“I warned you Hercules, if you hurt him one more time that I would take him away from you!”
“You can’t have him, he’s mine!”
“It’s too late for that little brother. I’ll leave the final decision up to him, but I swear to you, touch him again without his permission, and not even Zeus' protection order will be able to save your ass."
Ares disappeared in a puff of blue fire as Hercules made a roaring lunge at him.
Iolaus sat on a tree stump in the middle of an open glade in the woods considering his next move. He couldn’t stay with Hercules anymore, that much was certain. But where else could he go? Maybe back to his forge in Thebes? No, that’s the first place Hercules would look for him. He let out an agonized groan as he buried his face in his hands, holding back a flood of tears. “How in Tartarus did this happen?” He was startled out of his reverie by a hesitant voice.
“Iolaus?” Thinking Hercules had somehow managed track him, he jumped down off the stump and hit the ground in a crouch, ready for a fight when Ares materialized in front of him. “It’s OK, it’s just me.”
With no Hercules around, his response to the War God was one of curiosity as opposed to animosity. “What are you doing here, Ares?”
Ares smiled. “Never one to mince words, huh?” His smile grew as he was rewarded with an answering smirk from the hunter. “I have a solution to your dilemma. Come with me to Olympus.”
Iolaus snorted. “What would I do on Olympus? I’m sorry Ares, but I’d make a lousy court jester.”
“I don’t doubt that.” Ares took a deep breath and motioned for Iolaus to take up his seat on the stump again. This was obviously going to take some time and careful persuasion. After Iolaus had settled, he continued. “I need your help. With Strife gone, Discord has taken up his official duties as the God of Mischief, but she’s not very good at it. Also, there’s no one to fulfill Strife’s old unofficial duties of helping me.” He paused at seeing the momentary flash of sadness that passed over Iolaus’ previously unreadable face. “You miss Strife, is that it?” Iolaus nodded slowly. “I’ll trust you with a secret. He’s not really dead.” Iolaus’ jaw dropped, but Ares continued before he could say anything. “We had to make Callisto believe that the hind’s blood dagger was real, so Strife faked dying. He’s actually taking on a new role as the God of Fear. Aphrodite’s working his makeover, so naturally he’s blond now, and not quite so pale. I can take you to see him later if you decide to come with me. But the point is, I need you. I’m asking for your help.” Another deep breath. “Be a god Iolaus, be my counterpart.”
Iolaus looked down for a good length of time and finally whispered “Could you…could I have till tomorrow… to think about this? So much has happened lately…” He took a deep breath and managed to regain his composure and looked the god in the eye. “I don’t want to rush into this; I need some time to think.”
Ares could see how soul-weary and broken the hunter was. His eyes said it all. Without breaking eye contact he spoke as reassuringly as he could. “I’ll be back here tomorrow at noon. If Hercules finds you, call to me. I’ll hear you.” And with that, disappeared to leave Iolaus with the biggest decision of his life.
When Ares materialized before him, Iolaus was sure of his decision. He’d spent the entire night going over his entire life. The decisions he’d made, the path his life had taken, everything. He had agonized over whether or not he had the strength to leave his life behind, his family and friends, and outlive them all. But most of the night was used up thinking of the best friend of most of his life. Hercules. The demigod had been the deciding factor in his decision. And now he had to inform the war god.
“Have you decided?”
Iolaus noted that he looked apprehensive… almost worried. He regarded the god silently for a moment, then walked towards him, closing the distance between them. He stopped less than an arm’s length away and lifted his eyes to meet Ares’. A slow, honest smile later: “When do we leave?”
Iolaus almost blushed as Ares’ smile put Helios’ horses to shame. “Don’t look so happy, you have no idea what you’re in for. I’m quite a handful,” he warned.
Ares would have loved to get a handful. “Granted, but you don’t know what you’re in for either shorty.” He ignored Iolaus’ bristle and continued on. “The ceremony will be held at my temple in Thrace. Since I can’t just zap you there, we’ll have to walk. It’ll take about a day to get there. Think you can make it, mortal?” The last was said with a decidedly evil grin.
Iolaus returned the look. “Just try to keep up War God.” With that, the two were off. The seemingly mismatched pair laughed and argued their way easily along the road to Thrace. As the full moon began to rise, Ares decided that it was time to make camp. He didn’t really need the rest, but Iolaus did whether he thought so or not. The hunter kept complaining that he wasn’t tired, to which Ares replied that he was simply running on adrenaline. Iolaus finally conceded, and let Ares start a fire. Iolaus marveled at the fire raging before him, burning with no wood. “It’s still a little unbelievable that I’ll be able to do that pretty soon.”
Ares smiled. “I won’t kid you, it might be very slow going at first, but I’ll teach you how to use your new powers fully.”
Iolaus looked puzzled. “I thought anyone that ate ambrosia automatically knew how to… do things. Didn’t Callisto and Velasca start shooting fireballs at each other almost right after they ate the ambrosia?”
“They did, but fireballs and increased strength are easy. There are other powers that take time and patience to learn to use. Not even Strife or Discord know how to use everything they have.”
“Is that why there’s going to be a ceremony? Because I’m going to be taught how to use everything?”
“Well, some of the other gods are going to have to give you up for this to happen. I need their consent to make you a god. Besides, there’s one more little detail. “Did Leandra ever tell you about her mother?”
Ares could barely stifle the laughter that threatened to erupt. “Have you ever noticed a similarity between you and another member of the Olympian family?”
At the hunter’s shake of the head, Ares stroked his beard thoughtfully and regarded the hunter with appraising eyes. “Let’s see… curly blond hair, shockingly expressive blue eyes, a body to kill for, a stubborn streak wider than the Aegean, knack for causing trouble, an immense libido with ardent worshippers all over Greece…” He wasn’t able to continue. The fact that Iolaus hadn’t even considered the similarities between himself and the Goddess of Love was incredibly funny to him. He had rolled into the grass holding onto his stomach, letting out guffaws loud enough to be heard miles away.
Iolaus didn’t seem to see the humor in their situation. He ranted indignantly. “I can’t believe you! I just find out that the Goddess of Love is my great grandmother, and you’re laughing your ass off! Just what is so funny about this?!”
He managed to cease his laughter long enough to wipe the tears from his eyes. “You fucked her, didn’t you? You had sex with great-grandma! It makes perfect sense, why else would you be so bothered?”
“I most certainly did NOT!!!” Iolaus’ angry gaze turned to the fire as Ares recovered himself. He was just about try and fake an apology when he heard a smothered snicker coming from Iolaus.
“We did spend about five minutes trying to suck each other’s tonsils out once.” Blue eyes met brown. A moment later, dual howls could be heard for miles around.
Iolaus finally settled facing the roaring fire and announced that he needed some sleep so his split sides could heal. Ares had believed him asleep when Iolaus spoke. “I don’t know if I can really do this.”
The reply came without hesitation. “Sure you can. Being a god’s easy as cake, even a little guy like you could do it. The hours suck, but the pay is great, and the benefits rock. Besides, I wouldn’t have picked you if I didn’t think you could handle it.”
Iolaus opened his eyes, and threw a sleepy, but blazing smile at Ares. “Thank you. I won’t ever let you down, I swear it.” With that he closed his eyes. “Goodnight hairy.”
Ares was floored. He thought he would have to convince Iolaus of his sincerity, but he had obviously underestimated the hunter’s perceptive abilities. The dark god smiled wryly, wondering how long he could keep his hands off the golden beauty sleeping so trustingly beside him. It would be so easy to take him now; however, no easier than it would have been at any other time in the mortal's life. But he had never taken anyone without permission, certainly not anyone he actually loved. If he wanted Iolaus in his bed, he’d have to be patient, especially after what happened with Hercules. He had always believed his half- brother to be a fool, but that he could hurt Iolaus so badly was unforgivable. Betrayal of that magnitude was an unforgivable sin in his book. Almost on cue, Iolaus tossed in his sleep, moaning at some unseen enemy to stop. Ares lay down behind the shaking man and wrapped an arm around his waist, pulling him back. The warrior unconsciously relaxed into the hard che!
st at his back and fell back into an exhausted sleep. Ares nuzzled the soft curls against his cheek. His half- brother was definitely going to get a good ass-whooping for daring to hurt his chosen mortal. But as soon as the hatred had come, it fled as Iolaus snuggled even closer into Ares’ embrace. And he knew. His warrior would never leave him. No matter what.
