The Last Labor

By Rudy

The author does not own the characters from the series. They belong to MCA/Universal. We all know that. We're not making any money from this. We're just having fun. Okay?

"Go on; get it over with."

As Iolaus laid himself bare to Hercules' sword, the demigod allowed his rage at his lover's betrayal to sweep through him. He opened himself to the black-edged, crimson fury, embracing it as he had once embraced the bond which had linked him to his beloved. The bond which had meant more to him than breath; the bond which Iolaus had discarded for the sake of a few sweet, feminine whispers.

He rested the tip of his weapon lightly against Iolaus' chest, just above the hunter's faithless heart. Dividing his furious gaze between the flesh beneath his sword and Iolaus' tormented eyes, he slowly slipped the blade home. Although his face contorted with agony, and a sobbing scream tore from his lips, the golden warrior's gaze never wavered, as his heart was pierced, and his lifeblood pumped from his veins. His wide blue eyes remained fixed on Hercules, while the glow of life died and was replaced by the blank stare of death.

Hercules pulled the blade free of Iolaus' heart, and brought it up before his icy-hot eyes. He felt an overwhelming desire to fall on that weapon, still bright with Iolaus' blood. To tumble forward, lifeless, his head pillowed on the torn breast. To make an end of it. For surely, his life was over. His soul had fled even as he watched Iolaus' blood swell around his sword.

A low, triumphant laugh recalled him to his surroundings.

"So, Hercules. You killed him. The noble son of Zeus, with his best friend's blood on his hands."

Hercules swung to meet Xena's mocking gaze. He took in the sight like a draught of strong mead; the long, supple limbs which had wrapped around Iolaus, the soft, warm lips which had woven a glittering net of lies to pull him into her trap, the cold, blue eyes which had sucked the blond hunter's honor away. He watched the evil joy in those eyes flicker, as she read the deranged visage before her, and the enormity of her miscalculation registered. Then, Hercules let his sword fly.

Less than a breath later, the blade which had ended Iolaus' life pinned Xena to the man behind her. They fell, dying, and the rest of her men attacked. And met death. Death in the vicious, beautiful face of the demigod they'd sought to conquer. Death at his hands. Mercy and reason deserted his great heart, and the void they left behind was filled by an unquenchable thirst for suffering. He fed his despair on the sight of each of his enemies as they fell, on the sensation of their bones breaking under his fingers, the music of their bubbling screams, the glorious scent of their black blood. Heedless, he trod on the bodies of the fallen as he took each fresh victim into his lethal embrace.

As silence fell over the courtyard, it dawned on Hercules that he was alone. Everyone else was dead. The whole world was dead. The stars were dead, the sun was dead. The gods were dead. He gazed around blankly; the carnage surrounding him was a charcoal drawing of decay. His eye was caught by a bright blaze at the heart of the massacre, the only color in the inky wasteland of his existence. He stumbled toward the sight, and found the ivory, crimson, purple, and golden glory of the man who had destroyed the son of Zeus.

Hercules sank to the ground next to Iolaus' cooling corpse. His fingers sought blindly, and wrapped around the hilt of the knife which two sworn lovers had forged together, so short a time before. His eyes on the empty vessel of flesh before him, he brought the blade up, and, slowly, methodically, hacked at his thick, straight hair, the honey-brown hanks slipping through his fingers to land on Iolaus' gory chest. He gashed his scalp a few times, but took no notice, other than to wipe the resulting trickles of blood away from his demented eyes. When he was finished, and the body of his former lover was strewn with his shorn hair, he ripped his tunic open. Reaching forward, he dipped trembling fingers into Iolaus' congealing blood, using it to paint a crimson swath across his own heart.

He placed the knife atop the gleaming brown nest of hair on Iolaus' body and stood, gazing at the twisted face.

"I won't close your eyes, Iolaus. Let there be no rest for you, as there will be none for me. I won't say farewell either, for we are now eternally linked by betrayal, as once we were linked by love."

Turning, he left Xena's corpse-strewn stronghold.

Thus ended the labors of Hercules.

The End

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