It was a hot and airless night, dark sister to the stifling heat of the long summer's day. In the palace gardens, a butter-soft moon danced silently on the tepid waters of a round pool, while the heady perfume of damask roses and summer jasmine floated drowsily on the heat-eddies that ghosted their way through the open casements of the royal bedchamber. Iphicles, king of Corinth, lay on his bed staring at the shimmering reflections on the ceiling and sweated gently, the heat of the windless night made worse by the warmth coming from the body half lying over him. But though his skin was moist and sticky where their flesh touched, he didn't want to move away.
In spite of feeling sore and exhausted after their lovemaking, he found it difficult to sleep. He was a big man, and strong, but no match for the godly power and stamina of his lover, who, though he tried to curb his supernatural strength, was sometimes too much for Iphicles.
Even after all this time, it still awed him to hold the passion wracked body in his arms and feel the leashed strength, the controlled violence that could destroy with a careless sweep of one powerful arm.
He still found it hard to believe this was his lover. It seemed impossible he should be so blessed after the mess he had made of much of his life. So many mistakes--sometimes made with the best of intentions--but often just reacting in pain and resentment to the purposeless destiny that the Fates had allotted him.
Hercules would say that men were masters of their own fate but Iphicles wasn't so certain. After all, what control had he had over his own? Very little. And the decisions he had made had often been the wrong ones, as everyone in his life had been only too willing to point out, not least his dear brother Hercules.
Hercules--the focal point of so much of his life. Of course, it could be said that he had allowed his brother such power over him because of his own actions. Ah yes, his actions--mistakes rather, which he had paid for over and over.
The biggest mistake had been, without a doubt, the seduction of his own brother...
...He had been away for six months, fighting against the Scythian satrap's efforts to expand the Persian presence in the Greek Peninsula. It had been one of those rare occasions when the never ending squabbles among the Greek States had taken a back seat to the Persian menace.
He had been among the Theban contingent sent to join the troops of the other states, and had acquitted himself well enough to get an offer from Marcius, a Roman mercenary recruiter who had been there officially as an observer for Rome, but mostly to recruit troops for the next campaign against the Gaulish and Germanic Barbarians.
He was home now, at his mother's insistence, before he decided on his answer. Aristipus had made it clear he always had a place in the Theban Army should he want it--which would keep him near home. But did he really want that?
After two days of his family, he was certain that the further away he went, the better it would be for all concerned. His mother had been clingy and reproachful in turns about his drinking, his long absences from home, his indifference to his young brother's love and admiration. Gods, he couldn't go anywhere without tripping over him smiling hopefully, blue eyes full of hero-worship and sudden pain when snubbed. He felt guilty and irritated in equal measure. It was unbearable.
That morning, he had told Alcmene at breakfast that he would be leaving the following day. He had mumbled some excuse about needing to go to the capital to replace his shield, and have a new cuirass made. Not lies exactly--he did need new ones--but he hadn't revealed the fact that all he had to do was collect them from the craftsmen who already had his measurements and half the payment, the rest to be handed over upon delivery.
In reality, he was going to get together with his friends, soldiers like him with whom he would have a good, uncomplicated time, spending their price money in bars and brothels where they knew how to cater to their kind.
The guilt engendered by his intended defection had led him to give in to his mother's suggestion that he spend the morning fishing with his little brother. Fishing! He hated fishing; and the thought of being alone all morning with Hercules, the focus of those too-serious worshipping blue eyes, made him groan silently. Only the pleading in his mother's eyes and the thought that he would be leaving the next day, got him to reluctantly agree.
So here he was, bored out of his mind, while his brother sat by the riverbank earnestly holding a fishing rod and waiting for the fish to bite. Conversation had been painful and sporadic. His inquiries about the Academy had elicited strained replies, in which 'yes' and 'no', interposed with 'fine' and 'not bad' figured largely.
Eventually he'd given up and had simply laid back on the soft, springy grass sinking into an indolent stupor, and thought longingly of the pretty little prostitute he'd had the night before coming home. A nice giggly armful, eager to please and emotionally undemanding, her only concern being whether he had the dinars and the stamina to afford her.
Unfortunately, such lecherous thoughts led to a state of uncomfortable arousal-- there was no immediate relief in sight. Well, there was always the river.
Iphicles rolled to his feet and started stripping his leather vest and pants.
Hercules looked up in surprise and asked nervously, " What--what are you doing?
Iphicles looked amused and replied, "What does it look like? I'm going swimming, of course."
"Oh, right." Hercules had flushed with embarrassment.
"You want to come too?"
"Sure." Had been the eager reply.
"Well, don't just sit there, get naked and get in." shot Iphicles over his shoulders as he sprinted into the river, splashing the bright yellow irises bordering the water's edge with iridescent droplets.
They swam companionably for a while until Iphicles started a water-fight. Quickly getting over his surprise, Hercules joined in enthusiastically, spraying a small tempest over his laughing brother, until yelling a rousing war cry, Iphicles dived through the torrent and knocked the would-be Poseidon into the cool green depths of the river.
They leaped out of the sparkling surface like dolphins, rubbing the water from their laughing faces and hair. Iphicles squeezed the moisture out of his long, auburn locks while Hercules stared in frozen fascination at the diamond drops of water nestled in his dark chest hair. The scent of cool water and warm male flesh curled around them like a mist. His brother stood so close that Hercules could have licked the drops from his skin
"What are you thinking?" Iphicles asked, his voice low, husky.
"Thinking?" Very slowly Hercules lifted his glance to the deep amber eyes watching him. He tried to speak but could not. Unconsciously he licked his lips and sensed as much as heard the sudden intake of his brother's breath as he watched his tongue.
"Do you think I'll ever have a chest like yours?" Hercules asked finally, dragging his eyes from his brother's intent face and gazing mournfully at his own smooth chest.
Iphicles' eyes traveled slowly over the still boyish figure, making Hercules blush hotly. "Why? Don't you like smooth, hairless bodies? The sculptors do."
"I like you." blurted Hercules, and blushed even more, then quickly turning away, he hurried out of the water, hiding his flaming cheeks in a drying cloth he found in the bag of food Alcmene had packed for them. She had obviously foreseen their swim.
Iphicles gazed at his young brother thoughtfully, startled by the realization that there was more to Hercules' reactions to him than the simple hero-worship that younger brothers felt for their older sibling. He should have been amused, he was, but something strange was happening in his chest, almost as if the air he breathed wasn't going where it should.
He came out of the river and sat next to his brother, silently extending his hand for the damp cloth that Hercules clutched to his chest in an unconsciously defensive gesture.
"Can I have that or do you have exclusive rights to it?"
Hercules blushed again and almost threw the cloth at Iphicles. "S-sorry."
Hercules stared resolutely at the sparkling ripples on the river surface and studiously ignored the man sitting next to him.
Iphicles observed the tense hunched figure of his brother and had to stifle a laugh. Gods, had he ever been this shy and awkward with the girls he had fancied? He couldn't have or they would never had gone to bed with him. Well, maybe out of pity; he could see some soft-hearted farm girl feeling so sorry for poor Hercules that she would gift him with a pity fuck just so he wouldn't feel too rejected.
"Are you hungry?"
Hercules started violently at his brother's query. "What?"
"Do you want to eat now?" Iphicles asked in a patient voice.
He waited a beat then he leaned over and whispered in his brother's ear, "Are you waiting for a sign?"
"A sign?" Hercules turned his head looking perplexed.
"Yes, a sign to tell us we can eat." He pointed at the canvas food bag lying on the other side of his brother.
"Oh! oh, yeah. Sorry."
Hercules quickly emptied the bag, laying out the food on the cloth that Iphicles had spread on the grass, and soon they were eating freshly baked wheaten cakes dipped in rosemary flavored olive oil, accompanied by goat's cheese, black, wrinkled olives and the first pale green figs of the season.
They ate silently but companionably and Hercules started to relax, even smiling shyly when Iphicles threw an olive pip at him. Ducking the next one, he threw a fig which hit Iphicles squarely on the chest bursting open and splattering him liberally with its sweet, sticky flesh.
"Yuk! You'll pay for that you brat." threatened Iphicles but he was chuckling at the shocked look on his brother's face; he had obviously thrown the fruit without thought to the possible results.
"Right. That does it." Iphicles looked at his brother's distressed face and said with a mock growl, "I don't want to hear another apology from you for the rest of the day. I'm tired of your saying sorry every other word."
"So--" Hercules put a hand over his mouth, blue eyes wide with apprehension.
"Were you going to say something?" Iphicles growled playfully. Hercules shook his head, hand still covering his mouth, but his eyes were now dancing with laughter.
"Good, because I'd hate to have to put you over my knees and spank you.
Hercules stifled a giggle. "I'm too big for spanking, Iphicles."
"No one who throws figs at their big brother is too old for spanking." Iphicles was endeavoring to wipe the sticky mess off his chest, but the hair that Hercules so envied was making it impossible.
In the end, Iphicles went to the river's edge and sluiced his chest with handfuls of water, until the stickiness had disappeared. When he sat down again, Hercules had packed the remains of the meal and had the versatile cloth ready for his brother.
"Thanks." Iphicles dabbed the cloth over his chest and stomach, amused at the surreptitious glances his brother was casting his way. "So, have you got a sweetheart, a nice buxom girl from the village? Or maybe there's a fine lad in the Academy making eyes at you?"
Hercules ducked his head in embarrassment and mumbled, "No."
"Oh? Don't tell me there's no one that's caught your fancy. What about your blond friend, what's his name--Iolaus? I thought you were thick as thieves with him. Don't you like him?"
Hercules' face was getting steadily rosier as Iphicles quizzed him teasingly. "It's not like that. We're just good friends. Besides, he's mad about girls. He's always after them."
"Ah, but does he catch them?"
"More often than not." admitted Hercules with a rueful smile.
"So why don't you chase the girls with him?" asked Iphicles with curiosity.
Hercules looked away towards the distant snow capped mountains and admitted with painful honesty, "I never know what to say to them. I get all tongue-tied, or say the wrong thing and they get irritated with me."
Iphicles gazed at his younger brother, and for the first time felt sorry for him. A demigod, already the strongest person in Greece; he could lift a rock five times his weight, but he couldn't talk to a girl.
"You just need to practice what to say and do a few times, that's all."
Hercules turned to look at his brother, blue eyes full of wonder and curiosity. "Practice? How?"
Iphicles stretched his long legs out and turned his face to the sun, leaning back on his elbows. "Practice a few opening lines to start the conversation rolling; put together a few standard compliments; learn a few moves that girls like, that sort of thing. Maybe Iolaus can help you."
"Ha! He just makes fun of me. Not in a mean way," he hurriedly added. "He gets the girls for me, but I don't know what to do with them after that." he sighed heavily. "I guess I'm a bit shy."
Iphicles smiled involuntarily at this. He would have said scared silly was more accurate. Gods, that's what came from being your mother's favorite. Specially a mother like Alcmene. Poor Hercules.
Iphicles glanced through slitted eyes at his brother. "Want me to show you?"
Hercules stared at his brother with astonished hope. "Will you Iph, really?"
"Sure. If you want me to." Iphicles murmured lazily.
"Gods! Yes please, Iph."
"OK then. First thing, pick your moment wisely, one that gives you a good excuse to approach your target and will allow you to display your good points."
Hercules nodded wisely, then looked puzzled. "Like what?"
