disclaimer: All things Hercules/Xena belong to Bob Tapert, Renaissance Pix, MCA et al. dragon is just having a little fun and intends no copyright infringement. non profit, strictly for entertainment value.

time: A very long time ago when the gods were annoying

place: here, there, Piraeus

spoilers: I don't remember. dragon searches sieve she uses for memory storage if you haven't seen season's one and two, maybe.

synopsis: Salmoneus finds a mysterious woman, falls in love, Hercules and Iolaus discover assassins aren't always nasty and Ares discovers university life can be - uh - annoying.

Breland Hall is the Humanities home building on the NMSU campus and is being borrowed with little or no regard for reality. g

all typos and errors are the property of the writer. if i had a beta reader, would this see the light of day? comments gratefully received. flames will be doused.

Salmonean Love Song 1

It was a fine, crisp fall day as Salmoneus walked down a little used path toward the next town. He was mulling over all the schemes he had tried to get a little forward in life, to set by a nest egg for his later years, to become rich and famous in as short a time as possible. So far, none of them had been as successful as he wanted. Gambling was unreliable, real estate had not panned out as he had hoped, nor had his toga sales. The world just didn't seem to be ready to wander about in yards and yards of beautiful cloth. He had to admit, that the thing wasn't really all that comfortable and seemed better suited to a life of leisure than one where a person had to work for a living. Even he had eventually given up on the garment in favor of a more versatile and easier to get untangled from robe.

Still, there had to be something. Something that wouldn't turn out to be cursed by a goddess, or immured in the ground, which was apt to cave in; something - A groan interrupted his thought processes. He stopped and listened. Something was moving in the brush just up the hill from him. Great. On top of not having a single profitable idea, he was about to encounter something uncomfortable.

"Hello," he called out, hoping it was just a passing rabbit, or something equally harmless. The underbrush rustled again. "Uh - look, I'm just passing through the area on my way to - " Where was he headed? For the moment he couldn't think of anything but Thrace and that was back the way he had come. "I'm friends with Hercules," he announced. "And he's not happy when people pick on me."

A slender, very dirty hand wrapped itself around a tree trunk about 10 feet away from him. The owner applied some force and came to her feet behind the tree. She oriented on his voice and finally looked around the trunk at Salmoneus. Eyes like the sea after a storm blinked at him in a dirty pale face. A smear of blood traced from temple to jaw line. She frowned at him as though trying to find something familiar in his face as she stepped out from behind the tree.

The ground sloped toward him, loose gravel proved treacherous underfoot and she managed a standing slide down into his arms. Instinctively Salmoneus caught her, realized he was holding a naked lady and gently moved back to arm's length, while helping her retain her balance.

She blinked at him and frowned again. Freeing one arm from his grasp she gently traced the line of what he considered his distinguished beard with a gentle finger. "Who?"

"Salmoneus."

"Salmoneus," she repeated, her accent strange but not unpleasing to the ear.

"And you are?" He felt a fool responding like this, but her unclad condition didn't seem to bother her and he didn't feel it was his place to mention it.

She frowned in thought then met his gaze. "I don't know." She shivered as a breeze sprang up around them.

"Here." He swiftly took off his over tunic and wrapped it around her. It would need washing, but she needed it more than he did.

She fingered the fabric as though she'd never felt it before. Maybe she hadn't. Though given the apparent head wound she'd suffered and her inability to come up with a name, he suspected she was suffering from amnesia and only temporarily didn't remember what that sort of fabric felt like. The head wound coupled with her state of undress made him suddenly uneasy. He hadn't heard about any bandits in the area when he was passing through the last town, but that didn't mean there weren't any. He took a swift look around. When he came back to her, she was looking at him curiously. "Maybe we should keep moving."

"All right," she agreed.

They walked in silence for a few minutes. "Salmoneus."

"Yes?"

"What is a Hercules?"

"What?" He focused his attention on her.

"You said Hercules was your friend."

"He's a who, not a what," Salmoneus corrected gently.

"Oh. OK. Who's Hercules?"

"You really don't know?" She really did have amnesia if she didn't know who Herculese was.

"I don't seem to know a great deal," she pointed out irritably with a sharp turn of her head. She seemed about to lose her balance, a look of pain crossing her face.

"It's all right. You don't look too good. There's a town close to the other side of this woods. We can stop there. Maybe someone there knows you." This was not as happy a thought as it could have been. True, he was really just offering his help to the woman, but she was wearing his tunic and looking battered and if she was one of the town's daughters, it looked nowhere near as good as it could have. He realized that his thoughts were defensively jumbled. He hadn't done anything. Still, he was nervous as they walked out of the woods and into the late afternoon sun.

