Birds of a Feather
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The following is an episode of the Young Hercules Fan Fiction Seasons, a non-profit virtual season project; written for fans by fans this is done to help keep the legacy of the short-lived television series Young Hercules alive on the Internet. The overall direction of the story that takes place in this virtual season may not be exactly what took place if an actual televised season had been produced.
(A young woman lays with an arrow stuck in her)
(Hercules and Theseus fight off several thugs)
AN INJURED FRIEND
Hercules, to woman: "Come on. Stay awake!"
Injured young woman: "I am Leelah."
(Jason limps over to injured Leelah)
AND A BLOODTHRISTY FOE
Thagus: "I am Thagus. I kill."
(Thagus kicks Hercules in the stomach)
(Hercules punches Thagus)
(Thagus and a gang surround injured Leelah)
SEND JASON ON A VENGEANFUL MISSION
(Jason clenches his fists)
Jason: "If I find out who did this to her..."
(Hercules, Iolaus, and Theseus pant)
Leelah, frowning: "No."
(Tears well around Leelahs eyes)
(Young man roughly grabs Leelah by her arm)
(Thagus and his thugs laugh at Leelah)
ON THE NEXT YOUNG HERCULES!
"Give us your money!" A large dark-clothed thug leaped out of the bushes as more men followed.
Jason sighed. This was not what he and his friends had hoped for on their trip back to Corinth. Finally, they had managed to escape his bodyguards to have fun at the festival in Deredesh, and now they were heading back to the castle.
"Come on, can't we talk this out?" Hercules held up his hands.
"Dead men don't talk!" The leader snarled, slashing at him.
Hercules shrugged to his friends before grabbing the man's arm, flipping him to the ground. Ducking from a swinging fist, Jason kicked his foe in the stomach, and sent him flying into another one. Iolaus barely avoided the wildly waving sword of a rather ugly thug. Unarmed, Iolaus could only move out of the way as the thief lashed out violently. Moving back, Iolaus tripped. Grabbing a branch, he used it to parry his enemy's blow.
"A little help!" He called.
"Coming up!" Jason tackled the armed goon, pulling out his sword as the thief turned to face him.
Blocking the thug's sword thrusts, he shoved him away. Hercules grabbed two of them by the collar and rammed them together, knocking them out cold. Iolaus hit one over the head with a branch, while Jason dispatched another with a punch. Soon, the thugs were on the ground, groaning.
Hercules brushed off his hands. "All in a days work, boys?"
Giving each other a high-five, they continued on their way, leaving the thugs sprawled across the ground.
They had continued along their way when they spotted another big group of men.
"Not again." Hercules sighed. "Isn't there a limit as to how many times we have to fight people a day?"
"I don't think they're here to fight, let's just see." Jason walked up to them. "Hey guys!" He put on a bright smile. 'What're y'all up to?" He backed up a little when the man aimed his bow and arrow at him. "Easy, big fella."
The man was large and adorned with various furs lining his coat. "I am Thagus. I kill things."
"Umm… ok." Jason moved out of the line of fire. "Not humans I hope?"
Thagus grunted. "I kill animals."
Hercules piped in, "for food?"
"Clothes?" Iolaus suggested.
"Then for what?"
Thagus grunted again. "For sport."
Hercules blinked. "For sport? You mean, you just kill them and leave them there?"
Thagus shrugged and grunted. Hercules figured that was to the extent of his vocabulary.
"You can't do that!"
"I do whatever I want." Thagus grinned, revealing a row of sparse, yellow teeth.
"That's not right, you shouldn't do that." Iolaus stepped forward.
"Just watch me!" Thagus sneered.
He searched the sky and spied a falcon swooping above, firing an arrow before anyone could stop him. The arrow flew through the air. Hercules watched intently, as if staring could change its course. His efforts were naught; the arrow flew true. It struck the falcon, almost stopping it in midair. The beautiful bird screeched and plummeted to the forest below. Thagus turned back to Hercules, grinning. His grin fell as Hercules' fist slammed into his face. The three heroes stared down in disgust at the man writhing on the ground. They shook their heads before heading away.
"Man, I can't believe him!" Iolaus exclaimed, clenching his fists.
"Killing any animal he wants for sport?" Jason shook his head.
"I learned my lesson with the Hind!" Iolaus chuckled.
The three continued walking, unable to say more about Thagus' behavior. Suddenly they heard a sound, almost like a moan.
"Did you guys hear that?" Jason looked around.
"Yeah, I heard something too!" Hercules began to search the bushes, and Jason explored ahead.
"Guys!" Jason yelled.
Iolaus and Hercules came to his side.
"Guys, over here!" Jason was kneeling by a young woman, an arrow sticking out of her chest. "By the gods…" He breathed.
The girl was pale and shivering. Jason took off his robe, wrapping it around her, careful to avoid the arrow. She had long brown hair and brown eyes, Jason noticed some sort of tattoo on her shoulder, it looked like a circle with some sort of bird in it. He slowly gathered her gently in his arms. She winced slightly at his touch.
Jason turned towards his friends. "We have to get her back to the castle."
"Is she gonna be okay?" Iolaus nervously rubbed his hands on his pants.
"Let's hope so." Hercules helped Jason pick her up very carefully. She moaned, but was delirious from pain.
"Come on, stay awake." Hercules begged. "What's your name?"
"Leelah." She whispered weakly.
"Leelah, you need to stay awake for me, ok?" Hercules soothed. "We're getting help, but you can't let yourself doze off!"
"Ok…" Leelah's voice was getting fainter, she was shivering more violently now.
"Hang in there, Leelah!" Jason went faster, trying not to jar her too much.
