DISCLAIMER: No infringement of the rights of anyone involved in HTLJ
is intended. Iolaus, Jason, Alcmene and Hercules are just Borrowed for the
duration of this story and I'll give 'em
back completely unharmed ... more or less.
A MATTER OF ETHICS
(For Chattan, with a few in-jokes)
"You cheated at cards??"
Iolaus sighed - heavily. He and Hercules had arrived in Corinth in the early afternoon after a long overnight journey from Nemia. Jason and Alcmene were, of course, pleased to see them, although both seemed a bit flustered and, strangely, for the middle of the day, semi-dressed. Iolaus had supposed it was because of the heat, and Hercules had all too readily agreed with him, after his sudden coughing fit had been cured by a swift slap on the back.
Whilst Hercules went to help his mother prepare some drinks (and, undoubtedly, stuff his face full of her delicious food), Iolaus and Jason sat before the large fireplace in the main room, and Iolaus began to relate the story of his recent memory loss - courtesy of Fortune.
He had just reached the part where he had been involved in a card game (glossing over certain events - like the very interesting and productive night spent with that nice woman who later tried to make off with his winnings), when Jason had spluttered over his ale after hearing of Iolaus's method of winning a game.
"You CHEATED at cards??" he reiterated, his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide. He looked for all the world like a stranded fish, Iolaus reflected, silently. A very large, very irritating stranded fish.
"Jason, you don't understand," he began, but got no further as the ex King of Corinth leapt out of his chair, quite forgetting that, in the excitement of his two friends' arrival, he had neglected to fasten his pants properly. Iolaus almost choked on his ale as the hero almost fell over them when they pooled around his ankles.
"Um ... nice view, Jason," he managed, leaning back in his chair and giggling madly.
"Hmph!" was Jason's erudite response to his guest's reaction to his predicament. He huffily gathered his clothing together and glared rather ineffectually at the hunter, who had by now foregone any semblance of dignity and was rolling around on the floor, holding his sides and laughing hysterically.
"I would think that someone who CHEATED at cards wouldn't have the nerve to poke fun at someone else's expense!" he snapped. "I really can't believe that you would stoop to such a thing!"
"Wh ... what?" The hunter tried valiantly to control his fit of giggles and sit up straight, failing miserably as he caught the expression on his host's face.
"You're not taking this at all seriously, Iolaus," Jason went on, sounding extremely peeved.
Iolaus tried to look apologetic. He failed miserably at that, too. "I'm ... sorry?" he squeaked.
"Sorry!? Sorry??!" Jason thundered. "You tell me you cheated at cards, then you LAUGH at me and you think 'sorry' is gonna do it?"
"I'm ... very sorry?" Iolaus couldn't help it. The look on Jason's face was priceless. He burst into a fresh bout of giggles.
Iolaus ignored him
Jason snarled again - louder.
Iolaus continued to roll around on the floor, tears streaming down his face, his breath emerging as a series of wheezing gasps as his hysteria worsened.
Jason stomped around a bit.
Iolaus heard the heavy footsteps through the ringing in his ears and continued to laugh.
Finally, Jason had had enough. He bent down to seize his recalcitrant friend and hauled him upright until their noses almost met.
Iolaus looked at him a little cross-eyed for a moment. 'Finally,' Jason thought. 'He's stopped that incessant noise!' A moment later, Iolaus threw his head back and erupted into a fresh burst of laughter.
"WILL YOU STOP - YOU.. YOU .... CARD CHEATER!!!! "
"Card ...??" The blond hunter could barely speak. In fact, he could barely breathe. Actually, now he came to think about it, he was having a lot of trouble focusing and he felt rather dizzy. And nauseous. And ...
He passed out. Right there in Jason's arms. Alarmed, the ex-leader of the Argonauts lowered his friend to the floor.
"Iolaus? Iolaus! Speak to me, Iolaus!"
"Wh ... ??" The warrior regained his senses very quickly. He still felt faintly nauseated but the dizziness was receding (as fast as Jason's hairline, he mused, silently - again).
"You passed out," Jason told him, then regarded him somewhat suspiciously. "I think you laughed yourself sick."
Iolaus stared at him quizzically. "Sick?" he echoed. "Laughed?"
"Yes, you do have a sick laugh," Jason said, rather unkindly (and somewhat untruthfully, it has to be said). "And it was nothing to laugh about - cheating at cards!"
Iolaus felt the faint stirrings of a snigger. He attempted - with laudable success - to control himself. "Well, Jason, you know - sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!"
Jason just stared at him. "Pardon?"
"It's a saying I heard," Iolaus informed him, airily.
"Yeah?" Jason snorted derisively. "Well, there's a saying I heard once - 'people who cheat at cards cheat at life'."
Iolaus thought about this for a moment then, shaking himself free from the other man's restraining arm, rose to his feet. "You've made that up," he accused his friend.
Jason shrugged. "It could be true, though," he pointed out. Then, "Have you quite finished with your hissy fit now?"
"HISSY fit???" Iolaus tried to sound indignant, and, once again, failed miserably. Three for three. He suppressed a grin - or at least, he TRIED to. But it made its appearance on his face anyway. Another fit of hysterics was bubbling away just beneath the surface.
Jason watched the warrior's face as the smile appeared and knew what would follow if they continued this line of conversation. He was still completely appalled at what he saw as a disgusting lack of ethics and manners on his friend's part, even if he was suffering from amnesia at the time. However, he really didn't want to go through this most recent experience again. Quite apart from the worry which Iolaus's collapse had caused him, the very thought of that maniacal giggle making its reappearance made him shudder.
"We'll forget about it for now," he said, in what he hoped was a kindly voice. Iolaus, however, thought it sounded extremely patronising. "Just promise me you'll never ever do that again."
Iolaus purposely misunderstood. "What?" he asked. "Laugh?"
Jason glared at him.
Iolaus remembered the last time that this had happened and rubbed his hand across his sore stomach. He liked a good laugh as well as the next man (better than the next man if the next man was Jason. No sense of humour. None whatsoever!). However, even he had to admit that his last fling with laughter had been taken a little too far. Not only had it knocked him out, it had really overstretched his stomach muscles, something he could well do without with all the strenuous activity which he put his body through!
"Oh," he said, clasping his hands behind his back and lowering his head - looking for all the world like a naughty child. "You mean ..."
"Yes." Jason sighed. Heavily. How come Iolaus could make him feel like a clumsy, oversized brute? It wasn't fair! "I mean your cheating at cards."
"Cheating at cards?" A new voice entered the conversation as Hercules entered the room just in time to hear these latter words. "Iolaus? You CHEATED at cards??"
Iolaus turned to his indignant best friend, a fresh wave of laughter lurking on the horizon, and about to erupt.
Jason groaned inwardly. 'Here we go again'!
(And they all lived happily ever after ... well ... maybe ...)
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