Family Secrets
 By Nemetona
Ares stood at the side of the bed. Anyone who knew him would have been surprised at the gentle expression on his face as he watched the sleeping figure.

He reached out, lightly stroking the soft curls, running his fingers through them. Sometimes he wanted to shout his love for this mortal from the heights of Mount Olympus, to let the entire universe know that he belonged to Iphicles and Iphicles to him, from now until eternity.

Ares gave a self-depreciating smile at the turn his thoughts were taking. //You've brought me to my knees, and I can never tell another living soul, even you, or they'll find way to take you from me. That would destroy me as surely as any hind-blooded dagger.//

Reaching out, he caressed the naked shoulder of his lover, letting his hand run down the muscular torso and hips before cupping his large callused hand round the gently furred balls. There was an immediate response as Iphicles' penis became erect. Ares dipped his head and engulfed the organ.

Iphicles groaned as he wakened to the hot mouth surrounding him. As he moved from deep sleep the pressure wrought by Ares' tongue sucking him brought him to the edge of ecstasy. Crying the god's name he came in the demanding mouth.

"Ares," he breathed, when he managed to get his voice to work. "What a way to wake up." He reached up, curving his arms round his dark lover's neck to kiss him. He could taste himself on Ares' lips as their tongues duelled. Soon the pair were lost once again in each other shutting out the rest of the world.

Later that same day Iphicles, Hercules and Iolaus were carousing. The wandering pair had come to Corinth to pay a visit to the king. Hercules was making a determined effort to get along with his brother and as Iphicles was making an equal effort their stay at the palace had been pleasant.

After Iphicles had taken care of royal business for the day he spent some time with his brother and friend. Personally, he would have preferred to retire to his own chambers and relax in the tender embrace of his new lover. But he was not yet prepared to let Hercules know that he and Ares were intimate; he knew that Hercules would feel betrayed when he broke the news to him and it was too soon after losing their mother; he wanted a chance to strengthen his relationship with Hercules before telling him.

After several hours of drinking and story telling somehow the subject had turned to Alcmene and a maudlin Hercules was declaring how she was the best of all women, the best mother, the best wife, the most loving.

"Stop putting Mother on a pedestal, Hercules. I loved her very much but she was human." Iphicles, tired of his brother's prosy protest. "She had the same needs and desires as all of us."

"How dare you compare mother to other women. She was perfect." Hercules was a lot drunker than anyone realised. "She never forgot that she was Amphitryon's wife until that bastard Jason came along. He seduced her into marrying him."

"Are you saying that you think mother had no lovers in the twenty odd years she was alone? Iphicles scoffed at his brother's naivety "She was a flesh and blood woman, Hercules, not a statue."

"How dare you!" Hercules stood up, swaying slightly. "How dare you suggest mother lay down with any man other than her husband."

"Aren't you forgetting about Zeus, Hercules?" Iphicles had the gloves off now.

"That was different. He tricked her, came to her in the body of Amphitryon - there was no way she could have known - Mother would never have slept with anyone she wasn't married to." Hercules drained his glass and then set it down on the edge of a nearby table where it teetered precariously for a moment before falling. He made an abortive attempt to catch it but his reactions were too slow, the glass fell to the floor, shattering.

"Guys, guys!! Give it a rest!". Iolaus stepped between the two brothers, a hand on either of their chests, pushing them apart. "This is a pointless argument. "Let's forget it and have another drink" It was a testament to the force of Iolaus personality that neither of the men who dwarfed him considered pushing him aside.

"But Iolaus", Hercules whined, "you heard what he said about my Mother."

"I heard him say that she was a warm, loving human - one you both adored. " Iolaus retorted. "And as for you, Iphicles, Hercules is not responsible for his father's actions. Now why don't the pair of you give it up - you know this isn't about Alcmene, it's about the two of you."

The brothers stepped back slightly, each considering Ioulas words. For a moment it seemed as if sanity would prevail and it would probably have been ok has Iphicles not added "He's right, there's no point in us arguing about our mother's lovers when we can't prove it.Ē

Hercules hand closed round his throat, shutting of his words.

"Our mother had no lovers and I can prove it". He shook Iphicles like a rag doll before pushing him away.

"Aphrodite!" he called to his sister, "Aphrodite".

"Herc, no." Iolaus put a hand on his friend's arm. "This isn't a good idea." Hercules shrugged him off and again shouted for his sister.

A sparkle in the air announced her arrival. "Hey bro, what's your beef?"

She absorbed the tension in the air between the three occupants of the room. Iphicles was standing at one side, rubbing his throat. Hercules was opposite him, glaring at his brother with something like hatred on his normally expressionless face and Iolaus had placed himself between the two men, casting concerned looks at them both.

"What's with the heavy vibes?" she asked.