She stopped to look at the view. That was encouraging. He watched her face. No, it wasn't encouraging. She was admiring the view, which was quite lovely, but not as someone who had seen it before. She looked at him and smiled. Even through the dirt she was beautiful. She looked on past him to the village nestled in the valley not far from them.

"Is that the town?" she asked.

"Yes. You really don't remember anything, do you?"

"No. Well, I remember that you're Salmoneus and that you have a friend named Hercules. And that the path we've been on runs southwest, to judge by the sun. And that you're very kind to someone you don't know," she clarified with a smile.

He didn't quite know how to respond to this, so he set off toward the town again. He wasn't certain if his luck was in or out when no one seemed to recognize the woman with him. She garnered some interest, but most of it was male and not the sort that said she was related to someone.

He left her outside the tavern while he made inquiries as to rooms and the availability of bathing facilities, if any. Having obtained the information he wanted, he was just leaving the tavern when a body came flying past the door. Was Hercules in town and he hadn't noticed? He took a cautious look outside. His rescuee was objecting to the attentions of a trio of local bad boys. What looked like a no longer combatant Number 4 was lying in a pile of manure oblivious to the continuing fight. Numbers 2 and 3 discovered just how hard the walls of the tavern were as Salmoneus stared dumbfounded. Number 1 pulled a nasty looking knife. His rescuee altered her stance slightly. Her attitude was not one of fear. Not that her opponent seemed concerned about her readiness to do battle.

The combatants circled each other for a long minute before he made his move. Her moves were a blur that left her holding the knife and the man in a grip that left his throat exposed to the blade. Something in the odd blankness in her eyes brought a sound of protest from Salmoneus.

The knife stopped, a bead of blood reddening its tip where it touched the man's skin. She was going to cut his throat. The response looked automatic. She looked at Salmoneus curiously, then down into the face of the man she held. The inhumanly untouched look softened. She released her attacker into the dirt of the street and moved to meet Salmoneus. The man she had left behind her was no longer of any concern. The knife vanished into the folds of the tunic.

"I found a bath," he found himself saying inanely. Why did every beautiful woman he ran into these days have to be a warrior?

"A bath."

"For getting clean?"

She looked at her hands and arms, then at him. "More dirt than skin," she murmured. "Lead on."

The bath was a wooden tub filled with hot water at Salmoneus' insistence. Cold baths gave him the shudders just thinking about them. With that fascinating lack of self-consciousness, she dropped the tunic and stepped into the bath, lowering herself into the heated water with practiced ease. He retrieved his tunic. The knife hit the floor with a clang. Salmoneus swept it up with a swift look around. The woman was submerged in the water. She slowly pulled her head back out a moment later with a lazy smile curving her lips. She rinsed dirt off her face and body, working at the worst places with experienced fingers.

"What do you use to clean hair?" she asked, breaking the silence.

"Here." He handed her a cup with something fragrant in the bottom of it.

She sniffed the fragrance, then dipped a finger in and explored the feel of the liquid. It made bubbles. She washed her hair. Whatever the stuff was, her hair felt clean and silky when she was finished. Salmoneus held a thick length of fabric for her as she emerged from her bath. He tried not to notice how translucent her pale skin was, how her body curved from breast to hip, how long her legs were or how scarred most of her back was. The scars disturbed him. One on her side looked relatively new, although healed.

"We probably ought to get someone to look at that head wound."

"What?"

"The sore place on your head."

She reached up to touch where it was sore. "I think it's OK."

"But you can't remember anything."

She smiled at him in a manner that tried to turn his bones to putty. "I'm not worried about it."

"You're not?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because I can protect myself, which means that whoever inflicted this damage is probably much worse off. Because I am not uncomfortable without the knowledge. And because I'm with you. For now."

"For now?"

"Well, until you have to go."

"Tomorrow."

"So soon?"

"Well - I - You could come with me." What was he saying? He had no idea who she was. He knew she was dangerous, the louts in the street had proved that. He had seen the death of the man in her face until he had objected. Well, that argued she could be reasonable. But for how long?

He had been concentrating on his thoughts which were suddenly disturbed by her standing right in front of him wrapped only in a length of fabric which was wet and doing very little to conceal what he'd already seen. He tore his gaze away from the enticing view, spoke to himself sternly in the privacy of his own mind and made the mistake of looking into a pair of warm, grey-blue eyes. He could lose himself in those eyes so easily. He looked away.

"Clothes. You need clothes," he burbled, yanking his mind back to the problems at hand.

"This won't do?" She gestured to the length she was using to get dry.

"Uh - no. I'll be back. I'll bring food."

