Chapter One

She interrupted her pacing just long enough to grab the brass candlestick from the table.  Hurling it against the wall, Fioursi let loose with a string of epithets while searching for something else to throw.  The broken glass and strewn objects on the floor proved the futile attempt to vent her anger.

  Still, she could not slow her furious gait.  A flash of light from the bedside table caught Fioursi's eye and quickly she moved toward it.  Without a thought, her hand closed tightly around the object.  Throwing it against the wall, she watched as the fragile piece shattered.  As a small glass fragment came to rest near her foot, she immediately halted, having recognized the broken treasure.  It was the crystal horse she'd received from the queen for her birthday; the last gift her mother had given Fioursi before her untimely death.  Collapsing on the floor, Fioursi burst
into uncontrollable tears, realizing her anger had caused the destruction.

   Hearing the pitiful wailing, her tiring woman rushed into the room and helped her to her bed.  Fioursi clutched the woman tightly as she continued to sob on her shoulder.

  "Davida," she continued to moan.  "What's to become of me?  I can't marry that evil man, no matter how much it'll help the king."

  "There, there, my child," the older women soothed, "How could you possibly know he's evil?  You've never met him..."

  "I don't need to met him to know I'd hate him," she spat out.  "Any man who has to rely on arranged marriages in this day and age must be old, ugly and just horrible."  Fioursi pounded the bed with her fist in frustration.

  "I'm sure your father has a good reason for choosing this man to be your husband. And I seriously doubt the king would've picked an wicked man for his daughter to wed." The older woman tried again to quiet the girl's fears.

  "There is no reason, good or otherwise.  My mother always said I could marry for love.  She and my father agreed that I could choose my own husband."

  "That was before your brother died, Your Highness."  The tiring woman tried to rationalize with the grieving princess.  "Your parents agreed to let you choose your own husband because your brother was going to inherit the kingdom and continue the proud lines of your family.  With his death, that responsibility falls on your shoulders.  Your father's only trying to do what's best for his people, while still looking after your best interests."

  "My best interests DO NOT include marrying that ogre.  I will NOT be told what to do."  Fioursi frantically looked around the room, hoping to find a solution to her dilemma.

  Davida, realizing that her young mistress was in no position to listen to reason, went to the door and called to a nearby servant to help clean up the damage.  "I'll order dinner to be brought to your room, Fioursi.  Perhaps after you've something to eat, you'll be able to see things more clearly," she said calmly, while closing the door behind her.

  As soon as the faithful servant had left the room, Fioursi jumped up from the bed and moved toward the window.  Peering out toward the nearby seaport, she spied several large ships docked at the harbor.  Suddenly an idea began to form....

  Watching the servants as they removed all evidence of her tirade, Fioursi mentally planned for an escape from her ivory tower.  While she continued to pick at the large meal the cook had produced, she watched with interest as Davida ministered to the assorted cuts and abrasions on her arms and legs.  Apparently, the various projectiles from her earlier tantrum had caused damage to more than just the room.

  After allowing the woman to brush her long red hair for the requisite one thousand strokes, Fioursi dismissed Davida, feigning exhaustion.  No sooner had the massive door closed behind the tiring woman, than the princess leapt from the bed, retrieving her robe from the nearby chair.

  Peering out her door to assure herself no one was nearby, she quietly padded barefoot down the darkened hallway.  She paused momentarily outside the abandoned suite and with a heavy sigh entered the musty room.

  Leaving the door slightly ajar, she was able to utilize the available light from the few hallway torches to make her way to the large chest by the far wall.  It wasn't enough, however, to prevent her from finding the heavy cobwebs before they accumulated on her face and arms.  Brushing them aside, she reached the chest, opened each of the drawers, and pulled several items out.  Before leaving the room, she again looked around outside and then hurried to the safety of her chambers.

  As she looked at the objects of her night raid, tears began to fill her eyes. Desperately trying to hold back the wetness, she quietly gave thanks to the gods that because of her father's grief, her brother's suite had remained undisturbed until now.

  Laying her brother's clothes on the bed, Fioursi removed her robe, shift and the various fabric bandages.  The shift was soon lying torn in strips.  Fioursi placed some of the remnant pieces of her shift into her leather bag, along with other clothing and supplies.  The remainder she began to wrap around her body as tightly as she could tolerate.

  A short while later Fioursi stood in front of the mirror to survey the damage. The image that reflected back bore little resemblance to the princess, save for the large expressive turquoise eyes.  Her hand instinctively went to her head and a single tear trickled down her cheek as she touched her knife shorn locks.  Looking down she saw the evidence of her deed and bent to gather up the pieces of hair strewn about the floor.  Regaining her composure, Fioursi tugged at her brother's jerkin, pulling it into place over her slim hips.  She wiggled uncomfortably against the tight cloth confining her breasts.

  Satisfied that her appearance wouldn't betray her identity, she returned to the bed and picked up the scabbard and broadsword that once were her brother's. Strapping the heavy belt to her waist, Fioursi silently thanked Athena for gifting her with the wisdom to insist on weapons training with her brother.

  Fioursi looked around a final time before removing a silver-hilt dagger from the wooden chest and slid it into her boot.  Slinging the leather bag over her shoulder, she strode quickly from the room.  It was only after she had successfully cleared the palace walls and was a safe distance away that she allowed herself to look back, silently saying her goodbyes.

  Approaching the harbor, Fioursi saw three large ships.  Only one seemed to show any signs of activity, so the decision was instantly made.  Spying a young sailor preparing to board the ship, she cautiously approached.  "I need to speak with your Captain," she informed him, trying to deepen her voice.

  "The Captain's over there by the mainsail," he volunteered cheerfully.

  Mumbling a word of thanks, she boarded the ship.  She forced herself to straighten up as she approached the tall figure standing midship.  Mustering all her courage, she sought to catch the captain's attention.  "Excuse me Captain . . . I'm seeking passage.  I was wondering if you needed another crewman?"

  As the lone figure spun around, Fioursi fervently prayed the darkness would hide the utter surprise on her face -- it was a woman.

  "I already have a full crew," the captain stated flatly.  Apparently she noted the dejection crossing Fioursi's face.  "Have you ever sailed before?"

  "Nnnooo," Fioursi stuttered.  "I've been on ships before," she quickly recovered, "but not as a crew member.  I'm very willing to learn though.  I'm good with a sword," she added, desperately hoping to change the captain's mind.

  "Let me see your hands, boy!"  The captain grabbed both arms and turned Fioursi's hands palms up.  "There's not a callous to be found," the captain remarked.  "These are not the hands of a warrior, let alone a sailor."

  "Please Captain," Fioursi begged.  "I really am a hard worker.  Just give me a chance."  The look in the captain's eyes told her the æinterview' was over.  As the woman turned away, Fioursi reacted in desperation.  In the blink of an eye she had somersaulted over the captain's head, grabbed her, spun her around and now held a dagger to her neck.

  "Very impressive, boy," the captain noted cautiously.  "Quick and dangerous...two of my favorite qualities.  Now, would you release me," she demanded.

  "Soorrry, Captain," Fioursi stammered, as she released her hold.

  "I'll give you a my cabin boy," the woman announced.

  "Thank you, Captain.  You won't be sorry."  Fioursi straightened herself up, tugged at her jerkin and headed off in the direction the captain pointed.

  With a sign of relief, she threw her bag onto the nearest pallet.  Fioursi was now determined to prove the captain's judgment wasn't faulty by taking an obviously untrained sailor onboard.  Her immediate problem, however, was trying to figure out exactly what a cabin boy's tasks were.  As she was mulling over this dilemma, the cabin door opened and in strode the captain.

  "You'll sleep over there, boy," the captain said brusquely, pointing toward the corner piled high with pillows and discarded clothing.

  "I'm terribly sorry, Captain," Fioursi stammered.  "I wasn't able to easily discern where I would sleep."

  "You don't talk like a warrior either.  I wonder if..."

  A sudden knock on the door thankfully interrupted the captain's train of thought. "Nebula," the first mate began, "the crew has returned and the ship is secured." The captain spun around, quickly following him out the door.

  "All hands on deck," the first mate bellowed.  Fioursi ran to join the others up top.  Watching the efficient crew raise the sails and prepare to launch the large vessel, the princess made mental notes as she observed the captain issuing orders to the crew.  Unsure of her role, Fioursi stood quietly near  the hold in case in the captain should call for her.  Glancing over the railing, she took a long, last look at Ambracia and her father's palace.