Iolaus awoke shortly after daybreak to the smell of an assortment of rich foods, including a couple of fat, spitted rabbits (his favorite). He looked around the campsite, and upon seeing no Ares, called out to him. It was then that he noticed a piece of parchment tacked to a tree a few paces away. The note read: “I know what you’re thinking, and yes, yesterday was very real. I’m getting things ready for your arrival at the temple. Have something to eat, then take the horse and ride here. I’ll be waiting for you. –Ares.”
Iolaus looked up in time to see a fully saddled, beautiful black stallion enter the clearing. And that was all it took. His curiosity and patience were both piqued. He made a mad dash for the fire to douse it and be on his way. The task was half completed when he noticed a second piece of parchment resting beside a flask of wine. He picked it up and began to chuckle, resignedly. There, in big bold letters: “I thought I told you to eat something shorty. It’s a long trip.”
Iolaus’ early eagerness had transformed into nervous anticipation as he neared the temple at dusk. He would have gotten there at noon if it hadn’t been for that blasted horse. Iolaus realized a little too late that Ares had programmed it to take a long, round-about route to the temple. Eventually, the warrior just gave up on trying to steer the stallion in the proper direction and decided to walk. He shifted his weight to jump off, only to receive quite a large zap on his butt. He gave up after that and let the stallion carry him.
He took a deep breath before approaching the great wooden doors. He wasn’t surprised when they opened to him. Beyond the doors was a long, elaborately decorated hall. Torches illuminated the great hall’s smooth, black marble columns with an eerie glow. A great, empty throne stood at the end of the hall behind a raised altar. A gulp resounded loudly as Iolaus realized who the altar was for. He started as two darkly clad priests emerged from the shadows. They smiled and bowed deeply. “We’ve been honored with the task of preparing you for your ascension to godhood. Please come with us.”
Iolaus smiled at the formality of the priests. He’d probably never get used to it he realized. They led him into a large, completely decked out bedroom, complete with an oversized four poster bed a large golden bathtub filled with warm, rose scented water. Iolaus was still surveying the room when he felt hands removing his vest. Before he could even open his mouth to ask, one of the priests began to explain. “All we’re going to do is bathe you and get you into more… suitable clothing.” Iolaus opened his mouth to protest the slander of his favorite outfit when the now grinning priest once again silenced him. “You must not speak until the ceremony is completed. And don’t worry. Ares gave us special instruction regarding your medallion. We won’t touch it.”
Satisfied, Iolaus gave himself over to their ministrations. They stripped him and bathed him, gently and quite thoroughly in the large bath. By the end, Iolaus was actually relaxed. After the bath, he was dried off and dressed in a long, flowing, black silk robe with a high collar and buttons down the front. It reminded him of his travels in the East, and he was sure Ares had something to do with that. Knowing that Ares was looking out for him seemed to put him at ease. At just about the time Iolaus decided he was ready, the priests announced that it was time. They escorted Iolaus back into the hall to stand before the altar facing the hall, bowed deeply, and left him. Alone. And then, a blinding flash of light. Before him in a semicircle around the altar stood half the pantheon of gods: Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, Artemis, Athena, Apollo, and Hades. Aphrodite grinned madly, scrunched up her nose in that cutesy manner of hers and did her little finger wave at him. Artemis elbowed her and Iolaus could have laughed out loud at the glaring match that ensued.
A deep, booming voice behind him signaled the beginning of the end of Iolaus’ days as a mortal. “I’ve brought you all here because I need your permission to immortalize Iolaus as one of mine.” Ares moved down off the dais that held his throne. He crossed around the altar and stood directly behind Iolaus, who hadn’t moved a muscle since the priests left him there. “Aphrodite, he’s your descendant and has arguably spread more love than your son. Hephaestus, he served you as a blacksmith, Hermes as a thief and as a traveler, Artemis as a great hunter, Athena as spreading wisdom far beyond his years, and Apollo as being a light to all. Hades, this act wrongs you more than anyone. He will never permanently grace the your realm. Does anyone refuse consent?”
One by one, they all gave permission. Iolaus felt strong arms around his waist, lifting him easily and laying him on the altar. He looked up to find Ares looking down at him. In his mind he heard ‘You ready for this shorty?’
He put on his best look of exasperation and thought as hard as he could ‘Of course I am, you big hairy ape.’ He could have sworn that Ares rolled his eyes.
The god gestured and a bowl of Ambrosia appeared in his hand. He extracted a bite-sized piece and pressed it to Iolaus’ lips, which parted instantly. Iolaus swallowed the sweet gift, savoring the honeyed flavor. Ares backed away just as Iolaus cried out and convulsed at the bolt of pain that rent his body. The hunter turned and locked pleading eyes with Ares, who stood just out of arm’s reach. His eyes closed with the next convulsion, and Ares visibly relaxed at being free of that tortured gaze. He glanced up to see Aphrodite watching the exchange intently. She was the only one who knew of his feelings for the now writhing warrior, but Ares swore her not to do anything about it. After she had figured it out, he cornered Cupid on Olympus. By the time Aphrodite had arrived at her son’s urgent pleading, he was sitting on Cupid with an outstretched wing in one hand and a knife in the other. He threatened to clip Cupid’s wings if an arrow ever touched Iolaus ass. One agreed quickly and one agreed reluctantly, and Ares released a very angry Cupid, with no small amount of amusement.
Ares was brought back to the present as a bright flash of light signaled the end of the transformation. Iolaus was now curled on his side on the altar, struggling to rise. He was at the new god’s side instantly, helping him into a sitting position. He marveled at the physical changes. If Iolaus was beautiful as a mortal, he was stunning as a god. His unruly curls now fell about halfway down his back, and his body was somewhat… harder than it was before. The face that brought Ares so much pleasure was now devoid of worry lines, except of course for the little laughter crinkles around his eyes. His eyes. When they opened, Ares breath caught. He could have sworn that those eyes were even more piercing than they had been, if that were possible. He barely registered when the other gods poofed themselves away. “How do you feel?”
Iolaus opened his mouth to speak, but found himself fully evaluating the question. He hopped off the altar, looking at everything very intently. Ares watched, not even bothering to hide his amusement as Iolaus began touching things, picking them up, studying. At one point, he crossed behind Ares’ marble throne and hefted the entire thing into the air with ease. Then he proceeded to twirl it on his index finger. After he set it down, he managed to answer Ares’ question. “I think I’m feeling… pretty damn good!” Both had a good laugh. “So, what do we do first?”
“First, we get you some new clothes.”
Before he could defend his well-worn purple vest and demand to have it back, Ares waved his hand, and Iolaus was clad in tight black leather pants, and a long sleeved black tunic made of some soft material Iolaus had never even seen before. It wrapped around his waist and tucked into his pants, leaving his chest and medallion exposed. “Well?” He asked a grinning Iolaus.
“Well, it is a little showy… but I like it! Looks good and comfortable. You should really start your own line of clothes Ares; you’re good at this.”
“Don’t tell me that ‘Sweetcheeks’ has a problem with showy!”
“Ok, so you have a point. Now teach me!”
Ares rolled his eyes in mock exasperation. “Where does all this impatience come from? Honestly, one would think you’d never been a god before.”
Ares ducked in time for a fireball to go soaring over his head.