"It'll be ok, we're here to help you." Iolaus gave her hand a squeeze.
"Thank you…" Leelah's voice was barely audible.
"We're losing her!" Said Hercules urgently.
"We'll make it, just hang on!" Jason suddenly stopped in his tracks.
Standing in front of him was Thagus, surrounded by a dozen other men.
"You dared punch me." Thagus snarled, tapping a club in his hand. "Get them!" he swung at Jason.
Jason quickly turned his back, preventing the blow from hitting Leelah. He winced as the club slammed into his back.
Before Thagus could strike again, Hercules was there, delivering a fierce blow to his jaw. Jason took this distraction and started to run off, when one of Thagus' men caught him in the leg with his sword, sending Jason tumbling. Jason tried to get back up, only to have a searing pain shoot up his leg.
"Iolaus!" He yelled to his friend. "Take Leelah, get her out of here!"
Without hesitation, Iolaus took the young woman in his arms and ran as fast as he could. Jason balanced himself on his good leg, standing between Thagus' thugs and his retreating comrade. Hercules fell back as Thagus struck him with a sharp blow to the head. His mind spinning, he tried to focus as Thagus loomed over him. The brute grinned and raised his club. Hercules could only wince. Suddenly Thagus was thrown to the side. It was Jason!
"They're after Iolaus…" He panted.
Hercules saw the pain in his friend's face. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah." Jason lied.
Hercules figured he was worn out.
"We gotta go after them!"
He stood up and ran in their direction. Jason gritted his teeth and got to his feet. He broke off a nearby branch to help him, and went off to help his friends.
Nathaniel Lees as Cheiron
Jodie Rimmer as Lilith
Mfundo Morrison as Theseus
Laura Bertram as Leelah
Clint Sharplin as Thagus
Based on "Young Hercules"
Created by Renaissance Pictures
Tern O'Brien & Medea
Edited by Pelee
Iolaus swallowed. He held the young woman in his arms, standing in the middle of a circle of Thagus' thugs.
"Get him!" Thagus snarled as he ran towards the circle.
Iolaus dodged the swords, trying to keep Leelah out of harm's way. Suddenly Thagus caught him across the head with his club, sending both he and Leelah tumbling. Iolaus groaned, fingering the lump that was quickly forming on the side of his skull. He looked up to see two of Thagus… TWO? He blinked, clearing his vision a little and rolled away as Thagus' club came crashing down.
"Iolaus!" He heard a shout and spotted Hercules running towards him.
His strength renewed, he stood up and kicked down the two nearest thugs as Hercules took down three more with two furious punches and a kick. One of the men approached Leelah, unsure of what to do as she stirred slightly. Jason limped towards the fight, seeing the helpless Leelah. Suddenly she swept out with her foot, sending the man crashing to the ground. She tried to get to her feet, only to sink to the ground clutching at her wound.
"We have to get you out of here." Jason sank to the grass beside her, his chest heaving.
"You're hurt." She whispered, seeing the blood on his leg.
Jason shook his head. "I'm fine. You need help, can you get up?"
Leelah tried to get up again but fell back to the ground. "I-I can't…" Her voice got weaker again.
"Hercules!" Jason shouted.
Hercules was in a fury, throwing the thugs left and right while. Two men came up behind Iolaus who grabbed one by the arm and flung him over the shoulder, kicking the other in the stomach and sending him to the ground when he doubled over. Hercules felt his blood pumping fast as Thagus and the last of his thugs ran off. He and Iolaus ran to Leelah's side.
"How is she?" Iolaus was concerned.
"We have to get her back to the Academy, it's closer." Jason tried to ignore his leg. Leelah was their first priority.
Iolaus himself wasn't doing well. His vision was blurred and he felt his head spinning.
Hercules noticed his friends were pale. "Are you guys ok?" He carefully took Leelah in his arms.
"Yeah." They answered in unison. Hercules slowly lifted her up and began to walk towards the Academy, the other cadets following.
"There it is!" Iolaus spotted it up in the distance.
He wobbled a little, but managed to stay on his feet. Jason, however, was beginning to lag behind. His thigh felt like it was on fire; each step was painful. The cadets were approaching the academy when he could stand it no longer, collapsing onto the ground.
"Hercules…" He barely managed to whisper as his friends, unaware of his fall, continued into the Academy, before everything went blank.
"Cheiron!" Hercules yelled as he came in through the gate.
"Hercules?" The centaur stepped outside. "What is the meaning of…" He saw the young woman in his arms and immediately ushered them to the medical clinic.
"She was shot by an arrow." Hercules laid Leelah on the cot as the Academy doctor, Raindre, examined her.
"It's deep." She worked quickly to stop the blood and cleanse the wound. She motioned for them to leave.
"Except you." She pointed to Iolaus. "You lay down and I'll take care of that nasty head bump there."
"Head bump..?" Hercules wondered how he hadn't noticed as Cheiron pulled him outside.
"Where is Jason?" Cheiron frowned. "Was he not with you?"
"Yeah he's right… here…" Hercules looked around. He could have sworn Jason was with them. "He was with us coming here." He explained. "I don't know where he could have gone."
"Are you sure?" Cheiron furrowed his brow. "I didn't see him come in with you."
A chill ran up Hercules' spine. He hadn't noticed that Iolaus was hurt, was Jason hurt as well?
"Hercules?" Lilith jogged up to him. "What's wrong?"
"Lilith, come with me, we have to find Jason." He pulled her towards the gate.
"Jason?" Lilith was confused. "Hercules what's going…" suddenly she stopped and gasped. "Gods!" Beyond the gate, a motionless figure lay on the ground.
