Wargames (Pts1-6)
The sun shone splendorous dark, all red-golds and pinks as it settled in the Western sky over the battlefield.  It lit the spilled blood of valiant warriors with dark burgundys and blacks, lending to the feeling of the surreal.

Iphicles looked over the devastation, pride at Corinth's victory warring with pain over the blood spilled, the lives lost in the struggle.  Hercules would probably have found another, cleaner way to settle it (sour little flip of his stomach at the thought), but here... now... the only solution was blood and raw violence, passions having run too high for reason and diplomacy to satisfy.  Small pockets still fought, but for all their admirable tenacity, the war was won.  And he'd led his troops to the kill, choosing to face danger with his men rather than hide behind the safe walls of the castle, planning strategies with game pieces and bravado, never seeing the truth of blood spilt and lives lost that is war.  He felt he would not be a king if he did otherwise.

"Well done."

Iphicles wheeled around to see a face utterly like, yet utterly unlike his own.  "Ares..." he breathed.

"The one and only," the dark god smirked //fondly?// at him.

"I did what I had to do," Iphicles gasped, perhaps a trifle too determinedly.

"I know."  The God smiled, and it was like looking at himself through the depths of Tartarus.

"Why are you *here*?!" a breathless sob, emotions adrenalin-driven.

A rakish grin.  "This is war, Iphicles.  *I* am War.  Why are *you* here?  I thought kings stayed safely ensconced in their castles in times like this."

"Not me," Iphicles unconsciously sought the deep brown eyes of his...half-brother?  No, Herc was his half-brother.  *He* was only related through... bastardy?  "I must... I HAVE to-"

"Show him?"  Ares' expression was oddly bittersweet.

Iphicles gave him a long, slow stare, then, "NOOOOO!" he swung, neatly decapitating the warrior closing on him.  He turned back to his half-brother, his dark side... "It has *nothing* to do with him!  I am king of Corinth and my place is at my legions' side."

Ares cocked his head, tongue playing lightly over bee-stung-beautiful lips as he contemplated the new spray of blood on the king.  "And you are magnificent," he conceded, his hips cocking ever-so-slightly.  "But are you honestly going to tell me it never galls you, how that young whelp of a brother of ours only has to smile in the right direction and there's another legend written about him?"  He raked a hand through Iphicles' sweat-and-blood- soaked hair, ending in an oddly gentle caress to the nape of the king's neck.

Iphicles frowned.  This was not the time or the-

"Don't worry... no one sees this," Ares purred.  "You've saved your land." Then, hand digging in Iphicles' hair fiercely, that so-familiar-but-alien face kissing-close, "YOU, Iphicles!  Not that snot-nosed do-gooder!  For *once* in your life, *forget* him.  This is *your* victory!"

And Iphicles was pulled close, pulled under, drowning ecstatically in Ares' kiss, so surprised initially that his mouth surrendered under the merciless plundering of Ares' mouth, accepting the tongue thrusting hard and urgent into it, then remembering that he *was* Iphicles, King of Corinth, in blood as well as name, and he met Ares dead on, tongue and body meeting the dark god's thrust for thrust, hands searching out hard muscle and soft concession as intently as his own were being explored, and he'd never felt so alive....

Amazingly, it was Ares who pulled away first, colour high with arousal and battle-lust.  "So what say you, King Iphicles?"  His voice a low growl, more felt than heard, reverberating through the king's bones and touching visceral responses he'd never known he had.  "Will you embrace your brother War?"

Iphicles looked around despite his unbearable need to fall into those darkdark eyes.  "Ares.. in a battlefield?"

The god grinned, slow and sultry.  "What better place?  *This*-" he waved an all-encompassing hand, "this is me.  This defines me.  And *this* is where you became Iphicles, *King* of Corinth, not Hercules' less-impressive brother."

Iphicles leaned into Ares, nuzzling just a little under the leather vest, tongue sampling slight, heady taste of sweat, blood and masculine musk. "But I am more than this battlefield," he murmured against a taut nipple.

"I was king far before this.  If I'd ruled without thought to our brother, I may even have averted this war..."

"And if you had?"  Ares shifted to accommodate Iphicles' position, hands roaming with soft insistence to cup the mortal's hips, pulling him closer...

"It would have been... less effective?"  Iphicles pulled the dark god's leather vest to one side, exposing the small, nut-brown nipple, already tensed with arousal, and laved his tongue hesitantly around it.

Ares gasped softly, retaining just enough sense to erect a shield of invisibility around the two of them.  "You would have been seen as a just but indecisive ruler," Ares confirmed.  "Blood doesn't lie, and you have been blooded this day."  He snaked down Iphicles' armour, unfastening it as though it were paper, pausing to lap at the small trickle of blood that was pooling in the King's navel from his earlier wound across his ribs.  "This is the proof," he rumbled, hands cupping Iphicles' ass as his tongue darted expertly up the soft line of hair at the king's belly to explore the soft, sensitive depths of his navel.

Hands twisting in dark curls that he could never consider evil now, Iphicles arched into the exquisitely frustrating ministrations of his dark brother of the soul.  The heady scent of blood and passion swirled around him, almost palpable as his senses seemed to expand, to encompass this strange new world that he neverever wanted to leave.  But pulling from some unfamiliar pool of strength within him, he gasped, "How do I know this isn't some machination of yours, Ares?  We may share part of a common heritage, but you're a god.  And I've had enough of being used."

Ares looked up at him, eyes black as Dacian coffee now, an odd amalgam of rage, fire, want and... something else flashing in them.  "You'll never know for sure, little king.  That's the beauty and curse of mortality.  But this day and I are yours alone."

Savagely the war god ripped Iphicles' trousers down to his knees, cutting short the king's protest by nuzzling his balls with every indication of true ardor, the strong hands stroking his thighs.  His soft murmur tickled up Iphicles' thighs, setting up a maddeningly pleasurable hum in his groin.

"Yours alone," he repeated, forcing Iphicles' legs farther apart with small feathery kisses.

Forcing down a shudder of pure thrill, Iphicles kept his voice stern.  "You honestly think this will lead me to wage more war?" and stifled a groan as Ares delicately tongued the head of his traitorously raging cock.  He could *feel* Ares' smile.

"No.  This has nothing to do with my office.  You've already proven you're every inch the warrior our brother is but more so.  *This*-" he paused to run rough, raspy cat-tongue up the length of the king, toying lightly with the weeping head as Iphicles fought down the groan, but could do nothing about the insistent buck of his hips.  Ares nuzzled in again, uncommonly gentle. "This is for me. Ares.  No title attached..."

Breathless, Iphicles ground out, "Then do I treat you as the equal you claim to be, or are you god to my jester?"

A low chuckle rumbled from Ares' chest to vibrate along his genitals.  "How do *you* want it?"  He nibbled, soft, stinging rodent bites down inner thigh, beard tickly/scratchy, tongue following soft/raspy hot in the wake of the strong teeth, and the king's legs rebelliously parted more to make room for this most unwelcome rapture.

//How *do* I want it..?//  He'd never been asked in quite this context before.  In perfumed boudoirs where the rules are known, yes, but this...He shuddered as Ares' nails raked down his back, his ass, his thighs, tingly contrails of white-hot pain/pleasure following in their wake.  He looked at the god knelt below him, raven-dark curls and unimaginable power.  His hand twined in those curls, forced the saturnine face up, those bottomless eyes to meet his.  "If we continue, it is as equals, Ares.  I've had enough of the inferior position with my brother, may the gods blast his soul."

Ares looked up at him, momentarily expressionless, hands grasping the king's hips, then...


started to grin.

He nuzzled Iphicles' half-erect cock briefly, then looked into the king's eyes. "So be it, Iphicles.  You are not my king, and I am not your god. Again... well done.  And now that we *are* equals, shall we indulge each other?"

It was Iphicles' turn to grin.  "Who's to stop us?"

The king of Corinth did his best Not To Think as those sensuous lips returned their attention to his cock, licking up the shaft to tongue the head, all light swirlingteasing then he was suddenly enveloped, taken all the way in (a rarity, since most of his lovers complained he was 'too big'), the god settling into an expert mix of hard suction and light, teasing licks and nips, the latter seeming to manifest every time he came close, hands running in tandem with his actions, slaps and nails alternating with loving caresses.  He twined his hands in the dark curls, trying to urge Ares on, but the god set his own pace.

Iphicles groaned in frustration.  "Ares... *please*..."

The god raised an eyebrow.  "You sure?"

