By Any Other Name

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Preview

      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.


Revicles: "Are you sure thats him?"


(Four thugs jump from wagon and tackle Iolaus)
IOLAUS IS CAPTURED AS A SACRIFICE TO THE GODS
Hercules, to Jason: "Iolaus has been kidnaped!"
(Jason, followed by a small army, heads toward a temple)
Hercules, determined: "We will search every temple."
(Iolaus' hands are chained behind his back)
AND HIS ONLY HOPE FOR SURVIVAL IS IN HERCULES' HANDS
(Thugs drag a weary-looking Iolaus towards Hercules)
(Thugs and some priests kneel beside a marble altar)
(Iolaus is strapped down to a marble altar; a knife is lifted high)
Angry Hercules: "Iolaus!"
(Hercules slams open the doors to a temple)
ON THE NEXT YOUNG HERCULES!
UP NEXT!</center>

Teaser

      It was a peaceful bright blue day - peaceful, that was, except for the complaining.

      "Herc-"

      "What is it now, Iolaus?"

      "Do you know why they call breaks from school 'vacations'?"

      "Iolaus-"

      "Because we're supposed to relax during them." Iolaus dug his spade irritably into the moist dirt of the hole which would soon be a new well for Alcemene.

      "Relax," he repeated. "Not get up at dawn every day and build your mom a new well."

      Hercules bent over to lift a rock the size of his head. "In the first place," he said as patiently as he could, "I wouldn't call getting up an hour before normal rising at dawn."

      "There were still stars out! We spent half hour digging in the dark!"

      The rock went flying out of the hole the two cadets were slowly creating and landed neatly in a pile of other unearthed stones.

      Maybe if I just ignore him, Hercules thought hopefully. But today Iolaus didn't seem to need active participation from his audience.

      The former thief let out a sigh, gave up all pretense of digging and instead surveyed his smudged hands mournfully. "Look at that. Blisters. I'm on vacation and I'm getting blisters."

      "Iolaus, complaining about it's not going to get things done any faster."

      "Well," Iolaus said philosophically, "it's making me feel better."

      "Try thinking about me for a change," Hercules suggested wanly. "Listening to you moan for the past four hours is sapping my morale. You don't hear me complaining about blisters, do you?"

      "You're the son of a god, Herc. You don't get blisters."

      "Okay," Hercules conceded reluctantly, then rallied: "but if I did, I wouldn't complain."

      It was the wrong thing to say to Iolaus in his current mood.

      "If you're so perfect, why don't you just dig the well yourself?"

      "I could," Hercules snapped, "but I thought it would be more fun if we both worked together, and I thought you'd want to do something for Alcemene."

      "I'm happy to do stuff for Alcemene," Iolaus said defensively, "I just don't understand why we can't do it in the later?"

      "Iolaus, it is later."

      "That's my point exactly! Maybe your godlinesses don't mind working through the day but we poor mortals want our coffee breaks!"

      "Give it a rest, Iolaus," Hercules sighed. Iolaus had been needling him about his heritage ever since the day before when some girls had come up to him in the market with a quill pen and asked him to sign parts of them that still made him blush to think about.

      "Just because you're mortal doesn't mean you don't have to act responsibly," he said before he could stop himself.

      "Oh, you think I'm not responsible?" Iolaus dropped his shovel.

      Hercules wasn't in the mood anymore to back down. "Well, are you?" he shot back. "You sleep when you want, eat when you want, do work if you have to . . . you don't have any one trying to hunt you down because of who you are - you can be anyone, anything you want to. Do you know what I'd give to be you for a week? It'd be like one big goof-off party!"

      There was a tiny moment of hurt silence, then Iolaus rallied.

      "Oh, yeah," he sniffed back, "I can imagine how brutal it is for you, spending your time lifting livestock with one hand so girls will ask you to sign their body parts."

      "Being a half god isn't all fun and games, Iolaus."

      "Well neither is being a human."

      "Fine."

      "Fine."

      "Fine." Hercules carefully set down the stone he had been about to toss to the lawn.

      "Why don't I go get us something to drink?" he asked coldly.

      "Whatever."

      Smarting more from the remoteness of the answer than anything else, Hercules stormed to the house.

      Whoa, Iolaus, Iolaus thought, shaking his head as he watched his friend stalk toward Alcemene's, what brought that on?

      Herc hadn't done anything to deserve that, just saved a village and as a result had everyone swooning all over him and talking about how heroic he was, completely forgetting that there had been other people involved in the heroics, thank you very much, who would have been more than happy to try their hand at a little autographing, it didn't even have to be body parts not that he would have complained . . .

      Oh. So that was what brought that on.

      "All right, Iolaus," he said aloud, "last day of vacation. This is not the time for petty jealously. Right? Right."

      He locked his fingers out in front of him, took a deep breath and bent his knees slowly, then rose again in a meditation exercise that was supposed to promote calm. At least, that was what Cheiron had told him once, and it did seem the centaur used it quite a lot when Iolaus was around.

      Actually, he did feel better. He really didn't mind Hercules' growing stardom at all. No sirree. Why, all the fair maidens in Greece could line up for hours for Herc to sign them, they could hold a huge convention for heroes and not even invite Iolaus and he would . . . well, he would . . . care a lot.

      Okay, but that was life. Time to get over it.

      Iolaus waited a minute, then nodded. Okay, for the moment at least, he was over it. And to prove it, when Herc came back he would see Iolaus industriously digging away with nary a complaint.

      Well, no more complaints that were reasonable, at least.

      Freshly resolved, Iolaus grabbed the shovel, grunted, hauled at the shovel again, and then realized with a groan that Hercules had accidentally wedged the blade under the fair-sized rock he dropped and that Iolaus definitely couldn't throw up to the surface.