Iolaus proved to be a quick learner. Within a week, his adjustment to godhood was almost complete. He had a little trouble with his transportation skills, so Ares arranged for a little motivation. He took a jaunt to Mt. Aetna and informed the Fire God that the new god was beginning to make advances on his wife now that they were in the same league. Ares then sent Iolaus a mental warning that he would have about a two minute head start before an irate husband ripped him to shreds. Before Iolaus fled, he managed to send back to Ares that some things never change. Hephaestus chased Iolaus all over Greece for the entirety of the day while a vigilant Ares enjoyed the proceedings from a distance. When he was satisfied with the amount of distance Iolaus was keeping between the Hephster and himself, he happily intervened. Hephaestus grumbled a bit before returning home about being used, but was obviously amused and impressed by Iolaus’ ability to evade him.
By the end of the week, Iolaus was beginning to show signs of fatigue, even as a god. Every time Ares brought it up, he would insist that all he needed was some more ambrosia and he’d be as good as new.
“It doesn’t work like that, even gods need sleep and rest!”
Iolaus was more exasperated than ever. “Maybe so, but there are still sooooo many questions that I need answered! And I could still use some more training!”
Ares answered by rolling his eyes and approaching his stubborn companion. “You have learned all I have to teach you, and no amount of training here is going to prepare you to use your strengths in the world. You command yourself beautifully on the battlefield, and not only do all my soldiers accept and worship you as a God of War, but also I think they like you better than me. You’re as good a fighter as I am now, in fact, you’re damn near unstoppable with that new sword, and I can answer all your questions away from here.”
Iolaus was grinning mischievously up at him from lowered lashes. “Did you just compliment me, Ares?”
Ares could have groaned at the sudden tightness in his loins, almost did in fact. “Yes, my dear shorty, I did compliment you. But don’t let it go to your head.” He disappeared.
Iolaus began to yell at the temple in utter frustration. “I HATE it when you call me that!!!! I’ve beaten men senseless for calling me short!”
A voice came out of nowhere. “You’re welcome to try, shorty.”
Iolaus ground his teeth together. “All right you hairy ape, where’d you go?”
With that, he disappeared as well.
When Iolaus re-materialized, he found himself standing next to Ares in a misty forest glade. It was incredible; he’d never seen its like. Before him stood a tall waterfall that fell into a large, clear blue pool of water. Lush, green foliage surrounded them, and Iolaus could feel the abundance of wildlife nearby. He was too overcome to speak, and so he reached out to Ares with his mind. ‘How did you find this place?’
Ares smiled down at him. ‘I won it from Artemis in a bet a few years ago. The wars we have going won’t need our attentions for quite some time, and I thought this might be a good place to relax for a while.’
‘And I thought you were all brawn and no brains.’
Ares rolled his eyes. ‘The dumb blond is criticizing my mental capacity. What’s next?’
Iolaus retreating form shed clothes at a rapid pace on the way to the pool. He disappeared and re materialized under the waterfall. ‘Are you coming?’
Ares involuntarily shuddered, but managed to keep it hidden. ‘I’d love to.’ He stripped and appeared near Iolaus in the pool.
Before Ares could question whether or not he could control himself this close to a very naked Iolaus, he was whacked with a wall of water. Not to be outdone, Ares hit back with one of his own. A vicious splash war ensued, and ended with both gods laughing breathlessly in between waterlogged coughs on a grassy bank of the pool. Iolaus was the first to recover. ‘You still need to answer a few questions.’
Both gods now lay on their backs taking in the warmth and stillness of the glade. ‘Shoot? Geez. Always so violent. Owww! Leggo my hair! Who are the bad guys? I mean, who’s got problems with you?’
Ares smiled ruefully. The guy had more loyalty in his little finger than most armies maintained. 'Well, none of the gods here are at odds with me enough to move against me. Discord is the most of our problems here. Believe it or not, she’ s still a little upset with you over the whole chicken thing.’
Iolaus’ musical giggles were audible now.
‘Nice to know that you feel a lot of remorse; all contrition I see! Anyway, the main threat comes from the other universe.’
‘No, Cupid. He managed to take over in his world, but he wants more, to rule both worlds. Greedy bastard. Killing me would be the first step to gaining control here. Well, he’s tried to pass through the portal three times. The second time, he actually made it through, but I managed to knock him back through into the in-between world, but I’m pretty sure he made it back to his world. The guy’s a good fighter, extremely dangerous.’ He felt Iolaus tense.
‘I don’t know, I just got this… bad feeling when you started talking about him. You said the hind’s blood dagger thing wasn’t real, can he kill you?’
‘Yes he could, but I could kill him too. It’s like what happened with Cronus and Uranus. The Sickle that Cronus used was forged by Gaea, and he used it to hack Uranus to pieces. Olympians could do the same thing to each other; it’s the only weapon strong enough to kill a god. I, Zeus, Demeter, and Hermes are know where it is, no one else. For added protection, it can only be retrieved by a mortal hand. Pretty ingenious if you ask me. Anyway, that’s why we had to keep up the illusion of the hind’s blood. Whenever a mortal wants to kill one of us, they spend their lives hunting down a weapon that doesn’t even work, and none get as close as Callisto did. A god has the power to kill another god, but it is strictly forbidden here. Probably in Cupid’s world too, but I’d bet that he threw that rule out. How else would he have gained power? My turn.'
'You got three questions, I get three questions. It's only fair. You wouldn't want to be unfair, would you?'
Iolaus signed theatrically. 'Fiiine, whaddya wanna know?'
'You're not dealing with what Hercules did to you, are you?'
He forced a nervous chuckle. 'What kind of question is that? Don't you want to know something interesting?'
'This is holding you down, therefore it interests me. Answer the question.'
Iolaus sat up and began to speak, obviously agitated. "You saw what he did! The guy was my best friend for most of my life, or so I thought. Am I dealing with this? Of course not, I don’t even know how. Next question."
Ares joined his companion who was now staring at a fixed point in the waterfall. "Do you trust me?"
No hesitation. "Of course I do."
"Then I can help you. If you’re strong enough to let me."
Iolaus finally met his eyes. "Alright. What do I have to do?"
“To get you over this, we’ve got to go back through your memories to bring them out.”
“Yeah. We’ll link minds; I’ll be with you. It will be painful, but the final result will be worth it. Still want to go through with it?”
“That was four questions.”
“Give me your hands.” Ares maneuvered them until they were sitting cross-legged facing each other.
“I'll follow where you lead, but you've got to take us there on your own.”
Iolaus nodded, determined to see this through. He felt Ares with him as he closed his eyes and began to de- construct the walls surrounding the worst day of his life. The present slipped slowly away as the past swirled around him.
“Isn't this what you've always wanted?”
Confusion. “Yes… No! Not like this. We are going way too fast here.”
Hercules was amused. “You've taken everything in your life at top speed. Why not this? Haven’t you been waiting almost half your life for me to want you like this? To take you as my own?”
“Of course. Well, maybe. But… I've never actually done anything like this before.” The hunter could feel the growing danger in his situation, but was unsure of what to do about it. Besides, he knew that Hercules would never really hurt him, especially not here. This was their favorite fishing hole since childhood. However, the demigod's mocking tone didn't do much to put Iolaus at ease.
“Iolaus the Stud from Thebes has never been with a man before. Is that it?”
“Well… yeah, can’t sleep with everyone in Greece.”
Hercules began to advance on him. “Don't you trust me?”
“With my life. Yes. With this? No way. You're not being very convincing here Herc. I've seen tamer looks on wild panthers.”
“Close your eyes.”
Iolaus snorted. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I am really hurt.” The demigod looked very sincere, but Iolaus knew better. He was calculating something. “After all we’ve been through together, you don’t trust me enough to something as simple and easy as closing your eyes?”
Iolaus rolled his eyes and finally closed them, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“Very.” Hercules quickly closed the distance between them.