Hercules ignored her question and instead asked "Aphrodite, can you show Iphicles the faces of any men whom my mother, Alcmene 'knew'? I want you to show him that our mother only ever was with her husbands, apart from when Zeus tricked her"

Aphrodite looked disapproving "You want to spy on your dead mother's love life?" she said in disbelief.

"I want to prove to this doubter that my mother was a chaste and virtuous woman who never strayed beyond the marriage bed."

Iolaus tried to intervene. "Aphrodite, talk some sense into him. Make him see that he has no right to judge what his mother may or may not have done."

"Sweet cheeks is right, bro. Any parent has a right to keep some parts of themselves hidden from their children. After all, would you have wanted any of your young family knowing about what you and Blondie get up to at night?" She raised an eyebrow challenging him.

Iolaus developed a sudden interest in his feet as Iphicles turned to stare at him.

"You and Hercules are lovers?" The king's surprised tone echoed round the room.

Hercules turned red and started to splutter. "No" Hercules denied immediately. Then he caught the hurt expression of Iolaus face. He and Iolaus had become lovers a little over a year ago but Hercules insisted that they keep it quiet. He knew that his exuberant lover found it difficult suppress his desire to touch him in public. But the hurt in the hunters eyes made him forget all his good reasons for denying them. "That is Yes; It's no one's business but ours." Hercules folded his arms across his chest and glared at Iphicles, daring him to make any comments.

"You're right," Aphrodite said, pleased her point had been made, "just as it's no one's business who your mother was sleeping with."

"My mother had no lovers." Hercules was at his stubborn worst. In many situations his sheer pigheadedness served him well but at the moment it was just making matters worse.

"Very well", Aphrodite waved her hand "You can have your wish.  Just don't say I didn't warn you if you find out something you don't like." Then she disappeared in the customary blaze of light. This time the light did not fade out at her departure but rather coalesced into five distinctive globes.

Hercules, Iphicles and Iolaus watched as the first glob of light stopped swirling. The patterns formed into the face of a tall young man with straw blond hair and hazel eyes.

The picture expanded to include a young Alcmene holding his hand. Together they stepped through a loop of flowers and Hercules realised that this must be their wedding day. This man was Iphicles's father, Amphitryon, although he could see no resemblance to his older brother. The pair, hand in hand, laughing at each other, happy on this special day, exchanged a kiss. The picture changed to another location.

The happy couple kept kissing, as Amphitryon slowly started to remove the flowers from his bride's hair, letting the curls down. Then, kissing her neck, he undid the back of her gown, which pooled at her feet, leaving Alcmene naked to the eyes of her lover, and to the unknown eyes of the three men."

Hercules hastily plunged his hand into the light source to disrupt the picture. Iolaus came and stood beside him. "Herc, please, I'm asking you. Stop this now. Don't infringe on your Mothers privacy any more"

Already the second globe glowed and expanded.

Alcmene appeared, her dress that of a young married woman. She was on her knees in a temple. "Great Goddess Hera I make this offering and ask that you bless my marriage with a child. It has been almost two years since my marriage and my arms ache to hold a baby." Green eyes appeared above the alter. "Woman, you can not conceive a child by your husband as he is barren but I will send you a man to father a child on you. Your husband will accept it as his own."

"But I cannot break my marriage vows," Alcmene protested.

"The purpose of a marriage is to procreate. It is my wish that you bear a child. Obey me." The commanding tone surrounded Alcmene as she bent her head in submission to the great goddess's orders. The green eyes disappeared and Alcmene rose to her feet. Behind her, a flash of light heralded a presence and as she turned she raised her head to look at the man behind her. Her eyes slowly took in the black boots, the long leather clad legs, they skimmed past the narrow hips and waist girded with a studded sword-belt, up the powerful body to meet the dark eyes in the handsome bearded face. His whole aura spoke of power as he stood, legs apart, one of his hands resting lightly on his sword hilt, studying her.

"Ares!" Iphicles, stunned, named Alcmene's second lover.

Iolaus shocked to his core uttered the thought that they all found unthinkable "But that must mean that Iphicles is Ares's son!"

Part II

"I've always thought that you reminded me of someone and I could never put my finger on it - now I can see Ares in you as clear as day." Iolaus stared, fascinated, into Iphicles' face, examining each feature in turn.

"It can't be true." Iphicles mind was frozen. It could not comprehend what he had just heard. "No, don't you see - if I was Ares' son I would be semi-divine just like Hercules."

"Not necessarily," Hercules replied, refusing to accept the wider implications of this revelation. "The gods father children all the time by mortals. If all of them had the same powers as me the place would be over-run. These gifts are the exception rather than the rule."

//It wasn't her fault, it wasn't her fault// Hercules' mind kept screaming. //It was that bitch Hera who ordered her and it was Ares who used her// His mind cringed away from the thought of his most hated enemy possessing his beloved mother.

