Change of Life
By Sarah Saint Ives
Iolaus had been talking to a young woman named Josephina for over an hour. Hercules waited patiently for a time, but finally grew impatient and moved to the garnished fence, close enough to gain his horny friend's attention.
Iolaus rushed over, bubbling with excitement. "Guess what! She wants me to spend the night with her!"
"Spend the night?"
Iolaus gave him an apologetic half-grin. "Yeah, you know. You remember sex, don't you? I know it's been a while, but... You'll enjoy a night alone on the beach, won't you? It'll be peaceful if I'm not there chattering away and keeping you awake."
Hercules shrugged, never one to step between lovers in love. "I'll survive. Well, then...I'll see you later. Have fun." He backed hesitantly away.
"I intend to! Have a good night."
"Yeah. Um...you, too."
Iolaus was almost bouncing with enthusiasm. He reached for a hug, thought better of it and settled for a handshake. Then, he reached for the hug again, clapping his friend on the back, but it was short. "See you tomorrow. Maybe the day after if I get *really* lucky." he said, with a raise of his eyebrows. With that, he turned his back and ran into the arms of the waiting woman.
Hercules sighed and walked away. Twenty miles to his west, there was a beach. He would lie in the sun for a few days, play in the water, have some time to himself. It had been months since he had spent wasted time alone. Iolaus had always been there. Peaceful, perhaps, but this solitary, peaceful trip to the beach was going to be lonely.
The beach was beautiful. He took off his clothes, lounged on his blanket, rubbed sun-oil on his cheeks, his arms, his chest. The quiet was almost unbearable--no human sounds--only the ocean and birds now.
He turned onto his stomach to feel the sun on his back, had fallen asleep, when an old familiar whoosh passed over him. The deep voice above him caused him to groan in annoyance.
"I see you're enjoying yourself today, dear brother."
Hercules remained as he was, unflustered, but his tone sustained annoyance. "What do you want, Ares?"
Ares, as good looking in his own right as Hercules was in his, gazed down on his bare brother with an appreciative smirk. "Nothing! I'm simply bored... and you're getting really red." He took up the bottle and poured his hand full of oil, carefully applied it to the skin on Hercules back and rubbed it in.
The half-god tensed. When Ares appeared, Hercules was nearly always a target for something horrid. "What are you up to?"
"Up to? Me? Nothing, dear brother. Why do you always think the worst?" Ares' hands worked the muscles from the back of his neck, spread out to the arms on both sides, then down the back. "Just typical for you, brother, you don't bother with clothes. So uncivilized! You can afford clothes, can't you?"
"I have clothes, Ares. I don't walk around in public without them."
Ares' hands smoothly slid onto the cheeks of Hercules' golden butt and began to massage the muscles there. "The sun is going down."
Hercules grunted in irritation. "What are you doing, Ares?"
"Killing time." was the nonchalant response. Ares reached for the container again and smoothed it on his legs, moving his hands slowly, almost sensually up and down his body until he had stimulated every nerve in his skin. "Does this feel good? Do you like this?" he asked.
"It feels like you're *up* to something." Hercules answered sardonically. "You forget, Ares, I know you too well. I know you don't really care if I get sunburnt."
Ares had applied the oil to him until he was slick, and now his hand slid to his butt again, rubbed along the crack. "You've got the most beautiful body I've every seen, Hercules." he said softly. "Really beautiful."
Hercules was silent. Ares parted the crack and slipped his fingers in, searched for the hidden opening. He located it and one finger probed in deeply.
Hercules raised his head, which contracted the muscles in the anus and he flinched. "Ares, what are you doing?!"
"Just relax. Put your head down and just enjoy it."
Hercules obeyed hesitantly. "Ares, stop..."
Ares pressed in a second finger. His other hand was carefully, strategically moving his legs, separating them until they were two feet apart on the blanket, which gave him wonderful access for his quest.
"Ares, please, stop it before..."
"Before what, Hercules? What are you afraid of?"
"I know what you have in mind."
"And it's not going to happen."
"Because you and I can't do things like this." Hercules was attempting to rise to his knees, but with all his great strength, he could not prevent what was happening to him, could not escape, could not fight. He was a victim of the charm of his handsome brother, a victim of rapture.