Iphicles rolled his eyes. "Your strength, you dummy! Offer to carry the water jar from the fountain, or a laden basket from the market, or anything that's remotely heavy. Girls are always impressed by a show of strength and, more significantly, your offer of help. Shows you're a kind sort of person. They love that."
"Oh, I see, like I do for mother." Hercules exclaimed, his eyes expressive with enthusiasm. Then his face fell.
Hercules looked down at his hands and muttered, "But what do I say to them?"
Iphicles hid a grin and said with commendable seriousness, "Yes, you have to plan that too. Let's see, You can say that she looks tired and you would like to give her a chance to rest; or admire the way she helps her mother at whatever task she happens to be doing and offer to help, that sort of thing."
Hercules wrinkled his nose in doubt, unsure of his ability to come out with anything coherent, but he nodded. "I suppose I could do that. It would be like offering my help to mother. Then what?"
Again with his mother. Iphicles began to think that perhaps he had been lucky not to be a mamma's boy after all, at least, not if it meant ending up like his little brother.
"Then, you find something about them to compliment. You tell them how you've always liked that particular shade of hair, or eyes; you admire the way they do something, or the shapeliness of their hands, or the sound of their laughter; take a pick."
Hercules frowned in concentration as he tried to imagine himself saying anything like that to a girl. "I'm not sure..."
Iphicles sat up and sweeping the nearly dried locks back from his face and neck he turned and sat cross-legged, his knees touching his brother's side and thigh.
"All right, let me give you a little demonstration." He looked deep into Hercules' eyes then murmured, "You know, I'd never noticed before how when the sun shines in your eyes one can see hints of green, and shards of blue so bright they shine like polished turquoise."
Hercules stared into Iphicles' warm amber gaze mesmerized. Finally he whispered, "Really?"
Iphicles gave him a slow, sensuous smile and answered, his voice husky, deep. "Oh, yes. They are a curious shape as well, slightly slanted and almond shaped, like those of an Egyptian temple cat. Very sexy."
Iphicles then looked at Hercules' mouth with an intensity that brought a flush to the young man's cheeks. "Your lips have a lovely clean shape, so well defined and a shade of dusky pink that remind me of the roses growing in Aphrodite's temple gardens. They look as if they could be just as soft too. May I?" Iphicles extended a finger and gently outlined his brother's lips, which quivered at his touch.
Hercules put a hand on Iphicles' arm as if to remove it but he just held on, shivering helplessly.
When he saw the telltale trembling of his brother's hand, heat flooded violently through Iphicles. He looked from his brother's fingers tightening on his arms to his suddenly dilated pupils and knew Hercules wanted him.
The realization swept through Iphicles, and with it came the knowledge that he had never wanted anyone half so much as he wanted his brother, watching him with wide blue eyes as he tried to still the trembling of his lower lip by catching it between his white teeth.
Hercules..." He whispered, but there were no words to tell him about the fire raging just beneath the surface of his apparent control.
He fitted his callused hand beneath the dimpled chin and bent down. It took an agonizing amount of willpower to do no more than brush his lips over the soft mouth, soothing it's trembling. Hercules stiffened at the touch and then shivered wildly again.
Iphicles forced himself to release his young brother, shaken by a soft, slow explosion deep inside him that sent shock waves all the way through his body. Emotions cascaded through him, a wild exhilaration mixed with fear, a confused feeling of having lost his footing in reality while at the same time never having felt more alive.
"You get the idea now?" murmured Iphicles, trying to gain some measure of control. It would be so easy to do something foolish, something he would regret afterward. And his brother was so innocent...
"Are you all right Herc?"
"Yes..." Hercules stared dreamily at his brother's sensual mouth.
"What are you thinking?" Iphicles asked, slightly worried now.
Hercules took a big breath and let it out. "How your mouth could look so firm and have felt so soft."
The pulse just beneath Iphicles' temple leaped visibly, reflecting the sudden hammering of his blood. "Did my lips feel soft?" he asked softly.
"Yes." Hercules whispered. He felt the brush of his brother's mouth again.
"You sure?" Iphicles murmured.
"Is that a yes?" Iphicles caressed him lightly again. "Or a no?"
Iphicles suddenly sat back, forcing Hercules to release him. "Now that we've got that settled, do you see how it works?"
Hercules stared at his brother in shock, wondering if he had done something wrong, wondering why Iphicles had stopped kissing him.
"It?" he asked, confusion clear in his voice.
"Yeah, you know, how to get a girl, what to say to her." Iphicles answered almost curtly.
Conflicting waves of heat washed over Hercules: desire and embarrassment. " I'm sorry, I thought...you seemed...I've never..." his voice faded and he looked away.
"You thought what? And you never..?" when Hercules just shook his head and kept silent, Iphicles prompted him gently. "Answer me Herc."
"I've never been kissed by anyone, not like that, on the lips." He took a deep, uncertain breath and rushed on. "I know that you're showing me how I should behave with a girl, but I thought it meant something more to you, 'cos when you kiss me I get hot and cold and shivery and I can't breathe and I can't think and--and I thought you might feel something too, and ...that's all." The tumbling words came to a stop and Hercules stared fearfully at Iphicles, waiting for his laughter.
But he wasn't laughing. Iphicles was staring at him, hardly able to believe what he had just heard.
Hercules shook his head, fascinated by the intense look his brother was suddenly giving him. It looked--possessive.
"Then we should start you off gently, with little ones and work all the way up to a real kiss." Iphicles informed him softly, as he took hold of one of his young brother's hands and gently smoothed it open with his fingertips and kissed the center of the palm, looking all the while into his eyes.
"Like this," Iphicles kissed the ball of his thumb, "And this," the tip of his index finger. "And like this."
Hercules couldn't stifle a small, throaty sound when Iphicles' teeth closed slowly on the pad of flesh at the base of his thumb, or when the tip of his tongue flicked out to touch the sensitive skin between his first and second finger. He did the same across the whole hand, then caught the smallest finger between his lips and pulled it into his mouth, stroking the skin with tongue and teeth.
By the time Iphicles released his hand, Hercules was shivering violently again.
"Do you like that?" Iphicles asked.
"Yes," Hercules sighed, "Gods, yes, I like that."
"Would you like me to kiss you again?"
Hercules answered by swaying towards his brother, eyes darkening as the turned his face up with and openness and trust that shook Iphicles to the core. He knew he should tell Hercules not to trust him so much; he had so much more experience and he was so hungry. He wanted to possess that untouched body, wanted to bury himself in that young, tight flesh and lose himself completely.
But all he said was," Closer, I want to feel you against me, come closer..."
Iphicles made a thick sound of pleasure when Hercules put his hands on his shoulders and arched into his arms. He bent his head and brushed over his brother's lips, skimming gently, barely touching, increasing the contact so slowly that Hercules' arms locked around his neck, pulling him closer in unconscious demand, and when he felt the hard edge of Iphicles' teeth close gently on his lower lip, his breath rushed out in a soundless moan.
"Yes," Iphicles murmured, licking the tiny marks he had left. "Open for me babe, want me."
Hercules' lips parted and he shivered as Iphicles' tongue licked over the sensitive flesh, teasing the lips further and further apart until he could glide his tongue inside. The feeling of his brother's tongue inside his mouth wrung a small cry of discovery from Hercules, and a wave of heat swept out from the pit of his stomach, melting his bones. He clung to the older man's strength without realizing it, for all he could feel was the rhythmic penetration and retreat of Iphicles' tongue caressing him. He abandoned himself to the rising heat within him and to his brother, returning the gliding pressure of his tongue with his own, enjoying this new intimacy and taste and texture, lured deeper and deeper into Iphicles' hot mouth until he was giving the kiss as deeply as he was receiving it.
After a long, long time Iphicles slowly straightened. He held Hercules gently to his chest trying and failing to control the shudders of desire that swept through him. He could feel the same wild trembling sweeping through his brother's body and couldn't stifle a thick, hoarse sound of triumph, knowing Hercules wanted him just as much.
He looked at the tawny head resting so trustingly against him and suddenly realized what he was doing: he was taking advantage of his brother's infatuation and innocence to seduce him, not giving him a chance to object or think it through.
He could have sex with anyone and not care afterwards, but this was his brother, someone he loved, through all the jealousy and resentment he felt for the clear favoritism his mother had always shown for him.
He gently caressed the soft, silky hair trying to control his unruly body. The long, soft strands seemed alive. They clung to his fingers as though in a silent plea for more caresses. Smiling he brushed the hair in slow, gentle strokes, and when he could not resist it any more he eased his fingers deep into the sun-warmed, shimmering depths of his brother's hair. The exquisite softness make an involuntary shiver run through him. He lifted the silky locks to his lips and buried his face in the shining strands, inhaling deeply.
When his eyes opened, Hercules saw the flexed power of Iphicles' well muscled thighs pressing against his hips. Slowly he turned his head until he could see his brother's face buried in his hair. The contrast of dark and fair, of hard masculine planes against his own still somewhat boyish form made his breath fill his throat. Then Iphicles opened his amber eyes and Hercules couldn't breathe at all. Passion burned behind his brother's gold-tipped dark eyelashes, a turmoil of need and emotion that exploded softly inside him, bringing fever in its wake.
"We shouldn't do this." Iphicles murmured. He rolled off Hercules and lay beside him, leaning on a folded arm.
"I want to."
"You shouldn't. You're too innocent. You shouldn't let me near you. You trust me too much."
"I can't help it." Hercules said, his voice soft, unhesitating. " I love you, and I want you, I want this. I knew it the instant I saw you sitting on your black horse, a warrior."
Iphicles couldn't bear the honesty and certainty in Hercules' bright blue eyes. He closed his eyes and a visible shudder run through his body.
"Hercules." He said harshly. "You don't know me."
"I know that you're hard man and you can be rough, but you won't hurt me. You've always been careful and much more gentle than I am. In every way that matters I'm safe with you. Just as I know that you're brave and hot tempered and very proud."
"If a man isn't proud and hard and willing to fight, the world will roll right over him and flatten him into dust." Answered Iphicles bitterly.
"Yes...I know." Hercules answered sadly. Then he smiled sweetly. "Did I mention that you're very handsome, too, and you've have all your teeth?"
Helplessly Iphicles laughed. His brother was so innocent yet sensual, too honest for his own good and so loving that his chest hurt when he looked into those trusting blue eyes.
"You're one of a kind Herc."
Hercules smiled sadly. He had been one of a kind all his life. Always set apart, never being a part of the ordinary, colorful, passionate pageant that was humanity. He had thought it might be different at the Academy, but it hadn't been. Yet for a time, here with Iphicles, he hadn't felt separate. And when he had kissed him, he had felt the sweet fever of life flowing through his body, joining them together.
Tentatively, Hercules traced the curve of Iphicles' full lower lip with the rough tip of his index finger. Iphicles flinched away from the innocent, incendiary touch, not trusting his self-control. Hercules dropped his hand and looked away. He was too unsophisticated to conceal his bafflement and hurt at his withdrawal.
"I'm sorry," he said. "When you were just now playing with my hair..." His voice died. He gave Iphicles an apologetic smile. " I guess I misunderstood, I thought you wanted..." His voice faded again.
He swallowed, trying to read Iphicles' expression but there was nothing to read. Only his eyes were alive, glittering with the fever he was fighting to control. Hercules didn't realize that; he only knew that his brother had flinched when he had touched him. He saw the rigid lines of Iphicles' clenched jaw and thought he was forcing himself to be kind and say nothing hurtful.
