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Anniversary

by

Shawnee

Hercules stood a few steps behind Iolaus as he crouched between two graves.  He laid bundles of flowers on each one.  Lifting his face to the slight breeze, Iolaus began to speak.

"Anya, my love.  I miss you, though you’ve been gone ten years now.  Sometimes I still find myself wanting to turn to you, to share something with you.  I still hear your voice, see your smile.  I can smell the soap you used, feel your soft skin under my hands.  Sometimes I feel your touch, and I turn, but you’re not there.  Oh, Anya, three years wasn’t enough, not even to begin.  I will always love you.  You will always be the most beautiful woman in the world to me.  I wish I could be with you just one more day."

Iolaus stopped to catch his breath.  He ignored the tears running down his face as he looked at the smaller grave.  "Ah, Tell.  My beautiful little son.  I miss you, too.  I wonder what you’d be like now?  You’d be ten years old, right on the first step to becoming a man.  I wonder if you’d still be dark, like your mother, or if you’d become light, like me?  I wonder what you’d have become?  An artist, or maybe a poet or a bard.  Not a warrior, not like me.  You were too gentle for that, I could see it even  then.  I wanted the best for you, Tell, you know that, don’t you?  Do you know how much I loved you then, and still love you now?  I wish I could hold you one more time, smell that clean baby scent you had, hear your laughter."

Hercules walked over and crouched behind Iolaus, putting a hand on his shoulder.  Iolaus bowed his head.  "They know how much you love them, Iolaus.  They can hear us, when we think of them."

Iolaus sighed.  "I know, Herc.  But…it still hurts."

"I know, my friend."  Hercules pulled an unresisting Iolaus into his arms and hugged him.  Iolaus stood stiffly for a moment, then turned his face into Hercules’ tunic and wept for his lost wife and son.  Hercules rubbed his back, laying his cheek on Iolaus’ bright hair, holding him until the storm passed.

Iolaus finally took a deep breath and stepped back, wiping the tears away.  Hercules looked questioningly at him and he nodded.  "I’ll be OK, Herc."

Hercules started to say something, then movement caught his attention.  He nudged Iolaus and nodded.  Iolaus turned.  A bright bubble floated between the two graves.  As they watched, a picture formed, of a dark-haired woman playing in a field of flowers with a little boy about ten years old who was Iolaus’ spitting image at that age.  They both looked very happy.  It looked at though someone called to them, for they looked up, as if looking straight at Hercules and Iolaus.  They smiled and waved and blew kisses.

"They can see you, as well, Iolaus."  Hades appeared to one side.  "I’ll take them a message if you like."

Iolaus waved at his wife and son, and blew kisses back.  "Just tell them I love them."

"They already know that.  They heard every word you said here today.  They know you have work yet to accomplish.  They can be patient until you join them.  Which *I* hope is not soon."  He waved his hand and the bubble vanished.

Iolaus sighed sadly, and looked at Hades.  "Thank you, Hades…but…why?"

Hades shrugged.  "Zeus saw how unhappy you were and suggested it.  I saw no harm in it and agreed."

"Zeus?" asked Hercules.

"Zeus knows how important Iolaus is to you, and he cares about him, too."  He hesitated, then said, "Telemecus was supposed to’ve died with his mother.  Zeus asked me to delay calling him as long as I could.  I’d have left him longer if I could have, Iolaus, but the Fate’s gave me an ultimatum.  I’m sorry."

Iolaus smiled.  "It’s OK, Hades.  At least I had him for eighteen months.  And I know he’s waiting for me, and we’ll be together again, someday.  Just…give them a hug for me, would you?"

Hades smiled.  "I will.  I have to go, you two take care of yourselves."

"We will.  Thank you, Hades," said Hercules with a smile.  Hades vanished and he looked at Iolaus.  "You OK?"

Iolaus looked at him and nodded.  "Yeah.  Yeah, I think so.  It…doesn’t hurt so much now.  They’re safe and happy and together.  And like Hades said, I still have a lot to do here, before I join them."  He cocked his head.  "What about you?"

Hercules smiled.  "I made my peace with what happened to my family.  Like you, I know they’re happy and together and I’ll see them again when my work here is done."

"Speaking of work, didn’t I hear a rumor about a bunch of bandits attacking along the coast, taking people to sell as slaves?"

"Sounds like something we should look into."

"So?  Let’s go!  At the very least, I can get in some fishing!"

"You fish, I think I’d rather have fresh crab and oysters."

"Crab’s fine but oysters?  Yech!"

Hercules’ laughter floated on the wind as they walked down the road.  And in another place, in a sunny meadow, a blond-haired boy played with a little blond girl, while her brothers played tag and their mothers sat together and watched and wondered how long it would be until their husbands came home, their journeys at an end.