Good old Herc. He really believes he's got me fooled, that I don't know about his desire for Iph. He thinks it's shameful to lust after his own brother. I don't get what the big deal is about it, but if that's the way he wants to play it, I'll pretend I don't know. And if I'm honest, it did take me a while to notice. I don't know how long it's been that way - certainly when we met up with Iph in Phlegra there was no hint of it there. But after Golgoth, something changed. Or maybe it changed before then, but I only got it afterwards.
I found out one night when we were sitting up late in some tavern in some town. I couldn't tell you where we were. It didn't seem important at the time. For once there was no crisis, we both had a couple of drinks inside us and were just sitting talking about recent events. He told me how helpless he'd felt in that cell with Iphicles, unable to help him, powerless despite his demi-god strength. And then when Iphicles had talked about Rena's death, how he'd wanted to comfort him but hadn't been able to.
"All I wanted to do, Iolaus, was to put my arms around him and let him know I understood," he told me, eyes fixed on the bottom of his tankard. Then his blue eyes met mine in a mute plea for forgiveness. "But I couldn't - all I could do was act like some self-righteous jerk telling him that his personal grief shouldn't affect his political actions. Gods! No wonder he hates me."
"Iphicles doesn't hate you," I told him. And he doesn't - he just resents him. There's a difference. If only Hercules could be more relaxed around him, be more like the Herc I see, I'm sure everything would be fine. But for some reason Herc pulls off this saintly demi-god routine really well whenever he's around Iph.
Herc propped his head on his hands, fingers combing through disordered hair. "Gods," he groaned again, "My own brother, and all I could do was preach at him."
"So why'd you do it?" Maybe it was the ale, but there was something here I wasn't getting. I mean, I know their relationship's been a little rocky, but his brother's wife had just died and Herc of all people knows how that feels. What was this big problem Herc'd suddenly had about comforting him? Nothing more natural under those circumstances, I'd have thought. "Why didn't you just do what you wanted to and hold him?"
"And make Ajax and the others believe that Iph was weak?" It came out a little too glibly, almost as though he'd been practising the line, at least to himself, but it was the slow staining of colour in his cheeks which gave me the clue. That and the way he avoided my eyes.
I stared at him as the pieces began to fall into place. I remembered him not wanting to leave Iph's side in the days following events on Golgoth, until his constant hovering had almost driven Iphicles mad. I'd thought little of it, putting it down to brotherly over-protectiveness following what'd just happened. But I realised now that where in the past Herc had gone for years without even mentioning his brother, these days whenever we sat talking like this, somehow Iph's name always came up. And I was pretty sure that I wasn't the one to raise the subject. It seemed as though Hercules couldn't not talk about his brother.
As Herc's eyes finally raised to mine I glanced quickly away. He didn't want me to know, so I'd pretend I didn't.
But it meant I was aware of Hercules' reactions when we were close to Corinth and decided to drop in and see Jason and Iphicles (yes, that was the order in which Herc put them). I was aware of his suppressed excitement. The night before we got there, I don't think he got any sleep at all. And the visit was a total disaster. Oh, it was great to see Jason again. But Iphicles.. The minute Herc saw him, he turned into Mr Perfect Demi-God Hero. I know he's not always the easiest talker in the world, but this took it to new extremes. He alternated erratically between being completely monosyllabic and commenting at length on Iph's latest decisions over Corinth.
I knew he was trying, but everything he said just seemed to criticise. Take the new trade route for instance; Herc saw the illogic of the suggested route immediately and asked about it. "Interesting choice to avoid the plain like that," he said.
He meant his tone to be neutral, allowing Iph to comment or not as he chose, or to go away and make changes to the proposed route without losing face. But of course it Iph heard it as a sneer at his abilities, made in front of some of his Councillors too.
"Believe it or not Hercules, there are considerations underlying my decision about which you know absolutely nothing." Iphicles' voice was clipped with anger, and then he sat in silence, his lips compressed. I was sure he wanted nothing more than to yell at his brother and storm out, but he couldn't let the Court see how Hercules needled him.
Well, we didn't stay long. One or two little incidents like that, and Iphicles became icily polite, his every utterance possessing an edge. And Herc, well, he got more tongue-tied than ever at Iph's attitude until he seemed unable to open his mouth without putting his booted foot well and truly in it. And every time I tried to ease the situation with a little humour, Herc got even more uptight. It got so uncomfortable that I had to seek solace in one of the castle's chambermaids, Phoebe, a pretty little blonde who wasn't averse to helping a stranger to the Court feel right at home. Herc didn't say anything - he's learned to keep his mouth shut these days about my sex life. We've just agreed to differ. He's got this whole thing going that sex should be about love. It pisses me off at times, but I guess it's all part of who Herc is. He's my friend, but he's so much more than that. He's like my brother, or my lover - just without the sex. I can't imagine life without him.
It was months later that we got a message from Jason. He wanted us to come to Corinth for his birthday celebrations. He'd decided to get as many of the Argonauts together as possible, and wanted us to be there too. Herc didn't want to go. He started to make excuses immediately. Monsters. Old friends to look up. Anything that occurred to him. But I wouldn't let him get away with it. Jason needed us. The man had nothing else left in his life. If it made Herc uncomfortable to spend an evening in the same room as his brother I was sorry for it, but he was going to do this for Jason, like it or not. So I cajoled and pushed, and when that didn't work, I told Herc the truth - that Jason needed us. As ever, he put his own feelings to one side and did something he didn't want to do because it'd help someone else.
So that was why we were now heading towards Corinth. I watched him on our journey, seeing the expression of determination on his face, his thoughts easy to read for someone who knows him as well as I do. If he was going to go and see Iph, he was going to suppress his shameful desire. He was going to subdue it by sheer force of will. But that night he tossed and turned so much that he kept waking me, even though I was on the other side of the fire from him. Eventually he gave in, and started to jerk himself off. He was facing away from me but I could see the movements, hear him trying to muffle the sounds so he wouldn't wake me. I turned over so our backs were to one another. Even so I was aware of the name he whispered as he finally came into his hand.
The next day he was quiet and withdrawn. I tried to give him the space to talk if he wanted to. When that didn't work I chatted artlessly, talking about how much I was looking forward to seeing Phoebe again, about how nice it was to have someone to look forward to seeing. Stuff like that. None of it worked. So in the end I came right out and asked him.
"Herc? Is anything wrong?" I kept it neutral and non-threatening.
He looked at me, his usually clear blue eyes clouded with indecision. I kept quiet, hoping he'd tell me. But the moment passed and he said nothing, his shame keeping him silent. I could almost hear his thoughts as we walked on. 'He's my brother. I can't feel like this about him. It's wrong.' Turning, as the day went on, to 'I don't feel like this about him'.
The problem is, whatever his head told him, there was another part of his body that told him differently. When we'd banked the fire down that night, I could hear him trying to control his impatient breathing. He was waiting for me to fall asleep so that he could work his hard cock in his hand and pretend it was Iphicles doing it to him, pretend he was thrusting deep inside Iphicles, pretend his brother was on his knees in front of him, sucking him. Obviously a man of stamina, the King of Corinth. He certainly kept going all night in Herc's imagination. And the next night. And the one after that.
I made my decision. This was getting ridiculous. If nothing else, I wanted to get some sleep. Something had to be done about the whole Iphicles situation.
It took the space of a couple of heartbeats to see that what I was hoping for wasn't going to work. They just couldn't talk to each other. Iphicles was standing in the front yard talking to Jason when we arrived at Jason's house. He greeted each of us with a handclasp. Jason pulled us both into hugs. While Herc was disentangling himself from Jason, I took the chance to look at Iph. There was an odd expression on his face as he watched his remaining family embracing. It was wiped blank as soon as Hercules turned to him, replaced by a defensiveness which was justified by Hercules' opening words.
"You don't look well. Iphicles," he noted in concern. "Jason told us how hard you've been working - you really shouldn't. Corinth would manage perfectly well without you if you just took a break for a while."
Dark eyes sparked furiously back at him. "I'm fine, thank you Hercules," he spat, before turning on his heel and flinging a farewell at Jason over his shoulder as he headed to where a guard was holding his horse for him.
