Things Have Changed

Author's Note: No copyright infringement intended with this little, non-profiting story.

Now I've found my way around
Get my feet back on the ground, but darlin'
Things have changed

"Things Have Changed" - Pete Townshend

Hercules rarely ever used all of his strength. It was a leftover quirk from his childhood. Desperate not to be the “freak” that the other kids had labeled him, he used to check his strength to try and appear more normal. Later, as he grew, he kept holding back out of fear that he might really hurt someone unintentionally. And, in most situations, his full strength was not really required to get the job done. Sure, in the case of Hera’s homicidal monsters or natural disasters gone awry the demigod felt justified in cutting loose. But he generally preferred to restrain himself while performing menial tasks.

Yet, once in awhile Hercules took pleasure in just letting go and putting everything he had into the job. Times like these, when he was alone, there was something satisfying in demonstrating his power. Tossing his axe aside, the demigod flexed his muscles a few times as he sized up the tree before him. Taking a deep breath, he wrapped his arms around the trunk and gave a mighty heave, pulling the massive tree up from the ground by its roots. With a loud grunt, the demigod let it fall, grinning slightly as it crashed to the ground. His pride in his exertion was quickly quelled by the sound of applause from behind him.

“Show off,” Iolaus teased, coming up to stand beside his friend next to the gaping hole in the yard.

“Well,” the demigod explained, a bit embarrassed. “This way we don’t have to dig up the stump.”

“No, we just have to fill in a hole that probably goes all the way down into the underworld.”

“How’s Elissa?” Hercules asked, brushing off his hands before taking a drink from his waterskin.

“She’s ok,” the hunter replied, a bit too quickly.

“She yelled at you, didn’t she?” The demigod couldn’t hold back a smirk.

“Yeah,” Iolaus admitted shamefacedly.

“I warned you not to go in there.”

“I was just trying to make sure she was all right,” Iolaus protested. “And all I said was that I didn’t know morning sickness lasted all day, and she bit my head off.”

Hercules winced at his partner’s choice of words, well able to guess from experience how Elissa would have reacted to him.

“Take my advice, buddy,” he offered. “Just don’t talk for the next month or two. Trust me, you’ll be better off.”

“Another month or two?” Iolaus sighed heavily. He wasn’t used to his normally sweet wife snapping at him.

“After that the mood swings will settle down,” Hercules promised his friend. “Of course, then it all starts again towards the end of the pregnancy.”

“Sounds like a good time to plan a prolonged fishing trip,” Iolaus muttered, but he was only joking. He really couldn’t fault Elissa for being irritable. Her pregnancy had brought on a severe case of morning sickness, and she had been plagued by nausea and vomiting day and night. She had been feeling so badly that the trio had left Athens a few days early, as the healer had no desire to stay and finish out the symposium. The trip back to Acheron had been hard on her, but Elissa had really wanted to just go home.

“I’m just worried about her,” the hunter continued. “Last time, when she lost the baby, she wasn’t sick at all. This time... She keeps telling me that its normal, but I just don’t see how it can be.”

“I know you hate seeing her like this,” Hercules consoled him. “But you have to trust Elissa. If she’s says she’s ok, then she is. Everything’s going to be all right. You’ll see.”

“I hope so,” Iolaus said quietly. “I really don’t think she could take losing another one.”

“Come on,” the demigod told his friend. “Let’s get back to work. It’ll take your mind off things.”

They had started clearing a space beside the great stone house in order to build a forge. Hercules had been saddened when Iolaus had told him of these plans, because he knew it meant that his friend was beginning to sink his roots firmly into his home and family. Much like the tree that the demigod had strained to pull up, Iolaus would be tightly anchored here, and his days of carefree adventuring with his partner were numbered. Hercules had known that this day would come ever since he had first seen Iolaus with Elissa, and he had been dreading it for years. But it was inevitable, and he knew he could not deny the brother of his heart the loving home that he deserved.