Iphicles groaned his response.

"Mmmmmmmm," the dark god rumbled, sending reverberations up Iphicles' cock that had sparks flying behind his eyes.  "As you wish..."  And, hands cupped around Iphicles' ass, kneading the cheeks, fingers occasionally straying to more sensitive areas, Ares took him all the way in, tongue playing roughly along the underside of his cock in teasing counterpoint to the rough suction.

Iphicles felt the telltale tight heaviness in his balls, the incipient twitch as his body arched into incipient orgasm and-

He felt Ares' hand, wrapping snakelike around the base of his cock as the mouth pulled away.  Ares squeezed, just *so*, and his orgasm, foiled, backed shudderingly Somewhere Else, leaving him breathless but unsated.  "WHAT..?!"

Ares grinned.  "An old hunting trick.  I want to savor you, Iphicles."  He stood up, hands still roaming restlessly along the king's body.  "I suggest we move this to somewhere a little more... comfortable.  As equals of course."  A rakish grin.  "Which means you'll savor me too?"

Iphicles managed a strained little chuckle as he looked into the dark mirror of himself that was Ares.  "You mean you're willing to leave the battlefield?"

Ares shrugged.  "My work here is done.  This area belongs to Thanatos now, and she is more than capable at her work.  But we can walk, and talk if you wish."

Iphicles considered what Ares had said.  It was another power game.  He was sure of it.  So he pulled his breeches up and re-laced them with a rakish grin to Ares.  "Let's do that.  I'd like to talk.  And this battle was too hard-won for me to abandon it for a momentary pleasure."

Perversely, it seemed to please the god.  He looked at Iphicles with something like respect.  "I'm impressed," he purred.  "And I agree."

They strode side-by-side through the carnage, the sun now blood-red in its last throes of the day.  "Is it true," Iphicles mused, "that Apollo is responsible for the sun's movement through the heavens?"

"Yes and no," Ares replied.  "If Apollo were to die tomorrow, the sun would still continue its trek.  But it's Apollo that gives it meaning."  He breathed deep.  "I love the smell of the battlefield at twilight..."

Iphicles thought about that Apollo statement.  It suggested that the gods were not exactly what he'd be raised to believe.  "So you give war *meaning*?  Is that what you do?"

Ares gave him an unreadable sideways glance, then walked several paces in silence. Iphicles was almost ready to apologize when the dark god spoke. "No.  What I do is... nothing like Apollo's duties.  War is a complex thing, much more complex than a sunrise.  So is my job."  And his stance seemed to say, "That's the end of it."

Strangely, Iphicles (who, he had to admit, had never had room to feel sorry for anyone but himself before), felt sorry for the dark god striding beside him.  "But you have your worshippers..." he ventured.

Ares snorted.  "Fawning sycophants.  They all think they can *get* something from me.  You're a king.  Tell me, how many of your subjects can you talk to?"

Iphicles thought, and came up with nil.  "I understand..."

Ares grunted, was suddenly distracted by a warrior not yet dead.  He looked down at the half-grown youth, whose screams had turned into moans.  "Tell me, Iphicles..." he gave the king a hard look. "What would you have me do with this boy?"

Iphicles looked at the boy.  No more than sixteen, but he was of the enemies' side.  The boy was gasping for breath, blood leaking out a wound that had surely punctured his lung.  "I..."

With a cold stare, Ares drew his sword, and with one swift move decapitated the boy.  "There's no room for indecisiveness in War."  He wiped the blood off the weapon and resheathed it. "Remember that.  He belongs to Thanatos now.  Next one's yours."

//Next one?//  As they walked farther, Iphicles prayed, but as with his other prayers, it was never answered. Another boy, another fatal injury, but this time with Ares standing over him.

"Do it, Iphicles.  You can't be king if you can't stomach bloodshed, even if it isn't righteous.

"Ares, he was *murdered!*, Iphicles raged, falling into the dark god's arms. "That's not war.  It was a slaughter.  Does Thanatos do slaughters?"

"On occasion," Ares smiled.  "So what do you say we head to my place instead..."

Part 2

Iphicles shook his head.  "No.  He's suffering.  Help him."

The god pushed Iphicles away and unsheathed his sword.  "If that's what you want."

"*Ares*!  NO!"

Ares raised an eyebrow at him.  "You *said* 'help him'."  He looked down at the groaning youth.  "This is the best help I can give him."

"You're a *god*.  HEAL him!"

Strangely, Ares stood still and quiet, attention focused on his sword, watching the play of the spectacular sunset on the shining blade of the weapon.  Then quietly, "I am war, Iphicles.  My... healing powers are extremely limited.  I can't help him other than to put him out of his misery."

Iphicles looked at him disbelievingly.  "You *can't*? "  Then scathing, "Or you *won't*?"

Those deep brown eyes met his dead-on.  "I can't.  OR I won't.  Does it matter?  Whatever I do, you'll decide whether I was truthful or not.  Your brother would say I won't."  The god shrugged.  "These days, it's all the same to me.  Kill him or don't.  I don't care."

Iphicles looked down at the panting boy, life bleeding out his guts as his hands tried unsuccessfully to hold them in.  He raised his sword, brought it down in one harsh arc, ending the suffering.  "You don't *care*?  I don't believe you."

Ares shrugged.  "As you will."  He gave Iphicles a half-grin.  "War is what you make it.  Still want to try another venue, or have I repulsed you?  I won't take it as an insult if you want to return to your castle."

Maybe it was just him, but Iphicles felt an undercurrent of taunt in those words, and for some reason he wanted very badly to let this brother-god of his know that it wasn't working.  He cleaned his sword on a corner of fabric.  "You don't repulse me, Ares.  I think you know that.  I just want to make sure you're not playing games when you say we'll meet as equals."

The dark god grinned slowly.  "Touche.  Equals it is.  Will you deign to accompany me?"

Sheathing his sword, the king nodded.  "Just keep in mind I have a kingdom to return to."

Ares bowed his head in acknowledgment as he took the king's hand, and they disappeared in a flash of blue light.


They emerged in a dark, rock-hewn hallway.  //One of Ares' temples// Iphicles thought as he took in his surroundings, having no choice but to follow the god wherever he led.  He considered skewering his host, but reasoned that not only was it likely to have little effect, but he had more in common with Ares then he did with their half-brother.  //And he owes me...// "Nice decor," he drawled.  "Very... martial."

Ares chuckled.  "One must keep up appearances."  He led Iphicles through a previously-invisible doorway, turning to the king with a slightly smug smile.  "But what think you of this?  It's all ours... completely private."

Iphicles looked around the opulent room.  It was all soft furs and tapestries, lit with a sourceless ambience, a huge bed the centerpiece of the place.  "Looks like a high-priced bordello," he said calmly.  "Nice, in an ostentatious way."

Ares chuckled.  "Well at least you're honest.  Last chance... want to leave?"

Iphicles snorted.  "After the cock-teasing you gave me?!  God or not, you owe me!"

Ares grinned.  "I like a man who's not intimidated.  Come here, "brother"..."

Not waiting for Iphicles to follow his request, Ares crossed the distance between them, taking the king in muscular arms as he delivered hot, feverish biting kisses to neck and jawline, Iphicles arching to allow more access. He worked his way down to nibble his way along the well-defined collarbone, lingering as one particular area near the shoulder drew a gasp, tongue and teeth delicately working the mortal into a heated frenzy as one hand crept
over slim torso and waist to rest as the delicate juncture of hip and thigh, following the skeletal tracery then delving deeper, playing lightly over belly to tease at the already-hard cock constrained by leather pants.

"Bastard," Iphicles breathed as his hands cupped the god's ass, thumbs working their way under the waistband.

"And you love it..."  With a thought they were naked, and Ares pressed them back to fall on the bed, even now grappling for superiority.  The god nuzzled into Iphicles' left nipple, tongue laving it till it stood hard and firm, then bit down, the king arching and biting back a shriek.

The king retaliated with a sharp slap to Ares' ass, then raked his nails viciously from shoulders to thighs, not letting up at all.

Ares growled, body arching helplessly, the pain/pleasure of it slowing his reflexes enough for Iphicles to manoeuvre the god onto his back, thighs straddling muscular thighs, cocks equally engorged and brushing against each other.  Iphicles grinned ferally.  "Guess I should've figured you like it rough..."  He drew a hand up and backhanded Ares, the impact resoundingly loud in the quiet room.  Ares grunted, and Iphicles brought the hand back punishingly across the other side of the god's face.

