Come to gloat have you? To check up on how the mighty have fallen? To laugh in my face one last time?
No? So you're just going to sit there, silently, watching me? Watching me do what? Grow ever older? Can't be much fun to watch, it certainly wasn't much fun to live.
I suppose you're happy, that my life after your death was, oh what is the term they use these days? It's been hellish, that's it.
Oh come now, you must know what happened. I don't believe you.
Look I don't care what you say, or you. You always lied to me, about me. Did you ever care? Even once?
How can you sit there and tell these lies? So, you really want to know what happened to me?
I was betrayed, okay? Xena betrayed me in the worst way possible. After all I had given up for her, for her child, her bloody precious Gabrielle, she sold me out!
Yes, I'm bitter! Who wouldn't be?
Do you want to hear this bloody confession or not?
Well then, shut up and listen, I don't have much time to tell you this, and if you keep interrupting me, you won't have much time to laugh.
Like I said, Xena sold me out. Don't tell me it was Gabby and Eve, I don't care whose mouth spoke the words, whose hands did the deed, she had to have known about it, and she could have said 'no' any time she liked. Since she didn't, she is as guilty, if not more so, than her precious lover and child.
I still wake in the night, the nightmare of that first beating will haunt me even in the grave.
You think I'd believe a promise like that, from you? Do you?
Anyway, they grabbed me while I was hunting for food, they dragged me behind a horse for what seemed, at the time, like forever. Then the whipping started. They took it in turns, day and night, night and day. I think they must have taken almost all the skin off me at one point or another, but I stopped feeling it, thinking about it, I even stopped screaming at about the fifth or sixth day.
Oddly enough, this is the first time I've spoken to any one since. Nigh on fifty years, or more, and now I start talking.
No, I don't even talk to Hercules. He talks for both of us.
Then they sold me, to any warrior who wanted part of me, in public. Even for that degradation they wouldn't grant me a moments privacy. I was carried around, from town to town, in a cage, like a beast, treated worse than any beast ever was.
The pain was always there, it robbed me of a lot of time, there are many days and weeks I simply can't remember, I was gone from myself with the pain. Needless to say the infected wounds scarred something awful. Sometimes they made the skin over my joints so tight they had to slit the scars open to move my legs.
How long was I like that? Oh, about five years I think, I lose track of time so much these days.
Well, how I got out is easy to explain. Hercules found me. Iolaus was, oh, late sixties, at the very least, so he stayed at their home most of the time. That was how he was travelling alone. He was offered a time with me. He didn't believe them, not at first, then my owner lead him to my cage. It was during one of my more lucid days, I remember looking at him, meeting his eyes and I think I might have smiled.
His was the first even remotely friendly face I had seen in such a long time.
Then I cried. I'm no longer ashamed to admit it. I cried, quietly, looking at him.
He knew me! He freed me!
It was as simple as that.
He killed them all, right there where I could watch, with his bare hands. The last one, the boss, he dragged over to my cage door, he ripped the door off its hinges and shook the man.
"This is my brother, possibly the last member of my family alive and you treat him like this?" He was so angry, he broke the man's neck. I remember I was frightened, I tried to huddle back, but the pain in the scars and in my back, I couldn't move.
But I whimpered. I think that was the last real sound I uttered.
He dismantled the cage around me, until it was gone. All the while he did so, he wept. He kept talking to me, calling me by name, reminding me who I was. What I was, what I had been. Not that I had managed to forget. No matter how hard I tried, I still remembered. It might have been easier if I could have forgotten.
Then he took me home. His home. His and Iolaus' home. This home. Our home.
It was only then, when he was with Iolaus, that he fell sick to his stomach. He had been so strong until then, strong for me. Iolaus was strong for both of us.
It was Iolaus who sent a neighbour's son for the healer. It was Iolaus who worked with the healer to straighten as many of my twisted limbs as they could. It was Iolaus who wielded the knife that slit the scars, yet again, and dressed my wounds to heal properly.