      But that shouldn't be a problem for a man of Iolaus' obvious cunning and ingenuity. In fact, Cheiron had once told the cadets something that Iolaus couldn't quite remember because at the time he had been making paper sailboats, but it had definitely had the vocabulary words "fulcrum" and "lever" in it . . . oh well, he'd just stick a smaller rock under the exposed shovel and use it to pry up the bigger rock. That would do as well as any old fulcrum.

      Really, education just made things needlessly complicated.

      A big heave or two later, and the rock went flying out of the hole to land by the pile. The smaller rock, on the other hand, rolled back to land on Iolaus' toe.

      "Ow! I oughta kick you to the other side of Olympus for that," Iolaus grumbled, grabbing the offending rock and climbing out of the hole to shot put it onto the pile.

      And then he saw the wagon.

      "Are you sure that's him?" Alsedeus whispered anxiously. "He looks a bit . . . short to be the son of Zeus."

      "Have you ever seen Zeus?" Revicles shot back disgustedly. "So how do you know how tall he is?"

      The four gang members of the junior Corinthian division of the Hades' Titans (HTs) studied the guy who had just jumped out of a hole in the ground.

      Aside from being short, he was about their age, blonde, blue-eyed, looked healthy enough, and as far as they could tell, he had just thrown a good sized boulder out of the ground with his bare hands. And was debating whether or not to kick it even further.

      It all seemed to fit . . .

      The kid looked at them. "If you're here for the show," he advised them, "I perform live for cash in advance only."

      "Uh, excuse me," Alsedeus said, knowing that probably wasn't the right way to be addressing the son of a god, "but is this the home of Alcemene?"

      "Who wants to know?" The kid folded his arms and glared at them suspiciously.

      "We were out for a joy ride and got lost. A guy down the road said we should turn right at the house of Alcemene," Revicles covered smoothly.

      "Oh. Well, in that case, yeah, this is the place. Only you can't turn right, it's a dead end road this wa-"

      "All right! It must be him!"

      At this point it dawned on Iolaus that something wasn't right. Namely, the four kids on the wagon had jumped to the ground and tackled him. Further consideration on this weird turn of events was postponed as someone hit him hard on the head.

      "Gosh," Alsedeus said, gazing down at the crumpled body on the grass. "I thought I'd have to hit him a lot harder than that."

      "Remember, Alsedeus," said Revicles malevolently, "Hercules may be a half god, but we've got a full god on our side." He nodded to the others. "Okay, boys, load him up. We've got twelve hours to get wonderboy here to Corinth, or Hera won't have her sacrifice for the Equinox, and we won't get our reward."

      With an evil chuckle from Revicles and a heave ho from the other three, Iolaus was quickly bound and tossed onto the wagon.

      Hercules, who had decided that he had completely overreacted due to lingering embarrassment over yesterday, stepped out of Alcemene's kitchen with an apologetic brimming pitcher of lemonade and stared at the sudden cloud of dust that some sort of wagon was kicking up across the yard. But what he didn't see was . . .

      "Iolaus?" he asked the dissipating dust helplessly.

Act One

<center>BY Any Other Name

Also Starring
Jodie Rimmer as Lilith

Guest Starring
Michael Rosenbaum as Revicles
and
Kevin Smith as Ares

Based on "Young Hercules"
Created by Renaissance Pictures

Assistant Producer
Euterpe

Co-Executive Producers
Tern O'Brien & Medea

Executive Producer
Kent Simmons

Edited by Pelee
Written by Achaea</center>


      Jason was desperately wishing for something more interesting to happen.

      When a familiar figure burst into the throne room, scattering courtiers in his wake, Jason realized with a smothered grin that he might just get his wish. Quickly he gestured everyone else out; it was time for kingly recess!

      "Jason!" Hercules skidded up to the king, even forgetting his usual parody of subservient bow in his hurry. "Iolaus has been kidnapped!"

      "And how are you today, Jason?" Jason asked rhetorically, lounging back on his throne.

      "Not bad, had a few proclamations to make, some laws to sign, oh, had an interesting case of mixed identity concerning two cows that each had the same birthmark shaped like Aphrodite, but aside from that pretty much same old same old. . . "

      "Jason, I don't have time for your day's rundown," Hercules broke in impatiently. "Didn't you hear me? Iolaus has been kidnapped!"

      Jason didn't bat an eye. "Uh huh."

      "Well, aren't you upset? Call out the guards, call out the militia!"

      "Hercules, Corinth doesn't have a militia."

      "Then form one! Come on, Jason," Hercules urged, "Iolaus could be in real trouble. Panic with me here."

      Jason hopped off his throne and draped a casual arm around Hercules' tense shoulder, wagging his finger toward the halfgod.

      "Panic. That's just what you and Iolaus want me to do, isn't it? And then he'll pop out of a closet somewhere and it'll be ha ha isn't Jason gullible. Well listen here pal, I'm the king, and I ain't gonna fall for it."

      "Jason." Hercules turned deadly serious eyes toward his friend. "This is not a joke. I saw four guys in a cart kidnap Iolaus from my mother's yard not two hours ago."

      This time it got through. Jason's smirk slowly drained from his face.

      "You mean . . . " he began, "Iolaus has been kidnapped?!" Then he paused. "Why?"

      "What do you mean, why?" Hercules asked distractedly. He began to pace, taking Jason's arm with him. The king hurried to keep up.

      "I mean, Iolaus is one of my best friends and a great guy, but what possible reason can you think of for someone to want to kidnap him? He's got no money, no connections . . . ." Jason suddenly trailed off.

      "Except for you," Hercules completed.

      "Or you."

      "Ares?"

      "Discord?"

      "Strife?"

      "Hera?"

      "Apollo?"

      Hercules opened his mouth, then stopped. "Is that all of them?"

      Jason shrugged. "Well, aside from the couple you haven't met yet."

      "Allright then." Hercules squared his shoulders and raised his chin stubbornly. "Then we'll just have to go to each god's temple in turn until we find something."

      "Hercules, that's a lot of gods."

      Hercules hesitated. "We'll go alphabetically."