  Once underway, the captain turned command over to the first mate and strode rapidly toward the hold.  With a look, she bade Fioursi follow her.  Returning to the captain's quarters, Fioursi watched for any signal that Nebula wished her services.  The captain, however, was apparently engrossed in studying the navigational charts she had spread out on the nearby table.

  "So, boy --" the captain looked up briefly from her chart.  "Do you have a name, or do I continue to just call you boy?"

  "Begging the Captain's pardon," Fioursi mumbled, "I'm called Amadeus."  She hoped her brother wouldn't mind her borrowing his name.

  "So Amadeus," the captain began again.  "Do you have any idea what a cabin boy does?"

  "No, Ma'am.  But you only need tell me what you wish and I'll do my best to do it for you."

  "You'll start by not calling me Ma'am.  My name is Nebula.  Most of my crew call me Captain.  I never want to hear you call me Ma'am again.  Is that understood?"

  "Yes, Ma . . . I mean, Yes, Captain."

  "That's better.  Now, first lesson, a cabin boy keeps the cabin neat.  You can begin by cleaning up this mess."   Nebula was laughing as she walked from the room, closing the door behind her.  A quick perusal of the Captain's quarters told Fioursi she would be at this task for some time.

  The boisterous debate emerging from his dark, cavernous temple grew louder and louder until finally she couldn't stand it any longer.  Rising abruptly from her desk, Athena disappeared just as quickly.  Her siblings were so engrossed in their discussion, they didn't notice when she approached.

  "So who could we embarrass more?"  The feminine voice twittered.

  "I'm not looking for embarrassment.  I want retribution . . . retaliation . . . " The deep sultry voice bellowed in response.

  "Will you two please tone it down?  I'm trying to pay attention to my supplicants and your voices carry all the way to Olympus."  The two beings turned away from the source of their amusement simultaneously, startled by the new voice.  Athena stood behind them looking like a parent scolding a naughty child.

  "Lighten up, four eyes."  Aphrodite began chuckling as Athena snatch the glasses from her face.  "We're just looking for some cheap form of entertainment."  With a swift motion, she hopped onto a nearby table, pulling her diaphanous duster around her as she crossed her legs suggestively.

  "More like trouble, if you ask me," Athena countered.  She began to look around the temple, noting the fairly decadent decor which permeated the room.  "I can see from your taste in interior decorators, Ares, you still have that hedonistic streak."

  "That's the problem with you, sis.  You just don't know how to have fun."  A smirk slowly crossed his dark foreboding countenance.  "You need to lighten up and enjoy yourself," Ares suggested as he bounded onto his ornate throne, draping his legs over the heavy arm.

  "I most certainly do know how to have fun.  Why just yesterday I rewrote several pages of Homer's prose . . . "

  "Whoop di do!  I think I'm going to ask good ole dad to consider a humor transfusion for you, sis," Aphrodite said as seriously as possible.  Athena glared back at both of them, as they dissolved into uncontrollable gales of laughter.

  "Why do I even bother?  You're both incorrigible."

  "Why thank you, Athena.  That's the nicest thing I've heard all day."  Ares stood up and flashed his most devastating smile as he bowed deeply, with a flourish, before his sister.

  "Ok, so what exactly is it you're planning?  I know you're up to something judging by how hard you're working at looking innocent."  Athena's curiosity was piqued now.

  "But we are innocent."  Ares protested in vain.  "See that ship?" he finally divulged.  Athena looked into the well where Ares was pointing.

  "You're not going to sink it, are you?"  Athena was growing alarmed, having immediately identified the particular ship in question.

  "Take a chill pill!  I think you've got us confused with Hera, sister of mine." Aphrodite giggled in amusement.  "We're only having a little fun, nothing serious."

  "Why do I get the feeling there's more to it than that?"  Athena looked warily from one to the other.

  "Look sis, why don't you just go back home and worry about your books and poets and whatever else you worry about.  Aphrodite and I'll be good.  I promise."  Ares flashed his wise sister a contrite look.

  "That's what worries me," she said.  Athena didn't need to see the look that passed between her siblings as she vanished from her brother's temple, to know it was there.  She had already begun to implement her own plan.  "Two can play at this game... " she chuckled to herself as she continued to eavesdrop on their 'game'.

  "Let's make this more interesting, Ar -- how about both brothers?"  Aphrodite's face glowed with pride at her suggestion.  She hadn't wasted any time after her sister's departure to continue the postponed game at hand.

  "That could be good ... Hercules and Iphicles.  I like it.  So which one dies?" He began to rub his goatee slowly while pondering the possibilities.  His dark eyes sparkled in anticipation.

  "No can do, Ar.  No death.  We just put them in the right place at the right time and create an itty bitty conflict for them."  Aphrodite looked over sternly at her brother to confirm his participation.  "Promise me, Ar!"

  "You take all the fun out of it, Aphrodite.  You know I want to destroy that do-gooder half brother of ours.  And this Iphicles ... I don't suppose you've heard he's responsible for the death of Ajax, one of my best soldiers.  And if I have to listen to one more person talk about how much he resembles me...Pleeeeze."  Seeing the crestfallen look on her beautiful face, he gave in.  "Oh, all right ... No death ... some suffering perhaps.  And angst ... I love angst."

 Chapter Two

  After several days at sea, Fioursi was gaining a better understanding of her captain. Despite the flamboyant exterior, Nebula was basically an uncomplicated woman, albeit a warrior.  She was tough when it came to controlling her crew, yet generous when it came to sharing the looted treasures with them.  A quick glance around the captain's Spartan cabin was enough to confirm Nebula's priorities.  When Fioursi questioned her about it, Nebula had hastily explained that too much comfort only led to a lazy captain and crew.

  Laziness was one habit Fioursi was not permitted to develop.  In addition to cleaning their shared quarters, she was assigned the arduous task of keeping the sails in good working order.  Given the high winds of late in the Ionian Sea, this seemed to be a never-ending chore.  But despite her often bloodied fingers, Fioursi never complained about the hard work.

  For someone used to the ritual of a daily bath, the biggest hardship for Fioursi was trying to sneak a bath.  Whenever the chance arose, however rare, she would quickly bathe using a small pitcher and bowl she found in the captain's quarters.  She became proficient at undressing, bathing and tightly rewrapping the fabric strips around her breasts.  Early on, Nebula almost discovered the secret when she entered the room unexpectedly.  Fioursi was just putting on a clean shirt when the door opened and she spun around in the nick of time so her back was to the captain as she struggled with the laces.

  "There's no need to be shy, boy," Nebula laughed.  "I don't bite...hard."

  "Force of habit, Captain," she replied. "I'm not use to dressing with an audience."

  Luckily, Nebula had let the subject drop, but Fioursi kept her guard up from that point forward.

 A cheer went up from the crew as the alert was sounded, signaling approaching land. Fioursi was in the captain's cabin cleaning up when the call went out.  Nebula herself entered the room to inform her.  "We're only stopping in Naupactus for a few hours, Amadeus, so don't make any plans.  We only need to pick up a few supplies before heading back out."

  "With the Captain's permission, I'd like to at least take a short walk.  I'm afraid I still haven't developed my sea legs," Fioursi said with a laugh.

  "You're by far the most polite sailor I've ever met.  One of these days, boy, you're gonna tell me  . . . "

  "Captain, we've made landfall.  Should I go ashore to stock up?"  the first mate inquired, poking his head inside the open door.

  "Don't bother; I think I'll go along with the men."  Looking back over her shoulder as she approached the door, Nebula cautioned Fioursi.  "We'll be docked no more than three hours.  If you haven't returned by then, you'll be left behind."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  While waiting for her supply order to be filled with the local merchant, Nebula headed into the nearby tavern for a drink.  Turning around at the bar, mug in hand, she spotted a familiar backside.  With her long strides, Nebula quickly covered the distance.  Her outstretched hand squeezed the firm ass through the worn leather.  "Why Iolaus, I do believe you've been working out."  She flashed him a toothy grin as he spun around in response to her warm hand.

  "Nebula . . . " he stammered.  "What brings you to Naupactus?"

  "I'm just in port long enough to pick up some supplies," she volunteered.  "So, what are you boys up to?"  she asked, spotting Iolaus' companions over his shoulders.

  "We're on our way back to Corinth," Hercules informed her.  "We want to check on Jason
and see how he's holding up after Mother's death."

  "I was sorry to hear about her passing, Hercules."  Nebula looked over at the third member of the group, "You're looking much better than the last time we met, Your Highness," she remarked with a slight bow of her head.