Hercules sat up and tried to move away only to find Iphicles' strong arm clamped around his waist. When he looked into his face again Iphicles was watching him with blazing eyes.
"We have to talk, little brother, but not now. For once, just once in my life I want to know what it's like to be wanted for myself, to be the first and not be shadowed by anyone."
"I don't understand." whispered Hercules as Iphicles bent over him, filling his world.
"I know, but you understand this, don't you?"
A small sound escaped Hercules as he felt the sweet firmness of Iphicles' full lips. The caressing pressure increased, parting his lips, his brother's mouth rocking languidly against his own, sensitizing lips that turned hungrily to follow the seductive mouth. He sighed Iphicles' name and the sound sent fire flicking over the older man.
"Yes?" Iphicles murmured, softly licking Hercules' trembling lips.
Hercules' voice broke when Iphicles bit his lower lip with gentle teeth. Hercules made a tiny, throaty sound of pleasure, but the caress lasted only an instant.
"More," he pleaded. "Please."
He felt as much as heard Iphicles' laughter. He opened his eyes to find his brother watching him with an intensity that was almost tangible.
"Is that ok?" He asked a little nervously.
"More that ok." Iphicles said, his voice rough with emotion. "I love to hear you ask, feeling you turning to follow my lips, knowing that you want me. I love that most of all. Having you want me and knowing that it's me, just me that makes you feel like this."
"Oh." Hercules flushed but didn't look away. Instead, he eased his fingers into the dark, warm hair and pulled Iphicles' mouth to his. With the same sensual deliberation he had been shown earlier, he traced the outline of the full lips with his tongue and then closed his teeth with exquisite care on the sensual lower lip. He smiled and slowly released it when he felt the shudder that rippled through the powerful body.
"Was that all right?" he asked shyly.
Iphicles closed his eyes and counted his heartbeat as his blood raced violently through his body. The thought of making love with someone so innocent yet so sensual and honest nearly made him lose control.
"Do you want me to kiss you?" he asked, opening his eyes and looking into shining blue suns.
"Yes." Hercules sighed, touching Iphicles' lips with a lightly trembling fingertip.
"How do you want me to kiss you? Like this?" Iphicles' lips lightly brushed over Hercules'. "Or like this?" He brushed them again then returned to linger. "Or like this." His tongue drew a warm, moist line over Hercules' lips, between them, inside them until Hercules whimpered softly and opened himself for a deeper kiss. "Is this what you want?" whispered Iphicles.
When Hercules felt his brother's tongue inside him, his whole body tightened. Iphicles began stroking his mouth in a slow sensual rhythm that made Hercules melt against him, moving as he moved, slowly, deeply. This was what he had longed for. Hercules clung to him, forgetting Iphicles' warnings against trusting him, knowing only that he was in his arms and it was so much better than his dreams. When his brother would have ended the kiss, Hercules made an inarticulate sound of protest and tightened his arms around his neck, wanting more of that heat and sweetness.
"Shh," Iphicles murmured, delicately biting Hercules' tongue. "I'm not going anywhere. You're going to be with me every step of the way if it kills me... which it probably will." He finished wryly.
He shifted slowly and lowered himself onto the warm grass, stretching out beside Hercules and traced the line of his cheekbone, first with his fingertips and then with the back of his fingers. Hercules caught his hand and pressed a kiss into its palm before biting him quite hard. Iphicles gave a low, very male laugh. His eyes turned the color of dark, smoky topaz and he looked at his brother's mouth intently.
"Do you want me to kiss you again?" He asked in a low voice.
"Yes." was the reply. "Yes I want that."
Hercules smiled when fingertips touched his lips.
He shivered when Iphicles traced the sensitive rim of his ear.
Iphicles caressed the line of his throat, pausing at the pulse that beat rapidly just beneath his skin. "How about here?" He murmured. The back of his fingers brushed feather light over the hollows of Hercules' throat, then slowly slid down the hairless chest and caught a nipple between his fingertips. Hercules cried out in surprise and put a hand over his as though to stop him.
"Are you saying that you don't want this?" Iphicles asked softly, tugging at the puckering nipple with gentle, skillful fingers.
Sensation speared through Hercules, making speech impossible. He moaned softly and arched into Iphicles' touch, holding his hand in place.
"That's it." He said, thumbing the nipple and listening to Hercules' cries, feeling his pleasure tighten his own body, filling his cock with a heavy rush of blood. "Tell me what you want. I'll give it to you, anything you can imagine."
"I want..." Hercules' voice broke as Iphicles rolled the nipple between hard fingers, sending pleasure bursting through him. "I..." his voice fractured again. He gave up trying to speak and pressed himself against Iphicles' hand, silently asking for more.
Iphicles looked at the body moving languidly, arching slightly, the pink cock now fully erect, nestling among honey colored curls and he barely stifled a groan at the sudden hammer blows of need that made him painfully rigid. His brother was beautiful, with flawless golden skin and hard rosy nipples waiting to be tasted by his tongue.
Hercules saw the fierce clenching of his brother's body and the sudden stillness of his face as he looked at his naked body, open and aroused.
Iphicles was flooded with scalding heat as he heard Hercules call his name in a voice made husky with the same passion that was driving him to the very edge. His throat was so tight he could barely speak.
"You're burning me alive." He said hoarsely, "and I've barely touched you. You're an innocent. But I'm not. You have no idea what you're doing to me. I want you so badly I feel like my guts are being torn out. I want to hear you cry my name when I touch you where no one ever has. I want to taste every bit of you, I want to trace every curve of your bare belly with my tongue, to suck your cock until you spill into my mouth, to lie between your thighs and bury myself inside you until I don't know where I end and you begin."
Hercules tried to speak, but could not. Iphicles' words had lit a fire in his body, stealing his breath.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?" Iphicles asked roughly. "I'm not talking about a few more kisses and then we stroll back home. I'm talking about lying here naked with you and touching you in every way you can't even imagine, and when you're hot and crying for me, I'll begin over again until you're so wild you won't even remember your name."
Hercules stared at him wide eyed, breathing hard with shocked arousal.
"That's when I'll take you and you'll take me and for a time there'll be no you, no me, only us locked together in the kind of pleasure that people kill or die for." Iphicles finished roughly. "Do you understand? If I touch you the way you want me to, You won't leave this place a virgin."
Hercules stared at Iphicles with wide dilated eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, licked dry lips and tried to gather his scattered thoughts. It was impossible. Iphicles' words kept echoing in his head, making him tremble. He hadn't really thought beyond being in his brothers arms, beyond sharing a few pleasurable kisses. But he should have remembered he was dealing with a full grown man, with a passionate man's needs and desire. He was innocent, but he wasn't that stupid.
"I'm s-sorry." He said helplessly. "I wasn't thinking how it might be for you. I didn't mean to hurt you." he flushed with shame.
Iphicles swore harshly and sat up in a single savage movement. Then he closed his eyes, afraid that if he looked at his brother, that once he touched him, he might not be able to stop at all. He wanted him too much to trust himself.
Suddenly he felt a warm breath against his hand just before he felt Hercules' lips touch his skin. When Hercules held his hand against a downy cheek and whispered apologies, Iphicles felt the trembling of his youthful body, and realized that his brother was feeling as much fear and unhappiness as passion. The realization chastened him, cooling the fever that had been on the point of blazing like a wildfire.
"It's not really your fault," Iphicles murmured wryly, pulling the pliant body into his arms, soothing him with a gentle hug. "It's mine. I knew where this was going, and you didn't." He smiled crookedly. "But I didn't know I would want you so much. It took me by surprise." He brushed his lips over a soft cheek and felt the wetness of tears.
" It's ok Herc, It's all right. I know myself better now. It won't take me by surprise again, and I won't do anything you don't want. You can have a few more kisses, however and wherever you like them. Don't worry babe, I'd never force you to do anything. You know that, don't you?"
The words reassured Hercules, but it was the soothing, undemanding kisses Iphicles gave to his forehead and cheeks, the tip of his nose and the corners of his mouth, that allowed him to relax against his brother's chest, letting out his breath in a long sigh. Iphicles buried his face in the tawny golden mane resting on his shoulder and inhaled deeply, rubbing his cheek in its silky softness.
Sensing the sensual pleasure that his hair gave to his brother sent curious tremors through the pit of Hercules' stomach and down to his groin. He remembered how earlier Iphicles had nuzzled his teasing sensual mouth into his palm, his tongue licking between his fingers, his teeth biting his skin until he couldn't stifle a moan. The thought of having his whole body caressed like that made him flush with sudden heat.
"Hercules." whispered Iphicles.
Hercules lifted his face and saw that Iphicles was staring at his aroused cock.
"Do you trust me to let me touch you again?"
"Yes. No. Oh Iph, I trust you but I don't want to make you feel bad. It's not fair that you should suffer when you make me feel so good."
"It's ok," He said huskily, smoothing his hand from Hercules' knee to his thigh to his waist. "It's ok Herc. This will feel good to both of us. Unless you don't want it?" He held his breath as he controlled himself tightly, keeping his hand chastely at his brother's waist.
"Want what?" Hercules said in a high pitched voice, caught between a virgin's nervousness and the desire that was burning through his bones into his very soul.
Iphicles smiled lopsidedly. "My hand, and then my mouth. Here, tasting you, loving you."
He bent down and almost touched his lips to the tight little nipple that was reaching toward him even as he moved. Instead of kissing it, he licked then blew on it with warm breath. Hercules gave a choked cry at the teasing caress and arched his back involuntarily towards the sensual, teasing mouth. The world spun as Iphicles lifted him then stretched him out on the soft, lush grass. He twisted a hand into Hercules' silky hair, twisting it around his fingers until his head tilted backwards, arching his back.
"More," Iphicles said huskily.
Hercules didn't understand, but he loved the feel of the long fingers kneading his scalp and he tilted his head further back rubbing himself against the imprisoning hand like a cat. His back arched even more with the motion, tightening his chest, making his tight nipples stand out even more.
"That's it, babe." Iphicles murmured, flexing his fingers in his scalp, urging his brother to arch further towards his mouth.
Hercules arched supply, brushing his nipple against Iphicles' lips. But it was a hot, moist tongue that he felt, making him arch more as he felt an arm slide beneath him, holding him while the hot mouth closed over one nipple, and the teeth held it in a sensual vice that made him writhe with pleasure. His nails dug into the powerful shoulders and he called his lover's name with each breath he took, ragged breaths that echoed the rhythm of the mouth tagging at his chest, setting fire to his body.
Iphicles suddenly turned his head and claimed the other nipple and bit it with exquisite care despite the hunger that was making his body shudder.
"Don't stop," Hercules moaned, twisting beneath him, not wanting the sweet torture to ever end.
Iphicles laced his fingers with his brother's and stretched them above their heads, sliding upwards until he was level with the flushed face and thrust his tongue into the panting mouth. Hercules returned the kiss fiercely, wanting to meld their bodies, shaking with his wanting. Iphicles' lips pressed down into his, controlling his wild motions, slowly transforming them into the rhythmic movement of the act of love. He didn't protest. He wanted it as much as his brother did. He had never wanted anything half as much. He felt Iphicles settle between his legs, opening them, then arching suddenly, bringing their cocks together, rubbing them against each other and Hercules cried out in shock at the sensation that speared through him.
