Jason and Iolaus have been trying to convince Hercules to think about Zeus' offer to become a full God and live with him on Olympus - they feel it could be the best thing for him. Hercules says, "becoming a god is not to be taken lightly" and drifts off into remembering what happened in his youth. This is where the missing scene begins.
After Hercules had left, saying that he needed time alone to think, Iolaus had walked down along the river, to a nearby fishing hole. He and Hercules had spent many happy hours in this place. It was a haven of rest, a sanctuary where they could forget about the constant battle to help people against evil warlords and petty gods. This place held only happy memories of laugher and fun and comradeship. He stood there for a long time, leaning against a tree trunk, staring out over the water and trying to calm his mind. When he finally heard footsteps approaching, he didn't look up. He already knew who it was and although it was clear that they needed to talk, his heart sank for he feared that the next few minutes would create a new memory that would wipe out the others forever.
Hercules perched on a fallen tree trunk and looked up at his friend. There was so much to say, he hardly knew where to begin. After a few minutes of awkward silence Iolaus asked tentatively, "So, Herc, have you made a decision?" He kept his eyes down as he spoke, unable to meet his friend's eyes - he didn't want the demigod to see in his own eyes how hard this was for him.
Hercules sighed in frustration. "Gods, Iolaus. I just don't know. It's all so sudden. One minute I'm trying to cope with my mother's death, the next minute my father's offering to make me a god. You and Jason are right - I'd be able to do more to help people if I was a full god. And that's what I've pledged my life to do, isn't it? Help people. Maybe I can even have some influence over some of my less savoury relatives." He grimaced as he said this. He'd always had as little as possible to do with many of his godly relatives. He gazed despairingly at his friend. "Iolaus, I just don't know what's the right thing to do."
Iolaus tried to hide his emotions as his friend talked. He'd been honest with Hercules when he'd told him that he was just being selfish when he'd said he thought it was a bad idea. He'd meant it with all his heart when he'd said that what he really wanted was what was best for Hercules. But, gods, it had taken every ounce of willpower and love for his friend to go on and try and ‘sell' the idea to the demigod. Hercules' revelation, coming so soon after the death of Alcmene, who had been almost as much a mother to him as his own, had shaken him to the core. But his friend needed his advice and he certainly didn't need an emotional outburst about how this was going to affect the hunter. The way he felt wasn't relevant - Hercules needed to make the right decision, the one that would be best for him.
So he finally looked up, blue eyes meeting blue, and tried to hide his feelings as he and Hercules began to talk through the implications. They talked for a long time, going over the pros and cons again and again, not once mentioning the reality of what this decision would mean for their friendship. Finally, Iolaus said, "Herc, do you trust Zeus?"
"I'm not sure." Hercules replied frankly. "I guess he may have another motive ... but even if that's true, it doesn't change the facts, does it? I can help people more as a god. And you're right. It's possible he's changed and maybe I owe it to myself to at least give him a chance. If I don't, I might regret it for the rest of my life."
Iolaus knew how hard that must have been to admit, given Hercules' history with his father. He remembered his encounter with his own father in the underworld and the way he'd come to see him in a different light.
"Zeus can't understand why I'd have to think about this." Hercules continued. "He thinks any man would jump at the chance to be immortal. But ..."
"But?" Iolaus prompted, when his friend trailed off into silence. When Hercules didn't answer, he finished the sentence for him. "But you've spent your whole life defending people against the gods. And now he wants you to become one of them."
Hercules smiled at his friend, grateful that, as always, the smaller man knew exactly what he was thinking.
They sat in silence for a moment, each lost in his own thoughts. Hercules picked up a stone and sent it skimming across the water. Two pairs of eyes watched as the stone bounced again and again before finally sinking below the surface with a finality that seemed to Iolaus to presage what he felt in his heart was to come. Finally, Hercules looked up again at the man who had been such a large part of his life for as long as he could remember. He knew there was something else they hadn't talked about, something that they both had to face. "If I do decide to go," he began slowly, "it will change everything."
Iolaus replied, "Well, of course it'll be a big change for you. You're bound to miss your brother and your friends ..." He kept his voice carefully controlled, trying not to let the demigod see the emotion that was threatening to overwhelm him. It wouldn't help at all if he let Hercules know what he was really feeling - that if his friend decided to take this step, it would tear a hole in Iolaus' heart so big that he wasn't sure how he'd survive.
Hercules wasn't fooled by Iolaus' calm appearance. He could read him too well, for the hunter could never hide what he was feeling - it was always there, in his expressive eyes. And in his eyes Hercules saw the same pain and anguish that he himself was feeling. As he looked into the beloved face of this man who was closer to him than his own brother, he felt tears come into his eyes. "You know, don't you, that there's only one real reason why I'm finding this so hard." Iolaus looked at him questioningly. Hercules continued, "Sure, I'd miss my life here, I'd miss Jason and Iphicles and my friends. But the only reason I'm hesitating is because of you, Iolaus, surely you realise that. I can't imagine what it would be like, not having you at my side .... and I'm really not sure I can do this without you."
