"Hey, Herc, do we have any money?"
"What do you want to buy?" Hercules asked glancing around the marketplace, he hadn't had eyes for much of anything except his partner since they'd both been returned from the light. He still couldn't believe that Iolaus was here and that he was staying. Hercules had to keep resisting the urge to touch him to make sure Iolaus was real. Every time he laid his hand on Iolaus' shoulder, his friend would look up and smile. He understood the demigod's need to confirm what his senses told him was there. It was going to take a little while for it all to sink in. In the meantime, Hercules planned to thoroughly enjoy just being around Iolaus.
"I wanna buy some wine. I think we deserve a little celebration. I wanna go sit under a tree in the woods and look up at the stars and get drunk with my good buddy. I think we deserve that much. Come on, Herc, we deserve this, together." Iolaus used his most persuasive smile.
Hercules frowned but today found that he could deny his friend nothing.
They camped near a bubbling stream at the edge of an old forest. Hercules built a fire near the base of a large tree while Iolaus laid out the fruit and bread they'd bought in the market. They leaned back between the roots of the great tree and held their quiet celebration. The two friends were both exhausted after their day spent saving the world from destruction by the four horsemen. In their condition it didn't take much wine to make them lightheaded.
"Iolaus, I've been wondering something. When you came back to life, you got your clothes back and--"
"Huh?" Iolaus looked down at his vest and pants in confusion.
Hercules explained, "Dahok had on other clothes. I don't know what happened to these." He reached over and tugged Iolaus' vest for emphasis. "You got these back when you came back but--," he reached for Iolaus' pendant, "This is still broke. How come?"
Iolaus took the pendant and turned it over in his hands, considering it thoughtfully, "I don't know, Herc. I guess I've been wearing it so long it's become a part of me. It's like connected to me and when it got broke, I died. It feels, I don't know, symbolic or something. It was so final, you know? The end but I guess it was a beginning, too. Maybe it's not fixed because I didn't want it fixed. It feels right like this. It's a symbol of my journey."
"But it's missing a part," Hercules ventured.
"No, I disagree. As long as you're here and we're fighting the good fight together, then I'm whole in here." He tapped his breastbone beneath the pendant.
Hercules nodded, then his eyes lit up, "Wait a..." Hercules dug through his belt pouch and pulled out the missing half of Iolaus' pendant. He'd been carrying it since he left Sumeria for Eire, safely hidden away in his pouch. He held it to the other half. The pieces fit perfectly.
Iolaus smiled through the inebriated mist.
"Do you think we could glue it with something?" Hercules asked returning the silly smile.
Iolaus shook his head, "No, Herc, you keep it. Now it's part of both of us."
Hercules considered, nodded and slipped the broken piece back into his belt pouch and closed it securely before settling back against the tree.
They both sighed and enjoyed the view of the Milky Way in the firelight. Iolaus passed the wineskin to his friend. Hercules drank deeply and sat it in his lap.
"I'm glad you're home. I wasn't whole without you either. "
Then Iolaus chuckled.
The hunter reached over and took the wineskin from his friend's lap. "I think we've become philosophical drunks."
Hercules snickered, "It is getting pretty deep around here."
"Yep. I'm hungry. Let's go catch a rabbit or a fish or something."
Hercules was astounded, "After what you've consumed? You've had enough for three or four at least."
"Well, I missed food."
"Are you sober enough to chase a rabbit?" Hercules asked practically.
"No, I'm not but I think I can crawl over there to the stream and throw a line in. If you'll cook."
Hercules regarded his friend fondly, "OK, but just this once."
Iolaus fished around in his vest, "Ah ha! I knew my line would still be in here." He gazed lovingly at his fishing tackle, "Come on, Mr. Hook, let's go find Mr. Grub."
Hunger finally sated, the two men lay on the ground near the dying fire.
"Are you not sleeping, too?"
"No, I'm not sleeping."
"Too excited about me being back, huh?"
"Me too. Wanna talk?"
"I don't know, all the stuff I missed not being here."
The gleam in Iolaus' eye brightened, "Ummmm, tell me about my funeral. Did lots of women cry for me?"
"Come on, Herc. I wanna know. You did have one for me, didn't you?"
"Yes. I don't want to talk about this."
"I do. I don't wanna be walking through the countryside and trip over my own grave. Where'd you put me?"
Hercules sighed and rolled over to face his friend. "Exactly where you told me to."
Iolaus thought a moment. "So, there's a marker there?"
"And anyone who walks by will see it and think I'm really still dead, dead?"
"We have to move it. Store it somewhere until I really need it."
"Iolaus, do you know how heavy that thing is?"
The gleam was back and brighter than ever. "That big, huh? Hercules, I didn't know you cared so much."
"I'll show you how much I care." Hercules lunged over the fire and rolled over top of Iolaus pulling him into the damp grass.
"Hey, I'll get you." A free for all insued with the two friends each trying to pin the other down. Finally, Hercules resorted to tickling and they both ended up flat on their backs gasping for breath.
"No fair, tickling. Herc, you know I hate that."
Hercules chuckled, "I am not moving that thing again, Iolaus."
"I wanna go see it. Man, this is weird, kinda creepy. Hercules, we can't leave it there."
Hercules conceded that the thought of the monument still being there was creepy. "Ok, we'll go figure out something. I don't know what but something." Hercules pulled Iolaus to his feet and they wearily moved back to the fire. Their wrestling finally wearing them out enough to sleep.
Meanwhile in the Light, Michael smiled and shook his head. He waved a hand calling forth a thunderstorm. A few well placed lightning strikes and the problem would remedy itself. It was the least he could do before moving on to less pleasant tasks.
24 November 1999
Continue with the next story in this IWC challenge.
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