Iolaus had always struggled with the guilt he felt over not being a better provider for his wife. Now, with a baby on the horizon, the hunter distinctly felt the weight of responsibility. He wanted to give his family a comfortable home. Having grown up with nothing, Iolaus vowed that his child would not know the stings of hunger and cold like he had. He knew better than anyone that settling down meant an ending of his life on the road with Hercules, and that was a very difficult thing for him to give up. But his family needed him, and he was finally able to admit to himself that he needed a stable home and family, more than he needed adventure. Iolaus was growing older, and gaining a new maturity in the process. He was no longer a wide eyed kid, full of a restless hunger for all the adventure life had to offer. Now he was a man, one who had experienced life’s dizzying highs and bottomless lows. A man with a wife and a baby on the way, and he was contented with that.

The hunter explained all this to Hercules, who had looked at him sadly but he’d understood. He offered his support and agreed to help his friend build the forge that would provide him with his income. And although it remained unspoken, a distinct message passed between the two friends. Even though Iolaus was settling down, they would still remain partners. If either of them needed the other, he would be there in an instant. While they wouldn’t always be together, their hearts would never be apart. They were family, they were brothers, and the love they had for each other would never wane. All this was relayed with a quick glance. It didn’t need to be spoken out loud by the two warriors that shared a bond which transcended words. It was interpreted and understood by their souls.

The afternoon passed by quickly as the partners poured themselves into their labor. By the time the sun began to dip in the sky, they had cleared a suitable parcel of land and had evened out the ground. They were ready to begin construction of the forge, but they were finished working for the day. Pausing to clean up at the rain barrel, Hercules and Iolaus entered the great stone house and surveyed the kitchen. Their good natured squabbling over who would be cooking the evening meal was interrupted by a knock on the door. Iolaus answered it, and soon returned with a scroll in his hand.

It’s for Elissa,” he explained, eyes darting over the message. “But I don’t think I should tell her.”

“Tell me what?”

Iolaus jumped as he heard the healer’s voice behind him. He turned around to see her standing in the doorway, and he realized he was caught.

“This message came for you,” he admitted, handing her the scroll. “It’s from Eustria. Apparently there’s an epidemic sweeping through the village and they’re asking for your help.”

“I’ll leave first thing in the morning,” the healer declared, scanning the message quickly.

“Elissa, you can’t be serious,” the hunter demanded.

“Why not?”

“Look at you. You’re in no shape to travel.”

“Iolaus, these people need my help. I can’t just stand back and let them die.”

“How are you going to help them in your condition?” the hunter protested.

“My condition? I’m pregnant, Iolaus. I’m not incapacitated.”

“You haven’t eaten anything in the past two days,” he accused. “And you’ve barely left the house since we got back from Athens.”

“I’ll be all right,” the healer insisted.

“Elissa, you have to start taking care of yourself. What would happen if you came down with this epidemic? What would happen to the baby?”

“I’ve thought about that,” the girl replied quietly. “But being a healer means having certain obligations. I can’t refuse to help people for selfish reasons. There’s a village that needs me, and I can’t just ignore that. I have to take my chances.”

“I don’t think you should go,” the hunter declared.

“Is that an order?” Elissa asked evenly.

“Of course its not an order,” Iolaus said exasperatedly. “It’s a concern.” He met his wife’s green eyes and held her gaze for a moment before turning to Hercules with a sigh. “Feel like going to Eustria?”

“Sure,” the demigod agreed quickly. “I’d be glad to help.”

“And you think I’m stubborn,” the hunter muttered.

Eustria was basically a neighboring village of Acheron. The journey was not a long one, but it proved difficult for the healer. She started out on horseback, wisely deciding to ride the steady Chestnut over the more spirited gait of her usual mount, Boreas. But even though it was steady, the motion of Chestnut’s stride only aggravated the morning sickness plaguing her. Walking was no better, as she fatigued quickly and couldn’t seem to summon the energy to go on. Iolaus wanted to reproach his wife, but he held his tongue and instead helped her along as much as he could. While he still didn’t approve of her making the trip, he had let the matter drop, thanks to Hercules pointing out to him all of the occasions where he had forgone good judgment and had pressed on while not at his best. Even though Iolaus couldn’t criticize the healer for her stubbornness, he couldn’t help worrying about her.