Ares twined his fingers in the mortal's hair, digging in hard.  "Is that the best you can do?" he growled.

Iphicles brought his hand down hard again and again, thrusting in time against the dark god's cock, the hands in his hair driving him onward, finally collapsing on Ares, hips thrusting helplessly until Ares worked him over onto his back.

"Do you want me?" Ares breathed, hot, sweat-soaked curls trailing across Iphicles' face.

"I want you."

Sharp **slap** of hand against hot, willing flesh.  "*How* do you want me? Tell me!"

Arching up, teeth sinking into soft flesh between thumb and forefinger, only to let go at the Look from those Tartarus-dark eyes, gasping at the arousal he's feeling... "I want you in me.  I want you to fuck me, Ares, and I want you in return!" Raking nails down soft flesh again, since Ares seems to like it...

And Ares arches, catlike, grinning down with teeth that seem razor sharp in the wild light of the room since things grew heated.  "I'll guarantee the first part now.  The second you'll have to earn.  I'll even give you the choice..." Sweet smile, beautiful on that face if it weren't so manipulative, "face up or face down?"

Iphicles looked at him steadily.  "Face up.  I want to see you every second of this.  And I want you to remember *me*.  And do it right."

Ares chuckled.  "As you wish."  He swiveled into a more comfortable position between Iphicles' thighs, rubbing lightly along the king's cock, then down, teasing his perineum, then toying lightly around the puckered opening of his anus, everything so teasingly light the king was ready to scream, fingers flying up to tighten in Ares' hair as he resisted the urge.

Small gasp as Ares inserted one teasing/stretching finger //somewhere he suddenly has lube?//, body thrumming as soft lips fastened over a nipple simultaneously, tongue teasing extra pleasure, his own arms wrapping around the strong, compliant body that arched so sensuously into his every touch, so perfectly fitted to his that he could reach every sensitive spot, predict every move... until the second finger entered and he *couldn't* hold back the gasp, arching into the invasion, wanton and oh-so-hot //is this how the girls feel??// as they brushed something inside him that he'd never known existed.

He opened himself fully to Ares, not caring in the least that his legs were indecorously wrapped around the god's shoulders, but mindful of pleasure given in turn, still raking his nails down the god's flesh.  Another gasp as a third finger entered, stretching, with soft relentlessness, then a soft sound of complaint as the penetration momentarily disappeared, beyond caring as he thrust his hips.  And was rewarded with the hard bluntness of Ares'
cock, first pressing up against the ring of tight muscle, then slowly sliding in, inch by exquisite inch, pausing to acknowledge his unfamiliarity, but unstoppable.

Iphicles didn't know what to think.  The feeling was exquisite, momentary pain overcome by pleasure, but his hard-on had wilted with penetration... Maybe he only *thought* he liked it?

Then the war god's grin sent a fire of its own to every fibre of his being as Ares began to slowly thrust.  \\It's normal,\\ the words rang in Iphicles' mind, \\Just relax... I love you...\\

And as Ares stroked into him, slow and sensual, Iphicles felt the worry dissipate as his cock regained interest, felt it completely disappear as Ares brushed *something* inside him that made him scream, holding his lover close, and they thrust against each other wildly, Ares' hand pumping Iphicles' equally straining cock, until the throes of Iphicles' orgasm singing through his muscles milked Ares' own...

And Ares collapsed on him heavily, until Iphicles pushed him off and to the side with a tolerant grin.  "I have to get back, you know..."


"Corinth.  I have to get back to Corinth."

"C'rinth?  Fuggit."

Iphicles tugged at a hank of loose hair.  "Ares.  You promised.  I have to go tend to my kingdom."

Ares looked up at him in bleary irritation.  "Right.  Kingdom.  G'head then. I'll be in touch..."

And that quickly Iphicles was back on the battlefield, wondering if he'd imagined the whole thing.  "Probably better if I did," he muttered to himself as he made his way towards the distant walls of his City.  //But oh, it had been so nice...//

Part 3

He glanced up with a slight start as one of his generals hailed him, giving the man a brief 'Wait for me,' wave, then stopped in his tracks as the thought occured to him, //He said I could have *him* if I earned it.  But he sent me back -- admittedly at my own insistence -- so what does that mean? I haven't earned it yet?  Or have I?  What do I have to do?  I... *have* to see him again. That can't have been a dream...//  Then Mephis caught up with him, and he had no choice but to rejoin his troops for the clean-up and victorious march home.

The weeks after their arrival back in Corinth were a blur, a flurry of parties, proclamations, planning and delicate diplomacy.  The defeat of Messilania added several leagues to Corinth's borders, and artful negotiation was required to make the change of rule smooth and peaceful, since Messilania's deposed rulers had fled the city and were apparently fear-mongering amongst the farming communities that made the land so enticing.  Iphicles wasn't involved in a great deal of the policy-making, leaving it to representatives of the conquered lands and expatriates in his government, but it seemed he was nonetheless called upon for judgement every moment that wasn't taken up by his regular duties.

There were times he was able to imagine that his encounter with the War God had been nothing but a fevered battlefield fantasy.

Until he was finally alone at night, and then the scene would play itself out in perfect recollection in the dark, his mind lingering in loving detail over every moment as his hands tried with hollow success to recreate the ecstasy of that endless twilight.  Once or twice he'd even mentally called out to Ares, but his quiet cries went unheeded.

During the days he felt unaccountably depressed, but his staff and advisors were so accustomed to his being in that frame of mind that they never thought to wonder about the cause.  As long as Iphicles ruled well, he was entitled to be as depressed and/or unbalanced as he wished.  His consul, Leonidas, was the only one who questioned the tenor of his latest depression, but as always, Iphicles deflected his smooth concern.  Leonidas had his own agenda, and Iphicles wasn't fool enough to think that the man's devotion was quite as deep as he made out.

He'd settled back into his usual state of mild, detached depression, dealing with the business of the kingdom efficiently, working long hours so the period of wakefulness before he fell into sleep was mercifully short.  The preliminary treaties with Messilania had been hammered out to everyone's seeming satisfaction; the biggest headache he faced at the moment was an ongoing dispute over fishing rights between Corinth's holdings and a neighboring realm (both were shrieking the other was responsible for the depletion of the fish stocks, but neither was willing to cut back on their share of fish).  Personally Iphicles was ready to strangle them all and *feed* them to the fish, but that wasn't politick.  Which is why he was good at delegating authority as needed.

He was sitting in his study.  Late.  Supposedly looking over one of the sheaves of documents his people kept shoving at him, but actually just getting lost in the flickering light of the fire, halfway between sleep and a mild fantasy, when he the deep voice purred in his ear, "Miss me?"

Iphicles whipped around in his chair, nearly hurting his neck in his acceleration, only to find nothing there.  Not in the mood to play games, he turned his gaze back to the fire, steadfastly ignoring the leather-clad form he could see out the corner of his eye.  "Of course I did," he answered in a monotone.  "But I didn't lose sleep over you.  Everyone knows how fickle the gods are.  I'm surprised you're here."

"You wound me."  A few steps and Ares was before him, straddling his thighs, powerful hands resting on his shoulders.  "Not all gods are the same, you know."

Iphicles reached out to trace a finger down the inside of a muscular thigh. "No, I don't know.  I've never been part of your inner circle.  But you do have some characteristics in common.  You still owe me, you know."

Ares chuckled.  "I'm impressed.  Most mortals would have convinced themselves it never happened by now."

Iphicles snorted.  "Don't think I didn't try.  But my *job* involves separating truth from fiction.  Not to mention I've had some experience with you lot in my past."

"'You lot'?" Ares looked perilously close to smirking.

"Yeah.  You lot.  Gods.  I've seen your old man cooing over Hercules, for fuck's sake.  And frankly, I don't think there's any reason I should automatically be in awe of *any* of you."  Iphicles stared steadfastly into the small area of flame he could still see around Ares' admittedly more intriguing torso.

Mock hurt from the deep baritone as the hands kneaded his tense shoulders. "You say that after our night together?"

The king relaxed into the slow massage despite himself.  "Yes.  ONE night, and then I'm ignored until you feel the whim to check in on me.  If you weren't just another typical god with that typical attitude that we mortals are little more than mobile gaming pieces..." and suddenly found all the passion and fury that he'd sublimated.  He wrapped his hands around the god's biceps, meeting the deep brown eyes in sudden fury.  "If you'd *meant* what you SAID to me, about *appreciating* me for MYSELF, you would have at least *answered* me before now! You mirror some of my feelings about Hercules and think that's all you need to do to secure my loyalty?  You USED me, Ares, and you think your showing up at your convenience makes everything all right?  That night was incredible, but... if that's all this is to you -- another tryst, another game -- then go away.  I want nothing to do with you, as a god or as a man."

