Hercules' Tale
By Emcee
My name is Hercules, yes that Hercules and this is the story of my life, well parts of it anyway, the bits about him and me. I'm sick and tired of hearing the garbled straight-out false stories going round about us.  He doesn't care.  Says it's always the same and that the truth is the first thing to go when people gossip about the great and famous. I should know right? I mean, have you heard some of the things I'm supposed to have done? I know I'm strong and all that but really!!  And people believe them too.

So anyway, I don't care what they say about me and he may not care what they say about him but I do , about him I mean.  So I'm going to set the story straight.  So here goes

Oh yeah, the scribe says that I should warn readers whether this is a happy or sad story. Well, I think it's a love story with a semi-happy ending. Or may be it's a tragedy with some happy bits. What? Oh ha ha very funny.  He, my lover, says it's a comic tragedy with romantic undertones. Much he knows. This is my story so I'll say it's a happy romance with tragic undertones OK?

So where to start, well I guess Iolaus' death is the best place.  I can't quite recall whether it was his third or fourth, one of them anyway, and I was feeling totally bummed about it.  I know, I know , should have got used to it by then it happened so often but I wasn't Ok? It always upset me when he died.  He was my best friend for Hades' sake, I loved him like a brother.  Come to think of it, I loved him more than my brothers, but you know what my family was like, both sides of it.

So anyway, I was wandering about Greece sulking.  I had taken a leaf out of my brother Iphicles' scrolls and was doing a very good job of it too.  Iphicles is a champion moper and sulker and I was doing him proud let me tell you.  When I decide to do something I commit to it totally.

So here I was moping and feeling sorry for myself, when I came across this old woman.  Have you noticed how many tales and adventures begin with the hero meeting an old woman or man or child? Makes you think doesn't it.  I mean, is it an essential bit that happens in any story or is it something the author invents just to find some way to get the ball rolling? What? oh right, I'm getting lost in speculation here, sorry.

So there's this old crone being attacked by this smelly, dirty bunch of ruffians.  Now in my frequent encounters with this type I've come to notice that they're always really stinky.  What is it with thieves and robbers and washing.  Is it part of their profession? to smell bad  I mean.  Autolycos never does and he's the so called king of thieves.  So why.... What the?  Ok, Ok that's enough.  If you can't keep quiet you'll have to go.  That's my lover by the way.  He's laughing himself sick here at my style of story telling.  Says at this rate it will be a comedy with tragic undertones.  Ha ha.

So where was I, oh yeah thanks scribe, I saw this bunch of grungy ruffians attacking the old lady and of course I came to the rescue. It's what I do, right?  Took me but a moment to break a couple of legs, assorted arms, and the job was done. She was properly grateful.  They always are, well who wouldn't.  I helped her pick up all her bundles, she must have been carrying everything she owned with her, and offered to accompany her the rest of the way.  She said yes, well duh as Dite would say.  Would you refuse the protection of the great Hercules after he had rescued you?

So we went on to the next village which was where she was going, and I had nowhere in particular to go to, so this was as good a place as any.  It was only a day's journey but at the pace we were going it would take us the better part of three.  But neither of us were in a hurry so she hobbled and I dawdled on our way while she told me all about her daughter expecting her seventh and being a bit long in the tooth for such things and so on and so on.  People are always telling me about themselves and their concerns.  Something about me, or may be no one else will listen, who knows, but I got to know her family really well that day.

Well, eventually it began to get dark and we set up camp, or rather I set up camp and she made helpful suggestions where to light the fire and how to arrange the stones round it and--well you get the idea.  I don't know how she thought she was going to manage this trip by herself.  What were her family and friends thinking when they let her set out alone.

At any rate, she produced some first rate food from one of those bundles of hers.  Her honey cakes were to die for.  My mother's honey cakes were justly famous, but these were something else again.  So I felt amply rewarded for my good deed and patient listening .

As happens when sitting round a camp fire, we got to talking again and she persuaded me somehow to talk about myself, something I'm not too comfortable doing.  So you say, how come I'm telling you all this, well a big jar of mead is really helping me loosen up.  My lover says any looser and I'll fall in a boneless heap where I sit.  No, you don't have to carry me to bed, I'm quite capable of getting there myself so stop complaining.  But I guess it might be an idea if I slow down with the drinking. There, just a sip, satisfied?

Anyway, I told her how miserable and lonely I felt, and how I always seemed to be losing those I care about and how I wish I could find some one who would stick around and not die on me. So she said that in payment for rescuing her she would find me the love of my life, some one who would always be with me.  I pointed out I was immortal, she said no problem.

Well at that point I took a good long look at her.  She was no god in disguise for starters, they can't play that trick on me, I'm family and I know them.  She could have been a witch or a sorcerer but she didn't look like one, not that I'd know what they looked like, but she just didn't come across as one of them.  So I decided she was just a nice old lady with a good heart and perhaps going a bit soft in the head.  Anyway, I decided to indulge her fantasy and go along with it. After all, what harm was there in it right? Yeah, much you know about it.

Well what did I want my lover to be like.  " I want my lover to be faithful, to love me forever, to be beautiful and um, er..."  Here I was a bit embarrassed, she was an old lady for Hades' sake.  "You want your lover to be sexy, desirable, good in bed?"  Oh boy so much for embarrassing her.  " yeah, all of those, and tender."  I like a bit of the rough stuff occasionally but not as a steady diet.  I get tired of people treating me as if I were made of steel, mostly I like it soft and gentle as a change for what goes on in the rest of my life.

"Anything else?"

" I would like my lover to be intelligent, very intelligent."  I have no illusions about my mental prowess, I'm not a moron but I'm no intellectual giant either, and I really admire clever people.  So I'm happy to provide the brawn if my lover can provide the brains. Good combination I think.

"All right, brains.  Anything else?"

"Yeah, I want my lover to be strong so I don't have to worry about getting a bit carried away."  That was the best thing about having Xena as a lover, I didn't have to worry about crushing her or accidentally breaking something.  It was really liberating and the only time in my life it was not a worry when making love to some one.

" Strength. OK. What about looks: blonde, dark, redhead, blue eyes, brown?"

"I have no preference, they're all fine by me." Well I don't.  Deinara was my coloring, Xena was dark, Morrigan was a redhead.

"Right then young man.  To recap, you want a lover who is faithful, will love you forever, who is beautiful, sexy, intelligent, strong and will never leave you. Have I got everything?"

That sounded about right.  And impossible to find as well.  Come on, where would I find such a paragon, and even if I did why should they love me. "Yes, that's right. So when am I going to meet this lover."  I shouldn't have teased her but really, she was so serious about it, as if she could really do it, find me the love of my life.

"How about tomorrow morning?"

Well she truly surprised me there; I thought she would say soon, or after the next full moon or some such nonsense but tomorrow morning? What could I say to that.

" That, that's great, thanks.  Tomorrow morning eh? I'm going to meet this lover on our journey? That's wonderful, thank you."

Well after that, there wasn't much more to say so soon after we settled down to sleep and to my surprise I slept like the proverbial log, specially after all the restless nights I had had lately.

When morning came I woke up feeling pretty good, not sad and dreading another day on my own.  I slowly stretched out the kinks one gets from sleeping on the ground, eyes still closed, just enjoying the sun on my face, which is why I didn't notice his arrival.

"Well, what is it and be quick about it, I don't have time to waste with you today."

What the fuck was he doing here?  I opened my eyes with reluctance ,hoping against hope I was imagining it, but no, there he was large as life and twice as annoying: my big bad brother Ares.

"What are you doing here?" I growled. It had been a nice morning right up to then but things were going down hill fast.

"What do you mean, what am I doing here, you called me you moron.  You said it was urgent, that it concerned me or rather," and here he gave me his very best sneer, " Your fate is at stake here, this will affect the rest of your life so hurry.  Those were your words, little brother, so give.  What is going to be my destiny, who or what will affect it so radically."  He smirked as a thought occurred to him, " Or have you decided to put an end to it yourself. Is that it, you are going to kill me? You think you can take me? Well here I am, all yours.  Come and get me little brother."

Oh no, Ohnonononono. She couldn't have.  She couldn't believe..... She couldn't.  I looked around me frantically, and what do you know, there was no old lady in sight, no sign she had ever been there. Ughhh.

"Ares,  I... you...."  I was speechless, well can you blame me?

" Yes, yes spit it out, what!"

"Ares ,it wasn't me. I didn't call you. I didn't, promise." I shuddered at the very thought: ARES? Ares my lover? Ares my hated brother? Ares the god of war my lover?  He, well he was, he was Ares! Yikes.

"What do you mean it wasn't you, of course it was you. I know your voice little brother, I could never in a million years mistake you for any one else. It was you all right." He looked at me closely and suddenly frowned.  I must have looked like an escapee from deepest Tartarus, I certainly felt like it.  "What are you playing at?" He approached the spot where I sat looking like a landed fish and gave me a closer look. "What's the matter with you any way, you look horrible.  Who have you pissed off this time."

Good question.  Is that what all this was about, I had annoyed some Power that be and this was their revenge? Well it was a good one, one of the best.

"I don't know but you may be right.  I'm sorry Ares.  Honest, I didn't call you.  Whoever did this has had the joke on both of us."

Ares stood in his typical challenging, don't mess with me stance and looked ready to tear someone apart.  Not his little brother, by the way he was looking at me, but whoever had dared mess with both of us.

"When I find out who did this I'm going to make them wish they were dead.  If you find out who it was before me let me know and I'll be more than happy to give you a hand in dismembering them" That's my big brother, ready to bring on the violence.  But in this case I was not really all that opposed to it.  I was feeling pretty pissed off myself.  So I nodded in agreement.

"When I find out what this is all about you'll be the first to know, I promise"

He gave me another of those searing looks of his, the one where his coal black eyes glitter like, like black diamonds.  What? Well they do, or like a star in reverse. Yes, yes, I'm not a poet and I know it but that's what they seem to be like to me, so there.  And shut up, you're making me lose my train of thought.  Where was I, oh yeah, he gave me one of his looks and said:

" OK, I'm off then, wars to organize and so on. And pull yourself together, you look a mess, can't have any brother of mine looking like that" He waved his hand and I was looking cleaner and tidier than I had for quite a while.  Well, I had neglected myself just a tad lately.  I was moping remember?  Then he disappeared in his usual showy way.