Well that went well. Not. I sighed as I looked at Hercules' chagrined face. It wasn't his fault that he'd stood there oozing demi-god energy and vitality as he'd tried to express his concern for his exhausted brother, and then managed in one brief sentence to reduce Iphicles' kingship to something both negligible and dispensable.
That party of Jason's was good - I think. To be honest, I don't remember an awful lot about the latter part of it. But Herc told me I enjoyed it, and judging by the way my head felt and the amount of clearing up needed afterwards, I guess he was right. Iphicles hadn't come because he hadn't wanted to cause any awkwardness for Jason with the Argonauts following the whole Ajax fiasco. Herc was pretty quiet when he heard that Iph wasn't going to be there. I didn't know if he was disappointed or relieved. I don't think he knew either.
Jason was putting up as many as could fit into his house and barn, but space was tight. The next day he suggested we go and stay with Iphicles so that the others would have a bit more room. I wasn't bothered either way, but Herc decided it was a good idea. When I saw him squaring his shoulders purposefully as he agreed to Jason's suggestion, I realised he intended to face this once and for all, to finally quash any wrong feelings he had about Iph. I knew that at the same time as he was fighting the demon of his lust for his brother, there was also a deep longing in him to make things right between them.
Going from Jason's humble house, filled with cheery welcoming company, to the King's castle was a disheartening experience. Anonymous guards, impersonal servants, cold stone floors on which our footsteps echoed emptily. I took an apple from one of the laden fruit-bowls as we passed through the dining hall on our way to see the king, and started tossing it from one hand to another just for something to do. The disapproving expression from the superior servant detailed to escort us was mirrored by Herc, and I realised how uptight he was about this meeting. I shrugged as I bit into the fruit. "Friendly place, isn't it?" I remarked to Herc. Yeah, friendly like the hydra was friendly. How did Iphicles cope with this day in, day out?
When finally we reached the room Iph was in and were ushered into his august presence, the smile with which he greeted Herc wasn't much warmer or less rigid than those stone floors.
"How's it going, Iph?" I greeted him, still crunching my purloined apple. Well, hey, I've never been one for formality. I thought his Chamberlain was going to have a blue fit. Actually, I hoped he would - that would've livened the place up a bit. The smile Iph gave me was a bit more natural than the one he'd bestowed on Herc. I like Iphicles. As much as anything else, I like the fact that, like me, he screws up sometimes. But he's changed since Rena's death. He's withdrawn. Become more like he used to be, Herc says.
"Jason suggested we come and stay with you," Herc started as we stood in front of him. "I think he's running out of room with all the Argonauts there."
A muscle jumped convulsively in Iphicles' cheek. Without trying, I knew what he was thinking. 'We're only here because Jason said. The Argonauts - another of our legendary exploits which you weren't part of.' I wanted to shake him. Couldn't he see that Herc was trying to be light-hearted about it, that he was mentioning Jason's suggestion so that Iphicles didn't feel Herc and I'd just turned up expecting his hospitality.
"He also mentioned something about not being able to feed so many," I added quickly, lobbing my apple core into a nice handy vase standing on a pedestal. "For some bizarre reason he thought it was *me* not Herc eating him out of house and home. Obviously he's forgotten everything he ever knew about demi-god's appetites."
It wasn't funny, I knew that, but it wasn't supposed to make things worse. Herc gave me one of his frustrated 'Iolaus, I'm trying to communicate properly here' looks - I swear he must practice them in the mirror when I'm not around. And Iphicles became even more remote at the reminder of Herc's parentage.
Eventually he spoke. "You're welcome to stay as long as you like. I'll have two guest rooms made ready for you. But in the meantime, I'm busy."
Well that was that. We were dismissed like two ignorant peasants. Not so far from the truth in the case of one of us, I guess. I quirked an eyebrow at Herc as we were ushered out of His Royalness's presence. "Well that put you in your place," I told him, hoping to take the sting out of the abrupt dismissal. Instead of smiling back at me, Herc's brows lowered and I was left wishing I could learn when to keep my mouth shut.
We didn't see Iph again until the formal dinner that night. We'd been placed some way down the table, in deference to some of the politically important visitors. Well, that suited me. The nearer you got to the bottom of the table, the more interesting the company generally got. Us commoners stood up respectfully as the king entered the hall with the Thracian ambassador, in whose honour this banquet was being held. I was beside Herc, and couldn't miss his sharply indrawn breath when he saw Iphicles. I couldn't blame him - Iph looked magnificent. His clothes were without ornamentation, unlike those of most of his courtiers, but their tailoring spoke of money while quietly accentuating the breadth of his shoulders, the leanness of his hips and the muscled length of his legs. He looked every inch the king as he moved easily across the hall, talking graciously to the ambassador, seemingly oblivious to being the centre of attention. I knew from experience that it wasn't as easy as he made it look.
I gave up on trying to talk to Herc during the meal. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes from his brother. As the guy on my other side obviously didn't approve of the king inviting his poor relations to a state occasion like this and chose to ignore me, I got bored fairly quickly. In the end I found myself watching Iph to try to see what it was that held Herc's attention so irresistibly. For the first time ever I noticed his lazy physical grace, the unconscious sensuality in his every move. He was smiling at something the ambassador had said, his arm muscles standing out in clear definition as he reached out an idle hand for his goblet. Herc sat there, trying not to drool on his plate. Without noticeable success, I might add.
Once the meal was over, a select group was ushered through into the antechamber for more drinks and titbits. I'd had enough of all this pompous formality by now but there was no stopping Herc following, so with a sigh I went with him. I'm sure it was a major gaffe on the part of the servants to let us in. It wasn't as though we exactly fitted in with all the others.
Thankfully Iph noticed us almost straight away. Maybe he felt bad about being so cool with us earlier, I don't know. Whatever the reason he immediately brought the Thracian over and introduced us. It turned out the ambassador knew all the tales of Hercules' exploits, both real and imagined, and was overwhelmed to meet the legendary hero. He wanted to hear everything about his adventures. Well, Iph coped with that ok. Like me, he's used to it. It was when Herc began to get embarrassed about hogging the limelight at his brother's party and tried to include Iphicles that it all went horribly wrong again. In a few sentences, Hercules managed to charmingly disarm everyone in hearing distance with his modesty while praising his brother's achievements with an enthusiasm that smacked so strongly of compensating brotherly pride that it reduced all of Iphicles' accomplishments to nothing.
I finally persuaded Hercules to leave the gathering early. The tension around Iphicles' mouth told me that *anything* Hercules said now, even if it was only 'thanks for the meal' would be construed as a deadly insult. Herc was really upset at Iph's sudden change in attitude towards him. He honestly had no idea how he might've upset his brother. I left him in his bedchamber, no doubt to another depressingly lonely night of jerking off, while I went to my own bed. As I lay there waiting for Phoebe, I wondered what in hades I could do to help Hercules. I hated seeing him hurting like this.
It wasn't so difficult really. I had the whole day to prepare everything, and I had Phoebe's unsuspecting help. Once the ambassador had left, it was easy to suggest to Iphicles that we have a quiet family meal that evening, just the three of us. Suggesting it in front of some of his officials meant that he couldn't lie and tell us he had something else planned. I could see the reluctance in his eyes, but he had to agree.
As it was a quiet informal meal, we sat on our own in one of the small parlours and served ourselves, which made it easy for me to drug his wine. It didn't take long for it to begin to affect him. Even before we'd finished eating, Iph was having such trouble keeping his eyes open that I suggested he should have an early night. I knew Herc was disappointed. It seemed to me that he was in a constant state of arousal the whole time he was round Iph, and although sometimes he managed to talk himself into hating it, the rest of the time he loved it.
Iph swayed as he stood up. Shit, I hoped I hadn't overdone it. "Sorry," he slurred. "Tireder than I thought."
"Don't worry about it," I dismissed generously. "Herc tends to have this effect on people, you know."
Oops. Iolaus strikes again. Herc was *not* amused. The look he shot me as Iph made his unsteady way to the door made me think seriously about finding a more comfortable place to stay. Like bunking with Echidna, perhaps. Expecting a nice cosy conversation after that little fuckup wasn't really an option, so I gave Iph a while and then excused myself to Herc. I left him with a worried crease between his brows.