No, I still said nothing, I simply looked, and watched, and listened.
Iolaus talked enough even then, he filled in my silences. We had a simple system, Iolaus and I. As I grew stronger, and he grew weaker, over the years, he did all the talking, I did all the fetching and carrying, as best I could. They never really managed to straighten out all the fingers on my right hand. I couldn't ever hold a sword in that hand again.
So Iolaus taught me to use my left hand.
Hercules looked after us both. He worked hard to earn the money to feed us, to clothe us, and to keep the roof over our heads. He never once asked me to do anything, not like I'd been made to do by them. So I did what I could. I cleaned, I grew food, I took care of the animals. I kept our home comfortable. I cared for Iolaus, those last years.
I bet you never thought you'd see the day when I took pride in making a home, a home here on Earth? Did you?
Didn't think so.
The worst was the night they came. Seems Hercules hadn't seen them since before he found me. I'd been there a couple of years, maybe a little more or less, but they didn't know I was there. He didn't know what they had done to me.
Iolaus knew, he'd asked me. I nodded and shook my head, he asked very exact questions did Iolaus. He never judged me. Not once. He was my friend. I miss him, almost as much as Hercules does. Sometimes, even when we're sitting together, it's so lonely without him.
Anyway, they came. I couldn't face them. I ran. When I heard their voices, I ran. Laughing, joking, laughing at me, I thought. I ran and I hid from them. I hid in the sheep pen. Up the back, out of sight. Or so I thought.
Iolaus had heard them approaching, he'd come looking for me, to warn me, he'd seen me run into the sheep pen and crouch down behind the wall, under the canopy that protected the beasts from the rain. You know what I mean?
He finally had to tell Hercules. I didn't hear that exchange. I heard what happened next though. I heard Xena pretend to be outraged at their actions. I heard them defend their actions, they screamed about how evil I was. Xena even reminded them of what I had given up just so they could live. Even I almost believed her, then the memories came back, and I remembered everything they had let happen to me.
No, she had to have known!
She had to have.
Hercules' rage was frightening. He yelled so loud the neighbours came over to see what was happening. They were a good family, I sometimes watched the youngest two children. Well, rather, they sort of watched me. It was a mutual thing.
Anyway, the kids came too, Iolaus sent them to me. I remember hearing his voice, all gentle, telling them this was no place for children, them or me.
I was little more than a child for so long after my rescue, I suppose he was right.
Xena demanded to see me. To challenge me. Hercules refused, Iolaus refused, even the neighbours refused.
Gabrielle and Eve begged her to leave it be. They said to leave me where I was, then Eve said they could deal with me later.
"Later, then." she said.
Hercules really lost it, and no one tried to stop him. No one.
He will always regret his actions that day. I see it in his eyes. And I try to be strong for him. I hold him. And he tries to be so gentle with me. The pain of touching anything is so bad these days. But he needs it, I need it, we need each other. We're all we got, after all
The healer said it would get no better, all those old injuries, you know? He was here just last month. All that is left is the waiting.
He is so gentle with me, yet, he was so strong with them.
He killed Eve, when he attacked Gabrielle and Xena, the silly bitch, attacked him. He let her have his full strength, the strength he used to save to fight with me.
Yeah, it was enough to kill her. One blow was all it took.
He killed Xena too, with her own sword. She should have been more aware, she was an old woman, but she defended her child, a mature woman in her own right. Hercules was, is, immortal, forever young.
Funny, to find out that way, that she never was my child. I was kind of glad she wasn't. Don't know whose she was, and don't much care. She's dead, and that is all that matters.
Gabrielle wasn't killed, but she was as damaged as I was, just about. The neighbour dragged her off to the healer. She healed up, eventually, and left the area. Not that she could walk ever again, but Hercules wouldn't have her anywhere near me.
I helped them bury the bodies.
