Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Just playing with the characters for a while.
A/N: This goes with my as yet unfinished story Love Story and follows Iolaus and Melina through a rough day in their marriage. Takes place during the episode Pride comes Before a Brawl. I used some of the lines and situations from it. They belong to Ren Pictures and the writers. I always liked that episode, but thought Iolaus should have known the girl he rescued a bit better than just some random damsel in distress. Please Read and Review! Enjoy!
"They aren't going to give up, are they?" Melina asked as she heard the dogs behind them again.
Iolaus shook his head. "It doesn't work that way," he said.
"I remember." She looked at the river in front of them. It looked snaky at best. "In the water?" Well, at least it was better than mud. Or dogs.
"Never give up," he smiled. They slipped off the dock into the river, sinking into the depths of the water as the bandits passed by them.
Melina held her breath as long as she could before resurfacing. It seemed the men had passed them over again.
"Stay here," Iolaus said. "I'll make sure that they're gone." He pushed himself out of the water and walked up the dock watching for any signs of the bandits returning. "I think they're gone," he said.
Okay, screaming was not the smartest thing to do. Mellie knew that, even as the sound was escaping from her throat. But when the serpent's head popped up inches from hers, its heavy body wrapped around her own, dragging her under the water, she couldn't help it.
Iolaus spun around when Melina screamed just in time to see the thick body of a serpent dragging her down in to the water. He dove in the water, pulling the reptile from around her, turning its attack on himself.
Melina reached the dock and watched as Iolaus disappeared under the water time after time. After a few minutes, just bubbles reached the surface. She held her breath, forcing herself not to panic and jump back in the water when he resurfaced and swam towards her.
"Is it dead?" She asked as she helped him out of the water.
He nodded. "I think so."
"Bit its eyes out," he shrugged. "Its an old hunter's trick."
"Uncle Flatus?" She asked, kissing him.
"That is the strangest man I've ever known," Mellie laughed. "But I think I love him."
"How is he supposed to die?" Hercules asked.
"Only the Gods can know that," Nemesis answered.
"Gods," he scoffed. "How?"
"An arrow," she replied, reluctantly.
"Yeah, well, not if I can help it," he said, dragging the boat ashore.
Nemesis sighed and disappeared as he went crashing through the forest. She would have to think of something to stop him. This was one time he just couldn't help them. They had to get themselves out of this mess.
Melina stopped and looked around them. They had gotten so far off the path, she was sure they would never find their way out of the forest much less to Thrace. She looked at Iolaus.
"We're not going to make it, are we? There are too many."
"We'll make it," he said, but he didn't sound as confident as he had earlier. He pulled her to him and hugged her. "We'll make it." Suddenly he pulled away, his usually energy returning with a laugh. "Mellie, I think we can beat them," he said.
He picked up a deer skull with antlers and looked it over before setting it down and pulling his bow from his shoulder. He snapped it over his knee and threw the pieces down.
"With two arrows?" she asked, incredulously.
He grinned. "Anybody can shoot arrows. A smart fighter..,"
"Uses cunning," she said with him. It was one of the principles Cheiron had drilled into them at the academy.
"Here, help me set up some traps, we'll pick them off one at a time," he said. "Got your knife?"
"That's my girl. Be ready to throw it," he said.
One by one, they took out their pretend monsters. The last had such a look of shock on his face when his 'easy prey's' knife sunk deep in his shoulder that Melina couldn't help but feel a little proud. Maybe he would think twice next time he went after a 'helpless' woman.
They stumbled out into a clearing.
"There, that cave," Iolaus said. "We can hold off an army from that cave if we have to."
"Oh, great, now to the creepy cave," Mellie snapped, but she was smiling. "Bring it on."
"Hercules, STOP!" Nemesis appeared in front of him. "You can't do this."
Hercules had been somewhat amazed at how Iolaus and Melina had managed to escape so far. A trail of traps and batter bodies lay behind them.
"You can't help him," she insisted.
"We always help each other," Hercules argued. "It's what we do."
"That's the problem. You gave him too much help and his wounded pride walked him right into this," she said. "If you interfere, he'll only go his grave hating you and your sister will spend the rest of her life blaming you. Is that what you want?"
"He would help me."
"You're not under sentence from the Gods."
Hercules looked at her with pity. She would never really get his life. "One way or another, Nemesis, I'm always under sentence from the Gods." He started past her.
"Whoa, Herc." Aphrodite materialized in front of him. "Bird Brain is right." She shushed Nemesis with a wave of her hand. "Sweetcheeks and Mellie have to work together to get themselves out this. His wounded pride had nothing to do with the brawl on the bridge. That was just the icing on the cake, so to speak. His wounded pride come from that fact that he returned home to find that she and the kids could get along just fine without him. Then Melina's, I don't know, moon cycle attitude towards him just cemented the idea that not only did she not need him, she didn't want him around. That's a bitter pill for any man to swallow. And for Mellie's part, she's worried that he'll find some hot young thing out there with you and leave her the same way Skouros left Eurthyia. Like I would let that happen, but, you know how mortal women are, always with the..."
"Aphrodite, do you have a point?" Hercules interrupted.
"Chill, I was getting to that," she replied. "Anyway, look, it's like this. You can't go crashing in there and be the big hero again."
"I'm not the..."
"Save it, Big Brother," she interrupted. "Don't pretend you don't know that's how most of Greece sees you. I know you don't ask for it, but that's just how it is and you know it. What Bird Brain doesn't know is that this 'job' of hers isn't to kill Iolaus. He'll be selfless and humble just in time, like always. The point is to separate you two. Without Iolaus at your at your back, it'll be easier for some mortal to take you out without disrupting Zeus' decree that Hera can't kill you."
