Once upon a time there was a very beautiful lady, who had a beautiful son. His eyes were dark and so was his hair, his limbs were firm and sturdy and everybody loved him. And she called him Iphicles.
Then a few years later the beautiful lady (who was still very beautiful thanks to an invention called a face-lift) had another son. He had golden hair and brown skin and deep blue eyes. And she called him Hercules.
Now Hercules was the son of a god. And because of that, he thought that everyone should love him more than they loved his brother. So when Hercules saw that everybody loved Iphicles, he got very angry. He filled up sweet old Mr Augeias’ stables with horse-shit, and killed all of Mrs Stymphalus’ nice pet birds. And the townspeople grew very afraid of Hercules. To make sure that he wouldn’t be nasty to them any more, they pretended to hate Iphicles. Nobody would talk to him, and none of the other boys would play with him.
And then Hercules found a little friend and took him home and called him Iolaus. Iolaus had been a very sad child whose father had beaten him for being incredibly annoying all the time, and he liked being Hercules’ friend because he could continue to be incredibly annoying but no one would dare to tell him off. So he came to live with Hercules and Iphicles and their mother in the little house just outside the village. And they all lived there for many years until the boys were fully grown.
Then one day their mother died. Hercules and Iolaus were with her as she died, but nobody bothered to find Iphicles to tell him. He came home from hunting for deer to feed the family to find Hercules and Iolaus very sad. They told him what had happened. Iphicles was very sad too.
“And it was her dying wish for you to look after us the way that she did, to do all the housework, to cook and clean and sew, and chop the wood and feed the chickens and do everything Iolaus and I tell you to.”
Even though it had been his mother’s dying wish, Iphicles didn’t really want to agree. He wanted to travel, meet people and save the planet (he was also interested in human rights and current affairs).
But Iolaus had been thinking. He knew that if Iphicles left, Hercules would expect *him* to do all those things as well as suck his cock, and so he didn’t want Iphicles to leave. So he told Iphicles that he loved him. That he and Hercules were the only family he had ever known, and that now their mother was dead all the brothers should stick together.
Iphicles was sad when Iolaus told him those beautiful things. He thought how unlucky Iolaus had been not to have had a family, and he agreed to stay at home and help them. So Iphicles stayed, and cooked and cleaned and sewed, and chopped the wood and fed the chickens. And sometimes he’d look up at the sky and wondered if it would look the same in another country. But then Hercules or Iolaus would need his help and he’d try to forget his dreams. Hercules had a very bad back which meant that he couldn’t lift anything heavy but needed Iphicles to do it for him. And Iolaus had never been taught to cook or to do anything around the house because his childhood
had been so sad. So Iphicles stayed, and time passed.
“Fuck it Iolaus - that’s *my* damned shirt!”
“Give it back - it’s not yours, it’s *mine*! It’ll never fit you - you’ll rip it. *Herc*!”
Iphicles looked up from where, in a rare moment of leisure, he had been studying a critique of Aristophanes’ latest work. He wanted to improve himself.
Iolaus flung into the room and hurled the shirt at him. “It needs mending,” he told Iphicles.
Iphicles picked up the ruined garment and looked at it. “It needs throwing out,” he commented.
“Iphers,” Iolaus’ tone was threatening, “I tell you, it needs mending and it needs mending *now*. I haven’t got anything else to wear to the Prince’s ball tonight.”
“But Iolaus,” Iphicles protested, “Even if I sew it up, the tear will show.”
Iolaus’ eyes lit thoughtfully on Iphicles. “Tell you what, Iphers,” he said, “*Your* shirt will do.”
Iphicles looked down at his clean white shirt. He’d washed it specially for the ball. And put on his smartest leather pants too.
“But what would *I* wear?” he asked Iolaus.
Iolaus shrugged. “You don’t really want to go to the ball anyway, do you. It’s not your sort of thing. What would you talk to the Prince about - the number of logs you can split with one blow of your axe?”