I sat there totally dumbfounded.  What was all that about? Not tidy enough for him so he cleans me up?  Since when had he cared how I looked like, as long as it was bloody and the result of his pounding.
What was going on?

And what had made that woman think I wanted a man for a lover.  Hadn't I made it clear I had a woman in mind?  I thought back on last night's conversation and it was then I realized that not once had I said she, or he for that matter.  I had not specified the gender of this paragon, just the virtues, which could apply to any one.  Wait a minute, wait a minute, I had said my lover had to be strong hadn't I.  Yeah but there were plenty of strong women around, well some anyway:  Xena, Atlanta just to name two.  There must me scads of them around I hadn't met yet.

That still didn't explain why she had chosen Ares of all people.  We were enemies for Hades' sake.  We were also brothers.  I know, I know, incest runs in the family and all that, but I wasn't going to follow in those particular footsteps, thanks very much.

Moreover, yeah moreover, Ares faithful? Intelligent? Tender? Come on!!  He didn't fit at all.  Well, I grant you beautiful, I may have hated him but I'm not blind and my brother was a looker.  And yes, he was sexy, can't deny that one either.  Didn't know if he was any good in bed but Dite obviously thought so and she should know about that sort of thing, it's her specialty after all.  And obviously he was immortal so he wouldn't die on me, but even then.

He hated my guts.  Nothing would make him happier than to see me dying in agony except me dead.  The thought of him loving me, much less forever, was laughable. Not to say impossible.  So it had to be a really sick joke, all of it, because it couldn't possibly be anything else. Right? Right.

Well, I got my sorry ass off the ground and set off totally lost in thought, and I had plenty to think about;  The old woman; her choice; Ares' strange behavior.  Yes, I had a lot to occupy my mind for the next few days, if not months.

I wandered about Greece the next few weeks with no particular destination in mind doing the occasional good deed whenever the need arose, all the time thinking.  I truly believe that I have never given my brain such an extended workout before or since that time, but one good thing came out of it: I was no longer moping, I was too busy thinking.

The one thing I kept coming back to was, why the old woman had thought Ares would be my perfect lover.  What could have made her think that?  Didn't she know my brother? He was violent, he hated me, he was treacherous, he was..... Actually, that's all I could think of.  It then dawned on me that I knew precious little about him. He was just big, bad Ares my enemy.  I know he hated me and had done his best to make my life a misery, but why?  What had I done to him except be born.  I was hardly competition.  He was a full god, he was the official heir to the Olympian empire, and I was, as he was so fond of reminding me, nothing but the bastard younger son with no real standing in the family, however fond Zeus claimed to be of me, and I was never too sure about that.  If I really was his favorite he sure had a funny way of showing it, that's all I can say.

So who was Ares, what made him tick? Suddenly it became very important to know this.  Before I could solve all the questions milling around in my mind, I had to find out who my brother was.  May be then I could make sense of it all.  Of my life even, after all he had played a surprisingly large role in it up to now, he and his mother.  So, that was my next task, to get to know Ares. But how? He was hardly going to open up his heart to me just for the asking.  I was more likely to get a good thumping.

It was at this point that I realized my apparently aimless wanderings had brought me to the city where my brother's favorite temple was to be found.  Coincidence you would say?

I may have mentioned before that once I decide on something, I commit totally. so without a second's hesitation I marched up into the inner chambers of Ares' temple, not without meeting some resistance but you know what happens to that, and I began to call my brother.

"Hey Ares, this is your favorite brother come to say hello, Areeees." All the while I wandered around eating the goodies I found laid out for his pleasure, drinking the really excellent wine and generally making myself at home.  It didn't take long for him to appear in a furious shower of sparks.

"What do you want now," was his friendly greeting.  I didn't really expect anything else really, well may be a punch or two, but that was normal between us.

"Hiya big brother, I was just passing through and thought I'd say hello. It's the polite thing to do between family," I said with a show of great friendliness.

"Since when?" He growled in reply.

"Since now," I told him firmly.  " I've decided to turn over a new leaf and be nicer to you.  It's time we got to know each other better so I've come to visit."

His expression was priceless.  I have never seen my brother look so surprised, disgusted and horrified all at the same time.  This was going to be fun.

"YOU WHAT?" I swear the walls shook around us.

" I've come to visit, you know, it's an old Greek custom, visiting one's family.  You are my host now and you have to be polite and treat me well, it's the Greek way."  I was enjoying myself so much I was finding it hard to keep an even semi-serious face.  Why hadn't I tried this before?

"Have you gone nuts? Me your host, are you serious?"  He was turning this lovely shade of puce, the veins standing on his forehead beating this nice tap, tap, tap.  Could a god die of apoplexy?

"Nope, I'm the same as always." Whatever that was. " And I'm going to stay with you for a while.  Get to know you better, see what you do, spend some time together, all the sort of things that brothers are supposed to do. Together."  Yep, I should definitely have done this a long time ago.

He was stunned, even I could see that.  His first instinct was to launch himself at me and beat me to a pulp, but something stopped him.  Perhaps even the gods respected the sacredness of a guest.  We are big on the respect due to guests in Greece;  There is nothing more shameful to a Greek than to be accused of being a bad host.  My brother obviously held to the same customs.  Curious, I would never have expected it of him.  Well my first insight into my brother.

"You can't mean that.  It's a joke right? Well ha ha, very funny.  You've had your laugh now bugger off."  He was looking quite sickly by now, would he collapse or blow up like a overblown pig's bladder?

"Nope, I'm really serious.  I have decided to pay you an extended visit and get to know you better.  It's about time we did this don't you think?"  I was calm, friendly and looking oh so determined.  He was getting redder and redder.  I don't remember ever having this much fun.  Not with my brother anyway.

"NO I DON'T." He was definitely reaching boiling point, any moment now he would throw a fireball or a punch.  Probably the latter, it was more personal.  Ares had always taken the more physical approach with me,  others he just smashed with his fireballs.  I had never given it much thought but now I was noticing everything.

Suddenly he switched gears on me.  He could do it just like that.  I never could, it took me a while to calm down but not him.

"Look, little brother, I don't know what has finally scrambled those two brain cells you possess but you really don't want to be with me."  He approached me very slowly as one does an animal that's acting strange, then laid a hand on my head patting it gently, the patronizing sod.

"You hate me remember? You don't want to be around me more than you can help.  You're always telling me to get lost.  Now, you wouldn't want to spend time with someone like that would you." He was practically crooning to me as if I were a half wit or a five year old.

Time to up the ante.  I put a friendly arm round him and gave him a brotherly hug.  I swear I was really gentle, no hard squeeze or anything, however tempting.

"You are totally wrong big brother.  I really really want to get to know you better.  I feel I may have misjudged you all this time and I'm determined to set things to right." And I gave him a peck on the cheek.  I confess I really had to force myself to do it but it was worth it.  He stood in my arms as if turned to stone then sprung back like one stung by a giant hornet.

"What the...." He stood there staring at me, mouth opening and closing like a gasping fish.  He looked a bit silly actually, and a sight for sore eyes.  Whatever happened, this had to be one of the highlights of the last few years. I had never known it could be so much fun to bait your enemies.  No wonder he wouldn't leave me alone, I must have been an endless source of amusement to him.  Well not any more dear brother, now it was my turn.

"So is this where you spend your time, or is there another place where you plan your campaigns and relax between battles?"  I was determined to retain the initiative and to do that I had to keep him off balance.

" Wha...?"  Oh I had him off balance all right.  This was a rare thing too and I was going to enjoy it while it lasted.  Not long I know, he was always quick to recover.

"Let's go to your private quarters, or do you always have an audience?"  Throughout all this we had had a gaggle of priests and temple guards following the action in fascinated horror.  They knew their god and expected furniture and odd bits of the building to start flying at any moment, but couldn't keep away from the spectacle of their god being bested by me.  For once I didn't mind an audience either, but enough was enough.

Ares finally became aware of his surroundings and snarling in fury and humiliation, he grabbed my arm and we disappeared in a flash only to reappear in what must be the inner sanctum.  I looked around and saw a huge table littered with maps and scrolls with a really comfy chair in front of it; An enormous sideboard covered in choice tidbits and a really big luxurious looking bed in a far corner, liberally covered in soft looking furs. Not bad, not bad at all.  My quarters for the next few.... let's see how long I could last.

"Now you tell me what's going on or I swear by Zeus' scraggly beard that I'll..."

"Nothing's going on.  I told you, I want to know you better and to do that I have to spend time with you so here I am."

He looked at me fixedly, utterly puzzled.  Finally he murmured in a wondering voice, " You're serious aren't you? You really are serious about this.  Have you gone mad?"  He started pacing and waving his hands around.  This was better than any show I had ever sat through, at least this one was amusing.

"You seriously think we can be in the same room together for five minutes without tearing each other apart? You know what it's like with us."

"You're wrong." At his look of profound skepticism I pointed out, " We have been more than five minutes together now and we haven't done it yet."  I was so sweetly reasonable, I would have irritated myself if I had been at the receiving end.  But I wasn't, he was.

" Give me a chance and I'll show you." He replied through clenched teeth.

"No you won't. You're my host and you're going to act nice.  You're going to invite me to partake of these goodies, I'm hungry you know, I haven't had lunch yet.  Then you're going to offer me your bed to rest, it's been a tiring few days, all those villains to fight, and finally,"  I looked around, "Have you got a bath? I could really do with a wash." I looked archly at him " I know you don't like me to go around all dirty and grungy looking, so I'll have a bath just for you."

I Know, I know I was overdoing it but I just couldn't resist.  Something had come loose somewhere inside me and I was giving it free rein.  For the first time in my life I was acting without inhibitions, and I really liked it.  I had never felt so free, so full of mischief and fun.