The first touch of Herc's hand lacing through his hair completely unmanned the hunter. His jaw dropped, and the demigod pressed his advantage by capturing Iolaus' lips with his own.
Iolaus moaned as his arms locked around the Hercules' neck of their own volition. That first kiss, so long in coming, was beautiful.
I can't do this Ares.
Yes, you can.
Then, something changed. Hercules' grip tightened in his hair. That kiss became… violent. Iolaus tried to pull away, but it was like fighting a brick wall. So he clamped down on the invading tongue. The next thing he knew, he was flat on his back with a pressing weight across his chest, pinning him down on the hard ground. Even so, he
continued to struggle angrily. “What in Tartarus do you think you're doing?! I said I wasn’t ready for this! Let me go!”
Hercules’ voice was frighteningly cold. “No, you’ve been ready for this since we were kids.”
Iolaus gaped at the implication of the demigod’s words, and his struggles slowed. “You knew?”
“I’ve known since you found Xena and me together that day.”
The hunter’s anger began to give way to denial. “But… you never said anything! Why now? I… I don't understand this, you’re not like this. What’s going on here, what's wrong with you?!”
“We've talked way too much, it's time for action now. This is what you've always wanted, and I'm going to give it to you. Accept it, you can't fight me."
Iolaus watched in horror as he began to release the buckles on his pants.
He finally broke off. Had Ares not been holding him, he would have toppled over.
“I don't want to see any more.”
Ares was yelling now, and Iolaus' voice rose to meet it. “What did he do to you?!”
“He used me! He held me down and used me to… satisfy himself!”
“Not good enough. What… Did… He… Do?!”
“He RAPED me! My best fucking friend… I don’t even know why! Everything was fine… then it was like he turned into a whole different person… I don’t understand.
The despair in the eyes and voice of Iolaus cut Ares to the quick, but he knew that the end was near. “It's OK. Let it go.”
And Iolaus obliged. He gave in to all the pain engulfing and stifling his heart. Ares caught him as he fell forward. The harder the sobs became, the tighter the arms around him became. When the sobs finally ebbed into an exhausted sleep, Ares still held tight.
‘How do you feel?’
Iolaus took a deep breath and stretched lazily. ‘Much better. I’m still so angry though. I’m beginning to see how annoying that protection order is. All I want to do is make Hercules explain himself and then smash him into a wall. Something had to make him behave so horribly. I'll need to know what it was eventually, but that can wait for a little while.’
‘If you knew that a god had something to do with what he did, would it have changed your mind about becoming a god?’
‘No. I couldn’t stand to be around him, even if I did forgive. I still would have agreed.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course I’m sure! Gods, why do you ask such infernal questions?’
‘You're going to have to stop that.’
‘Exclaiming “gods!” at everything. You are one now, you might as well be saying “myself!”’
Iolaus broke out laughing. ‘OK, I see your point. I'll try to stop.’ Suddenly serious, he turned to Ares. ‘There’s something I have to tell you about last night.’
Expecting Iolaus to thank him, Ares rushed to tell him it wasn’t necessary, but was immediately silenced. ‘Tell anyone I cried, and I won't hesitate to kick your ass. Royally.’
Ares broke out laughing. ‘You must be feeling better to think you could beat me!’
‘How much longer till we need to be back?’
‘I figure we've got at most another day before Athena starts trying to take over my armies to test her little military strategies.’
‘Good. I've got one more question.’
‘You know, the way you're going, all my knowledge will be exhausted pretty soon.’
Iolaus sat up to look Ares in the eye with half a grin. ‘Not that there’s a lot of knowledge there in the first place. Ouch! Leggo my hair! Why are you helping me?’
A dramatic sigh. ‘I thought we'd been through this! If you're fishing for more compliments, you are outta luck, shorty.’
Iolaus chose to ignore the dig, for the moment. ‘Ares, I know you well enough now to know when you're hiding something. What is it? And I can feel you trying to worm your way out of this. The truth will be fine.’
“I taught you too well.”
“See? You're talking. This must really be freaking you out.”
“You know it doesn't have to be the way it was with Hercules, don't you?”
“Not really. Is that all?”
Ares released a deep breath that sounded of relief. He didn't actually expect to be let off the hook that easily. Nevertheless, Iolaus seemed to be relaxing back into the grass, so he let his guard drop. A little later, he was fast asleep. However, about an hour or so later, an insistent voice called him away from his rest.
Why didn't you tell me?
He came fully awake to Iolaus' intense gaze. His face was completely unreadable.
'Why didn't you tell me you were in love with me?'
'You couldn’t have been digging around in my head!'
'No. You were dreaming loud enough for any god to hear. I just listened. Now answer the question. I need to know.'
Ares finally gave up. He knew he couldn't lie his way out of this one; he remembered that particular dream very vividly. “I was afraid you would think that was why I had chosen you, and that I had caused that… caused Hercules to do what he did to get you away from him. And after all that, I didn't think you' d appreciate having another guy
trying to get you in bed. And besides, I'm really not very practiced with the whole ‘love’ thing, which is why I made Aphrodite and Cupid stay out of this because I felt like I needed to figure this out on my own, and-“
He was indignant. “I am Ares, God of War. I pillage, plunder, and cause mass destruction. I do not babble. I-“ He noticed that Iolaus hadn't moved an inch. ‘You're still trying to figure this out, aren't you?’
‘Do you want to be alone?’
Neither god moved or spoke for several minutes, until Ares' already too thinly stretched nerves snapped. “For the love of Zeus, stop staring at me and say something!”
“You really care about me.”
“And you're really never going to hurt me.” Ares knew that the last was not a question only because Iolaus was afraid to hear the answer. But he still needed to know, and he needed the truth.
“The truth? Yes, I’m going to hurt you plenty if you let me, and I guarantee that you'll enjoy every second.” Iolaus' impassive mask almost slipped into a grin, and Ares decided to go in for the kill. “I love you Iolaus, and I’ve never said that before and meant it like I do now. I’m probably not gonna say it very often, but you'll know. Can you let yourself love me back?”
Iolaus was in a quandary. He had forced this discussion knowing full well Ares’ feelings for him, and was determined not to give in to what he now realized they were both feeling. But he was faltering. He knew that Ares was revealing to him alone a part of himself that normally stayed hidden from the world, and that his complete honesty, given with no prompting, was a rare gem indeed. That was it. He didn’t know what he'd done to deserve this chance, but he couldn’t let it go. “You know, my mother warned me about people like you.”
Ares managed to release the breath he didn’t even know he’d been holding. “No she didn’t.”
Always one to jump into things with both feet, Iolaus snapped his fingers and grinned expectantly at Ares. 'Well? What are you waiting for, a written invitation?'
‘So are you. Take the hint.’
Ares endeavored desperately to ignore his rapidly filling cock. “You are not ready for this.”
Iolaus ran his tongue lightly over his top lip while raising his hand again. Before Ares could even form the question, he was flat on his back with Iolaus on his hands and knees above him. A curtain of long, golden curls hung about his face, and he groaned as Iolaus lowered himself enough to bring their bodies into full contact. ‘Ares, not only am I ready, but I need it. And so do you. Besides, if you turn me down, I’ll tell start spreading nasty rumors.’
Nevertheless, Ares flipped Iolaus off of himself and stood up, backing off. “The God of War is trying to be cautious and careful with you; you could at least pretend to appreciate the gesture!”
“I do appreciate it, truly, but it’s not necessary.” Iolaus remembered what he had seen with Ares and Callisto, and tried a different tack. He launched himself at Ares feet first, catching him off guard and knocking him backwards. He did a backflip and landed in a crouch on the ground. He managed to get in a couple of solid punches before Ares finally caught his hand in mid swing. He began a slow, sexy smile as he realized that it had worked. Ares’ breaths were coming very quickly, and the concern in his eyes had been completely replaced by desire. The heat from the dark god’s cock could have melted icebergs. He decided to add fuel to the fire, and moved in close enough to flick his tongue along Ares’ split bottom lip to collect the drop of blood that had formed there.