"Take it easy babe, it's ok." He said soothingly, fighting the urgent demands of his own need. "It's all right." He turned them onto their sides, separating their groins. For long moments he soothed the nervous younger man with voice and touch, phrases and caresses calculated to reassure rather than arouse. "That's it, Herc, just hold onto me. There's no hurry. It's just the two of us here, enjoying each other, and all the time in the world."
Hercules clung to Iphicles who stroked him slowly, calmly, despite the tremors of passion that ripped through him at every shift of the smooth, youthful skin against the older man's hair roughened chest. The contrast between the still boyish, supple body and his battle-hardened muscled bulk made Iphicles' cock strain more urgently, but he ignored the harsh urgency of his body, knowing Hercules deserved better, in his innocence and honesty, than a hurried, out of control fuck.
"You're more beautiful every time I look at you." Iphicles said in a low voice, his breath warm against Hercules' ear. He bit it delicately, then harder, enjoying the way his brother moved toward rather than away from his caresses. His strong callused hand stroked the silky back, rubbing their chest together. "Do I feel as good to you as you do to me?"
Hercules laughed shakily, no longer frightened by the unexpectedly intense sensations that had shaken his body without warning. He was curious now, hungry to feel that incredible pleasure again. "You feel twice as good. Ten times. Nothing could feel better than you do." As he spoke, he rocked from side to side rubbing himself against the hard muscled body lying next to him, delighting in the shivery feelings that swept up and down his body.
"Would you like..." Hercules' voice broke suddenly as Iphicles' knee moved between his legs, opening them. The warm hard weight of the thigh slid upward until it pressed against his erection, the rhythmic rocking sending sweet lightning radiating from his groin to the base of his spine. Hercules made a low involuntary cry of surprise and looked at Iphicles with dazed blue eyes. The sensation wasn't as intense as the first time when their cocks had touched, but still the pleasure was incredible.
"Would I like...?" Iphicles asked, deliberately moving between Hercules' thighs, accustoming him to being caressed there. His own body tightened hungrily when he felt the wetness of the leaking cock on his skin, as Hercules was taken by waves of pleasure.
"W-would you like it if I touched you?" He asked, his voice trembling.
"Yes." Iphicles bent and kissed him slowly. "Do you want to touch me?"
"I don't know how." Hercules admitted, biting his lip. "I want it to be good for you, as good as you're making it for me."
Iphicles closed his eyes for an instant, fighting the urge to pull Hercules' hand down his body and wrap it around his own rock-hard cock.
"If it gets any better for me," he said huskily, "It will soon be all over." He smiled crookedly into the anxious blue eyes. "Put your hands on me. Anywhere, and do whatever you like. I want to be touched by you babe. You don't know how much."
Hercules' hand was shaking as he raised it to Iphicles' face. He traced the dark slash of eyebrow, the line of his straight nose, the sensual curve of full lips, the rim of his ear. Then he traced them again with his mouth. He delicately licked the curves and whorls of Iphicles' ear spiraling down until he felt the shudders that rippled through the body resting on his.
"You like that." He murmured smiling.
"Um. Not sure." Iphicles said huskily. "Could have been a coincidence. Maybe you should try again."
Hercules stared in surprise, then his face broke into a smile. "Are you teasing me?"
"I'd say you're doing the teasing here." Iphicles growled when Hercules' teeth gently bit his ear just as he had done earlier.
"Shall I stop?" Hercules asked, laughing at the soft growl.
"Ask me again in an hour."
"An hour." Hercules' breath sighed over the sensitized ear. "You can stand it that long?"
"Don't know," Iphicles admitted. "But I'm willing to find out."
He only received a distracted mutter because his young lover had become intrigued by the difference in texture between his shaved jaw and the skin below his ear. He didn't complain but simply turned his head to provide easier access to the explorations of the soft mouth. Very gently, unwilling to interrupt the soft caresses, he turned them over so he was now lying on his back, bearing the lighter weight of his brother.
Hercules stopped his gentle kisses and stared in fascination at his brother's well muscled chest.
He dragged his intent eyes to gaze into the amber depths of his brother's eyes. "What?"
"Is something bothering you?"
Hercules shook his head. "I was remembering earlier when you came out of the river, you were all wet and the water drops on your chest glittered like diamonds in the sunlight. I wanted to lick each one from your skin. Would you have liked that?"
"Oh gods." Iphicles whispered.
He lunged upwards capturing Hercules' mouth in a hungry kiss, loving him with slow movement of his tongue, shaken and fiercely aroused by his young lover's words. Right on the edge of losing it, he reluctantly released the tender mouth and lay back, linking his fingers tightly behind his head, so he wouldn't be tempted to reach out and grab the lithe young body lying on top of his.
"How good is your memory?" Iphicles asked huskily.
"Very good. Why?"
"Close your eyes and remember all those drops of water you saw on me. Can you see them"
Eyes closed, smiling dreamily Hercules smiled. "Yes."
"They're all yours. each and every one. Take them."
Hercules' eyes snapped open, staring at the powerful body stretched beneath him. Iphicles watched him with an amused and sensual intensity that stopped his breath. Slowly he bent down, shivering as the body under his hands shivered when his lips touched the skin.
"There was one here," he said kissing the base of the strong neck, "And here...and here." Nuzzling the base of the collarbone towards the center of his chest. "And there was a long trickle here."
Iphicles closed his eyes as Hercules' pink tongue licked down the center of his chest burrowing through his thick hair to the hot skin beneath.
"The drops went all the way down your stomach." Hercules said, hesitating.
"Gods, I hope so."
Smiling, Hercules continued past his lover's ribs, testing the taut flesh with teeth and tongue and lips. When he reached the indentation of the navel he stopped and Iphicles was tempted to tell him the drops had run all the way to his toes. His breath came out in a rush when he felt a tongue dipping into his navel, then an agile mouth nibbled all along his flat stomach. He locked his fingers together even tighter as the dark-gold head worked up his torso, scattering random kisses across his ribs, stopping just short of a nipple hidden beneath curling dark hair. When he continued without stopping up to his collarbone, Iphicles made an inarticulate sound of disappointment.
"You missed some drops." he said thickly.
"Did I? Where?" asked Hercules, licking Iphicles' collarbone with the tip of his tongue.
"Here?" The lips tugged playfully at the hair curling in the center of his chest.
"Close, but more to the right."
"Yours or mine?"
"Doesn't matter. Either way you'll find it."
Suddenly Hercules understood and laughed softly. "Of course. How could I have missed those drops?"
Iphicles couldn't answer for Hercules had found a flat nipple and was teasing it delicately, hotly, using teeth and tongue as had been done to him earlier. Iphicles made a hoarse sound of pleasure, and when the fingers began to knead through the thick mat of hair on his chest, he twisted his torso slowly, increasing the pressure of their touch. His young lover flexed his hands, nails sinking into the skin, enjoying the feel of soft curly hair and hard muscles beneath his palms. The hands roamed up and down his chest, stroking him again and again, just as the soft mouth kept returning to the tiny rigid points of his nipples until he could bear it no longer.
Iphicles unclenched his clasped hands and pulled until Hercules was straddling him, until their cocks and balls nestled together.
"Come here lover." he said huskily.
Slowly, Hercules leaned forward, aligning their cocks side by side. He twisted slowly, increasing the friction, and with a moan he stretched out full-length over Iphicles, giving himself to his loving.
Iphicles' hands closed around Hercules' waist, kneading it as his mouth ravished the smooth throat. He shaped the rich curve of the slim buttocks, sinking his fingers into the firm flesh in a caress that made Hercules loosen and press into him. His long fingers rubbed down the smooth, almost hairless thighs and then swept back again and down and up in a rocking motion that had his young love trembling with desire. He slid a finger down the cleft pausing at the tight entrance to Hercules' body.
"Iph." Hercules said then shuddered as a fingertip rubbed the sensitive pucker.
"What?" He murmured turning his head so he could nuzzle the soft skin behind a downy jaw.
"So do I babe."
You bet. If I wasn't lying down, I'd be lucky to crawl."
"Hercules' laughter was shaky but reassured. "I thought it was just me."
"Oh it's you all right. You're hot enough to melt the snow in those mountains over there. You're sure melting me."
"Is that... are you ok?"
"No." Iphicles said licking the dimple in his lover's chin. "It's much better than ok. It's fucking incredible and sexy as can be. I've been wanting this all my life and I didn't even know it."
Hercules' shy laughter turned into a gasp as Iphicles' hand moved between his legs, cupping him with his palm and he stiffened at the unexpected caress.
"This is part of it." Iphicles said, gazing into fevered blue eyes as his palm rubbed harder.
"It?" Hercules said breathlessly, and then his thoughts scattered into a thousand shards of pleasure with each movement of the knowing hand and rocked helplessly against it.
"This is the center of all that heat." Iphicles whispered against his lips. "Can't you feel it? Hot and sweet, hungry and beautiful."
He growled softly as Hercules shuddered against his pumping hand, the spreading heat and wetness giving him an eloquent answer. The young body lay full-length on top of him, trembling, staring into his blazing eyes
"It's OK babe. It's all right. I won't do anything that you don't want me to do."
Hercules let out a shaky breath and slowly relaxed against him.
"That's it," Iphicles murmured. "Just relax and enjoy the sun while I enjoy you."
After a few moments of the sun and Iphicles' warm, arousing hands roving over his heated flesh, Hercules itched to stroke his lover as he was being stroked but found he could only really reach Iphicles' face and throat.
"This isn't fair." He muttered into Iphicles' throat.
"What isn't?" Asked Iphicles distractedly, his senses engaged with the silky texture of the sun-warmed flesh beneath his hands.
"I can't reach enough of you to touch."
"You don't have to." Iphicles said looking into his eyes.
"But I want to, I want to please you, though I don't know how." Hercules said simply meeting his glance. "I want you so much."
Iphicles drew him close and turned onto his side and kissed him softly. "You please me." He said huskily, then thrust his tongue into the welcoming mouth. Hercules opened to him eagerly, drawing him in even more, hungry for the mating of tongues. Eventually he drew back gasping for air and desperate with want.
"Please Iph I want more."
"Yes, I want you, all of you." Hercules was blushing but met his brother's burning gaze.
"Yes." Hercules said simply. "Very sure."
Iphicles reluctantly let him go and stood up, searching for the jar of olive oil lying nearby in the food sack. When he turned round he saw Hercules' blue eyes widen with shock. He was staring at the large erect cock, jutting rigidly between a dark nest of curls.
Iphicles turned away, reaching for his clothes.
"No!" Hercules cried, rising to his knees and flinging his arms round the hard-muscled legs, pressing his face against the top of a hard thigh burning hotly beneath his cheek.
''I'm not afraid, not really, it's just that...it startled me."
"It?" Iphicles asked, his voice like a rasp.
Hercules looked up and saw the humor glittering through the passion in the blazing amber eyes of his brother.
"This." Hercules said, brushing his cheek over the full length of the erect cock, and gently kissing the slick, engorged head. " Startled me."
"Gods." Iphicles whispered, sinking to his knees because his legs wouldn't support him any longer. " You're going to be the death of me. And I can hardly wait." He drew Hercules close, curving his fingers around the back of his thighs, rocking their bodies together. His breath caught as their cocks slid against each other, his fingers stroking the tight, slim ass again and again, drawing closer to the puckered entrance and rubbing it gently until it opened for his finger.