Hercules knelt by his side. "Jason?" He asked worriedly.
Lilith gasped. "Jason!" She felt for a pulse. "He's alive! What happened to him?"
"I don't know. He seemed all right when were heading here! He was a little worn out, but…"
Hercules started to pick up the cadet when he felt something sticky. He looked at his hand. Blood! His jaw dropped and he saw the laceration on Jason's leg. Looking down the path he saw the trickle of blood that marked where he had hobbled behind them.
"I didn't even notice…" Hercules was aghast.
"Hercules, we have to get him back to the Academy!" Lilith urged.
Hercules picked up the young King in his strong arms, hurrying to Raindre's tent. Iolaus was sleeping on one of the cots, a white bandage on his head. Raindre was biting her lip, working on sewing Leelah's wound.
"I think she'll be all right." She breathed. "It's a good thing you boys found her when you did…" She turned to see the unconscious Jason. "Another one?"
She was incredulous.
"Of all the scrapes you get into…"
"Please, help him!" Lilith begged. "He's lost a lot of blood."
Raindre complied and quickly tended to the open wound. Hercules pulled Lilith out the door.
"What happened?" Lilith asked concerned.
Hercules couldn't blame her for being upset.
"We were in the woods and found a poacher, Thagus, killing animals for sport." He explained. "He shot a falcon, so we put him in his place. Then we found that girl, Leelah, she'd been hit by an arrow, it looked like one of Thagus' arrows. He probably thought she was an animal. We were bringing her here when Thagus attacked us, he must have been hurt then. Iolaus took a hard hit to the head, but he made it here. He's doing all right. But Jason… we were in such a hurry to get Leelah to the Academy we didn't see him fall behind…" he shook his head. "I should have known! I was so stupid…"
"It's all right, Hercules." Lilith laid a hand on his shoulder. "Guilt isn't going to make them any better."
"You're right." Hercules sighed, sitting down and leaning against the side of the clinic.
Lilith sat with him. Hercules could see the worry in her face.
"He'll be all right, Lilith." Hercules gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Jason's a fighter, he's not going to let a little knee injury stop him."
"I guess you're right." Lilith sighed, leaning her head on his shoulder.
They must have fallen asleep, because when Hercules awoke he found himself in his bunk. The first rays of sunlight were just peeking over the horizon as he crept outside, walking quietly to the clinic. In it he found his friends fast asleep. Iolaus was snoring loudly, part of his bandage removed already. Jason's knee was wrapped in cloth, darkened red from bleeding, but dry since the bleeding had stopped. Hercules bit his lip. He should have known his friends were hurt, but they had to get Leelah to safety… He looked at the young woman, asleep in her cot. A white bandage was wrapped around her chest, and ointment had been put on a few scrapes and bruises. He touched her arm, when she suddenly grabbed his arm and twisted it behind him.
"Who… oh!" she realized who it was and released him. "I'm so sorry!" She apologized. "It's an instant reaction to men."
"Men?" Hercules frowned. "Are you an…"
"Amazon? Yes." She replied, sighing. "I suppose everyone is going to want to run me out of town."
"What? Whoa, no!" Hercules held up his hands. "No one is running anyone out of town."
"Really?" It was Leelah's turn to frown. "Why not?"
"We're friends with the Amazons here." Hercules explained, leaning on the cot with his elbow. "You're welcome anytime."
"Yeah, well…" Leelah looked to the ground. "I don't know, I may not…. fit in here. I'll be best in the woods."
"Where is your tribe?"
"Why?" Hercules brushed a stray lock of hair out of his face.
Leelah shook her head. "My tribe was mostly man-haters, who didn't care about much more than themselves. We used to live in peace, until more Amazons joined who were more warlike. They ended up taking over. I was taken in by them when I was five, I don't know what my life was like before that."
"It's not your fault." Leelah winced as she sat up. "I want to thank you… for saving my life back there. You didn't have to do that."
"No problem." Hercules smiled.
Leelah was about to say something when she doubled over.
"Are you ok?" Hercules became concerned.
"I'll be all right." She held up a hand. "It passed." She looked about her. "Where are we?"
"We're at Cheiron's Academy." Hercules answered. "He is our mentor, he teaches us how to fight to defend."
Leelah looked over at Jason and Iolaus. Seeing their wounds she cringed.
"They got hurt… helping me?" she asked.
Hercules looked at them. "Yes. But if you asked them if they'd do it again, they would in a heartbeat."
"Such courage and compassion!" Leelah shook her head. "I wouldn't mind staying here."
Hercules stood up straighter.
"Oh, but you can!" He smiled widely. "Stay at the Academy, I'm sure Cheiron wouldn't mind! I'll ask him."
"I don't think so." Leelah shook her head. "I can't, I mean, I…"
"Please?" Hercules pleaded.
"All right." Leelah gave in. "Just for a little while."
Hercules asked Cheiron, who said it was all right with him for Leelah to stay. Later that day Hercules returned to the clinic to see how the cadets were doing. Iolaus was up already. Leelah was also up as well, but she sat on her bed not saying a word. Hercules stood by Jason's bed, placing his hand on his friend's. Suddenly he yelped, Jason's hand had moved!
"Jason?" He asked excitedly.
"Oh, man…" Jason slowly opened his eyes and frowned. "How did I get here?"
"We found you in the road." Hercules explained. "Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?"
Jason picked at the bandages on his leg. "I couldn't. We had to get Leelah back here; I couldn't have you fussing over me too. You would have tried to carry me too. I know you, Hercules."