‘Be strong, Don't lose control, be strong ....' the words coursed through Iolaus' mind like a mantra as he moved forward to sit beside his friend. "Of course you can, Herc...." he said lightly. "You'll be a god, remember, with powers beyond your wildest imagination. You won't need me ...." he stopped, startled, as Hercules turned and gripped his shoulder fiercely.
"Don't ever say that! *Of course* I need you. I've always needed you. We're partners. Oh, I know when I'm a god I'll be even stronger and maybe I won't need you to cover my back in a fight. But that's only one part of it. I need your friendship. I need you for your loyalty and your humour and your honesty and your love of life. I need you because you're about the only person I can be myself with. You were the one who kept me sane when Deinaira and the kids died. I need you now to help me cope with my mother's death. But most of all, Iolaus, I need you because you're my brother and I love you."
Iolaus swallowed around the lump in his throat. He knew Hercules cared about him, they had been best friends since they were kids, but this was the first time Hercules had actually told him that he thought of him as a brother, although the hunter had always felt this way about his friend. For once he was lost for words. Finally, he said simply, "You know I feel the same way. I don't want you to go. I'll miss you, Herc...." ‘I'll miss you.' The words seemed such a lame way of describing the painful, empty feeling inside when he allowed himself to even contemplate what it would be like with the demigod gone.
Hercules looked at him for a long moment. "What will you do?"
"Oh, I'll be OK. You know me. I always bounce back. Maybe I'll join an army or take up farming." Hercules had to smile at that - farming was not one of Iolaus' gifts. Iolaus grinned, glad to have broken some of the tension. "OK, OK, maybe not farming. I could go back to blacksmithing, though. I really am good at that."
"You could carry on doing what you're doing now?" Hercules suggested softly. "You don't need me to be a hero, Iolaus. You do that very well on your own."
Iolaus smiled up at Hercules, grateful for his friend's faith in him. "Yeah, I guess that's probably what I'll do. Don't worry about me, Hercules. I'll be fine." And Hercules was probably right. He would carry on trying to help people, in his own way, for it was what he too had pledged his life to do. But his heart was telling him, ‘Yes, but I don't want to do it on my own and I'm not sure I can do it without you either, my friend.'
Hercules began to speak again, not content to just leave it like that, but Iolaus interrupted, wanting to get the subject off himself and his future. "Anyway, you might find it's not so bad this time round, living on Olympus. You might like it. Some of the gods aren't half bad, when you get to know them! And you can always visit ...." His voice trailed off. They both knew that their relationship was going to change forever if Hercules decided to go.
Iolaus got up suddenly and said briskly, "Well, I don't think there's much point in going over it all again. You've got a decision to make, my friend. And you know that I'll support you, whatever you decide. Just promise me one thing."
"Anything, Iolaus. You know that."
"Promise me that you'll make the decision that's right for you, not what you think is right for me, or Jason, or Zeus. Follow your heart." Then, before Hercules could protest, the hunter turned and walked quickly away. Tears that he could no longer hold back began to fall. He knew his friend too well. He already knew what decision he was going to make.
An hour later Iolaus and Jason stood together, waiting for Hercules to return. The two were silent, each lost in their own thoughts. Jason felt for Iolaus, despite his own grief at the loss of his wife. He knew how much the hunter had loved Alcmene. Now he was facing the prospect of losing her son too.
Hercules appeared, walking slowly towards them, head bowed, obviously deep in thought. As he neared them, he looked up but before any of them could speak, there was a flash of light and Zeus appeared at his shoulder.
Iolaus watched as Zeus and Hercules talked, his stomach knotting in anticipation. He heard Zeus ask his son, "Well? What's your answer? Will you join me on Olympus?" and knew that the moment had come.
Hercules didn't answer directly. But the expression on his face, the look in his eyes as he turned towards his friends, was all the answer Iolaus needed. Hercules walked slowly to Jason, taking his arm firmly in the traditional warrior's handshake. "My friend." he said simply.
Then he turned to Iolaus. He began to lift his arm to shake then dropped it abruptly and pulled his friend into a bear hug. "My brother." There was so much he wanted to say, so much he felt he needed to say, but he didn't know where to begin so he tried to put everything he was feeling into those two words.
Hercules let go of the hunter reluctantly and Iolaus turned away quickly, not wanting to make this harder for Hercules by letting the demigod see the tears in his eyes.
Hercules walked back to his father and half smiled. "I'm ready to go." There was another flash and Hercules and Zeus were surrounded in a bright light. Hercules looked back one last time at his friends before he and Zeus disappeared.
Iolaus stared blankly at the empty space where his best friend had been standing only a moment before. Hercules was gone. And as the reality of that fact began to sink in, Iolaus felt his life shatter into pieces around him. The sun faded and darkness filled his world.
Rhiannon Oct. 1998
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