Iphicles blushed. Iolaus was right - he wouldn’t know what to say to all those people. Even though the Prince’s invitation had been to *all* the young men in the kingdom, he’d known it didn’t really include him. And Iolaus had had a very sad childhood and needed to go to the ball to be cheered up. Iphicles began to take his shirt off.
“After all Iphers,” Iolaus said as he watched him, “I did have a very sad childhood and I do need cheering up.”
Iphicles nodded and tried not to feel too disappointed as Iolaus took the shirt and disappeared back upstairs.
Iphicles sat reading by the light of the fire. His brothers had gone to the ball, and he’d cleared up the clothes they’d left lying around their bedroom (Hercules couldn’t bend to pick them up because of his bad back).
Suddenly there was a bang at the door and it flew open to reveal a beautiful woman. Iphicles swallowed nervously as he stood up. She was a *very* beautiful woman, with long dark hair and bright blue eyes. And she had a very big sword.
“Are you Iphicles?” she demanded.
He nodded speechlessly. Her skirt was very short.
“You’re supposed to be at that damned ball,” she said, “And Cupid is real pissed about it. Now get your arse in gear and get over there.”
“Cupid the God of Love?” Iphicles asked in amazement.
“No, the *other* Cupid,” she snapped irritably. “Of *course* Cupid the God of Love! What, you think there’s a Cupid God of *War* out there or something?” Not stopping for breath she continued her bitter diatribe, “Gods, of all the bloody favours he could have called in, Cupid has to pick on this one. This guy makes Gabrielle look intelligent!” Her voice raised again as she looked back at him. “Now get going!”
Iphicles shook his head. “I can’t,” he said. “I haven’t got anything to wear.”
Her head cocked on one side, her eyes swept assessingly up and down his bare torso and leather pants. “I really don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” she informed him.
Iphicles shuffled his feet. “I can’t go to the ball without a shirt,” he protested embarrassed.
“Gods, will you stop *whining*!” She looked irascibly around and saw the laundry basket by Iphicles’ chair. He’d been planning on doing some sewing when he’d finished reading the section on the playwright’s satirising of contemporary issues.
She rummaged through it and pulled out a faded old shirt. “There you go.” She threw it at Iphicles. “Put it on.”
“But…” He saw the warning light in her eyes and obediently slipped it on. One sleeve was partly ripped away from the body where the shirt had been washed so many times it was threadbare. He’d been going to replace it, but Hercules and Iolaus had needed the money to buy wine for Hercules’ birthday party.
He started to tuck the loose shirt into his pants.
“You want a hand with that?”
He looked up, startled. “No thank you,” he said quickly, embarrassed. But she was still looking at him with a funny expression on her face like she hadn’t eaten recently. “Would you like some supper?” he offered, “I can fricassee some rabbit for you.”
With an odd sort of strangled noise, she turned and stalked out of the house, pausing only to turn and point a commanding finger at him. “Get. Your. Delectable. Butt. Over to. The Prince’s ball. NOW.”
And then Iphicles was left blinking in bemusement as she disappeared into the night.
The Prince was bored. All the young men of the kingdom had turned up to his ball and he didn’t like *any* of them. He glared sullenly at the short blond one in the shirt that was too big for him, busily eating his way through all the delicacies set out for the guests. And his friend, the big lunk with the muscles, was already drunk and pawing at the blond. The Prince slouched deeper into his throne, one leg flung sulkily over the arm, and glowered.
“Now dear, you should play nicely with your guests,” the queen chided him. “They’ve all come to wish you a happy birthday and you should at least be polite.”
The Prince scowled. “I don’t *want* to be polite,” he snarled.
“Now dear,” his mother said, “Remember why they’re here - so you can have some friends at last. Your father and I are worried about you. You don’t have any friends apart from that chicken.”
The Prince looked in sudden suspicion at the stuffed bird which had pride of place on the buffet table. It did look awfully familiar.
But he obeyed the queen at last and shuffled round the room, muttering at the guests and refusing to dance.