"We didn't want to worry you any more either." Iolaus piped up.
The dizzy spell had passed, and he was back to his usual perky self. He went back to shoveling a bowlful of gruel into his mouth. Jason sat up and slowly lowered to the floor. As soon as he stepped on the ground, however, he cried out and his bad leg crumpled underneath him.
"I'm so sorry." Leelah's voice was quiet.
"It's all right." Jason got back up on the cot with some help from Hercules.
"We were glad to help."
"Are you shy or something?" Asked Iolaus, munching on one of the rolls Raindre had dropped off for them.
"I just… don't always tend to fit in." She answered.
"Hey, if Iolaus fits in you will too." Jason joked.
Soon the three were just about healed, and were able to finally leave the clinic.
"After eating so much hospital food, I think I miss the meals at the Academy!" Iolaus moaned, holding his stomach.
"I agree." Jason limped with a crutch supporting him.
"It's good to see sunlight again!" Leelah had opened up to the boys more now that she had spent a lot of time with them. She was getting to be friends with Lilith as well.
"Where's Hercules?" she asked.
Iolaus jabbed a thumb towards the barn. "He's got horse duty this week."
"IOLAUS!" Came Cheiron's booming voice.
"Oops, that's my cue!" Iolaus hopped off towards the headmaster's voice.
"That's Iolaus for ya." Jason shook his head. He turned to walk again but stepped on the wrong leg and winced.
"Are you sure your leg is okay?" Leelah was concerned.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Jason straightened up and positioned his crutch.
"I… I don't know…" Leelah held back.
"Don't be shy, it'll be fun!" Jason gave her a winning smile.
"I guess." Leelah sighed.
As he walked, or rather, hobbled around the Academy, Jason noticed Leelah was very drawn back, eyeing anyone coming near to her. At first he thought she was shy, but now it seemed as though she were almost… afraid. If anyone came near her or brushed by her she would recoil, hugging her arms to her sides. Jason grew concerned, and saw that Kora had noticed this too. Leelah stood near the well in the market, looking around cautiously.
"Leelah, are you ok?" Jason put a hand on her shoulder. She jumped and spun around, her eyes wide.
"I-I'm sorry." Jason apologized. "I didn't mean…"
"No, it's all right." Leelah sighed.
"Yeah." Leelah pretended to be busy looking at jewelry.
Jason sighed and walked across the dirt road to the food vender to get a bite to eat. Suddenly he heard screams and shouts. A horse attached to one of the carts was rearing and panicking and rearing on its hind legs. There was a loud crack as the wood holding him splintered and it raced away.
Jason's eyes widened as the giant horse came barreling towards him. His mind screamed at him to get out of the way, but he was frozen in place. He couldn't move as the horse's hooves came hurtling down towards him. Suddenly, a gray shape came hurtling out of nowhere, crashing into Jason and sending him tumbling away from the thundering hooves as the horse rushed past and raced away. Jason rolled across the ground and laid on his stomach, coughing as the dry dirt entered his lungs. He looked up to see what had saved him. The large gray wolf tumbled across the ground, stopping as it crashed into a nearby vendor's tent.
Jason watched as the wolf seemed to be growing. Was it getting larger? It seemed to be changing shape, the gray fur began to get shorter. The legs lengthened and tail shrank, as well as the ears. The nose got shorter and formed into a human face. Jason gasped as the wolf changed form into a young woman. People around Jason gasped and pointed, some of them shrieking in terror. The wolf/woman raised her head and Jason's jaw nearly dropped. It was Leelah!
"Freak!" One man cried.
"Monster!" Cried a woman.
Leelah got shakily to her feet, ashamed of herself and scared of the crowd closing in on her.
"She's a beast!" One man cried, grabbing her arm and throwing her to the ground. "She's a shapeshifter!"
The cries grew louder and reverberated through the crowd.
"Get out of here!" One man yelled, throwing a stone at her. It hit Leelah in the arm and she cried out.
"Beast, wretched creature!" Another man jeered. The crowd taunted her, pushing and poking at her.
Others threw rocks at her, she cowered behind her arms, frightened and on the verge of tears.
"Jason, help me!" She cried, reaching towards him, but Jason could only stare, shocked.
He desperately wanted to run to her, to hold her in his arms, to protect her from the crowd, but he couldn't. His legs wouldn't respond, his mind seemed separate from his body. Leelah began to sob, the crowd gasped and leaped back as she shrank into the form of a falcon and took off into the sky.
"Leelah wait…" Jason knew it was too late as he stared after her. What had he done? He should have helped her, protected her, but all he did was stand and watch… he shook his head and pounded his fist on the ground.
Jason's mind whirled. What had just happened? A shapeshifter? Leelah? It was all so confusing… Jason shook his head. He had to find her… but then what? What could he say? All of a sudden he could hear Cheiron's voice in his mind, a saying he had told Jason when he had first come to the Academy, "Humans fear what they do not understand…" The realization of Cherion's words sank in. He took off towards the woods.
"Leelah!" He called. "Leelah!"
There was no reply. He pushed through the undergrowth, ignoring the branches that scraped and clawed at him.
"Leelah!" He continued calling her name, panting in exhaustion. He stopped for a moment, leaning down to catch his breath. He sank to his knees.
He heard a noise and jerked his head up. Straining his ears he could make out a faint sobbing. Following the sound, he crept though the trees to find Leelah sitting up against a tree trunk sobbing, her arms wrapped around her. A twig under Jason foot snapped and Leelah looked up in alarm.
"It's just me." Jason stepped out.
"Jason, I…" Leelah looked to the ground, inching away from him.
