The young boy continued muttering under his breath and he walked deeper into the woods. He instinctively began walking more quietly, his eyes flickering from side to side. Several times, he stopped and examined the faint tracks in the dirt. “Here, bunny, bunny, bunny,” he lightly sang. “C’mon...you know you wanna come to me.”
“Well, maybe yes and maybe no.”
Iolaus jumped to his feet and whirled around. His senses alert, he quickly scanned the area but saw no one. ‘That’s not Herc.’ “Who’s there?” he demanded.
“Yo! Oh, mighty hunter! Down here!”
Frowning, Iolaus turned to his left and looked down...at a small pink rabbit. ‘PINK!?!’ “You’re pink!” Iolaus finally blurted.
“Good eye-sight,” the rabbit sourly commented. “Hey! I don’t like it myself. But there’s not much I can do about it. I’m supposed to be adorable.”
Iolaus cocked his head to one side in consideration. “I suppose you are,” he reluctantly admitted. After a moment, he added. “You’re talking.”
“Good hearing,” the rabbit sourly commented. “Look, pal, I got a schedule to keep. And you’re ruining my whole day. So let’s cut right to the chase. Okay?”
“Hmmm...okay,” Iolaus nodded. He carefully sat cross-legged on the ground opposite the pink rabbit. “Are you really a rabbit?”
“What do I look like? A dragon?” The rabbit bounced twice in irritation. “ Of course, I’m a rabbit! I’m just not your regular kind of rabbit.”
“An enchanted rabbit?” Iolaus’ blue eyes widened in anticipation.
“Beats me.” The rabbit shrugged. “I’ve always been like this, I guess.” He glanced down at himself and shuddered. “Pink! Yechhh!”
“Sorry,” Iolaus muttered. “I wouldn’t like being pink myself.”
“Thanks, kid.” The rabbit bounced back and forth. “Look, you’re out hunting for rabbits, right? I got no problem with that. I don’t know any of the rabbits around here. But stop stepping in my tracks! I got places to go and deliveries to make!”
“Deliveries? What kind of deliveries?” Iolaus asked.
The rabbit hesitated then sighed. “Hold out your hand.”
Iolaus blinked once then held out his left hand. He watched as the rabbit put something wrapped in bright shiny parchment into his hand. He looked at the rabbit in confusion.
“Go ahead. Open it. Eat it. It’s good.” The rabbit bounced back a few steps.
Iolaus cautiously peel back the parchment. A sweet smell wafted upwards causing his mouth to water. Instinctively, he put the dark brown item in his mouth and chewed. “Mmmmmm,” he moaned closing his eyes. “Mmmmm...this is great!”
“Sure is,” the rabbit nodded. “It’s better than sex. Trust me. A rabbit knows.”
“What is it?” Iolaus mumbled his eyes still closed.
“Chocolate,” the rabbit answered. “A real delicacy. I’m on my way to deliver some to...well, I can’t say...but she’s a goddess.”
“What is chocolate? Some sort of ambrosia?” Iolaus finally opened his eyes.
“Well, technically, no,” the rabbit admitted. “But it’s still good, isn’t it?”
“Oh yeah.” Iolaus’ eyes glazed over as he slowly licked his lips.
“Look, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll give you some chocolate and you let me go.”
“Deal!” Iolaus quickly agreed.
To his astonishment, the rabbit reached behind him and set a small basket on the ground between them. “All yours, kid. Happy eating.”
“Safe journey!” Iolaus called out as the rabbit began hopping away. He set his bow to one side and began eagerly unwrapping the small pieces of chocolate.
Hercules felt guilty. He hadn’t meant to tease Iolaus as much as he’d done. But he’d gotten tired of Iolaus’ bragging about how good a hunter he was. He’d only gone hunting twice that Hercules knew about. Angrily, his friend had run into the forest shouting he’d prove he was a great hunter. And now the sun was going down. And Alcmene would kill him if he went back and admitted what had happened.
Just when he thought he was going to have to start making a torch, he heard Iolaus’ voice...loudly singing. He ran around the curve in the path to see Iolaus...turning cartwheels. Three cartwheels. Then running back to get his bow. Then laying the bow on the ground ahead of him. Then turning more cartwheels. Then running back to get his bow.
“Iolaus! What are you doing?” Hercules finally demanded. “Do you know how late it is? Mother’s going to kill us if we don’t get back before dark.”
“Herc!” Iolaus grinned. “Gods, I’m glad you’re here! You can carry this!” He thrust his bow into his friend’s arms.
Flustered, Hercules almost dropped the bow. He watched as Iolaus began turning cartwheels again. “Iolaus, are you okay?” he asked in concern. “I’m really sorry about teasing you.”
“Aw, it’s okay!” Iolaus giggled. “If you hadn’t done it I wouldn’t have gone into the woods and I wouldn’t have met the rabbit. YIPPEE!!!” The smaller boy quickly turned three more cartwheels.