      "Alphabetically." Jason shook his head admiringly. "Now there's a man who knows how to make his plans. "I'll have Ophistus send for me if there's any sign of a ransom note."

      "Good." Hercules had that preoccupied shine in his eyes that reminded even his friends that he was, after all, the son of the king of the gods. "Meet me at Apollo's temple. I'm going to get to the bottom of this."

      "Wake up." Someone kicked Iolaus.

      Grunting, he braved the throbbing of his head and opened his eyes halfway. "Great, even when I'm being kidnapped I have to get up early," he muttered.

      Then his spinning thoughts caught up with his mouth. He had been kidnapped! Those guys had kidnapped him right from Alcemene's front yard and . . . and . . . hang on, why by Zeus' crossed eyes would anyone want to kidnap him?

      He checked his hands. They were pulled behind his back and chained very vigorously.

      So someone had not only kidnapped him but cared deeply that he should stay kidnapped. Which meant that Iolaus could be pretty sure that he wanted to escape as soon as possible.

      Trying not to make any noticeable movement, Iolaus slid out the medium metal lockpick he always kept in his gauntlet and began to work on the chain's lock.

      "I think he's awake," someone said.

      In Iolaus' experience, a comment like that was usually followed by another kick, so he let his eyes drift fully open and took in the rest of his situation. He was in what looked to be a small storeroom, mostly empty and with only one small door which was currently blocked by two or three kids about his age. They had on cheap leather and studs and the closest one had blakc and white striped hair and a large TH with a skull tattooed on his forearm.

      "Oh great," Iolaus groaned. "Wannabe Hades' Titans."

      He had had a few run ins with the Titans while he still ran with the Lojacks and had decided even then that they were more talk than action and more action than brains. Sort of a training school for low level bullies who were pretty much glad to fight whatever someone pointed them toward.

      Tattoo leaned in closer. "I'm glad you recognize us, Hercules. That way you can tell Hera exactly who brought you to her to be sacrificed."

      In the silence that followed Tattoo's leering comment, three words battled for supremacy of confusion in Iolaus' mind. Hercules. Hera? Sacrificed!

      "I'm sorry," Iolaus said. "Did you just call me Hercules?"

      "What else would we call you?" Tattoo sneered.

      Iolaus gave him his best disarming grin. "Oh, I don't know, maybe, say, Iolaus?"

      The atmosphere in the little room grew forty percent darker.

      "Why would we call you Iolaus?" Tattoo growled, hand sliding to the hint of his really arger than necessary knife.

      "I knew that wasn't Hercules!" a brown-haired kid behind Tattoo quavered.

      "If it's not him, then we'll just kill him and go back for the real Hercules," Tattoo spat over his shoulder. Then his attention returned to Iolaus. "So, what were you saying, friend?"

      Iolaus blinked up at him, mind working very fast. "Uh, I was just wanting to make sure I was clear on things. So, if I understand what you're saying, if I am Hercules-"

      "Son of Zeus," brown-hair piped up.

      "Right, son of Zeus," Iolaus continued, "then you guys are planning to take me to Hera's temple and sacrifice me?"

      "For the Equinox," brown-haired added helpfully.

      "Right. Got it. And if I'm not Hercules, say if I as just someone at the right place at the right time, then you won't have to wait for Hera and will just kill me now."

      "Very good," Tattoo said in the tone of someone with very little patience left. "So, are you Hercules?"

      "Oh," Iolaus nodded vigorously. "Absolutely."

      But Tattoo was evidently the brains of the gang. "I think you'd better prove it," he demanded, his tone leaving Iolaus absolutely clear on what would happen if he couldn't.

      "I'd be happy to," he lied brightly, "if you'd just unlock my chains we can step outside and I'll lift you wagon for you."

      "A son of Zeus shouldn't be stopped by a few common chains," Tattoo corrected. Iolaus was getting really sick of him.

      But then there was a tiny click behind him and an almost imperceptible movement of gears. Maybe luck was still with him after all.

      "Alright, if you insist," he told Tattoo with his best cavalier inflection, and with a dramatic whirl, he tossed the unlocked chains into the boy's face. The Titan fell with a howl.

      Iolaus managed to shove aside the other two and make it out of the storeroom before running headlong into the half dozen other members of the gang.

      "Going somewhere, your godliness?" one of them sneered.

      Iolaus had just enough time to reflect that Herc was right, it was irritating to be called that, before they fell upon him like a minor reenactment of the Titans fighting the Gods or, to put it less poetically, like six well-muscled guys upon one cadet whose luck was definitely avoiding him today.

      At just past noon, Jason and Hercules returned to the palace.

      "Anything?" Jason asked Ophistus quietly as Hercules slouched over to sit alone on a pillar and seethe.

      The adviser shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid not, sire."

      Hercules and Jason had been so far spectacularly unsuccessful. Apollo had been out of his temple and they had been forced to leave a message with his Oracle, who assured them that as soon as Apollo got back he would immediately return their prayer and hey, they would do lunch. Ares had been so tickled at the news that they had lost "the short one" that he hadn't even bothered to try to fry them with energy bolts.

      Discord had been insulted that they would dare think she had nothing better to do than kidnap mortals, Strife wasn't even organized enough to have a temple and they had to settle for going to the local priest's office and sent him an overnight prayer delivery, and Hera's temple had been closed in preparation for the midnight Equinox festival and not even Jason's status as king could get them inside without a Royal writ.

      They were pondering their next move when Lilith burst into the hall.

      "Jason!" Looking grim beneath the shock of almost white hair, she ran up to the young king. "Hercules has been kidnapped! Oh. Hercules. You escaped."

      "I didn't escape from anywhere, Lilith," Hercules corrected morosely. "I was never kidnapped."

      Lilith frowned, concern morphing into confusion. "A friend of a friend whose sister dates one of the Hades' Titans said you were!"