Ares set his knees between Hercules' and lowered himself on top of him. He bent to kiss his shoulder, then his cheek. Stretching, he sought out his lips and kissed them. "There. Now, wasn't that good?"
"Ares, stop!" Hercules attempted a futile struggle, but his strength was gone. "Why can't I stop you?" he groaned as he collapsed beneath the god of war.
In complete control, Ares kissed him again, then again. "Because you don't really want to stop me. Now shut up, and just accept it."
Without verbal permission, Ares entered into him and was brutally having sex into him.
Hercules moaned in pain, but Ares was not gentle, pumped faster when the pain seemed worst, and Hercules was left crying and shivering as it went on and on for what seemed like hours.
It was nearing dusk when Ares finally withdrew, still not finished, rolled Hercules onto his back, lifted his legs and began again from the front. This way was gentler, and Ares bestowed kiss after kiss on his lips as he stroked in and out. It was after dark before the man on top finally achieved an orgasm, shooting a half-pint of fertile, magical semen into Hercules' bowels. It was the most violent act of sex Hercules had ever experienced and he was glad when it was over, but there had been something miserably sweet about it, something addictive. It was rape, and yet, he had been willing. Ares had claimed him with this act, claimed him and now owned him.
Ares rolled off him and lounged beside him, breathing heavily. "That was magnificent." he said sensuously. "Completely magnificent, Hercules. Damn, you're a good fuck."
Hercules closed his eyes and laid still. The pain had subsided twenty minutes before Ares had finished, at which point he had begun to feel an unfamiliar tingling inside him. His arms had wrapped around his violator, and he had whispered ardent things in his brother's ear. The passion was brutally wild. Ares had roared with the power of war as he exploded inside him and Hercules had frantically offered his lips for a savage kiss to accompany the release. Now, the demi-god's regret hung between them.
"So," Ares, who harbored no regrets, turned on his side, raised up on his elbow to look down at him, then bent to kiss him again, much gentler this time. "Where are you staying tonight?"
"Here. I planned to lie around a while." Hercules' sky blue eyes opened apprehensively and studied him.
"I'll stay here with you. We'll do this again."
Hercules slowly raised a hand to play with his brother's dark curls. With uncertainty, he asked, "You'll be gentler next time?"
"Do you really want it gentle?"
"I don't get off on pain like most of your lovers. Yes, I want it gentle."
"But you have no objections to having sex with me?"
"What, you want my consent now? A little late, don't you think?"
Ares leaned to brush his lips with a soft kiss. His expressive brown eyes were tormented. "If you don't want it again, I'll leave you alone."
Hercules' lower lip trembled.
"I want it." The demi-god confessed. Roughly, he pulled Ares down for more kisses.
Ares ravished his mouth again, sighing his relief. "So do I." he growled.
They made love all night. Five A.M. found them finally snuggling close and falling asleep in utter exhaustion, the blanket wrapped tightly around them. The chill of the sand made them shiver.
But the heat of the sun soon warmed them. They slept until noon, and when they woke and had relieved themselves, they made love again.
Ares was sweet, too sweet. He had never treated anyone, especially Hercules, with such courteous intimacy. His drive for sex went on and on until Hercules was sore and raw. But this, Ares treated with magic, and it was immediately cured. They played in the water together, kissed beneath the surface, held each other and danced in the green waters of the great sea. They were lovers in love and Hercules had never felt so totally possessed. He knew it was a spell, and could not find it in himself to object because he had never felt so fulfilled.
"Your little friend is coming." Ares reported two days later as he came back from his quick hunt for food with a pheasant.
"He is? Iolaus?"
"Yes. So I suppose that ends our time together." Ares kissed him passionately as he transferred the bird into Hercules' hand.
"Why does it have to end? You can stay."
"And what will we tell your friend? That we have stooped to incest? That we have dibbled in homosexuality? That you are my playmate now?"
Hercules held him tight. "I never thought I'd say this to you, Ares, but I don't want you to go. I've enjoyed our time together."
Ares played with his hair, kissed his lips lightly, then, patting him on the butt, backed away from him.
"I can come to you later...or you can come to me."
"We can see each other later."
Hercules rushed into his arms again, full lips crushing fuller ones. "I don't want you to go."