“What rabbit?” Hercules demanded trying to keep up. “Iolaus! Quit doing that! You’ll get dizzy!”
“No, I won’t, Herc!” Iolaus protested. “Okay. I’ll stop.” He stood in front of his friend bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Iolaus. What rabbit?” Hercules prodded. He gently turned his friend around in the direction of home and began walking.
“The pink rabbit,” Iolaus answered still bouncing up and down.
“A pink rabbit?” Hercules repeated.
Iolaus nodded. “He talked.”
“A talking pink rabbit.” Hercules tried to see if there were any bruises or bumps on his friend’s head.
“He gave me this wonderful stuff. Called chocolate. In return for letting him go.” Iolaus turned to face his friend while trotting backwards. “I’m real sorry, Herc. I meant to leave you some, but it was really delicious. All I got left is this one piece.” He reached in his belt pouch and brought out a small object wrapped in bright red parchment. “Go on,” he urged with a giggle. “It’s great!”
“If I do, will you turn around and not walk backwards?” Hercules pleaded.
“Huh? Oh yeah. Sure.” Iolaus turned around and walked bouncing next to Hercules. He held out the chocolate to his friend.
Hercules shouldered the bow and carefully unwrapped the chocolate. The sweet scent hit his nostrils and he jerked back. “It smells awfully sweet,” he commented.
“Wait until you taste it,” Iolaus promised.
Hesitantly, Hercules nibbled. His eyes watered and he quickly scraped his tongue against the parchment. “It’s awfully sweet,” he admitted.
“It’s SO GOOD!” Iolaus yelled. “C’mon, Herc. Race you home.” Before his friend could reply, the young blonde boy was disappearing down the trail.
Alcmene stood by the well anxiously watching for the two boys. It wasn’t like them to stay out this late. She watched as the sun finally disappeared beneath the horizon. She abruptly turned back to the house intending to get her cloak and go find them, when she heard Iolaus whooping and laughing.
Turning around, Alcmene saw the young boy running towards her. She saw Hercules behind him obviously trying to catch up. She smiled to herself wondering if Iolaus was finally going to win a footrace with the young demigod. To her surprise, Iolaus began turning cartwheels finally falling in a laughing heap at her feet.
“Iolaus! Are you alright?” Alcmene demanded with a smile.
“Sure!” Iolaus giggled. “Hi, Alcmene!”
Alcmene glanced at her son who approached breathing hard. “Hercules...is something wrong?”
“I think...Iolaus ate...something he shouldn’t,” Hercules gasped. He held out the chocolate Iolaus had given him. “I don’t know where he got it.”
“I told you, Herc. The pink rabbit gave it to me,” Iolaus sighed.
Hercules nodded at his mother’s confusion. “Yeah, a talking pink rabbit.”
Alcmene cautiously sniffed then took a small bite. She grimaced at the sweet taste.
“Herc. You gave your mother your piece of chocolate,” Iolaus sadly commented. He suddenly broke into tears. “I’m sorry, Alcmene. I should have saved some for you. I’m so greedy!”
Alcmene hastily rewrapped the chocolate and put it in her pocket. She knelt by the boy and hugged him. “It’s alright, Iolaus. It’s too sweet for me.”
“Then can I have it?” Iolaus looked at her hopefully.
“I think you’ve had enough,” Alcmene suggested. “Perhaps later.”
“Okay,” Iolaus sniffed. “You’re not mad at me?”
“Of course not,” she assured him. She looked over her shoulder at her astonished son. “Hercules, help me get him inside.”
“You’re not disappointed in me?” Iolaus clutched at her arm as they got him to his feet.
“Never,” Alcmene assured him.
Iolaus suddenly groaned and swayed. “Alcmene...I don’t feel so good.”
“Iolaus, how much of this...chocolate...did you eat?” Alcmene demanded as she began pulling Iolaus towards the house.
“Only a little,” Iolaus muttered. “Just a small basketful.” He held his hands out illustrating the size of the basket.
“Oh dear,” Alcmene sighed.
“He’s gonna be sick, isn’t he?” Hercules asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Alcmene admitted. “Let’s get him inside.”
At the edge of the garden, a small pink rabbit sat on the partially completed wall. His whiskers twitched for a few seconds before he leapt to the ground and began hopping away.
“Mighty hunter! Trying to hunt ME? I showed him! Mess with me, will he? Try to track and hunt me? Kid doesn’t know who he’s fooling with!”
As the rabbit disappeared into the forest, he heard a plaintive voice. “You believe me, don’t you, Alcmene? He was pink...and he talked. You believe me, don’t you?”
Disclaimer: No one was injured in the writing of the story. It’s hoped, however, the writing of the story will take the edge of the craving for a milk chocolate bunny.
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