Iphicles was out cold, face down on his bedchamber floor. I knew he kept no guards posted outside his bedchamber, otherwise I wouldn't have risked it. The one thing I hadn't known about was whether he had a valet or someone like that to undress him at night. Or even a lover. I put that thought firmly away from me as I bolted the door behind me and began to undress him.
Gods, he was heavy. I'd met Hestian virgins who were easier to get onto their backs than he was. But I got him up onto the bed at last, and retrieved my props from where I'd hidden them in his chamber earlier. By the time I'd finished, Iphicles was on his back, naked, a muscled limb tied tightly to each of the four posts at the corners of his bed, a length of black material tied over his eyes as a blindfold, and another length of the same material in his mouth as a gag. I stopped and looked at him for a while then, looking at what held Herc so captivated. He was a good-looking man when dressed, but naked. he was beautiful. I hadn't realised I'd reached out until I became aware of the warmth of his chest under my hand, feeling the steady beating of his heart.
I turned away and unbolted the door. He began to stir as I did so. Shit, that'd been close. Even though I knew he wouldn't be able to see me, I quickly scooted behind the wallhanging closest to the door before he woke. I watched him through the spy hole which I'd made in it earlier today. He stirred again, and then tried to turn over. As the ropes brought him up short, he suddenly woke up properly. He tugged hard at the ropes holding him, and then I could see him testing out their strength, testing the amount of movement he could get from his limbs. Nothing. I'd made sure of that. He was tied tightly. Next I saw him try to rub his blindfold off against the bed, but again, I'd tied that so tightly that he couldn't do it. I knew it might hurt him, and I was sorry for that, but if he managed to get it off, then everything was finished. The explanations that would be needed would make facing the she-demon on my own with my arms tied behind me and perhaps a leg or two cut off a deeply attractive option. Iph tried to speak, to call out, but the gag prevented him. In the end he realised there was nothing he could do. He lay there, silently waiting.
We didn't have to wait long. I had a backup plan for getting Hercules up here, but I knew Herc so well that I was pretty confident I wouldn't need it. Sure enough, it wasn't too much longer before there was a light tapping on the door. Iphicles tensed.
"Iph?" Too soft for Iphicles to hear it from the bed. I could hear it because I was so close to the door. Damn, I hoped Herc wasn't going to come in shouting. I'd assumed he'd be quiet because he hoped his brother was asleep, and was just checking he was alright before going to his own bedchamber.
Then the handle of the door was turning and Herc was looking uncertainly in. What he saw stopped him dead. The door closed behind him as he moved swiftly over to the bed. And I saw the moment when it happened, when his immediate reaction to free Iphicles turned into something else. He froze. His head moved to look suspiciously around the bedchamber. Nothing. No movement, no sound. Only him, and the bound spread body of his brother, like an offering on an altar for him and him only. He walked over to the door and slid the bolt across.
Iph's body was rigid. He knew there was someone here with him. He had no way of knowing who it was or what their intention was. And Herc. At last, he had the chance to do what he wanted without anybody knowing. Ever. Even his brother.
He looked around again, still not quite believing this. Still, if I knew Herc, not quite sure about this. He moved back across the room to Iphicles, his right hand reaching out to Iphicles' chest. A light uncertain touch. Something that could be construed as brotherly concern before he started to release the king. Iphicles was motionless. For all he knew, this was the prelude to the assassin's knife descending into him. I felt bad about doing that to him, but Herc was my friend and he needed this.
Then Herc's hand moved to Iph's leg. Just a light touch on his thigh. But his warm callused hand stayed there. I could see the excitement in his face at that forbidden contact. And then his hand began to trail up the inside of Iphicles' spread leg. Iph's cock stirred in automatic response. Whatever Iphicles' brain told him was going on here, his body was going to react however it damn well pleased. Hercules' breath came faster as he stood by the bed, looking down on Iphicles' bound figure, watching Iphicles' helpless response to his touch, his hand stroking up and down his brother's inner thigh until Iph's cock was hard.
Hercules looked around again, guiltily. But overwhelming the guilt I could see the flushed cheeks, the glitter of arousal in his eyes. It was then that I suddenly realised the consequences of my hiding here. Shit! How could I've been so stupid? I'd wanted to see how it worked out, check that Herc turned up, and know whether or not he gave in to the temptation or whether I'd have to arrange something else for him to get this obsession out of his system. But now I suddenly realised that I'd be stuck here while they fucked. I'm no prude, but I don't get off as a voyeur, and there was something a little embarrassing about witnessing something my best friend would never want *anybody* to know about. Unfortunately there wasn't exactly a lot I could do about it now.
A sound from Iphicles, muffled by the gag. Hercules' eyes jumped to his brother's face. That was why I'd had to gag him - as soon as Iph said anything, Herc would've spoken to him. He'd never have done what he was about to do.
Herc climbed onto the bed, long thighs straddling his brother's naked body. He just knelt there for the longest time, staring down at Iphicles' blindfolded face. At last he moved his hands very gently over his hair, stroking it lovingly, before his fingers moved lightly over the cheeks between the blindfold and the gag. He cupped his brother's face in his hands and stared down at it. And then he bent his head and kissed Iphicles' neck. Lightly at first, running his tongue over the warm smooth flesh, finally sucking it hard as though it were Iphicles' mouth he were kissing.
When he finally pulled back, breathing hard, I could see the red mark he'd left with the pressure he'd exerted. He moved lower over his brother's body, his mouth reaching for Iphicles' nipples. He flicked one with his tongue, again and again. Iphicles was motionless, trying to control his physical response to what was being done to him. Finally Herc's lips closed around the nipple and he suckled before his teeth bit down. Iphicles arched involuntarily upwards at the sensation, and his erect cock met Hercules' hips above him. A sound forced its way past the gag as Hercules started grinding against Iphicles' cock, biting first one nipple then the other. Then suddenly he was pulling back from Iphicles, moving off him to stand up and swiftly undress.
As he settled back into place above his brother I saw Iphicles go rigid for an instant at the feel of naked hot flesh against him before he began to move in his bonds, trying to rub himself against Hercules. Herc knelt there over him, his head back in ecstasy as he felt his brother's body writhing beneath him.
I thought Hercules was going to come, but he wrenched back control. There was too much he still wanted to do to Iph. He moved so that he was no longer above Iphicles, instead positioning himself between Iphicles' spread legs, looking with naked longing at the thick cock before him. I knew he was putting it off as long as he could, putting off that first ever taste of his brother even while he was desperate for it.
His eyes closed as his tongue finally touched Iphicles' cock. He licked all the way up and down the hot shaft, again and again, before his tongue flicked over the weeping tip, pausing to savour the taste of Iphicles. He was still for an instant, before with a sudden action he took Iph all the way in. Iphicles was bucking upwards against the ropes, trying to thrust into Hercules' mouth, muffled sounds urging him on. Herc didn't need any encouraging. Driven mad by the feel of Iphicles' cock in his mouth, he pushed deeper and deeper onto it, one hand massaging Iphicles' balls, until with a groan that belied the gag in his mouth, Iphicles was coming into Hercules' eager mouth.
Herc didn't move until he had swallowed every last drop of Iphicles' cum. The expression on his face as he moved up the bed to look down on his brother's flushed panting face reminded me of a worshipper at a shrine.
It didn't last long. The next thing I knew, Herc was impatiently undoing the gag. He tore it out of Iph's mouth as he moved astsride him again, pulling Iphicles' head up and as Iph's mouth opened to call out, he shoved his cock in, his other hand moving to grasp Iph's jawbone, his fingers biting into the hinges of his jaw to keep his mouth open.
Herc grunted as he thrust into that wet heat, looking down, watching his cock work in and out of his brother's mouth. His hand pushed Iph's head forward even further as he began to thrust faster, almost delirious with pleasure. I was so caught up in Herc's reaction that I didn't notice at first that Iphicles was gagging, unable to move his head as the length of Herc's cock thrust into his mouth. Herc's hips suddenly lost their rhythm and pumped helplessly, shooting his cum into Iphicles' mouth. He was panting desperately, trying not to make any sound that might give away who he was.
