Disclaimer: Hercules, Iolaus (Ania, Alcmene, Skouros, Dieanera, Dahak etc)all belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance (although if they were ours, we'd treat 'em a whole lot better!), and no infringement of copyright is intended.


By Cass

"Dead? I'm dead? Again?" Iolaus paced agitatedly around Limbo, pausing only briefly every now and again to glance at his friend.

Hercules nodded. "Um - yeah," he replied, reluctantly. "But it was a good
death scene, Iolaus."

The blond stopped pacing and speared the demigod with a look. "A good death scene?" he echoed, disbelievingly. "Gee, great. Thanks, Herc."

Hercules tried for noncholance and failed miserably. "It was dramatic, unexpected and full of angst." His attempt to comfort sounded false even to his ears. "You were brilliant."

The blond warrior snorted. "Well, of course I was brilliant," he said scathingly. "But they will bring me back, won't they? I mean - I'm not dead forever ... am I? Herc ...?" His words tailed off as his friend refused to meet his eyes.

"Um ... well ... "

Iolaus swallowed, hard. "Oh gods," he said, in a low voice filled with dread. There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment. "Hercules?"

"It was an amazing scene," Hercules said, pressing home the point relentlessly. "And I have to say that I gave it everything I've got as well. We really knocked everyone for six."


"But - well - we don't KNOW if you're coming back."

Another snort. "Course I'm coming back!" Iolaus attempted a confidence he certainly didn't feel in denial of his friend's hesitance. "I always come back ... Herc? I AM coming back ... aren't I?"

The demigod winced at the aching uncertainty in his best friend's voice. "I don't know, Iolaus," he admitted. "No-one knows for sure. Apparently, from rumours and speculation, you're going to return, but not as we know you - you're ... you're ..."

"I'm what?" demanded the smaller man.

"You're going to come back as my nemesis - at least that's what one of the scrolls said."

Iolaus backed away slightly, looking distinctly nervous. "Your 'Nemesis'?" he repeated. "Uh - look, Herc, I love you like a brother and all, but - um - you've already GOT a 'Nemesis' and I ... well, I'm just - you know - not into THAT kind of relationship - not with you, anyway. Now, find me a pretty girl and ..."

"No, no, not 'that' kind of Nemesis'," Hercules interjected impatiently. "A nemesis - you know, an enemy!"

The blond stared at him open-mouthed for a moment. "An enemy? Me? To you?" He shook his head. "Never happen. I could never be an enemy to you."

The demigod shrugged, helplessly. "Well, that's one of the rumours I heard. It's all to do with Dahak ..."

"Dahak? Who's Dahak?"

"He's - well, he's the most evil god or whatever that we've ever encountered and you died because of him."

"Died fighting evil, huh?" mused Iolaus. "Oh well - I guess it could be worse. At least that means for sure I'll go to the Elysian Fields. I'll get to see Ania again, maybe my father, your mother ..."

Hercules remained ominously silent.

Iolaus swallowed nervously. "Herc?" he ventured. "I will be going to the Elysian Fields - won't I?"

"Um ..."


It was the demigod's turn to swallow, past the huge lump in his throat. "Iolaus - this isn't the Elysian Fields. In fact, it's not even Hades' realm."

The hunter glanced around him. He could see for himself the truth of his friend's words but he was desperately trying to deny them. "Where - where is it then?" he asked. The knot in his stomach started to tighten.

Hercules refused to meet his gaze once again, looking anywhere but at his compact friend. The swirling mists in which they were enclosed were not exactly conducive to pleasant thoughts. "Um - well, we were in Sumaria," he said, at length.

"Sumaria?" Iolaus was well aware that he was beginning to sound like a parrot but none of this was making any sense and Hercules did not seem inclined to volunteer information by himself. "Where in Tartarus is Sumaria and why am I not going to the Elysian Fields?" A sudden dread began to overwhelm him. "Herc? What - what did I do?"

The son of Zeus watched the dawning horror on his friend's face and hastened to reassure him. "Oh no, Iolaus, no, my friend, you've done nothing wrong. You died saving Nebula, you were a hero - again. If anyone deserves to go to the Elysian Fields, then it's you. But - well, we don't know how to get you there right now."