‘You are… way… too good at this.’
Iolaus was very pleased with himself. ‘I’m a quick study. It’s in the bloodline.’ He whispered into Ares’ mouth, “Take me. Now.”
Ares growled low in his throat and dropped them both onto the ground. He wasted no time in pulling Iolaus into a kiss. His tongue demanded entrance to that sweet mouth and was welcomed fully. A small hand buried itself in his thick curls, while the other swept lower down the broad back and locked around his torso, holding tight. He felt
the fires swirling, knew that Iolaus was falling into uncontrollable passion as he ground down against him.
Some part of his mind protested the speed of this first joining, but was quickly silenced as his Iolaus began to quietly beg for more. He unwrapped the arms from around his body and pinned them down above his head, taking over the rhythm. Iolaus was completely overwhelmed, and Ares was living for every second. He felt the young god nearing the edge, and latched onto an erect, brown nipple, and bit down. The body beneath his arched in a tight convulsion at this added stimulation and cried out, lost to the most intense sensations he had ever felt, his seed bathing them both. Ares quickly pulled himself away before he followed over the edge, and caught Iolaus’ hands in
his own as they reached out for him. ‘Patience. I’m not going anywhere.’
As comprehension dawned in the sex-drugged azure eyes, legs raised to allow this sacred access to his body. Ares wasted no time in dipping his fingers in a bowl of oil that had appeared at his side. With a control completely unknown to mortals, he carefully inserted a finger into the tight heat he so desperately wanted to bury himself in. The invading finger was clamped down upon almost immediately, but the muscles relaxed as Ares began to slowly rock the finger in and out. Iolaus screamed and began to thrust back against him as a fingernail scraped against a secret spot within him. “Gods! What are you doing to me!?” Ares chuckled and jabbed at it a few more times, enjoying the curses of frustration he inspired as he withdrew to liberally coat his now rock-hard erection with the sweet scented oil.
A momentary flash of panic hit Iolaus at the burning pain as Ares gently, but firmly penetrated his body. Ares felt him tense, and leaned forward to nibble at an earlobe, working his way slowly across the upturned jawbone. He continued his invasion slowly as Iolaus’ body began to relax again.
The dark god gave a ragged gasp as he felt powerful legs wrap around him to sheath his cock completely in the tight heat he had ached to possess for so long. The eternity he had waited for this moment seemed like nothing but a memory in the shadow of the molten, velvety heat surrounding him. Almost immediately, Iolaus was writhing and
crying out, needing something more. Ares answered by once again imprisoning his arms above his head and effectively pinning him with his body. Ares refused to be rushed, thrusting slowly in and out, almost completely withdrawing and slowly driving back in. He waited until Iolaus was begging for release before he liberated the strong arms and began to piston into the body before him without reserve. Iolaus grasped his own cock and began to pump it in time with the hard thrusts pushing him ever backwards on the soft grass. Both roared as climax consumed them, and they collapsed bonelessly onto the grass.
When Ares had sufficiently recovered, he drew Iolaus’ still trembling body to him in a close embrace. It was then that he noticed the tears. Horrified, he gently wiped them away, and urged his lover back to him. ‘I didn’t hurt you, did I?’ What if he really had moved too quickly?
Iolaus finally opened those eyes to meet a worried gaze, and rushed to reassure. ‘Gods, no! I think if I were still mortal the pleasure would have killed me. It’s just that… I didn’t think it was possible.’ He chuckled, as Ares’ relief was almost palpable. ‘You know, for an Olympian God, you worry a lot.’ He couldn't help it.
Ares gave a tug on an unruly curl as Iolaus sought his lips. A battle quickly ensued: Iolaus’ skill against Ares’ ferocity. Iolaus searched the god’s mouth for pressure-sensitive spots that inspired wriggling and further hardening of the cock still buried inside him while Ares employed a series of bites and deeply penetrating kisses. Both were
content to stay locked together until the world crashed down around them, but Iolaus was experiencing a growing nagging feeling, somewhere in the back of his mind. He finally groaned, pulled away, and shared the feeling with Ares, who just laughed. ‘Tell me that’s not what I think it is.’
‘Fraid it is shorty. Time to work for your godhood!’
“I don't get it. I took over for Strife; I should be God of Mischief. So why are soldiers praying to me? I thought that was your job!”
“Actually, we may have to find a new name for your position.”
Ares pulled sharply on his hair. “You have a few more responsibilities than Strife, and protecting soldiers in battle is one that you share with me. I figure you'd have a knack for it since you were a soldier, and you actually care about them.”
“Alright, alright. Will you wait here for me if I promise to bless and run?”
“Lookin’ forward to it, sweetcheeks.”
“You know, you really shouldn't use other people’s nicknames for me.”
Ares gave him an obscene leer and grabbed a handful of Iolaus’ creamy ass. “Yeah, well Aphrodite had no idea-“
Iolaus effectively shut him up with his mouth. After they broke apart, he grinned and disappeared in a puff of silver fire.
A sorely disappointed Ares didn’t have to wait long for a distraction. After only a few moments, he too was called from one of his other temples. Oh well, maybe he could beat Iolaus back to the glade.
A moment later, the glade was empty.
Iolaus was feeling pretty contented with the world. The soldiers who had called him were successful in their battle, and had kicked some serious Trojan ass. That wooden horse trick he suggested had worked like a charm, and brought a long and bloody war to an end. Everything was great.
Until he returned to the glade and found it empty. ‘Ares?’
He was worried. Ares should have answered him by now. A prickly chill rose over Iolaus’ skin, a totally new sensation. He had another one of those patented bad feelings, and those were never wrong.
First time for everything.
‘Cupid managed to open the portal and trap me in the other universe. I can’t get out of here; I need your help, now! Hurry!’
Maybe not. But that explains the weird, prickly thing.
This was obviously a trap of some kind. But something was seriously wrong. He sensed something that he never would have expected. Ares, his lover, was truly afraid. He wasted no time. Seconds later, he was taking a flying leap toward the open portal to the world of the Sovereign, and Cupid, God of War.
Ares was standing in his temple, mercilessly thrashing a few villagers for wasting his time. He was about to spurn their cries for mercy when he felt the familiar sensation that the opening of the portal caused. Believing that Cupid was coming after him again, he growled at the villagers to get out and called for Hermes.
When Hermes appeared, Ares started to issue his order, but Hermes immediately recognized the danger and silenced him.
“I’ve seen that look on your face before. I’ll go get my son; we’ll be right back.”
With that, he was off. Satisfied, Ares called on Iolaus.
Something must have happened to him; he would have been here by now otherwise.
A tall, dark-winged figure emerged from the shadows. “If you’re calling for the cute little blond, it’s no use. I’ve arranged for him to be… occupied. He’ll be no help to you, I’m afraid.”
Ares eyes coolly traced down the familiar visage of the other god. Shoulder-length, straight black hair in a ponytail, bare, muscular chest, tight black leather pants, and folded jet black wings. He wasn’t giving up Iolaus without a fight. “I have a feeling that he won’t be long in getting here.”
Cupid shrugged, non-committaly. “Don’t count on it. Were you looking for this?” The strong, gold-banded arms came around from behind his back. There, in his right hand was a long, gleaming, beautifully crafted sickle. He stretched those sleek wings to full span and sneered smugly at his opponent. “Are you ready to die?”
At that moment, a bright spark lit the room and Hermes appeared again, holding onto Autolycus. “Catch!” The two stayed only long enough for Autolycus to flip the object he was holding to Ares’ waiting hand.
He brandished the almost identical sickle and bared his teeth ferociously as he growled, “No. I’m ready for a fight. This ends here.”