Like a scared rabbit he bolted from the room. She watched him go wondering what she was doing that kept scaring him. She could sense his attraction to her. She liked the look that came into his eyes when he watched her. She ran her fingers through her shoulder length deep red hair and wondered what she was doing wrong. The man, Salmoneus, she reminded herself, was nearly middle aged from his looks; his beard still dark but his head hair graying out. He was a little plump, but obviously in good shape considering the walk through the woods and into the town. His smile lit his eyes and that appealed to her. And he was thoughtful. He had been more concerned with her health than her nakedness when they met. The quartet in front of the tavern would have had no such concerns.

She thought about that encounter, flexing her hands and stretching thoughtfully. She had reacted with no thought at all to what she had seen as an attack. She was gong to cut the throat of the one she held when Salmoneus protested. A dead enemy was one about which she did not have to worry in the future. Yet Salmoneus' obvious distress stopped her hand. The man she held was a fool, not an enemy. The knife had felt right in her hand. She looked around for it and smiled as she realized that Salmoneus had removed it. He was oddly gentle for someone who spent a lot of time out and about the countryside.

For a fraction of a moment she saw another face, strong yet gentle. Blinding pain behind her eyes shattered the image. She was on her knees holding her head as though she feared it would explode when Salmoneus came back burbling with her new clothes. He dropped the clothing as he hurried to help her.

"What's wrong?" He stopped short of touching her, fearing it would cause more pain.

She took a long shuddering breath and reached out for him. He folded her in his arms as he helped her up. Tears streaked her face and her breath came in ragged gasps. She shook her head against him wordlessly as the pain eased. "A face," she whispered into his shoulder. "A memory and then - "

"It's all right," he muttered senselessly to the back of her head as he held her and stroked the silken hair. "Don't try to remember. Not now. Let yourself heal for a while."

"Take me with you. Please."

He looked into her still tear filled eyes and could not deny her. He nodded his assent. She took another long shuddery breath and leaned into him, holding on as though he was the solid center of her world. He looked around the room for a moment as though trying to find some reason in all this. He settled for being held by and holding onto the woman in his arms. He had to admit, that even if he wasn't the most dependable world center in the universe, it felt good. And it felt right.

Salmoneus awoke to a balmy morning and a sense that he was alone. He looked around to the bed where his - his what? His mind boggled as he tried to figure out what to call the woman he had rescued. His rescuee? Sounded idiotic and he couldn't keep calling her that, anyway. Of course, since she wasn't there, maybe it wasn't a problem.

The door to the room opened and she came in. A warm smile lit his face as he saw her. He just couldn't help smiling at her. She smiled back. Suddenly he was very warm. She held a basket in her arms.

"I got breakfast. Of course, I'm not exactly certain what you like so you can go augment it if you like." She set the basket down. There was a choice of fresh, ripe fruit, bread and some cheese. It smelled good since the bread was still warm.

"It looks wonderful. You didn't have to -"

"I know. But I wanted to look at the town in the daylight."

"No luck, huh?"

"No. Nothing familiar. No faces that look like I might know them. And no one suddenly recognizing me. So, I would say that I'm not from around here."

"Then we'll travel and see if we find someplace that is familiar."

She nodded her agreement as she bit into a juicy piece of fruit. After a moment's consideration she swallowed and looked at him seriously again. "We have a problem."

"We do? What's that?" He sounded and felt nervous. Problems were so frequently unreasonable human beings.

"We need to find me a name."

He relaxed and snagged a piece of fruit and some bread. "OK. Anything you like?"

"I don't know."

"Oh. Phoebe? No." She just didn't look like a Phoebe. A Nemesis, maybe. But there was already a very beautiful lady who bore that name, as he understood it, and she might take exception to someone else borrowing it. Lila? No. Too reminiscent of a centaur's lady he had met. Unfortunately, every name he could think of had someone attached to it, memories of whom were either uncomfortable or too difficult for him to deal with having another of the same name around. "Callisto -" he muttered under his breath.

"I don't think I want to share a name with a crazy demi-god."

"What? Oh, no. I can see that. It's just -"

"Can't find one you like?"

"No."

"OK. How about Red?"

He grinned. He knew where the idea came from, her hair shown like polished iron ore in the sun. "Too mundane. Ariana."

"Ariana?"

"Yeah. I don't know anyone named Ariana."

"Ariana. I like it." They smiled at each other in agreement. "On the other hand-" she looked down at the long figure-hugging gown she wore. "This skirt has got to go."

"But - I mean -"

"It's OK. It's pretty. And it fits. But it hampers movement."

"You like leather?"

"Leather?"

"Yeah. Like - like a warrior's garb."

She considered for a moment. "No. I don't think so. I mean, it's protective, but - no. Just shorter and not so tight."

"I think we can work that out."