Iolaus was buried close by when his time came. I helped Hercules bury him too. When he visits Iolaus' grave, he gets sad. Sad for his lover, sad for them. He'll come home, snuggle into my lap as I sit by the fire, and he'll cry.
And I'll cry.
I'll let him cry, it sort of helps, a little. Then he'll make dinner, he always feeds me first, it's been so very long since I could hold even a bowl, let alone a spoon. But, I hang on, and on. I can't leave him, not now, not after all this time. Maybe I should have spoken to him? In the fifty years I have lived with him, I never uttered a word. I could have told him that it was all right, that everything was all right. That we had each other. Brothers! Only, I couldn't, I couldn't bring myself to talk to anyone, until now. So, now, I'm talking and he isn't here to listen. It's sort of inevitable, that he misses me speaking, but it needed to be said.
At long last.
Please, father, let me stay, a little longer.
No, I know I can't take the pain any more, you're right. Yes, I am tired, but he needs me.
Please! I'll beg if that is what you want of me.
No, I don't think he'll love again, not for a very long time, if ever. He never did after Iolaus died.
See, even now you simply don't listen to me, do you? I said I held him. I never said we fucked. I couldn't, not after them. Never, not once. And he would never ask such a thing of me.
You really don't know him, or me. Do you?
Of course I'm crying! You won't let me stay, not even one more day, and he'll be so alone.
If I must, I must, but you'll have to help me. I can't stand on my own. Haven't been able to for so very long now.
That feels so good, to hold, to touch, to be held and no pain. I'd forgotten what that feels like.
Where are we going, papa?
Okay, papa, you lead, I'll follow..
I came home to hear nothing, no snoring, no welcome home, not that I ever heard that in words, just a little silent laughter, mostly it was in his smile, but this time it was just the silence of the grave.
He's gone. My brother has, at long last, found his peace.
And I wasn't here to comfort him to the otherside. I hate to think he was all alone at his passing. He had suffered so much. Seen so much pain in his life that I tried to shelter him from everything. After what he'd been through, he deserved what little shelter I could offer him.
I cleaned him, comforted him, fed him, clothed him.
And he let me. It wasn't any lack of dignity, it was trust, he had learned to trust me, and I him. We were just two brothers, and we shared, we looked after each other, we knew each other, inside and out.
Okay, he never spoke to me, the last time he did so was shortly after I killed Zeus. It was shortly after then that he was betrayed. Of all the things they could have done to him, they did that.
No, I will never forgive them, never. They don't deserve forgiveness, not for that!
At least he's finally free of the nightmares. No more fear, no more pain, no more days of black depression.
He's left me alone.
So now I have to bury him too. Wash the body clean, ease his limbs straight again. Do all those things he helped me do for Iolaus when he died.
No, I don't want your help, where were you through his years of suffering? Please, don't, don't try and excuse yourself.
He was your father, didn't that count for anything?
I don't believe you.
Leave him! Put him down!
Please, Cupid, leave him, us, we don't need you. You were never there for him, ever, not through one single nightmare, let alone one single assault. It wasn't you who saved him, it wasn't you who had to slice open old wounds to let them heal better. So, where were you? Hiding from Xena?
You even left her for me to deal with, didn't you?
It was my honour to look after him, after his imprisonment by those bastards. It was my privilege to watch him learn to live again. Step by painful step. Where were you? When he was lost in the grip of fear, of pain, of the horrors come back to haunt him?
How could anyone watch that, their own father too, and not do anything? How?
No! Don't give me any of that shit! This is not about tests, or punishments, if anything, it's about vengeance, that's all. You all saw a chance to make him suffer, and took it.
Well, he's free of you now. We both are.
Where are you going? What are you doing with him? Leave him! Leave him here! This is where he belongs, with me.
I hate you, Cupid, I hate you! Do you hear me? You have taken everything from me, all you Gods, now you've even taken my brother's body. That's beyond sick, it's just plain cruel.
Ares? Why did they take you?
Please, someone, help me?