especially when, only an hour ago, he had been making comical comparisons between he and Hercules “possessions”, telling Hercules just how ugly he’d looked when he was half-demon.

“I’m fine.”

“Well, something’s changed your mood.”

At first Iolaus attempted to shrug it off but he could feel Hercules eyes on him, awaiting a reply. “I’ve been thinking about stuff. You know, Sin and a few things she said.”

“Oh ...” Hercules almost shivered in distaste, “Don’t waste any thoughts on her, Iolaus.”

The hunter nodded, “You’re right.”

But the words weren’t enough. There was more. Hercules could see it in his friend’s profile. He was disturbed about something he couldn’t shake off that easily. Finally, Hercules lifted a hand and put it on Iolaus shoulder, stopping their walk. “Come on, buddy, tell me what’s up.”

Iolaus was reluctant, running fingers through his blond curls and not quite looking at Hercules, but remembering: “Do you recall what she said, about how you’ve saved so many people? Men and women who might have followed Sin into her realm? She looked directly at me when she said that. She made a point of it...”

Hercules shook his head in disbelief, "That's what’s been bugging you?”

Iolaus winced, feeling a little embarrassed. “Just makes me wonder if, without you, I might have become something really depraved. Maybe I could have become a...'bogeyman'.” Iolaus shook his head, recalling their conversation. He also found himself thinking of his youth, before Hercules and the academy, when things were bad and could have gotten much worse. “You have to remember I was in a gang when I was a kid and we...”

“Get serious, Iolaus. It’s not in you to be corrupt. You can be lead astray occasionally but real, true evil just isn’t inside of you. I thought we confirmed that when Fortune caused you to lose your memory a couple years ago.”

With a sigh, Iolaus turned and began to walk again, “That was different. I might have only had memories of my life up to fifteen years old but I had already lived past that time. It was something already inside of me. What I’m saying...” Iolaus felt Hercules fall into step beside him, “...if you hadn’t been around to steer me in the right direction, if I hadn’t been arrested for stealing and sent to Chieron’s Academy...what would have happened to me? Could I really have become what Sin said I...”

Hercules shook his head back and forth, “No.”

“But how can you know?”

“Because I know you, Iolaus. And I know Sin was a liar. That’s how she works, making men and women unsure of themselves and seducing them with all the wrong words. She was playing mind games with us, Iolaus. And she was good. If anyone should be doubting himself, it’s me.”

This time Iolaus stopped on his own and grabbed Hercules arm, “You? Hercules, you never do anything wrong. You’re always right. You haven’t been wrong for so long, I...”

“Against my own good judgment, I allowed her to give me powers, allowed her to possess me with a demon. Talk about a weakness. I should have known better.”

“But you did it because it was the only way to stop people from dying.”

“No, there had to be another way. I allowed her to do it because it was the easiest way to do battle with Xercxus. And, if it wasn’t for you watching me and making sure I didn’t cross the line, I might have damned my soul forever because of it.”

“But I didn’t do anything...”

“ wouldn’t normally do.” Hercules then smiled down at his friend. “Can’t you see, Iolaus, that if it wasn’t for you... I would have lost myself long ago. Instead of you worrying about what might have become of you without me, I am the one who should worry and continue to worry about what could and would become of me -- without you.”

“You did fine while I was with The Light.”

“Not as good as you might think. There was always doubt, Iolaus. Lots of doubt.” Hercules found himself looking away from his friend and gulping slightly, reluctantly recalling Iolaus' absence.

Iolaus stared up at his friend, examining his manner, stunned. This wasn’t the first time Hercules had said something along these lines but, considering what they had both just been through, he found it very profound. Even now, as strong and assured as Hercules was, he needed Iolaus - his closest friend - by his side. What might have happened if Hercules, having never had Iolaus return from The Light, was faced with what Sin brought to him? Would the demon-demigod have killed that monster -- thus condemning the once mighty and good Hercules to hell?

“Thanks, Hercules.” Iolaus whispered suddenly, looking mindfully down at the ground as they walked.

“No Iolaus, thank you.”

There was quiet for a count of thirty seconds then the shorter of the two men picked up his pace, “I bet if we hurry we can be at the academy by nightfall. Maybe Jason will have some food laid out for us. What do you think?”

“He knows you’re coming, my friend, so food will be there. No doubt!" Hercules chuckled and punch Iolaus gently on the shoulder.

With a little more vigor, the men continued their walk.

Hercules noted Iolaus smile as they journeyed and grew one of his own.

Life was good.

The End

(Written 11/24/99)

The posting of this story is dedicated to its author, Beckers,
who has been a constant source of advice and support in my writing
and in life. Thanks, Beck.
- Luv Jackie, Webmaster of The Iolausian Dimension.

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