The same could not be said of my brother.  He looked as if he had been sucking on a lemon. A large Hercules sized lemon which was going to choke him if he didn't draw a breath.  He was also making the funniest of sounds.  It took me a second to realize he was grinding his teeth and growling something under his breath. Whatever it was boded no good for me, but I didn't give a damn.

I'll say this much for Ares:  He doesn't stay down for long.  Must have something to do with having to cope with all the unexpected things that happen in battles.  At any rate, he visibly pulled himself together, not without a struggle I may add, and turned a pale but calm face towards me.

"Fine. If this is what you want be my guest, literally.  You want a bath? It's that way." He pointed towards the far left and that's when I noticed a doorway.

"Enjoy your bath." His tone indicating that's the only thing I was likely to enjoy. We would see about that.  I was doing really well so far and I was determined to see this, whatever this was, to the very end even if it killed me, and that was a real possibility where my brother was concerned.

While I had a leisurely bath, I planned my next moves.  I knew this was going to be really hard.  He was right, we always got under each other's skins, and being together for any length of time was going to put a tremendous strain on both our tempers, and we both had very short fuses.

 You may have heard some contradictory stories about me:  In some I'm this really sweet guy always on the side of reason;  In others, I'm this short-tempered hulk who flies off the handle and causes mayhem.  Well, unfortunately the latter stories are a lot nearer to the truth.  But it's also true that I'm stubborn as a mule and I don't give up.  Ever.  So it was going to be interesting which side of me would win out here. Of course Ares would do his best to piss me off at every opportunity, so it was going to be a real challenge.  Worthy of being called a Herculean Labor.

When I got back to the living area Ares was bent over some maps looking thoughtful.  I  had never seen my brother like this, as relaxed as he ever got and without his signature smirk and major attitude.  He looked kind of, I don't know, almost pleasant and studious looking. Then he noticed me there and his frown was back.

"There's the bed, have your rest and stay out of my hair."  So it began.

"What are you doing?"  What exactly did a god of war do anyway.

"Organizing mayhem, slaughter and destruction.  Isn't that what you think I do?"  Smirk was firmly in place now.

"You tell me. I just see the results, not the reasons."  There had to be a reason, however twisted, for all the pain and suffering he wrought.

"You think so? Just for the fun of it of course.  What other reason could there be for me." He was baiting me, I knew him well enough to recognize the signs, but this time it only made me more determined to find out the truth.

"Apart from that. I know there's more to it than that so give."

He looked at me obviously debating whether to answer me or not, and to my utter surprise, he decided to let me in on his job.

"All right, you want to know so I'll tell you. This is Greece's border with the lands of the Barbarians.  They are always making incursions into the neighboring kingdoms, nothing serious usually.  The odd head of cattle or sheep that, sort of thing.  But there's this chief of one of the tribes who's managed to get four other tribes to join with him in taking part in a really large invasion of our lands." At this point he passed his hand over a scrying bowl and I saw a sea of  Barbarians on horseback followed by  a large number of cattle and horses.  They were on the move and I could see the Balkan mountains ahead of them.   "They aim to slash and burn their way around Thrace and Paeonia, may be as far as Macedonia collecting booty as they go.  They are mobile and carry their food on the hoof so they don't care how much destruction they cause. With me so far?"

"Yes, so what's that got to do with you organizing a war."

"I'm not really, I just want the two kingdoms concerned to be battle ready.  They should know better than to let their armies go as they've been doing.  Unfortunately, the two idiots in power  are a pair of skinflints and won't spend a dinar if they can help it.  Their respective armies are a disgrace, and I've got to find a way to get them to build them up, so I'm fomenting a little discord between the two kingdoms.  Nothing like some neighborly rivalry to get things going."

"Why don't you just tell them of the threat from the Barbarians?"

He sighed with a much put upon air.  What did I know about these things, he was implying with his oh so superior attitude.  The pompous ass.  Calm, I would stay calm, he would not get to me.

"Because they wouldn't listen.  Oh, they would go through the motions, send the soldiers on some so-called exercises, but nothing of substance would be done.  No, the only way to get them to do anything is to make them believe they are in danger from each other."

"So you haven't tried.  You are just going to start a feud that could last for who knows how long just to get the armies up to scratch."

"You think you can do better?" he snarled at me, " Be my guest, go and talk to the fools, may be they will listen to the great Hercules."

"Fine, I will.  May be they will listen to me, at least it's worth trying."  I snarled right back.



"Well, what are you waiting for?"

"I'm waiting for you to take me there."

"What?" I had surprised him again, great.

"I'm kind of doing your job for you here so the least you can do is to take me as far as the capital of Thrace, and I'll take it from there." I know this was really asking for it, but as I had said before, something inside me had got loose.  I was really going with it.

He gave me one of his fulminating stares but I waited him out unmoved, and once again he gave in.  This was a day for firsts, no doubt about it.

"Fine. Anything else you majesty would like?"  Once again his mood turned and he was back to his smirking.

"Yes, since you're asking, may be you can freshen up my clothing, I haven't had the chance to get them clean lately and I'm going to visit royalty after all."  Really asking for it.

For a moment it was a toss up whether he would blast me to Tartarus or not.  But Ares being Ares, he chose to see the funny side of it and burst out laughing at my cheek.

"Never let it be said that you lack courage little brother.  Such foolhardiness deserves a reward." And so saying he waved his hands and my clothes were good as new.  Better really. "Just don't make it a habit, I'm not always in such good humor."  Riiiight.  Was he ever in a good humor, except when he had beaten the shit out of me that is.

"Thanks Ares, this is really nice." It was the least I could do, after such a gracious gesture, don't you think?

"OK, enough with the pleasantries, let's go." He grabbed me and suddenly I found myself just outside the city walls, near the main gates.

"Good luck little brother.  Take your time and don't give up too soon will you?" He said all this with such a pleased look on his face that I immediately smelled a trap.

"What are you up to Ares?"  But he disappeared with a laugh.   It was then I realized he had neatly maneuvered me into this in order to get rid of me.  Bastard.

Well, I was here now and the threat was real so I might as well give it my best try.

I don't often agree with my big bad brother, actually I never agree with him, but this time he was absolutely right:  What a pair of idiots these two kings were.  Nothing I said made any impression. They gave me to understand that they knew all about the threat from the Barbarians, after all they lived with it all the time, and the latest intelligence report indicated there was nothing to worry about.  The tribes were going to war with each other not with the Greeks. The big threat was from their evil ambitious neighbor Thrace or Paeonia, depending on which king you were talking to.  And I couldn't shake them from that view.  So that was that, they deserved whatever my brother had cooked up for them.  Well, they had really got up my nose you know.

I stood on the road to Macedonia and thought about what to do next.  Should I go on my way, or back to Ares?  I didn't realize it at the time, one never does, but this was a critical moment that would decide my future and his.  If I had gone with the first alternative, my life now would be very different.  But I chose to go back to Ares and the rest as they say, is history.

He wasn't happy to see me but he didn't look surprised either.  He knew what a stubborn sod I could be so he didn't waste any breath telling me to get lost.  Instead, he tried to get rid of me with another little trick.  This time it was a war he wanted ended and he had sent in his warlords to wreak havoc in the two warring kingdoms in order to get the two armies to turn on the new enemy and not on each other.  Unfortunately, those warlords were a savage, bloodthirsty lot who looted and pillaged without concern.  So off I went to convince the two warring kings of the necessity of stopping them.

This time they listened, and drawing up a hasty peace, turned their energies and armies on stamping out the new menace.  Ares kept his louts moving from place to place so that the armies had to break up into smaller units in order to protect their people.  I confess his plan worked a treat.  The armies though split up, didn't suffer any real casualties and so, when the Romans attacked three months later, they were strong enough to repel them.  Which had been my brother's ultimate goal.  He really knew how to plan these things.

In fact it very quickly dawned on me that Ares was not the violent, psychotic fool I had always thought him to be:  He was a brilliant tactician, always thinking several moves ahead and with any number of contingency plans ready to meet whatever sudden changes the fates threw in his way.

And how he kept track of all the wars, battles, kings and generals in  every part of Greece, was beyond me.  He knew every warrior of note, the size of all the armies and their source of supplies, the best routes for said armies and supplies to travel, the sites best suited for battle or ambush.  In fact he seem to know every nook and cranny of Greece and the roads and passes leading to it. He knew where every war galleon was at any given moment and how many were being built, for whom and where.  He knew, well you get the idea.

My brother was a fucking genius and I had never known it. What did you say? No, I'm not exaggerating, genius it the right word and I'm sticking to it, so there.  Have you got that down scribe?  Good. That was my lover again telling me I'm exaggerating. I know what I know, and he's not changing my mind.

Where was I, oh yeah.  In the time I spent making my brother's life miserable with my presence, I learnt a lot about him.  More good than bad if you must know.  Yes, he had a terrible temper, I knew that already, and he could be really destructive and callous with people's lives in his drive to get this or that plan come to fruition.

But what I realized was that his overall plan was the protection and ultimate prosperity of Greece as a whole.  The wars he fomented or prevented were all part of that overall plan, and if sometimes the innocent got killed as a result, well, that was the price that had to be paid.   I could never had been able to do it.  I had neither the brains nor the objectivity.  Yes, the objectivity; funny word to use when talking about Ares, but to do what he did, it was essential and I was not, and never would be, an objective person.  I was too emotional and tender hearted.

The upshot of all this is that I gained a new respect and even secret admiration for what he did, though I never admitted it.  He must have noticed it however, for his attitude, though never friendly, became markedly less hostile and he was willing to let me in on what he was planning at the time.  In fact, I became a sort of helper in a way.   When he wanted a war to come to and end, he would send me in as the peace maker, getting warring sides to come to the table and talk. Or he would let me protect a village that stood in the way of a marching army.  He never wanted his hand to be seen in all this so I got all the credit, and my reputation continued to grow by leaps and bounds.  I felt a bit guilty about this but he didn't seem to care.  He was so used to being considered the baddie that he couldn't seem to see himself any other way. He said it suited him fine, but I wondered at that.

Time passed and I became used to spending my time at my brother's place.  In fact it kind of became my home, the place I would return to in between my jobs for him and the ones I found for myself.  He never commented but accepted my presence as an inevitability, an unavoidable irritant to be endured, or so I thought.