Iphicles stood uncertainly in the doorway. He knew he shouldn’t have come. But that pretty lady had been so insistent. And her sword *had* been awfully big. But now that he was here, Iphicles was feeling more embarrassed than he’d ever felt before in his life. This was even worse than the time when he was fifteen and his mother had found him with the nice lady from the pottery stall in the market who had promised to show him her wares. Iphicles had always been interested in sculpture, and had been very happy when he realised she wanted him to model for her. But then his mother had walked in and found her helping Iphicles to take his clothes off and had chased the nice lady away. Iphicles had felt awfully embarrassed by his mother’s actions.
This was worse though. All these confident young men with beautiful clothes and fashionable hair-styles, standing around talking and drinking, some of them whirling around the room in graceful couples to the music being played. Iphicles knew that his shirt was torn and his pants were old and his hair was too long, and he just didn’t fit in. Nobody would want to talk to him. He turned round and left.
The Prince was still bored. They hadn’t even brought him any presents. He scowled as he looked around. And then he saw the figure standing in the doorway of the ballroom. Tall and muscular, a tantalising glimpse of tanned muscle visible through the rip in the loose shirt, and obviously well-worn leather pants which clung to every curve of his delicious butt, alluringly tight around well-muscled thighs. He ignored the squeals of pain as he trampled dancers’ feet in his rush to the doorway. When he got there it was empty. He looked up and down the corridor outside. The door to the gardens was just closing. Ares took off in that direction.
Iphicles heard running feet behind him and turned guiltily. He’d come the wrong way by mistake, and he was sure he wasn’t allowed to be in the gardens. He was going to be in trouble. The apology stuttered into nothingness on his lips as he saw the face of the man who stood there. It was the most beautiful face he had ever seen. And it was framed by dark hair which was almost as long as Iphicles’ own. Maybe *he* didn’t fit in either. He found himself smiling at the man.
Ares felt faint as those beautiful lips curved into a smile, those dark eyes shyly welcoming. He swallowed hard. “Would you like to walk with me in the gardens?” he offered huskily.
That smile - those dimples! - flashed out again. And then the eagerness faded and uncertainty crept in. “I don’t think we should,” he said.
Gods no - he couldn’t do this! It was his *birthday* for Hades’ sake. Something nice *had* to happen.
“The Prince might not like us to,” the stranger continued.
Ares breathed in sudden relief. “Oh that’s alright,” he assured him breezily. “I know someone who knows someone whose cousin is the Prince’s valet, and *he* says the Prince likes people to share the beauty of his gardens.”
“Really?” The man’s eyes glowed as they stayed on Ares’ face. “He must be a very nice person.”
“Oh he is,” Ares assured him as they began to walk through the moonlit garden, away from the palace, down towards the lake. “And talented too.”
The man couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from Ares’ face. He finally recalled his manners and stopped still, turning to offer Ares his right hand. “I’m -“ he began.
“No.” Ares cut across him. If he found out he was the Prince, he’d be different with him. “No names. Just the night. The moon. And us.” He took the offered hand, raised it to his mouth and lightly kissed the palm. The resulting shiver from the man excited the Prince as nothing had in a long time. He glanced around quickly to make sure they were out of sight of the palace before moving towards the other man and brushing his lips against the other’s lips. The stranger’s eyes closed as his mouth opened to admit Ares’ searching tongue. Ares’ hands began to explore the man’s butt through the soft warm leather, acutely aware of the man’s response to him.
With some difficulty, Ares got control of himself and drew back slightly, sitting down on the cool grass. He reached up an inviting hand to the stranger. The man sat down beside him and they began to kiss again, and then they were pressed tight together, hands frantically seeking, until clothes were strewn around them. Something flew out of the pocket of the other’s shirt when Ares ripped it off him, but when he saw the beauty revealed before him, Ares thought no more of it.