"There's nothing to be afraid of." Said Jason softly, kneeling beside her. "I'm not going to hurt you." He moved to put his hand on her shoulder.
"Please, don't…" Leelah moved away from his hand. "I just need to get away from here."
"Why?" Jason furrowed his brow. "You haven't done anything wrong."
"They… they know now." Leelah sighed. "Everyone will know. I need to go."
"Away… away from here. Anywhere but here." Leelah shook her head.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of." Jason sat down next to her.
Leelah shook her head.
"Yes, yes it is."
She looked up at Jason, her eyes brimmed with tears.
"All my life everyone's hated me because I'm different. They won't treat me like a normal human being; they avoid me or try to hurt me. They think I'm going to attack them in their sleep or something." She sniffed, looking at the ground. "All they see me as is a monster. It's best if I go where no one knows."
"And if they find out? What then? Keep moving?" Jason wiped a tear from her face. "Stay here at the Academy, everyone here is nice and you can let them understand you and get to know the real you." He tipped her chin up so she was looking into his eyes. "I won't let anyone hurt you, I promise."
"Thank you." Leelah whispered. He put his arms around her and she cuddled against his chest. "Thank you."
"What's she doing here?"
"Isn't she the one who turned into that creature?"
"I heard she attacked some of the villagers as a wolf."
Whispers reverberated through the students as Leelah and Jason approached. They visibly shrank away from Leelah as she walked past, as if her touch would scald them.
"Jason, I don't think I can do this." Leelah whispered.
"It's ok, I'm here." Jason squeezed her hand to reassure her.
Leelah bit her lip nervously as the cadets stared.
"Glad to see you back, Leelah." Cheiron smiled at her.
"She's going to be staying this time." Jason smiled at her as well, and she blushed.
Leelah enrolled in some of the courses at the Academy, though in her classes no one would sit next to her and she could feel all eyes on her. She looked forward to geography; Jason sometimes came to visit during that class. He sat next to her and made her feel safe. All of the other cadets in the room seemed to disappear.
When geography was over, Leelah headed off to History. She sat down at a table in the back corner where no one could stare at her. She looked to her right to see two guys staring at her. They quickly turned away, chuckling at some joke between them. Hurt, Leelah stared at the blank paper in front of her as their instructor, Lettius, droned on.
"… and the forests of Teledan are the homes of various creatures, some created by the gods, others monsters somehow deformed in nature."
"Hey, we got one in the Academy too!" Delphius yelled from the back of the room. Leelah felt her face grow hot and red as her classmates turned to stare at her.
"Hey Leelah, are you a freak of nature?"
"Change into something for us, Leelah! Come on!"
"Yeah, turn into a monster again, Leelah!"
"Yeah!" The other class members chorused.
Lettius frowned. "I'll have none of that in my classroom. You are not to make fun of those less fortunate than yourself."
"Excuse me." Leelah stood up, quickly walking out of the room before anyone could see the tears in her eyes.
As she ran down the hall she brushed past Jason.
"Leelah?" He stared after her, confused. "Hey Leelah, wait up!" He ran and caught up to her, taking her in his arms as she sobbed. "It's all right, it's ok." He soothed, rubbing her back. "What's going on?"
"Oh Jason…" Leelah sniffed. "How can they be so cruel? They'll never understand…"
"I'm sorry, Leelah," said Jason softly. "I didn't mean for this to happen. They're just.. not used to people who are different, but they just need to learn. Look at Cheiron, at first they didn't want to accept a centaur as their teacher but they did, and now they respect him."
"I… I guess you're right." Leelah wiped the tears from her face. "I just need to give them some time. Thanks, Jason."
"No problem," he smiled, "anytime."
Leelah went to her bed to rest for a while, lying on the pillow and staring at the ceiling.
A sudden voice startled her and she leaped to her feet and into a fighting stance.
"Hey, relax, it's just me!" Lilith chuckled. "I just came to see how you were doing. Jason was worried about you."
"Oh, I'm ok." Leelah settled into a sitting position and Lilith flopped down on the end of her bed.
"I'm glad you're here, now I'm not the only girl in the school!" Lilith kicked her heels off the side of the bed.
"Do the guys get on your nerves?" Leelah leaned back on her pillow.
Lilith rolled her eyes. "Always! You know how many jokes that I'm at the brunt of?"
Leelah giggled. "I can imagine! Now I'll stick up for you."
"Yeah, you can be my bodyguard!" Lilith smiled.
Leelah stood up and pretended to be muscular, talking in a deep voice.
"If you touch Lilith I'll… I'll rip off your arms and beat you over the head with them!"
Lilith giggled hysterically. "Imagine their faces!"
Leelah let herself drop back onto the bed, bouncing.
"I'll take them on any day!"
"I can see it now," Lilith jumped to her feet and grabbed a comb, holding it like a microphone. "In this corner, we have the marvelous Demi-god, Heeeeerculeeees!" She looked around, grabbing a stuffed dragon and putting him in the corner to represent Herc. "And in THIS corner we have the fantabulous and utterly magnifcentabular Leeeeeeeelahhhhhhh!"
Leelah held up her fists like a boxer.
Lilith cupped her hands over her mouth, "Ding!"
Leelah grabbed the stuffed dragon, putting it in a headlock in her armpit. She held it out in front of her and gave it a punch on the nose. Suddenly, she grasped it to herself and fell to the bed.
"Help, he's got me!" She yelled. "Get him off me, get him off me!" she pretended to wrestle with the stuffed creature.
"I'll save you!" Lilith leaped on the bed, grabbing the dragon and flinging him across the room.
"Hey, I had it under control!" Leelah gave her a whap with her pillow.