I had got quite fond of that scrying bowl, and after he showed me how to use it, well...I nagged him into it, I would look around Greece for any trouble spots.  The odd monster or disaster where I could be useful.  I think he showed me how to use it so I could find things to do and get me out of his way, sometimes he would even point them out to me, my oh so helpful brother.  Which is why I was surprised that he hadn't mentioned the Chimera that had obviously been causing trouble for some time in a corner of Thessaly.  I would have thought he would have been only too eager to get me out of his hair for a few days. Well I would do him a favor and give him a few days' rest while I took care of the beast.

I left him a note telling him where I was going, totally unnecessary really, as he could find me if he wanted to, and I set off.

The villages being harassed by the monster were very happy and grateful for my help, but no one volunteered to come with me to face it.  Ah well, what else was new, though I could have done with some one to draw the beast's attention away from me while I found a way to kill it.  It was at times like this that I really missed Ialous.  He had always protected my back on these occasions.

He had always accused me of taking on more that I could deal with on my own and would tell me how lucky I was that he was there, and he was right.  But this time he wasn't there and I had taken on more than I could deal with. It was bad luck really; I had fashioned this spear from a young tree trunk and as I was trying to impale the beast with it, the snaky tail lashed out and tripped me up. It drove me forward, impaling the beast and myself. She broke free cracking the spear in two and taking most of it with her still embedded in her goat's chest.  Unfortunately it left a good hunk stuck in my chest as well. I had enough strength to push the spear the rest of the way into her heart, and then I collapsed.

I lay on the ground looking up to the sky and I knew I was dying.  You're going to say, but you're immortal, you can't die.  Well yes I can, I just come back to life.  Or I would if I didn't have a chunk of wood embedded in my chest.  I was too weak to pull it out myself and there was no one around to do it for me, so that was that.  After I was dead, I would be carrion meat and I didn't fancy my chances then. Sad really, just when I was getting to know Ares, even like him a little.  Well, I didn't really hate him any more.

I was getting ready to call it a day sending my love to my mom and Deianara who I would soon be seeing and to my brother Iphicles, I did love him you know, when a sudden flash told me I was not alone.

"So you finally overreached yourself.  I'm surprised it has taken this long really.  But I suppose your blond pest got you out of it before."

Yes, it was Ares come to gloat I suppose.  He was finally getting his dearest wish and he couldn't even be blamed for it either.  Perfect.  Oh well, let him enjoy it, at least some one was getting something out of it.

"Ares," I croaked with my last breath," I forgive you all your..."

"Oh, cut out the dramatics and brace yourself, this may hurt a bit."
With this, he planted a boot on my chest and pulled at the chunk of spear. He wasn't kidding, the pain was agonizing, but thankfully I passed out as I tried to scream.

When I came to, I was lying on Ares' bed all clean, without a scratch on me,and fully dressed except for my boots.  He had a thing about lying on the bed with boots or any type of footwear on.  Ares had saved my life and brought me back home and even cleaned me up.  I didn't understand, he wanted me dead didn't he? I had always believed he wanted my death and he had told me so, repeatedly.  Yet here I was.

"I'm clean."  Was the first thing I said, it really had surprised me I can tell you.

He was sitting in his chair, head leaning back, with his eyes closed.
"yes, you are." He replied but his lips twitched, probably in amusement at my utterly inane comment after coming back from the dead.


"Because I didn't want my bed all messy with blood and gore, that's why."  But that's not what I meant and he knew it.

"Why did you do it, and I don't mean cleaning me up."

He gave a big sigh and leaned forward, looking at his clasped hands.
"Oh I don't know, felt in a generous mood, I suppose.  Also, next time the old goat accuses me of being mean to you I can throw it in his face that I saved your miserable life.  That alone makes it worthwhile."  There was some truth in that:  I could see him gloating as he told the old man how he had saved me.  But I wasn't satisfied.  He could have saved me and left me there to recover. I would have been alive but really messed up. Instead he had gone to all this trouble.  Why.

" Why?"  I had to know.

"Why what!"  He was getting irritated at my insistence but I wasn't letting go.  This was too important.

"You hate me, you have always wanted me dead, you've told me so more times than I can count so I repeat, why?"

" Why? why would I save your miserable hide when I hate you? Well ,may be it's because I hate you so much that I want to do it myself, may be I want you to suffer before you die, may be I'm not ready for you to die yet. That's why."  He was spitting with scarcely contained fury by now. His hate was palpable in every word ,but the last sentence caught my attention: he wasn't ready for me to die.  What did that mean?

"Ares, why do you hate me so much? What have I ever done to you except be born?"

"That's why , you were born." He snarled.  He was on his feet now pacing around like a caged tiger, angry and frustrated, ready to attack at the least provocation.

"But that's not my fault, that's our father's doing, his fault, why blame me? Why take it out on me?"

He turned on me then, finding his prey.  He was suddenly in my face practically nose to nose, eyes black as a moonless night and full of pain and hate. "Because I can't take it out on him.  I'm not strong enough, he's made damn sure of that. But I can take it out on you and he hates that, and so I get to him through you."

"You're his favorite son, his darling boy.  He hates me, he's always hated me. Nothing I ever do is right.  But not you, you're perfect, the bastard son who can never do any wrong.  And he loves to throw it in my face. Hercules this and Hercules that.  Always telling me how much he loves you and how much he despises me." There was a wealth of pain there, a god's lifetime of it and of being rejected by his own father. Gods, I had never seen so much pain in anyone's eyes before.

"Ares, Ares I...." I didn't know what to say.

" What? that you're sorry? That it's not your fault? Save it little brother." He made to turn away but his words stung me and I grabbed him by his shoulders.

" No, I will not save it.  Listen to me.  He doesn't love me, not really.  He's just using me to hurt you.  That's probably why he let me be born in the first place, to get to you and to keep you too busy attacking me to threaten him.  And you're letting him do it.  You have fallen into his trap just as he hoped. That's what he loves about me, how I'm working out as he planned. Don't you see?"  He stared at me for a long moment obviously struck by what I was saying.

He made no reply however, but disengaged himself from my hold quite gently and walked away, saying over his shoulder, "Get some rest.  You've had a tough day and tomorrow you have a village to save in Boeotia, it's in the way of the Megaran army."

I sank back on the bed feeling exhausted and despairing.  I hadn't got through to him.  He was still locked into his unreasoning hate and nothing I could say would ever make any difference.  I fell sleep feeling utterly miserable.

The next morning I didn't feel any better.  In fact I wondered if I wasn't wasting my time and shouldn't just call it a day.  Things would never be any different between Ares and me.  This thought was so painful to me that I groaned aloud.  He turned to me with a frown. "What's wrong? Haven't you recovered from your adventure yet?"

"It's not that." I said hurriedly,  "I just thought of the terrain in Boeotia, all those hills.  I hate running up and down hills." I couldn't tell him the truth, he would just laugh at me and I couldn't bear that, it would tear me apart.

He wasn't convinced however and put a hand on my chest. Whatever he learnt seemed to satisfy him for he turned back to his maps pointing at the food on the sideboard. " You'd better eat something now who knows when you'll get your next chance.  The Megaran army move fast and they don't like to leave alive any one who could attack their rear so you'll have to keep ahead of them or find a good hiding place for your villagers in the hills.  May be they'll know of some cave.  If not, call me and I'll reconnoiter for you."

I stood blinking like an owl surprised by the dawn.  Was I hearing right? Perhaps I was still sleep and dreaming all this.

He noticed my stillness for he turned around again and looked at me enquiringly. "Well, are you going to get a move on or not?"

"Yeah, right, sorry still half sleep."  I quickly moved to the sideboard and picked a piece at random, stuffing it into my mouth.  Pickled walnut, yuk.  Swallowing hurriedly, I really hate pickled walnuts, I chose something more to my taste and automatically chewed while my brain scrambled for a hold.  Had I imagined it or had Ares sounded almost nice? Nah, I imagined it.  I sneaked a side glance but he looked just the same:  Black leather, black hair, no black expression. He wasn't smiling, but he wasn't wearing his usual black browed frown. Curious.

I ate some more, drunk some wine, at least I think it was some wine, nothing seemed to taste right this morning and after wiping my hands, I turned to my brother.  "OK, I'm ready."

He straightened up gave me the once over, seemed satisfied with what he saw and held out his hand for me to hold so he could take me to my destination.  We appeared just by the entrance to the village. I wouldn't have far to walk at this point. " Well, here you are, enjoy yourself.  Call me when you're ready to come home." And with that he disappeared.

Now, that I hadn't imagined.  He had never offered to fetch me before.  Unless he needed me for something else, I always had to make my own way back. And he had said home.  Like it was home for both of us. What was going on? Could he have been listening after all? It was too much to hope.  But still, I suddenly felt quite cheerful and ready to face the whole Megaran army by myself if needed.

Well, I did my usual heroic turn, saved all the villagers, though the village itself didn't fare quite so well.  But the people had managed to save their livestock and some of their possessions, so all in all it had gone well and everyone was pleased.  I tentatively called Ares, not sure of the response, but there he was in the instant looking, well, kind of neutral, neither pleased nor displeased. it was unnerving really.


"Yep, all done."

"Ok then let's go."  And we were home.

This was the beginning of a new chapter in our relationship.  He had been listening to me, and what I had said had made him see us very differently.  It seemed as if overnight I had changed from being the hated enemy to a brother in arms. We now had a common enemy, and he was Zeus.  We didn't discuss it openly, but he knew I was on his side where our father was concerned, and I would never again let myself be used to hurt him. He, for his part, had decided to become my unofficial protector, as if I needed any.  We gingerly explored this new alliance, even daring to tease each other, always careful not to hit any sensitive topics that might upset the delicate balance we had achieved.

Things might have gone on like this indefinitely, with us getting steadily closer, becoming real brothers, though we were careful not  to reveal to anyone how our relationship had changed.  I would have loved to throw it in the old man's face, but some instinct told me not to, and in view of what happened later, I was right to keep it quiet.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

As I was saying, we secretly nurtured our growing friendship, careful to keep up the pretense in the eyes of the world, and would have been happy to continue this way, but the Fates had other ideas.