  "Yeah, my leg's almost healed," the King responded.  "I want to thank you again for your help.  It was a terrible mistake; one that I hope'll never be repeated."  Iphicles let the conversation trail off when he noticed that Nebula was more interested in flirting with Iolaus than talking to him or his brother.

  "Let me buy a round for the three of you . . . " she enthusiastically volunteered.

  "Sorry Nebula," Hercules interrupted, "but we can't.  We've got a long journey ahead of us and we need to get some ground covered before darkness sets in."

  "Why don't you sail with me?  It'd sure beat walking.  Besides it will give Iolaus and me a chance to talk over old times."  The ribald look she shot at Iolaus almost made him want to hide behind Hercules.

  "It would save some time ... and Iphicles needs to get back to the palace ..." Hercules's voice trailed off as he turned around to make sure his brother and friend agreed.  Iphicles nonchalantly nodded.  Iolaus, however, was trying desperately to signal no to Hercules.  Turning back around to face Nebula, he smiled and responded "Once again, your persistence pays off.  We accept your gracious offer.  Thanks."

  "Ok, that's settled.  Now for those drinks . . . "  She pulled a chair up to the table.

  Leaning over, Hercules spoke softly into Nebula's ear, "So what's the real reason you're volunteering the services of your ship?"

  "Why Hercules," she said innocently, "can't a girl be nice to her friends?"

  "Nebula . . . " he countered.

  "Ok, ok . . . I figured you can never have enough IOUs from friends in high places," she sighed.

  Hercules lifted his mug, offering a toast to friends in high places.  Three other mugs joined his.

  When Nebula and her friends returned to the ship with the needed supplies, the three passengers volunteered to help the crew, and the ship made its way into open seas in record time.

  Unbeknownst to the three men, Fioursi watched them from the safety of the hold.  They were too far away to overhear, but not so far that she failed to notice their obvious good looks.  Feeling slightly flushed, she turned to escape to the captain's quarters when she heard her brother's name being called out.

  "Amadeus!   Amadeus!  Where is that boy?"  Nebula's voice was becoming more irritated by the minute.

  "Here Captain."  Fioursi ran up to the captain's side and stood at attention with her eyes lowered, awaiting her orders.

  "Amadeus, I'd like you to meet three friends of mine.  This is Iolaus, Hercules, and Iphicles.  They are going to be sailing with us to Corinth," Nebula explained.  Turning to the trio, she offered, "If there is anything you need, please talk to Amadeus.  He will be more than happy to get it for you."  A crew member called from the bow and Nebula excused herself to attend to the matter.

  "So, Amadeus . . . " Hercules began, "how long have you been sailing with Nebula?"

  "Not long, sir."  Fioursi lowered her eyes as soon as she spoke, hoping to avoid the unnecessary attention.  It was disconcerting, finding herself this close to three such gorgeous men.

  "Well, it's nice to meet you, Amadeus."  Iolaus extended his hand and grabbed Fioursi's arm.

  "Huh...oh...yes, it's nice to meet you too," she said, stumbling through the niceties.  She looked nervously around the ship, desperately seeking a diversion. Finding nothing, she reluctantly returned her attention to the trio.  "If you gentlemen will please follow me, I'll show you to your cabin."  Fioursi began heading for the hold when Nebula suddenly returned from the aft deck.

  "Hang on, Amadeus...change of plans.  Hercules and Iphicles get the spare cabin. Iolaus will be sharing my cabin," she stated matter-of-factly.

  Iolaus stopped in his tracks, dumbfounded.  Fioursi, however, didn't suffer the same affliction.  "Uh, Captain?  Will I still be sharing the cabin?"

  "Of course not.  You're very polite, but very naive, Amadeus.  You'll be sharing the cabin with Hercules and Iphicles.  There's plenty of room in there."  Nebula walked over to Iolaus, put her arm around him, and led him toward her cabin.  Iolaus looked back over his shoulder at Hercules, silently pleading for help.

  "This is really getting tedious, Ar," Aphrodite groaned as she tossed a pebble into the well, obscuring the action unfolding on Nebula's ship.  "You said it would be fun. I want some action, some suspense, some romance."  She began tapping her foot in annoyance.  "I can sum this up with one word: BORING!"

  "It's just beginning to heat up.  You must learn patience, little sister.  With that nuisance Iolaus temporarily out of the way, it's time to set the wheels in motion," Ares explained as he carefully selected a ripe peach from the large bowl of fruit proffered by one of his temple maidens.  He grinned at her lustfully, as he bit into the fruit.  Assuring himself he had her attention, he allowed the sweet juice to drip onto his bearded chin.  With a smile and a wave of his hand, he dismissed her.  She ran her tongue over her lips as she bowed deeply, backed away and then headed toward Aphrodite.

  Ares took another bite of the peach as he looked over at his sister primping in front of a shiny silver shield hanging on the wall.  "Aphrodite, is the spell in place?"

  "Yes...," she yawned.  Pirouetting about, she waved the maiden away.  "I still don't see how this is going to accomplish anything."  Aphrodite folded her arms and again began to tap her foot impatiently.

  "You will," he replied slowly.  "First we go for humiliation.  Then we'll move onto something better.  Don't forget that we can keep them at sea for quite awhile."  He grinned mischievously just before releasing his deep hearty laugh.

 Chapter Three

  Fioursi remained frozen on the deck, debating her next course of action.  Glancing over at the two men by her side, she found them shaking their heads and laughing.  Laughing!!  Didn't they understand the severity of the situation?  No, of course not, they were just men. Okay, gorgeous men.  But she was a crown princess, and a pirate on the high seas.  They were just commoners seeking passage to Corinth.  She still didn't expect them to understand her dilemma...

  With no other choice left, she bade them follow her to their temporary quarters.  Looking around the cabin, she found a small pallet next to the wall and claimed it for herself.  Hercules and Iphicles dropped their few belongings on the other pallets and strode from the room. Fioursi chose to remain, hoping to escape into her dreams.

  Hours later, she lay curled in the fetal position, eyes tightly shut, but definitely awake.  Her mind was spinning from the sounds emanating from the adjoining cabin.  She couldn't escape the moans and screams from her captain and Iolaus that filled the air.  Realizing what the sounds were, she drew the blanket over her head.

  Her eyes snapped open when she heard their deep, masculine voices as they entered the cabin.  Her forgotten roommates had returned.  Picking up on the slight slur to their voices, Fioursi closed her eyes tightly, wishing them gone.  Unfortunately, it was not to be and it was painfully obvious they were blind to her need for sleep.  Even through closed eyelids she felt the light from the candles.  Sleep was going to be in short supply tonight.  Between her tipsy roommates and her next door neighbors...

  "You know, Hercules, I think Iolaus protests too much about the lady."

  "I'd rather not think about it, Iphicles," he responded curtly.

  "Ouch!  I think I've hit a sore spot."

  "If you only knew," Hercules mumbled.

  "Do I detect a note of jealousy?" Iphicles queried. Fioursi heard him walk across the cabin and guessed he moved closer to Hercules' pallet.

  "Iphicles, I don't want to discuss this.  Especially with you..." he growled.

  "I'm exactly who you should discuss this with..."

  "This is not the time or....besides we don't want to wake our young friend over there," he sighed.

  "Our young friend seems dead to the world," Iphicles noted.

  Fioursi closed her eyes even tighter, wishing to be elsewhere.  But part of her was fascinated by the conversation...

  "Hercules...what's wrong?"  Iphicles' concerned tone urged the other man to reveal his secrets.

  "You wouldn't understand.  Hell, I don't even understand..."  The dejection in Hercules' voice grew stronger.

  A loud sigh and then the sultry soothing voice of Iphicles convinced Fioursi to abandon all hopes of sleep.  Curiosity finally overtook her and, lowering the blanket a bit, she strained in the dim candlelight to watch what was unfolding.

  "Is it that bad?" Iphicles encouraged.  He was sitting on the pallet directly in front of Hercules, with his arm resting on the other man's stooped shoulder.

  Hercules tried to nod.  Then without warning, his head fell forward. "I just can't take it anymore.  I don't know what I'm going to do," he whispered.  "I can't watch him and pretend..."  The moans from the captain's quarters grew louder and more intense, causing him to hide his face in his hands.

  Iphicles waited, then moved around behind Hercules and began rubbing his shoulders.  "Hercules...I think you should tell him."  Dejectedly, Hercules shook his head.  Iphicles continued, "Look, even if Iolaus rejects everything you have to say, everything you feel -- you'll be no worse off than you are now."

  "Yeah, feeling miserable," Hercules stated sarcastically.  "Why should you care anyway?" he questioned.

