As Iolaus stared at Hercules through the leaping flames, he shook his head. *I have to tell him, I can't let it go on further.* He took a deep breath, and spoke Hercules' name.
The demigod raised his head and looked at his companion through the campfire. *I knew this was coming. I could feel the change in him, but dear gods... I don't want it!!* "Yes?"
"I... gods, Herc, this isn't easy for me. I love you, Herc, you have always been there for me, you have saved my life more times than I can count, but..."
"Don't, Iolaus, don't do this." Hercules' whisper was agonizing. "I don't want to hear it, I can't hear it, Iolaus."
"I must, I can't hide it any longer. I've been hiding it as long as I could, I can't keep living this way! I can't keep lying to you any more, I love you too much."
"But?" The demigod's whisper was barely audible.
"There's someone else," Iolaus said, his voice cracking. "We-he-I..." he couldn't think of a good way to say this. "It's Ares."
Hercules looked up from the ground, his big blue eyes streaming tears. "My own brother?"
"I didn't mean to, Herc. It just happened. He's so much that you're not, just like you're so much that he isn't."
"After everything that he has done to me... to you... to US?"
Iolaus reached out to Hercules, but the half-god slapped him away, sending him sprawling. "I'm sorry," Iolaus whispered, crying himself.
"ARES!!" Hercules bellowed. The god appeared before him, and Hercules threw himself at Ares. The god caught him, and tossed him to the side effortlessly. "You son of a bitch! You knew he was mine and you took him away from me!"
"Iolaus is his own man! He can make his own choices!" Ares defended himself against Hercules' angry blows. "I won't kill you over this!"
"Then I will kill you or die trying!" Hercules hurled himself forward again, his hands clawed as he ripped at the god's face, arms, and chest. Ares caught the demigod and slammed him to the ground.
"Hercules, stop!" Iolaus cried out. "Please stop, don't make him kill you!"
Hercules ignored Iolaus' warnings, and he kept attacking Ares, and finally the god threw Hercules to the ground, cracking his head against a rock. As he shook it off, Iolaus felt the hair on the back of his arms stand up as Ares gathered his powers for the blow that would finish him. "Ares, no!"
The god was too lost in his anger to hear, and he flung the bright bolt at Hercules.
Iolaus threw himself on top of Hercules, too late for Ares to stop the bolt. It slammed into Iolaus, crushing his chest, splintering his ribs and breaking his bones. Horrified, Ares threw Hercules to the side and gathered Iolaus into his arms. "Iolaus, what have you done?"
"Saved you both," Iolaus said, coughing up blood as he struggled to breathe. "you can't kill him... zeus made the rule... he can't kill you....and you fought over me." As Ares reached down to heal him, Iolaus spoke again. "You know the rule... you can't heal what you destroyed."
"But no one else can get here in time, you're dying," Ares whispered, holding him tightly.
"I know, just let it be. Hold me tightly, kiss me before I go," was Iolaus' last request. Ares nodded, holding Iolaus tightly to his chest, and touched the bloody lips with his own, kissing them softly and thoroughly, tasting the mortal's lifeblood in the kiss. When he broke the kiss and he looked down at the man in his arms, Iolaus was dead and Hades was waiting with his arms outstretched.
Hercules watched as Ares placed Iolaus in Hades' arms, and as the god of the Underworld disappeared with their love in his arms.