When the trio finally arrived in Eustria, they were dismayed to discover that virtually the entire town had been stricken by illness. Every man, woman, and child was displaying symptoms, but fortunately there hadn’t been any fatalities so far. The village was small, and the largest building they could find was a temple to the gods. Hercules, never one for divine reverence, immediately cleared the altar of offerings and carried the structure outside, to make more room. Iolaus lit a fire and doused the incense that was burning, opening the temple doors to clear the air of the heavy perfume. Elissa gave them instructions to start bringing the stricken villagers to the converted care facility, in order to try and contain the epidemic as much as possible. Iolaus watched with concern as the healer rushed off, but he resisted the urge to follow her and he, along with the demigod, left to obey her orders.

Elissa wearily made her way to some nearby bushes and crouched behind them, doubled over painfully as she waited for the spasms to pass. As sick as she was, she found it reassuring, to a degree. The last time she had been pregnant, she had felt fine, and had ended up losing the baby. In a strange sort of way, these annoying symptoms plaguing her seemed to be nature’s way of telling her that everything was going well this time. At least, she hoped that’s what it meant.

With a heavy sigh, the healer rose when she was able and ran a hand through her hair. Nature or not, she had to get the morning sickness under control or she wouldn’t be of any use to the poor people of Eustria. As they had entered the village, they had passed by a spring trickling next to the road. Elissa returned to it, and was rewarded to find what she hoped would be a cure for her nausea. Plucking a few wrinkled mint leaves, she crushed them between her fingers and dropped them into her waterskin before filling it up at the spring. Cautiously, she took a small sip of the flavored water, and desperately prayed that it would stay down. The healer was completely exhausted and wanted nothing more than to lie down in the heather next to the gurgling water and sleep, but she turned and headed back to the temple in the village.

“This is the last of them,” Iolaus announced, coming through the door with a small boy in his arms. Hercules followed, carrying the child’s mother while simultaneously trying to support the father, who was walking.

The temple had become crowded very quickly. Bodies of villagers littered the floor, and they were hard put to find room for the newest arrivals. Elissa moved among the people, offering comfort as she attempted to assess the individuals. They were all ill and in pain, but luckily the epidemic didn’t appear to be life threatening.

“Hercules, I need more water,” the healer stated, approaching the two heroes. The demigod hurried off to fulfill her request, but Iolaus moved to take his wife in his arms.

“How are you doing?” he whispered in her ear.

“I’m all right,” she lied. Elissa was pale and fatigued and the mint hadn’t been working as well as she’d hoped. Iolaus saw right through her, but instead of chastising her he merely hugged her tightly and offered her love and support.

“What do you think this is?” he asked, when he had reluctantly let her go.

“I’m not sure,” the healer replied, a small frown of confusion furrowing her brow. “This isn’t like any kind of plague I’ve ever seen before...”

“You’ll figure it out,” the hunter said with confidence. “I’m going to go help Hercules. You’ll be ok?” Elissa nodded, and Iolaus squeezed her hand and flashed her a warm smile before he left. The healer found herself wishing she shared his confidence.


The healer groaned a protest, but she obligingly opened her eyes. It had been such a sweet relief to curl up and become lost to oblivion that she was extremely reluctant to end it. Blinking in the light of the fire, Elissa yawned and pulled herself in a sitting position to meet Hercules’ worried gaze.

“What is it?” she asked, becoming immediately awake.

“Iolaus,” the demigod said worriedly. “I think he’s got it.”

“That’s impossible.” The healer struggled to her feet, aided by Hercules, who pointed to the corner of the temple where Iolaus was slumped against the wall. Elissa carefully moved around the prone forms on the floor until she reached her husband, kneeling down in front of him.