"So I'm stuck here - wherever 'here' is?" demanded Iolaus. He grimaced as he looked around. The prospect of being 'stuck' here was not at all appealing. In fact, he was having to fight back mounting panic.

"Um - yeah ... for the time being."

"You can't bring me back?"

Hercules shook his head sadly. "Um - not at the moment," he replied. Iolaus was beginning to get quite exasperated. Hercules wouldn't volunteer information and didn't seem inclined to give him any straight answers when he did speak. "Herc, if you don't give me details in a minute, I swear - I'm gonna - I'm gonna - well, I'm gonna do SOMETHING to you. Now give!"

Hercules heaved a huge sigh. Then he launched into an explanation of events thus far - their journey to Sumaria, their meeting with Nebula, Gilgamesh and the dagger intended for the woman which had been intercepted by Iolaus and had killed him. "I tried to get you back," Hercules told his friend, with a sob in his voice. "I did everything. I even freed some trapped souls - but you weren't amongst them ... then you came to me in a cave and - well, I finally found some peace."

"That's nice for you," came the scathing reply. "And what about me, then, Herc? Where do I go from here?"

"That's the problem," the demigod said, tiredly. "No-one seems to know - not for sure. And no-one's talking."

"Including you."

"Hey! That's not fair. I've told you as much as I know myself!"

Iolaus conceded this point. "So you reckon I turn into your enemy?" he asked. His face creased into a pensive frown. "I don't understand. How could I turn into your enemy? I mean, what would possess me to do such a thing?"

"Um ... " Hercules smiled nervously. "I think 'possession' is the key word here, my friend."

Iolaus stared at him, wide-eyed with horror. "Oh, you can't POSSIBLY mean ... I don't ... I can't ... Herc, that's just not possible!"

"Well, from all the rumours and the conjecture ..."

"But that's what it is, right? Conjecture?"

"Maybe. But there is some pictorial evidence - and then there's Autolycus ..."

"Autolycus?" Iolaus echoed in a bewildered voice. "What does he have to do with this?"

"Well, according to him, you're going to undergo some kind of exorcism or last temptation ... or something."

The blond warrior snorted derisively. "You can't believe anything Autolycus tells you!" he snapped. "Herc, I thought you had more sense than that!"

"I do!" It was the demigod's turn to pace now. "It's just - well, if all this speculation is correct and you DO come back possessed and as my enemy, an exorcism would bring you back ... maybe .."

"That's a big 'maybe'."

Hercules had to admit the truth of this. "Yeah," he agreed, reluctantly. "It is. The trouble is - we don't know what happens after that - no-one knows ... and there are rumours flying around everywhere. It's upsetting a lot of people."

"I'm kind of upset myself," Iolaus pointed out, wryly. "After all, this is ME this is happening to. Did I upset someone or something?"

"I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with all those times I was off somewhere else and you were having your own adventures - maybe you were just too good at the hero stuff and someone felt that you had to go - or that they had to reassert me as the number one hero."

"And to do that they had to kill me?" Iolaus was incredulous. "Herc, you're my best friend, my brother and I would NEVER do anything to hurt you or your reputation. You know that."

The demigod slung an arm around his friend's shoulders. "I DO know that, Iolaus," he said, fondly. "I don't begrudge you the adventures you've had alone, the heroics you've shown - you ARE my hero, after all. But someone, somewhere, obviously got ticked off and they decided to teach you a lesson."

Iolaus considered this for a moment. "That's very unfair," he said, at last.

Hercules nodded. "Yes, it is," he agreed emphatically. "Hey, but apparently, Widow Twankey's coming back, and that writer fellow and the Jester ..."

"The Jester?" Iolaus interrupted him with a half-smile, which grew into a full-blown grin as he considered this new piece of information. "Herc!"


"If the Jester's coming back and I'm already supposed to be dead - then ..."

"You can't actually BE dead," Hercules finished off for him, as comprehension dawned in his mind, too. "If one dies in one universe the other dies in the alternate one."


"Unless that small fact has been forgotten ..."