Iphicles, meanwhile, had not moved an inch. His mouth remained open as he stared at the floor, lost in his own thoughts. //It can't be true! Ares, the man I love, the man who has been my lover for the past few months, is my father// A shudder passed through Iphicles' body.

"Ares! Ares!" Hercules' demanding tone rang across the room. "Ares, I know you can hear me so get down here now!" The silence mocked him.

Iphicles lifted his head. "Ares!" he called out quietly. The air shimmered beside him as the God of War materialised in the small room.

"What is it? What's the matter?" Ares, concerned by his lover's pale and shocked appearance, reached out to comfort him.

"DON'T TOUCH ME!" Iphicles screamed in his face as he flinched away. He could not bear the thought that the hands that had once given him so much pleasure were incestuous.

Ares immediately turned toward Hercules. "What have you done to him?" menacingly he turned towards his brother.

Iolaus watched Ares. The god's body language was a revelation, coupled with Iphicles' devastation of the knowledge of his parentage, and with complete surety the hunter realised Ares' erotic relationship with Iphicles.

Iolaus stepped in front of Ares before he could reach his intended target. "Wait"

Ares looked like he was going to run right over him in his haste to get to Hercules but instead he paused. His concern for Iphicles was uppermost in his mind.

"What has he done to Iphicles?" he demanded of Iolaus.

Iolaus shook his head. "They have just found out that you knew Alcmene. That you fathered a child on her. Ares, he's your son."

"Bullshit!" Ares denied it automatically "Of course he's not my son, he's my.." He broke off, knowing that Iphicles felt strongly about their brother not knowing of the intimate relationship between the two of them.

"I'm afraid it's not bullshit. We've seen the proof with our own eyes." Iolaus said gently, an overwhelming feeling of pity in him for these two hopeless lovers. Although he had just discovered the nature of their relationship, he could tell by Iphicles's devastation just how much it had meant to him and to Ares.

"What proof? Show me this proof!" Ares commanded.

"Here's the proof, you seducing bastard," Hercules growled, pointing to the frozen picture.

The static image once again began to move as the past unfolded.

Alcmene stepped back as Ares moved toward her.

"Hera has sent me to grant your request. I will give you a child"

"Who are you?" Alcmene asked, awed by the overwhelming sense of presence he radiated.

"The father of your future child" His answer took her breath away.

Ares reached out and lifted her easily onto Hera's altar. Soon their clothes disappeared and he climbed between her thighs without giving her a chance to react or protest. Not that she was capable of either. The unexpectedness of these events had disorientated her. Immediately his cock entered her and she was surprised to find how smoothly he fit.

"Can you feel me penetrate you? I'm all the way inside you; you're so tight. Can you feel me move my cock in you? You feel so hot. And so wet."

Alcmene could not break away from his. She was excited by the words he spoke and by the feelings he was arousing in her. Never before had it been like this. Never before had she felt so filled. She could feel every inch of the cock inside her, pounding against her insides.

"You want this so badly, you want me so badly. I can feel you. No, don't close your eyes. I want to watch you as you cum."

Alcmene could hear the small sobs that came from her own throat. Tightly she wrapped her legs round this dark stranger, urging him to thrust even deeper into her. An incredible feeling started and her whole body began to shake, her muscles tightened further on the cock buried inside her, milking it with each spasm as she flung her head back and shouted.

For the first time in her life she climaxed and as the tears began to fall down her face she felt the large body above her shudder, then ejaculate, shooting warm semen into her wet cunt.

"Gods, woman, that was so sweet." It took him a few seconds to regain his breath. Reaching down, he covered her belly with one of his large hands.

"There, it's done. Soon you'll have a son and your husband will accept it as his own. This is my gift to you."

Ares bent down and kissed her open mouthed, leaving Alcmene dizzy with pleasure.

Without bothering to disengage from her, he disappeared, leaving Alcmene on the altar, legs splayed, moisture seeping from her. After several moments of recover time her breathing returned to normal, and a smile crossed her face as she cupped her hands round her belly. "A son," she breathed, "a child of my own. Iphicles."

The light faded. Ares stood still, staring in shock at the empty spot. "I don't remember her."

"Just one more notch on your belt, Ares." Hercules stared at him in disgust and anger. "You seduced my mother and you don't even remember her." Hercules wasn't sure what made him most furious, the fact that Ares had lain with his mother or that he obviously didn't remember the incident.

Ares ignored him and turned towards Iphicles.

"I didn't know, you've got to believe me." He reached out to put his hand on the king's shoulder.

"Stay away from me you bastard. I don't want you anywhere near me."

"You heard him Ares - just get the fuck away from us". Hercules came and stood beside Iphicles. A small part of him was secretly pleased that he now had a new ally in his hatred of Ares. Previously his brother has never fully appreciated the blackness of the God of War's soul.

"Keep out of this, Hercules. I have the right to speak to Iphicles," Ares snarled.

"What right?" Hercules scoffed. "You can hardly claim to have been a loving father to him."