“I’m all right,” he grumbled, shooting an accusing look at Hercules. But as he had seen through his wife earlier in the day, she now saw through him. Iolaus was pale and there was a slight tinge of pain in the depths of his blue eyes.

“Why don’t we find a spot where you can rest?” she suggested gently.

“No,” the hunter insisted. “I’m ok. I want to help.”

“He threw up twice,” Hercules volunteered, getting another glare from his partner.

“Come on, Iolaus,” Elissa coaxed. “Come with me, and lie down for awhile.”

If there was one thing the hunter hated, it was to admit defeat. He loathed giving in, and for him to acknowledge that he had succumbed to illness was like being defeated. But he couldn’t ignore Elissa’s pleas, and finally agreed to her ministrations. She did her best to make him comfortable, and as Iolaus finally fell into a restless sleep, she turned to the demigod.

“Hercules, we’ve only been here about half a day. He couldn’t have caught the illness that quickly,” she whispered desperately. But the demigod had no answers for her, his worried eyes reflecting the same helplessness that shone from her own.

“I’ll go get some more water,” he offered, gathering the large barrel from the corner and heading out to the well in the center of the village. Elissa looked down at her sleeping husband as he moaned softly. A nagging voice in the back of her mind was warning her that something was very wrong with this situation, and for Iolaus’ sake, she hoped she could figure it out before it was too late.

Elissa knelt by the spring, taking a handful of the cold water to splash over her face. Three days had passed since they had come to Eustria, and she was more confused than ever. The villagers were getting worse, and nothing she tried seemed to be helping. They were wracked with stomach pain and vomiting, too dizzy to stand, and showing signs of delirium, but without a telltale fever. Three older people had died, and the healer felt completely helpless.

Blinking back tears welling in her green eyes, she vowed not to let them fall. Crying wasn’t going to help anything. Taking a deep breath, she added more of the mint to her waterskin and filled it, wondering why she was bothering, since it had been doing little to abate the nausea plaguing her. But it had become almost habit by this point. She took a sip, feeling her stomach rolling in protest. The healer rose and was about to head back to the temple, but a brilliant flash of light stopped her.

“What do you want?” she snapped, taking in the leering appearance of the god of war.

“I was just wondering,” he began. “Why my temple has been desecrated by a bunch of regurgitating mortals.”

“It isn’t YOUR temple,” Elissa reminded him. “It’s a collective temple for all the gods, including Zeus, so don’t try and use it as an excuse for some little temper tantrum.”

“You’ve gotten feisty since you’ve been knocked up,” Ares grinned, looking the healer up and down. “Yeah, I can tell. It’s a god thing. And I suppose you’re going to raise the kid to be a big ‘hero’, just like his dear old dad.” He approached the healer and snaked an arm around her shoulders. “Why don’t you come away with me? I‘d always take care of you, and we could raise the baby together. Make him into the son I’ve always wanted.”

“I think you’ve been hitting the ambrosia a little too hard,” Elissa said disgustedly, pulling away from the god. She turned her back to him and began walking toward the temple, but Ares followed her.

“Oh yes,” he drawled. “You have to get back to all those villagers that need your help. Except, you don’t have any help to give them, do you? They are all looking for the great healer to save them, but you can’t, can you?”

“What do you want, Ares?” the girl demanded angrily.

“I want to watch my bastard half brother die,” the god stated simply. “Him, and his little mortal whelp.”

“Then I take it you aren’t here to help,” Elissa said sarcastically.

“Help?” Ares laughed cruelly. “What makes you think I didn’t cause this?”

“This seems a little too subtle for you.” She had meant it as an insult, but the god took it as a compliment.

“It does lack a certain flair, doesn’t it?” he agreed. “Ok, it’s true I didn’t arrange this little situation, but I do have the answer that you’re looking for. Just say the word, and I’ll tell you what to do to help them all, even Hercules and your beloved husband.”