      Hercules shook his head impatiently, wanting to be on the move, to be doing something helpful. "It's not me, it's . . . Iolaus . . . that . . ."

      He turned to Jason, only to find the king staring at him.

      "They wouldn't have?" he began.

      "They must have," Jason agreed.

      "Iolaus?"

      "Oh yeah. Iolaus."

      "Hello? What are you talking about?" Lilith asked irritably.

      "But how? why?" Hercules asked desperately.

      "Think about it." Jason snapped his fingers. "They were looking for a blonde, blue-eyed teenager at Alcemene's farm. They wouldn't have any reason to think there'd be more than one of them hanging around."

      The half god's blue eyes widened with guilty alarm. "But blonde, blue eyes yes, but no-long hair, short bones . . . !"

      "Right place, right time, wrong person," Jason summarized implacably.

      Hercules covered his face with his hand miserably. "He's never going to forgive me for this," he groaned.

      I am never going to forgive Herc for this, Iolaus muttered, tugging on his new chains. There were a lot more of them this time, and around his ankles as well.

      On the plus side, he seemed to have convinced the Titans that he was indeed Hercules, which meant he had at least six more hours to live.

      Hooray.

      So he had six hours to get free of his chains, break down the firmly bolted storeroom door, and overpower up to ten Titans who were probably guarding the door outside. It wasn't helping to know that the real Hercules could have done all that with ease. Or at least, with more ease than Iolaus.

      But then, Iolaus had talents of his own, the most important of which was the ability to lie through his teeth if need be, and the second most important of which was the trick of seeing every potential opportunity and using it to his advantage.

      So far, potential opportunities weren't exactly sprouting from the woodwork, but after twenty minute's hard scrutiny, he did manage to find a nail sticking out from the wall. It wouldn't help him escape, but just right now, he had a more pressing matter to attend to - literally.

      In deference to the growing heat of the sun, Iolaus had been shirtless when the Titans had grabbed him. Apparently one of his kidnappers was just polite enough to bring along a shirt so Iolaus wouldn't have to be sacrificed with a cold - maybe victims were worth less to gods if they had runny noses? - and while Iolaus was unconscious someone had stuffed the shirt on him.

      The only problem was that of the two garments lying on the ground by the pile of stones at Alcemene's, they had chosen the one obviously intended for a halfgod; the one that took quiet dignity and sewing ability seriously; in short, the one that didn't fit Iolaus at all.

      So here he was, bound hand and foot, about to become the headliner at Hera's Equinox slice and dice party, and barely able to breathe in a shirt that was meant for a skinny halfgod and didn't even look that very good on Iolaus.

      Well, at least he could fix one of those problems. Hoping that Alcemene would forgive his destruction of her needlework if he pleaded a life and death situation, Iolaus scooted as close to the nail as possible and ripped Herc's shirt down the front. Instantly, relief flooded over him and he took a happy breath, wiggling his shoulders as well as he could with his hands bound.

      "Everything okay in here?" The storeroom door creaked open and a Titan scowled in the opening. "I heard some noises - you're not trying to escape again, are you?"

      "Now why would I do that?" Iolaus asked innocently, swiveling back to face the door.

      The Titan's expression faltered when he saw Iolaus' newly ripped shirt. "What happened to your shirt?" he gasped.

      "This?" If there was one thing Iolaus knew, it was how to play to an audience. He shrugged, glancing down at the swinging pieces of material. "I was just, you know, flexing my superhuman muscles and the shirt couldn't take it. Happens all the time," he added conspiratorially.

      The Titan swallowed. "Y-you did that?"

      "What can I say, sometimes being a halfgod is tough."

      "Hey Spureus!" The Titan, a lot paler than before, yelled back into the outer room. "You'd better bring some more chains - and hurry!"

      Moments later Iolaus was wishing he had kept his big mouth shut as several Titans warily wrapped another later of chains around his body. Maybe it was true - sometimes being a halfgod *was* tough after all.

Act Two

      "Hercules, calm down," Lilith ordered for the fifth time, and for the fifth time Hercules ignored her.

      "Wearing a hole in the Royal floors isn't going to help anything," she continued doggedly.

      "How can I calm down?" he demanded, wheeling on her. "Because of me, Iolaus is in who knows what kind of trouble!"

      "Hercules," Jason interjected soothingly, "Iolaus is always in trouble. He knows how to handle himself. He'll be fine until we figure out a way to get him back."

      A brief lunch was lying untouched on Jason's table of state, they were no where closer to finding out what was happening to Iolaus, and everyone's tempers were fraying.

      It, Jason thought, time for him to act kingly. Unfortunately, he didn't have a clue what normal kings did in a situation like this. Probably yell at subordinates and have a couple of people executed. So that wasn't much help, really.

      "Look, we know the Hades' Titans have him or used to have him," Jason said slowly.

      Hercules took a deep breath, resolve hardening around him like a shield. "So we start there. We've got questions, they've got answers."

      "Whoa, hold it oh mighty warriors," Lilith snapped. "Have you forgotten that these are renegades? They're not just going to invite the king of Corinth in for a cup of tea. And if we try an all out attack, they'll probably just slit Iolaus' throat."

      "As much as I hate to admit it," Jason conceded grudgingly, "she's right."

      "Alright, then you stay here and Lilith and I will go in."

      "Hercules," Lilith sighed, "the Titans aren't going to get friendly with anyone from Cheiron's Academy. And even in your undershirt, there's no way you'll pass for anything but a cadet. I'd better go alone."

      Hercules didn't budge. "No one's going in there alone."

      "Hercules' right," Jason agreed. "It's not going to help anyone if you get captured, too."

      "We don't have any other choice," Lilith protested.

      But Hercules' eyes were lighting up. "Maybe we do. Lilith, you said no cadet would be trusted, but there's one who might be."

      "And that would be?"

      Hercules beamed. "Iolaus!"

      Oh great, he's gone crazy, Jason groaned to himself. "Hercules," he said carefully, "they already have Iolaus."