Iph was choking, his head at the wrong angle to be able to swallow, unable to spit because of the cock still in his mouth and the fingers still driving into his jaw forcing his mouth open. Herc suddenly noticed and pulled out swiftly, letting go of his grip, giving his brother room to move his head and recover. Iph choked desperately, cum dribbling out of his mouth as his blindfolded head flopped sideways. As soon as he was able to draw breath again, he tried to speak. With a swift movement Herc shoved the gag back in and tied it tightly. He knew as well as I that he wouldn't be able to continue if his brother was allowed to say anything. And he certainly wanted to continue. I'm a man of experience, but I swear I've never seen anyone get hard again that quickly. It must be the god in him.
Herc was reaching for the small knife I'd left for that very purpose on the table by the bed and cut the ropes that held Iph. As soon as he felt his wrist freed, Iphicles lashed out blindly to try to free himself. His hand connected with Hercules' mouth. With a grunt, Herc slammed Iphicles over onto his front, holding him hard against the bed, a knee heavily in his back as he threw the knife to the floor and began to retie the ropes. Iph was fighting him every inch of the way, but had no chance. He ended tied up again, Herc's weight holding him down as he retied the last rope so that it held him tightly. I hadn't expected that. I hadn't left enough length in the ropes for retying. They were too short now and held Iphicles at what looked to be an agonisingly painful stretch. Hercules was so obsessed with what he wanted that he hadn't noticed. Neither had he noticed the flask of oil I'd left beside the knife on the table. Or perhaps he was too excited by the ass spread before him to take the time. Whatever the reason, he simply positioned himself behind Iphicles and shoved in.
Iphicles' head jerked back, a cry escaping him. Pain or pleasure, it was hard to tell through the gag. But I was beginning to have a bad feeling about this. Hercules was lost in the sensation of his cock in Iphicles. At that first thrust, an animal noise escaped him, the first real sound he'd made since coming into the room and finding Iphicles like that. And then he was slamming into his brother, driving in hard as he made up for all those lonely nights when he'd imagined this, when he'd imagined fucking Iphicles as he'd never been fucked before, till he was groaning in ecstasy and begging Hercules for more. He was lost in his fantasy, lost in the knowledge that this was what he'd been dreaming of for so long and thought he could never have. He didn't notice Iphicles' gasps and futile attempts to move himself up the bed to lessen the pressure of Herc's savage thrusting. And then with a wordless triumphant cry, Herc was coming, lunging into Iphicles, wild exultation on his face.
He collapsed over his brother's body, panting hard, his spent cock slipping out of Iphicles' ass. With horror I saw that blood as well as cum was trickling out in its wake. I closed my eyes. How could this all have gone so hideously wrong? All I'd wanted was for Herc to get this out of his system, to stop him tormenting himself the way he'd been doing. Gods, Iolaus, what in Tartarus were you thinking? Sometimes you are *so* fucking stupid.
Herc hadn't noticed anything. He lay there sprawled on top of Iphicles for a while before reluctantly moving and getting dressed. It was always a possibility that some emergency would arise and a courtier would send for the king, even in the middle of the night, so it really wasn't a good idea to hang around for too long.
Iphicles remained motionless. He couldn't move because of those ropes, I knew that, but there was a stillness, a lack of movement of his head or any attempt to make a noise, which worried me. Herc dropped a goodbye kiss onto his hair, before picking up the knife and cutting the ropes again. Legs first, pausing to swiftly unbolt the door, then turning back to release one hand. Enough for Iph to free himself, but not to do so quickly enough for him to get the blindfold off and see Herc.
I stood silently as the door closed behind Hercules. Iphicles curled in on himself when the door closed, abused limbs no doubt cramping viciously as circulation returned to them. After a while he reached up to try and undo the blindfold, at the same time tugging against the one last imprisoned wrist, and I knew it was time to go. I moved faster and more quietly than I'd ever moved before in my life. The last thing I needed was for anyone ever to know I'd had anything to do with what I'd just witnessed.
The next morning was like Tartarus, only worse. We breakfasted in the small parlour, just like we always did whenever Iph didn't have any important visitors to entertain. Iph didn't show up. And Herc. He had this big grin on his face that he just couldn't get rid of. He might as well have worn a sign saying 'I got lucky last night'.
"Where's Iph?" was his first eager question.
I shrugged as I concentrated on the peach I was eating. "Not here yet."
He looked like a little kid who'd just had his favourite toy taken away. Then he brightened again. "Maybe I should go and check he's ok. He wasn't too well last night, was he?"
"No!" It came out a bit too forcefully. Herc looked startled. "If he's that tired, he needs the sleep," I covered hastily.
Shit. *Shit*. It hadn't even done what I'd planned. Now that he'd actually had Iphicles, I'd thought that the craving would be satisfied. I'd thought that half the attraction was because he knew he couldn't have him. But no, instead he'd ended up more obsessed than ever. Fuck. He didn't know what he'd done. He didn't have a clue. And I couldn't tell him. Fuck.
We didn't see Iphicles till lunch. It was the usual semi-formal meal with members of his Court, so there was no chance for private conversation. He seemed to be concentrating hard on what one of his advisors was telling him about the new tax laws introduced in Sparta. His demeanour gave nothing away to anyone who didn't know; he just looked a little pale, dark shadows beneath his eyes speaking of a sleepless night. But I could see the discreet wrappings around his abraded wrists under his long-sleeved shirt, and he was jumpy. The sudden noise as one of his servants dropped a dish onto the floor behind him had him almost out of his chair before, with an embarrassed laugh, he sat carefully back down.
Well, despite all my efforts, it finally happened. That evening, Herc finally cornered Iph. He started to spill his guts about how he felt about his brother. Except for the overwhelming incestuous lust for him, that is. He told Iph that he knew they didn't always get on, but that he wanted them to; that he, Hercules, just said the wrong things. How he knew Iphicles must be lonely with first Rena and now Alcmene gone; how he himself was lonely without Deianeira. How he'd felt everything in him die when he'd seen his brother down on the sands of Golgoth, helpless before the sand-sharks. I know all this because Herc told me later. I never thought he'd tell *anyone*, but what had happened weighed too heavily on him.
After the first eye-rollings and impatient foot-tappings, Iphicles had actually listened. He'd actually, Herc thought, been pleased to hear what Herc had told him. When Hercules had gathered him into a brotherly hug, he'd gone willingly, his own arms embracing Hercules.
Feeling Iphicles' hard body pressed against his, with the memory of the previous night still so strong, Herc suddenly lost it. He drew Iph's head back and kissed him. Gently at first, as though it was the most precious thing in his life, his tongue slipping slowly between his brother's lips. And after the first instant of shocked stillness, Iphicles began tentatively to return his brother's kiss. Herc's eyes closed at the feeling of his brother's mouth opening to him, lost in the amazing sensation of kissing Iphicles. But it was too much, too exciting for him. Herc's arms tightened around his brother, his hips pushing forward, he broke the kiss and his mouth buried impatiently in Iphicles' neck as he began to suck on it.
An infinitesimal stillness as he did so. Then Herc was sent staggering backwards by Iphicles' sudden explosion. He stared questioningly at his brother's face, stunned by the fury and humiliation he saw in it.
"It was *you*." The accusation was a hiss of hatred. "Last night - that was *you*."
Herc froze in horror. He'd been found out. Words started to spill from him in frantic defence. "I'm sorry Iph, I know I shouldn't have done it, but I couldn't help myself. You looked so beautiful, so helpless just lying there, like you were waiting for me. I'm sorry but I couldn't stop myself. I mean, finding you like that, what else could I have done?"
Iphicles' savage blow sent him reeling.
"Spoken to me."
Another blow connected, wrenching a grunt of surprised pain from Herc.
"Not fucking raped me!"
And then Herc was forced to defend himself in earnest as Iphicles went for him with dangerous intent. After a brief unequal struggle Iphicles ended up on the floor. Hercules stood looking down at his brother, completely lost.
"Raped you?" It was a broken whisper. "Iph, I never, I didn't - I thought you liked it."
The murder which filled Iphicles' face caused him to take a step backwards. His brother slowly picked himself up off the floor and stood glaring with loathing at Hercules.
"You know what your problem is Hercules?" he spat venomously. "You're so full of this bullshit about always putting others first. But when it's something *you* want, you'll take it and you don't give a shit how it affects anyone else."