“At what cost?” the healer scoffed.

“I want your child.” Ares’ voice became low and sinister as he backed the girl up against the doors of the temple.

“Why do you have such an interest...”

“Because,” the god interrupted her. “This child is special.” He reached out and placed a hand over the healer’s stomach. “You are carrying a warrior. A potentially great warrior. As the god of war, I can sense it. Even now, so early in development, the soul is burning with fire and spirit. I can teach him. Mold him. I can make him into the greatest warrior Greece, no the world, has ever seen. Promise me that you’ll give the child up to me, and I’ll tell you how to save them all. Give me this kid, and I will leave all three of you alone forever.”

“You’re insane,” Elissa whispered in horror, reaching behind her to fumble with the handle of the door. She finally got it open and fell backwards into the warmth of the temple, leaving Ares standing outside. “Stay away from me,” she commanded, picking herself up. “Stay away from my family, and stay the hell away from my baby, or I’ll see you burning in Tartarus, I swear by the gods!” The healer slammed the door, leaning back against it as she heard Ares’ wild laughter echo through the night.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered, putting her shaking hands over her abdomen. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. Ever.”


The healer was jolted back to reality as she heard her name being called. She’d been sitting in front of the fire, letting the flames lull her into a hypnotic state. Iolaus had shared with her many of the secrets he’d learned in the East, including meditation. While she wasn’t nearly as proficient at it as he was, she’d mastered the basics. Trying to distance herself from her own pain and fear, Elissa had been doing her best to clear her mind in the hope that an answer would come to her. But at the sound of the hunter’s voice, she quickly rose and went to his side.

“How are you doing?” he whispered as she sat beside him.

“I should be asking you that question,” the healer murmured, brushing the golden curls back from his face.

“You look terrible.” No matter how much he suffered, Iolaus was always able to manage a grin.

“So do you.” Elissa brushed her hand along his cheek before resting her fingers along his neck, feeling his racing pulse.

“How’s Herc?”

“He’s doing ok,” the healer reassured her husband. The demigod had fallen ill not long after Iolaus had. Although his symptoms didn’t seem to be as severe as they were with the others, they were still bad enough to technically put him out of commission.

“Don’t look so worried,” Iolaus comforted her. “You’ll think of something.”

“That’s just it,” Elissa exclaimed in frustration. “I’ve tried everything I can think of. It’s almost as if...” She paused, looking down at Iolaus. The last time he’d awakened, he’d been confused and disoriented. But now he gazed up at her with clear blue eyes, so she continued. “I’ve just never seen anything like this before. Some of the people from the outer limits of the village came in to help out, and within hours they were all sick. But for some reason, its not affecting me at all.”

“Maybe its not an illness,” Iolaus suggested. “I mean, Herc never gets sick. It’s from having that divine blood, I guess. So maybe this is some kind of curse from the gods. He’d be affected by that.”

“I don’t think so,” the healer said slowly, replaying her conversation with Ares in her mind. He had indicated that there was a cure, one that didn’t involve divine intervention. And she had the feeling that the answer was deceptively simple, if only she could figure it out.

“If anyone had to be immune, I’m glad it was you, Lis,” Iolaus told her. He was losing the battle to stay awake, and finally closed his eyes. “Maybe because you’re already sick...”

Elissa covered the hunter with a blanket, thinking about what he’d said. Why was she immune? There had to be a logical explanation. The healer got up and began making rounds around the temple, checking on all the other patients. She thought about Iolaus’ theory that whatever was making them sick wasn’t caused by illness. It made sense. The lack of a fever bothered her, as did the rapid way everyone had been affected, including the normally resistant Hercules. But if a plague wasn’t to blame, then the cause would have to lie elsewhere. So the question remained, what had she been doing differently then all the rest of the villagers, that she hadn‘t been stricken as well.