      "No, they have Hercules." Hercules gestured at his state of undress. "Right down to his shirt."

      "You mean you--?" Lilith met Jason's horrified, dubious gaze. "You're going to -"

      "Play Iolaus?"

      "It's the only way to find out where they're keeping him, and why. I've got his vest, I know how the acts. I'll just tell them that I got bored with being a cadet."

      They looked at him.

      "Do you really think they're going to buy you as a bad boy?" Lilith asked finally.

      "I can be bad," Hercules said defensively.

      They looked at him.

      "I can!"

      They looked at him.

      "Hercules," Jason pointed out, "you have to plan a week ahead even to be mildly naughty."

      "I do not!"

      "You write it in your date book," Lilith added. "Iolaus and I saw you do it."

      "That was only once and a long time ago, and besides it was a really busy week. . . ."

      Jason sighed. "Herc, tough guys don't blush."

      "We don't have any other choice!" Hercules looked at them with a mixture of stubbornness and entreaty. "Come on, how hard can it be to be Iolaus for a day?"

      "Well," Jason said reluctantly, "I guess you're about to find out."

      After they subdued the pathetic pair of guards in front of the Titans' local hangout, Lilith followed Hercules into the club and tried to think positive thoughts. But the only thing she was positive about was that this was never going to work.

      Hercules, looking younger and lankier than ever in Iolaus' patched-up vest, paused outside the door, stole a quick glance at her, took a deep breath, and then sauntered into the club.

      Lilith followed and positioned herself off to one side where she could both watch Hercules' back, and study the Titans' expressions, which currently seemed to range from incredulous to menacing to merely bored.

      One thing was universal though: they were all staring at Hercules, and none of them looked friendly. Lilith tried to look the part of the vacant girlfriend and wished her clothes had more places to smuggle weapons in.

      "Not bad," Hercules said, obviously pumping as much swagger as he could into his voice. "I've worked with worse."

      One of the larger Titans, sporting a bad tattoo and hair striped like a skunk, set down the pool cue he had been using with a sharp click.

      "How'd you get in here?" he asked with threat building in his voice. "This is a private club. We have-"

      "Those sorry excuses for guards?" Hercules cut him off, keeping the offensive. If it was one thing they had all learned from Iolaus, it was that often you could win an argument by sheer bulk of words. "Yeah, I met em," Hercules continued. "And between you and me, I'd think about investing in a training course. They weren't too impressive."

      Skunk Hair's expression grew darker and he bore down on Hercules. Hercules didn't bat an eye, but Lilith could see the tenseness in his back. This whole ploy - and maybe Iolaus' life - depended on the next few moments.

      "Do we even know you, punk?" Skunk demanded.

      They didn't recognize him. That was one blessing, at least. Lilith began to breathe again, then realized she was missing her cue.

      "Not personally, but I'm sure you've heard the name," she said hurriedly.

      "And the name is?"

      Hercules folded his arms in front of him and smirked. "Iolaus."

      There was the subtle scraping of metal as Titans around the room began to withdraw their weapons.

      "Iolaus. Sure I've heard of you," Skunky growled. "I've heard you sold out the Lojacks, turned goody good, and are Hercules' best friend. And am I supposed to believe it's a coincidence that you suddenly show up today?"

      "You mean because you've got Herc stashed somewhere?" Hercules asked.

      There was a sudden, deadly silence. Lilith held herself very still, waiting to see if this was about to turn into a edged weapon free for all. Hercules kept smirking, echoing the famous Iolausian overconfidence to the limit, every line in his body assuring the Titans that there was nothing strange in the fact that he had arrived at the same time that they were holding his best friend.

      "Who told you that?" Skunk Hair's sword was out and at the ready. "I'm only asking so your dead body'll have some company."

      "Whoa whoa whoa," Hercules said without any apparent concern. "Hold it right there, big, tough and eager to kill. I'm not here to try to rescue him."

      "Then why are you here?"

      "I heard you were going to kill him. I want in on it."

      "And why would we believe you? Or even care what you want?"

      For the first time, Hercules hesitated. Uh oh, Corinth, we have a problem. Lilith nudged him.

      "Tell him, Iolaus," she prodded.

      Regaining himself, Hercules shook his head slowly, and began to pace. "You know, this really isn't the reception I was expecting to get," he complained. "When I worked with, uh, Guyeus, he always told me that the Hades' Titans were a real class act."

      "I've never heard of anyone called Guyeus," S.H. growled.

      "You've never heard of Guyeus?"

      "No."

      Hercules's grin was a little more sickly this time. "Works outside of Corinth, mainly. I'm sure you'd know him if you saw him. The point is," he continued quickly, "ask anybody and they'll tell you I do good work."

      "Did good work," Skunk corrected stonily.

      "So I took a little hiatus. I'm over that now."

      "Why?"

      Hercules hesitated again. "Well, because, um, because, isn't it obvious? I mean, hanging around a holier than thou like Hercules, it's just, uh, really irritating. I work just as hard as he does for half the credit and I'm, I'm darn tootin' tired of it!"

      Tootin'? Lilith groaned to herself. But Skunk Hair almost seemed to be buying it.

      "So let me get this straight," he asked. "You think that just because you have a past history-"

      "I don't like to think of it as past," Hercules cut in smoothly. "That's so final. I took a little vacation to get in form and now I'm back and ready to rock and roll. It's as simple as that."

      "It is."

      Hercules smiled widely; he was on a roll and he knew it. Lilith was suddenly struck by the thought that Hercules might be enjoying getting the chance to step out of his heroic persona.

      "Life is simple," the halfgod told Skunk Man. "You see, you want, you take. And I see that you have what I want - a chance to show Hercules just what I think of him."

      He leaned forward. "Trust me, with the information I know about that punk Jason's castle and Cheiron's Academy, I can make it worth your while."

      There was another long silence, then something imperceptible shaded Skunk Head's face, and the Titans relaxed.