Ares plummeted to a crouch in front of him, hands still clasped on his upper arms.  "Iphicles.  I did *not* ignore you.  I'm the God of War.  Did it ONCE occur to you that *I* might have duties to attend to as well?  YOU oversee Corinth; *I* oversee all of Greece and beyond.  Did you honestly think yours was the only war in town?"  He glared at the king.

Who bowed his head in acknowledgment.  "I just thought..."

"I should answer."  Ares nodded, and leaning forward, kissed the king lightly on the forehead.  "Because I *am* a god, and if not actually related, at least an equal dis-admirer of our mutual half-brother.  I apologize.  The work of War and kings is never done."

Iphicles looked up with a half-smile.  "Beautifully said.  Even if it does sound scripted.  If I can't get any real feeling out of you, could we at least relieve some mutual tension?"

Ares blinked.  "War isn't about feeling.  I don't feel."

Iphicles allowed a slight smile to play about his lips.  "Of course not. If you say so."

The dark god began to bristle, but was cut short as the king unfastened the tight leather trousers, taking him into capable hands as he murmured, "You don't know how much I've missed this..."

And Ares' head lolled back as the king's tongue played teasingly down the length of his cock, nimble hands sliding the tight leather pants down his thighs, his own hands twining in the red-gold curls, mind whirling as to why he couldn't forget Iphicles in the first place.  Aside from their mutual distaste for Hercules, there was something about the man, some core of inner passion that fascinated the god, drew him to this beautiful mortal like a moth to a flame.  And that mouth was *so* talented...

And Iphicles gloried in the feel/sight/scent of Ares, wrapping his hands around the muscular hips, bringing every trick he'd ever had or wanted done to himself into play as he continued to work the god's cock, gratified at the way those divine hips were pumping in helpless reaction.  His hands crept under the leather vest to caress hard muscle and hot, smooth flesh. Remembering Ares' previous reactions, he raked his nails down the god's ribs and was rewarded with a low groan as Ares arched into the tingling pleasure/pain.  He tongued the weeping slit of Ares' cock, Ares writhing now as his hands kept up the raking of his nails in perfect counterpoint, eliciting another groan and-

With a peremptory pounding on the door, Teleas strode in and Ares disappeared. "Milord.  Sorry to disturb your... ruminations-" the saturnine advisor looked around the room suspiciously, narrow gaze settling on his king, whose colouring was much more robust than usual, "but two important matters have... arisen."

"And those would be?"  Iphicles tried for quiet rage, giving Teleas a 'this had better be good' Look.

The senior advisor rubbed his hands together, practically oozing glee. "Argos has proposed an alliance marriage between yourself and the Princess Melenna, and-" slight, reptilian smirk, "your brother is here."

Part 4

The flat gaze Iphicles turned on Teleas betrayed nothing of the flurry of emotions he was feeling, chief among them rage at Teleas for interrupting his long-awaited reunion with the god of War //and for that insufferable smirk on his face//, stunned displeasure at the news, and frustration that he pushed down as the other two took precedence.  He suddenly feel a small headache take up lodging in his temples.  "I see," he said, since Teleas seemed to be expecting some sort of immediate reaction.

"Your wishes on the matter, sire?"

//I wish you'd all take a one-way trip to Tartarus.  I wish Ares back.// Iphicles raked a hand through his hair, sighing.  "It's far too late for any discussion of the former.  I take it Argos has sent an envoy with the offer?"

Teleas nodded.

"Lodge him in suitable quarters for the night, and assign him a few servants.  Tell them to see to his needs, and we'll discuss it tomorrow.  As to Hercules... did he say why he's here?"

Teleas shrugged, managing to make even that move look simultaneously superior and obsequious.  "No, merely presented himself."

"Well, if he wants to stay in the palace give him a room in the guest quarters.  Not a suite; I'm sure he'd consider that too ostentatious.  And tell him I'll speak to him tomorrow evening."  Iphicles grimaced slightly. "Since it appears my day will be fully occupied."

The advisor's face quirked in an almost-smirk.  "As you will, sire."  He exited with a fluid half-bow.

Iphicles glared at the closed door with annoyed distaste.  //How does he manage to make bowing sarcastic?//

"He's quite a piece of work."  Ares' voice slightly preceded his reappearence, fully dressed again and looking like he *hadn't* been on the receiving end of an aborted blow-job mere minutes before.

Iphicles grunted in agreement, wishing vaguely that he had godlike powers of recovery.  His headache seemed to be making party plans.

"He barge in on you like that often?"  The god settled in the chair across from him in a comfortable sprawl.

"*Too* often; he's one of my senior advisors," Iphicles growled.

Dark eyebrows flew up.  "You mean you *trust* him?"

The king gave a short, humourless laugh.  "Of course not.  He's a snake. But he's also an invaluable resource and for the time being he seems content that I remain on the throne."

Ares gave him a slight, understanding smile.  "And better to keep the snake where you can see him."

"Much better."  Iphicles rubbed his eyes and groaned.  "Ares, I'd love nothing more than to pick up where we left off, but-"

The god smirked.  "I heard.  You need sleep, king."  He stood up, a look of thoughtful amusement on his expressive face.  "I'll collect when you're less... distracted.  I've got plenty to occupy me while I'm waiting."

Iphicles looked at him suspiciously.  "Waiting where?"

Ares met his suspicion with a guileless look that didn't quite work.  "I'll be around."  He disappeared in a flash of blue fire.

The headache appeared to be setting up a live band as Iphicles slid into a decidedly unkingly slouch.  //'Around'.  Gods.  What the *fuck*.  One minute he's acting like I honestly mean something to him - he told me he *loves* me for fucks sake- and the next...  Not enough to deal with Argos, no, Hercules has to show up.  And not only do I have to think about that, but now Ares is gonna be "around" and he *heard* that Hercules is here, which means gods only know what he's got in mind... and how do he and I- shit, *is* there a 'he and I' or-//  The headache roared into drunken life, its percussion section working overtime.  Rather than fuel it any more with the chariot wreck his thoughts were careening toward, Iphicles went to bed.


"-and I reiterate the proper period of mourning is *more* than sufficiently over, and this would be a *most* astute alliance to make!"

"We don't *know* that until we get more details."

"We can easily work the details to our favor.  With Argos we would have control over a signifigant area of both farmland and coastal waters, not to mention we then have Argos as an allied buffer against Sparta."

"And IF Sparta were to feel in the mood for conquest *we* would have to send troops to defend Argos, I might point out.  Not to mention a good portion of Argos' crops was destroyed by blight this year and their miners are on the verge of revolt."

"May I interject that if there is to be a continuing royal line it would also behoove his Highness to produce an heir?  And once that heir reached majority we could keep the seat of power firmly in Corinth."

Iphicles sighed, letting the incessant verbal wrangling of his Council wash over him.  The Argosian envoy had presented his offer three hours ago, then exited to await the drafting of an official reply //and probably have a nice, relaxing breakfast//.  The debate had raged ever since, the councilors' positions fueled as much by the interests of their respective Houses as concern for himself and Corinth.  Finally he sat up and cleared his throat.  Loudly.  And gave each councilor in turn a Look that demanded their full attention.  Once they'd stuttered down into silence he said, "Gentlemen, ladies, this is getting us nowhere at the moment.  I'm calling a recess.  We all, myself included, need time to assess this offer.  We'll reconvene at this time tomorrow, when perhaps we can debate this with a trifle more clarity."  He waved his hand in a clear dismissal.  "You may go now."

As the councilors filed out he motioned Leonidas to him, saying to his chief consul in a low voice, "Assign one of your people to the envoy.  He may have some information we can use."

Leonidas nodded, a ghost of a smile flitting across his lips.  "Already done, sire.  I was of the same mind.  I shall alert you if anything comes of it."

"You shall alert me when he makes his report to you," Iphicles amended.

That got him a tight smile.  "Of course, king Iphicles.  I merely did not want to trouble you if the envoy knew nothing of value."

"Considerate as always, Leonidas," Iphicles deadpanned.  "But if it's all the same, I'll sit in on the report."