"Do you know how it felt when you touched me just now? He asked biting Hercules' ear then thrusting in his tongue.
"Let me show you." He whispered. He lifted the smaller body of his lover and lowered him carefully to the grass once more. He parted the trembling legs and lay between them.
"Hold on to my shoulders." Iphicles whispered sliding down his lover's body, leaving a trail of hot, moist kisses and stinging nips as he worked his way down the smooth hairless chest, then stomach, until he reached the base of his lover's rigid cock glistening wetly, and swallowed it to the root.
Hercules cried out and thrust into the hot enveloping mouth, blindly clinging to his brother because he was the only real thing in a world that was spinning faster and faster with each stroke from the expert tongue. He was scarcely conscious of the oiled finger that slid farther into his body, preparing him for the much deeper joining to come. When another finger joined the first, he rocked backward into them, then forward into the tormenting mouth that was driving him mad with pleasure.
"That's it babe, Hold on tight and follow me. I know where we're going." said Iphicles, licking the eager cock that was blindly seeking the heat and suction of his mouth.
Hercules scarcely heard the husky voice that wrapped around him, as a fever of desire flared wildly through him, a fever spread by Iphicles' hands as one thrust into him gently, while the other pumped his cock as he slid back up his body, taking his trembling mouth with all the hunger that was burning him alive.
Iphicles knelt up and spread Hercules' legs pulling the slim hips onto his own thighs, so that his cock teased the open and stretched hole he had prepared so carefully . He hastily smeared more oil on himself then paused looking into the feverish blue depths of his brother's eyes.
"It's not too late to change your mind." He said, wondering if he lied.
"Iph," Hercules whispered shakily, "Please, do it, I want you to, please."
"Gods, Herc, you drive me crazy." He closed his eyes for an instant as a shudder run through his whole body, then he eased himself in, until he felt the tight resistance of the inner ring of muscles and stopped. He took his lover's glistening cock and stroked it gently then hard, rubbing a knowing thumb over the tip, until Hercules was writhing in ecstasy, oblivious to the cock steadily penetrating him, the pain obliterated by the pleasure.
Iphicles filled him slowly, rocking his hips, moving gently deeper inside until he could go no further. And then he was motionless, savoring the agonizing pleasure of being fully sheathed within his brother.
"Herc," He whispered. "You ok?"
Hercules opened his eyes slowly, dazed by the consuming feel of being joined fully with Iphicles. "I thought... I thought it would hurt more." he admitted.
"It did." Iphicles said huskily. "But the pain was buried by so much pleasure that you didn't notice. Does it hurt now?" He moved slowly and Hercules made a soft, broken sound that was his name.
"Again," He said shakily." Oh Iph, do it again." He looked into the scorching blaze of his eyes. " Or doesn't it feel as good to you?"
"Good?" Iphicles shuddered as he buried himself fully within Hercules and withdrew to the tip and penetrated him once more. "I can't...describe it. Come for me Herc, come on babe, take me there with you."
He moved in an agony of restraint, holding back with all his strength. He had never felt anything to equal the velvet tightness of Hercules' body, had never known a physical sharing so deep, had never believed himself capable of the intense sensual involvement he was feeling. He moved slowly, deeply, his expression both tormented and exalted, wanting it never to end but knowing if he didn't come soon he would die of the sweet agony.
Hercules' cries glittered through the fevered darkness that enveloped Iphicles, telling him he was hitting that special spot inside his lover, then he felt the wetness spilling over his hand and he knew that Hercules was on the other side of ecstasy. He wanted to be there too, and he wanted to stay where he was, stoking the heated pleasure higher and higher, while darkness shot with colors swirled around him, ecstasy pricking his nerves into sweet agony... With a hoarse, broken cry he arched into his lover until he could go no deeper, and then surrendered to the irresistible violence ripping through him, demanding release.
His last coherent thought was that he had lied; he hadn't known where they were going. Hercules had taken him to a place he had never been before, wrapping him in the loving fever of his body, burning away his flesh, killing him with fierce love, branding him with a shared ecstasy that had seared his very soul.
He didn't leave the next day or the next or the day after that. Time rushed by on winged feet, yet flowed like sweet honey as the two brothers spent every waking moment together, much to Alcmene's joy, though the sudden change in Iphicles' attitude towards his young brother puzzled her considerably.
What happened at night would have enlightened her, but Amphitrion had been a man of conventional tastes and beliefs, so the house had been built along traditional lines. The women's quarters were at the back, cut off from the rest of the house by a stout oak door that was shut tightly at night. Therefore, there was no witness to observe Hercules slipping out of his bed and quietly sliding into his brother's hungry embrace once their mother had retired.
Those were halcyon days, when the sun shone ever brightly and the nights were filled with warmth and laughter and love. But nothing ever lasts, particularly the good things of life, and the time came when Iphicles could not delay his departure any longer and Hercules' return to the Academy was imminent.
That last night they scarcely slept at all, both loath to see this short Elysian time come to an end. They fed desperately on each other, greedily hoarding sweet memories that would support them through the time when they were apart.
There was not thought of leaving Thebes. Iphicles would go no further from his lover than was absolutely necessary. As it was, it would be a sennight before he could expect any leave from his duties.
He had already calculated it would take him half a day from the Theban capital to his home, and only an hour from there to the ancient oak forest behind the Academy. There was an old woodsman's hut there that lay empty except for a few short weeks in Spring and Autumn, when the forest was harvested for wood. It was the ideal trysting place, and had undoubtedly been used by others in the past, and would again.
The brother's had arranged to meet there in the evening, when the Academy students had free time and Hercules would not be missed. Iphicles had come up with a rudimentary code he would use in his letters and messages to his brother informing Hercules when they could meet. There would be official visits but Iphicles wanted much more than the casual contact those could provide. He wanted his brother with a growing hunger and need that was steadily taking over his life, and that Hercules was only too eager to feed, for Iphicles was everything to him and had been for some time.
Aristipus was happy to see Iphicles back, and delighted when the young man informed him he had decided to remain in the Theban army for the time being. The reason he gave for this decision--that his family needed him to be near--the commander took with a large pinch of salt. He knew the young man well enough by then to notice the change in him, and drew his own conclusions.
Iphicles had never been a cheerful, devil-may-care sort of person; he had already perfected a fine brooding stare and challenging manner that made his fellow soldiers steer clear of him when they were in evidence.
Now those remarkable amber eyes held a constant sparkle, and the handsome face was often creased with laughter. This could only mean one thing: Iphicles was in love. And his sweetheart must live near his home.
Aristipus blessed the young lady for snagging Iphicles, for that meant that he could count on keeping a fine soldier who held promise of eventually becoming an even better commander, if he let himself be led by Aristipus' advice. He would offer thanks to Aphrodite and ask her to protect the lovers next time he went past her temple.
He was not the only one who was happy to see the change in Iphicles.
It had often been a source of pain to Alcmene to see the obvious love and admiration that her youngest son had always had for his older brother ignored and even rejected by Iphicles.
She loved both her sons dearly, and would have scoffed at the idea that Hercules was her favorite. She was ready to admit that she gave more of her time and thoughts to her younger son, but that was inevitable given his unique nature.
He was a demi-god with dangerous powers that had to be controlled somehow. Zeus had never shown any interest in his upbringing and she had had to find her way alone, teaching her very special son how to become the wonderful person she had known from the first that he could be. So she had devoted a great deal of time to him, not because he was dearer, definitely not, but because he needed more of her than her eldest son did.
Iphicles was blessedly normal, thank the gods, no supernatural strength or inexhaustible stamina. She could depend on him to behave like an ordinary boy, go play with the other children without accidentally crushing their arms or ribs, and as he grew up, get up to the usual youthful pursuit of girls and fights.
He was his father's son and instinctively turned toward soldiering as a way of life. It wasn't something she liked, but she knew her dead husband would have approved. So she had allowed him the freedom to do whatever he wanted, dealing with the results of his escapades but really not interfering very much in his life. He was an independent, reserved boy anyway, hard to understand sometimes, and she had found it difficult to break through his taciturn, reticent manner, so reminiscent of his father, and so intimidating. Not like the open, loving temperament of her younger son.
The sudden change in Iphicles' attitude towards his brother had filled her with joy, knowing how much it meant to Hercules to have his beloved brother so attentive and affectionate. She had often prayed that this would happen and the gods must have heard her prayers and finally answered.
But the gifts of the gods are often double-edged and her joy slowly turned to a fast growing fear as she saw Hercules' obsession with his older brother, his devotion and absolute, boundless love take over everything in his life. All the secret plans she had for him to become the special, rare being that he was, were crashing around her as Hercules made it abundantly clear that he would go where Iphicles led, his sole ambition in life reduced to simply being with his beloved elder brother.
For the first time in his life, Hercules would not listen to her, and she saw her undisputed place in his heart supplanted by her older son.
Instead of welcoming his visits, Alcmene began to dread Iphicles' presence in the house, for she knew he would spend whatever time he had after the chores she set him, with Hercules; and Hercules only wanted to be with his brother, scarcely greeting her whenever he was allowed to come home, before going off with Iphicles to do whatever those two did together. Even at their shared meal times, she sometimes felt kept out, excluded from the invisible world the two seemed to inhabit, their connection so strong as to be tangible.
In her growing despair, she went to see the Academy's Director, thinking he might have some influence with Hercules, and be able to break through her son's stubborn refusal to consider anything in the future that didn't include Iphicles in it.
Cheiron listened quietly to her somewhat incoherent speech, in which Iphicles' soldiering figured largely as some inchoate threat against her dear Hercules.
"I have lost my husband to war, and I will not lose Hercules to it as well. There must be some way to make him see how wrong it would be for him to follow in his brother's footsteps." Alcmene finished, looking at the centaur with wide, anxious blue eyes, so much like her younger son's.
Cheiron patted her shoulder gently in a comforting manner. "Hercules is young; he sees everything in stark terms with no room for compromise. So it's not surprising that he's unable to appreciate your concerns for his future. He loves his brother and everything his brother says and does is therefore right. You won't shake him from this view without turning him against you."
The centaur regarded the worried woman sitting on the edge of the chair and chose his words with care, for he realized that she was not aware of the exact nature of Iphicles' stranglehold on his young brother, and he wasn't about to enlighten her.
"It's your eldest son with whom you have to speak; he's old enough to realize the harm that he could do his brother. I'm sure Iphicles would never do anything to hurt Hercules, and if you explain your fears to him, I'm certain he will listen to you."
"You think so?" Alcmene asked uncertainly. "He seems just as eager to have Hercules with him."
"I will also have a word with the young man. I'm sure if both of us show him how wrong it would be for Hercules to waste his life becoming a mere soldier, he will understand."
"Oh, would you Cheiron? I would be so grateful." she told him with obvious relief. "It would carry more weight coming from you, than just from his mother. I realize women are not supposed to know about such things, and I know Iphicles respects your opinion."
"Don't worry Alcmene, we will both ensure that Hercules becomes the great hero he's destined to be. Iphicles is a decent man and he will not want to ruin his brother's future, you'll see. Now go home and talk to your eldest son next time he visits you."
* * *
Iphicles let Arkon have his head on the blessedly empty road, happy to let the temperamental black stallion set a brisk pace, for he was eager to get home and to his lover. He hadn't seen Hercules in two weeks and the yearning to be with him twisted inside him like a knife, a pain that tore at him with its intensity.
