Abandon All Hope
It was a crisp, cloudy morning the third night after the half god and his usually charismatic best friend had fought to save the world from Michael, a leader of the Light, men and women, who died and now look over the world, punishing the wicked and blessing those that lead a righteous life, and the four horsemen. Three nights passed since Michael had granted Hercules his greatest desire for his willingness to die for the sake of the world and Iolaus his life back for his willingness to sacrifice his soul for the same cause.
Iolaus had asked that he and Hercules travel to Thrace to do some fishing and over the last few nights, as Hercules was just happy to have his best friend alive again and back by his side, the son of Zeus had failed to notice that he was having a difficult time readjusting to life after returning from the dead, as he kept the nightmares and fears from his time of being possessed by Dahak hidden beneath a mask of energy and humor.
After leaving Thrace and beginning their long walk through the forests outside of the city, Hercules looked over at Iolaus as he asked, "So, where to now?"
The shorter man answered casually, "I don't know. Why don't you just pick? I'm just happy to have gotten a little fishing in again. It feels like it's been forever. Maybe the next city we visit will have plenty of women."
"Yeah, that would be great, for you I mean," Hercules replied quietly, not really sure when the best time would be to bring up the fact that he had gone fishing not too long ago with the Iolaus from the alternate world, not really sure if he should bring up that he had invited the duplicate of his friend to become his partner for a time at all, as he thought that Iolaus might think he had tried to replace him. "Perhaps we could go to Corinth. I think both Jason and Iphicles would be happy to see you again. I wrote them to let them know that your back."
"I'd like to see them again too, but… We can meet them in Athens or Lechaio even," Iolaus responded nervously. "There are lots of beautiful women in Athens. I think we all could use some company, if you know what I mean."
Hercules looked at his friend skeptically as he asked, "What's wrong with visiting Corinth? What's going on, Iolaus?"
Iolaus looked up at his friend and answered, "Nothing, it's just… I really think that it would better if they came out to meet up with us."
"Come on, I know there's more to it than that," Hercules replied as he stopped walking and turned to face him. "I know now that you've been, well a little less yourself. I've ignored it until now because I am just glad to have you back and I thought that it was nothing, but obviously I was wrong. Talk to me."
"Look, I… Hercules, I just don't think it's a good idea for me to go back into Corinth," Iolaus responded sadly. "In case you don't recall, the last time I was there I tried to… I tried to make them my slaves basically through force and under the penalty of death so that I could eventually take over the world. I even managed to scare all of the gods into another world, remember?"
Hercules felt like an idiot for not realizing Iolaus felt this way sooner and after taking a few moments to think, he finally spoke up again saying, "I can't believe it. I am the worst friend ever. I'm sorry."
Iolaus looked back at Hercules in surprise as he said, "What? No, Hercules, you're not a bad friend. I didn't want to say anything. I didn't want to bother you with something so trivial. I'm fine, really."
"Obviously not if you're afraid to go back to your own home," Hercules answered as he crossed his arms in disbelief. "And your fears are not in any way trivial."
"I'm not afraid, I just think that it would be best not to go back," Iolaus replied casually. "Corinth wasn't much of a home for me anyway. I mean, I didn't really have a family and you, Jason, and Iphicles were who were important to the people. I was just a thief and I was okay with that."
Hercules responded, "I thought we've been over this, Iolaus, you were more than a thief and are more than just my sidekick. Despite what people say, or don't say, you're as much of a hero as I am, as Jason and Iphicles are, and as for what happened after you died, it was all Dahak, not you, but it was because of you that Dahak was destroyed and the world became safe again."
Iolaus shrugged and then spoke again saying, "If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have been able to fight him. I was so ashamed for giving into him and betraying you, I felt that I deserved to suffer while he did all of those terrible things. I remember everything, Hercules. I felt their pain and saw the fear on their faces as I threatened them and then killed those that refused to comply. I remember it all whenever I close my eyes, in my nightmares. I may not have been the one that did it, but it was because of me that Dahak was able to and as far as the people of Corinth, as well as all the people in the other cities I tormented, it was me."
"They all know who you are, Iolaus," Hercules continued to protest.
"Maybe some of them," the shorter man answered. "I know you, Iphicles, Jason, and a few more may forgive me, but I doubt the rest will. I don't think I would be welcome back in Corinth, Hercules, and I think you know that."
Hercules shook his head in disagreement as he replied, "You'll never know that if you don't try, Iolaus. I think you'd be surprised by how understanding and forgiving our people can be. Who knows, maybe they won't even notice you at all."
Iolaus let out a small chuckle as he responded, "Very funny. Now you're just mocking me."
"Maybe a little," Hercules said with a smile. "So, what do you say? Are you willing to come with me back home?"
"Fine, maybe you're right," Iolaus answered, still unsure if he was making the right decision. "I would like to see our friends again."
As they finally continued on in their journey, now toward Corinth, Hercules and Iolaus began to joke and bicker back and forth as they always did. Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched from afar up upon a hill above them by a shadowy figure, who smiled as she observed the two friends' conversation moments before and now as they walked away toward the great city. It was thanks to their talk that she now knew the perfect plan to accomplish what she's already tried to do once, but failed; the perfect plan to destroy Hercules.