I was idly looking in the scrying bowl while Ares took care of some battle that needed his personal touch.  A bunch of soldiers bashing each other somewhere.  No innocent people involved,  so I wasn't concerned.  Yeah, I had changed my attitude a bit since I had been hanging around my brother.  It's not that I approved of war any more than before, but I had learnt which battles to fight, so to speak, and which ones to leave alone.  Ares called it progress, I called it compromise.  Well he couldn't be expected to make all the changes could he, I had to give too.  Anyway, I was looking idly at different parts of Greece and noticed a couple of villages where everyone was looking miserable and frightened.  Trouble afoot.  I looked some more but could not find an obvious reason for it.  I was bored, and this seemed like a fairly easy task.  It was quite near, less than a day's journey, so I could probably deal with the problem in no time and be back by to morrow evening.  Just in case, I left a note for Ares.  I know he worried about me, just like Iolaus did.  Funny that, how he had taken over the job.  I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. What did you say? that I need a keeper? Very funny I'm sure.

That was my lover again, he's always making fun of me.

So off I went on my little search and destroy mission.  I got to the first village and quickly learnt that people were disappearing, mostly men it seemed, but no one knew why or how.  The other village told me the same story, but one thing did emerge from the tangle of theories and speculation:  The disappearances had began after the last earth tremor had opened a fissure in the hill near the village.  Apparently, it was an entrance to a series of caves, and precious stones were to be found in these caves.  Some outsiders had been working there but had now left, or disappeared, no one knew for sure.

 The answer seemed to be inside those caves, so that's where I would go.  Mindful of Ares' warnings not to wander into unknown situations without a back up, I was lucky to find three brave souls, all soldiers retired from the Persian wars prepared to accompany me. So you see I was being properly cautious. Much good it did.

We got to the caves an hour before sunset.  I meant for us to do a quick exploration and then decide what to do, depending on what we found in there.  Well, we found bones, human bones and fairly fresh ones in the second cave we came to.  I cautioned the men to be careful and keep close, then slowly pressed on into the next chamber.  I couldn't see what it was, but I could smell it. Phew, the stench was incredible, and not all of it was due to the human remains rotting around the cave.  The creature really stunk, a sickly sweet smell that crawled down into the lungs and made one light headed.

 While I was trying to decide what to do, a sudden rustling to the right drew my attention, just in time to catch one of the men disappearing without a sound into the darkness of some strange creature.  He seemed to quiver all over, as if in the grip of some fever.  The other two men stood as if turned to stone with terror.  So much for bringing a back up. A fat lot of use they were going to be.  I tried to follow the monster, which I still hadn't seen, when my feet seemed to stick to the ground.  Looking down, I noticed a tangle of dark fibers covering the ground and grabbing at my boots.  The harder I pulled, the stickier the fibers got.  I was busy trying to get myself free so I didn't notice the second man disappear, but the third made a choking sound that caught my attention, and I was just in time to see him being dragged away.

I managed to get a foot free but promptly got it stuck into more of those fibers the moment I set it down.  I was in trouble for sure and that rustling sound was getting nearer.  Time to call reinforcements.

"Areees."  Well who else was I going to call?

"What trouble have you got yourself into now? Euww. What's that stink?"  Ares had a very sensitive nose, In fact he's a stickler about cleanliness.  I have never had so many baths as I have had since spending time with him.

" I don't know but it likes to eat humans.  Get me out of this glop will you?"  Noticing the problem, he zapped the ground around me with a fireball and the fibers all shriveled into dust.  That was better.

"What are we dealing with here, do you have any idea?" Good question, but I had no answers.

"Not the faintest idea.  Some kind of giant spider? A giant caterpillar?"

"Some butterfly it would make.  No, this is something more ancient and much nastier.  Probably something left over from the time of the Titans.  Not everything was destroyed or imprisoned."  Well my brother would know, it was more in his timeline than mine, I haven't been around for thousands of years.

"So what shall we do? We can't just let it eat it's merry way through the villages near here.  Besides, what if it reproduces?"

"Good point.  Let's go in a bit further and see.  If it is a leftover from the time of the Titans we definitely have to destroy it."

We made steady progress, now that Ares had destroyed all the sticky traps laid out over the floor of the cave.  In the next chamber we found that our prey was indeed trying to produce offspring, and how!
There were human bodies hanging all over from the ceiling in semitransparent cocoons. Most of them were still alive, unfortunately for them. The creature had obviously laid an egg in each victim and the growing offspring were slowly feeding on their bodies as they grew. They didn't seem to kill the host straight away, but consumed them very slowly, so the food would be fresh I suppose.  It was horrible, and there was nothing we could do for these men, except to give them the relief of death.

 I looked at Ares, pleading with him to do something. He grimaced his distaste for the whole thing, but at my nod, he systematically began to kill each one with a bolt of power.  I really appreciated his ability to do that and was grateful that I couldn't.  I know, he had to do the dirty work, but what could I do, smash them to bits? Hack away at them with the swords lying on the ground? The men had been armed but had dropped their weapons without using them. Curious.

Well, it didn't take long for momma to make an appearance.  She was quite horrific in a beautiful kind of way:  A lovely human face on an ugly hairy insectoid body.  Not quite spider, not quite a worm, a cross between the two, much bigger than me and probably stronger too, and she had more arms than both of us combined.  A real sweetheart, and she was mad at us, the killers of her babies.

With a strange hissing sound, she skittered towards us with frightening speed, launching more of those sticky fibers which we easily avoided.  She also threw some liquid that unfortunately did get us, but it didn't have any immediate effect. It evaporated too quickly for me to make out what it was, but it did make me feel a bit dizzy.

The fight was short and nasty, and of course we won. Was there any doubt? A god and a demi-god. The outcome was a given.  We stood looking at the wretch for scant moments before the stink coming from the cuts I had made, and the burns Ares had inflicted drove us away.  We lurched drunkenly towards the entrance to the cave complex with the idea of closing the fissure that had revealed them, but we never got that far.

Whatever she had hit us with was beginning to take effect.  I suppose it had taken longer because of our godly natures, but we were feeling it now with a vengeance.

Everything seemed to be wrapped in this glowing fog and I had a hard on that could have drilled through the stone walls of the cave we were in.  I could hear Ares gasping and only then realized that I was panting myself. What was happening? I slowly turned towards him and brushed his arm with my hand. Suddenly,we were all over each other, biting, licking, tearing at the clothes, desperate to touch bare skin. I think he made them disappear, I don't know, I wasn't thinking clearly, actually, I wasn't thinking at all. This overwhelming need to fuck something, anything, this screaming need to come was driving me mad.

In fact I was screaming or sobbing, I can't tell to this day, it was all a blur.  It wasn't lust or passion that drove us wild but a primal, mindless rutting that had us fucking each other, it didn't matter where, the mouth, ass, any part of our bodies that provided friction was good enough. How long it went on I couldn't tell, but I remember pausing in between orgasms, his hard cock up my ass, gasping with thirst, covered from head to foot with sweat and semen and spit.  Ordinary humans would have died by now of dehydration and exhaustion.  But we weren't ordinary humans and our cocks wouldn't quit. Raw and painful yes, but still desperate for a final release that never came.

 Ares conjured up some juice which we managed to drink before the relentless drive for another orgasm gripped us again, and we carried on, his cock pounding into me, his slippery fist on my desperate cock, while I tried to prevent our bodies from slithering apart.  We were so wet that we couldn't get a purchase and had to dig our nails into each other's flesh to  hold on.

But even we couldn't keep this up forever and finally, finally our cocks had  had enough and lay quiescent for the first time in forever and we slept stuck to each other, not knowing any longer what bit belonged to whom.

When I woke up, I found myself lying on something soft and I was dry and clean.  Ares lay with his head tucked under my armpit and his right arm draped over my hip.  My mind was clear, and though tired, I was once again in control of my body.  The eternal twilight of the cave gave me no idea of the time of day, but it did provide enough light to let me look at my brother. Moving very gently so as not to disturb his sleep, I contemplated his face and body.  He was so beautiful, never more so than in that moment of rest, face untroubled and relaxed.  I had fucked him countless times and he me, yet I could scarcely recall any of it, and I wanted to remember. I wanted to remember the feel of his smooth skin under my hand, the softness of his mouth on mine, the taste of his cock.  I wanted it all. I wanted him.

I couldn't resist his mouth, I had to kiss him at least once. Very gently I brushed his lips with mine.  They were so soft and warm.  As I went back for more, I noticed his eyes were open, brilliant and darker than ever,  looking at me.  We stared at each other for a long time saying I don't know what, but when I bent down to kiss him he didn't move away but welcomed me with parted lips, letting me inside.

This time we were totally in control and fully aware of what we were doing.  We were making love, loving each other with slow dragging kisses that made me groan with desire, soft caresses over silken flesh, loving bites and ticklish licks to soothe the pain away.  I explored his body with lips and trembling fingertips, drinking him in with all my senses, imprinting him in my mind and in my heart.  When I took him in my mouth, I felt drunk with desire, and his cock felt so wonderful and tasted so sweet I could have stayed there forever, feeling him slowly come apart under my hands and mouth.

He let me into his body, opening for me so I slipped in without effort,  and it felt as if it were the first time I had ever loved some one this way, it was so good and so new, yet like coming home. Afterwards, I lay with my head on his chest listening to his thundering heart slow down until we breathed in unison, heartbeats in perfect rhythm, his hands gently stroking my hair. Then he made love to me just as gently and as sweetly, and I sobbed out his name as I came, and he cried out, his face buried in my neck and his burning lips trembling against my beating pulse.

The next time I woke up, I found myself alone on the ground, fully dressed and all traces of what had happened had disappeared as if it had never been. My brother was his usual self, black leather, black eyes,  and no discernible expression.  He was touching the walls of the cave, looking for fracture lines that could be exploited to bring the ceiling down and bury this place under tons of rock for ever. As he seemed determined to do with what had happened between us.

