"Remember that time we went to Phenia?" Iolaus questioned as he and Hercules walked towards Alturia.
"Obviously not the way you remember it," Hercules replied.
Iolaus rolled his eyes and tried again. "Okay, how about the first time we went to Acis? Remember what happened then?"
"Why don't you tell me what you think happened?" laughed Hercules.
They spent the next few minutes discussing their differing views regarding the happenings in Acis. Iolaus insisted that if he hadn't been there, Hercules would have lost the bar fight. Hercules distinctly remembered how the altercation had begun. It involved his best friend, a pretty woman and said pretty woman's husband.
"Sure, Herc. Be that way," laughed Iolaus as he recalled the events from what seemed like a lifetime ago. It had all happened before Anya, before their firstborn son had come into their lives, before the awful moment when the midwife attending the birth of their second child had come out of the room, shaking her head sadly. Realizing where his thoughts were leading, Iolaus gave himself a mental shake and found himself lagging far behind his friend.
"Hey, Herc! Wait up!" he called. "How about at Andira's wedding? Remember that one? If it hadn't been for me, you'd be -" Iolaus ended his sentence with a holler as the ground beneath him gave way and he found himself falling.
At Iolaus' yelp, Hercules whirled around to find his best friend disappearing below the surface of the earth. He reached out to snag him, to stop Iolaus' descent, but only managed to grab the sack and cloak that had hung over Iolaus' shoulder. He flung those aside and dropped to his hands and knees. Hercules cautiously approached the lip of the sinkhole, fearing what he was going to find.
About ten feet down, hanging on by the tips of his fingers, was Iolaus. Small rocks tumbled down, bouncing off of the hunter before continuing on their journey to the bottom. The hunter was trying to find a toehold to improve his situation when Hercules looked down on him. Iolaus turned his face towards the opening and away from the darkness below. Seeing Hercules, he let out a quick breath of air in relief. He tried to grin, tried to send some kind of reassurance to the worried man on the surface.
"Hang on, Iolaus!"
Hercules looked around desperately as he jumped to his feet. The sinkhole looked deep and he needed something long enough to reach his friend. It was the wrong time of year for the vines he would have like to have used. His eyes fell on Iolaus' pack...
"No problem, Herc," came the strained voice. "I've got -" The rest was cut off by a startled yell.
Hercules stopped in midstride and raced back to the edge of the sinkhole. "Iolaus!" he cried out as he dropped to his stomach to peer over the edge.
He sighed with relief as he saw Iolaus getting to his feet, only a few feet below where he had been before, his bow and quiver lying next to him. The warrior stood in the center of the hole, slowly sinking into the mud that covered the bottom.
"Ugh." Iolaus tried to wipe his now-muddied hands off on his now-muddied pants, twitching his body slightly in discomfort. "I think this is getting into places I don't want it to." He grimaced as Hercules unsuccessfully tried to swallow a chuckle. "Just get me out of here, Herc - then you can laugh."
Hercules pushed himself to his feet, a grin spreading across his handsome features. Reaching Iolaus' belongings, he tossed the cloak to the side and grabbed the carrysack. He thought he remembered watching Iolaus toss a coil of rope into it as they were preparing for the journey. He rummaged through the bag until he found it lying at the very bottom.
Wrapping a few coils around his massive fist, Hercules walked back to the hole and lay facedown once more. Knotting the other end of the rope, he tossed it down to Iolaus.
Blue eyes peered over the edge to find Iolaus rubbing the top of his head, shooting a reproving look at the demigod.
"Sorry," Hercules shrugged as he fought to get his smile back under control.
Mumbling to himself, Iolaus slung his bow over his shoulder and grabbed onto the rope with both hands. He began to walk up the side of the sinkhole as Hercules pulled him out. His feet began to slip as Hercules started pulling the rope one hand over the other. Iolaus threw another glare towards the opening, realizing that Hercules was pulling him in faster than he could move his feet. Iolaus gave up on trying to help and let the other man haul him skyward to safety.
He let go of the rope with one hand and reached for Hercules. A gauntleted arm shot down and grasped Iolaus' forearm tightly. The hunter was yanked out of the pit to land on his stomach next to an amused Hercules.
The warrior jumped to his feet, futilely attempting to push the away from his eyes. "Just what in Tartarus do you think is so funny?" Wet greyish brown clumps fell from his chest as he shook a fist in Hercules' face. This only served to set Hercules to loud guffaws.