"As you will, sire."  With a perfunctory nod of his head, he left, closing the door behind him and leaving Iphicles in blessed silence.  For a moment he simply sat, thinking of nothing, but the council chamber always got on his nerves, making him feel like he should be *doing* something, so he forced himself to get up and at least move to more pleasant surroundings. He flagged down a page in the corridor and instructed her to have wine brought to his study, then beat a hasty retreat before someone else could find him with another urgent piece of business.

Once the wine had been delivered, he finally allowed himself to relax.  His study wasn't exactly off-limits, especially during the day, but he'd let it be known that any disturbance had better damned well be important.  As the first sip travelled warmly down his throat, he pulled out the small portrait of Melenna of Argos the envoy had brought and studied it, keeping in mind that royal portraitists invariably prettied up their subjects.

Long, dark hair, deep brown intelligent eyes, flawless light olive complexion, determined mouth and-

"You could chisel marble with that nose."

Iphicles started, nearly knocking his wine glass over, and whipped his head around to find Ares peering over his shoulder.  "Don't gods ever *knock*?!"

Ares gave him a blank look.  "No."

Iphicles rolled his eyes, //Ask a stupid question...//  and turned his attention back to the portrait.  "It *is* rather... commanding, isn't it."

Ares snickered.  "Commanding?  If I had a few commanders that prominent I could unseat Zeus."

Despite himself, Iphicles chuckled, pulling his chair around as Ares collapsed in a lazy sprawl on his couch. //Doesn't he ever just *sit*?// "I'm sure she's a very nice girl," he managed through what was turning into a slightly hysterical bout of giggling.

"And one of the best non-canine trackers in Greece," Ares added, sending Iphicles off again.  He waited until the king wound down then said curiously, "So are you gonna take Argos up on their offer?"

"Why do you care?" Iphicles shot back.

For a brief moment, the dark god looked nonplused, but it disappeared so quickly if Iphicles hadn't had his eyes trained on Ares' face he never would have seen it.  "Just curious," he said blandly.  "It may have ramifications war-wise."

Iphicles sipped his wine thoughtfully, filing that look away for further dissection.  "Mm hm.  I don't know.  I wasn't kidding about wanting to look their offer over more closely.  And I'd have to meet her, of course."

"You don't mind entering into an alliance marriage?"  Ares seemed truly curious.

"No, not particularly."  Iphicles settled into a more comfortable position within the confines of his chair, part of him marvelling at how... *easy* it was to talk to Ares, how natural it seemed.  He honestly couldn't think of anyone in a long time he'd felt this relaxed with //and what does it say about me that the one person I feel relaxed around is the god of War?//. "It's a possibility that every king, queen and noble has to consider," he continued, then with an ironic grin, "Matters of the heart are secondary to politics."

Ares gave a low, understanding chuckle.

"And besides," Iphicles took another sip of wine, eyes going dark at an aging, increasingly distant pain, "the only woman I truly loved is long dead."

The god regarded him silently for a moment, one finger absently twisting restlessly through a long, dark curl of hair.  Then, "What about men?"

"I've never loved a man before."  The words blurted out before Iphicles' mind had a chance to examine them.

The hand moved to stroke down the line of cheekbone-highlighting beard, playing lightly at the chin.  "And now?" voice soft and rough, sounding simultaneously searching and challenging.

Iphicles found it difficult to tear his eyes away from those deep, expressive eyes, and with that difficulty came rage.  Slamming the goblet on his desk, he surged forward in his chair.  "Why don't *you* tell *me*, Ares."

Sudden tension, and that expressive face instantly shuttered down, suddenly expressionless but for the eyes that burned hot with... something undefinable.  "Tell you what?"

Iphicles leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees, refusing to drop his gaze from those suddenly feral eyes.  "You said you loved me.  When we were together, the last battle.  What say you now?"

For excruciatingly long moments they held each other's gaze, then telltale slip as the god looked away for one brief millisecond.  "It was the battle. The heat of passion."

Knowing on some gut level that he had the advantage even though he was playing with fire, Iphicles stood and crossed the short distance between them, standing over the god, eyes still blazing relentlessly into unreadable dark eyes.  "Then WHY are you here NOW?"

Perfect lip twisted into the curl of a cornered animal, voice growled, "Hercules-"

"Wasn't HERE when you showed up!" Iphicles roared, one knee settling on the couch near the join of Ares' hip and thigh, one hand gripping a bare, muscular shoulder tightly.  "Try again."

Ares' colour heightened, his hand reaching up to grip Iphicles' shoulder, snarling, but eyes growing bright with something other than rage.  "I find this interesting..."

Nails digging into the shoulder, Iphicles shifted more of his weight onto the couch, knee pressing into Ares' groin as he leaned in close, close enough for his red-gold hair to tickle the god's throat and jaw, lips kissing-close.  "Not enough.  Try again."  Following the dark god's move as he sunk to his back, freeing his other hand to trace a line down ribs a hip.

Ares' voice was a husky growl.  "I find *you*... interesting."

"Interesting."  Flatly, as he moved in closer, left knee forcing itself between Ares' thigh and the back of the couch, right knee finding purchase, straddling the leather-clad thighs now, both hands digging into the warm flesh of Ares' shoulders, Ares' hands now at his waist, lips still seperated by a mere breath. "Just... interesting.  Didn't I tell you I wasn't interested in *games*, war god?"  Sudden, vicious roar, "WHY are you HERE?"

Ares' eyes looked almost fearful; rage, confusion, lust all warring for supremacy in his expression, then, the words sounding like they'd been dragged out of him, "For YOU!"

A powerful hand twined in his hair, dragging Iphicles into a hard, ferocious kiss, tongue and teeth searching, conquering, battling for supremacy in a much more material way, and Iphicles gave back as good as he got, plundering the hot mouth of the god, a mutual rape as their bodies strained against each other, each feeling the others' hardness through leather and linen, the mortal not conceding to divinity, giving unprecedented thrill to the god grown accustomed to acquiesence, hair of red-gold and deep espresso falling together as sweet soul-battle fought itself out in tongue and teeth, lips and passion, and the true passion underlying the animal, building to aching crescendo, then

blue-white FLASH and the hint of an anguished cry

the god disappeared.

Iphicles dropped the short distance onto the couch that had been occupied by the god's body, mind trying desperately to wrap itself around what had just happened, cock achingly hard and unsatisfied in the confines of his pants. //Wha-??//

He was alone.  Again.  But this had been no fancy, no battlefield dream.


Of course there was no response.  He rolled over and brought himself off with almost clinical efficiency, the orgasm dull and unsatisfying, but hardly unusual this last year or so, wiped away the evidence then organized himself, settling back into his chair and refilling his wine glass from the near-forgotten carafe.  What the *fuck* happened?  Everything had been-... and then-...

Slowly the thought snaked its way into his mind as he feverishly searched and dissected every angle of what had just occured.  Was Ares... scared? //Of me??  But how could he possibly..?  *Why* would he..?//

"Love" his mind niggled, but Iphicles rejected it.  Not only would Ares not be frightened of love if he were even capable of it, but he *knew* he wasn't loveable.  He'd had his chance, and look how it ended up.  And for a *God*... to love *him*?!  He snorted.  //And one day men will fly.  Face it, Iphicles, it's just another game.  He doesn't *really* care.  No one does. Get used to it.//

He downed the glass of wine and poured another, almost eager for a knock at the door to take him away from himself and into his duties.

Part 5

Fortunately, it didn't take long for his wish to be fulfilled.  "Enter," he responded to the knock on his study door.  Leonidas stuck his head in.  "The report on the envoy, your Majesty.  Are you still interested?"

"Of course."  Iphicles drained the last of his wine and, putting thoughts of Ares out of his head, folowed his Consul down the corridor.


The envoy honestly *hadn't* known anything useful.  A politically interesting situation, but one that left them without an extra advantage. He'd *have* to meet the girl now.  Leonidas gave him one of his patented 'I told you so' Looks.  "Will there be anything more, your majesty?"

Iphicles shook his head, feeling suddenly tired.  "No. I'll be in my quarters if anyone needs me, but I don't want to be disturbed unless it's absolutely necessary."

"And your brother?"  Leonidas asked overly-blandly.