His mouth twisted in revulsion as his eyes moved scathingly over his brother's stricken figure. "Get the fuck out. I don't want to see you again. Ever."
And he turned and walked out, leaving Hercules standing there alone. Devastated.
To say I felt guilty would be an understatement. I could hardly bear to look at Herc as we journeyed as fast and as far from Corinth as possible. But he didn't notice. He was lost in his own world of pain and self-recrimination. It was in one of those moods that he told me what had happened. Every last painful bit of it. Well, I guess I got my punishment for my stupidity then, holding my best friend as he sobbed his heart out for hurting the person he most wanted to heal. For destroying forever the chance of any reconciliation between them.
I thought about it, of course I did. I thought constantly how I could make it right again. I even toyed with the idea of going to Iphicles and explaining everything to him. Explaining to him that I'd been so intent on helping Herc, I'd never once given a thought to how Iphicles might have felt about being tied up, left helpless, and used like a piece of meat. That Herc had wanted him so badly, he hadn't stopped to consider his feelings either. But there's really no good way to say those things, is there.
So we carried on the same as we ever did. Neither of us mentioned Iphicles or Corinth again. Until a couple of months later when another summons came from Jason. Herc refused to go this time. I couldn't blame him for that, but neither could we ignore Jason. So I went alone. I told Jason that Herc was off on a mission of mercy that hadn't been able to wait.
"Is he?" Jason's eyes on mine were shrewd. "Or is he avoiding Iphicles?"
My eyes flew from his. He didn't know, did he? He *couldn't*. "Why would he do that?" I blocked.
"You tell me Iolaus." Jason's tone was friendly, not threatening. He simply sounded puzzled. I drew a breath of relief. "When I told Iphicles I'd invited you both, he said he didn't want to see Hercules. He meant it." Jason's honest eyes sought mine. "What's going on with those two? It's not like Hercules to walk away, leaving a situation like this unresolved."
I shrugged. "I don't know what it's about," I lied, "But it's pretty serious. I was hoping I could start to sort it out while I'm here."
Jason sighed briefly. "I hope you can," he confessed. "I know how hurt Alcmene would be by this."
I laid my hand on his shoulder and squeezed comfortingly. There was really nothing I could say to that.
The first thing I did after we'd eaten was go to see Herc's brother. I didn't know what I was going to do, just that I *had* to do something to begin to make it right.
He looked tired still. As I took in the lonely cold atmosphere of that place, I realised that all he had left to fill his days with was work. Somehow Rena had given the castle warmth. Their son had filled it with laughter. But now they were both gone, it was like a living tomb.
His expression was wary when I was announced. That was nothing to the look on his Chamberlain's face.
"Jason asked me to visit him," I explained swiftly, "So I thought I'd drop in and see how you're doing, Iph."
When he heard the singular in my speech, he visibly relaxed. "Join me for supper?" he invited.
Well, it'd been a few hours since Jason had fed me, so who was I to refuse Iphicles' generous hospitality?
I don't know how it happened, I swear. The last thing I wanted to do was complicate this whole situation any further. But one minute we were sitting there in Iph's parlour, the best part of a skin of wine down both of us, the next he was telling me about Rena. And how, only a few weeks before her death, their son had died from the fever. He told me how much he wished Rena had gone first, so she hadn't had the pain of losing her child.
I couldn't understand at first why it was still so immediate for him. I mean, it was months ago and the way he talked about it, it was as though it had happened last week. But as I thought back to the chilly formality of everything here, I realised he'd had no one to talk to apart from Jason, who had just lost Alcmene. So all this time, Iph had been keeping it to himself. He looked across the room at me, eyes begging for something to release him from his pain. I did the only thing I could do in the circumstances. I went over to him, sat on the arm of his chair, put my arms around him and held him close, his head resting against my chest, my hand stroking his hair.
You never know someone till you've held them like that. You can think you know them, you can know everything about them, but it's not until you've held them to you and felt every breath that they take, every beat of their heart, that you really know. And when I held Iphicles, I knew.
I was so shocked that I pulled back from him, far enough for him to make an inarticulate sound of need. I looked down at his suddenly defenceless face, dark eyes pleading with me not to leave him. I bent my head and kissed him. A gentle kiss, letting him know that I loved him. My tongue flicked lightly against his lips, asking, until he opened his mouth to me, inviting me to deepen the kiss. I explored his mouth, tasting the wine and, beneath that, the taste that was Iphicles. He began to suck on my tongue, his breath coming faster as he did so. My right arm was still around his shoulders, holding him close to me, and my left hand began to work its way inside his shirt, seeking his warm flesh. Another inarticulate sound came from him as my hand moved across his chest, and then his strong arms were around me, pulling me down from the arm of the chair on top of him. I landed in an undignified sprawl, somehow one knee ending up either side of his hard thighs.
Everything suddenly grew more urgent. His hands tangled in my hair, pulling my mouth hard against his as our tongues thrust against one another. Without volition, my hips began to move against his and then I was pulling his shirt off him, eagerly seeking. As he pulled my vest off I bent my head and bit his nipple. The reaction jolted through him and his hands moved to my ass, pulling me tight against him, his erection seeking mine through our pants. I groaned as I felt his hard cock pressing against mine, but I forced myself to kneel up so that he had to look up at me. It was the most amazing feeling, for once to be looking down on him, to see the hair tumbling back from his face as he looked up at me even while his hands still moved insistently over my ass. I knelt there, still for an instant, just looking, before my lips lowered to his and my tongue fucked his mouth in delicious anticipation.
I became aware of his hands starting to unfasten my pants, tugging them over my hips.
"Wait," I managed, my voice hoarse. I stood up from him and got them and my boots off as quickly as I could given the fact that my hands were suddenly shaking, then knelt before him and started pulling his boots off and undid his pants. He arched his hips, allowing me to pull his pants down and throw them to one side.
We were motionless for an instant as I knelt before him, our eyes holding. I wrapped my hands behind his knees and pulled him forward on the chair, then pressed his legs further apart to allow me full access as I moved forward between them. His head fell back against the chair back as he watched me through half-lidded eyes.
Unbidden images of Hercules sucking Iph's cock came back to me as my tongue trailed up his inner thigh to his erection. I'd tried to forget them, and now I suddenly wondered if that had been because I'd been jealous, because I'd wanted to do that to Iph. I saw again Herc's dark-blond hair falling down around Iphicles' stiff cock as his sensitive lips surrounded the swollen head and he pushed his mouth down on it. I groaned deep in my throat as I copied Herc's action, my hand reaching to caress Iphicles' balls, just as Hercules had done that night. I was lost. I wanted his length filling my mouth, pushing against the back of my throat until I couldn't take him in any further, but I also wanted his tangy essence on my tongue. I wanted to swirl my tongue around and across his weeping tip and lose myself in the taste of Iphicles.
He was groaning now, his hands convulsively biting into the arms of his chair. "Iolaus, I can't. please."
I suddenly realised I was taking him beyond the point where he could control it. I pulled away from him with reluctance, leaving his cock glistening with my saliva. But when I looked up and saw his beautiful face, flushed as the damp curls clung against his forehead, full lips swollen from my kisses, I was glad he'd stopped me. I wanted this more than I'd ever wanted anything in my life before.
"Iphicles," I whispered, as I reached out my hand to grasp his wrist and pulled with a steady pressure, indicating unmistakably what I wanted. He allowed me to pull him out of his chair and down so that he was kneeling on the floor in front of me, the height difference almost unnoticeable as we both knelt there. We started kissing again, naked flesh rubbing agonisingly against naked flesh, my hands moving over his body and his over mine. It wasn't long before I was pulling him down on the floor so that we were lying on our sides, hands exploring still. I couldn't remember the last time I did this, deliberately ignoring my desire to thrust inside so that I could prolong this pleasure as long as I could. And he seemed content to follow my lead. It was only when I pushed him onto his back that he pulled away with disconcerting suddenness.
"I haven't got anything," he said blankly.