The two made passionate love for hours that night. When they were too exhausted to continue they found that they shared a common interest and talked about the use of imagery in Aristophanes’ later works. And then they went on again to make tender gentle love to one another. Ares held the man tightly afterwards. He had wanted to give the Prince pleasure, not because he was a Prince, but because he liked him. Ares couldn’t remember anyone
ever liking him before.
Iphicles lay in Ares’ arms looking up at the stars and was happier than he’d ever been in his whole life.
“Yoo hoo! Sweetie Pie!”
The two men jerked fully awake at the sound of someone approaching. Ares made a dive for his clothes.
“Who is it?” Iphicles asked as he began to struggle back into his own pants.
“It’s my - I mean, it’s Queen Hera,” Ares responded, quickly doing up his pants. “Stay there, I’ll head her off.”
Iphicles obediently sat back down on the grass as he started to do his shirt up. Then he gave up. It was ripped in so many places now that he’d just have to finish the job and use it for dusters. It was just as well you could never have too many dusters.
More voices were approaching. Familiar voices, arguing.
“I tell you, I wasn’t kissing him!” Iolaus sounded aggrieved. “He had something in his eye so I said I’d remove it.”
“With your tongue?” The scathing tone in Hercules’ voice suddenly faltered. “Don’t leave me Iolaus, please. I’m sorry I was shitty to you. I love you, I do, I really really love you!”
Sounds of sobs and a back being patted. “There there, Herc, don’t worry about it. I love you too, even if you *are* drunk.”
The two figures lurched into sight, Hercules’ arm draped around Iolaus’ shoulders as though it was the only thing keeping him upright.
“Iphers?” Iolaus sounded amazed. “What are *you* doing here?”
“Well, I just - “
“Yes, very nice,” Iolaus agreed. “Take Herc home, will you.”
“But I can’t, I’ve got to -“
“*Can’t*?” Two outraged pairs of eyes turned on him.
Iphicles blushed. “It’s just - uh - I’ve got to wait for my friend.” A warm glow spread through him at the thought. He’d never had a friend before.
“*Friend*? *You*?” They were both staring at him in disbelief.
Then Iolaus’ lip curled. “Believe me, Iphers, if he left you here to wait for him, it’s because he didn’t want to face your kicked puppy expression
when he said thanks for the fuck and goodbye.” Iolaus shook his head in disgust. “Gods, Iphers, sometimes you’re so *stupid*.”
Iphicles stared at Iolaus. He wouldn’t have done that. What they’d had was *special*. He - and then he realised the man hadn’t even wanted to tell him his name. Without a word, Iphicles got to his feet and took Hercules’ weight from Iolaus.
“Take him home and put him to bed. I’ll be back later.”
Iolaus reached up and kissed Hercules’ mouth. “Yeah Herc, I love you too. Now go.”
When Ares came back five minutes later, the glade was empty. He called, but there was no reply. He called again, but his voice echoed mockingly in the empty gardens.
He was just beginning to despair when he saw something in the moonlight. He bent to snatch it up. He’d seen it fly from his unknown lover’s pocket. Ares’ eyes closed and he breathed a silent prayer of thanks to whichever god was watching over him tonight.
And Cupid, God of Love, groaned and banged his head against the nearest handy tree and wished that he had a nice easy job. Like being the God responsible for mentally calculating partial differential equations, or something simple like that.
Iphicles might have managed to forget the whole thing eventually, if it hadn’t been for Hercules and Iolaus. Every time they asked him to do something for them they’d add, “But wait - maybe you *can’t*. Maybe you’re waiting for your *friend*,” and then collapse into fits of giggles.
After days of this, Iphicles finally confronted Hercules about it. “Why are you making fun of me?”
“Because *you’re* Iphicles and *I’m* Hercules,” his brother told him.
Iphicles’ eyes stung as he turned to leave the room.
“Yes?” He turned back to Iolaus. Maybe he was going to say something nice.
“Don’t worry about it - I’m sure your *friend* likes you!” and then he and Hercules were holding their aching sides as they laughed and laughed and laughed.