"You're finally awake good.  Give me a hand here will you?" Yep, business as usual.

I slowly stood up and made my way to him.  He didn't meet my eyes but pointed to a hairline crack snaking down from the ceiling. "I'm going to put some pressure just here, and I want you to push as hard as you can just there.  Ready? OK, push!"

So we pushed and chunks of rock started raining down around us. When the ceiling came down in two huge chunks, he grabbed me and then we were standing outside the fissure, which was spewing out dust and small chunks of rock till most of the entrance was buried under rubble.

"Well, that's that.  I've got to go, that war must be totally out of control by now.  You'd better let the villagers know what's happened and warn them never to try to open these caves again.  There's no knowing if there are any more of those creatures in there.  See you later." He was actually going to leave without saying a word about what had happened in there, about us.


"What!"  He still didn't look at me, just looked impatient while he brushed some imaginary speck from his leathers.

"How long were we in there?" He relaxed minutely at my question, he was obviously expecting something else.

"Nearly three days."

"Three days!!"

"Time goes fast when you're out of your mind doesn't it."  His sense of humor never quit.


"Leave it Hercules, just leave it, OK? This is neither the time nor the place." Seeing my mutinous expression, he relented somewhat.

"Later, I promise. But not now." And with that he disappeared.

I was sure he meant later as in never, but I wasn't going to let him.  I wasn't sure what I was feeling or even what I wanted, but I knew that ignoring what had happened wasn't an option.

As I walked back to the village trying to come to terms with it all, I realized that my mind was a mess of contradictory desires and feelings.  What did I want? It had all happened so suddenly and under such horrible circumstances.  We hadn't asked for it or even really considered it. At least, I hadn't really been thinking about our becoming lovers, not consciously anyway, and judging by his reaction, nor had Ares.  The event that had brought us together in the first place had been forgotten by me a long time ago.  Well, I had never taken it seriously you see.

But now, now we were on the threshold of something new again. Just when we were getting used to being true brothers, we were faced with the prospect of becoming lovers.  Funny how the question of incest just didn't enter into it.  I was obviously more like my Olympian family than I had thought.

No, that didn't trouble me at all, well, not much.  The question was whether I wanted Ares as a lover, assuming he would want me of course, and that was not at all clear. I knew what I wanted from my lover, but what would Ares want from his? Gods, what a mess.

It took me a while to convince the villagers that it would not be a good idea to open up the caves to get the bodies of their people.  I had tried to avoid giving too many of the gory details, but in the end I had to tell them how their husbands, sons and lovers had perished and why their bodies would have to stay buried in those caves forever.  It was a heartbreaking task and left me feeling both mentally and emotionally bruised.  Finally, it was decided to hold a ceremony for the dead outside the caves, and then seal them with a marker that would warn away people in years to come.

This took several days to organize and they insisted I take part in it. As far as they were concerned, I was the last person to see their loved ones, the one to free them from the slow painful death they had been condemned to, and the destroyer of the monster responsible for their deaths. So, of course I had to stay.

During that time, I thought about my own problems all the time. Finding sleep impossible, at night I would relive our lovemaking over and over, my body becoming feverish with desire and need.  Bringing myself off gave me little pleasure.  Instead, I would yearn for his hands, his lips, his touch.  By the third night, I realized that my decision had already been made in that cave when I kissed my brother.  My heart had chosen then and my mind was simply catching up now.

So, my only real problem was how to convince Ares that he wanted me too.  But one look at his face as I came into our quarters in the temple told me he had also made his decision.

We came together in the middle of the room. Our mouths met and clung, tongues battling it out until I gave in and he plunged in hungrily, taking possession. The rush of desire hitting us was like a tidal wave.  I held on to him trembling so hard I was afraid I might fall.  He didn't seem to be in a much better state, for he was leaning on me trying to meld his body to mine.  Luckily he transported us to the bed before we fell, getting rid of the clothing at the same time so our bodies were suddenly touching everywhere, setting my nerves on fire so that my skin burned at every point of contact .  We were still kissing, our mouths unwilling to part even for a moment.

I grew dizzy with the lack of air and the world started to fuzz around the edges, but we continued to kiss regardless, his mouth holding my tongue in its furnace like heat.  I think I eventually blacked out, for when I next opened my eyes I was gulping air into my starved lungs and my lover was slowly working his way down my body, leaving a trail of stinging bites that made my cock harden even more. I started to moan at the pleasure he was wringing from my flesh, those magic fingers and tongue and burning lips consuming me as they made their way round my body.

His mouth was so hot that I screamed when he swallowed my cock, the ecstasy I felt too much even for me. I came after two strokes of his tongue, falling down an abyss that left me lying like a broken toy, every joint disconnected and the flesh melted from my bones.
When I was able to open my leaden eyes, stupid with pleasure, he glittered above me, his burnished skin reflecting light like polished amber, and his eyes were deep black holes in his face, full of molten desire and need.  I had just enough strength left to open myself up for him and he sunk between my thighs, his slick cock plowing into me slowly but relentlessly, so I could feel it as it filled me up and became part of me.

I had thought myself incapable of feeling anything more pleasurable  than his mouth bringing me off, but he had not finished with me yet.  SoonI was pumping my hips, eager to feel his plunging cock setting my insides on fire.  The heat of his lovemaking branded me everywhere, inside and out.  I knew no one else would ever again touch my body, for he was making it his forever. And I was determined to make him mine.

My hands left their own trail on his flesh and I held him to me with my legs round his waist trapping him inside me, my body wrapped around him possessively, thinking, you're mine now, mine, mine, mine.

I didn't realize I was chanting it aloud until he husked a breathless laugh and said, "As you are mine, now and always, little brother." Then his pumping fist and burning cock sent me over the edge again, my ears full of his triumphant roar as he emptied himself inside me, while I sunk into a deep, dark pool and knew no more.

When I came to, his head was resting on my shoulder, and he was idly drawing patterns on my chest, his body half-lying on me, relaxed and warm.  He was always so warm.  And clean, he was the cleanest person I had ever known.

"Do you always pass out little brother?"

"Only when my lover is Ares."  The answer pleased him a lot, for he smiled without sneering or smirking, a genuine open smile, another first here.

"Hm, I suppose I can get used to it then."

"You'd better if that's how you always make love."

"Only when my lover is Hercules." It was my turn to smile, in fact I felt like cheering.

"Then I suppose I can get used to it too." He lifted his head and looked at me, black eyes liquid with emotion.  I didn't want to name it for fear of losing it somehow.  But I knew what he felt, and my eyes were full of the same. We didn't say the words though, not then or much later.  It would take death to make us say it, when it was nearly too late.

So Ares and I became lovers.  We had come a long way in that year, so far that at times I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  I know he felt the same way for I would catch him gazing at me sometimes ,a look of perplexed wonder in his eyes, as if he didn't quite know how he had got here, though he was happy to find himself in this place we had created for ourselves.

We continued to keep it our secret, happily playing out the comedy of warring siblings and fooling the rest of the world. It gave us the chance to fight without quarreling, taking out of our relationship some of the inevitable conflict that arose between the two of us. And if our punches were not as hard as they could be, and the fights were  all acrobatic show with little substance, we were the only ones in on the secret and we had great fun doing it.

We took our time learning about each other as lovers, for  neither of us were big on the communication front.  Ares was surprisingly reticent for such a supposedly extrovert and exuberant person, while I was even worse.  So often we would say with our bodies what we couldn't bring ourselves to put into words.

Our lovemaking was never less than overwhelming, we put so much of ourselves into it. All the intensity of our feelings, not to mention our very passionate natures, brought it to such a pitch that I would pass out from it, and Ares would actually achieve a peace that he could not get any other way.  Not even the most violent battle could give him the same release.  We were totally hooked on each other,  and our loving brought us closer together, a meshing of selves on so many levels we ourselves were unaware of how far and how deep it went.

He did teach me to communicate with him mentally, and very useful it was at times when we needed to talkbut were on public display, supposedly deadly enemies. Sometimes he would send me a joke right in the middle of a confrontation, so I would find it really hard to keep frowning aggressively when all I wanted to do was laugh my head off.  Dreadful tease, my brother Ares.

We never talked about being faithful either, the issue was just not an issue for us.  There was no room in our lives for any one else, we gave so much of ourselves to each other, the intensity of our feelings simply excluded the rest of the world.  Oh, I still loved my mon, her death hadn't changed that and I loved my brother and Iolaus. He still had the strange love-hate relationship with his daughter Xena, but simply put, no one else could satisfy the hunger and need we felt, except each other.  We matched somehow and however unlikely it might seem.

Iolaus' return from the dead did nothing to change this except we were more circumspect and didn't spend as much time together.  But even that got better when Iolaus and Iphicles got together. Surprised me no end, I can tell you.

I know many believe that Iolaus and I were lovers.  Some even believe that Ares stole me away and poor Iolaus had to do with my brother as some kind of second best.  Not true, and an insult to everyone concerned.  Iolaus is very dear to me and always will be.
But he's never been my lover and he has never wanted to be.  We practically grew up together for Hade's sake.  He's more my brother than Ares, though we share no blood bond. And he has had a ringside seat view into my life and what makes me tick, and believe me, it's more than enough as far as he's concerned.  He definitely doesn't want me in his bed too.  I'm not every one's favorite, you know. I can be hard to take.  Yeah, yeah, I'll give you a medal or something when I finish this. It's him again, my lover, agreeing wholeheartedly with that last comment.  I know how much he loves me so I'm not bothered. Ha! didn't think I'd have the guts to say it did you!

To get back to Iolaus, he and Iphicles had never interacted much, probably because of my problems with my brother.  I seem to have this thing with all my brothers don't I, but I do get to resolve them eventually so I must be doing something right in the end, I guess. So anyway, Iphicles was king of Corinth and no longer just Hercules' brother and it helped him to view me more kindly.  So we began to see more of each other, and it was easier for me to spend time with Ares if Iolaus was occupied at court.

