Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Character/Pairing: Hercules/Iolaus, Iolaus2/Nautica
Challenge/Prompt: fffc #17.05: Doppelganger
Word Count: 952
Date Written: 7 March 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Sometimes he forgets. Sometimes, in his sleep, his hands reach out unconsciously, seeking until they find a small, familiar body and pull it close to his. Sometimes his lips even brush his blonde curls. This isn't unnatural. It's the most natural thing in the world for a slumbering person to reach out for the person they love, but Iolaus knows it's wrong.
He knows he's not the one he wants. He knows he's not the friend who he really needs when he's hurting. He knows it's the man who lived with him before for whom the demigod is reaching when he touches him in the night and pulls him close. He knows it's his name he cries in his sleep, and even sometimes when they make love, and although they have the same name, they're two completely different men.
He wonders, sometimes, what it would be like to be the other Iolaus. Hercules speaks so often of things he expects him to remember and Iolaus would if only he was that Iolaus. When Herc catches himself and apologizes, Iolaus brushes it away and tells him not to worry about it, but he does wonder.
He wonders what it would have been like to live in this world so bright and full of adventure and opportunity as opposed to the dark land from whence Hercules rescued him. He wonders what it would have been like to have grown up and been the best friend of this hero instead of being the only friend to a man who enjoyed killing for pleasure. He wonders how things would have been different, too, if he had been this Iolaus and not the one he is. Would Hercules have still loved the other, or would he have won his heart had he been with him all along?
And would Dahak have killed him as he had the other Iolaus? Would his counterpart be the one trapped in that awful world with the Sovereign, being forced to do his bidding and hurt others? Sometimes, when Hercules reaches for him, Iolaus needs his touch more than he'll admit aloud. He'll have been dreaming not dreams of the memories of the horrid things he endured in that other world, and Hercules' hand closing around his tender flesh but doing so gently will remind him that he no longer has to live in fear and pain. He is a free man, and he is loved, even if his lover often wishes he was some one else.
Sometimes, he even wishes he could be that Iolaus for him. Herc's eyes have such pain in them sometimes. There are days when his funniest jokes and neatest tricks can not bring a smile from the demigod no matter how hard he tries. There are days when Hercules seems trapped in the pain of his own past and there's nothing Iolaus can do to free him. But if he was his doppelganger, he would be able to.
He would be able to make the big man smile regardless of circumstances. He would be able to make that beautiful light in his eyes dance with joy and mirth. He would be able to lift the load that he always carries so heavily upon his shoulders. He's given him so much -- a new world, chances for a truly happy life that he never possessed before, love, even if it is limited. Iolaus only wants to be able to give him some of what he's given him.
So, one day, when the former Jester catches word that Hercules is passing by the ocean in whose depths Iolaus now lives with Nautica, he paddles quickly up to the shore. He hated living him before. He almost didn't, but Hercules insisted upon it, wanting true and complete joy for him and seeing how happy being with Nautica made him. He pokes his head above the water and is just about to call out to the man who saved so much more than just his life when he sees a familiar, curly, blonde head bobbing beside Hercules' wide, tanned shoulders.
He pushes higher in the water, straining to get a good look, yearning to be sure, and when he is, he grins as bright and wide as the ocean and swims rapidly back down before he's seen. His heart is full of love, and when he catches up with Nautica, she relishes the freedom she feels in him for now he is truly free. Now there are no other bonds to break. There is no one else to heed, no one for him to worry over, because Hercules, too, is happy at last.
His dearest friend has his own best friend back at his side, in his life, and in his arms. The Jester feels like blowing horns as his heart trumpets, and he knows the demigod's heart is trumpeting as well. His friend is finally happy, his own world made complete again. "Thank Aphrodite," Iolaus murmurs and kisses Nautica senseless, so joyful as he loves her that their actions send bubbles all the way to the top of the surface.
Hercules, hearing a sound, looks toward the water, sees the bubbles breaking across the bright, shining surface, and grins. He's happy, and so is he. Both their worlds are complete at last.
"What is it?" his Iolaus asks beside him, his wary eyes scanning the water for some sign of a threat. He sees the bubbles but nothing rising.
Hercules' grin widens. "An old friend," he answers. "Now come here." He takes his Iolaus in his arms again and loves him deeply, truly, and forever, his heart made whole by his presence back in his life where he belongs.