"I'll be back." Ares' kiss was gentle, he drew back from it with his eyes closed in torment. "I'll be back for you, my love."
"I love you, Ares."
"Don't you forget that, either." The god of war's turbulent eyes were brimming. "You love me!"
"Yes, I do." Hercules tenderly touched his cheek.
"And I..." The great god of war placed another soft kiss on his lips. "I love you. Goodbye." Ares disappeared in a magical burst of molecules.
Hercules gazed at the spot for a minute before remembering he was naked. He began to get dressed, his heart heavy at the memory of Ares' tears and confession of love.
"Iolaus! How are you?" Hercules was tying his moccasins when the blonde arrived.
"Great. I've never been so tired, but other than that, I'm great."
"She must have been a wild woman, huh?"
"You got that right. She's something else."
"So, are you hungry?"
Iolaus saw the bird and shrugged. "Sure. How'd you kill it? I don't see your bow and arrow around anywhere."
Hercules smiled. "I'm just very good."
"Well, how good are you at getting it gutted and cooked?" Iolaus gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder, then a cuff on the jaw.
With a returning punch, the bigger man went to prepare the pheasant, and as he pulled away feathers, fond memories of Ares' arms around him made him float momentarily in a semi-dreamstate. Iolaus was talking but he heard not a word of it.
Finally, Iolaus, frowning in wonder, went to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, what's wrong with you?" he asked.
Hercules' vivid blue eyes slowly focused on his face. "Oh! Nothing, Iolaus, I'm just...you know...daydreaming."
"You never daydream. What happened to you out here? You're acting so strange."
"Don't worry about me. I'm fine."
"Then act like you're fine. You're starting to worry me."
"I'm fine." Hercules insisted. He gave him an assuring smile that was very *unassuring* and leaned forward to lightly butt foreheads with him. "See? I'm fine. How are you?"
Iolaus grinned. "I'm fine. You want me to help you with that?"
"Sure. Got your knife?"
"Yeah, right here."
Shortly afterward, they had the bird on the spit over the fire and they were seated on the blanket. And for the first time in their lives, they could think of nothing to talk about. They sat quietly, waiting for the bird to cook.
They were so tired that they slept two days.
Things seemed back to normal. Hercules and Iolaus traveled together to Atolla, an uneventful trip, but when they walked through the gates of town, a tall man came to greet them, put his arms around Hercules as if they were old friends.
Iolaus waited anxiously to know who he was. The tall man's arms remained disturbingly around Hercules while he whispered in his ear.
Hercules' eyes showed a moment of surprise, but then he nodded to the stranger. As an afterthought, he remembered his manners. "Oh! Iolaus, this is..."
The tall man reached to shake Iolaus' hand. "Ras." he said. "Glad to meet you."
Iolaus didn't like him and it showed, but he tried to be casual. "Maybe we could have an ale together?" he suggested.
"Later." Ras answered. "Hercules and I have business together now."
Iolaus looked to Hercules to see if he was invited, too.
Hercules was uneasy. "Uh..Iolaus, why don't you go ahead and get you an ale and I'll see you at the tavern in a few minutes, okay?"
Iolaus nodded. He did not like the situation, but he trusted his friend. "Okay. A few minutes?"
"An hour, tops." Ras said, leading Hercules away toward a long hut at the edge of town.
When they were inside the hut, Ras pulled down the shade on the window, then turned to Hercules and kissed him full on the mouth. "I couldn't go any longer without seeing you." he murmured, touching him everywhere.
"I missed you, too, Ares." The next kiss lasted a long time, ending only because they had to breathe, and when they drew back from each other, Ras had transformed into Ares.
Ares' hand was on his face. "The door is locked. Let's make love."
They took off their clothes and went to the bed in back of the hut. The hour was spent in the sweetest of lovemaking, the fondest of touches, the most passionate of kisses.
"You have to get back to your little blonde friend." Ares told him, when they were dressed again. "He worries about you, you know."
"I know. He's a worrier."
Ares kissed him one last time and, with a gentle stroke of his cheek, disappeared again. With a sigh of regret, Hercules went to join Iolaus at the tavern.
"So, what did he want?"
"He just wanted to talk. He's an old friend."
"Really? I thought I knew all your friends. I don't remember him."