"Send a page when he arrives."  With a barely polite nod, Iphicles escaped to the haven of his private quarters, collapsing into his favorite chair as soon as he arrived.  //I need a vacation.  But kings don't *get* vacations, unless they have someone trustworthy to run things while they're gone...// He tried to think of someone he trusted enough to fill that requirement andcame up blank.  //So fine.  No vacation.  Not important.  But... what the
*fuck* happened with Ares..?//  Looking at it from every direction possible, it still seemed to point to the same thing.  Ares may have feelings for him, which meant Ares was probably gone for good.  The god had said himself that "gods don't feel", and he certainly wouldn't expect that to change for him. //Just do your duty, Iphicles.  You had your chance at love and it's over. Any thought of something real with *any* god, let alone the god of war, is utter foolishness.  Your brother is the one worthy of adulation and admiration, not you.  And guess who you have to see in a few hours...  Gods I wish I could just drink until I passed out...//

He had no idea how long he'd been sitting there getting steadily more depressed when that low, increasingly familiar purr sounded in his ear. "You gonna just sit there and feel sorry for yourself when Mr. Do-Good is going to be meeting with you in a few hours?"

His heart did a glad little flip.  "Ares!"  As the leather-clad god materialized and immediately flopped onto the most comfortable chair in a sexily graceless sprawl, Iphicles felt muscles relax that he hadn't even realized were tense.  "I thought you-" he cut himself off at the dark god's Look.

"You thought?"

"I... didn't expect you back so soon."

Ares shrugged with precise nonchalance.  "I told you I'm interested in the goings on here.  I just... had to attend to an urgent matter."

"An urgent matter," Iphicles echoed.

"It's a god thing."  Flash of midnight eyes saying Don't Press the Subject.

Iphicles nodded, meeting Ares' eyes in unspoken challenge, then lowering them in temporary acquiescence, choosing to talk about peripherals rather than what he really wanted to explore.  "So what do you know about Melenna of Argos?"

The god visibly relaxed at the question.  "Nothing."

Iphicles raised an eyebrow.  "Nothing?  You're a god and you know nothing?"

"I'm the god of *war*, remember?"

//vivid flashback to Ares' temple, all heat and claws and sweat and passion, sweetsweet struggle ending in mutual triumph...//

"I know about *warriors*.  All I can tell you is Melenna is no warrior."

//sigh...//  "What about Stephon?"

"Her father?"  Ares paused thoughtfully.  "Mediocre warrior.  Passable at simple hack-and-slash, but impossible at anything involving true skill or technique.  But a master strategist.  He held his throne with brilliance in that area, by avoiding the front lines of battle.  Had a good excuse, since he lost a leg in a skirmish when he was in his twenties.  A formidable foe, with twenty reasons for doing anything behind the one he tells you.  May have passed some of that talent on to his offspring."

"Like Melenna?"

Ares shrugged.  "Possibly.  He never seemed the type to encourage a girl-child."

"But if the girl had other ideas?"

Another shrug.  "Anything's possible."

Iphicles felt another wave of tiredness.  He gazed at the leather-clad figure lounging on his most comfortable chair.  "Ares..."

One fine, dark eyebrow arched.

"Why *are* you here?  What do you want?  I'm too tired to guess."

That confused look passed momentarily over the god's face again, then smoothed into the ususal confident smirk as though it had never existed.  "I told you.  I'm interested.  In what our brother wants of you."

"And that's all?"  Iphicles couldn't help but press at this point.

It brought a thoroughly fetching rebellious pout to Ares' lips.  "*Yes* that's all."

"And that's all you're here for?"

The dark god's eyes lit dangerously, part self-consciousness, part passion. "You think I always have to have an ulterior motive?"

"I'd be surprised if you didn't," Iphicles said calmly, part of him still amazed at the ease he felt, even combative, with the god of War.

Ares grinned, baring sharp, prominent canines.  In the light his eyes looked amber, reminding Iphicles of a wolf.  He found the mental picture incredibly arousing.

"So what am I *really* after," the dark wolf growled.

"Everything."  Iphicles leaned forward in his chair, elbows resting on knees as his eyes met those feral amber eyes.  "Me.  Our brother.  This Land. This world.  More."

Soft chuckle, teeth gleaming white and sharp.  "Very good.  And you?"

Iphicles drank in the restrained danger before him, muscles straining against some unrecognized passion.  Unaware that his eyes glowed with the near-unearthly amber of wolf that he'd been so attracted to in the god.  "I want...  //you// sprang unbidden to his mind, but he refused to offer that to the god until Ares gave him that gift first.  Gods were too skilled at pulling that from mortals, and Iphicles wasn't interested in the game.

//"Oh, my beautiful liar/
  Oh, my precious heart/
  My disease, my infection/
  I am so impure..."//

"I want my*self*," he growled.  "Without comparisons.  Without *him*.  I want to KNOW."  The last wrenched out with even Iphicles not sure what it meant, though it tore his soul apart.  He looked up into deep brown eyes that seemed to see through him as Ares stood up, moving over him, grasping his hand, pulling him up and close.  Softly furred cheek nuzzling into his as the deep baritone sang soft lyrics the like of which Iphicles had never heard before...

"Some people get by/
 With a little understanding/
 Some people get by/
 With a whole lot more.../
 I don't know know/
 Why you gotta be so undemanding/
 One thing I know...
 *I want MORE*"

And Ares reached out, reached for him, pulled him into his strong embrace, that voice still a maddeningly erotic rumble in his ears...

"To get scared... to feel so much...
 To let somebody touch you...
 So hot/
 So cold/
 So far so out of control/
 Hard to come by/
 And harder to hold..."

And Iphicles couldn't help but respond to that powerful, somehow desperate body pressing against his.  Unwilling to stop the strange, haunting song of his dark lover, he pulled him close, nuzzling into the strong throat as their bodies writhed in a rhythm of Ares' making against each other.

"There are parts of me that don't get hurt/
 Not the parts that shake/
 You won't get what you deserve/
 You are what you take/
 Learning to cry for fun and profit/
 I'm not done yet...."

Iphicles cut off the next, devastating words with a desperate, savage kiss, pressing hard and passionate into Ares, teeth biting into soft, accommodating lip, soft groan as Ares left himself and his personal darkness to meet the king's equally dark desperation, tasting the coppery savor of godsblood as Ares' mouth grappled with his, as nails raked shockingly up the soft skin of his back, and he pulled the god violently to him in response, not wanting to give quarter even as he wanted to melt into that iron embrace.

"And I need all the love I can get...
 And I need all the love that I can't get to..."

And Ares pushed him back towards the couch with a darkly feral grin, still moving to the internal rhythm of music that Iphicles didn't know, would never know as he was pushed back.. back...

"I'm lying on my back now/
 The stars are all too near/
 Flowers on the razor wire/
 I know you're here..."

Those wild, wolfen eyes sang to him as the voice did, and he never really noticed when their clothes disappeared, as hard muscle and velvet skin met his own, writhing against each other to dark harmony, that voice still singing,

"Don't be afraid now/
 Just walk on in..."

And he savored that invitation and all the danger it implied, surging up to meet the strong kisses, legs wrapping around strong, muscular thighs, pulling the god closer, feeling the back arch as their cocks rubbed against each other and wanting to pull him closer, closer, hands twining in midnight-dark curls as his mouth sought the feel/taste of smooth, sweat-slicked skin, as their bodies strained together in hopeless passion, hands seeking, finding violent response, all heat and reaction and no thought now as they moved together, finding a rhythm borne of a soul-mesh neither one could recognize nor admit, but no less true for that, and Iphicles' hands tightened in the dark curls, yanking hard, pulling cries of pain/passion from Ares, who slid slickened fingers down to explore the center of the king in response, probing gently, loosening tight ring of muscle with one finger, adding another when strong teeth sunk into the soft join of neck and collarbone, the king's hand striking hard, sending sweet pain and warmth from his buttock to his cock, reveling in having a lover who would, who *could* fight back even as he submitted, and still sang softly...

 Is a many splintered thing...
 Just walk on in..."

And gasped at the exquisite torture as the king tongued around his left nipple, then bit, the pain turning into pleasure somewhere along the line to his groin. He plunged a third finger in, felt his lover arch into it even as his thick hair was yanked sharply, almost painfully.  Ares growled, eyes almost glowing as Iphicles applied both hands to his hair, forcing his head back to look into the mortal's eyes.

Sharp-toothed growl, "fuck me, you immortal bastard," accompanied by a sharp slap to his ass.

Ares yowled his appreciation, hauling Iphicles into position with the king's help, entering slow at first as legs wrapped around his waist, then, responding to Iphicles' insistent bucking, driving in hard.  Iphicles gasped in shock but pressed in harder, all but challenging the god, then strained up enough to deliver another punishing nip to Ares' other nipple.

