View From the Morning After
Hercules was already eating breakfast when Iolaus strode into the castle dining room, whistling a jolly tune.
"Well, aren't you the cheerful thing this morning?" Hercules watched as Iolaus walked over to the breakfast buffet table and picked up a plate.
"And why shouldn't I be. It's a beautiful day, and I'm in a beautiful mood." Iolaus waved off the palace servers that patiently waited against the wall. They frowned at the guest who was now avidly serving himself. "It's all right, I just feel like serving myself. Relax and talk amongst yourselves for a while." He filled his plate rapidly, piling it with items from the feast before him. Porridge, ham, bacon, figs; soon filling his plate near to overflowing. Balancing his meal carefully, he made his way back to the table and sat next to Hercules.
"I was wondering if you were planning on getting up this morning or not. Have you seen Iphicles?" Hercules waited for the voracious hunter to swallow his first mouthful of food.
"Iphicles? No, I haven't. Must have had some business or something." Iolaus quickly filled his mouth to capacity again, ending the conversation abruptly.
"Extra hungry this morning, aren't you?"
Iolaus rolled his eyes and nodded, chewing rapidly. The less he had to say right now, the better off he would be. He wasn't terribly sure how Hercules would react to the news that he and Iphicles had carried the game of playing footsy to new heights last night, and frankly, he didn't want to have to broach the subject. The problem was, that was all he was thinking about this morning, the king's gorgeous body, his passionate embrace, his warm kisses, and damn, Hercules was staring at him again.
"Iolaus, if that isn't a shit eating grin, I don't know what one looks like. What is up with you this morning? You're starting to make me very nervous."
Iolaus swallowed again, but his reply was cut off by the arrival of a smiling King of Corinth. Iphicles, knowing his place in the scheme of things sat at the table across from Hercules and Iolaus. The servers jumped to their purpose in life.
"Good morning, boys. Isn't it a beautiful day!"
Hercules looked over his shoulder at the castle window, seeing the gray clouds and light mist covering the land. "Iphicles, don't you start! What is wrong with you guys?"
Iphicles cocked his head in question, trying very hard to keep his face straight. "Wrong? What are you talking about? Just because I'm in a good mood, that means something's wrong?" Unbidden, images of Hercules in a sky blue ensemble of silks with matching accessories marched through Iphicles' head. He chewed diligently on his lower lip, keeping the grin at bay. He was also keenly aware of the warning stare that Iolaus was directing at him.
Unaware of the by-play between his brother and Iolaus, Hercules wasn't sure how to respond. He couldn't think of a way to tell Iphicles that since his normal mood was one of abstracted sulleness and he usually walked around like his dog had just gotten run over by a chariot, this cheerfulness was unsettling. Oh well, it *was* nice to see Iphicles looking happy for a change. As the servers brought a plate of food to Iphicles, Hercules decided to deviate from the current topic.
"Well, I'm glad you're feeling good. You and Iolaus are real examples for the rest of us."
Iolaus and Iphicles exchanged a look. Turning to Hercules, Iolaus swallowed again, and pursued that last comment. "What do mean, we're examples?"
Hercules smiled indulgently. "Well, look at it outside. It's an awful, miserable morning, and yet the two of you are able to see beyond that and find something beautiful in a new day."
"Oh, so that's what you meant. Okay." Relieved, Iolaus continued the ravenous attack on his plate, thinking ahead to a second helping. Forking a pickled pigs foot, he looked up and noticed Iphicles. The king was munching slowly and trying to bury a smirk. He gave the amused monarch a swift, cautionary kick under the table, connecting with the royal shin.
"Ow!" Iphicles dropped his spoon, startled, and stared accusingly at Iolaus.
"Iph? You all right?" Hercules was wondering if maybe Iphicles needed to see the court physician; his face was now a bit flushed.
Iphicles picked up his spoon, attacking his porridge. "I'm fine, it was just a...spasm. I'm okay. Let's just finish this meal." He placed a heaping spoonful of the porridge in his mouth, savoring the slightly sweet taste.
Having arrived sooner, Hercules was already done with his breakfast, but stayed seated. A small frown signaled a forming question. "Iph, I was wondering last night. Now, if this is something you aren't comfortable with me asking just say so." Iphicles, stopped his chewing, a sense of dread building.
Hercules continued to speak. "I was lying in bed last night, wondering. What did you do with Rena's things, you know, her dresses and so on?" He didn't have time to duck. The spray of porridge covered Hercules, matting to his hair and face like glue. At the same time, sounds of choking and gagging came from Iolaus. Hercules didn't know which way to turn; Iphicles was wheezing, Iolaus was gagging. He started to smack Iolaus on the back, trying to dislodge what surely must have been a morsel of trapped food. The hunter *had* been eating at a nearly frightening rate.
Watching all this with brimming eyes, Iphicles rose from the table. His breath was coming in small gasps and Hercules left off his treatment of Iolaus, now terrified that he had mortally offended his sensitive brother. As he reached out in sympathy, he was startled to see that Iphicles was not crying but laughing so hard he couldn't get his breath. He stared at Hercules, deep laughter shaking his large frame. His lips seemed to be trying to form words, but none would come. He turned and staggered from the dining hall, echoing peals of laughter in his wake.
Hercules stared at the doorway his brother had just passed through, puzzlement written across his heroic face. He turned back to Iolaus, still coughing and sputtering. "Iolaus?"
Iolaus grabbed a goblet of water and downed it in one go. Taking a very deep breath, he turned to Hercules, smiling. "Hercules, let's just say that this has been a very interesting and enlightening couple of days. What do you say we go fishing tomorrow?"
Shaking his head at the attempt to change the subject, Hercules looked at Iolaus with deep scrutiny. "Iolaus, you two are hiding something. And sooner or later, I will find out what." Hercules walked away from the table and left the room.
With Hercules gone. Iolaus moved back to the buffet, once again filling his plate. He looked at the servers, standing nervously along the wall, now uncertain what to do. "Why don't you just take an hour or so off? It's a great day!"
They shrugged and left the room. Iolaus was now alone. Sitting down with his plate, he smiled again. "Well, they do say that ...exercise...gives you an appetite." He dug in and daydreamed of getting more...exercise...with a beautiful, slightly repressed king.
Spoon to mouth, he heard Hercules shriek. "IOLAUS!" Dropping the spoon, Iolaus stood up. Maybe the big guy wasn't as dense as he looked. Grabbing his plate and cutlery, he took shelter beneath the table. Once Hercules cooled down, he would come out. It looked like a prolonged session of 'mom' and 'naughty son' ahead. It would be wise to eat and build up his strength.
And somewhere in the depths of the Royal Castle of Corinth, a certain normally morose king was still laughing.