Iphicles closed his eyes against the pain of Hercules' words. It was precisely how 'loving' his father had been that caused the bile to rise to his throat. He took a deep breath to calm himself and said, "It's all right, Hercules. I'll talk to him".

Ares smiled in triumph at Hercules and with a wave of his hand disappeared taking Iphicles with him.

"Bastard!...One day I'll kill him."

Iolaus came and placed a comforting arm on his shoulder.

"Let it be, Hercules. They just need some time to work things out. Let's call a halt to all this." he nodded with his head at the remaining globes "and call it a night."

"No!" Hercules shook him off. "It wasn't Mother's fault if the gods conspire against her..." He nodded to the three remaining globes " I know one must be Zeus and another Jason, but who is the third man?"

Part III

As soon as Ares transported them to the King's bedchamber Iphicles stepped away, putting as much room as possible between himself and his erstwhile lover.

Ares watched, frustrated. He had no idea what to say or do to make things right between them.

"It's really true then?" Iphicles asked softly.

"I don't know. I don't remember her."

Iphicles bent his head. He knew if he looked into those dark loving eyes any longer he would completely lose control and start weeping. It was so unfair, for the first time in his life he had been truly, unconditionally happy. His feelings for Ares had completely engulfed him.

Everyone had noticed the change in him. How easily he smiled and joked with the court. How relaxed and comfortable he had become with his situation. He'd heard it said that he was finally growing into his kingship. If only they had known. Sometimes, in the middle of a serious trade negotiation, or while handing out some royal justice he would find himself struggling not to grin, or hug himself, because he could not believe that this god was his.

It wasn't just about sex either: though the sex was incredible. What he most enjoyed was the way Ares would drop in at any time, usually remaining invisible to all others, and they would just talk. Ares would listen to him the way no one else ever had. Sometimes, though not often, he would offer solutions to problems Iphicles had. Iphicles loved seeing that subtle mind at work. It was like peeling an onion, layer after unending layer of complex subtleties.

This was what he had lost, not just a lover, but a confidant, a mentor and most importantly a friend. He was heartbroken.

"So, that's it then." //Oh very articulate, Iphicles, the bottom has just dropped out of my world and all I can fucking say is 'that's it'.//

Ares was silent. More than anything he wanted to sweep this mortal up and carry him away. He could lock him up in a room and keep him. But he wouldn't. What he wanted--no needed--was for Iphicles to come to him of his own free will. In the aeons of his existence he could not remember ever having felt this way about anyone else, neither god nor human. At the back of his mind he had always intended that someday Iphicles would come to Olympus, take Ambrosia, and stay by his side forever. He had never gotten around to telling Iphicles his hope and now if he made the offer it would sound like a bribe or, even worse, like a parent taking on an unwelcome responsibility.

"Does it have to be?" Ares pleaded.

"How can it not be the end?" Iphicles responded. "Youíre my father." Hearing the words from his own mouth was like a blow to the solar plexus. A death knell for all his hopes. "My father" he repeated, still not believing it.

Ares had had enough. "It doesn't matter if we say it doesn't matter." He closed the distance between them, placing his hands on Iphicles' shoulders and turned the king to face him.

"Iphicles, you mean a lot to me. I don't want to lose you because of something that we can't help, Hell, it may not even be true." He could feel the tension in the shoulders beneath his hands but at least Iphicles remained where he was and didn't pull away.

"I don't want to lose what's between us either." Iphicles said quietly. He looked up into Ares' face. "I guess the truth is that I love--I love how we are together. Don't think it's easy for me to give that up. But if youíre my father then I can't be your lover. It's wrong."

"Do you feel as if you're my son?" Ares asked.

"Gods, no!"

"Well, I certainly don't think of you as one, it seems to me that just because I might have been around nine months before you were born - it doesn't make me your father. A father is someone who guides and looks after his children, the way I do for my daughters and sons.

"Why is it wrong? Think Iphicles, youíre a grown man who doesn't need a parent. Who's it going to hurt? No one need even know. I'll make sure that Hercules and Iolaus keep their mouths shut."

"I'd know!" Iphicles shouted at him. "I'd know; but, may the god's help me!--I'm not sure I care." He flung himself at Ares and pulled the god's head down to meet his mouth, grinding Ares' soft lips against his, forcing his tongue past them. The desperate kiss was brief before Iphicles broke it, avoiding Ares' attempts to hold him, he moved away.

"Ares, I need time to think. Time to decide. Please."

Iphicles' last word stopped Ares as he reached out for him. The god nodded.

"You can have time. Just remember what it is we have together." Ares didn't bother to disappear; instead he walked toward the door. "I'll be waiting."

Hercules had watched in stony-faced silence as the third globe played out. He had viewed Zeus take on the facade of a dead man to seduce his widow. Had watched him casually take his pleasure and then leave her to face the consequences - the scorn and ridicule of her neighbours as she conceived a child, when her husband had been dead for months. Hercules felt his old anger at Zeus rise up again.