  "Because I know what you're feeling.  We've shared many of the same experiences, including now..."  Iphicles sighed as he removed his hands from Hercules' shoulders.

  "What are you saying?"  Hercules turned around and looked directly into the brooding face.

  "I have feelings for someone as well and I don't know how to tell him either.  I DO know...."  Iphicles broke the eye contact, lowering his lashes to escape the scrutiny from the other man.  As he did, a reddish gold curl fell over his forehead, somehow making him look more vulnerable.  Hercules' fingers moved to lift the errant lock back into place and a muffled sob escaped from Iphicles' sensuous lips.

  "Iphicles?"  Hercules looked questioningly into the achingly handsome face.

  Suddenly, Iphicles' reached out his arms, encircling Hercules as his lips sought their target.  As surprised as Hercules may have been, he didn't resist but rather seemed to acquiesce.  Fioursi remained frozen in silent fascination at the scene before her.  Both men moved in sync as they stretched out over the pallet, blissfully unaware of their audience.

  Eventually the need for air became too strong to deny and Iphicles pulled back slightly.  Glancing over at Hercules' body next to his, he found the bronzed giant's chest heaving and his face flushed.  Within moments, he pulled Hercules to a sitting position and began slowly removing his golden chamois vest.  The blue eyes that were measuring him smoldered with need.  Encouraged, Iphicles removed the other's boots and then began unlacing the leather pants.  With a swift, fluid movement he pulled them off and let them drop to the floor.  Bathed in the glow from his companion's smile, he quickly divested himself of his buttery-smooth leather jerkin and body-clinging pants.

  Mesmerized by the seductive scene, Fioursi absently ran her tongue slowly over her lips, as the agile fingers of the burnished copper haired warrior unlaced his own pants.  Hercules began slowly unbuckling the heavy leather gauntlets from his wrists while appraising the broad, muscular physique sitting next to him.  Iphicles soon followed suit, removing his own silver encrusted gauntlets, his heart thumping wildly as he tried to ignore the piercing gaze.  He could feel the heat radiating from the stare.

  Reaching over, Iphicles allowed his hands to roam over Hercules' muscular chest, playing with the soft curls.  He soon found his mouth crushed against Hercules' as the back of his head was roughly grabbed, pulling him forward.  Gently Iphicles forced him down onto the pallet.  Taking advantage of his supine lover, Iphicles straddled Hercules' legs and bent over slowly, pressing his lips to Hercules'.  He barely brushed his lips over the soft ones beneath him, his tongue tracing the outline until Hercules' tongue moved to capture it.

  Iphicles involuntarily released a soft moan as Hercules' mouth set the rhythm.  He continued to let his fingers play over Hercules' chest while his lips trailed down the exposed throat.  The red-gold curls splayed over the broad chest as Iphicles explored each muscle with his tongue. He stopped momentarily at one of Hercules' nipples before drawing it into his mouth.  He sucked hungrily until his lover's back jerked up.

  "You like this, don't you, Hercules?" the seductive voice whispered. He planted soft kisses in a trail down Hercules' torso.  A hungry moan was his answer.

  As he continued kissing Hercules' taut stomach, Iphicles ran his hands over the firm, toned legs, slowly pulling them apart and moving between them.  Hercules lifted his hips in response to the fingers gliding along his inner thighs.

  "You want my mouth on you, don't you?  I'll bet you're ready to beg me..."  Iphicles' lowered his voice further, while his hands hovered dangerously close to Hercules' throbbing erection.  With an aching whimper, Hercules closed his eyes as Iphicles encased the weeping shaft with his large hand.  "Don't close your eyes!" he commanded.  "I want you to know who's making love to you."  Hercules couldn't deny the waves of pleasure cascading over him.  "Would you like me to take you inside my mouth, Hercules?"  Iphicles moved his lips only a breath away from Hercules' hardness.  He could feel the warm rush of air against his swollen member while Iphicles' nimble fingers continued to make him writhe.

  Hercules looked down through glazed eyes as Iphicles watched him intensely, waiting in silence for his answer.  Hercules realized Iphicles wasn't going to proceed unless he asked him to.

  Fioursi, watching with rapt attention, surprised herself as she silently begged Hercules to respond. It was with great difficulty that she willed her body not to betray her with noticeable movements.  She needn't have worried; the lovers were far too preoccupied.

  Iphicles stopped stroking Hercules' rigid cock and moved up until his lips were poised over his lover's.  He captured Hercules' hungry mouth with his own once again then pulled himself away, leaving Hercules panting, his powerful hips moving in unanswered need.

  Iphicles turned and resumed his position between Hercules' parted legs.  "Maybe I can make it easier on you," he said sensually.  "Do you want me?"  He ran his tongue lightly up the length of Hercules' engorged cock.

  "Ah, Zeus, yes!"  It escaped his mouth before he could think.

  Iphicles began to lick the silken smooth head, twirling his tongue around the tip, before drawing the entire length into his hot mouth.

  Hercules moaned helplessly as his hips arched, matching the rhythm Iphicles set as he drew his lover over and over again into the fevered depth of his mouth.  Hercules threaded his fingers through the soft curls.  He continued to whimper Iphicles' name as he watched his swollen member disappear between the moist, full lips.

  Appalled at her voyeuristic fascination, yet unable to dismiss the erotic vision, Fioursi finally blinked.  She looked on in honest admiration of the gorgeous bodies she observed.  Prior to this impressive exhibition of manhood, the closest she had come to seeing a naked man's body was when she accidentally walked in on several crew members taking quick baths.  And then she had only seen their backsides.  Having nothing to compare with the sight of these godlike creatures, she relied on her knowledge of her father's rutting stallions...

  "Ares!" Aphrodite giggled.  "Like, draw a picture -- it lasts longer."

  "I notice you aren't able to take your eyes from this show either, little sister."  He said with a laugh.

  "Am too..." she protested, quickly tossing aside the fan she was furiously waving over her face.  "I was only watching our young voyeur. Yeah...that's it..."

  "This only makes the game more interesting, don't you think?  The next act promises to be more delicious than the first."  He rubbed his inner thighs and then quickly tugged at his leather vest, hoping Aphrodite was too busy with the scene below.  She had noticed...and grinned widely...

  Hercules was both surprised and delighted with Iphicles' skilled use of his teeth and tongue, which drove him to the edge only to deny him at the last second.  His heart thundered in his chest as his entire body throbbed from the friction Iphicles' mouth caused.

  Feeling the trembling muscles under his hands, Iphicles knew Hercules was on the verge of losing the last fragile strands of control.  Suddenly, he felt strong arms pushing him away.  Looking up questioningly, he found himself being pulled into Hercules' strong embrace.

  Hercules rolled him over gently and slowly slid down his length, leaving a trail of hot kisses in his wake.  Iphicles closed his eyes, allowing himself to be swept away by the delicious, building passion. As his swollen cock was suddenly enveloped by the moist heat of Hercules' greedy mouth, he groaned  loudly.  Slowly easing both of them onto their sides, Iphicles captured Hercules' neglected shaft with his hands and started teasing its tip with his darting tongue.

  Soon both men were gyrating wildly, hips bucking in unison as they strove to reach their zeniths.  Fioursi had to suppress a giggle at the loud slurping sounds that filled the room.  The tempo sped up as their bodies pressed against one another and they melded together as a fine sheen of perspiration covered them.  Suddenly Iphicles' body shuddered and he cried out his release.  Soon after Hercules began quivering and shaking.  His shouts were muffled as he refused to release his lover's still surging cock.

  Iphicles was caught off guard when he was pulled into Hercules' firm embrace.  In silence, they held each other; waiting for their ragged breathing to quiet down.

  Finally, their breathing slowed and Fioursi knew they had fallen asleep.  She realized that the sounds from the other room had stopped as well.  Exhausted, she gave into her need for sleep.

 Chapter Four

  As first light filtered through the small porthole, Fioursi's eyes snapped open -- a habit recently acquired.  She stumbled out of bed, splashed water on her face and headed toward the exit.  One look at the tangle of legs and arms on the neighboring pallet and she knew it had not been a dream.  On closer inspection she found Iphicles sprawled across Hercules' frame.  A fleeting thought of squeezing the firm ass of the sleeping man overtook her as she reluctantly opened the door.  She closed it quietly behind her as she felt the warm flush fill her cheeks.

  Not willing to focus on the source of that image, she headed for the top deck.  The flurry of activity she found there soon occupied her.