Cupid’s smile receded into a like expression as Ares’ as the two gods roared and charged at each other at full speed.
Once on the other side of the portal, Iolaus focused in on Ares' location. In his world, it was the site of Zeus' main temple. When he arrived, it became apparent that Cupid had fully taken over, for the temple was erected to Cupid, not Zeus. It was a large, forbidding structure, made entirely of black marble. ‘Must be a War God thing’ Iolaus thought as he leapt lightly to the top of the tall staircase that led to the enormous wooden doors.
Hand securely wrapped around the hilt of his sword, he blew the doors off the temple with a thought and ran toward its interior. As he rounded a corner, he brought up short by a sight that froze the blood in his veins. Ares was naked, his limp body strapped to some type of metal chair beside the bed in a spacious bedroom. As he surveyed the rest of the room, he feared the worst, and the four manacles at each corner of the four-poster bed all but confirmed his fears.
He rushed to the side of his apparently unconscious lover. ‘Ares? Can you hear me?’
As he lifted Ares’ head, Iolaus realized what the trap was. This was not his Ares. If he headed out now, he might just make it back to his world safely. But this Ares would most certainly suffer for his actions, and his sense of honor wouldn’t allow this course of action.
‘Ares, you’ve got to wake up!’
No response. Time for drastic measures.
‘There’s a homeless kitten out here. It’s a good thing Cupid’s on his way to take care of it.’
Ares’ head snapped back so fast, it would have broken had he been a mortal. “No! Please, spare the kitty!”
Iolaus couldn’t contain his smile. “Nice to see you haven’t changed, Ares.”
The confusion in Ares eyes began to clear, giving way to a completely apologetic expression. “Iolaus! I’m sorry, but Cupid made me-“
“I know, it’s ok.” He had to silence Ares’ quickly. “No time. We have to get out of here. How do I release you? Is there any way you and I can open the straps?”
“We can’t. The chair only responds to Hercules’ voice. Besides, I’m too weak to help you anyway. The chair and manacles are designed to sap strength.”
“I take it you’re not talking about the Sovereign.”
“Normally, yes. But it was your Hercules that did this. The Sov had the chair and manacles made for his wedding to Aphrodite, but he never got to use them.”
“Did he hurt you”
Ares gave a weak smile when he picked up on what Iolaus was trying not to ask. “No, not like that anyway. But you need to know, your Hercules is working with our Cupid.”
Iolaus blanched. “Where’s Cupid now?” He held his breath, not really wanting to hear the answer.
“He’s in your world. He’s gone to kill Ares, and he figured it would be damn near impossible to get him if you two weren’t separated.”
Ohhhhh shit. This was bad. What if Ares needed him?
“Then we need to get out of here, now. I’ll bring the Sovereign over from his prison, he’ll set you free and we can get outta here. Is there any reason that won’t work?”
“I’d say there is.”
Ares squealed. And Iolaus didn’t need to turn around to know who spoke from the doorway. As he slowly straightened up, he steeled himself for whatever was coming.
“Hello Hercules.” He turned, one hand on his sword, and exuding a steely cold air. “Long time no see.”
Hercules has to know I’m a god. He must have some other way to get at me. Strike first.
Accordingly, he raised a hand and hit Hercules with a blast of energy, strong enough to knock the demigod against the wall and crumple him to the ground.
By the time Iolaus realized that the demigod had somehow managed to stay conscious, it was too late.
He gasped out a single word. “Pain.”
Iolaus turned as Ares’ shriek pierced the air. He was writhing uncontrollably as bolts of energy tore through him.
“Cupid added that little touch.”
“Stop this Hercules! Now!”
“Get on the bed, and I’ll release him.”
He turned back to face his enemy, face contorted into a snarl. “I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t I take you apart- piece by piece- until you release him?”
“Because you know I wouldn’t give in.”
He was right. Hercules would rather die than submit to anyone. But he couldn’t stand to let Ares suffer like this. By this time, the God of Love had almost screamed himself hoarse. Without even realizing he had made a decision, he walked over to the bed, unbuckled his sword belt, and let it drop to the floor. As he climbed up onto the bed, his mind was whirling. Maybe some good could come of this, if he worked quickly.
“I’m here. Now let him go.”
Hercules climbed to his feet and once again began issuing commands to the room. “Lock. Release.” Just as the chair released Ares, the manacles at the head of the bed snaked out to Iolaus’ limbs and locked around them. He pulled himself into a sitting position against the headboard. His strength began to fade almost immediately. He
looked up to see Strife, God of Healing materialize to help a nearly unconscious Ares to his feet. He used some of his swiftly flagging strength to convey a jumble of images to Strife. When the confused god looked to Iolaus for an explanation, Iolaus silently asked that he carry out the instructions to the letter.
Hercules looked on impatiently. “Get him out of here. Now.”
Strife flicked his eyes quickly back to Iolaus for a moment before he complied with Hercules’ demand.
Iolaus was now alone with Hercules, who had missed the entire exchange. He hadn’t dropped that cool, uncaring attitude. “Well? Now what?”
The rough manner in which Hercules was behaving finally dropped. “Relax, I just need to talk to you.”
Iolaus snorted and rattled at the chains holding him. “Yeah, that would have been my first guess. Well, it seems you have my full attention. So talk. Maybe you could explain what in the realm of Gaia possessed you to work with Cupid.” Iolaus turned so he was staring at a fixed point in the opposite wall.
Hercules brought a large chair from one side of the room to sit beside the bed, and took a deep breath before beginning to speak.
“When I woke up that morning, you were long gone, and I decided to look for you. I didn’t even make it out of the clearing before Ares appeared and informed me that he was ready to follow through on an old threat that you never knew about. After Serena died, he showed up. He said he knew that I had taken her and Xena to get back at him, and that he didn’t care. Then he warned me that if I ever hurt you again, he’d take you away from me, that I didn't deserve you.”
Iolaus was shocked to learn this, but he gave no outward sign of it. He also noticed that Hercules’ anger was rising.
“Did you hear what I said? He would take you away from me! I was so angry! First he takes part in killing my wife, and then he threatens to take you away.” Hercules took a deep breath again and went on after running his hands through his hair. “When we were on Olympus, he worked with Hera to try and kill Zeus and me. They’d hurt me so
much through my family, my friends, I don’t know. Seeing them working together was too much. Something inside me snapped. All I wanted from then on was to hurt them. Hera was gone, I couldn’t get to her, but I could still get to Ares. When I got back and saw you again, I knew exactly how to do it.”
Iolaus was completely blown away. Ares had been looking after him for that long? How could he not have known? It was then that he truly realized how badly Ares had been wronged. Nobody could hurt a god and get away with it, as Hercules had for so many years.
I’m not gonna let you get away with this, old buddy.
Frustration began to feed the demigod’s anger as he looked up to find that Iolaus had not moved an inch, still staring at the wall, appearing impassive and uncaring.
“Are you listening? I just told you that I hurt you just to get at Ares! I betrayed our friendship, your love, all for vengeance! Say something, damn it!”
Iolaus had his answer, now he needed to get back to Ares where he belonged. It was time to go to work.
“And it felt great didn’t it?”
“No! Of course not! I feel awful about what I did, I needed to tell you how sorry I am. I couldn’t find you after Ares made you a god. Cupid managed to contact me from the Sovereign’s prison through that pool, kind of like how I communicated with you, but he’s a god and he could actually talk to me. He told me of his plan to kill Ares, and I
agreed to help as long as I could speak to you. Don’t you see? I had to talk you out of this! Zeus can change you back, we can go back to the way it was!”
Iolaus snorted again. “Bullshit.”
“Gee, thanks for making me a god and giving me purpose and respect Ares, but I’d like to leave you and go back to the man that hurt us both now. No chance babe. Maybe you couldn’t handle being a god, but it fits me fine. As for your apology, you can shove it. You may be sorry now, but you can’t fake a hard-on. You’re just too much of a
self-righteous bastard to admit it. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, could you let me up? I’d really like to get back to Ares now; he probably needs my help.”
