Blood is Thicker
Hercules hadn't been to Corinth in a long time, and he was surprised that he had missed it. The noise and the smells of the marketplace made him feel alive. Iolaus had been right; they both had needed a little break, from their jobs and from each other. They had been growing steadily more and more distanced, sometimes even hostile towards each other, but Hercules chalked that up to the keeping of close quarters, not the sexual tension between them.
Truthfully, he sometimes felt like the biggest chickenshit in all of Greece. Big, brave son of Zeus, slayer of monsters, vanquisher of warlords, was terrified of telling his best friend, the man he loved more than anything else in the world, that he wanted to fuck him. There was the fear of rejection, and also the fear of losing Iolaus yet again, perhaps permanently, if things between them ended badly. With Iolaus, things ended badly more often than not, and he had unintentionally left a string of broken hearts, male and female, all over Greece and parts east.
Watching Iolaus carrying on, carousing and fucking practically everything that moved, was torture for Hercules. There wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. So, he quietly suffered, never thinking of opening his damn mouth and saying, "Iolaus, I want you." It wasn't as if he didn't tell him he loved him all the time. It wasn't as if he didn't take care of him after every mishap, and Iolaus was unusually mishap prone. He was, in fact, in pretty deep to his uncle because of a few of those mishaps. He never knew how Iolaus justified that to himself. It wasn't something he did for just anyone.
Hercules was heading towards his brother's home with a rather heavy heart.Going to visit his other unrequited love most certainly wasn't going to make him feel any better.
Perhaps a stop at the tavern would alleviate a little of the anxiety he was feeling. A mug of ale and a bowl of stew, and he would feel at least fortified enough to deal with the assorted guards, sycophants and leeches his brother was surrounded by.
The tavern was nice and dark and cool, and for once he wasn't particularly bothered by anyone seeking assistance. Hercules got himself a big bowl of stew, some fresh bread, and the sought-after ale, and was settling himself into a back table. He was just getting ready to take a nice, big gulp from the crude wooden mug when he heard a soft, half-whispered "Hercules?"
"Iphicles? What are you..."
"Shhh!" Without his crown, few Corinthians would recognize a king they'd seen perhaps twice, always at great distances, and anyone who would have the wherewithal to see the king in more relaxed attire certainly wouldn't be hanging about a tavern. "I'm hiding."
He joined his older brother, intrigued. "That's wonderful! You must be thrilled!"
"Thrilled? Hardly. Terrified is more like it."
Iphicles looked it, his eyes wide and bewildered. Upon closer inspection, Hercules saw that his brother did not look the least bit well. Even in the dim tavern light, he could see the bruised-looking half-moons beneath his eyes, and the lines on his face that hadn't been there a year before. Apparently, kingship wasn't agreeing with his brother one damn bit.
"What is there to be scared of?" Hercules didn't understand, couldn't wrap his brain around the idea of being afraid of having a child. Then again, it was rare that he ever understood Iphicles.
"That I'll be a terrible father. I barely make a half-competent king, I cannot imagine raising a child." Iphicles frowned, trying to make his younger brother comprehend what he wasn't saying. That he was afraid he would never be happy. He was fond of Rena, but she was not the great love of his life. It had taken him years to accept that. So, he had his affairs, and she had hers. The fact that the child might not be his didn't really bother him in the slightest. It was the feeling of being slowly throttled that terrified him so. He felt like he was drowning, like he was sinking into quicksand, and there was no way in Tartarus that he could get himself out.
His older brother looked so sad and lost, Hercules wanted to hold him. Generally, whenever he attempted any sort of affectionate gesture towards Iphicles, he was met with either annoyance or anger. He was at a loss as to how else to comfort him. So, he just reached out and wrapped his arms around his unresponsive brother, and hugged him as tight as he could, without crushing the smaller man's ribs.