  Awakening slowly, Iphicles felt the muscular body beneath his own.  A smile crossed his still swollen lips as he remembered the night's passions.  Not wanting to break the spell, he snuggled closer to the warm body next to him and was rewarded by strong arms encircling him tighter.  Iphicles finally raised his eyelids to acknowledge the other's presence.  Soft doe brown eyes met the steady gaze of the azure blue ones.

  "I suppose we should think about getting our lazy butts out of this bed," Hercules stated wearily.

  "Or not..." Iphicles laughed easily.  Suddenly, he thought about the young man in the next pallet and quickly rolled over.  "He's gone!"

  "Doesn't surprise me," Hercules reasoned.  "He does work around here."

  Iphicles thought about mentioning their current state of undress and the possible reaction of the boy, but decided against it.  Reluctantly, he sat up and dug through the pile of clothing on the floor.  Standing, he pulled his soft black leather pants over his muscular legs and felt a warm hand firmly squeeze his ass.  Pulling the pants to his waist, he turned around and saw the friendly grin.

  "Need help?" Hercules questioned hopefully.

  "I think I can manage," Iphicles laughed.  "I've been doing this for quite awhile now."  He picked up the weathered brown leather pants and threw them on the bed.

  "Iphicles, we need to talk..."

  "I know...where do you want to start?"  Iphicles sighed as he laced his pants.

  "For starters, about last night..."

  "I'm sorry.  I just...." Iphicles stumbled over words.

  "Don't be.  I'm certainly not.  I needed that as much as you did...I wanted you..." Hercules found himself at a loss as well.

  "I told you I had feelings for's you, Hercules.  I have for a long time.  When I finally got over the resentment I had for you because of who you were, it changed into some sort of hero worship. Lately it's grown way beyond that,"  Iphicles admitted.

  "What about Rena?  I thought she..."

  "Don't get me wrong...I still miss her terribly.  But I also have very strong feelings for you as well, as you may have noticed last night."

  "You might be surprised to learn that growing up I was jealous of you," Hercules allowed.


  "Yeah, older brother and all that.  You seemed so sure of yourself. Going off on your own and ..."

  "I left because I was jealous of you.  Mother always favored you.  You are the son of a god." Iphicles' brow furrowed with the memories.

  "Mother always regretted letting you leave.  She talked about you constantly.  She was so proud of you.  You took over for Rena's father, and then Jason passed his crown on to you."

  "Yeah, after you passed it up, little brother," Iphicles remarked flatly.

  "I didn't want to stay in one place.  I can help people better if I'm not tied down."  Hercules finally stood up to dress.

  "Ah yes, the hero," Iphicles chuckled.  "I envy that actually...the part about not staying in one place, that is.  There are times I resent being king.  Too much responsibility.  Do you know, my regents are trying to arrange a marriage for me?"

  "To whom?"  His blue eyes looked startled.

  "The daughter of the king of Ambracia.  His son apparently died in some accident at sea.  Now he wants to marry off his daughter for a political alliance with Corinth." Iphicles yawned, obviously bored with the idea.

  "What do you know about the girl?"

  "Little really.  I suspect that since she hasn't been married off yet, there's little to recommend her." Iphicles tried to dismiss the distasteful thought.

  "Do you even know her name?" Hercules pushed.

  "I've forgotten it.  Shows how interested I am," he laughed.  "All I remember is something about turquoise..."

  "So are you going to marry her?"

  "Not if I can help it....why are you so interested in my life all of a sudden?" Iphicles asked suspiciously.

  "Because æall of a sudden' I'm a big part of your life.  I'm hurt you've forgotten me so soon," he pouted.

  "Trust me, I haven't forgotten, little brother," he said, wrapping his arms tightly around Hercules for assurance.  Releasing his hold, his arms moved downwards until his hands were able to cup Hercules' tight ass, giving a firm squeeze.  They both dissolved into gales of laughter as they finished dressing.

  Just then the door opened and Iolaus strode in confidently.  "What are you two laughing about?" he eyed them both suspiciously.

  "Opportunities, Iolaus...Opportunities," Hercules remarked flippantly.

  "Speaking of which..." the smaller man began.

  "We know, Iolaus... We know.  We weren't able to get any sleep because of your opportunities," Iphicles chuckled.

  "Huh, oh sorry.  I guess we were a bit noisy."  He blushed beet red, which caused his friends to laugh even harder.

  "A bit?  You were probably heard by all the ships at sea."  Tears began to seep from Iphicles' eyes, he was laughing so hard.

  The three men headed towards the top deck in search of food.

  "You are good, little sister," Ares said admiringly, stepping away reluctantly from his front row seat.

  "No, duh..." Aphrodite replied absently.  "Good at what?"

  "That was a brilliant move, putting Hercules and Iphicles together.  I definitely see pain and suffering from that one," he arrogantly announced.

  "Yeah, whatever..."  Aphrodite turned her back to Ares, a worried look crossing her face.  Her spell hadn't taken effect yet....

  "The groundwork has now been laid for our little Greek tragedy," he grinned.  Turning, he headed off to find that maiden Aphrodite has dismissed earlier, to discuss a matter of utmost urgency.

  "I prefer the comedies, myself..." Aphrodite mumbled as she moved closer to the water for a better view.

  Fioursi somehow managed to keep up with her chores.  Cleaning up the captain's cabin took longer than normal, especially given the tornado that apparently swept through the room the night before.  She returned to her own temporary quarters and began straightening up, thankful her own roommates hadn't caused irreparable destruction.  At the end of the day, however, exhaustion claimed her and she chose sleep over dinner. Climbing into her bed, she closed her weary eyes, pulling the blanket over her head in case her amorous roommates decided on a repeat performance.  Sleep rapidly overtook her, thankfully.

  Strong arms closing around her woke her; she nuzzled against the warmth, her sleepy brain trying to remember...  When she realized where she was, she froze.  "What?......."

  "Hush, little one, you're safe," the sultry voice purred.

  Slowly she turned over.  A smiling face and deep blue eyes greeted did warm, bare skin.  Fioursi noticed that indeed they were both her bed...


  "Yes?"  He sounded distant somehow...

  She let out her held breath.  "I'm dreaming you, aren't I?"

  The smile began to fade.  "Yes, little one, you are.  I'm sorry...but maybe next time..."

  "Hmmmm, next time.." she murmured and hungrily accepted his kisses. Unfortunately, she was unable to taste his mouth, having never experienced that delight.

  She drifted deeper into sleep, rocked by the soothing liquid voice...until she heard his loud cries.

  Opening her eyes, she found him ...  He was covering Iphicles' body, driving himself deeper and deeper into the writhing body beneath him. Iphicles clutched his back with bruising strength, pulling Hercules further into him.  The fire inside each of them raged out of control.

  Reading the urgent need of his lover, Hercules reached down between them, wrapping his strong fingers around Iphicles' pulsating cock.  He pumped the swollen shaft, matching the rhythm of his own thrusts. Finally, his control snapped and Hercules was hurled over the edge.  He cried out in ecstasy as he filled his lover.  Iphicles' own voice rang out as he found his own release, spilling his pearly cum over Hercules' fingers and coating their stomachs.  Hercules eagerly lapped the precious fluid from his hand and bent to kiss his lover.

  As they settled in each other's arms to sleep, Fioursi wiggled uncomfortably under her blanket, desperately trying to understand her earlier dream and, more importantly, her growing need for something she didn't understand.

  Somewhere through the haze, she felt the warm, moist lips kissing her throat.  The soft mass of silky hair tickled her skin as his mouth moved downward.  Her fingers wove their way into the thick ...curls?  Opening her eyes slightly, she found the source... "Iphicles?"

  "Shhhhh, my love...close your eyes and rest; allow me to play..."  His mouth captured her breast and she stifled a deep moan.

  Suddenly she was aware she was naked...again.  "Nooooo!  It's not fair!  I'm dreaming you too...You're not real..."

  "I'm as real as you want..." he whispered.

  "I wish..." She sighed, allowing him to continue his ministrations as she sank deeper into sleep.

 Chapter Five

  Daybreak again brought Fioursi to her senses.  Struggling against the desire to remain in bed, she reluctantly sat up and looked for her boots.  The sight of the two sleeping figures across the room, locked in an embrace, brought a sigh to her lips and questions to her mind. Allowing her eyes to linger on their firm chiseled bodies, she was fascinated both by the differences and similarities in their physiques. Her cheeks blushed bright red as she followed the exquisite lines of strong, sinewy flesh from their strong arms down to their hard-muscled legs.  Never before had she seen such perfection.  Her one experience with a man had left her sorely disappointed.  A courier passing through Ambracia had taken liberties with the curious princess.  She needn't have bothered; the man cared nothing for the needs of anyone but himself.  He never even removed his clothing.  Afterwards, Fioursi was left only with the embarrassment of having been such a fool. But, that was many lifetimes ago....