      "Allright," Skunk Head said. "You're in. For now."

      As if that settled everything, Hercules clapped his hands together brightly. "So, got anything to eat around here?"

      After a few hours of lying in a shed covered with chains, Iolaus wasn't sure that he could move even if the opportunity for escape presented itself. His arms ached, his chest ached, and he hadn't eaten anything since breakfast.

      All in all, if he was going to be Hercules for a day, this was not the day he would have picked.

      Of course, normally he was also tied up and whacked around during Hercules' adventures, but in those cases he was always the secondary nuisance. The one who was just along for the ride. Not like this, where all the scrutiny, all the venom, was directed solely at him. And while it was irritating to be disregarded by the bad guys, it wasn't exactly a dream come true to have them watching your every movement in case you tried to escape.

      At least, they would have been, had he been able to make a movement.

      "Not so tough and godly are you now?" one of the Titans asked him, misreading the frustration in Iolaus' eyes.

      "Look at the big shot Hercules all helpless," sneered another.

      Hercules would have taken the high road and paid no attention to the taunts. But Iolaus wasn't Hercules. Getting to be frivolous and snide, he was realizing, was actually one of the best perks of being a sidekick.

      "I bet if we threw you in the river you'd sink like a stone," the thug continued, "and there'd be nothing you could do about it."

      "Except call my uncle Poseidon and get him to cause a flash flood and drown you all," Iolaus snapped back. Hercules always scrupled not to bring in his high powered connections, but Iolaus had always thought that was wasting perfectly good threat material.

      The Titan colored and aimed a kick at Iolaus. The chains got in the way and the kid cursed, hopping back with a bruised foot.

      Iolaus grinned. It wasn't much, but it was something.

      He settled back as much as his chains allowed him and began to entertain his guards with blatantly false tales of what he, mighty Hercules, son of Zeus, had done to his previous enemies. He had just gotten to where he had Ares in a headlock, Strife in the hospital, and Discord begging at his feet for a date, when the door opened and a voice said, "It's time."

      Hercules' nerves were rawer than Stew Surprise at the Academy. He hated duplicity and hated not being himself, felt unsure of how to act, but in an entirely different way than his insecurities as a halfgod. Those were questions of what would his father do, or what would his father like him to do?

      Right now, however, instead of being worried about how to live up to his name and heritage, he was surrounded by a bunch of strangers who had never heard of him, and was desperately trying to seem cool and confidant and worldy by acting as tough and untouchable as possible.

      One of the nearest Titans held out a piece of papyrus wrapped around some kind of dried herb that Hercules didn't recognize.

      "Want one?" The Titans asked.

      "What is it?"

      The Titans sniggered and Hercules realized that once again he had allowed himself to seem uncool. And he thought dealing with the rules of gods was complicated!

      The Titan stuck the papyrus in his mouth and leaned into a torch burning on the wall until the rolled cylinder caught on fire.

      Hercules' first instinct was to throw a bucket of water in the Titan's face, but then he realized that apparently the Titan had indeed meant to light the papyrus on fire.

      "It's the new thing, from overseas," the Titan explained, taking a long drag on the burning papyrus and blowing out smoke.

      "Uh, yeah, I bet it's great," Hercules said politely. "But no thanks, I try not to light things I'm eating on fire."

      The Titans sniggered again and goaded by the derision, for an instant, Hercules was tempted to grab the papyrus and try it. That, too, was a new experience. He had never dealt much with peer pressure before - when he was growing up either the kids were in awe of him, or they teased him, but neither group had been interested in him joining them. He was not like them, and never could be. That had made him lonely, but it had never been a matter of survival.

      Now, the longer Hercules stayed around these guys, the more he began to understand a lot of Iolaus' attitude, both his competitive streak and his pretense that nothing could shake him, and his issues with Hercules' growing fame. Hercules had grown up trying to be the person everyone already knew him to be; Iolaus had spent much of his life not knowing who he was or who he should try to become, and they were both sometimes tripped up by those upbringings.

      Lilith was in a corner trying to keep the Titans' hands off her, and the look she shot him clearly mirrored his own desire to get out of here as soon as possible. Just as soon as they got Iolaus back.

      It had to be about-

      "Okay, it's time," the leader, Revicles, with his black and white head and macho tattoo, announced.

      Hercules tensed, saw Lilith do the same. The plan was that they went with the Titans to where Iolaus was being kept, but a small camouflaged door was abruptly pulled open and Hercules realized that Iolaus had been right under his nose this whole time.

      Two new Titans dragged Iolaus out, and if Hercules hadn't been so worried, he would have laughed at his friend's chain bedecked body. Iolaus had obviously been explaining to the Titans just what it meant to have the strength of a halfgod, and they had obviously believed him. Hercules had learned long ago not to bring up his strength any more than possible, for just the multi-chained reason that Iolaus presented.

      Iolaus took a few half-hopping steps, then noticed Hercules for the first time. His eyes widened in surprise and before Hercules could motion him to be silent, he opened his mouth.

      "H-" he began.

      Then Lilith stepped up neatly and slapped him. "That's for the way you've treated Iolaus, Hercules," she enunciated, gazing at him intently.

      "That's right, Hercules," Hercules said quickly. "I guess all things come to an end, Hercules, and I, Iolaus, just had to be there to watch yours, Hercules."

      For a moment confusion reigned in Iolaus' blue eyes. Then understanding took its place.

      "Oh, Iolaus," Iolaus said weakly. "How could you?"

      Hercules mentally rolled his eyes at the performance.

      "I thought you were my friend," Iolaus continued, warming to the act. "What, were all those childhood hours of fun merely a sham?"

      "Your friend?" Hercules returned, "You didn't want a friend, you wanted a sidekick, someone you could be better at, someone who would help but never get any of the glory."

      Iolaus blushed at the oblique apology in Hercules' voice. "You know I never wanted that," he protested Hercules' side. "You just get so caught up in wanting to be the best that you forget there're more important things."