"Hey!" Lilith leaped off the bed and grabbed her own pillow, hitting Leelah back. The two shrieked and laughed as they fought.
"Hey, what's going on in here?" Hercules came in and was met with a pillow in the face.
Leelah and Lilith giggled.
"I think I'll leave you two alone." Her turned and walked out the door, a pillow hitting him on the behind as he went.
Leelah and Lilith continued to battle until they were too exhausted from laughing and fighting to continue. Leelah collapsed into her bed, smiling to herself. She looked over to see Lilith already asleep, upside-down on the bed, her arm and leg hanging over the side. She snored softly.
"Maybe it won't be too bad here after all." She thought to herself before drifting off to sleep.
The next day in her classes she began to reconsider her words. She could feel all eyes on her and knew the cadets were uncomfortable with her presence. She didn't care if they didn't like her, as long as they left her alone.
"Hey beastie!" One cadet called as she headed out of the classroom.
Hugging her books tighter to her body she tried to hurry away only to find him standing in front of her with his friends.
"Where are you going, beastie?" He jeered. "Gonna turn into a bird on us and fly away?" His friends laughed.
Leelah backed away from him, and he stepped towards her.
"Is there something going on here?" Came a voice from behind her.
Her heart leaped as she recognized the voice. It was Jason! She turned around to see him standing with Theseus, Hercules and Iolaus.
"Is there a problem?" Hercules crossed his arms.
The cadet glared at Hercules.
"Come on, guys. We have better things to do that watch these losers." He walked off, his buddies following.
"Are you all right?" Jason looked Leelah in the eyes, concerned.
"I'm fine." Leelah sighed. "I'll be ok, I have to go to Science."
She brushed by him, not wanting him to see the tears in her eyes. Why couldn't they just understand? At least she had a few friends around here. Lilith, Jason, Hercules, Theseus and Iolaus were the only ones decent to her. She sat through Science class, listening to the teacher drone on about healing potions and concoctions. 'Wonder if there's anything that could make me normal' she thought to herself.
When science was over, she headed back to her dorm for some rest. Before she got there, she realized she's left one of her books in the room.
'Why me?' she muttered to herself, before heading back.
Meanwhile, Hercules, Iolaus, Lilith and Theseus were chatting amongst themselves near one of the classrooms.
"… and then he tried to pick it up and it went flying!" Lilith giggled, and the others laughed.
"Wasn't Leelah acting weird today?" Hercules spoke up.
Theseus shrugged. "Yeah, I don't know. It's weird, though, having a biomorph here and all. I mean, she can change into any animal."
"She could turn into a dragon and eat us!" Iolaus chuckled.
"I haven't really heard of many biomorphs." Lilith mused.
"I dunno. I haven't either. Maybe she's really something sent by the gods to spy on us." Theseus grinned.
Iolaus chuckled. "They've done it before!"
"Be careful at night, you never know who's watching you…" Theseus tried a spooky voice.
"Don't cross her, she might turn into a bear and squash you!" Iolaus and the others laughed.
Suddenly, Hercules froze, staring at something past them. The others turned to see Leelah standing not far from where they were sitting, a shocked look on her face.
Tears welled up in her eyes, "You're no different from the others! I thought you were my friends…" she dropped her books and took off.
"Leelah?" Jason saw her hurrying his way. "Leelah, are you all right?"
"Leave me alone!" She sobbed, dodging his arms and running off towards the forest.
Jason ran to catch up with her. Just as he was coming closer, she morphed into a deer and ran into the forest. Knowing he'd never be able to catch her, Jason slowed down to catch his breath. He heard someone coming up behind him and turned to see Hercules, Lilith, Iolaus and Theseus panting.
"What's going on?" He demanded, his jaw set. "Who was it? What did they do to her?" He clenched his fists. "When I find out…"
He stopped as his friends looked to the ground.
"It…" Hercules glanced at the others. "It… was us. We were joking around a little and didn't mean… we didn't meant to hurt her feelings, it was harmless joking…"
"Harmless?!" Jason nearly exploded. "She comes here with not one person in the world who cares about her, only to have her newfound friends turn on her? That's disgusting. I told her to give you a chance! And you blew it."
He stormed off towards the forest, leaving the others staring at their feet in shame.
Leelah ran as fast as she could, tears streaming down her face. Suddenly she tripped over a root and was sent tumbling across the ground. As she was picking herself up she saw two feet standing in front of her. Her gaze rose to meet the eyes of the cadet who was in the gang that was bothering her.
"Well well well." He chuckled. "If it isn't beastie."
"Please, leave me alone." Leelah sighed.
"Where's your boyfriend now?" He sneered, crossing his arms. "No big bad protector this time? Come on, show us your stuff." He gave her a shove. "Turn into something, we wanna see it."
Leelah teetered back, stepping away from them.
"Come on, beastie!" The boy and his gang closed in. "Show us what you got."
"No." Leelah frowned defiantly.
"Yes you will!" The boy grabbed her arm.
"Let go, you're hurting me!" Leelah tried to shake him off, but he only tightened his grip and twisted her arm behind her. She cried out.
Suddenly, Jason appeared, ramming full hilt into the cadet, tackling him to the ground. The cadet pushed him off and took a swing, but Jason blocked it and punched him in the jaw.
"Jason, look out!" Leelah cried, seeing another gang member coming up behind him. Quickly, she jutted her foot out, tripping him.
Jason ducked away from one of the members, sending another flying with a kick. Leelah found two of them closing in on her. Before she could do anything Jason was there, kicking and punching. The leader suddenly tackled him and both boys were sent tumbling. Distracted by them, Leelah found herself overbalanced by one of the other gang members, and she fell to the ground. The boy grinned at her, before he was sent flying by a newcomer.