Each time he was with his brother, what they shared became more and more valuable until now it had become so precious and essential to him that he couldn't bear to think of losing it. Whether he lay with his head on his brother's lap and talked about past battles and the men he trained and fought with, or whether he lay deep inside his body and felt his lover's passionate cries in the very depths of his soul, with Hercules he had found an acceptance and peace he hadn't known in all his life.
Why this should be so he couldn't answer, though not for lack of trying. Once again he went through the fruitless exercise, trying to pinpoint the reason for his overwhelming need and near obsession.
He forced himself to think of his brother with detachment. He was pleasing enough and his curiously slanting blue eyes were unusual, but he could name half a dozen men far more handsome in form and motion. He had a bright eager taste for life, and an inquiring mind that had him asking why the world was so, and how it could be changed, but he was no Archimedes or Anaxagoras. He had a pleasant voice and laugh, but he knew one of the best singers working at the Theban court, who would be his for the asking. No, apart from his incredible strength, his brother was not remarkable in any way. Yet no one, man or woman had ever so stirred his blood; Hercules had only to look or speak to make the very bones shake in his body.
He knew now that his brother could render back passion for passion with an eagerness far beyond all expectation, and with a kind of astonished gratitude and love that told him just how much their relationship mattered to Hercules. As it did to him. For the first time in his experience, it really mattered to him what his relations with a lover were.
It mattered too much; everything had started to revolve around this--this love, yes, there was no other way to describe what was happening to him. He was in love with his brother and nothing else counted for much besides that.
Now there was talk of war. The Athenians had ordered Potidaea to raze its walls, afraid of its growing strength and links with rival Corinth. They had laid siege to the city when the Potidaeans had ignored their ultimatum, and now the Theban king was talking of sending troops to join the Corinthian fleet that was sailing to its colony's rescue.
It would be a short campaign for they were well into autumn and winter was approaching. The fleet would want to be back in port before the winter storms made it too hazardous to fight in the stormy waters of the Ionian Sea. Nonetheless, it would mean leaving Hercules for at least two months. They had never been apart for more than two weeks since they had become lovers, and he didn't know how he would bear it.
He hadn't mentioned anything to Hercules, unwilling to worry him before it happened, unwilling for things to change.
Change brought danger, it brought loss. He had never feared the future before but suddenly he wanted time to stop and for them to exist in an endless summer, with him riding to the woods to meet his brother, and for the rest of the world to glide by unchanging, with no conflicts, no wars and no end.
Alcmene greeted him with her usual hug and kiss on his forehead but she seemed unusually quiet, even nervous and Iphicles felt a sudden sense of premonition, a cold feeling of dread that he couldn't shake off.
Yet all seemed as usual as he took care of the chores she saved for his visits, chopping some wood for her and repairing the handle on the cutting knife that had worked loose off the blade. But when he started to saddle up Arkon in preparation for his visit to Hercules, she came to the stable door, hands tightly clasped in front of her and called his name.
"Iphicles, before you go, I'd like to talk to you about your brother."
Iphicles stopped tightening the saddle's girth and slowly turned to face her.
"What about Hercules?"
"I'm worried about him."
Iphicles tried to make out her expression but she was backlit by the sunlight coming through the doorway, so he could only go by her voice, which sounded tight and low, not a good sign.
"Oh?" he answered noncommittally. He wasn't going to make it easier for her.
"You have to talk to him Iphicles, and dissuade him from those foolish plans of his to join you and become a soldier." she blurted out.
So, the moment had come. He had been aware of her disapproval, though she hadn't said anything to his face until now. Instead, she had approached Hercules, thinking he would listen to her, as he had always done. But not this time.
And now she came to him in desperation. Well, he wasn't going to help her in this.
"Yes foolish." she declared firmly, coming further into the stables until she stood a few paces away from him, arms tightly folded over her stomach. " I won't have him waste his life like that."
'But you don't mind if I waste it' Iphicles thought bitterly. "Are you saying my life is a waste, and my father's?" he asked softly.
"No, of course not. You know I don't approve of your decision to become a soldier, I lost your father to war, after all. But you're a man now and I can't stop you from doing what you want with your life. And I know your father would have wanted you to follow in his footsteps." she looked imploringly into his tight-lipped, closed expression. "But not Hercules, I won't lose him as I lost your father."
She could not bear to lose his brother, but she could stand losing him. Well, it wasn't as if it came as a surprise; from the moment his younger brother had been born, Iphicles had come second in his mother's affection. Her life had centered around Hercules and he had watched from the sidelines, often told to go and amuse himself with the other kids, or given some chore that would keep him busy and out of the way while she attended to his brother's needs and demands.
Now he was the center of his brother's life and she didn't like it. Well, too bad. "Surely Hercules should be allowed to decide for himself what he wants to do with his life. It's only fair you should give him the same consideration you've given me." he pointed out with irony.
"That's just it. He's not deciding for himself, he's letting you decide." she retorted hotly.
"So you want me to tell him he should let you decide instead." he snapped, voice sharp with resentment. "Well I won't do it."
"Mother!" He retorted ironically.
"I won't let you ruin his life." she cried, face white with fear and anger.
"And I won't let you live his life for him. He'll do what he wants, and he can count on my help if he wants it." His fury helped bury the hurt he felt at her accusation and implied criticism of his life.
"Iphicles, please don't do this. For your brother's sake, for my sake," she pleaded, her eyes bright with unshed tears.
He took a deep breath, an odd little smile flickering on his lips. "For your sake, mother? Is that what it's really all about? Your feelings, your dreams, your ambitions for Hercules?"
"How dare you, Iphicles! It's your brother I'm concerned about, this has nothing to do with me. What are you implying?"
"Implying? Why nothing, dear mother. What do you think I'm implying?" He asked blandly
They stared at one another, both faces full of hostility and anger, antagonists fighting for the love of the person who meant so much to both of them.
"I won't let you do this, Iphicles, I'll fight you all the way." her voice shook with the force of her feelings.
"You do that mother, and we'll see who wins." Iphicles answered, smiling coldly at her. With that he turned from her and finished tightening the girth, hands trembling slightly with rage.
He didn't look when she whirled round with a furious sound and flounced out of the stables.
All the way to the hollow in the woods where he usually met his brother he fought for control. He didn't want Hercules to notice anything amiss and be forced to tell him what was wrong--for otherwise he would start thinking it was something he had done. Sometimes his brother's insecurity led him to imagine all kinds of problems and faults for which he automatically assumed the blame.
But he couldn't forget what his mother had said, or even what she had left unsaid. Though she had not put it into words, she had made it plain to Iphicles that he came a poor second in her affections to his brother. Knowing it was one thing, but having it made clear, as his mother had done, hurt more than he thought possible.
There was no way he could tell Hercules about it without putting him in a position where he would have to take sides, which would hurt him unbearably. He couldn't do that to Hercules, though it might come to that in the end. But not yet. Gods, not yet.
It wasn't really Hercules' fault that he had a bigger place in his mother's heart than Iphicles had. You couldn't force love, it could only be given. Didn't make it any less hard to bear though.
By the time he caught sight of his brother waiting impatiently in the sheltered hollow, he had regained some measure of control and was able to greet him with a clear smile, untainted by the pain and anger he had managed to push deep inside, not forgotten, but supplanted for the moment by the joy of seeing his lover again.
Hercules had been sitting on a rotting log--some long-dead oak, but at the sight of his brother he came to his feet in a rush and run towards him, unable to conceal his joy.
Iphicles caught the vibrant body in his arms, holding him high and close, letting the heat and love radiating from his lover drive away all the pain and worries, all the unacknowledged fear that was drawing ever closer, a threatening cloud that would put and end to their summer.
"Missed me?" he murmured into the silky hair brushing his face.
"Every day, every moment, all the time." Hercules was frantically kissing his brother's neck, his mouth, his cheek, biting his earlobe, until Iphicles was laughing uncontrollably, happiness bubbling through his blood , while tiny tongues of fire licked over his nerve endings.
"Patience babe, or we'll never get to the hut, and I don't want to make love to you here, not when I might be leaving..." He stopped suddenly, kicking himself mentally, and hoping Hercules hadn't caught on. No such luck.
"So it's true then." Hercules said, a distinct tremor in his voice.
"Come on, get up in front." Iphicles mounted Arkon and pulled his brother's tense body onto the saddle, ignoring his comment.
"Iph, please tell me, is there going to be war with Athens?" Hercules asked tightly, shivering with apprehension.
"Nah, it's not as bad as all that." Iphicles answered in a soothing murmur, nuzzling his brother's neck. "The king is talking of sending a contingent of soldiers to join the Corinthian forces as a gesture of support, that's all."
"But you'd be one of the soldiers going, wouldn't you?" Hercules turned his head, so he could look into his brother's eyes.
Iphicles looked into the blue eyes, now clouded with anxiety, and sighed in defeat. "Yes, I would. But it's not certain yet, Herc, so don't look so worried."
"Oh Gods Iph, I don't want you to go. What if something happens to..." Herc twisted in the saddle until he could put his arms around Iphicles, nearly crushing his ribs in his anxiety.
"Shh. Come on, Herc, don't talk like that. I've been in countless battles already and nothing's happened to me. It'll be all right babe, relax, or it's you who will be killing me." He finished ruefully, trying to loosen the iron bands wrapped around his chest, making it hard to breathe.
Hercules quickly loosened his hold, flushing hotly, and buried his face in his brother's neck to hide his brimming eyes and his embarrassment.
"It's ok babe, it's ok. Look, we're here." Iphicles said with relief. His brother would sometimes get over-emotional, and it would take him a long time to soothe him back into calmness and good humor. He was reputed to be the moody one, but it was Hercules who was often swept away in a tempest of emotion, and acted impulsively.
They had reached the woodsman's hut. It was a very basic one room affair with a fire pit against the one stone wall, while the rest was built of oak planks, roughly sealed with dried mud mixed with straw and dung. But the roof was sound, and the door fitted well, keeping out the increasing chill of the coming Autumn. There was a straw-filled pallet on one corner near the fire which they had freshened with new hay, and Iphicles always brought a pair of rough woolen blankets to spread over it. They didn't need anything else.
Iphicles tied the reins to a tree stump jutting up from the leaf litter carpeting the ground around the hut, and gently pushed his forlorn brother into the dark interior, grabbing the blankets off the back of the saddle before following Hercules inside.
"Help me spread these out Herc." He softly cajoled the pathetically drooping figure of his lover. He repressed a smile of amusement at the picture of misery before him. Hercules did pathos with such poignancy and intensity!
"Come here babe, it's going to be all right, you'll see. Come closer...that's it." Hercules sunk into his brother's arms, burying his face in his neck, seeking comfort for his fears in the loving embrace.
Iphicles gently teased his tense young lover into sensual wakefulness with tender persistence until Hercules was shivering with arousal, a fever of desire stirring his blood.
Iphicles made love to him as if it were the first time once more, caressing him until the young body was flushed with passion, then he began all over, stroking him until Hercules was wild--then he began yet again, loving him with his mouth instead of his hands, teaching him a new language of intimacy that stripped his worries away, leaving only the burning fever of their bodies intertwined. Finally, he gently took him, sinking into the eager body with infinite care and skill, showing his brother that there was no end to ecstasy, only endless beginnings.
Eventually reality faded back--the scratchiness of the rough woolen blankets, the weight of his lover's body, the warm stickiness between them; and then Iphicles claimed him in a long, slow loving kiss.