"Seems like all the more reason to go after them," Hercules said, tired of listening to them while his sister and best friend were fighting for their lives.
"Do that and you'll be playing right into HorseFace Hera's hands."
"Aren't you listening?" She demanded. "Nemesis told you. Pride."
Nemesis prickled at being called Bird Brain and she certainly didn't like Aphrodite interfering with her job, but she had to admit, Hercules was listening to her.
"I know this isn't what you want to hear, but if you go down there, you'll ruin everything for everyone," Aphrodite said.
"Everything? Really?" He scoffed.
"Yes. You really don't get it, do you? To the whole world, or at least all of Greece, you are the hero. You are the one everyone runs for and Iolaus, he just get drug alone for the ride. Most people don't even remember his name but he keeps going with you. Risking his life for them and playing second fiddle to you, because to Melina, HE is the hero and you are just the dumb brother. If you go rushing down there to save them, you'll take that away from him and he will hate you for that," Aphrodite explained.
Hercules considered her words for a moment. He didn't like that there was nothing he could do to help, but her words made sense. "I can't just sit by and watch them die. I would help strangers, surely my family deserves no less." He said, quietly.
"Tell me about it," Aphrodite commiserated. "Don't you think I'd love to just zap them out of there and to Thrace? But that won't help them. Mellie needs remember that he is her hero and he needs her to see him that way. Sounds hokey, I know, but that's just the way it is."
A scream sent them to running to the edge of the cliff. They could see the cave below them and Rankor headed towards it.
"What is that?!" Melina asked, watching the Hydra surface from its pit.
"That, my dear, is a Hydra," Iolaus answered.
"Well, you've killed one of those before, right?" She asked, nervously.
"Yeah." He replied. "Of course, I was with Hercules. We killed it together."
"Okay, so cut its head off."
"Can't. It'll just grow two more," he explained.
"How did you kill it then?" She asked.
"We don't have a fire."
"I noticed that, too, Mellie."
"How do we kill it then, Smartypants?"
"We just keep moving until something brilliant comes along," he replied, trying to lead it away from her, taunting it with the sword he'd retrieved from one of the bandits.
Mellie felt something touched her shoulder. She spun around, expecting an attack only to see moss hanging from some roots growing through the cave roof. Moss! Of course! She'd seen Iphicles use it to start fires when they were little. She hadn't thought of that in years. She quickly gathered up as much as she could reach, pulling it down. Then she ripped some materiel from her skirt and wrapped it around what she hoped wasn't a human bone like she thought it was. Once she had the moss burning, she'd have to hurry and light the make shift torch before it burned out. She picked up a rock and started striking it against a large one.
"What are you doing?" Iolaus called from the corner he'd led the hydra to.
"Lighting you a fire," she replied with determination. After another few strikes, sparks finally fell on the moss, setting it ablaze. She quickly lit the torch and held it out, causing the Hydra to retreat to its pit in fear.
"You're a genius!" Iolaus exclaimed, making his way over to her. "How did you know how to do that?"
"Iphicles used to use moss to start fires when it was raining and the wood was wet," she explained. "He said our grandfather taught him."
"How did he know?"
Mellie started laughing. "He was a hunter."
Their laughter was short lived as they heard Rankor entering the cave.
"How long will the torch burn?" Iolaus asked.
"Not long," she admitted.
"Okay. When I tell you to, I want you to run for the entrance," he said.
"I won't leave you."
"You will if you want both of us to make it out of here alive," he responded. "Trust me, Mellie. I'll be right behind you."
She took a deep breath and nodded.
"Hey, Stupid," he yelled at Rankor. "There's no Hydra in here. I guess you'll have to try and kill us yourself."
"With pleasure," Rankor replied, lunging at Iolaus with his sword.
"Mellie, RUN!" Iolaus led Rankor towards the back of the cave.
With one last look at the duelers, Melina ran for the entrance.
Iolaus picked up the torch and threw it in the pit as he sprinted towards the entrance. Rankor's screams filled the air as the Hydra appeared from it's hole.
Iolaus stumbled into Mellie, causing both of them to tumble down the hill.
"That guy sure is a hard learner," Iolaus remarked, looking down at Mellie. "So," He grinned. "Are you going to keep your promise?"
"What promise?" She feigned confusion.
"You said there would be something for me if I rescued us," he smirked.
"Oh, that wasn't a promise. That was a joke," she teased, but she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him to her. "Don't you know the difference?"
"Now that's a joke," he laughed, leaning down to kiss her.
"See?" Aphrodite said from where she and Hercules was standing. "Everything is okay. They're fine. Actually, they're more than fine. They're back to being themselves."
"Yeah, I guess," Hercules replied, giving her a begrudging smile. "Come on." He pulled her away from the cliff's edge. "I have to get Thrace. I have a hundred dinars to collect."
"Oh, my guess is you have hours," Aphrodite laughed, her voice dripping with innuendo.
Hercules gave her a playful shove. He had to admit, of all his "Olympian" siblings, she was his favorite, even when she was being a colossal pain in the behind.
"Awww...," she laughed. "Is little Hercules still to shy to talk about sex?"
"It's been my experience, that those who have to talk about it all the times are usually the ones who aren't getting it," he replied.
"Oooh, that was almost insulting," she replied. "Bye-bye." She disappeared in a shower of gold sparks.