It was more than enough.  Ares drove into his lover, arms wrapping around him, pulling him up until his embrace was keeping him upright as the god rose to his knees, pumping hard into the incredible tight heat and even then Iphicles wasn't a passive vessel for him, meeting him thrust for thrust as well as he could, hands and teeth finding shudderingly exquisite purchase in his flesh, cock hard and weeping against the dark god's abdomen and it was all sweat and feeling and heaven and hell rolled into one, the god reveling in the meeting of his passions with strength rather than the meek acquiescence he normally encountered, his lover *feeling* rather than merely playing an expected role, and Ares' hand crept between them, wrapping around Iphicles' cock, stroking hard until he felt it spasming, spilling its seed on both of them, the muscles in his ass reacting in kind, sending Ares into his own climax, holding the king close as he came, than collapsing together on the too-small couch, fine for a moment, but soon Iphicles made a slight noise of complaint and the god reluctantly pulled out and away, sitting up and brushing sweat-soaked hair out of his eyes.

He looked down at the passion-flushed features of Iphicles, a strangely similar echo of his own, and felt again the odd confusion that had crept into his psyche since he'd first approached the man, covered it with his normal shield of cocky bravado.  "You were saying?"

But as before, this puzzling mortal seemed to see through it.  "I loved it too, Ares.  But..."  The eyes were still bright, uncomfortably penetrating. "I understand.  'I don't want to talk this over... I don't want to talk this out...'  That's what you're thinking, isn't it?"  He sat up, wincing a bit. "If you're going to do another disappearing act, could you at least clean us *both* up first?"

Ares bit back the first response that came to him.  He knew it was childish, and even though he wanted to rage and blast this impudent mortal into primordial goo... he didn't.  For all that he was infuriating, there was something about him.  Well, something *beyond* the sex, that was.  *No one* stood up to him.  But Iphicles did, even though he knew Ares could kill him with a thought.  That alone fascinated the god.  So with a neutral grunt and
a thought, he removed the material evidence of their encounter and restored their clothing.  Then, before he quite realized it had escaped his lips, "You really loved it?"  //Idiotidiotidiot!!!!//

Slow smile crossing the sensuous lips as Iphicles moved from the couch to his original chair.  "Yes.  I really did."  Split-second pause, covered by his settling into said chair.  "What I'm wondering now is if you'll deign to allow me to reciprocate."

Ares blinked, actually having to think for a moment what the man was suggesting. //Reciprocate?//  No one "reciprocated" with him.  Ares gave, his followers took.  That's all there was to it.  But...

"You let me violate you/
 You let me desecrate you/
 You let me penetrate you/
 You let me complicate you/"

The words rattled jarringly through his mind, so true, and the next were just as true, just as unwanted,

"Help me/
 I broke apart my insides
 Help me/
 I've got no soul to sell
 Help me/
 The only thing that works for me/
 Help me get away from myself..."

Too close.  He didn't want to think this.  But the foreign words kept pounding...

"You can't help my isolation/
 You can't help the hate that it brings/
 You can't help my situation/
 You can't help my everything..."

But somehow... he felt this mortal could.  And so he let himself rationalize.  //But he follows no God, does he... that's why he interests you...  And if an encounter were planned instead of impromptu..?//  "That's something we should discuss, mortal," he growled.

"Help me/
 You tear down my reason
 Help me/
 It's your sex I can smell
 Help me/
 You make me perfect
 Help me think I'm somebody else..."

Iphicles nodded, too caught up in his own feelings -- //Oh, my beautiful liar...//-- to notice the turmoil that the dark god was going through. "Damn right we should.  But after I meet with our brother."

"Hmnh?"  It was difficult to turn so quickly prosaic, and that irritated Ares.  "What brother?"

Iphicles sighed, taking advantage of the brief pause to rake his gaze over the muscular, leather-clad form of his god-lover.  "Jerkules.  Remember? I'm meeting him this evening."

Ares' lip twitched in a perfect, wolfen curl.  "Oh, *him*.  You sure know how to ruin a moment."

Iphicles chuckled, feeling an almost childish pleasure at Ares' *dis*pleasure.  "I have to.  Like it or not he's family."

Annoyed grunt as Ares made a show of examining his fingernails.

"And I want to know what he's here for.  He *never* just drops in to say hello."

"Probably wants you to help with some charitable effort he doesn't have time to finish, what with all the do-gooding he has scheduled," Ares sneered.

"Either that or I've fucked something up," Iphicles replied darkly.  "Wanna listen in?"

Ares looked up at him, eyes hooded, quirking a smile that was all the more sweetly devastating for being utterly unconscious.  "Love to.  I can't without being hidden though.  Bastard can see me."

Iphicles grinned, as slow and nasty as Ares himself could.  "That can be arranged.  Tapestries aren't only for insulation, you know."

Ares laughed, then looked at the king searchingly.  "Does this mean you trust me?"

Iphicles paused thoughtfully, truly considering the question before answering, which he did slowly.  "Nnnnnno.  I don't.  Not completely."  He raised an eyebrow at the god.  "After all, you can't tell me you've been entirely open with me."

Ares gave him an thoroughly unconvincing Innocent look and the king laughed. "My point exactly!  But I respect that."  Another thoughtful pause. "You're... still an unknown at this point.  Perhaps a friend..."  a grin that could only be called impish, "and certainly a worthy adversary otherwise."

Ares nodded graciously, again finding himself enjoying this mortal immensely.  He speared the king with a penetrating look.  "You impress me, Iphicles.  In more ways then one-" his eyes devouring the king's body at this remark, then going cold and thoughtful as if he'd never known Iphicles before this very moment.  "I expected to find the creature I'd heard about. Weak, embittered, grieving his losses, hating his more fortunate brother, jealously and self-hatred making him an easy target...  What happened?"

Iphicles gave him an ironic smile.  "I grew up.  Funny how war makes you do that."  And gloried in the wide, utterly honest grin that Ares gave him.

The god relaxed into the comfortable confines of the couch.  "So you were saying about tapestries?"

Part 6

Once the excitement of outlining their plan was over, both Iphicles and the war god found themselves in an unprecedented situation -- relaxing with another person with no real purpose in mind.  And while both blamed it on everything from curiosity to inertia, neither was willing to take leave of this oddly comfortable closeness.

Iphicles was the first to break the slience.  "So... you think Melenna *could* be a good warrior?  Or strategist?"

Ares blinked, then grinned.  "Well that nose of hers certainly could be."

Iphicles snickered.  "That's not nice."

"*I'm* not nice!"

"You gotta point there..."  Iphicles took a moment to fret about what that meant about him, then banished the thought.  "Ares..."

The god moaned dramatically.  "IPHicles.  Don't tell me you're going to start asking fucking questions again."

"Is that bad?"

"With you, yes," Ares glowered.

Iphicles stifled a snicker, but turned a serious mien to the god.  "Well maybe you *gods* don't have to examine your actions and motivations, but I do, mere mortal that I am."

Ares lanced him with a suspicious look.  "So what is it you feel the need to examine now?"

"Well, I could say your motivations-"

The god groaned.

"But I won't... for now.  I just want to know for the moment... aside from your own, whose interests are you looking after?  If I let you in this far, are you going to be honourable or is this all some game to you?"

Dark eyes glittering with interest, Ares purred, "And if it *is* a game?"

Iphicles gave no quarter, looking his dark lover straight in the eyes.  "I can't stop you from playing, but if you're playing me for a fool, I *can* stop letting you in.  Is that what you want?"

Ares shrugged, all nonchalance and brittle challenge.  "Putting aside for the moment how you think you could stop me from doing anything I want to do, I haven't done anything to uphold this paranoid worry of yours, have I?"

Iphicles frowned.  "No.  That's what worries me."

Ares smirked, obviously taking the comment as a compliment, then said in tones of bored patience, "I'm NOT going to sell you out."

"Yet..." the king muttered.

Ares glowered, spearing Iphicles with those darkdark eyes... "You should learn to stop being so damned self-conscious.  You fret too much.  About everything."

"*I*-" Iphicles stopped short as the god disappeared and Teleas followed his short, sharp rap through the door.

"Excuse me, milord..." His sharp, clever eyes darted around Iphicles' quarters in the split second before they settled on his king.  "Your brother is here."

Iphicles utilized his long years of practice to affect boredom.  "Very good, Teleas.  Show him to the small receiving room, and have a page bring refreshments.  Tell him I'll meet him shortly."

With another one of those superior/obsequious bows, Teleas took his leave and Ares reappeared the moment the door closed.