He looked down to see that he had crushed the goblet in his hand. At times like these he just wanted to reach out and smash everything. He knew he should restrain himself. With his strength he always had to be alert to the possible damage he could inflict, but sometimes he longed to just lash out.

Iolaus, ever sensitive to Hercules' moods, came and laid a gentle arm on his back. He began to rub his hands up and down, massaging away the stress and anger he felt there.

"It's all right, Hercules, it was a long time ago. Alcmene survived and she managed to raise you, the two of you, alone. She did a great job. Look how well the pair of you turned out. She really was a special woman."

Iolaus rubbed the back of Hercules' neck and soon the demi-god was purring with pleasure. He stilled Iolaus' hands and turned to take him in his arms. Bending his head he kissed the lips of the smaller man.

"I love you." The words came easily.

"I love you too, big guy." Iolaus pulled Hercules down for another deep kiss. "Let's call it a night and go to bed."

Ares entered the room in time to hear his brother's declaration. He felt an unexpected stab of jealousy. It was so easy for Hercules. He wished he could tell Iphicles the way he felt about him with the same ease Hercules told Iolaus.

"Surely you're not running away before the floor show is complete?" Ares taunted, hoping to wound Hercules.

His words stopped Hercules as he and Iolaus were walking, arm in arm, toward the door. Iolaus turned and gave Ares a look of such pure malice that the god was taken aback.

"Leave it, Ares. We're tired and are going to bed." Iolaus continued toward the door.

"No problem." Ares smiled smugly at them. "I'll just watch the rest myself. I can fill you in on all the juicy details in the morning."

Hercules turned and moved to stand toe to toe with his brother. This emphasised the difference in their height, something the god hated.

"You. Will. Stay. Away." Hercules spoke slowly through clenched teeth. "from anything to do with my Mother. Don't you think you've inflicted enough pain on my family already?"

"When it comes to you, brother. There is no such thing as too much pain." Ares drew his lips back in a snarl. The light gleamed of his canines heightening the menacing effect.

"So you run off to bed with your little lapdog," Ares glanced dismissivly at Iolaus. "And I'll just sit here and get my rocks off to your Mother performing with some young buck. It will be a better show than some two-dinar Harlot pleasuring herself in an Athenian whorehouse." Ares congratulated himself on the imagery when he saw the look of hatred in Hercules' eyes.

"No," Hercules protested. He crossed to the two glowing balls of light and with a violent gesture moved his hand through them, dissipating them.

"Yes!" From across the room Ares gestured and the globes reformed.

Hercules glared impotently at him then with anger burning in his heart, resigned himself to the inevitable and settled down on the edge of a chair to watch the next segment. He pointedly ignored Ares' laughter, while Iolaus sat beside him, putting a comforting arm around his lover's shoulder

An older Alcmene sat in a field of wildflowers. The soft winds blew through her hair but she had such a look of sadness on her face. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears. A hand reached out and gently touched her face. "Don't cry, Alcmene," a familiar voice said. "Hercules will be fine. He'll be back from the war, safe and sound in no time."

"Please let that be true," Alcmene said. "I miss him so much - he's all I have now that Iphicles has left. I don't know what I would do if anything happened to him."

"Alcmene, nothing is going to happen to him. He's a big boy and he can take care of himself - I should know, he's my best friend!"

"Oh Iolaus, I wish you were with him now. I wouldn't worry so much if you were there. I know you'd look after my son."

"I always look out for him, like he does for me. That's us: back-to-bad heroes. If it weren't for this damned wound."

"I know how much Hercules hated having to leave you behind, but, as you said yourself, he'll be back soon and then the pair of you can go out and terrorise all the girls in the neighbourhood again."

Iolaus laughed. "Terrorise the girls eh! Herc would run a mile rather than speak to a girl."

Alcmene smiled. "Not like you, Iolaus, I hear your very popular with all the local girls. Quiet a few are besotted by your golden curls and cornflower blue eyes." She reached out and tugged one of the curls in question. "Ah. I can see you're destined to be a heart-breaker."

"Who, me?" Iolaus smiled and looked coy.

His innocent tones didn't fool Alcmene. She looked into his eyes, struck yet again by the wisdom she saw there. Iolaus hadn't had an easy time growing up; sometimes she felt that the young man was closer to her in age than to Hercules.

There was a moment of silence between them. Then Iolaus spoke. "Alcmene, I've always wondered why you never remarried. It can't have been for lack of offers"

"You're wrong, Iolaus, no one has ever asked me. I think they're all scared of my connection, however tenuous, to Zeus. I always thought I would remarry someday, give Hercules a father, but it was not to be." She sighed unconsciously.

"Arenít you lonely?" Iolaus asked.