  She shrugged off the uncomfortable memory, resuming her pleasant inspection of her unknowing roommates.  As the growing heat continued to fill her she was forced to leave the cabin, lest it consume her.

  The crisp salt air helped ease her tension as she walked over the deck.  All around her the crew was scurrying about, raising sails and lowering torn ones.  Noticing Nebula at the helm, Fioursi ran to join her.

  "What's going on, Captain?"

  "There's a big storm coming in.  Quickly, Amadeus, mend those sails. We're gonna need every one of them after we get through this."  The captain barked out the order as she turned her attention back to outrunning the weather.

  As Fioursi spun around she saw the ominous dark clouds off the stern, to the starboard side.  Rapidly she headed below deck to retrieve her needles and thread.  Rushing over toward her bed, Fioursi grabbed her small bag of sewing supplies.  It wasn't until she turned to leave that she discovered both men were watching her intently.

  "Bad storm headed straight for us," she responded to their silent question, fighting back the ever widening blush.

  Both men instantly leapt from their bed and grabbed their clothes, strewn across the floor.

  "I'll inform the Captain you'll be coming up shortly," she stated flatly as she moved toward the door.

  "Is Iolaus on deck yet?" Hercules inquired as she passed him.

  "Not yet."

  "Why don't you wake him.  Nebula can probably use all of us," Iphicles reasoned.

  "Fine..."  She managed to retreat without hitting her face with the door.

  Knocking on the captain's door, she heard Iolaus mumble, "Enter..."

  Taking a deep breath, she opened it gingerly.  She found him sprawled across the bed.  She stared at the wall over his head as she informed him of the impending storm.  He was off the bed before she could avert her eyes from his naked torso.  She turned quickly and departed.

  "Will this never end,..." she muttered under her breath as she headed for the stairs.

  "Will what never end?" Hercules inquired, draping his powerful arm over her small shoulders.

  "Uh...noootthing, sir.  I was just remarking on how much cleaning I'll have to do in the two cabins,..." she stammered.

  "Yeah, we're such slobs," Iolaus giggled as he joined the group.

  Shaking off Hercules' arm, Fioursi took the steps two at a time to escape the uneasy feeling growing inside.

  "I don't think Nebula's cabin boy likes you, Herc.  Whaddya do to him," Iolaus snickered.


  "I don't think he likes any of us," Iphicles remarked dryly.

  "This is just too much," Aphrodite said excitedly.  "Totally outrageous!"  She spun around, finding only empty air.  "Ar?"  Not wanting him to miss the show, she headed off to find him.

  She found him all the back room of the temple.  He lay on the large bed with his back propped against the ornate black headboard...the maiden impaled upon his throbbing godhood.  He was guiding her movements with his powerful hands on either side of her slim, milky white hips.  Over and over, she was lifted up and then quickly lowered onto his massive cock.  The girl threw her head back in wild abandon as the overwhelming sensations washed over her.

  Ares opened his eyes slowly. Detecting Aphrodite's presence, he flashed her a wicked grin as he continued his assault on the young woman.

  Finally, he pulled the girl's hips down in order to move his body deeper into hers.  Ares' moans grew louder until finally they reached epic proportions, his screams echoing off the temple walls.  The maiden's legs began to tremble as she followed him into the abyss.

  Unable to stop watching the erotic scene before her, Aphrodite leaned back against the stone wall, pulling aside the diaphanous material covering her legs...  A short while later a grinning goddess hurried back to the main room.

  "Quite the little wanton, my dear," Ares laughed as he walked up behind her, peering over her shoulder into the well.

  "Bite me, Ares! ... You're missing the good stuff," she stated defensively.

  "No...I'm not missing any 'good stuff'," he chuckled deeply into her ear.

  Throughout the day the crew struggled valiantly to keep the ship afloat.  Nebula considered herself lucky that she only lost one crewman to the raging sea.

  Fioursi didn't get a chance to observe most of the action on the top deck.  She was thrown quickly into the thick of things.  She was repeatedly interrupted from mending sails as she was needed to help bail incoming water below.

  The storm lasted well into the night and by the time it had died down Fioursi was ready to collapse from exhaustion.  She sat wearily on the wet deck to repair the final sail.  Nebula wandered over to check on her, hearing the repeated string of curses, following pricked fingers.

  "Why don't you go to sleep Amadeus," the captain encouraged.

  "Oh, no Ma'am...I mean Captain. I still have to clean the cabins," she wearily explained.

  "You've done more than enough for one day.  Get some sleep. That's an order," Nebula growled.

  "Alright. Just let me finish this sail,..." she compromised.  She pulled the sail back onto her lap to finish her task.

  Nebula climbed the few stairs to the helm to join her friends.  Iolaus gladly turned the wheel over to her.  "Did you convince him to get some sleep?" he inquired.

  "He insists on finishing the sails tonight. He's a find, that one.  He claims he's never crewed a ship before, but you can't prove it by me.  I wonder about him sometimes..." she mentioned.

  "Wonder about who?"  Hercules joined the conversation.

  "Amadeus.  He speaks so formally sometimes.  And his bearing is not what I'd expect from a sailor,"  Nebula remarked.  "One of these days..."

  "He probably fancies himself an adventurer," Iolaus offered.

  "And you should know an adventurer, eh, Iolaus?" Nebula laughed.

  "Hey, I resemble that remark," he chuckled.

  They lapsed into momentary silence as they watched the young cabin boy complete the assigned task.

  When she finished Fioursi handed the repaired sail to the first mate and then headed toward her cabin.  She was sorely tempted to just jump into bed, but knew she had to change out of her wet clothing.

  She quickly removed her wet pants, stretching clean ones on over her weary legs.    She had just started pulling her wet shirt off when the door opened.  Quickly she tugged the shirt down.

  If he noticed anything, Hercules didn't mention it as he entered the room.  She breathed a sigh of relief, hopeful that her secret remained safe.

  "You interested in anything to eat?" Hercules inquired, standing in the doorway.

  "No thanks.  I'm gonna just get some sleep," she said quietly.  She watched carefully until he left the room.  Rapidly, she removed the wet clothing and soaked fabric strips.

  "Bummer," Aphrodite exclaimed.  "I thought sure she was gonna be busted."

  "I think there's another hand at play here," Ares reasoned.  As he rubbed his bearded chin, trying to analyze the situation, Athena appeared.

  "I don't like where this 'game' is headed," she interrupted their discussion.  "Don't you two have something more important to be doing?"

  "Athena!" Aphrodite sighed.  "This is like, so totally unfair."

  "You will leave the girl out of your twisted little performance.  She is of no concern to you."  Athena spoke harshly to her siblings as she watched Fioursi undressing.

  "She's not going to be harmed, Athena," Ares growled.  "She put herself into the picture.  We had nothing to do with it."

  "Nevertheless, leave her alone, Ares," Athena threatened.

  "Oh, very well.  I'll leave Fioursi alone," he acquiesced suddenly, watching the nearly naked girl's body below.  A slight grin crossed his dark face.

  As she disappeared, Aphrodite's smile widened.  "I just love a dare, don't you, Ar?"

  "I only said I'd leave Fioursi alone...I never said anything about Amadeus..." He laughed heartily, pointing into the clear well waters at the freshly dressed cabin 'boy'.

  Bending over, Fioursi picked up the pile of wet clothes and hung them to dry on the nearby chair.  Fearful of more unwelcome company, Fioursi had dressed quickly, binding clean strips around her chest and donning a dry shirt.

  Sitting on the bed, she realized she was almost too tired to sleep immediately.  Standing back up, she pulled the nearby sword from its scabbard and began sharpening it with the grinding stone.

  When the door opened again she was sharpening her dagger.  Iphicles walked in with a tray of food.

  "We decided you needed to eat.  You're practically skin and bones as it is," he smiled at her.  The light from a nearby candle reflected off the hilt and caught Iphicles' keen eye.

  "Thanks, maybe I'll have a little bite."  Setting the knife on the bed, she retrieved the tray from his hands.

  He picked the dagger up and turned it over in his hand.  "Nice craftsmanship."

  "I know, I had it custom made," she said between bites.

  The response startled him and he laid the weapon back down on the bed.  Grabbing a soft cloth from off the large chest, Iphicles vigorously rubbed his wet, drooping curls as he headed back out the door.

  There was something in his expression that bothered her.  She couldn't put her finger on it, but it definitely aroused her suspicions.  When she finally lay back to sleep her dagger was under her pillow, her hand upon the hilt.

