Father of the Bride

By WynonaRose (Darla P.)

The festival at Gotha was in full swing. Bands were playing, people were eating, contests were happening, kids were screaming. A perfect festival.

Iolaus was enjoying himself immensely. He had taken first place in the sword-fighting contest, he had his eye on several girls he'd like to approach, and he was due to participate in a foot race later in the afternoon. All was perfect in his world.

He approached a food booth to get a tart. He'd had a hearty meal earlier and was now ready for dessert.

The booth was run by two of the most identical twins he'd ever seen. The girls had long, golden, hair that fell in tight ringlets around their faces. Their eyes the most crystal blue he'd ever seen. His mouth automatically formed a grin as he approached. Tarts, indeed!

The girls asked what he would like just as an old woman sitting behind them looked up and locked her focus on his face. She began to stand looking at him with an expression that bespoke of tremendous shock.

Iolaus squirmed under the intense stare. He looked around, but he was the only person at the booth. She had to be looking at him! The girls turned at his stare and moved to the side of the old woman.

"Joseph!" the woman called. "My baby...my baby's finally come home!"

The girls tried to calm the old woman, but she made her way around the booth and right up to Iolaus.

"Joseph. I never gave up hope that you would return home. I knew you would never leave me. I knew it."

The woman threw her feeble arms around Iolaus' waist. She came barely up to his shoulder and was crying against his chest.

His arms surrounded the old woman, holding her tenderly and rubbing her hair. His eyes sought out those of the twins.

"I'm sorry, sir," one of the beauties apologized. "Our grandmama has mistaken you for our father. He left to fight in a war almost twenty years ago, when we were five years old. Our mother received word shortly after that he'd been killed."

The shock was too much for the elderly woman. She fainted against Iolaus. He caught her carefully and picked her up in his arms. She seemed so fragile, so frail.

"Our home is down this street," the other girl told him. "Will you help us get her home?"

"Certainly," Iolaus said with concern. The woman was light as a child. "Do you have a healer nearby?"

"Yes, but the healer says grandmama's heart is very weak. It's only a matter of time. There's nothing she can do."

One girl stayed behind to close the booth and the other led Iolaus through the thick crowds of partying festivalgoers.

"I'm Daniella," the young woman said as she wound her way home. "My sister is Josefina. Thank you so much for helping us."

"I'm happy to help. I can see why she might mistake me for a son who left so long ago. There's a strong resemblance between you and me."

Daniella rushed forward and opened the door on a small cottage. She ushered Iolaus in and indicated her grandmother's bed. As Iolaus laid the woman down her eyes opened and a tiny hand reached up to caress his face.

"I knew you wouldn't miss Josefina's wedding. I knew that even after all this time you would never miss your little girl's wedding."

Iolaus looked to Daniella. "Josefina's getting married the day after tomorrow. Grandmama's been upset that our father wasn't here to give her away."

Just then Josefina entered the house. A tall dark-haired young man was following her, a huge tray of tarts in his hands.

Daniella looked at Iolaus. "I'm sorry, I haven't even asked your name."

He still knelt next to the woman's bed, holding her bird-like hand in his warmly. "I'm Iolaus."

Josefina stepped forward. "Hi Iolaus. Thanks so much for helping. I'm Josefina and this is Lor, my betrothed."

Iolaus reached out his other hand to Lor. He appeared to be a little younger than Iolaus. As dark as Josefina was light. Lor took the offered hand and offered his thanks also.

"Grandmama believes that father has returned to give you away at the wedding," Daniella explained.

"Oh dear," Josefina replied. "She's had so many fantasies lately. I hope this one passes quickly."

"Joseph. Tell me about your adventures while you were gone. I want to hear everything you've done." The woman seemed stronger now. Iolaus helped her to sit up. "Tell me, son, did you win your war?"

"Grandmama," Josefina said softly as she knelt next to Iolaus. "This isn't Joseph. You've mistaken this man. Father left twenty years ago. He couldn't possibly return now looking the same as when he left."

"Josefina, dear," the grandmother said. "Would you please make us some tea while we listen to Joseph's stories?"

Iolaus nodded at the girl. She rose and started to make the tea. Iolaus sat on the bed next to the grandmother.

"You've been very lonely without your son these many years, haven't you?" he asked with an arm around her shoulders.

"Yes, son. Of course, I would never have managed without the girls. They've been so wonderful. They've made you proud I'm sure." She laid her head against Iolaus' shoulder. "Tell me where you've been all this time."

Lor looked at the woman pityingly then caught Iolaus' gaze in a silent plea. Iolaus saw the same longing in Daniella's eyes.