It took me a moment to understand what he meant. Then I swore as I thought of my bag back at Jason's, complete with its jar of massage oil. I went to tell him it didn't matter, that he could suck me to get me wet, that it wouldn't hurt, not really, but as I did so, I saw his expression. He knew what I was about to say, and with a writhing twist of guilt in my guts I saw the shadow in his eyes. I swore again, silently this time, before I remembered. With a hope I could hardly bear to register, I thought of the flask of oil I'd taken to carrying with me after a couple of recent incidents.
"Doesn't matter," I assured him, my voice thick with need. "I've got something."
I tore myself away from him and started hunting frantically through our discarded clothing. Gods, please may I have brought it with me. I'd had no reason to except habit. Gods, *please*. I almost sobbed when I found it tucked into my vest. I knew what Herc thought of me carrying it with me, but like I told him, it was always as well to be prepared. Thoughts of Hercules flew straight out of my head when I turned round to see his brother lying on the floor waiting for me, his knees drawn up in open invitation. My own erection throbbed at the sight, then I was back there as fast as I could move, kneeling between his legs and wrenching the top off the flask to pour the oil into my hand and smooth it with an unsteady hand over my cock.
I wanted to fuck Iph more than anything. I wanted to *claim* him, and I could only do that by being inside him and fucking him until he came for me. He seemed tense around my oil-slick fingers at first, but I continued exploring until I found the right place and he suddenly arched backwards, groaning. I wanted to give him a taste, to promise him more, but I couldn't hold back any longer. I slowly pushed into him. Gods, he was tight. It felt so good. I almost came as I pushed fully inside him and felt him around me. I made the mistake of looking at his face, seeing the flushed cheeks, the teeth biting down into that full lower lip, and I almost came again. I lowered my head, breathing hard, mentally counting the number of seeds in the last pomegranate I'd eaten while I tried to control myself. It was no good. There was nothing on this earth that would distract my mind from the knowledge that I was inside Iphicles, fucking him, and how fucking amazing it felt.
With a despairing groan I pushed into him again, my hand reaching for his rigid cock, working it as I began to thrust into him. I risked looking at him again, to see him arching back, eyes closed in ecstasy, mouth open as he cried out at the sensations I was sending through him. I couldn't take any more. With a final thrust I pushed so deep into him I thought I'd die. He cried out in wordless pleasure as his cock pulsed under my hand and he came, cum spilling over his stomach and chest. The sound of his orgasm, and the feel of his muscles clenching around me sent me over the edge and gasping his name, I came in a climax so intense that it almost hurt.
Afterwards I lay on top of him, my face buried in his neck, licking the sweat off his golden skin. "I love you Iph, " I whispered.
I felt the jolt that went through him and cursed my stupid tongue. His arms tightened around me, one hand creeping up to hold my head close into his neck. "Iolaus," he said.
I closed my eyes and drifted in the pleasure of holding him and being held by him, unwilling to speculate on what he might mean in case it wasn't what I wanted him to mean.
It seemed no time at all before my limbs began to protest vociferously at the uncomfortable position. I moved to try to get comfortable, but when he made no move to stop me or hold me to him any longer, I reluctantly got off him and got to my feet. I couldn't exactly stay there if he didn't want me to. I started to pick up my clothes. Iph copied my actions. Neither of us spoke. I was scared to. What had happened had meant too much. My feelings had come out of nowhere, but now they threatened to overwhelm me. I was waiting for him to say something, to see how he reacted to me.
He finished doing up his shirt and looked at me. "Guess Jason won't mind if you're not back tonight?"
It was diffident, giving me room to back out if I wanted to. My grin threatened to split my face. "Guess not," I agreed.
His rarely-seen dimples flashed out. And as I walked with the King of Corinth to his bedchamber, I knew it was too late for me. I was in love with the same man as my best friend, and nothing I could do would change that.
I lay next to him the following morning and tried not to feel bad about it. I tried not to think that he'd probably been drunk. I tried not to listen to that little voice which told me that what I'd done had been no different to what Herc had done, taking advantage of Iph's vulnerability. As I looked at him, his face relaxed and peaceful in sleep, without the strain that had been there the last few times I'd seen him, I knew it was different. I knew I'd done it because I loved him, not just because I wanted him. I ignored the little voice in my head which told me that Herc had loved Iphicles too. Then I thought of Herc and groaned. *Now* what was I supposed to do?
As Iph's eyes chose that precise moment to flicker open, his lips curving into a sleepy smile when he saw me, I forgot all about Hercules.
In fact, I managed to forget about him for the next five days, days during which Iph and I hardly stopped fucking. Well, if I didn't feel self-conscious about it, I'd say 'making love' rather than fucking. It was the most intense emotional connection I'd ever had with anyone. I'd tried not to say it again, but every time he came inside me, or I was thrusting deep into him, it spilled from me along with my cum. "I love you Iph. I love you."
He never said it back to me. I tried not to think about that. He just needed time, that was all.
I went on that first day to see Jason. I should've felt bad about not spending time with him like I'd promised, but all I wanted to do was to be with Iphicles. I collected my stuff and promised him faithfully that I'd be back in a few days time. Gods only know what he saw in my face - knowing Jason, probably everything - but he didn't say anything, just nodded and said he'd see me soon. I also discreetly found out that Phoebe had recently married one of the castle guards and was determined to be faithful to her new husband. That was one complication I was relieved not to have to face. I mean, how exactly do you say 'Not tonight thank you - I'm getting down and dirty with your king instead'?
There was another thing I was thankful for, and that was that I wasn't like Herc. I didn't face a moral crisis over whether to tell Iph about my part in what had happened to him that night. I mean, the last thing I wanted was for him to blame Herc for the *whole* thing, but I knew if I told him, it would be over between us. It would have to be - how could he forgive the unforgivable? I'd set him up to be raped. I'd watched it happen and not lifted a finger to stop it. I was far guiltier than Herc. Herc had just reacted to the situation. I was the one who'd created it. No, as far as I was concerned, the whole thing had never happened.
The next few days were perfect. All the time he wasn't working, Iph spent with me. Though I say it myself, I was good for him. I wouldn't let him work late into the night as he expected to do; he was the king, problems would have to wait for his convenience, not the other way around. He began to relax, to smile, even. It became my goal to get him to laugh. And it really was beginning to work. His Chamberlain was really pissed off about it. Both about the fact that Iph was, in his opinion, neglecting his duty, and that he was doing it for me, the grubby little commoner who'd thrown an apple core into the urn containing the remains of one of Jason's more illustrious ancestors. The fact that I hadn't known at the time didn't seem to weigh with him.
I don't know how many of Iphicles' Court knew we were actually fucking, and how many of them thought that he was just spending time with an old friend. We were discreet, at Iph's insistence - the whole king thing - but gossip's a way of life for these people. I'm sure most of them knew.
I remember lying in bed with him, the evening of the fifth night, bickering idly over who got to sleep in the wet patch.
"I *am* the king," he told me grandly at last.
"In which case you have a duty to your subjects' well-being," I reminded him.
A rueful smile crossed his lips, and I grinned back at him, secure in the knowledge that I'd won that one. Then he moved close to me, provocatively sliding his body against mine, and allowing his hands to wander. His tongue probed my ear. "I've got a better idea," he whispered seductively.
In a lesser man, my response might have been a whimper. In my case, it was simply an enquiring moan.
His tongue continued its work on my ear. "Why don't we just make another wet patch?" he suggested, his low voice resonating through me.
Gods, Herc's imagination hadn't been that far off the mark when it came to Iph's staying power. After tonight's exertions, I just wanted to sleep. But I guessed he was making up for lost time. He'd been pretty celibate since Rena. He told me that, as king, he had to be careful. He had to be completely sure that any lover was totally trustworthy. Anyway, judging by the way my body was responding to his tongue trailing a path down towards my
growing erection, I wasn't quite as finished as I'd thought.
"If you insist," I got out. I swallowed hard as he took me in his mouth. "After all, you *are* the king."
That was the last thing I said for a long time. Well, unless you count 'gods, yes Iphicles, don't stop, please, fuck me, faster, gods I'm gonna cum, yes. I love you Iph'.
Afterwards I lay there beside him, happy. I mean deeply happy. For the first time I understood what Herc was going on about with that 'love and sex should go together' talk of his. Fucking Iph was different. Every touch and look *meant* something. Gods, Herc.
"What are we going to do about Herc?"