 A hint in my brother's ear that it would be nice to keep Iolaus busy and safe, he had died so many times because of me that it was getting embarrassing, you know, and Iphicles found him all kinds of useful things to do around the kingdom.  Meanwhile, I would disappear and do my thing and be back, courtesy of my lover, before any one missed me. Well, mostly.  Eventually Iolaus cottoned on to the fact that tales of my latest exploits were running around and I was supposed to be in Corinth all the time they were happening.  He's no fool and I hate to deceive him, so I gave him part of the truth.  I told him that Ares and I had come to an understanding and I gave him a hand in exchange for letting me mitigate, that's a good word for it, mitigate the worst of his wars. Or something like that.  As I say, Iolaus is no fool and he knew there was more to it than that, but wisely decided not to push.  After all, he had his own little secret.

Of course, it was Ares who pointed it out to me.  I can be blind as a mole in some things.  I commented one night to my lover how happy I was that Iolaus and Iphicles seemed to get on well together, and his smirk was so blatantly knowing, that I knew something was up.  But the teasing sod wouldn't tell me, not even when I tickled him until he was a  helpless puddle of giggles.  So I gave it up as a bad job and made love to him instead.

However, I made a mental note to watch that pair very closely from then on.  Of course, it was obvious once I knew to look. They were clearly smitten with one another, and just about everyone but dumb Hercules had seen it.  I never said I was smart, just strong, OK?

What I didn't understand was why they were keeping it a secret from me.  Did they think I would disapprove? Ares again gave me the vital clue. Brawn and brains, we were definitely a good combination.

It was Iphicles who was worried, thinking I might view it as an attempt on his part to steal my friend away.  Something to do with the time he pretended to be me or something.  How did Ares know anyway, it certainly wouldn't have occurred to me.  He always had much more insight into people's minds and hearts than I ever will, however long I get to live. Once again, it had something to do with knowing what motivates people to behave the way they do, very necessary knowledge to a war god,  or so he said.  He had so many unexpected skills that I had never imagined him possessing, and he didn't think them anything special, just something he did. He was amazing.  I had it bad didn't I.

So, I confronted the pair and made it very clear how happy I was for them.  I could see that Iolaus was doing my brother a world of good, he had always needed some one to love and to bolster up his shaky self confidence.  I certainly hadn't helped there, but Iolaus could.  It was so nice to know two of the people I most cared about were happy, as happy as I was, and I didn't think my world could get any better.  It didn't.  Instead, things went very wrong.

Ares didn't tell me what was going on until it was too late, not that I could have done much about it really, but at least I would have been better prepared when it all exploded in my face.

Xena, it seems a surprising number of disasters involve that woman. I really wish Ares had never had her and though he never said so, I think he came to feel the same way.  After all, she brought about his destruction, so he was entitled to think so.

Apart from me, and this is not boasting mind you, after all she dumped me pretty damn quick after she had me, Xena had terrible taste in men.  I know Ares tried to steer her away from the worst mistakes, but good luck to any one trying to steer her away from anything she set her mind on.  It was beyond Ares anyway, which is how she came to have that daughter of hers. The Fates predicted she would bring about the downfall of the gods, which of course she did, though not in the way they thought it would happen.  Talk about self-fulfilling predictions!

My poor lover found himself in the middle, and popular with neither side, as always. I don't know why he bothered, both sides were set on a confrontation and he was just in their way. But he would also never give up, however often he got smacked down for his efforts, so I supposed it was all inevitable.

The story of how it all came about is well known so I'm not going to bother hashing up the sorry tale again, but there are a couple of points that are often misinterpreted and I want to clear them up, once and for all.

For starters, I was there to support Ares, not Xena.  He had asked me to help him bring some sanity into the mess Zeus and Co had made of things, and I was more than happy to lend him a hand.  It didn't do any good of course, how could it, knowing what a pig-headed lot these people were.  It was worth a try, though.

Finally, Zeus issued an ultimatum and when Xena told him to go screw himself, he ordered Ares to kill her.  He refused of course. No way was he going to kill his daughter, however wrong headed, just on Zeus' say so.

It was then that Zeus turned on him.  He snatched his Sword of War, effectively rendering Ares mortal, and destroyed it before his very eyes.  Scarcely had we got over the shock, when he launched one of his thunderbolts at the defenseless Ares.  I was able to deflect it enough so that it didn't kill him outright, but to my horror, he was hit anyway and fell down with a scream of pain, badly wounded.

I don't really know what happened then, but when I came to my senses, Zeus was dead in my hands and the other gods were attacking Xena and Gabrielle. So, for the record, I killed Zeus because he tried to kill my lover, not because of Xena.  Got that?

I paid no attention to the battle going on around me, all I cared about was Ares and the fact that he might be dead.  He was still alive thanks the Fates, but not long for this world if I didn't do something fast.  I was not going to lose my lover, I didn't care what it took, he was not going to leave me, ever.

Careful not to worsen his injuries, I picked him up as gently as I could and carried him off the battlefield.  There was a grove nearby where I laid him on the shady moss carpeting that sheltered spot, and I wondered with growing panic what to do.  Ares came to with a groan of pain, the burns must have been agony, but at least he wasn't bleeding much.  One good thing about this type of injury, if there can be anything good about it.  Damn the old fucker, If he had been standing there I would have killed him all over again.  No, I had no regrets, none , only the wish that I had done it sooner.

"End of the road for me I think." His eyes were clear in spite of the pain, and he was looking at me clearly saying good bye.

"No, don't you dare leave me, please hang on lover don't give up yet, please Ares." I was crying though I didn't realize it until the tears fell on his neck.

"Herc, I'm dying and I'm mortal, there's nothing you can do."  He was so calm damn it. and I was breaking up inside.

"I'll think of something, please Ares I love you, I can't live without you, please hang on a bit longer, do it for me."

He smiled then that rare, sweet smile of his that no one else but me had ever seen.  Gods. I loved this man, AND I WOULD NOT LOSE HIM.

Then I had and idea.  It was a thousand to one shot. but at this point I would have tried anything that would save him.

"Listen Ares, I have a plan but I need you to stay alive until I get back.  I won't be long, I promise, but you must promise to hang on. Can you do that?"

Resting his head on my arm, he visibly gathered himself and then he whispered, "I'll hang on, I promise, but don't be long I don't want to go without telling  you that..."

"Tell me when I get back, then you will have all the time in the world." I hoped.

I kissed him softly on his bloodless lips then laying him gently on the ground, I took one last look before taking off at a run.  Luckily, the back entrance was near this grove, just as well, but at least the Fates had granted me that much.

I had been in Olympus often enough that I knew where to go without wasting time: Zeus' temple, and the only place where I might find what I was looking for.  The place was deserted, which suited me fine, they were all too busy killing each other elsewhere.

I found what I was looking for but there wasn't enough, at least I didn't think so.  They had obviously been having a meal before going to confront Xena, but they had eaten nearly all of it and only the dregs were left. I took the kantharus containing the biggest amount of ambrosia, a beautiful example of the potters art, but who cared, all I wanted was it's content, and drained all the others into it using my fingers to collect every drop I could. I didn't even think about it as I licked off the  drops dripping down my hands.  All I cared about was the fact that I scarcely had managed to collect a bare couple of mouthfuls.  It might not be enough.  So, careful not to spill any of the precious content, I made my way to Hera's temple, fortunately just next door.

Here my luck held out and I found not one, but three of the golden apples in a bowl. I picked one, then thinking better of it, I pocketed the lot.  One never knew when these might come in useful.

Now, all I had to do was get back to my lover and hope he would still be alive.

He was, just.  He wasn't conscious but came to when I put the rim of the vessel to his lips.  He automatically swallowed as I carefully poured every last drop into his mouth.  Then, I waited.  The change was gradual but visible.  Color began returning to his ashen cheeks and the burns began a slow healing.  But it wasn't enough, he didn't feel like a full god to me.  What if he were still mortal? I couldn't risk it.  So I broke the apple into chunks and started feeding them to him.  He was not going to die and leave me, ever.  I was going to make sure of it.

I patiently fed him piece by piece as he laboriously chewed then swallowed them, all the time staring into my eyes, his gaze both loving and amused.  Yes, I know it might be a case of overkill, but I was making certain, that's all.  Certain.

By the last piece, he was definitely well on his way to full recovery.  May be he wasn't a god, or not a full one, but he wasn't an ordinary mortal either. My lover was safe.

Slowly he sat up within the circle of my arms and rested there as I was reluctant to let go.  I had nearly lost him and the residual fear made me clingy. He didn't seem to mind, so every one was happy.

"How do you feel?" I knew he was just about fully recovered but he wasn't the same as before, I could see that.

"I feel....strange, kind of hollow, I don't know, different." He seemed so calm and relaxed, so unlike the Ares I knew.  He was different.

"Do you have any powers, can you tell?"

"Let's see." He looked at the bowl lying by his side and it obediently came to his hand. Then he concentrated and very slowly it filled up with wine.  Well, so far so good.

But when he tried to throw a fireball, nothing happened. Nor could he make himself invisible. Strike those off the list then.

"How about popping from place to place can you do that?" We were suddenly sitting a few feet away so that was all right, but no shower of sparks, no flash.

"What happened to the flash?"

"I don't know I guess it fizzled out, along with the fireballs." Well, he hadn't lost his sense of humor at any rate. He was beginning to look more like his old self, though still surprisingly relaxed.

"How about.."

"I don't know and right now I don't care what I can and can't do.  Tell me what happened instead.  I kind of lost track after the old goat zapped me." He was still the old Ares, wanting to know what was going on, probably already planning ahead, cooking up something.

I looked at him to see how he would take the news. "Zeus is dead."

"Dead?" He hadn't expected that.  He still thought he was in danger from the old dickhead.

"Yeah dead,  I killed him."  I blurted out, no other way of telling him.


"Because he was trying to kill you of course, I only wish I had done it sooner.  Sorry lover, but I never imagined he would turn on you like that."  He stared at me silently, his eyes brilliant with some unnamed emotion, then he hid his face against my neck, his shoulders shaking.  Gods, was he sorry the old man was dead?

I lifted his face to mine by the chin and saw that his eyes were brimming with tears, but not of sorrow.  My darling lover was laughing his head off.  What a relief!