Iphicles relaxed against his brother for what was possibly the first time in twenty years. He'd nearly forgotten how nice it was. Hercules had always been extraordinarily affectionate, even when he was a baby, and he'd spent much of his early childhood either holding or being held by his brother. He rested his forehead against the juncture of Hercules' neck and shoulder, where he remembered that it fit just right.
Although he was a little surprised that he wasn't pushed away like a clingy two-year-old, the warmth and solidity of his older brother was comforting to Hercules as well. The simple pleasure of physical contact was something he'd been denying himself of late, partially because of the situation with Iolaus.
Perhaps he'd been denying himself for too long. While not unpleasant, he was beginning to experience some physical sensations that were not in the least bit brotherly toward Iphicles.
Knowing he should break the embrace, Hercules loosened his grip. Iphicles wrapped his arms around him, and held fast. The King of Corinth was not exactly renowned for his warmth, and Hercules, in spite of the discomfort he was feeling in finding himself physically responding to his kin, couldn't let go. They hadn't been this close since they were very, very small. Iphicles smelt exactly as he had when Hercules was five, clean and warm and infinitely familiar.
What wasn't familiar was feeling his brother's lips against his neck, right below his ear, a particularly sensitive spot. Hercules cupped the back of Iphicles' head in his palm, gave it a reassuring squeeze. He could feel the telltale flush begin spreading up from his chest, and his cock swelled and pressed unbearably against the thick leather. He felt physically wonderful, but wrong, so wrong. This was his brother. Well, half-brother, really, but that was most definitely beside the point. He prayed Iphicles was completely ignorant of his state, he knew he'd never live it down if he wasn't.
The insistent growling of Hercules' empty stomach shattered the mood. Iphicles laughed, actually laughed, which was something he hadn't seen him do in a very long time, which made him chuckle too.
"I'm sorry about that," Iphicles said. "I guess I should let you get back to your dinner."
Hercules was simultaneously relieved and disappointed to feel his brother pulling away. Even if he was a little embarrassed and uncomfortable about his physical state, it was so rare that they spent any time together, and under civil circumstances, that he wanted to stay with Iphicles for a little while longer. "Why don't you join me? At least for dinner?"
"That would be nice." It had been a long, long time since he'd sat down and broken bread with his younger sibling. Iphicles insisted on getting his own meal, he was tired of the constant bowing and scraping he endured and relished just being an ordinary man for a little while, and returned with a bottle of good red wine in addition to his food.
They ate and drank and talked and laughed. Several hours passed merrily by, as well as several more bottles of wine. The brothers grew steadily more jovial, and fell to teasing each other like children.
Late in the evening, the tavern keeper gave them a choice of seeking lodging at the inn or on the street, he didn't particularly care, but they couldn't stay any longer. Iphicles momentarily considered throwing his kingly weight around, but thought better of it after a harsh look from his younger brother.
"I don't want to go back to the castle," Iphicles declared. "Not right now."
"Why don't you stay with me at the inn? You can go back in the morning."
At Hercules' suggestion, Iphicles relaxed again, and nodded. The brothers headed towards the inn, arm in arm, weaving slightly and both gripping bottles of the tavern keeper's exceptionally good wine.
The room was, in Hercules' terms, cozy. In Iphicles' terms, it was cramped, but it was warm and clean, and a nice change from the spacious, impersonal rooms of the palace where he spent his days. The relief he felt in being free from all the pomp and ceremony and ass kissing was palpable and making him more than a bit giddy. Of course, the wine might have a little to do with that as well.
Hercules regaled him with the continuing tales of his many and varied adventures, and he entertained his brother with stories of monarchs and heads of state. If their conversation resembled that of a courting couple, each attempting to impress and beguile the other, they pretended not to notice.
The hour grew later and later, and more wine was consumed, until both found themselves pleasantly sleepy and pleasantly drunk. Childish teasing and tickling quickly evolved into wrestling on the lone bed, and the two men were well matched in size if not strength.