My words hung in the sudden silence. I could feel Iph stiffening, but not in a good way.
"What do you mean?" he asked at last, his tone controlled.
"Well," I was suddenly floundering. "I've got to be with him. It's what we do." Although how in Hades can I tell my best friend that not only did I ruin everything between him and his brother, but through doing that, that I've now got exactly what he's wanted for gods know how long? "But I want to be with you as well. And he said that you don't ever want to see him again."
"I don't." His voice was curt. His arms dropped from around me and he turned over, his back to me. "Do what you want. But he's not welcome here."
I was reeling at the hostility in his voice. At the stark choice he'd given me. "Iph." I propped myself up on my side, reaching out to him.
He shrugged me off. "It's your choice Iolaus. I'm just telling you the way things are."
What hurt most of all was that he wasn't asking me to choose him. He wasn't begging me to stay with him. I lay on my back, staring blindly upwards. I didn't know what in Hades to do. No, that wasn't true, I knew deep inside. I had to be with Herc. He needed me. He was my best friend. I darted a glance at Iphicles' still back. But how could I leave Iph?
"I love you Iph," I whispered.
There was no response. I couldn't even tell if he'd heard me. I bit my lip. I couldn't leave Herc. I didn't even know how I was going to tell him about me and Iph. It would devastate him, when it was what he'd wanted so badly. Just like it had devastated me when he was with Xena. I don't know where that ugly little thought came from, but it wouldn't go away again. He hadn't agonised over it, hadn't thought how I might feel. No, and then with Serena, he'd chosen her over me. Didn't I deserve some happiness too? But even though I got my head to believe it, it didn't feel right. I knew deep inside that I was trying to fool myself.
In the end, it seemed to me there was only one solution. That was for me to stay with Iph and gradually work on him to overcome his hostility to the point where I could ask Herc to come and visit. If I could get them talking to one another again, I wouldn't have to choose between them. In the meantime, I'd let Herc know what I was doing. I didn't need to mention the true state of affairs between me and Iph at this stage. I couldn't see what else to do. If I went back to Herc now, I might never see Iph again. And I couldn't bear that.
I was the first to wake the next morning, and I woke Iph with what was probably the best blowjob he'd ever had. It certainly left him speechless for a while afterwards. I took the opportunity to tell him I was staying. I told him that nothing had changed between me and Herc, but that I wanted to stay with him. He didn't say anything about it. His face wore the expression of kingly imperturbability that I saw every day as he dealt with affairs of state.
But that night he said it for the first time. He was fucking me from behind, both of us watching in the huge polished metal mirror fixed to the wall. The first time I'd come to his bed I'd noticed with a rush of guilt that the bed with posts at the corners had gone and been replaced by a differently-styled bed. I'd been so taken up with that and what it might mean that it had taken me some time to notice the angle of the mirror, positioned so that it reflected back to the bed. And when I did, I'd been kind of freaked out. I mean, I'd never have thought that Rena...On the other hand, she *did* marry Iph, I guess.
But once I knew it was there, it was one of the most wonderful feelings in the world to do as we were doing now, to have Iphicles' hard cock thrusting deep inside me, his large hand working my own cock until I came spurting helplessly over my stomach and chest, and watching it all in the mirror. And then to move my head so that I could watch his face in the mirror as his hands smeared my warm cum over me, moving over my chest, pinching my nipples as his teeth bit into my neck and his cock kept pushing inside me. I thrust back against him, wanting him as deep inside me as possible. I was helpless with what he did to me. He slowed his movements, gentling off, his fingers gently squeezing and rolling my nipples now, before his left hand lifted away from me and I heard as well as saw him sucking my cum off his fingers.
I watched him watching me in the mirror while he did it, feeling him still deep and hard inside me, his other hand still idly playing my nipple, while each finger in turn slipped between full lips and his tongue licked my cum from them. My spent cock was suddenly rock hard again, so quickly it took me by surprise. His hand moved from my nipple and grasped my wrist when I went to touch myself, to release the agonising need.
"Let me," he murmured into my ear, his warm breath sending a shudder through me. And then I was crying out in ecstasy as I watched Iphicles' beautiful hand closing round me, watched and felt as he moved his hand up and down, and felt him begin to thrust into me again. I couldn't hold back any more - with each thrust, each stroke, each sight of his intent face, I was moaning his name, crying out that I loved him. His pace increased, his hand moved up and down my shaft, faster and faster until with a groan that sounded throughout his entire body, Iphicles came into me and I lost control and spurted my cum over his hand again and again, screaming his name.
His arms came around me and he held me close. I couldn't speak. "I love you," he murmured. My eyes flew open, seeking his in the mirror. But his head was turned into my neck, his eyes closed as he drifted into sleep.
"Look, what's the point of being king if you can't give yourself a holiday?" I could see him weakening. I flashed him my most persuasive smile as I snagged a chunk of warm bread from his plate. It was less effort than reaching across to the serving plate in the middle of the table. "Come on, Iph," I coaxed, "One day's not gonna harm anything. There's no one who can't wait till tomorrow. Well, except me of course."
His lips twisted in a reluctant smile. "You can never wait, Iolaus," he told me.
"That's not what you said earlier, when you were begging me to fuck you," I reminded him, taking a bite and chewing hard. "Anyway, it's business really - going to see the ex-king. So it's not really a holiday," I continued, somewhat indistinctly.
In the end I bombarded him with so many unanswerable arguments and left him with so little breakfast that he gave in and did what he'd wanted to do all along - agreed to take the day off and come with me to see Jason.
Jason was so pleased to see us that I felt bad about not coming over before. I was pretty sure he knew the true situation with me and Iph - his eyes missed nothing - but we were acting like normal and he didn't say anything.
It was difficult sitting in the same room as Iph but not being able to touch him. He was telling Jason the latest Court news, which didn't interest me in the least. Instead I sat there watching him, watching the way his expressive face reflected everything he spoke about, seeing the enthusiasm which lit his eyes. This kingship thing really suited him, when he wasn't working himself into the ground. I could see that Jason loved being involved, talking about the people he knew so well. I'd wondered before now how these two really got on - it could have been a very difficult situation, but it seemed that it had turned out well. I watched the laughter in Iph's dark eyes as he told Jason a particularly scurrilous tale doing the rounds about the Captain of the Guard and a yard-full of goats. Jason gave a shout of laughter, before telling Iph why he'd finally had to get rid of *his* last Captain. "I could handle the shepherds' endless petitions, their demanding armed guards over their flocks, but the final straw was when they
marched into the throneroom with their prize witness - a sheep!"
Iphicles laughed, his head thrown back. I swallowed as I watched the taut line of his throat, mesmerised by the shift of muscled thigh under leather pants as he moved slightly in his seat, the play of bright sunlight from the window dappling his tanned arm. His laughing eyes met mine, and as he saw my expression, so I saw his eyes change, darkening at the stirring of desire deep within.
Jason's never been slow to catch an atmosphere. His innocent suggestion that we might like to check out the work he'd been doing on the barn while he started lunch was obvious - to say the very least - but appreciated. I'm not sure how we made it to the barn. No sooner were we out of the house than our mouths were desperately seeking one another, lips hard and urgent, tongues demanding, hands frantically hunting underneath clothes. We finally staggered to the barn, where regardless of the interested scrutiny of Jason's horse penned up at the far end, Iph pushed me up against the wall, tearing my vest off as I did the same with his shirt, mouths biting eagerly at exposed skin. In his hurry to get out of his pants, Iph managed to get tangled up in them, lost his balance and went crashing into the barn wall beside me, one muscular shoulder taking the force of his impact against the planks. Nearly choking with laughter, I took advantage of his unbalanced predicament to push him face-first up against the warm rough grain of the wood.
"It's just as well it's not for your sense of balance I love you," I told him, before moving down and finishing the job of pulling his pants off. I paused on the way back up his body, one hand teasingly cupping his balls while the other moved knowingly over his cock. Then I slid two fingers into his ass. He moaned and thrust back onto them. I grudgingly disengaged to frantically search through the clothes scattered on the floor of the barn till I found the oil I'd thought to bring with me. I smeared some over my cock. Then I was pulling his firm smooth ass towards me and pushing slowly in. He cried out as I moved into him, and then again as my hand sought for his rigid cock, taking it in my hand while I thrust into him, watching my cock sliding in and out of his ass, telling him what it looked like, telling him what it felt like to fuck him and how beautiful he was and how I was going to fuck him until he couldn't walk. He was groaning constantly as I thrust into him, his legs spread wide as he used the wall of the barn to brace himself against the force of me driving deep inside him, his cock leaking over my hand until I finally pulled right out of him and concentrated on playing with his cock. He moaned. "Please Iolaus, please."