Iolaus' grin disappeared as fast as it had arrived. "You sure know how to burst someone's balloon," he said, grumpily.

Hercules looked somewhat puzzled. "What's a balloon?" he asked.

"Never mind." The hunter searched around for somewhere to sit, failed to find anywhere and resumed his pacing instead. "So we have no idea what's going to happen?"

The demigod shook his head, dejectedly. "None whatsoever. Rumours and speculation, that's all we have. It's driving people crazy. It's driving ME crazy."

"I think I know how you feel," said Iolaus, feelingly. Then, "So what are we gonna do, Herc?"


"Yeah - 'do' - as in, how can we remedy this situation?"

"There's nothing much we CAN do."

The warrior stared at him in open-mouthed amazement. "I can't believe I'm hearing this," he said, in a stunned voice. "Hercules, hero of the people, doesn't know what to do to bring his best friend back! Herc ...!"

"It's breaking my heart to have you gone, Iolaus," Hercules told him in a voice filled with anguish. "I lay beside your body for three days, praying to any gods who would listen to bring you back. I refused to let them take your body away from me and I turned away from the human race because I needed you so much."

Iolaus smiled shyly. "You did?" Then, more sternly as he digested the last part of Hercules' admission, 'You DID??"

"Yeah - I did. You mean everything to me, my friend. I don't know what to do without you."

"Then why can't we bring me back?"

"Because we're fighting against something bigger than the Gods of Greece, something bigger than the Gods of Sumaria, something bigger even than Dahak."

Iolaus' eyes widened. "Wow," he breathed. "What is it?"

"T.P.T.B," said Hercules. His voice was filled with awe.

Iolaus just looked even more puzzled than before. "T.P.T.B.?" he echoed. "What's T.P.T.B.?"

"I don't know," admitted Hercules, "but they're apparently very powerful and they can do absolutely anything to you, to me, even to the Gods."

"And we can't do anything to stop them?"

"We could go on strike."

"What's that?"

"Stop working - sit there and refuse to do anything - till they relent and bring you back."

"I thought you'd already done that?" asked Iolaus. "When you refused to help mankind after I ... um ... died."

Hercules smiled ruefully. "Oh - right, yeah," he said.

"So what else can we do?"

The demigod shook his head. "I don't know, Iolaus," he replied. "But I'm not leaving you here for good. I'll do something - anything to get you back."

"And if you can't?"

"Then I'll join you."

"What - here? In - wherever this is?" Iolaus shook his head. "No, Herc, you can't do that. I won't let you. You have to go to the Elysian Fields, be with your family."

Hercules smiled and approached his friend, slinging an arm across the broad shoulders and pulling him close. "Iolaus, I understand what you're saying and it would hurt me not to be able to see my mother, my wife and my children again - but, don't you know by now? YOU'RE my family. Wherever you are, that's where I'll be. It would hurt me more to leave you and never see YOU again. Besides, I'm not leaving you alone HERE. If I can't get you back, then I'm coming here to join you and together we'll find a way to get back to where we belong in the Elysian Fields. After all, we'll have eternity and we'll be together. We can do anything together. You know what a formidable team we are."

Iolaus smiled up at his companion. "This is true," he said. "And I'll bet we beat the odds again, Herc. After all, we're unbeatable, right?"

"Monsters'r'us," Hercules reminded him, gently.


"And it won't come to that," the demigod went on. There was renewed determination in his face as he squeezed the hunter's shoulders, enjoying for the moment the living warmth of his best friend's passion for life.

"I'm gonna get you back, Iolaus. I'm not going to rest until I do. If that exorcism thing comes about then I'm going to hold on to you and never let you go - and I want you to remember that and do the same. Hold on to me and don't let go. Together we'll pull you out of this, I promise."

Iolaus nodded. He didn't trust himself to speak for the moment.

There was a long, contemplative silence, which was only broken by a the demigod's quiet voice. "You know, there IS another rumour," he said, slowly.

"What?" The hunter almost feared to know.

"Oh - about a day in our life," came the reply. "Its just ..."

"Just what?"

Hercules looked down at him, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Iolaus, my friend - how do you feel about us taking a bath together ...?"

" ...!!!!!???"


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