“Oh, gods,” the healer whispered, as a thought suddenly struck her. Her eyes darted to the water barrel in the corner of the room. Hercules had filled it right before he’d fallen ill, but now it was almost empty. While she had been filling her waterskin up at the spring where she’d been gathering the mint leaves, the water she’d been giving all the villagers had come from the town well. Elissa had been right. The answer WAS deceptively simple, and she hadn’t needed to sacrifice her baby to the god of war to get it.

“Maybe the well just went bad.” Iolaus was grasping at straws, for the alternative seemed unthinkable. “I’ve heard of that happening before.”

“Elissa doesn’t seem to think that’s the case,” Hercules reminded him, placing a large, flat sheet of wood over the well opening.

“I don’t get it, Herc. What kind of a sicko would poison a town’s well?”

“I don’t know, Iolaus,” the demigod replied. “But I sure would like to meet him.” His normally kind face twisted into a scowl, hating to think that someone that demented was running loose in Greece.

The pair turned away from the contaminated well and headed back to the empty temple. Once Elissa had concluded that the cause of the illness lay in the well water, she’d begun giving all of them the pure spring water she’d been drinking and they had recovered rapidly. She was unable to identify the mysterious element that had caused them all to fall ill, but it fortunately it hadn’t seemed to have any lasting effects once it wore off. The villagers were very grateful to the healer for her help and invited her to stay, but she felt it was time to return home.

“Ready to go?” Iolaus entered the temple to collect his wife while Hercules went to get Chestnut from where the horse was tethered nearby. Elissa nodded, allowing the hunter to help her up from the place where she’d been resting. The persistent nausea was finally showing signs of subsiding, but she was still so tired.

“Iolaus,” the healer said softly. “I just want to apologize to you. I know I haven’t been in the best mood lately...”

“Don’t apologize,” Iolaus told her firmly. “After all this, I have a pretty good idea what you’ve been going through, and I can’t say that I blame you.”

Elissa smiled at her husband, the gentle, loving, smile that never failed to make his heart skip a beat. Hercules appeared with the horse, and Iolaus helped her climb up on Chestnut’s broad back. Together, the trio set off for Acheron. They took their time traveling, giving the healer plenty of opportunities to rest, but she was eager to get back and they soon reached Acheron. Once the great stone house came into view, Hercules’ sharp eyes spotted someone waiting by the door. Iolaus squinted, trying to make out the figure. As they got closer, he realized he recognized the woman.

“Petria,” he exclaimed, coming forward to greet the woman as Hercules helped Elissa down from the horse. “What are you doing here? Is everything all right?”

“Hello, Iolaus.” She looked over his shoulder and smiled at the healer. “Elissa.”

“Hi, Petria.” Elissa stepped forward and placed a hand on the demigod’s arm. “This is Hercules. Hercules, this is Petria, Aurora’s aunt.”

The demigod nodded, having long since heard the story of the abandoned child that Iolaus had rescued.

“Petria, what’s wrong?” Iolaus persisted anxiously. “Is Aurora ok?”

“I need to talk to you about her,” the woman said softly, the smile fading from her face.

“Come inside,” Elissa invited, leading the way into the house. Iolaus followed them, but Hercules excused himself, offering to go and stable Chestnut.

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Petria began hesitantly as they sat down at the table. “Aurora’s run away. She’s living on the streets in Corinth. Iolaus, I hate to impose on you, but I don’t know what else to do. You are my last hope. Aurora trusts you, and I know she’ll listen to you. You have to find her and bring her back home. Please.”

“Why would she run away?” Elissa asked.

“She’s a teenager,” the woman explained with a shrug. “She hasn’t been getting along with my husband. Aurora thinks he’s too strict with her, and she wants her independence. They’ve been fighting over the past year.”

“A teenager,” Iolaus mused. He still tended to think of her as a small child.

“She’s thirteen,” the girl’s aunt told them. “Almost fourteen.”

“I can probably find her,” the hunter said slowly. “But I don’t know if I can convince her to come home. I haven‘t seen her in years, Petria. She might not be too receptive of me anymore.”