He snuck a peak at the demigod and was satisfied to see that he rage was just barely being contained.
“You will never, ever see him again. You belong with me.” Hercules ground out through clenched teeth.
Iolaus continued to push. “Oh, I beg to differ. You see, with you, I always felt bad about being myself. Wining, dining, fighting, and romancing while you look on with those disapproving eyes. With Ares, I don’t have to make any apologies for my behavior. Someone has a problem, I fry them. He’s the best thing to happen to me in my whole, deluded life with you. I get it. You slept with Xena and married Serena just to spite him. I was just the icing on the cake.”
“Stop it Iolaus!”
The god giggled and finally moved his head to look his captor in the eye. “Or what? Oh, never mind. I know. I can see it in your eyes. You’re remembering how good it felt to make me suffer. I’ll bet you’re hard just thinking about it.” He licked his lips and chuckled. “Holding me down, forcing your way into Ares’ unclaimed property, while he’s watching without being able to stop you; paying him back pain for pain. Quite a rush, wasn’t it? Face it Hercules. It felt good to give in to that dark side, to that violence and anger you keep repressed, so good.”
With a mighty roar Hercules stood and hurled the chair he had occupied across the room to shatter into splinters against the wall. A strong hand closed around Iolaus’ pale throat. “I just came here to help you! Why are you provoking me!”
“Because, you poor excuse for a life form, I hate you.”
Time to drive it home.
“And I love Ares. I’ll never leave him. Never.”
Iolaus heard a barely coherent roar before the room spun as pain ripped its way through his body. He managed to bite down on his screams, knowing this would enrage his captor even further. He began to have doubts about whether or not this would work, until he felt his pants being ripped off of his body. If he wasn’t in so much pain,
he could have laughed, as he often did after winning a final battle in a war.
Instead, he fought to hang on to consciousness. Thoughts of Ares were all that kept him from succumbing to the welcoming darkness that held sanctuary from the burning jolts racking his drained body.
When Hercules finally finished with him, he did giggle weakly through the pain. The spent demigod managed to demand what was so funny.
“Congratulations Hercules, you just raped a god. You can kiss that protection order goodbye.”
Hercules raised horrified eyes just in time for Iolaus to speak again.
“That’s right. For all the good you’ve done, the pain you’ve caused, and the people you’ve killed over the years, it’s all over for you. I hope your revenge was sweet enough to last you an eternity in Tartarus. Show yourselves!”
Strife and a grinning Sovereign appeared to the right side of the bed while a shocked Hercules rolled off to the left. The Sovereign was the first to speak.
“Nice to see you again Iolaus. About our deal.”
“It’s still good. Let me go and stay here with Hercules for a short time, and I swear to make you the God of War in your world.”
The Sovereign gave a wicked grin. “Can I hurt him?”
“Yeah, hurt him plenty. Just don’t kill him, that honor is reserved for me or Ares.”
Satisfied, he capitulated. “Deal. Release.”
Iolaus immediately began to move for the side of the bed, while the Sov decided just how to make his alternate suffer for his own pain. Iolaus was brought up short by a desperate and increasingly frantic voice.
“Iolaus, you can’t do this. We were best friends, all our lives, that has to count for something, I don’t deserve this! Besides, after all the times I’ve saved your life, you owe me.”
Iolaus chuckled bitterly, and kept his back to his one-time partner. “The best friend I knew- and loved at one time- died long ago. I’m not sure when it happened, but it did. You seem to have forgotten all the times you lived to fight another day because of me, but that is unimportant at present. However, you have a point, I owe you many things, all of which I fully intend to pay back. You will die, and you will suffer greatly before the end. But take comfort in the fact that history will not remember what you did to me; that torture will remain a secret from the world. I owe that to your mother. She loved me as a son and I will not disturb her peace. That is all the explanation and kindness you will get from me., and I’m sure Ares would be even less generous. And speaking of payback, I believe the Sovereign can take it from here. Goodbye Hercules. It really is time I moved on.”
As the Sov made a howling dive over the bed for a terrified Hercules, Iolaus rose unsteadily to his feet. Strife held out his repaired clothes and swordbelt, and transported them both to the open portal.
Iolaus paused before going through. “Thanks for your help Strife. My offer still stands, anything you want that’s in my power to give. Name it, and it’s yours.”
The taller blond god smiled and ran a finger across Iolaus’ cheekbone. “Just make sure that the next time you and Ares are in town, you’ll pay me a visit.”
“That’s a promise.”
A second later, Iolaus was through the portal, hoping that his strength wasn’t too depleted to help Ares. He didn’t even look back, focusing solely on the task ahead.
Hang on, I’m coming.
The two war gods were at a stalemate. Both were fatigued and breathing heavily, and bleeding heavily from several gashes and cuts. However, they were still on their feet circling each other, waiting for a chance to strike. Something had to give, and soon.
This would have been over long ago if Iolaus were here.
“Bet you’re really missing your little friend right about now,” Cupid taunted between pants. “Too bad, I’ll bet Hercules is having a good time with him right about now. Maybe I’ll try him out before I kill him.”
Then, something gave.
“Nobody calls me little.” There was a bright flash of silver light as Iolaus announced his presence in the form of a searing fireball that knocked a surprised Cupid off his feet. Ares didn’t miss a beat, thundering after him, vaulting onto the fallen god, sickle poised to come down to the exposed throat.
Ares never saw the sickle that Cupid held above his exposed back, but Iolaus did. Just as before Ares’ sickle came down to spill Cupid’s life blood, his weapon clattered uselessly to the ground as his hand was pinned to the wall where Iolaus’ sword pierced his palm.
Ares stood tall over his fallen enemy, triumphantly watching the light go out of his eyes. The Cupid’s last, gurgling breath sounded of a curse, and Ares grinned victoriously through a split lip.
“Hey, you started it. Serves you right for thinking you could keep us apart.”
Ares had known the second Iolaus had appeared that Cupid’s seconds left in the world were numbered.
“Glad you could make it to the party shorty.” Ares heard a groan from behind him, and turned in time to see Iolaus hit the ground.
Iolaus awoke on large, soft bed. The pain of his attack had dissipated, and his energy level felt like it was somewhere near normal. He recognized the surroundings as Ares’ temple in Thebes. It was then that he became aware of someone staring at him. Ares was beside him in the bed leaning on one elbow looking down at him, presumably waiting for him to awake.
‘What are you lookin’ at?’
Ares laughed. ‘Missed you too, shorty. I’m just trying to figure something out. You always maxxed out your body when you were mortal. One would assume that an immortal body would be enough for you, but I give you one and you exhaust it as well.’
‘Ha, ha. Very funny. How long was I out?’
‘Oh, about five days.’
“Five days?!” Iolaus was frantic. He threw off the covers and launched out of bed, trying to plan out all the things he needed to do. “We need to get the portal open again. Where’s my sword? I promised the Sovereign that-“
Ares interrupted. “You promised him godhood in exchange for his help. Relax, it’s already taken care of.”
Iolaus stopped pacing, genuinely confused. “How?”
Ares lounged lazily and patted the empty spot on the bed beside him. Iolaus rolled his eyes and hopped back under the dark satin sheets.
“Well, you’ve been asleep for five days. I came around about two days before you did. You seem to have created a whole new order in the other world, shorty.”
“I’m the God of Mischief. What do you expect?”
“Good point. Anyway, the gods in the other world were happy to acknowledge the Sov as the new God of War when they heard of his part in killing Cupid. It seems that they didn’t like him very much, for some strange reason. And don’t ask, our Cupid is fine. The little dying in both worlds thing doesn’t apply to gods. They’re gonna change the Sov in a day or two, at which time, you’ll be free to sentence Hercules.”