"So our little brother's here, eh?"

"Looks that way..." Iphicles sighed unconsciously.  "You still on my side?"

"Always and forever."  He gave the king a saturnine smile.

Iphicles raised a skeptical eyebrow in response.

"For the moment then?"

"That I'll accept.  It fits my paranoid fantasies better."

Ares gave a snort of amusement.  "Got a plan then, your angstness?"

Iphicles rolled his eyes.  "Just remember what I told you.  Four alcoves behind the tapestries.  My personal guard will be behind the one on the east wall.  The others *should* be free, but I'm hardly the only one familiar with the security layout of the room. Check your chosen spot before you materialize."  He gave Ares a stern look.  "And DON'T let him know you're there."

The god's face twitched into a 'Who, ME??' expression.  Innocence didn't sit convincingly on his expressive face, but Iphicles couldn't help but find the attempt appealing.  "I MEAN it, Ares.  And *don't* do anything.  Just listen."

Ares sighed dramatically.  "Yeesh.  Kings.  You're all so... what will the phrase be? -- anal retentive."

Iphicles snorted.  "Not only is that ironic coming from you after what *we* did, but-"

"Different meaning."  The god quickly interjected.

"Of course."  Iphicles didn't bother to cover his sarcasm.  "Just behave, will you?  No lightning bolts if he pisses you off.  I know you're the god of war, but just... play nice, okay?"

"Nice..." the near-feral features smirked at the word.

Iphicles cut in icily, "Nice in *human* terms, not yours."

Ares pouted fetchingly at him.  "You're no fun."

"Live with it."

"You think you could stop me?" Ares glowered.

"No.  But I *can* write you off as nothing more than another meddling god."

"Even though you don't want to?"  The god gave him a caluculatedly steamy look, flexing.

"Yep."  Iphicles stood up and gave his dark lover a slight smile.  "Part of being a king - or the brother of Hercules - is learning that you may occasionally have to sacrifice something you really want for the greater good.  I don't want to have to do that, but I will.  I have before.  Play nice or I'll take my toys and go home."

Ares wrinkled his nose at this infuriatingly entrancing king of his. "People *usually* have some *respect* for the gods whose favour they earn. Maybe I should just leave."

"Seems to me you would have if you didn't care."

Ares leapt up with an electric sizzle playing about him.  "Would you STOP with that.  I told you I have personal reasons - BUSINESS reasons - for hanging around.  Just point me to the right arras."

Iphicles grinned. "South wall is probably safest.  Behind the depiction of Orpheus."  Then seriously, "Just STAY there, no matter how much you want to start with him.  Please."

Ares sighed.  "Yeah yeah.  I'll stay.  For now."


Iphicles strode into the comfortably furnished receiving room where Hercules was seated.  "Hercules," he smiled in greeting and they clasped forearms as he sat in the chair opposite.  "So, what brings you to Corinth?"

The demigod looked oddly uncomfortable.  "A few things.  I... don't suppose you'd believe that I was just passing through and wanted to be brotherly?"

Iphicles chuckled humourlessly.  "There isn't exactly a precedent, brother."

Hercules had the grace to look embarrassed.  "Well then.  I have a few reasons.  One of them is... this."  He picked up a small, wrapped package and handed it to Iphicles.  "Jason was going through mother's belongings and found this.  It was Amphytrion's.  We thought you should have it."

Iphicles unwrapped the cloth and looked at the contents.  An exotic-looking medallion, a few small scrolls, an ornately embroidered purse and a small, wickedly sharp dagger, black-hafted with a bright silver razor-honed blade. He fingered them in turn, caught a little off-guard by the mix of emotions the obviously treasured pieces evoked.  He pulled himself together with the thought that he should have been there, or at least invited to be there as Jason and Hercules went through his mother's legacy.  "Thank you.  I... appreciate the thought."  It was only his diplomatic training that kept the sarcasm out of his voice.  Apparently it worked.

"I'm sorry there wasn't more, but..." Hercules trailed off uncomfortably.

What Iphicles found the most annoying was he *knew* Hercules honestly felt bad for him.  For Zeus' sake, you couldn't even be properly *mad* at someone so unremittingly noble; it just made *you* look like an ungrateful, spiteful asshole.  Forced you to take the demi-god's own high road.  He put on a small, sad smile and looked up at his half-brother.  "It's okay, Herc.  I understand.  I appreciate you bringing these.  I... miss mother too."

Unmistakable relief spread across Hercules' face, tinged with a real sorrow and a bit of trepidation.  "Iphicles, I know I haven't-"

"Don't worry about it," Iphicles cut him off, not wanting to hear all the excellent reasons Hercules had for all but ignoring him.  "I take it there's something else you want to talk about, yes?"

Reluctant nod.  "Yes.  Not that I wouldn't have come here just to give you those," he added hurriedly.

"I know.  So what is it?"

Hercules' mien suddenly turned sober and businesslike.  "A few things.  I know Corinth recently conquered Messilania; I've been in the conquered territory lately-"

"May I remind you *they* started the campaign?"  Iphicles interjected.

"I know.  But..."  Hercules looked at him with hooded eyes.  "The people... the villages I've travelled through... they speak of atrocities..."

Iphicles' voice dropped to a dangerous purr.  "What are you saying, Hercules?"

"There have been... abominable crimes carried out in your conquered lands. Torture, rape, wanton destruction.  They say you and your armies are to blame."

Keeping his temper strictly reined in, Iphicles bit out, "WHO says?  Perhaps the deposed leaders that are in hiding in those very same lands?  We won their territory fairly, and are *treating* them fairly.  At this very moment we are in treaty negotiations for the peaceable annexing of their lands."

"But I've seen-"

"You've *seen*?"  Iphicles sat forward in his chair, elbows on knees as his eyes bored into his half-brother's.  "How do you know what you've seen?  I'm not denying some atrocities may have occurred.  It's the nature of war that some individuals run amok.  But you cannot place the blame solely at Corinth's feet. I assure you, Hercules, my land has acted honourably in every aspect of this conflict, and any who are found guilty of atrocities will be dealt with in the sternest manner possible.  I can tell you for a fact that their leaders *are* hiding out in the back country, and would do *anything* to make us out to be monsters."

Hercules tensed, but didn't back down.  "I'm sure some of it is exaggeration, Iphicles, but I've *seen* some of the horrors committed."

"And did they leave their calling card so you'd know the blame should rest directly on Corinth?"

"Not always, no.  And..."

Iphicles fought down the familiar urge to smack his brother.  "And?"

"There've been... rumours."

Iphicles sighed.  "Hercules.  Get to the point.  PLEASE."

Dusky blue eyes bored into his with new resolve.  "There have been rumours that you are in collusion with Ares."

Iphicles barked out a short, surprised laugh.  "Ares?!  Collusion?  What the *fuck* are you saying, Herc?"

The demigod shrugged, confused and uncomfortable now.  "I... don't know. That he may have been involved-"

"Herc.  It was a *war*.  Of *course* Ares was involved," Iphicles said with infinite patience.

Now Herc sat forward aggressively.  "And that YOU may have been involved with HIM."

Iphicles blinked at his half-brother.  "Meaning..?"

"I... don't know.  That he may have swayed you.  That you may be under his control.  That he... helped you win in exchange for certain... concessions..."

Iphicles leaned back with a disbelieving snort.  "And you believe this. Gods.  I knew I rank low in your opinion, Herc, but... you honestly think I'm that incompetent?"

Hercules looked up, stung.  "Iphicles, I didn't mean-"

"Whether you meant it or not, you said it.  I don't have the moral fiber to win a war without aid, nor to see that that war ends fairly.  Thank you for the insight."  Iphicles stood, looking straight into the demigod's eyes. "Now that you've said your piece, this interview is over.  You may make use of the castle and its resources as long as you remain in Corinth."  He turned to leave.

"Iphicles, I-"

He spun back, eyes black with rage.  "Don't bother, Hercules.  You said your piece.  THANK you for the vote of confidence.  And good bye."

"Iphicles, *please*," Hercules tried again.

"Hercules.  I have things to attend to, as I'm sure do you.  If you have something concrete to discuss with me I'll be happy to oblige.  Until then you are welcome to stay or take your leave, but I'm unlikely to be available.  I do thank you for delivering Amphytrion's and our mother's legacy.  Good day."  He strode out of the room, accompanied by the echoes of riotous laughter that were audible only to his ears.

[with thanks to the Sisters of Mercy and Nine Inch Nails for the lyrics]

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