"Love you, Iph." Hercules sighed.
"And I you, brat." Iphicles answered softly, gently caressing the head resting on his chest.
"You make a great pillow." Hercules said sleepily, making himself comfortable.
"And you make a good blanket." Iphicles yawned, determined not to fall sleep. He had a long ride ahead of him if he was to get back to the barracks that night. There was no way he was going back home. He couldn't bear to face Alcmene right now. Not without losing his temper and saying something that could not be forgiven by either of them.
"Promise me that you won't sail without saying good-bye." Hercules whispered into his chest.
"I promise babe. Whatever happens, I'll find some way to come and see you before I leave." He tightened his hold for a moment, then felt the body lying on him melt into his chest with relief.
"Ok. I believe you. I know you'll do it, if you say you will." There was a deep, contented sigh. " You're wonderful Iph, and I love you so much, and you love me." There was questioning note to that last statement."
"Very much, brat." Iphicles smiled sadly into the darkness of the rafters, thinking those words didn't even begin to describe the vastness of his feelings for his lover.
* * *
He got back to Thebes just after midnight, to a confusion of orders and counter-orders coming from harassed commanders desperate to have the troops ready for embarkation in three days. The king had decided at the last moment to join his allies in the war against Athens, and the palace and army compound clamored with the clanging of armor, the shouting of exasperated men and the thunder of catapults being dragged over stone cobbles to the harbor and the awaiting war tririmes.
Iphicles managed to track down his friend Phaedo who was leisurely oiling the leather braces of his body armor, and Iphicles'.
"Well, lover boy is back. Didn't expect you until tomorrow. What happened? Your honey couldn't get away, or maybe had enough of you?"
Iphicles grimaced at the gentle ribbing, and demanded impatiently. "What's going on?"
Phaedo looked up from his work and regarded Iphicles with his strange eyes of indigo blue, almost purple in their darkness. "Our beloved king has decided in his wisdom that his troops require his royal presence if they are to fight bravely." He looked down once more and rubbed gently on the supple, well-oiled leather. "In reality, he's having trouble getting his leg over Kritias, because the queen is making it clear she won't put up with it. So, he thinks he'll have better luck in Potidaea, away from her jealous eyes."
Iphicles' eyebrows hitched up in surprise, "Isn't Kritias the queen's favorite?"
Phaedo smiled knowingly. "Exactly so. But those two won't share. So the king is simply taking Kritias away to war, and to bed of course. You definitely don't want to go to the palace right now. The royal pair are like Zeus and Hera after one of his escapades." He looked with interest as Iphicles' face darkened.
"Not funny, Phaedo." The glare was killing but Iphicles said nothing more. Instead he asked, "When do we leave?" Phaedo knew of Hercules' parentage, but was the only one who dared tease Iphicles about it.
Theirs was a strange relationship. Iphicles had won him in a game of knucklebones from an Athenian Commander who thought his luck and skill better than those of the young Theban soldier who had challenged him. He had lost, as had done many before him.
Iphicles was famous among his fellow soldiers for his incredible luck in the battlefield, and in games of chance. He had won his valuable horse Arkon in a game, as he had won the handsome slave from the Athenian.
Iphicles had planned to take him to bed, but the contempt and impotent fury in the wild eyes glaring at him had stopped him in his tracks. Instead, he had given the man his freedom--and got himself a friend for life.
Phaedo came from Melos and had lost not just his liberty but all his family to the Athenians, who had showed no mercy when the siege ended and the city had surrendered. So he simply followed Iphicles back to Thebes and joined up alongside his rescuer. Ever since, Phaedo had been laying covert siege to him, the only man who would never make advances to the beautiful but elusive former slave.
"We sail in three days."
"Shit!" Iphicles paced the small room they shared like the proverbial caged panther, as he wondered how he was going to keep his promise to Hercules. Finally he stopped in front of his friend, who had been watching him with detached interest. "Phaedo, I need to get away for a few hours before we leave."
"Yes, really. I need to say good-bye to...somebody. I promised."
Phaedo gave him a long dispassionate stare, then remarked dryly, "She must be quite something, this lover, to have you risk being court-martialed. Ok. I'll try to cover for you, but you'd better be here in time to embark first thing in three days' time."
Iphicles enveloped him in a rough embrace. "Thanks Phaedo, you're a true friend. I owe you."
Phaedo looked at him with quiet amazement. "You owe me! You're something else, you know that?"
Iphicles looked puzzled, "What do you mean?"
After another prolonged stare Phaedo shook his head and murmured, "Nothing, just get back here on time, OK?"
"OK. I promise. Now I have to find some way to get a message to..." Phaedo waited with interest but nothing more was forthcoming. He had been unsuccessfully trying to find out more about Iphicles' lover, but it was impossible to get him to reveal anything he wanted kept hidden. The man was more secretive than the keeper of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Iphicles wondered how he was going to get a message to Hercules, but the younger son of the owner of the stables where he kept Arkon had developed a crush for Iphicles and offered to do it , on condition that he could ride Arkon to deliver his note.
It wasn't all that difficult to get away unperceived in the confusion that prevailed right up to embarkation day. His commander Aristipus was busy making certain his men would have the supplies they would need for the trip and the likely fighting, and apart from making sure his men were battle ready and available, he didn't keep a close eye on them
Just to be on the safe side, Phaedo put it about that Iphicles had gone to get last minute repairs to one of his greaves, and to run some errands for the army surgeon. He was a friend, and willing to give Iphicles the excuse he needed.
The following afternoon, the soonest he could get away, Iphicles took the road to the Academy cursing all the way. The road was choked with laden wagons, messengers and men trying to get to the city and the harbor with the supplies the King and his troops required at a moment's notice.
In the end, he cut across country, weaving his way through fields and orchards, also busy with the harvesters, for Autumn was upon them and it was time to collect Demeter's bounty, before the winter rains arrived.
As he neared his destination, Iphicles felt time sliding silently through his fingers. Like Penelope's tapestry, he had a sense of it unraveling faster and faster, pulling apart the fabric of his unexpected happiness. The feeling was so strong that he had a sudden rush of fear.
The sense of imminent danger goaded Iphicles all the way up the steep path. He urged Arkon on in a fever of impatience testing the big horse's ability and endurance. When he burst through the oaken groves at the rear of the Academy there was no one waiting for him in the hollow. Filled with nameless panic, he spurred Arkon on through the narrow path that led to the outskirts of the Academy compound.
From the corner of his eye Iphicles caught a flash of movement. Hercules was running toward him, an expression of joy on his face. He slid off Arkon, took three running steps and caught Hercules in his arms. His hand moved over the silky hair, burying his face in the flying dark-gold cloud and held him hard, drinking in his warmth, telling himself this would never end.
"I was afraid you wouldn't come." Hercules said again and again, smiling and kissing him between words. "I was so afraid."
"I told you I wouldn't leave without seeing you. I promised I would come." Iphicles murmured, shaken by emotions he couldn't name. "I promised you."
Holding him closely to his side, Iphicles walked back to Arkon and helped Hercules mount then sat behind him, holding him close and nuzzling him teasingly, whispering endearments in his ear as they made their way to the woodsman's hut.
When they arrived, the last rays of the sun were disappearing over the top of the starkly outlined crowns of ancient oaks. They quickly dismounted and after tethering the horse to the black oak stump, Iphicles took the blankets from the saddle and spread them on the pallet in the corner of the hut.
He opened his arms and Hercules flew into them. Iphicles held his young love close, breathing in his fragrance, savoring the feel of his supple body against each muscular ridge of his own. He felt the gentle kisses Hercules pressed into his neck and he smiled, feeling as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Are you OK?"
"I'm all right now." Hercules said, nuzzling against his cheek. "Now that you're here."
"How did you get..."
Iphicles felt the heat of Hercules tongue gliding along the rim of his ear and forgot what he had been about to ask. His hands glided subtly over the youthful back. Hercules responded with a hot tongue dipping into his ear.
"You're going to get into trouble doing that." Iphicles warned softly.
"I'd rather get into your vest." his brother murmured, running his right hand delicately over his chest, lightly raking his nipples to attention.
His breath hitched. "Let's compromise. How about my pants?"
Hercules smiled and bit his ear with sensual precision. When he turned to capture his mouth Iphicles was waiting for him with a hungry smile. Hercules teased him as he had been teased in the past, nuzzling lightly at his brother's mouth, running his tongue along the sensitive inner surface of his lips until Iphicles could bear it no longer. He moved swiftly, trying to capture Hercules' mouth for the deep kiss he wanted so badly that he groaned when his brother eluded him.
"Come here," Iphicles said, his voice gritty, hungry.
Hercules' laughter was a soft brush of air against his lips as he obeyed. He sought Iphicles' mouth eagerly, shivering violently as his taste swept across his tongue. The kiss deepened and then deepened again until it was the slow, sensual mating of mouths that Iphicles had taught him.
And that was just one of the things he had learned from his brother.
A shiver of anticipation shook Hercules at the thought of the many ways in which Iphicles had teased and pleasured him. He wanted to arouse and satisfy him in those same ways, if his brother allowed him the freedom of his body. Would he mind being loved by his hands, his mouth? Would he sense in his touch all the things he couldn't say, like: don't forget me, please love me. Don't leave me?
"Kiss me like that again." Iphicles said huskily seeking Hercules' mouth even as he spoke. "No ending, no beginning, nothing but the two of us."
Hercules fitted his mouth over Iphicles', seeking him just as hungrily, sinking into him while time hung suspended for them. The kiss changed with each breath, now teasing, now consuming, always touching, sharing, growing until both of them could hold no more. But no sooner had the kiss ended that Iphicles took his mouth once more with frantic urgency.
"Again," Iphicles whispered against his lips. "Don't stop babe. I need you too much. When I looked for you in the hollow you weren't there. You weren't there."
Hercules felt all that Iphicles didn't say, his anger, his wordless rage that everything had changed before he had been ready for any change at all.
"It's all right Iph, I'm here," Hercules whispered, kissing him between words, pushing him towards the outspread blankets." Lie down for me Iph...
When Iphicles lay down, Hercules rewarded him with a slow deep kiss that made him groan with the passion and craving that seemed to grow greater every time they satisfied it. Beneath his clothes, his powerful body became hot, taut, gleaming with the same hunger that had his mouth seeking, finding, holding, drinking with a thirst that knew no end. He was possessed with his need for his younger brother.
Hercules peeled away both their leather vest and Iphicles moaned with the touch of skin on skin, nothing between them, nothing but the warm hands caressing him, smoothing the way for Hercules' teeth and the hot tip of his tongue.
"Come closer, Herc," Iphicles whispered, pulling his young lover across his body until his legs parted and Hercules half sat, half lay on top of him. "I need your mouth, I need..."
Hercules felt the shudder that ran through Iphicles when he slid from his grasp, evading him until his teeth closed delicately on tiny, erect nipples, listening to his harsh breathing as Hercules teased him, feeling the skin beneath his hands grow hotter with each caress. He forgot everything except the man who was giving himself to his sensual explorations, watching him with amber eyes blazing hotter than a summer sun.
Hercules smoothed his face from side to side on the hard chest, his hands kneading the powerful shoulders, and slid down to the waistband, fingers searching blindly, stroking, caressing, nails raking lightly over the hard bands of muscle until he couldn't bear it any longer and he reached for the leather laces, hands shaking with want.