"What's so funny then?"  I was glad the old coot was dead but I didn't think it was a cause for such hilarity.

"You, Zeus, the whole thing."  Seeing my puzzled expression, he brought himself under control, wiping his face on my shirt. Then giving me a quick kiss, he explained.

"The old man always thought I would be the one to kill him one day, his youngest son and heir.  Just like he had done to his father.  But he forgot that you were the youngest, didn't he.  He was so busy trying to use you against me that he forgot that little detail. And you killed him to protect me, of all people. Now that's irony for you, a real Greek drama." He was smiling at this but I could also see the bitterness, well who wouldn't be bitter.

I held him to me trying to comfort him, trying to wipe away thousands of years of slights and rejection. I couldn't possibly, only time could do that, lots of time, but we had that now.

Ares let me cuddle him to my heart's content, knowing I was comforting myself just as much as him.  He was a generous lover, incredibly patient with me at such times.  Never would have expected it of him, but he always surprised me.

"Well, I'm grateful to him for one thing at least."  I looked at him enquiringly.

"He made you for me, though this is not what he had in mind."  So true, and so fitting that something this good should have come from such a dark intention.  The Fates had a wicked sense of humor, that's for certain.

We sat there in each other's arms, happy to be together after all that had happened. Every time I thought of how I had nearly lost him a shudder would shake my body and I would instinctively tighten my arms around him.  He knew what I felt, he always knew, and would soothe me with a kiss or a caress, while he came to terms with it himself, taking internal stock of the changes within him, and what it might mean for our future.  I just enjoyed having him in my arms.  He's the thinker in our partnership, not me.

Eventually he drew upright gently disentangling himself from me.  Time to face the music I suppose, we couldn't put it off forever, much as I wanted to live in that moment. I had him with me, that was all that mattered, we would take care of the rest somehow.  Together.

We went back to see the outcome of the Xena versus the gods fight not knowing what to expect.  I couldn't bring myself to care greatly, it was all so pointless and no happy end possible either.

The battlefield was a mess, with smoking craters and dead bodies everywhere.  I recognized Poseidon and Hera, well, no great loss there.  She wouldn't be missing her apples that's for certain. There were others.  Everyone knows so I won't bother mentioning them.

I found Ares kneeling by Xena's body, she was still alive though looking the worse for wear.  The baby was alive too and I was glad about that.  It wasn't her fault that the adults were such fools.

He looked kind of sad, after all, this was his daughter, and he was responsible for her if only for passing on so many of his traits to her.  Stubborn, aggressive, and so on.  Pity he hadn't passed on more of his intelligence and sense of humor, she was sorely lacking in those, but then so was I. I had him to make up for my lack though.
She had Gabrielle.  Need I say more?

So he healed her.  He could do that it seems.  Then he healed Gabrielle.  I suppose he did the right thing there, Xena needed her, however annoying the blonde might be.  She was no Iolaus, more's the pity, but Xena found something in Gabrielle that no one else could give her; so Ares gave his daughter that gift.

It was sort of funny watching those two coming to terms with the fact that Ares had helped them, still reluctant to see him as anything more than the hated enemy.  I lost my patience then and told Xena in no uncertain terms how much she and her daughter and her annoying side-kick owed to her father, yes father.  She was a bit shocked, but not as surprised as I thought she might be.  Gabrielle was, though.  She stood open-mouthed, looking from father to daughter obviously astounded.  Well it was time for the truth, I was tired of secrets.

I can't say there was a happy tearful reconciliation between those two, they are the way they are and Ares doesn't show his soft side to any one but me, not even to his daughter, it's just not his nature.

I have to respect that, after all I get the benefit of all his love, his gift to me, and I'm not really good at sharing anyway. When it comes to Ares, I'm downright possessive.  I'll happily share anything  I own, but not my lover.

Anyway they reached some kind of agreement.  She finally realized that she didn't have anything to fear from him.  In spite of everything, he would stand by her in his own inimitable way.  Moreover, I helpfully pointed out, he wasn't the god of war anymore so things were bound to be different.  This gave everyone food for thought. It was true, in the excitement of saving his life and everything I, all of us, had forgotten this very detail.  No, not all of us.  I could see by my lover's expression he had not forgotten, he had obviously been giving it some thought.  He was always streets ahead.  Of course, he was bound to notice the difference in himself, who better.  I told you I'm not the brainiest of people.  Well, I'm not.

I could see this changed things as far as Xena was concerned, I could see it in the way she looked at Ares, her eyes showing a speculative gleam, not hostile, more hopeful really.  May be things would work out between them after all.  Only time would tell.

Well, the upshot of all this was that we all ended up in Corinth.  I wanted to tell my brother and Iolaus and Jason what had happened.  Ares wanted to keep an eye on Xena, and Xena wanted somewhere safe to stay with her baby while she decided what to do next.  So there we were, one big happy family, kind of.

We finally let everyone in on our secret.  Well, now that Zeus was dead there didn't seem any more point, and I was tired of pretending.  He was everything to me and I didn't care who knew it.  He didn't care one way or another, but he was happy not to carry on with the pretend feud,  and it meant he could be with me openly, no more sneaking away.

Our friends and family took the news with varying amounts of surprise and approval.  Iolaus was the least surprised and the happiest with it too.  Well, he knew me better than of all of them and had noticed the changes in me. He knew how I had always yearned for a lover that could keep up with me, and even surpass me.  Someone that would not be leaving me because they were mortal and I was not.  So it was Iolaus who first welcomed Ares to the family and offered his friendship and support.

Ares for his part has never forgotten this, and he has this soft spot for my dear friend. They get on surprisingly well together, and they love to play their little jokes on the rest of us, they both have this weird sense of humor.  Yes you do, not that I'm complaining, well only when it's aimed at me. I haven't forgotten what you both did last week you know, nor has Iphicles, so watch out you two.

That first night together after all that had happened felt strange.
Like it was the first time, which it was really, for it was the beginning of something new.  We came together as if we were new lovers, tentative in our touches, exploring our bodies as if it were unknown territory.  Yet there was an urgency to our lovemaking that revealed our awareness of what we had almost lost.  As I swept hungry hands over his beautiful body, I would touch then kiss and bite and suck on every part that I loved taking inventory as I went. His strong neck, the sensitive nipples, that spot below the third rib, the hollows by his hipbones, the soft soft skin between his thighs, his fingertips. We would turn over and over, sometimes I would be on top sometimes him, desperately seeking to reclaim each other, leave our brand on our flesh, find our way back home.

He was first inside me, taking me from behind so he could wrap himself around me, his mouth biting down on my neck as if trying to consume me from both ends, driving into me over and over until he came with a groan.  He never touched my cock nor would he let me touch myself either but turned me over and impaled himself on it so that I screamed with ecstasy, my back arching like a bow and nearly throwing him off.  But he hung on, and then let me go wild, riding out my lunging hips, my hands gripping his hips so I could drive my cock further in, all the way to his heart. We came at the same time with a roar that shook the palace walls, his come burning like acid on my stomach and chest, it was so hot. I emptied myself inside him till I was nothing but a husk, everything I was left in him.  Then I passed out.  It was always this way with us and remains so to this day.

And that's the end really, nothing more to tell.  What? Well, I suppose I should.  He thinks I should tie all the loose ends,  give you some closure.  OK then ,here goes.

What happened to the gods, well you know not all of them died. Dite and Cupid and Hephaestus are still around.  There are some others but I don't have much to do with them. Ares got them all together and reorganized them into a new pantheon,  a much more business like and responsible lot who took their jobs seriously and didn't play around with us mortals as their toys.  Ares is their de facto leader though he's not a full god, more like nine-tenths but no one seems to care.  He's the brightest of the lot and the best organizer so what he says goes.  I'm his helper and funnily enough, so is Xena. Actually we all help, Iolaus and Iphicles too, strange huh? All the old enemies are now working together.  Things have really changed.

There's no war god, actually there's no god of this or that, though they like to take special interest in certain aspects, like Aphrodite and everything to do with love, all kinds of love not just the one to do with sex.  She's surprisingly good at it too. Who would have thought.

Ares still likes to act behind the scenes, organizing and coordinating everything from trade to education, but he prefers to let others carry out his plans.  It works out fine as Xena and Iolaus, and specially me, prefer the doing and some one else to do the planning.

Xena has mellowed a bit, not much but some, bringing up a daughter has had an effect on her.  We all take turns at baby-sitting, even Ares. He likes being a grandfather I think, certainly those two get on like a house on fire.  It's my belief he's giving this child everything that he couldn't give to Xena.

You may be wandering what I did with those two other apples. I did ask Ares about Xena but he said she was taken care of. He meant she was like me.  He told me they were my apples to do with them what I wished, so I did. Well, it's obvious isn't it, I gave them to Iphicles and Iolaus.  They weren't sure at first, I made the mistake of offering it to them separately so each one thought the other would eventually die.  I know, I know, dumb of me.  Luckily, Ares saw what was happening and got me to talk to them together. So now I won't lose them either.

The old woman who started it all.  I never did find out who or what she was.  Ares and I have speculated endlessly but we still don't know.  May be it was Gaia. May be some other being no one has heard of.  I promise I didn't invent her, honest.

Oh yeah, the ambrosia.  It did affect me of course, I was half a god and I suppose I'm two-thirds or something now.  Funnily enough I can throw fireballs, and move much faster than any human.  They've come in useful in their time I can tell you.

Right,  that's all. Have you got it all down?  Good, let me know when I can have a copy.

What? yeah, that's it. I've said my piece, what more do you want?. You want me to what? say some final words of wisdom!! Me? Look Ares this is Hercules, you know, that Hercules who can't sit through a play unless it's really short and full of action.  This is not Homer or Euripides. You want a fine poetic ending, you write it yourself but don't....mphmmm.  Ares! we're not alon.....mmm. Gods don't stop, yeah just there Ahhhh........

Here endeth the True Story of His Life as recounted by The Great Hercules, Hero and Demi-God,  Defender of the People, Lover of The Feared Lord Ares, who is Leader of the Gods, Protector of Greece former God of War and Father to Xena the Godslayer.

The End