"Of course not," Alcmene started to reply when the words caught in her throat.

Iolaus' simple question had caught her unawares. For so long she'd fought the fear of the years slipping past her. She'd seen herself change from a young mother full of hope for the future into a despairing middle aged woman. In the last fifteen years that hope had dwindled. She thought she'd resigned herself to never being loved by a man again. To never feeling the softness of another person pressed against her. Of falling asleep safe in the arms of a lover listening to their heartbeat. She'd carefully built a wall around her feelings and now with one question Iolaus had broken it down. She could feel her earlier unshed tears spill over.

"Alcmene! Don't cry, please." Iolaus reached up and wiped away the tear that rolled down her cheek. Another tear followed, and another. Acting instinctively, Iolaus leaned forward and kissing away each tear, tasting the salty moisture on his tongue. He paused for a moment and looked at Alcmene. She had stopped crying and was looking at him with such surprised recognition in her eye that he bent forward and kissed her mouth. Her lips parted invitingly.

As kiss followed kiss they leisurely undressed each. Taking their time, they explored each other's bodies, Alcmene leading the way, tutoring Iolaus in what pleased her. Alcmene was still a beautiful woman: years of hard work had kept her body firm, only tiny, silvery trace marks bearing evidence of her two children.

"Alcmene. We shouldn't be doing this." Even as Iolaus said the words he kissed her again.

"Don't you find me attractive?" Alcmene asked.

"You're beautiful." Iolaus planted kisses up her neck, gently tugging her earlobe with his teeth. "It's just that youíre my best friend's mother."

Alcmene moved her head to one side to give Iolaus better access to her neck. A shiver passed through her as he blew in her ear.

"I'm still a woman, Iolaus. A woman with wants and desires. I've wanted you ever since you came back from war that first time. It changed you. You grew up. Do you know how difficult it's been for me to keep my hands away from you? You walk around half naked as you help me with the chores, go skinny-dipping in the river, constantly touch and hug me. And all I can think of is how your skin would feel below me. This may be wrong, this may never happen again but I want you, here and now. Will you share yourself with me?"

"Alcmene--I've wanted you for so long. I was scared that you'd never see me as a man. I'd find any excuse I could to touch you, to be close to you. Iolaus' placed his hand at the back of her head and pull her lips down to meet his answering her question with his action.

She coaxed him onto his back as she lay by his side. Reaching for his erect cock, she stroked it before bending to kiss its length. Then she kissed the tip, letting her tongue seek out the pearly moisture.

"Do you like that?" she asked him.

"It feels incredible," he replied.

"Has a woman ever sucked your cock before?" Alcmene was curious.

"Never. It's never been like this." His hand waved to indicate them. "It's always been hurried - usually I don't even undress - trying to get finished before we're caught. I never knew it could be like this."

"Like what?" Alcmene teased.

"Slow, tender, touching each other all over. It's almost like worship." Iolaus struggled to describe how he felt.

Alcmene laughed kindly. "Would you like me to worship you more?"

"Yes! Please, yes," Iolaus anxiously replied, his cock twitching independently at the idea.

Alcmene took him in her mouth and started to suck him and soon Iolaus was lost in the sensations. He lacked the experience to last long and soon flooded her mouth with his semen.

The older woman brought her lips to his and he could taste himself on her. Then, guided by Alcmene, he worked his way down her body, kissing a path past her breast, trailing his tongue over her navel, dipping into her bellybutton before finally settling between her legs. He used his hands to part her, exposing her. He gently caressed the nub of flesh with his thumb and watched her face mesmerised as she lost herself in the pleasure his touch brought.

Tentatively, he then moved his face closer. Her scent was overwhelming, a heady musk. He flicked his tongue out and licked her. Alcmene cried out loud at the sensation. He did it again and she clamped her thighs round his face. He moved his tongue inside her and tasted her juices. Her entire body began to tremble as a low moan started in her throat. Soon she was feverishly tossing her body around as he used his mouth and hands to pleasure her. Then Alcmene moved, unclamping her legs she pushed him down onto his back and clasped her hand round his erection.

"The resilience of youth," she commented, feeling his readiness.

She straddled his thighs and sank onto him. Iolaus steadied Alcmene by bracing her hips as she rode him, amazed at how good she made him feel. Her strong muscles drew him deeper into her hot wetness. Soon he could feel the fine tremor go through her body as she came--then he was lost in the force of his own orgasm.

With that the vision faded and broke its hypnotic hold on its audience. Iolaus turned and faced the others. Iphicles had returned unnoticed and he, Ares and Hercules were all starting at him. Ares was looking at him speculatively, the king with shock, and Hercules--

Iolaus forced himself to meet the eyes of this best friend.

Part IV

Hercules stared at Iolaus as if he'd never seen him before. "You betrayed me," he said in a low voice, then sank to the floor, as though his legs couldn't hold his weight.