"Hercules!" Leelah gasped. He, Iolaus, Lilith and Theseus had joined the fray.
"We saw you needed help." Herc flipped one of them to the ground. "We… we really didn't mean what we said back there."
"Yeah." Iolaus kicked one to Lilith, who gave him a punch. "We were really stupid, I don't know what made us say what we did… but it was really horrible."
"I don't know why we were so cruel, I wouldn't blame you if you never forgave us." Lilith said sadly as she and Theseus took out the last two.
Leelah stared at them and all their remorseful looks. "I…." In her heart she knew they were telling the truth. "I do."
"I'm so sorry!" Lilith threw her arms around the cadet.
Leelah was surprised at first, but hugged Lilith back tightly. Finally, there were people who cared about her. Tears brimmed in Leelah's eyes, and she let them spill over her cheeks.
"Thank you." She whispered.
When they let go she looked around to see the boys giving her half-smiles, and she knew they weren't really into the hugging thing, so they shook hands.
"Come on." Hercules gestured with his thumb. "Let's get back to the Academy."
Leelah was never happier than she was on the trip back to the school, chatting and laughing with her new friends, her true friends. She was talking to Hercules when his gaze shifted to something ahead of them and his face looked shocked. Leelah turned to see what he was looking at and gasped. A cloud of black smoke billowed above the Academy. It was on fire! The cadets raced as fast as they could to the school. One of the dorms was surrounded by smoke, fire flicked out of the windows. They looked up in horror to see cadets on the roof, and some in the higher windows.
"Help!" They screamed.
Hercules ran for the door and swung it open, only to stagger back from the heat blazing from it.
"How can we get to them?" He cried desperately.
"I think I can." Said Leelah softly. Everyone turned to her.
Closing her eyes, Leelah began to glow a faint blue, and started to change form. Her skin changed to gray and she grew until she was in the form of an elephant. The others could only stare as she approached the building. The cadets in the windows screamed, but could not back away because of the fire. Leelah grabbed one around the waist with her trunk, pulling him out of the window and setting him on the ground.
"Is he all right?" Lilith wrung her hands.
Cheiron checked his pulse. "He has merely fainted. He will be fine."
Jason and Hercules helped the cadets from the lower floors get out, ushering the panicking students away from the building.
Leelah shook her giant head as the flames reached out at her, burning the rough hide of her face. Grabbing another cadet, she set him down on the ground and went for more. The panicking cadets realized this was their way out and waved for help. Leelah stretched her trunk to the roof so the cadets could climb down it onto her back. The smoke was filling her lungs, but she waited until all of them were with her.
Setting them on the ground she listened for more voices. Straining her ears she could hear a faint cry from the second floor, but where was the cadet? Bracing herself, she rammed into the wall, making a hole with her head. Coughing as the smoke poured out, she spotted the outline of a bent over shape. Reaching as far as she could, she tried to grab for him. The smoke burned her eyes and throat as she reached farther and farther, yet could not reach him. Finally, she managed to wrap her trunk around him and pull him out, setting the cadet on the ground. Jason and Hercules worked with the other cadets, bringing water to put out the fire. Leelah's mind spun, dizzy from all the smoke and heat.
"Leelah!" Cried Jason in alarm as the elephant teetered, and with a great groan fell to the ground, dangerously close to the still burning fire.
He rushed over to her, pulling at her leg though he knew it wouldn't do any good.
"Help me!" He yelled to the others.
They tried to move her, to no avail.
"Here!" Theseus grabbed a pail of water and dashed it over her head.
Slowly, Leelah opened her eyes, morphing back into human form. Jason took her in his arms, carrying her away.
"You did well Leelah." Jason smiled down at her. "I'm proud of you."
Leelah smiled back at him, and their faces leaned closer until they met in a kiss. When they broke away both looked flustered. Leelah sighed happily before drifting off again.
Leelah was treated by the Academy doctor, Raindre, for burns and inhaling smoke. Thanks to her, no cadets were seriously injured in the fire. When Leelah was let out of the clinic she found all eyes on her; wide, staring eyes. She backed up a little, and felt Jason's strong arms wrap around her. Were they going to hurt her?
"Leelah…" One of the cadets spoke up.
He had a bandage on his arm from burns.
"Leelah… thank you. For saving my life."
He stepped forward and embraced her in a tight hug. Leelah was shocked at first, but relaxed and squeezed his arm.
"Thank you, Leelah." Another cadet smiled at her.
"Thank you." Came a chorus of voices.
Leelah was overwhelmed by all her emotions.
"I…" tears welled up in her eyes. "Thank you." She whispered.
She had never felt so happy in her entire life. She threw her arms around Jason and cried into his shoulder.
Leelah was overjoyed by the Academy's new attitude. Not only did they accept her, they appreciated her help and were impressed by the power she had. It seemed almost too good to be true; it was amazing how fast people could change their mind. She was heading into town with Jason to buy some supplies for one of her classes.
"Ready?" Jason held out his arm, which she took.
They walked through the market, Leelah marveled at all the crafts, cloths, and foods. She picked up a beautiful necklace, a beaded string that held a purple gem wrapped in a talon.
"You like it?" Jason asked.
Leelah stared at it. "It's beautiful."
Jason smiled. "Then it's yours." Before she could protest, he pulled out his money pouch and paid the vender.
Leelah held it in her hands. "Thank you!"
"No problem." Jason grinned.