      Hercules tried not to smile, knowing that sure they were in the middle of a dire situation, but at least they were on good terms again. "You're obsessed with living up to Zeus," he suggested.

      "You've got that whole inferiority complex thing," Iolaus offered.

      "You don't realize how much you rely on me."

      "You don't cut me enough slack."

      "Well, you-"

      "Okay, hold it!" Revicles interjected. "I'm sorry to break up this little hate fest, but we've got to get going. There's a sacrificial table with Hercules' name on it."

      "That's what you think," Iolaus muttered, then winced as Revicles, misunderstanding the comment, cuffed him across the back of the head, which was basically the only part of him not covered in chains.

      Hercules, feeling happier than he had in a long time, clapped his hands together. "Sounds good to me. Let's hit that temple!"

      "Oh no." Revicles suddenly turned to him, expression back to dangerous. "You and the chick don't go anywhere."

      With an effort, Hercules held on to part of his smile. "What are you talking about?"

      "Did you really think I'd let you waltz in here and tell you our whole plan?" Revicles smirked. "How stupid do you think I am?"

      "Oh great," Iolaus sighed to himself. "The one time we get a halfway intelligent bad guy . . ."

      Revicles cuffed him again. "You shouldn't complain, Hercules. At least you'll be getting a nice quick death at the altar. Your old pal Iolaus won't be so lucky, once I sell him back to the rest of the Lojacks. They should be happy to see him."

      Iolaus cast a helpless glance at Hercules.

      "You have no idea," he murmured.

Act Three

      Hera's temple was big and cold, in a green marble and purple silk motif. It might have been called elegant, but Iolaus would have appreciated the artistry more if he wasn't strapped to a smooth marble table with handy little gutters on either side to catch the blood. Many purple cloaked priests passed around him, and he could barely make out the tops of the heads of the Titans as they knelt proudly along the sides of the temple.

      As far as Iolaus could tell, the only person not happy to be here, was him. But he made up for it by being very, very unhappy.

      It wasn't so much that he was going to die. Okay, well, it was that. But what really rankled was that he was going to die as someone else, even if that someone else was his best friend in the world. He wanted to die for choices he had made, not because of a stupid mixup.

      And worse yet, he wasn't even dying to save Herc - he and Lilith were going to be handed over to the Lojacks, who would know Herc wasn't Iolaus, but would be just as happy to exact revenge for the imprisonment of half of their gang on him.

      It was turning out to be a truly rotten day.

      The only thing that could make it worse was --

      With a soft bampf sound, Ares appeared next to him.

      "Well, well, little brother, will you look at the mess you're in," he began complacently. Then he stopped and took a good, displeased, look at Iolaus' face. "You? But I thought they had grabbed Hercu-"

      "Shhh!" Iolaus hissed desperately. "Do you want to get me killed? Uh, killed sooner?"

      Ares eyed him, then shrugged. "It's temping, but unfortunately I'm on a tight schedule today and, call me family-oriented, I only have time to destroy Hercules. But maybe some other time. In fact, consider it a date."

      And with that, Ares poofed out, leaving Iolaus even less happy than before.

      Hercules and Lilith ran down the backstreets of Corinth, the moans of the four Titans unfortunately picked to guard the cadets still faintly audible behind them.

      "Hercules, slow down!" Lilith panted, stumbling as she tried to keep up.

      "We don't have time to slow down, Lilith!" Hercules snapped, but he impatiently slid to a stop and let her catch her breath.

      "All that and we didn't even find out where they were taking Iolaus," the halfgod muttered, still looking like he wanted to hit something despite the recent ruckus.

      "We'll just have to find some other way," Lilith replied, trying to sound more optimistic than she felt.

      "Like how?" Hercules sighed. "Do you really think, what, that a god is just going to suddenly appear out of thin air and tell us where Iolaus is?"

      With a flash of light, Ares suddenly appeared out of thin air.

      "There you are, Hercules," Ares said smugly. "Or is it Iolaus?"

      "Ares, are you behind this?" Hercules demanded.

      "Sadly no," the god admitted. "Although letting your best friend be sacrificed in your name, that's not something I would have expected from you. For the first time in your life, I can honestly say I'm almost proud of you."

      "Ares, I don't have time to listen to this," Hercules said grimly. "So what do you want?"

      Ares shrugged. "I just stopped by to tell you where your little friend is. If you're interested."

      Hercules hesitated. "You know where Iolaus is?"

      "Our paths happened to cross."

      "So why would you tell us?" Lilith asked suspiciously.

      "Out of the goodness of my heart?" Ares suggested, then shook his head. "No, that can't be it. Oh, I've got it. If I take you to the right temple, do you promise to rush in even though you're completely outnumbered and outarmed and will hopefully be killed in the process?"

      "I'm getting Iolaus out of there," Hercules swore.

      Ares smiled happily. "Hey, that's a deal I can work with."

      The god snapped his fingers and suddenly Hercules and Lilith stood in front of a closed pair of massive doors inscribed with a familiar symbol.

      "Hera," Hercules breathed angrily.

Act Four

      "Have fun storming the temple, alone," Ares advised them, "and please, do me a favor and die gruesomely." When the cadets didn't move, he mad shooing motions. "Go on, go get those nasty priests!"

      Hercules and Lilith exchanged looks.

      "Who said we were going in alone?" Lilith asked the god of war innocently.

      "But that was the deal!" Ares spluttered.

      "All I promised was I was going to save Iolaus," Hercules reminded the god. "I never said I wouldn't call for backup."

      "Oh!" Ares' face darkened with rage. "That is so cheating!"

      "I learned from the best," Hercules admitted cheerfully.

      "Well, I hate to burst your joy bubble," Ares grated, "but by the time you run back for help, Blondie's going to be shishcabab'd."

      "Ares, Ares," Hercules chided him. "Not even mortals have to run everywhere."