Immediately, Iolaus went to him, crouching down beside Hercules to steady his friend. Looking directly into the demi-god's eyes he answered the unspoken question. "I've never been with Alcmene. That vision is nothing but lies....You of all people should know that your mother treated me like another son."

Hercules appeared lost and did not respond.

"Hercules!" Iolaus shook his friend by the shoulders. "Hercules, tell me you believe me."

Hercules lost his far-away look as he focused on Iolaus. Struggling back from a great distance he looked into the sincere blue eyes. He'd known and trusted this man throughout his entire life. He felt Iolaus' anxiety grow as he remained silent.

"Of course I believe you, Iolaus. If you say it's not true then it's not true." He drew in a deep breath to calm himself. He noticed he was half kneeling on the floor but didn't remember having gotten there, rising to his feet, he hugged Iolaus to him, encasing the smaller man in his arms. "Of all the people in this world, Iolaus, I have total faith in you. It's just the shock of seeing those pictures that made me forget it for a moment. Forgive me?" He smiled down at him.

Iolaus smiled back, blinking back tears. "There is nothing to forgive, big guy." He pulled Hercules' lips down to meet his own and the two of them kissed, oblivious to all else.

Iphicles watched as the lovers embraced. It was more than just love that forged the link between his brother and Iolaus and a part of the king felt jealousy at their bond.

Ares moved beside Iphicles gently placing a hand on the king's shoulder, kneading the tension he felt there. "Have you decided yet, Iphicles? Will you come back to me?" Ares didn't care that he was pleading.

Iphicles glanced once more at the kissing couple and then at the god. "I came back in here to tell you that I want to give it another try." he bit his lip. "I know youíre my father, I know it's wrong, but I still want to be with you."

Ares stared at the worried frown on Iphicles' face. The mortal was obviously torn between his sense of right and his desire. For the moment desire had won but he suspected that the roots of dissension had been sown here today. He could smell the death of their relationship already.

"Iphicles!" Iolaus' called breaking the spell between the two men and both Ares and Iphicles turned towards the other pair.

"Iphicles, don't you see? What we saw about Alcmene and me was a lie--why shouldn't the picture of Alcmene and Ares also be a lie? Ares has told you he doesn't remember her, well, couldn't that be because he was never with her?"

Iphicles' entire face light up with renewed hope. He turned to Ares seeking conformation. Ares was slowly nodding his head "Yes, it makes sense. Whoever pulled this stunt wanted to cause us as much damage as possible."

"Who do you think did it?" Hercules joined the others.

"Could it have been Aphrodite? She wasn't too happy about the whole business. Maybe she was trying to teach us a lesson about interfering." Iphicles suggested.

"It doesn't seem like Dite's style." Iolaus didn't think the Goddess of Love would deliberately inflict this sort of pain. "It's too vicous for her. This trick has a malicious feel to it."

"Who might want to make us suffer?" Hercules asked.

Ares thought for a moment. "It depends on who it was aimed at. If it was you, then it could have been any one of Hera's supporters on Olympus trying to gain revenge without antagonising Zeus. If it was aimed at me then It could well have been Discord, I've been ignoring her lately." He entwined his fingers with Iphicles letting him know just why Discord might be feeling abandoned.

"If it was Discord, it might explain why I was featured in her little play." Iolaus offered.

"We'll probably never know for sure." Hercules said. "But whoever set this plan in motion, it failed. Iolaus and I are still together and it looks like the two of you are as well!" The demi-god raised an eyebrow at his brothers' linked hands.

Ares glared at Hercules, putting an arm round Iphicles' shoulder as if to protect him. "You got a problem with that, brother?"

"Actually, no." Hercules' response surprised everyone in the room. "I can see that Iphicles is genuinely attracted to you and that you make him happy. It appears to be mutual."

"What?" Hercules was taken aback by the perplexed stares of the others. "What did you expect me to do? Defend my brother's honour? Demand that you unhand him? I know you may not believe me Ares, but I do love you both and I want you to be happy. And it's been obvious to me this last week I've been in the palace that you make Iphicles very happy."

"You knew?" Iphicles was flabbergasted.

"Of course I knew, I'm not totally blind."

"But why didn't you say anything?"

"I was waiting for you to tell me."

"And when I didn't say anything?"

"I figured you just needed time. After all, Iolaus and I have been lovers for almost a year and I've never told anyone." He turned towards his lover "But that's going to change. I don't want to hide what I'm feeling. It's too precious to waste a moment in deceit." He brushed a lock of the hunter's unruly hair back from his face. "If that's ok with you, Iolaus?"

Iolaus' only answer was to draw the other man into a deep kiss. When they raised their heads the other pair had vanished.

"Lets go to bed." Hercules tugged Iolaus towards the door.

"What about this?" Iolaus gestured toward the final globe.

Hercules walked up to it and dissipated it with his hand.