Leelah had picked up a few things from some venders, and was looking at some tools when someone bumped into her and she was knocked to the ground.
"I'm sorry!" The woman cringed, "are you all right?"
She held out a hand to pull Leelah to her feet. Leelah accepted her gesture and stood up. She waited for the woman to let go of her arm, but the woman continued to stare at it.
"How long have you had this?" The woman pointed to the tattoo on her shoulder.
"Umm… as long as I can remember." Leelah answered, confused.
The woman looked shocked.
"Kimra!" She exclaimed. "My child, my child you are one of us!"
"What?" Now Leelah was truly confused.
"A Kriyellah, a shapeshifter, a biomorph!" She was smiling from ear to ear.
"You mean… more of my kind? My family?" Leelah blinked.
"Yes, child!" The woman pulled up her sleeve and revealed a similar tattoo.
"You come from our tribe. However did you get separated from us?"
"I… Amazons adopted me when I was five. I can't remember my life before that."
The woman thought for a moment. "You must me Chaleeka's child! Your eyes remind me so much of her."
Leelah's face brightened. "My mother?"
The woman smiled. "Yes, child."
"My mother, is she…?"
The woman's face saddened. "Your mother was killed many years ago. We raised you from a baby."
"How did I get separated?"
The woman bit her lip.
"We.. we were attacked by soldiers, they burned our homes and captured us… your mother sent you in a basket on her horse, hoping you would be found. She… she did not survive the attack."
Leelah was overwhelmed by all this new information. Her family, she had a family! And people like her!
"Why don't we go to Kora's and get a bite to eat while we learn some more?" Jason suggested.
They all sat down at a table in Kora's, and Leelah listened, wide-eyed, to all that the woman told her.
"I am Kendarai, I knew your mother very well. We were all quite fond of you, the others will be overjoyed to know that you are alive and have grown so beautiful."
Leelah blushed. "I feel some of my memories coming back, it's like they've been buried so long. I remember… I remember a blue blanket."
Kendarai blinked. "Yes, when you were born your mother made you a blue blanket, you never let it go! How did you remember this?"
Leelah shrugged. "They're so vague, but I feel them, they've been hidden and you've brought them to the surface."
"Why don't I leave you two alone?" Jason stood up. "Leelah, I'll meet you back at the Academy?"
"Sure, thank you!" Leelah smiled.
Jason had never seen her so happy. He walked out of Kora's and went back to the Academy, where Theseus, Iolaus and Hercules were playing card games in their dorm.
"I know you're hiding cards somewhere, Iolaus" Theseus shook his head. "Come on, out with it!"
"I am not!"
"Come one, give em up!"
As Hercules grabbed Iolaus by the arm Theseus grabbed the other one. It turned into a three-man scramble, none of them knowing exactly why they were attacking the others.
"Hey guys." Jason walked in.
The three stopped where they were. Theseus had a choke hold on Hercules, who had Theseus' foot, and both were sitting on Iolaus.
"Oh, hey Jase."
Jason chucked and shook his head, walking back out. He meandered around the Academy, kicking up dirt here and there. As while later he spotted Leelah coming towards him, a bright smile on her face.
"Oh Jason, it's wonderful! It's my family! Well, not my mother, but you know what I mean and they said my father is somewhere and all my relatives…"
"Whoa, slow down!" Jason held up his hands.
"Jason, I…" Leelah looked at the ground. "I want to go with them."
"What do you mean?"
"I've never known any of my kind before, and I want to see them and be with them… they're my family."
She bit her lip as she looked into his eyes.
Jason's heart sank. "I… I understand, Leelah. I would do the same. Will… will I ever see you again?"
Leelah gave a half smile.
"I'm hoping, big boy!" Her voice cracked a little. "We're leaving tomorrow morning, Kendarai is going to take me to the village. It's past Leeron."
"I'll be sure to stop by before you leave."
"Thank you." Leelah smiled before running off to get her things.
The next morning Jason approached the Academy, his heart heavy. Leelah was going to be gone… for Zeus knew how long. He had really become attached to her… more than attached. Did he love her? He sighed. Love her or not, he had to let her go for her own sake. If he let her know that he loved he, she would be torn between him and her family. He had to let her go to the family she had never known, she was so happy with Kendarai. He knew being with her family would be the best for her.
Leelah was saying goodbye to the cadets. "Thank you, for being true friends. I'll never forget you."
Leelah walked up to Jason, trying to hide her glassy eyes.
"I guess… I guess this is goodbye?"
"Goodbyes are not forever." She took his hand. "Always remember that. And always remember me."
"I will." He promised, choking back the tears that threatened to reveal his true feelings.
She paused for a moment. "I'll miss you, Jason."
Jason felt a lump in his throat that would not go down.
"I'll miss you too, Leelah."
Leelah reached for the necklace around her neck. Jason stopped her.
"Keep it, to remember me with."
Leelah took off her ring, placing it in Jason's hand and closing it around it.
"To remember me by."
Before he could react, Leelah threw her arms around him in a tight embrace, Jason wrapped his arms around her. He wished the moment would never end. Leelah released him and looked up into his eyes.
"You'll always be in my heart, Jason."
"And you will always be in mine, Leelah." Jason took a deep breath.
Leelah turned and walked towards Kendarai, and the two headed off towards the Academy.
"Leelah, I…" Jason started, knowing she was too far off to hear him. He watched them as they disappeared into the distance, holding the ring tightly in his hand.
"… I love you."
TERN 0'BRIEN AND MEDEA
Thagus: Clint Sharplin
Lettius: Geoff Snell
Delphius: Damien Lay
Kendarai: Elizabeth Hawthorne
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