He couldn't help it. Iolaus was a sight. Mud dripped from every part of his body. His golden curls were matted down, the stuff falling onto his cheeks whenever he shook his head. Only his blue eyes retained their original color; his entire face, his body and every stitch of clothing on him was covered in mud. Wet, sticky, starting-to-get-itchy mud.
"There's a lake up ahead," Hercules choked out as he laughed. "You can clean up in there."
Iolaus finally took a good look at himself, even twisting in order to see his backside. He chuckled, his good humor surfacing at the very sight of himself masquerading as a mudman.
"Fine, lead the way!" he gestured grandly ahead, flinging droplets of mud with an outstretched arm.
Hercules poked him ahead with one finger. "You lead the way. I'm not letting you get behind me!" He gathered up Iolaus' carrysack and cloak and followed his filthy friend.
There was still a chill in the air when they reached the lake. Hercules pulled his cloak closer around him and sent a wicked grin at Iolaus. "It's all yours, buddy."
Iolaus looked doubtfully at the peaceful body of water. It looked cold to him and definitely not warmer than the chilly air they'd been traveling in. "You know, maybe I'd better wait until we reach a village. You know, find an inn with a nice hot bath and all that."
"No villages or inns between here and Alturia, Iolaus. Besides, we're never going to reach it tonight." Hercules looked his friend up and down, wrinkling his nose at the smell. "Don't tell me you want to sleep like that."
The warrior sighed and stepped closer to the lake. He shivered as the cool, moisture-laden air hit his skin. Looking back at Hercules for a reprieve, he instead found himself being shooed towards the water with a look reminiscent of the ones Alcmene had given the trouble-prone boys while they were growing up. He handed Hercules his sword before removing the belts he wore.
Deciding to get it done and over with, he backed up a few paces and took a running leap towards the lake. Pulling his legs to his chest, Iolaus tucked himself into a ball as he sailed out over the water. He hit the water's surface with a resounding splash, sending water droplets flying. Hercules danced back, avoiding becoming drenched himself.
For a long moment, all was quiet. Nothing disturbed the surface of the water as the ripples from Iolaus' entry began to fade.
Uncertainly, Hercules took a step forward. "Iolaus?" he called. When he received no answer he tried again. "Iolaus!"
The surface exploded with a shout as Iolaus shot upwards. "That's COLD!" he managed through chattering teeth.
He started to head back towards shore, but Hercules stopped him with a look. "Now what?"
"Scrub your clothes out, too, Iolaus."
"What?!?" the hunter squawked. "You're kidding me, right?"
"No, I'm not. You're going to have to take them off, anyhow. You can't wear wet leather in this weather." Hercules held up a hand to forestall any complaints. "My mother'd kill me if anything happened to you."
Iolaus groaned. "Bringing Alcmene into this is not fair."
He sank under the water for a moment, then surfaced holding his boots in one hand. "How about these? I can't walk barefoot to Alturia."
"Give them to me." Hercules reached down to grab the dripping footwear. As Iolaus struggled with his vest and pants underwater, his best friend found some dry moss and began to sop up as much moisture from the boots as was possible. He tore a few pieces of material from the lining of his own cloak and stuffed them inside the boots. He pushed and pulled until he was satisfied that at least Iolaus' feet would be covered with the material and not touching the wet leather.
As he finished, a cough from the lake made him look up. The bemused man was still in the water, his vest in one hand, pants in the other. The chill of the water streaming down his strong chest and over his jade green medallion caused shivers to tremble through his body every so often, the damp curls clinging to his neck dancing along with each shiver.
Hercules laughed and grabbed the clothes. "You know, I could just leave and go back to Thebes to get a few of the ladies..."
Iolaus' cloak was tossed to the water's edge before Hercules turned his attention to the wet clothing. "Nah. Not this time." His voice held a thoughtful note as his mind filed away the information for a future prank. Perhaps when they finally got together with Jason again.
Grabbing his cloak, Iolaus rose from the water and threw it over himself, shivering into its warmth. Hercules turned and handed him his boots. "They'll have to do for now."
"Thanks," Iolaus said with a grateful glance up at his friend. He pulled his boots on and stood, drawing the hood of the cloak over his head. "Now, as I was saying about that wedding..."
End of Missing Scene
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