  Iphicles sat next to Hercules at the large table in the galley.  As Hercules continued eating, Iphicles whispered, "Nebula's right.  There's more to our young friend that meets the eye.  When I delivered the tray to the cabin, I found him sharpening a finely crafted, silver-hilt
dagger.  I suspect he stole it somewhere along the way."

  "That could explain the bandages."

  "Bandages?"  Iphicles looked intrigued.

  When I first walked in he was pulling his shirt down and I saw his back was bandaged pretty heavily.  Perhaps he was injured when he stole that dagger you saw," he hypothesized.

  "I think we need to keep a close watch on Amadeus.  He's got a few too many secrets," Iphicles predicted.

 Chapter Six

  For the next three days the ship was a constant flurry of activity. Seemingly never-ending storms had taken their toll on the wooden ship. Finally, an island was sighted, and Nebula had no choice but to make landfall for emergency repairs.

  The captain, along with Hercules and Iolaus, scoured the island for signs of life.  Over dinner that night, Nebula reported that, although the island was deserted, it held a seemingly endless supply of items necessary to sustain the crew for the time required to fix her vessel, as well as the materials for the repair work.  Fioursi's interest was piqued when she heard about the discovery of a hot spring on the far side of their temporary home.  She decided that was a luxury worth checking out for herself.

  The next morning, long before most of the crew woke, Fioursi left the ship.  She had informed her captain the night before that she was volunteering to gather fruits from the numerous trees growing around the island.  Setting out with a large sack to carry the food back, she almost ran the entire way, ecstatic at the prospect of finally being able to wash the dirt of too many days at sea from her weary body.  Her joy would have been tempered had she known of the solitary figure following a discreet distance behind.

  Hercules was awakened at the first sound from the nearby bed. Slipping carefully from beneath Iphicles strong arms, he dressed and silently left the cabin.  He followed her trail as closely as he dared, fearing detection.  Hearing the sounds of splashing water, he headed toward the spring.  From his vantage point behind the large tree, he saw the boy in the spring, apparently taking a bath.

  Feeling foolish for having followed Amadeus all the way to the lake so he could spy on him, Hercules was about to make the most of the situation and bathe the accumulation of dirt from his massive frame. Just as he stood up and was about to reveal himself, he noticed Amadeus rising from the water.  With the boy's back facing him, he detected no discernible wounds or other reason for the bandages he had previously seen.

  With a swift, fluid motion Fioursi turned around and Hercules had to hold his hand over his mouth, lest the gasp escape his lips.  The reason for the bandages became crystal clear.  The first thought that came to mind was wonderment at how the bandages could have held those breasts so well hidden.  Hercules shook his head at the vision that was stepping from the warm water.  This wasn't just a girl...this was a beautiful woman.  Questions flooded his head as he stood in frozen fascination.

  "Gotcha big guy!" Aphrodite exclaimed.  Clapping in her hands in excitement, she barely felt the hand on her shoulder.

  "Not yet..."  Ares flashed her a quick warning.

  Just then Athena materialized in front of them, arms folded, a scowl on her learned face.  "You promised you would leave her alone, Ares."

  "I haven't done anything to her."  Ares looked the picture of innocence as he stared at her evenly.

  "I suppose it's an accident Hercules just happened to follow her to the hot spring?"

  "Well I certainly had NOTHING to do with it.  I can't help it if Captain Courageous finally decided to take a bath."  Waving his arms in frustration, Ares turned his back and headed over to his throne. Sitting down he looked into space in a vain attempt at looking busy.

  Figuring she wasn't getting anywhere fast with her brother, Athena turned on her airhead sister.  "And what do you know about this, ‘Dite?"

  "Don't cop a ‘tude with me.  You heard Ar..."

  "Okay, okay...just remember, I'm watching you two."  Athena disappeared, unwilling to fight further.

  Jumping up from his throne, Ares bent over the waters trying to figure out what he'd missed.  Aphrodite shoved him aside to get a better look.

  "This is like so unfair... They've already split.  I'm gonna give sis a bigger headache then the one she gave Dad, if she keeps this up."

  "Relax Aphrodite, I'm sure we'll have plenty more opportunities to mess with little brother's head."  Ares made a move to disappear from his temple.

  "That's it...when the going gets tough, the tough leave."

  "I've heard there's a certain temple to our dear sister that's going to be in dire need of repairs..."  With a wave of his arm, he was gone.

  "What?...Oh....fab idea, Ar."

  Fioursi chose to sleep on the island, rather than have to endure another night with her noisy roommates.  Settling in for the night near the roaring fire on the beach, she fell asleep almost immediately.

Nearby, leaning against a large rock, Hercules watched her carefully. He was troubled by the deception she was playing, but unwilling to betray her least not yet.  As he watched her sleep, he gave in to his own need to rest.

  He drowsily woke feeling the arm upon his shoulder.  Looking up at Iphicles stern face, he shook his head and chuckled.

  "Why are you laughing at me, Hercules?"

  "The look on your face..."  Raising his eyes again, the image that stared back at him changed.  Gone was the broad, serious face of his brother.  In its place appeared the much smaller, smiling one of Amadeus...  Hercules' mouth dropped open as she knelt before him.

Grabbing one of his large callused hands she brought it to her soft cheek.  The sensation of textures, rough against smooth brought a sigh to his lips.  Slowly kissing his hand she then drew one of his fingers into her mouth and began to suck on it hungrily.  Overcome with a wave of emotion, he pulled her into his arms, breathing her scent of hyacinth....

  Rolling her over onto the sand, he suddenly remembered where they were and glanced about to see if anyone was still awake.  The crew remained asleep around the fire.  But so did Amadeus.... Jerking himself upright, he found himself alone.

  Unable to comprehend the obvious dream, Hercules walked back to the ship in search of Iphicles to help him relieve the raging need he suddenly felt.

  Over the course of the next couple of days, the battered ship slowly regained her seaworthiness.  Fioursi worked tirelessly with the crew, cutting the lumber as Hercules and Iphicles dragged the recently cut trees to the beach.  Watching the two of them as they strained under their heavy loads provided a necessary distraction for Fioursi.  The sleek, sculpted, naked chests helped her forget the dull aching pain in her back as she continued to cut the bark from the trees.

  At the end of the second day she wearily trudged the distance to the warm spring in order to soak the soreness from her tired muscles. Spying several of her shipmates already enjoying the lake, Fioursi sat behind a tree, waiting for the men to return to the ship.  Finally, she had the lake to herself and she quickly divested herself of her clothing and dove into the water.

  Unbeknownst to Fioursi, her shadow was following her footsteps. Hercules tried vainly to convince himself he was looking out for her welfare.  The images of this mysterious woman that flooded his mind soon crowded out any coherent thinking.  Why was he experiencing such deepening feelings for her?  He was just beginning to sort through his burgeoning relationship with Iphicles.  So why should Amadeus -- if that was really her name -- affect him so?  Trying to cling to memories of Deianeira and Serena failed as they dissipated into the slender form of Amadeus.  Hercules found himself memorizing every feature of her lithe body as she steeped onto the grassy hill.  As she wrapped the fabric around her full breasts he released a sigh of frustration.  Watching as she quickly resumed her masculine identity, Hercules was brought back to reality.  He wondered how much longer he'd be able to contain himself before confronting her.

  "Patience, big brother,"  Aphrodite urged, giggling.

  "Don't you just love the desperation?  This look becomes you, Hercules."  Ares laughed generously.

  "Your cruel streak is showing, Ar."

  "Moi?"  He looked taken aback at her affront.

  "The deal was, Herc gets to have fun."

  "Deal?  I don't remember any such deal.  In case you've forgotten, Toots, I'm the God of War.  Fun isn't in my job description."

  "Yeah, yeah...I know...rape, pillage, plunder...  Whatever!  Don't forget...TOOTS, you need ME to pull this off, Ar."

  "Hah!  I'd be better off without you.  I could just kill a few people and ... Voila...mission accomplished."  His features brightened as he began to formulate a new and better scenario.

  "No way, destruction.  A little partying here, some fooling around there and you accomplish the same thing."

  "When are you going to get it through that big haired head of yours the end justifies the means."

  "Exqueeze me...when did you and ‘Theni switch bods?  A philosopher you ain't." She patted him on the shoulder as she walked away.  "Don't quit your day job, Sweetie."

  Bending over the well, Ares peered into the clear water.  He realized he was going to have to take matters into his own hands to speed things along. Spying a large tree near the lake, he focused his energies into his arm.  Pointing his finger, he felt the crackle of generated energy as it sprang earthward.