"I was wrong to want to pry on Mother. Let's leave her and Jason their privacy."

Iphicles and Ares lay together, exhausted, in a heap of tangled limbs. The king's eyelids drooped with fatigue.

"Iphicles, are you awake?" Ares shook him gently.

"Hm mm" Iphicles' sleepy response gave lie to the words.

"Don't go to sleep just yet--there's something I want to say to you."

Ares encouraged him to wake up with another shake.

"How can I sleep when there's a minor earthquake in my bed?" Iphicles struggled to open his eyes.

"I've been likened to a force of nature before. But never an earthquake," Ares teased, pinching one of the King's nipples to make sure he had his attention.

"Ouch! That hurt. All right, I'm awake. What is it you wanted to tell me?"

Ares said nothing, just continued to stare at the king for a long time, cataloguing each feature, filing this moment away in his brain so that he would never forget it.

"Ares. You're starting to worry me. What is it you want to say?"

Iphicles' mind began to cast about. What if Ares had decided they were finished? What if he was bored with them now that Hercules knew about their relationship? What if . . .

Ares could read the seeds of doubt in the King's eyes. He shook Iphicles by the shoulders. "Stop it." He commanded. "Stop whatever's going through your head right now!"

He relaxed his hands on his lover and, looking him directly in the eye, continued.

"What Hercules said tonight about not wanting to hide anymore; well, it struck a cord. So what I want to say . . . what I want to tell you, Iphicles is . . . oh hell! I just want to say . . . I LOVE YOU!" Ares shouted the declaration in an accusatory tone.

"Oh." Iphicles blinked sleepily. " Well, that's all right then. 'Cause you see, I love you too." Iphicles turned his face up expectantly for a kiss. Ares stared in bemusement then with a small shake of his head, he laughed, bending to claim the lips of his beloved.

The first rays of the sun had just edged over the horizon when Iolaus untangled himself from the covers and his lover. Careful not to wake Hercules, he pulled on his breeches and jerkin and went through the bedroom windows into the garden below. He stared at the sunrise as if he was seeing it for the first time, shivering slightly as the early morning chill reached him. He turned at a sound behind him and saw Ares standing behind him.

"You surprised me Iolaus, I didn't know you had it in you."

"I don't know what you mean." Iolaus turned away.

"Yes you do, You and I both know that you lied to my brother yesterday. Don't worry," he added, as Iolaus glanced hastily back at the palace, "they're both still asleep. No one can hear us. "No, don't bother denying it." He raised his hand as Iolaus started to shake his head. "Remember, I'm a god. I know."

Iolaus sighed in defeat. The guilt of having lied weighed heavily on him and he needed to talk, to explain - he just never expected to be talking to Ares.

"We were lovers for almost three weeks that summer. She made me feel things that I'd never dreamed were possible. It only ended when Hercules came home. Alcmene made me swear an oath that I would never tell him. From that day onward she always called me son and treated me like one of the family to remind us both that we could never be anything else. She was the first woman I ever really loved." Iolaus bit his lip at the memories.

Ares nodded his head in agreement "She was quite a woman."

"Then you do remember her?" Iolaus asked.

Ares was silent for a moment but then spoke.

"Alcmene was my lover for almost two years. She was a very special woman. All those things she did to you, I taught her. But then, somehow, she came to Zeus' attention.  I told her that I didn't want her after my father had had her." There was a hint of regret in Ares' tone.

"So what now?" Iolaus asked.

"What do you mean?"

"How can I trust you never to tell Hercules? The first time you and he get into another argument what's to stop you telling him the truth?"

"How can I be sure you won't tell Iphicles that I'm his father? We're just going to have to trust each other."

"Trust? Each other?" Iolaus let his doubt reflect in his voice.

Ares sighed. Then drew his sword. Iolaus edged away slightly, posed for flight. "I propose we both take an oath on my Sword of Power. If either of us break our word he will be annihilated by the forces of Chaos. That applies equally to me as well as you. Satisfied?"

Iolaus nodded assent and watched as Ares grasped his sword by the blade just below the hilt.

"I swear that I will never reveal by hint or deed my knowledge of either of our relations with Alcmene." Ares twisted his hand slightly and blood stained the blade. He held the sword out to Iolaus.

Iolaus repeated the oath and soon his blood mingled with that of the War God.

Ares wiped his sword clean and re-sheathed it. "There, it's done. We'll never speak of it again." He raised his head as if sensing something in the air. "Time to get back. They're both starting to stir and there will be less questions if they find us in their beds when they wake."

"Youíre a good man Iolaus. Hercules is lucky to have you for a friend." Ares dropped a quick kiss on Iolaus' startled lips before transporting them both to their lovers' beds.

Iolaus was surprised to find himself naked in Hercules' arms just as his friend was starting to waken.

He made himself another promise. Whatever it took he would never hurt his friend again. Then he concentrated on the wandering hands of his waking lover.