"I've had many great adventures, mother," he told the old woman. "Let's have our tea and I'll tell you all about them."

The four listened in rapt attention as Iolaus spun a tale of vicious wars and his desire to return home. Only his loyalty to his countryland kept him from withdrawing in defeat. They drank tea and ate tarts as they listened to his melodic voice. He told her how he could only stay a short time because the other soldiers depended on him so much, but he had to return for Josefina's wedding.

"Promise me you'll stay at least that long, my son."

"I give you my word, mother. I won't leave before I've given my daughter away."

Finally the grandmother's eyes slid shut and she drifted off to sleep.

"That was very kind of you," Daniella said with a hand on Iolaus' arm. "Hopefully, by morning she won't remember having seen you. Thank you ever so much."

"You're very welcome. I have a foot race to enter. I'm staying at the Golden Dragon Inn if I can do anything else for you. Good bye."

Iolaus made his way to the starting point of the race. His mind was on the poor old woman who missed her son so very much. He lost the race by several runners...his heart just not into the competition. It was beginning to get dark and he made his way back to the inn. He made himself comfortable in front of the great fireplace and drank down frothy ale.

He had planned on leaving in the morning since the foot race was the last of the events he had signed up for. But he decided as he climbed the stairs to his room that he'd stay another day.

The next morning was again bustling and busy. He watched a pie-eating contest. A sack race. The horsemen's display. All were fun, but he still kept thinking about the grandmother.

He ate lunch at the inn. He noticed immediately when one of the twins entered the room. He didn't know which one it was. He stood, smiling, but the look on her face told him something was wrong.

"I'm sorry, Iolaus, but could you come back to the house. Grandmama is making a terrible fuss and the healer says it's not good for her. She remembers yesterday vividly and insists that you participate in this evening's last party for my sister."

Ah, now he knew he was speaking with Daniella. "Certainly I'll come," he said, somewhat uncomfortably. "If I'm not intruding. This is a time for real family."

"You wouldn't be intruding, and it would make grandmama very happy. She hasn't long to live and this may be the last family get-together she will see."

Iolaus went with Daniella back to the house. The home was decorated for the morrow's festivities and a crowd of perhaps twenty people was present. Evidently all of them had been let in on the secret because each of them addressed him as Joseph and gave him a handshake or hug in thanks.

Grandmama sat proudly at the dinner table and announced to all that her happiness was complete. She would see her granddaughter given away by her own son.

The party lasted for several hours. Finally the grandmother went to sleep and Iolaus was left alone with the sisters and Lor. He approached Josefina and reached for her hands.

"Your grandmother is very sick. Very weak. If you would permit me, I would be happy to give you away tomorrow for her sake."

Josefina gave him a tight hug. "Thank you, Iolaus. We never would have asked such a personal thing of you. Thank you. You've made us all very happy."

Iolaus left, but returned early the next morning. He was dressed regally in satin pants and a purple tunic. Josefina was dressed in a gown of ivory satin and lace. Lor wore ivory pants with a matching ruffled shirt. Daniella wore a dress of purple with a pink print. The grandmother was seated in a large comfortable chair at the side of the fountain where the ceremony would take place. There were many people milling about dressed in their nicest clothes with flowers and ribbons adorning their hair.

Finally, Iolaus took his place to the right of the bride. He crooked his elbow and she slipped her hand through his arm. They walked along slowly, finally reaching the altar. He transferred her hand from his to Lor's, kissed her on the cheek, then took his place on her other side.

The ceremony was beautiful and at the close of it Josefina hugged Iolaus in thanks. They all turned to see the grandmother's eyes closed.

Daniella smiled. "All this trouble and fuss and grandmama slept through the whole thing."

Iolaus had moved forward though and knelt next to the woman's chair. He turned back to face Daniella, who was not at all smiling now. "I'm sorry, Daniella. She's passed on."

Josefina moved up and knelt beside her grandmother. Her new husband supporting her with his hands on her shoulders. Tears ran down the faces of both twins.

"Don't be sad girls," Iolaus told them. "She died happy and satisfied. That is the best way to leave this world."

He picked the grandmother up and carried her for the last time back to her home.

Daniella, Josefina, and Lor each gave him their sincere thanks for playing a part that had never been written for him, simply to please a tired old woman.

"We never really knew our father," Daniella told him. "But I hope he would have been just as caring and loving as you."

As Iolaus left the city behind, he decided it was time for a trip to Thebes. It was time for his own long-overdue visit home.

- THE END -

Hercules and Iolaus belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. They were used without permission. No copyright infringement intended. No money was made.