      For the first time, Ares became aware of a small container propped discretely next to the temple's door. The container was painted red and tied to a small stick, with a short fuse sticking out of its base. In one decisive movement, Hercules rubbed his gauntlets together, causing sparks to fly; the fuse began to sizzle.

      "What is--?"

      With a shriek, the container soared into the sky and exploded into a dance of colored lights.

      "It's a variation on those bang-bangs you got Hephaestus to make for you," Hercules explained contentedly. "They're great for festivals."

      "And for summoning palace troops," Lilith finished triumphantly. "Hercules and Jason put one of them at each temple, just in case."

      Ares' look of flabbergasted outrage as he disappeared almost made up for the rest of the day.

      Hercules swiveled on his heel and banged on Hera's doors.

      After a minute, a voice from inside the temple said, "What do you want?"

      "I'm sorry," Hercules said, not sounding at all sincere, "but I'm afraid you're going to have to call off your Equinox celebration."

      "What are you talking about?" said the voice, but nervously, now.

      "King Jason doesn't believe in human sacrifices," Lilith reminded the voice.

      "What makes you think that we're-"

      "Listen, we know your whole plan," Hercules interrupted. "So why don't you just open the door like a good homicidal priest."

      The voice was regaining some of its poise. "Give me one good reason I should open this door," it sneered.

      The sound of Jason and his troops could already be heard heading up the street.

      "One reason?"

      Hercules drew his fist back, then slammed it into Hera's door. With a groan, the hinges gave way and the door toppled inward onto the voice, who squeaked.

      A templeful of priests, Titans, and a very relieved Iolaus looked up at the noise.

      "How's that one?" Hercules said.

Act Five

      "So Iolaus," Hercules said as they watched the last of the Titans being escorted toward the palace cells, "I guess after all this, digging my mother a well doesn't seem so bad after all?"

      "I don't know." Iolaus tilted his head consideringly. "I mean, at least when I was a prisoner I got some rest."

      Lilith punched him on the shoulder. "Come on, don't try to pretend you and Hercules didn't both learn a lesson today."

      Iolaus looked suddenly apprehensive. "We were supposed to be learning lessons? Cause I was too busy trying not to be sacrificed to take notes."

      Jason, Lilith and Hercules stared at him.

      "You mean you didn't realize that being a half god has its up and downs, just like being a mortal does?" Jason prodded. "Just like Hercules realized that being a mortal has its problems too?"

      "Oh, that." Iolaus wrinkled his nose. "Okay, I got that. I thought you meant there was math involved or something."

      "That's our Iolaus," Hercules grinned. "I might be able to wear the shirt, but I could never replace him."

      "Speaking of shirts," Iolaus returned, "I'd like to have mine back. I'm getting pretty bored with the 'oh I'm a stalwart hero' color."

      "It's a nice color!" Hercules protested.

      "It's a boring color."

      "It is not! It has an understated dignity. Obviously. And you had no cause to do what you did to it."

      "Come on, I couldn't breathe!"

      "If you didn't eat all the time you could have fit in it-"

      Iolaus shook his head with mock exasperation. "Can't I be rescued for one minute without you telling me what to do?"

      Hercules grinned back. "Tell that to Alcemene when she has to mend it!"

      "Oh, no, you're going to tell her-"

      "Not me!"

      "Jase, why don't you tell her. You're a king, she can't do anything bad to you."

      "Are you kidding? I-"

      "Excuse me?"

      The voice had a certain dulcet tone that made the friends drop their argument immediately.

      Several attractive young ladies were approaching them.

      "Yes?" Jason asked smoothly. "Can I, the King of Crown, help you?"

      "Actually . . . ." the lead girl, tall with a cascade of golden hair, blushed then turned to Iolaus. "Are you . . .Hercules?"

      Iolaus sighed. "No, no I'm not. I'm Iolaus."

      Surprisingly, the girl brightened. "Iolaus? Oh, the shirt confused me at first. Aren't you the one who fought off all those guards of Hera's and put that gang in jail?"

      Iolaus smirked. "Why, yes, that was me. Completely me. Okay, well, my friends might have helped. But I can honestly say that if it wasn't for me, none of it would have happened."

      The girls' eyes went wide. "Can we have your autograph?" the first girl asked.

      Iolaus grinned. "Just where did you have in mind?"

      "Iolaus, you can't go around-" Hercules began.

      "Sorry Herc, everyone knows you're the role model, not me. Now girls, how about --"

      "Iolaus!"

      "In Kora's, that was all I was going say. Why don't I give you all autographs back at Kora's."

      Iolaus looped his arm around the two nearest girls' waists and started down the street. "Hey," he called over his shoulder, "do you think I could start charging for this?"

      "That's our Iolaus all right," Jason snickered.

      Behind him, Hercules groaned, sounding more jealous than morally opposed, and privately, Iolaus decided that being a mere mortal wasn't such a bad thing after all.

<center>THE PRODUCERS

KENT SIMMONS
TERN O'BRIEN AND MEDEA</center>

Credits

<center>Co-Starring
Discord: Meighan Desmond
Ophistus: Stephen Tozer
Alsedeus: Albert Belz

Creative Team
Aura
Barb Soden
Euterpe
Kalina
Kaya
Kent Simmons
Maggie Z
Medea
Pelee
Tern O'Brien
Thalia

Edit and Proof Read
Pelee
Tern O'Brien
Tracy Viader

Special Thanks To
Ed Naha
Mrinda Jez
Saderah

Technical Assistance
Jose Estreda

Young Hercules and its characters are © by Renaissance Pictures, USA Network, and
Studios USA. This fan fiction story, and virtual season project, are nonprofit and we by
no means want or intend to infringe copyrights of the characters and the television series.

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Please do not repost any of this fan fiction episode without the
permission of the Author and Producers.

No gangbangin' Grecian gangstas were hurt during the
production of this motion picture fan fiction production

2000/2005 lWo Fan Fiction Productions</center>