Iolaus cringed. “So you know about that? You’re not upset at all?”
“With him? Of course, I’d really like to find out just how much physical torture he could endure before passing on to Tartarus. With you? I wouldn’t be upset with you; I'm far too impressed. I've been trying to whack the guy for decades and you manage to get him within weeks of becoming a god. You pegged one of the only things that would
make Zeus drop the protection order; when I tried that it didn’t work. I just wish you didn’t have to get hurt to pull it off.”
Iolaus reached up and pinched Ares’ cheek. “Awwwww, you’re so cute when you get mushy!”
Ares smacked the hand away and restrained it. “Speaking of mush, it’s about time I reduce you to a pile of the stuff.” He paused, remembering an earlier conversation. “Did you ever find out why Hercules turned on you in the first place?”
Iolaus shook his head. “I couldn’t get him to tell me. But I don’t really care anymore. It’s over, I’ve got a new life now. It’s time I got on with it.”
The dark-haired god grinned. “Have you thought about his punishment yet?”
“Yeah. I’m thinkin’ he’s gonna be mortal full time. The last time, Xena, Gabrielle and I kept having to save his ass. It’ll be interesting to see how long he flounders before he gets himself killed. If he lasts too long, we’ll set up some kind of ‘village in distress’ type thing and lure him in. But you have to show me how you did that trick where you turned Selene’s chariot red and made a skull appear. I want that to be the last thing he sees before he goes to Tartarus.”
‘Evil, sadistic, cruel. I love it. Can’t wait to see the look on the bastard’s face. Now, I have some business to attend to. If you’ll excuse me.’
Ares attacked the pale column of Iolaus’ throat, searching out that deliciously sensitive juncture of the neck and shoulder. Coherent thought nearly abandoned Iolaus.
Iolaus reached down and pulled Ares up to him, capturing those full lips in a deep kiss. Ares barely registered when Iolaus reversed their positions and straddled his body. He did, however, take notice when the tongue working around his bottom lip was withdrawn. A ferally grinning Iolaus guided his hands to the top of the headboard.
A black, silk blindfold appeared in his right hand.
‘I think it’s time you found out why my mortal self is famous throughout the known world. You game?’
A bemused Ares answered, ‘Always.’
Iolaus tied the blindfold around Ares eyes, stating the conditions of the game. “Keep your hands and blindfold where they are. Patience is rewarded, rush me and you’ll regret it. Break the rules, and I win.”
Ares opened his mouth to answer, only to find that that clever tongue was once again lightly tracing his lips. Suddenly, Iolaus was kissing him deeply, demanding and forceful, much to Ares’ delight. His cock was swelling rapidly, but he had a feeling this was only the beginning.
As if to confirm his suspicion, Iolaus disengaged himself from Ares almost completely, resting above Ares’ body on his knees.
Ares felt cool fingertips soothing him, rubbing first at his temples and working down his face to rest once again on his lips.
Turned on though he was, he couldn't help himself. ‘What is this fascination you have with my lips?’
He heard Iolaus chuckle and shush him. ‘No talking, just feel.’ To emphasize his point, he drew one of those remarkably cool hands very lightly across Ares' right nipple until it formed a perfect hard nub, reaching out for more contact. He then continued that teasing tactile examination, caressing the muscular body before him, gradually increasing the temperature and pressure of his hands.
Ares’ now highly sensitized flesh no longer felt soothed, but tortured in the best way. He felt those hands increasing in temperature, and for a moment he realized he hadn’t taught his student that trick. Just when he thought he could take no more of that searing touch, the hands cooled once again, leaving him soothed, yet still almost painfully sensitive. He took a deep breath and held it when contact was once again lost. That breath was released in a long, suffering groan when a warm tongue replaced the hands. His cock was aching to be touched, but was being studiously ignored. He hoped Iolaus was enjoying himself, he was dying.
Iolaus was thoroughly enjoying himself. Ares’ skin tasted every bit as good as he'd expected, and more. He soon learned how susceptible his lover was to nibbles and bites. It wasn’t long before he had just the right formula. He nipped his way around Ares’ chest, eventually coming to rest on a nipple. He then kissed it gently before biting
down. Ares shouted and bucked off the bed every time.
Ares could have rejoiced when he felt Iolaus finally settle himself between his wantonly spread legs, but he knew better. Iolaus repeated the teasing swipes of his tongue, gentle kisses, and bites on the tender insides of Ares’ thighs until he was screaming anatomically impossible obscenities to the air.
The wooden headboard began to splinter.
Iolaus finally nuzzled Ares’ think nest of curls, inhaling the musky scent of his lover. As he pulled away, he wet his tongue and drew a line right down the middle of Ares’ balls, and lightly blew cool air over them.
Ares shouted again, and fell back, trying desperately to bring his body back under control.
Iolaus drew that torturous tongue up a tempting vein in that imposing member before him. When he reached the top, he swirled around the head, probing at that sensitive slit. He finally enveloped it in wet heat and sucked very lightly. He withdrew and blew cool air over the skin.
In a mighty roar, the wooden headboard was no more.
There was a flurry of movement, and then a grinning Iolaus found himself on his hands and knees on the soft bed with a lust-crazed, un-blindfolded god oiling himself up behind him.
Ares could wait no longer and slammed into his eager lover, hearing him cry out his pleasure. Long past the point of no return, he gave himself totally over to his body's demands, his hard thrusts quickly collapsing the blond flat onto his stomach, driving his erection into the bed. He leaned forward over that hard body and buried a hand in that thick golden hair and pulled Iolaus’ head back to expose the column of his throat, savoring the cries with his lips as they were released.
Iolaus squeezed his ass muscles, just to see what would happen. Ares roared his approval as Iolaus cried out at the wave of pleasure that tore through him. He repeated the action and set them both off in wave after wave of white-hot fire. Ares collapsed forward onto Iolaus, covering him and pressing him down into the sheets.
It was a long time before either god was able to speak again, but Iolaus managed to recover first. ‘I win.’
An exhausted Ares finally raised himself and slipped free of Iolaus’ body, rolling onto his back. ‘Gods, I've created a monster!’
An equally exhausted Iolaus giggled and rested his head on Ares’ chest. ‘I’ve got you saying “Gods!” now too!’
‘Yeah, well. You've been a bad influence on me.’
‘Hey, you're the one who wants me to listen to my cruel side. Besides, you can’t complain, at least you’ll be able to walk straight tomorrow. Where is my sword?’
‘Hanging from my ear.’ At Iolaus’ perplexed gaze, he explained further. ‘Well, you did save my life with it, it’s special. So I shrunk it and put it in a safe place. And don’t worry, I’ve got Hephy working on another sword for you; he was itching to try out that new design you told him about from the East.’
‘I’m flattered Ares! Where’s your old one earring?’
Ares grinned and tugged at Iolaus’ right ear. ‘I never really liked that gold one. You look much sexier in this one.’
Iolaus rolled his eyes. ‘Always trying to change my appearance. Well, at least you’ve got me seriously considering cutting my hair.’
Ares grinned sleepily and gave the locks a tug for good measure. ‘Nah, I like it just the way it is shorty.’
‘Just go to sleep you hairy ape, you’re gonna need the rest if you're gonna keep up with me.’
‘There's no hurry. We’ve got forever, and you realize now that we’re together, we can’t ever be apart again. I fully intend for us to spend eternity terrorizing the world.’
Ares finally drifted off to sleep, a proprietary hand still firmly locked in the gold hair. Iolaus knew he had made the right decision in keeping Hercules’ motives a secret. The truth would only have hurt Ares, and he wouldn’t let that happen if it was within his power to prevent. The god had looked after him for so long, it was the least
he could do.
He ran his hand lovingly over his new earring. Before he drifted off to Morpheus' arms, his mind wandered to thoughts of the future.
I wonder where we’ll be in a few thousand years…