I teased him with the head of my cock probing his ass. "Gods, please," he was opening up to me even more, begging for my cock inside him. At the sight of his firm ass in front of me and the feel of his hard cock in my hand I couldn't tease him any more. I'd come myself if I tried it. I pushed back into him, long and slow, then pulled back and thrust in again, keeping it slow. He was moaning as I moved faster inside him until I was thrusting, pushing, suddenly losing control and coming inside him as he too came.
We collapsed onto the floor, sweating and panting. I curled around him from behind, moving his damp hair back so that I could kiss the back of his neck. "Gods," he said, when he could speak.
"Yeah," I agreed, breathlessly.
We lay there for some time in contented silence, before he turned over and propped himself up on one elbow to look down at me, his hand resting on my chest. I stared back at him, into those intense dark eyes.
"I love you, Iph," I told him.
His head bent to mine and he kissed me. "I love you too," he said quietly. Then he lifted his head and sighed. "Guess we'd better be getting back."
I'd never tell him, but just occasionally he reminded me irresistibly of Herc. "What's with this whole sense of duty anyway?" I grumbled as I too got slowly and reluctantly to my feet.
"It's a king thing," he told me.
I grinned suddenly. "No, *that's* a king thing," I corrected him and reached out to his cock. I knelt down before him and began to lick the cum off it.
"Iolaus." As protests went, it was half-hearted, so I ignored it. My tongue traced around him and I could feel the change, feel him beginning to harden again under my determined ministrations.
Well, we finally made it back to Jason. He was sitting outside in the sun. I could see food set out in the kitchen.
"So what did you think?" he greeted us.
We looked blankly at him.
"My alterations?" he prompted straight-faced.
Iph and I stared guiltily at each other for an instant like two errant schoolboys.
"Lovely," I enthused quickly. "You've got a real talent there, Jason."
"Very nice," Iph added lamely.
Jason's eyes crinkled. "I just hope you two haven't shocked my horse *too* much," he told us tolerantly. "Come inside and have something to eat."
The whole day was perfect, almost frighteningly so. One of those days when you just know the gods are going to find a way to punish you for being so happy. I put that thought straight to the back of my mind. It was so good to relax with Jason and Iph like this, talking about nothing in particular, just chatting and being with friends. I did miss Herc though. It was an almost physical ache inside me when I thought of how much he would've liked to be here with his brother and father by law, how he was probably on his own at the moment, beating himself up yet again over what he'd done to Iph. It had been a daily ritual when I'd last been with him. And there were nights when his dreams were uneasy too. Not as bad as that dream Iph had had one night, though. I swallowed as I remembered. He'd shrugged it off, refused to tell me what it had been about, but I knew.
"You ok, Iolaus?"
I looked up to see his eyes on me, concerned.
I forced a smile. "Just hungry," I flipped back automatically. I had to do something to make it alright again, to take things back to how they were. I'd start my campaign now, talk to Iph about Herc, begin to wear down his
I made my first move when the shadows lengthened in the evening sun and we went to water the livestock for Jason. Not one of Iph's better ideas. As far as I was concerned it sounded dangerously like hard work, and so I told him.
"Anyway," I continued my protests as he passed me a full bucket that instantly slopped half of its contents all over my feet, "You're too important to do this sort of thing now. Couldn't you bring some guards with you or something so *they* could carry the water. Or Herc maybe - *he* likes all this work and honest sweat stuff."
Clumsy I know, but there was really no good way to raise the subject. Iph said nothing. I put the bucket down and plunged on. "Herc misses you, you know."
His face closed off.
"Iph," I tried again, "I mean it. I'm not excusing what he did, but he loves you. He's been crucifying himself over it."
He was silent for a moment. When he spoke his voice was unnaturally calm. "You know."
I nodded slowly. "He told me. One night when he couldn't bear it any longer, he told me what he did to you." Gods, the guilt I felt as I looked at Iph. What *we* did to you.
He turned abruptly away. "Then you'll know why I don't want to see him or hear his name again."
"No!" I grabbed his arm and spun him to face me. "Iphicles please! You're right to be angry, but he cares about you. He'd do anything to undo what he did. Please give him a chance." My eyes held his angry gaze even as he wrenched his arm out of my grasp "He couldn't tell you how he felt about you, everything came out wrong whenever he tried to talk to you, so when he found you like that -"
"You fell for that line, did you?" His acid words cut scathingly across mine. "Come on Iolaus, if it wasn't him who drugged me and then tied me up, blindfolded and gagged me, who was it?"
My mouth opened on command, but nothing came out. I stared at him, paralysed by guilt and sudden choking fear.
His eyes on my face slowly changed from hard anger against Herc to a query at my reaction. And then, when I could still say nothing, I saw a dawning disbelief.
"Iolaus?" An incredulous question, ready to laugh ashamedly at his unworthy suspicion, if I could just find the words.
I swallowed. My heart was hammering. There was a pounding in my head. I couldn't speak.
"No." His voice was hoarse. "Tell me it's not true. Tell me you didn't."
"I love you Iph." It spilled out, my desperate talisman against what was happening. My eyes clung to his. "I didn't mean it."
The sickened revulsion in his face was more than I could bear. I reached out a hand towards him. He stepped sharply back, as though the contact would sear him.
"Get away from me." His words lashed viciously, the combination of disgust, condemnation and raw distress in his voice flaying me unmercifully.
Rage blazed suddenly in him, a blistering burning fury that scorched me where I stood. But his eyes were clear and rational as he told me with an absolute certainty which chilled me to the bottom of my heart, "If you ever
come near me again, I'll kill you."
His gaze held mine for an instant longer, a compound of loathing and fury. But it was the expression behind that which tore me apart. His anguished bewilderment.
If he'd wanted revenge on me for what I'd done, he had it then, as I had to witness that expression in his eyes and then watch him walk out of my life without a backward glance.
I couldn't go after him. There was nothing I could say. What I'd done was indefensible. Not just that night - though that was bad enough - but the way I'd come to him in his need and persuaded him to start to love me, when all along I knew how I'd betrayed him. When every day that passed and I didn't tell him what I'd done was another betrayal.
I fucked up, I know that. Gods, I know that. But I love him so much. And to know that I can never be with him again, that I have to spend the rest of my life without him because of my own stupid *stupid* fuckup hurts more than you can believe.
Herc doesn't know of course. It's enough for him that we avoid Corinth. He's never asked me why I haven't wanted to go back after that visit. I don't know what we're going to do when we next get a message from Jason asking us to visit him. I guess we're going to have to try to bury the memories and go and see Jason. But Jason hasn't been in touch since that last time I was there.
I don't know how I can wake up every morning in my best friend's arms and still feel lonely. I love Herc, don't get me wrong, but it's not the same. And I know how he feels too. We haven't talked about it, but if I had any doubts, they were swiftly put to rest the night he had too much to drink and cried out the wrong name as he came. Maybe that's why we finally became lovers, because neither of us could have the one we really wanted.
We have to rely on hearsay to learn how Iph is these days. The last thing we heard was some sort of crazy rumour that he'd taken up with Ares. Herc and I had looked at each other. It couldn't be true...Could it? The thing is, we both know it could. It's just the sort of sick thing Ares would do to get at Herc. And maybe Iph's doing it to get back at us, using Ares like he thinks we used him. Or maybe we don't mean enough to him for him to think like that. Maybe Ares has just sucked him in. Gods. I don't know which I'd rather was true. One way, he's going to get hurt. Again. The other, it means that he really does hate us. That he really does hate me.
There's still this part of me that keeps hoping that one day I can see Iph again, explain to him in a way that will make sense. Explain that I love him. Or even if *I* can't, that Herc can. That they can make their peace as brothers. But somehow, I doubt that will ever happen now. It's too late for that.