  The rain picked up considerably right after Fioursi finished dressing.  Strapping her sword at her hip, she headed quickly toward the beach.  She heard the large crackle as the lightning bolt hit the large oak.  She didn't react fast enough and the stout branch hit her flat on her back.  To escape the pain, she welcomed the nothingness as it enveloped her.

  When she opened her eyes, deep blue ones met her glazed stare.  The familiar smile was gone, replaced by intense concern.  Raising her arm she allowed her hand to mold to the side of his face.  She watched as his features softened to her touch.  She tried to lift up to meet his lips when she suddenly winced in pain.  "What..."  She fell back down, reacting to the sharp, burning sensation.

  "Don't've been injured.  I'm trying to find out how seriously."  He was trying to remove her shirt as gently as possible.

  Abruptly she realized this wasn't a dream.  "Don't," she commanded. "I'll be fine."

  "It's all right, Amadeus.  I..."

  "No, it's not.  Just leave me alone."  She furiously struggled to free herself from his strong grasp.

  "I already know," he replied.  "Let me check your back.  You took the full brunt of that limb."

  The full realization of his words swept over her slowly.  " did you..." she stammered.

  "We'll discuss your secrets later.  Let me see your back."  His firm tone gave her little choice.

  Reluctantly giving into his gentle touch as he removed her shirt and fabric bonds, she rolled onto her stomach.  The sensation from his fingers sent waves of electric pulses down her spine.  When Fioursi no longer felt his soothing hands, she turned over and tried to sit up.  He quickly averted his gaze and she realized the source of his discomfort. She tried to cross her arms over her exposed breasts but a single yelp of pain escaped as the tender muscles in her back tightened with the sudden movement.  Instinctively Hercules grasped her shoulders and forced her to lie back on the grass.

  He covered her gently with her shirt and then stood up slowly.  "I'm going to get wood for a fire.  Stay here."

  As he walked away she struggled to sit up and began to dress.  She had just started wrapping the fabric around her chest when he returned.

  "What do you think you're doing?  Lie back down NOW," he commanded, his eyes clearly warning her to obey.

  "I have to get dressed before we return..."

  "You're not going anywhere.  You're in no shape to be moved right now so we're going to spend the night right here.  And take those bandages off...they are only making your back hurt worse."

  "I'm not going to just lie here and let you ogle me.  I'm going to get dressed."

  "Look, just put your shirt on, okay."  Turning his back to her, he lit the fire.  "I'm going to return to the ship and get some blankets and food for us.  I'll let Nebula know what happened and get back as fast as possible."

  "Oh no.  You're not going to tell them about me."

  "I'm only going to tell them you were injured, not anything..."

  "And I'm suppose to trust you?  I don't even know who you'll probably tell the whole world and then I'll have to..."

  "I'm not going to tell anyone, I promise."

  "I don't suppose I have much choice do I?"

  "No...Just lie still until I get back."  Standing, he turned around and headed back to the ship.

  "Do you want me to come along with you?"

  "I think I can babysit one cabin boy without too much trouble, Iphicles.  Besides, he won't be able to get into trouble with the sore back."  Hercules laughed uneasily, troubled by how quickly he had lied to his brother.  Truth was he wanted to spend time alone with her.  He didn't want to share her with anyone, especially his brother.

  "Okay, but if he still can't be moved tomorrow, I'll volunteer to stay with him." Iphicles' stoic demeanor did nothing to mask his disappointment at having to be separated from his beloved brother.

  "I'll be fine.  I'll see you in the morning."  Hercules quickly gathered up a couple of the furs lying about the cabin and headed out the door.

  Walking back to the lake, he began to contemplate his feelings towards his brother.  Was it love, lust....  What about Iolaus?  He'd barely seen his best friend since they boarded Nebula's ship.  She practically kept him locked in her cabin; not that Iolaus seemed to mind very much. And what are these feelings  for Amadeus?  True she was a beautiful woman...he was amazed he hadn't seen it before.  He began wondering what she would look like with longer hair...  The more he thought about her, the faster his pace became.

  Finally spying the dying fire he began to run until he reached her. As he knelt down to check on her, she rolled over gingerly.

  "I was beginning to think you'd forgotten about me."

  As wide smile crossed his face, "I doubt seriously I could forget about you."  He laid a large fur over her for warmth and then threw more branches on the fire.  "I've got some food for you, if you're hungry."

  Fioursi sat up and began to eat as if it had been days instead of hours since her last meal.  "Thanks, I guess I was hungry."

  "No problem."  Hercules grabbed a loaf of bread and broke off a piece for her and took a bite out of another.  "So, are you going to tell me why you've gone to so much trouble to pretend to be a boy?"

  "Nope," she said trying to swallow the bread.  "It's not something I want to talk about."

  "Okay... So is Amadeus your real name?"

  She eyed him suspiciously and decided she wasn't ready to trust him just yet.  "Yeah."

  Hercules decided not to press her so they ate the remainder of their meal in silence.  Occasionally he caught her looking around, beyond the immediate area of their campsite.  "There's no one else coming out here.  I told you I wouldn't bring anyone else."

  "Just checking."  Fioursi pulled the furs around her and started to lie down.

  "Let me see how your back is."  Hercules moved to her side.

  "It's fine, just let me sleep."

  Holding her shoulders tightly, he lifted her shirt up her back. "You're gonna have a really nasty bruise there.  Here, let me rub it for you before you sleep."

  Fioursi started to protest, but his hands had already begun to run up and down her back gently.  Giving in to his ministrations, she lay down to allow him full access to her back.  The feeling brought back pleasant memories of massages she had received at the castle and she began to purr.

  Suddenly remembering where she was, she bolted upright, momentarily knocking Hercules off balance.  She turned to face him and discovered his mouth mere inches from her own.  She leaned in to give him a gentle kiss of thanks.  When she tried to pull away, he held her head, unwilling to allow the kiss to be over.  She thought to break away but couldn't imagine why.

  Fioursi's head began spinning as the sensations overtook her. Whatever she might have said to get him to stop she forgot.  Suddenly she was experiencing what dreams had always lacked -- the taste of his lips.  She held on to his soft vest as if for fear of drowning, and let Hercules kiss her.  Sensing he would have pulled  away, Fioursi began kissing him back.  A hand moved up her back and her whole body trembled.

  She broke off the kiss and leaned in against Hercules, unwilling to disturb the relished moment with thoughts or questions.  His arms held her protectively, tight against his chest.  Pulling away slightly, Fioursi looked up at the bronzed knight who held her.

  His big hand cupped her chin, puzzlement filled his eyes.  "What is it, little one?"

  Fioursi gasped at the nickname she had only heard before in her dreams.  "Nothing," she responded evenly.

  Don't! Don't!  His inner saner self warned him, but he bent over and touched her lips with his own.  Fighting to control himself, he allowed his hands to slide over her body.

  Without a word he slid her shirt over her head.  Then his hands pushed her pants over her hips.  She remained still while Hercules' hands fondled her breasts.  Moving his hands to her thin waist, he covered her torso with hot kisses.  She grasped his head and pressed it against her wildly fluttering belly.  The time for words was long past.  For a moment he simply knelt there enjoying the silken feel of her skin, then swiftly standing he stripped off his own clothes and sat back down beside her.

  Laying her down gently among the furs, there was not a part of her he did not explore with this hands and mouth.  Gradually losing her shyness, she became bold and caressed him in subtle ways that left him moaning.  As his hungry mouth captured her taut nipple, he began sucking passionately on it until, with an angry half-cry of desperation, he yielded to his own desires.

  Swinging himself over her burning body, he parted her thighs and thrust his throbbing cock into her.  She sighed and with a deeply rooted feminine instinct, wrapped herself around him and moved her body to match his frantic rhythm.  Her slender fingers slid down his long, smooth back, kneading his muscled butt until he whimpered with pleasure.

Within her own body she felt a tingling tenseness that built with unbelievable intensity until, finally, it sent her into blessed oblivion.

  "Ah, little one," Hercules murmured against her ear.  Feeling her body react with its release, he allowed himself to find his own.

"I never knew it could be so wonderful," Fioursi whispered.

"I shouldn't have...," he chastised himself.  "What if I hurt you further."

"You didn't hurt me.  I'm just a little surprised is all."


"Yeah...I thought you and Iphicles were..."  She hesitated to bring up the subject.

"I don't know..."  Reality sank in as he realized she probably hadn't been asleep all those times they thought she was.  And he didn't have any answers for her...let alone any for himself.

Juxtaposition continues here