Then he stopped and looked up at Iphicles, silently asking. The glittering passion in his eyes started a fire in the pit of Hercules' stomach, drenching him with heat.
"What do you want?" Asked Iphicles in a voice so deep, so caressing it was like a kiss.
"To take these off."
"And then?" He asked smiling.
"To...pleasure you." Hercules whispered, a little nervously. "If you don't mind?" He felt the lightning strike of response that went through the body beneath him.
"I've always said that one day you'd be the death of me. So, kill me babe."
Hercules said his name, husky and low. Iphicles reached for him but he slid through his fingers again, down the length of his body, and untying the laces, he slipped the leathers down and off until there was only warm skin beneath his caressing fingers. Then he eased upwards until Iphicles' calves flexed against his palms. As hard as ironwood, hotter than sunlight, the clenched power of his brother's muscles both delighted and excited him.
Slowly, Hercules worked his fingers up, pricking the skin lightly with his nails, smiling when he got a response. He rubbed his palms up the outside of the legs, slowly savoring the power in his brother's thighs, hesitating, then sweeping up past the hard cock without touching it. Iphicles stifled a groan of protest and need.
Hercules came back to his brother's erection and paused, trying to still the shaking of his hands
"You don't have to if you don't want to." Iphicles said softly.
"I want to." Said Hercules shivering. "I want you Iph. I want everything with you tonight, before you..."
"I know Herc, but..." Iphicles' voice cut off in a ragged gasp as his brother first touched his hard, leaking cock and then shuddered as he stroked the length with his fingertips.
"You like that?" Hercules asked
"You've no idea...but you're overdressed now." Iphicles pointed out, his voice breaking between laughter and a need so great that it was tearing him apart.
There was no hesitation in Hercules as he stripped his own pants off, and then said teasingly, "Where were we?" His glance already traveling down the length of Iphicles' lean, powerful body stretched out on the blankets. "Yes, I remember now." He knelt between Iphicles' legs and brushed his hot flesh with soft lips, the feathery coolness of his hair and the even greater softness of his tongue.
Iphicles was breathing harshly, pleasure racked him, stripping him of all but a need so fierce that his breath unraveled into broken groans.
Each sound sent another rush of heat through Hercules, shaking him. His fingers flexed into his lover's buttocks and stroked his thighs, loving the depth and power of his clenched muscles, the fiery heat of his skin, and the intense intimacy of exploring him so completely, hearing his response, feeling it, tasting it.
"Herc," Iphicles said thickly, I don't know how much of this I can take before..."
The last word splintered into a hoarse sound of pleasure. The dry, cool caress of his young brother's hair sliding across his skin was a violent contrast to the moist heat of the mouth tasting his cock. He tried to speak but could not, he had lost his voice, forgotten all words, nothing existed but the ecstasy his brother was giving him. He abandoned himself to the hot, generous loving until he knew he must be inside his lover or die.
He reached for Hercules, only to be shaken by a wild surge of pleasure when he looked down and saw him sucking his cock.
"Come here, " Iphicles whispered, "Come here Herc, let me love you."
Hercules heard the words and felt Iphicles' need in the very clenching of the hard body beneath him. With a reluctance that nearly undid the last of Iphicles' control, Hercules released him from the sensual prison of his mouth, then moaned softly when his brother's hand captured his nipples, realizing that instant how much he had craved his lover's touch.
"Closer," Iphicles coaxed caressing the smooth chest, pulling Hercules up his body. "Yeah, that's it, closer, Come to me, Closer babe, I want you." Iphicles said, biting his inner thigh, kissing away the mark, relishing the violent sensual shudder that went through the young body when he caressed the soft, incredibly sensitive flesh. "Yeah, that's what I want," he said thickly, "I love the heat of you...like a flame...Closer babe. Closer, come closer...Yess!"
Hercules swayed and a low cry was ripped from him, caught deep within an ecstasy that devoured him so fiercely that he could not say when it began or where it would end. Suspended within the hot triangle of Iphicles' hands and mouth, Hercules moaned out his brother's name while he was repaid for the pleasure he had given many times over, until he could bear no more and begged to feel his lover inside him again.
Slowly, his eyes blazing hot with anticipation, Iphicles lifted Hercules, easing him down until his wet, glistening cock was at the entrance to his young brother's body, already slick and open from his loving. When he slid inside, Hercules made a hoarse sound and moved his hips very slowly, abandoning himself to Iphicles and to the waves of pleasure sweeping over him.
Iphicles tried to hold back, but the satiny convulsions of the tight channel was too much for him. His hands tightened on Hercules' waist as he buried himself fully inside, sinking deeply into the velvet heat, giving of himself again and again until he heard a cry, felt the wetness spilling over his pumping fist, and he plunged over the abyss, pulsing out his very being until he sank back on the blankets totally spent. Even then he held on to his brother, staying deep inside, savoring every shift and hidden warmth of the body stretched out on his chest.
After a long time Hercules lifted his head. Iphicles made an inarticulate sound of protest and snuggled him close once more. Hercules kissed the swell of his biceps, then licked the sweat from his skin with languid concentration. When he turned his head and nuzzled through the chest hair to the flat nipple beneath, Iphicles tightened within him. The sensation for them both was indescribable, as though whole networks of nerves were being brushed with gentle electricity.
Iphicles smiled as he felt the softening of his brother's body, as though he were trying to sink into him as deeply as he was buried inside Hercules.
"Look at me, Herc."
Hercules looked up. The movement tightened his body as Iphicles had known it would. His smile deepened as he felt his own body responding, hardening even more in anticipation. He kissed his young brother's lips, felt the racing of his heart against his own chest and saw the sudden, heavy-lidded intensity in the blue eyes as he felt Iphicles' cock growing hard within him.
"This time we'll take it really slow," Iphicles said, his voice husky and hoarse with renewed desire. "So slow you'll think you're dying."
Hercules started to say something, but Iphicles was moving within him and nothing else was real to him. He clung to the powerful body, following him, holding the end at bay with every touch, every soft cry, every dizzying surge of pleasure. Each shift of body against body, each caress given and doubly returned, each sensation shared and enjoyed, each one was a glittering moment stolen from the inevitable end.
Moonlight and midnight blurred together until time was suspended, all beginnings and endings swept aside and forgotten, leaving them intertwined, neither knowing nor wanting to know where one ended and the other began.
They woke up at the first brush of dawn on the distant mountain peaks. They looked at one another, as if trying to memorize each other's face before exchanging a long, tender kiss full of promises that nothing would change between them. Then they stood up from the tangle of the blankets and quickly dressed in the morning chill.
Hercules folded the blankets into a neat roll and handed them to his brother who strapped them in behind the saddle. Frost lay everywhere, glittering doubly through overbright eyes. Both were silent, feeling the chill of parting too much for any words.
After mounting Arkon, Iphicles gave his brother a leg up and settled him in front, enfolding him in arms tight with the pain of imminent loss. "I'll write." He managed to get out eventually through a tight throat.
"Promise?" Hercules whispered disconsolately.
"Promise." answered Iphicles, softly kissing the downy cheek rubbing against his own bristly jaw. "Every chance I get. Don't want you to forget me." He added, feeling an unexplained sense of imminent danger rise again within him.
"As if I could. I love you so much Iph, I'll never forget you, never. Whatever happens, I will love you till I die."
"Shh! No talk of dying now. It's only a short campaign, two months at the most, and I'll be back before you've really had time to miss me. It's ok babe. Nothing's going to happen to me. You'll see, everything's going to be fine." He hoped, but the uneasy feeling continued to grow until his guts where a tight knot of tension.
They saw the wooden palisade of the Academy walls and the waiting figure of the centaur at the same time.
"Oops!" Said Hercules ruefully, "I guess I'm in a heap of trouble. Oh well, it was worth it."
Iphicles pulled at the reins and Arkon came to a stop in front of the grim-faced Cheiron. His face softened as he gently patted the nodding head of the proud stallion, who snuffled into the centaur's neck with hot breath that steamed whitely in the chill air of the early morning. But when he turned to the two brothers his expression hardened into a cold mask and Hercules trembled involuntarily within the shelter of his brother's embrace.
"Hercules, bid your brother farewell and wait for me in my study."
Iphicles tightened his arms around his brother and then let him go feeling a despairing sense of loss, as if this would be the last time he would ever hold him.
Hercules turned sideways and gave Iphicles a bone-crushing hug, whispering, "I love you Iph." in his ear, then he nimbly jumped from Arkon's back and giving Cheiron a quick look full of defiance and contrition, he run towards the gate in the wooden walls. At the last moment, he turned and waved to Iphicles who returned the wave with a encouraging smile, then he disappeared from their sight.
Cheiron turned to Iphicles and said in a tone that brooked no resistance, "A word with you Iphicles."
"If it's about Hercules' unauthorized absence last nigh..."
"It's more than that Iphicles. Walk with me for a stretch." His tone indicated clearly who should be doing the walking and Iphicles reluctantly dismounted, immediately finding himself at a disadvantage, as he stood looking up into the centaur's stern countenance.
"Iphicles, you must let your brother go." The centaur said without preamble.
"Go?" Asked Iphicles, his voice low with foreboding.
"Yes, go. You've got to get out of his life before you ruin it."
"What the fuck are you talking about? Why would I ruin my brother's life? it's the last thing I want!" Iphicles exclaimed, white with shock.
"His destiny lies elsewhere Iphicles, not with you. He is destined for great things and he won't achieve them if you drag him down with you." Cheiron explained in a reasonable, implacable voice that tore into Iphicles like poisoned claws.
"Drag him...? What do you mean?" Iphicles asked numbly; the attack he had feared was here at last, but from the most unexpected of quarters, and he found himself without defenses.
"You're just a soldier Iphicles, a good one I grant you, but nothing more. And Hercules is infatuated with you," Cheiron gazed severely at Iphicles until his guilty eyes fell. "You think I didn't know what has been going on between you two? Hercules is too young and too innocent to hide his feelings. He's an open scroll for anyone who cares to read him. No, I've known probably from the beginning and hoped it would die a natural death. But I can see that won't happen unless someone puts an end to it," Cheiron paused until the bleak amber eyes were once more fixed upon his face. "And that has to be you."
"What?" Under his tan Iphicles paled even more.
"Iphicles, your brother is determined to follow you wherever you would lead him. And where would that be? to the Theban army as a mere private? To some mercenary force to become a soldier for pay, always in your shadow? Is that the future you want for him?"
Iphicles gazed into the implacable face of the centaur and thought with detachment that it should hurt more when his heart was being torn to shreds and his life destroyed.
He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out except a low sound of denial. He slowly shook his head standing stiffly as the centaur put a not unsympathetic hand on one rigid shoulder.
"You love your brother, don't you?" He waited for the slight nod from the stricken man and continued, "Then let him go Iphicles. Allow Hercules to become the great hero he's destined to be, to be all he can be. That's the best gift you could ever give him."
Iphicles closed his eyes for a moment, unable to endure the pain of the truth Cheiron had made him face, all questions answered except one, and that one was tearing him apart.
"How?" He forced out finally, his voice a low, raspy whisper.
"Go fight in Potidaea against the Athenian fleet and don't come back here afterwards, or get in touch with Hercules for a while; and when you do, tell him you've found someone else, and make it clear that everything between the two of you is over. It's the only way."
Iphicles looked beyond the centaur's head into the pale blue of the morning sky as something died inside him, loss crystallizing in his blood like frost.