A solitary tear tracked sadly down Iphicles’ face as he went out into the yard. He’d really thought… He swiped his forearm roughly across his eyes and bent to pick up the wood-axe. He’d only chopped enough wood to last for half the coming winter, and it was already nearly autumn.
It was hot work. Iphicles soon discarded his shirt as he worked in the sun. But even with that, and taking frequent drinks from the well, he was hot. He welcomed the opportunity go into the pleasant shade of the kitchen to start preparing the evening meal. As he was crossing the yard to the kitchen, a very peculiar sight met his eyes. Marching up the path that led to the front of the house was a whole line of people, led by a Royal Herald
carefully carrying something in a glass case.
“Hear ye, hear ye,” the Herald declaimed. “The man whom this garment fits will henceforth be Prince Ares’ Companion. All young men of the kingdom are commanded to try it on. Hear ye, hear ye.”
Iphicles carried on into the kitchen and started to scrub some vegetables for supper. He was sure that it would be Hercules who would be chosen to be the Prince’s Companion, and his brother couldn’t go to the palace on an empty stomach.
He could hear a commotion from the neighbouring room and, although he knew it was rude to listen, he couldn’t avoid overhearing what was going on.
“Me first.” No room for discussion in Hercules’ voice.
Silence. Then a crow of triumph from Iolaus. “Told you so - it’s too big for you!”
“Wait a minute.” Hercules’ voice again. There was the sound of slapping flesh before his satisfied voice declared, “There - it almost fits.”
“It’s still too big.” Iolaus was gloating.
“Hey Iolaus, do that thing with the wet haddock. Then it’ll fit.”
The Herald’s voice. “Next.”
Iphicles could hear Iolaus jumping up and down. “Me! Me! Let me try!”
Another silence. Then the pout in Iolaus’ voice. “Oh gee, why’d it fall off like that?”
“That’s it.” Hercules sounded grumpy.
“But there *must* be somebody else - this is the last house in the entire kingdom. There’s no one left.”
“Last house in the kingdom?” Hercules screeched. “Don’t you know who I am - I’m the son of a god! I should have been the *first* to try it! And it nearly fitted -“
“With a bit of help,” Iolaus slyly put in.
Hercules ignored him. “Give me another go, I’m sure I can…”
“So you have no other young men living here?” The Herald sounded so disappointed that Iphicles wanted to whip him up a nice comforting cup of soup to make him feel better.
“Well there’s always Iphers.” Iolaus’ tone indicated that he was beneath consideration.
“Iphers? Who’s that? Where is he?”
Iphicles quickly wiped his hands on his leather pants and went through into the other room. The Herald turned at his entrance, and stood frozen, mouth hanging open. Iphicles was embarrassed - he knew he must look very scruffy. He knew these pants were a bit tight, but he hadn’t wanted to spoil his best ones out in the yard. And he was uneasily aware that sweat was still dripping down his bare torso and that his hair was mussed. He’d have cleaned up if he’d known he was going to meet somebody important.
“So you really want to give *him* a go?” Hercules taunted.
The Herald swallowed. “Oh *yes*!” The precise way in which he stared at Iphicles made Iphicles wish that he *had* made him that soup - the Prince obviously didn’t feed his Heralds very well. Then the Herald quickly cleared his throat and said, “I mean, ‘Oh Yea’. Those are our orders, that *every* young man in the kingdom tries this on.” He moved so that he was standing very close to Iphicles. “May I ask you to try this on for me?”
Iphicles looked around the room in embarrassment. “What, here? Now? In front of everyone?”
“We must have witnesses - we can’t risk accusations that the garment was altered in any way to influence the result of the search.”
Eyes lowered, abashed, Iphicles unlaced his leather pants and reached out a hand for the garment in question. A brief silence as he slipped it on…
The Herald let out a great shout. “IT FITS! The fur-lined cockwarmer formerly known as Kev (patent pending) fits!”
“Put those haddock down Herc, it’s too late…”
So Iphicles was taken to the place and reunited with Prince Ares. And they fucked one another’s brains out and lived happily ever after.