“Please, Iolaus, can’t you try? I can’t bear to think of what the poor child must be forced to do to survive on the streets.”

The hunter couldn’t help thinking about it, as he had once lived it. Glancing at Elissa, he quickly assessed that she thought he should go, so he promised the distraught woman that he would try. Petria thanked him profusely, but declined their offer to stay the night, insisting that she had to get home. Hercules, once he’d heard about the situation, offered to accompany Iolaus to Corinth, suggesting that they stay with Iphicles at the palace. It was agreed that they would leave in the morning.

“Are you sure you’re up to traveling to Corinth?” the healer asked her husband as he came to bed later that night. Iolaus didn‘t seem to be any worse for wear after his ordeal in Eustria, but he was rather skilled at hiding pain.

“I’m fine,” he assured her, and his blue eyes conveyed that he was telling the truth. “I’m just worried about leaving you here alone.”

“Don’t be,” Elissa told him. “I’m starting to feel better.” The nausea had started to ease up, but Iolaus had noticed that the healer still didn’t have much of an appetite.

“Before we leave, I’ll stop in town and ask Aricia to check in on you,” he said. Elissa agreed, not because she though she needed her friend to check up on her, but because she knew that the hunter would worry less that way. “We won’t be gone long,” he promised. “A few days, at the most.” As much as the hunter hated to leave his wife, he knew he had to go. He had fallen in love with the child that he had found abandoned on the road, so long ago. The child that had inevitably led him to Elissa. A beautiful little girl that he had been prepared to raise, before her family had been found. He, himself, had been rescued from the streets. Now he had to do his best to save his Little One, before it was too late

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Elissa asked gently, watching her husband standing at the window, wearily rubbing a hand over his brow.

“Yes,” he confirmed, turning around and climbing into the bed beside his beloved healer. “I was just thinking about how much everything’s changing. I used to think that nothing would ever make me give up my life with Hercules. The road was my home, and it was all I wanted. To be tied down somewhere just seemed unthinkable.”

“Maybe that forge isn’t such a good idea,” the healer suggested.

“That’s my point,” Iolaus continued, stroking his wife’s auburn hair. “I’m not sure when, but things changed. I used to charge into battle, with virtually no thought about myself. Now, all I can think of is what would happen to you, and the baby, if something happened to me. I grew up never knowing when I’d see my father again. I don’t want to put my child through that. What good is being a hero to the world if you’re a stranger to your own family?”

“You’ll miss it,” Elissa said softly.

“I know,” the hunter sighed. “Its going to be hard seeing Herc go off without me. But this is where I want to be, Lis. With you, and our baby. Hercules doesn’t really need me, anyway.”

“I think he needs you more than you know. He’s going to really miss you.”

“Good,” Iolaus said with a smile. “Then that means he’ll visit often.”

“Well, even if you’re not adventuring anymore, you’ll always be my brave warrior.”

The hunter laughed, wrapping his strong arms around his wife. As much as he hated to give up his life on the road at Hercules’ side, what he had found in its place more than made up for it.

“Aurora, a teenager,” he murmured sleepily, still in denial. “Talk about things changing.”

Elissa remained awake long after Iolaus had fallen asleep. She, too, was concerned about the fate of Aurora, but thoughts of the child were not what was keeping her up. Over and over in her mind, she kept replaying the encounter she’d had with Ares in Eustria. The healer hadn’t told Iolaus or Hercules about it, not wanting to worry them, but it had been weighing heavily on her mind. Elissa knew the simple truth that if Ares really was serious about wanting her baby, than it was going to be very difficult to stop him from taking the child. Trying to push away her fear, the healer snuggled closer to her sleeping husband. He and Hercules would never let the god of war have the baby, and Elissa vowed that she would give her life to keep her child safe. She only hoped it wouldn’t have to come to that.

Disclaimer: No digestive tracts were harmed during the writing of this story.

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