Hercules did not explain. He sat thoughtfully sipping his ale, his blue eyes on the furnace flames.
"Hey, you okay?"
"I'm fine. I'm fine."
"You want something to eat?"
"No, no." He had not eaten all day.
Iolaus shook his head, wondering.
A week had passed and they were on the road again, traveling toward Stacato.
"Hey, you're doing it again."
Hercules looked around. "Doing what?"
"You're daydreaming. What's on your mind right now? Why do you do that?"
"Why do you sit and stare at the fire all the time?"
Hercules shrugged. "I...don't know."
"What were you thinking?"
"I don't know, Iolaus. I don't know!" The quick anger was uncharacteristic.
"You want me to leave you alone?"
Now, Hercules was apologetic. "No, no! I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean it."
Iolaus sat calmly, studying his face. "You've been doing that for a couple of weeks now, staring off into space. Since I got back from Josephino's house. It's like something happened to you on that beach."
"What could happen on a beach?" Hercules asked.
"I don't know. What *did* happen?"
Hercules shrugged again. He said nothing.
"I know you better than anybody in the world, Hercules." Iolaus said. "I know something did happen, and you're just not telling me. It must have been something pretty devastating."
Hercules looked down. He drew in the dirt.
"Was it one of the goddesses? Did you get a visit from one of them?"
Hercules remained silent.
"Which one? What did they do to you? Hercules, talk to me!"
"It wasn't any of the goddesses." The voice came from behind them and they turned to meet the eyes of a god. Hades walked to the fireside and seated himself beside Hercules. "It was Ares, and he cast a spell on him, a spell he doesn't even realize."
Iolaus's eyes widened. "What kind of spell?"
Hercules glared at the god of the underworld. "Don't you have somewhere else you need to be, Hades?"
"No, nowhere in particular." He reached to touch Hercules' face. "Ares makes love to you, doesn't he? He kisses you and tells you he loves you and like a fool, you believe him. You are so in love you don't live in reality any more. He has cast a fool's spell upon you and you sit dreaming of him all the time now."
Iolaus's mouth fell open, and he stared at Hercules.
"Hades, please go away and leave me alone." Hercules begged.
"Not until I know the truth. If Ares has done this to you, he will be punished."
"Leave Ares alone!" Hercules was on his feet, a finger in Hades' handsome face.
"Oh, no." Iolaus moaned. "Tell me it's not true, Hercules."
Hercules looked around at him. "It's not a spell, not a charm, not magic."
Hades stood, nearly as big as Hercules, and took hold of his arms. "If it's not a spell, why are you staring into fires? Admit it! You've fallen in love with Ares!"
Hercules gazed at him without answering.
"He will hurt you. You know this, don't you?"
Hercules looked down, remaining silent.
Then, another voice came to them, a more familiar voice. "Leave him alone, Hades. This is none of your business and you have no right questioning him." Ares stepped up to take Hercules from him. Hercules slipped his arms around him and clung to him.
"What have you done to him?" Hades demanded. "Is this a spell?"
"No spell." Ares insisted. "He loves me. What can I say? He loves me."
Iolaus decided it was best for him to stay quiet and listen, so he backed around to the opposite side of the fire and waited, in mild shock, to hear the details.
"The two of you are enemies, always were." Hades reminded him.
"Not any more." Ares said. He drew back from Hercules and gazed lovingly into his eyes, ran an affectionate finger down his nose and lightly kissed his lips. "Not any more. He means everything to me."
"You're in love with him?" Hades was amazed. "I cannot believe this! This is simply precious. The great Ares is smitten by none other than his own brother, the mighty Hercules!"
"Is that so hard to believe?" Ares asked benignly, and kissed him again. This time, the kiss lasted longer, and when it ended, Hercules swallowed sensuously, his eyes closed, his lips quivering. The look on Ares face was equally passionate, gently lustful, sweet burning desire.
Iolaus wanted to snatch Hercules from his embrace and run away.
Hades shook his head. "I will take this news to Zeus and see what he has to say about it. I seriously doubt he will approve."
"What can he say? What can he do?" Ares asked.
"We will see." Hades disappeared.
Iolaus got to his feet, his eyes scornfully on Ares. "So, this is what happened." he said, coming round to them. "This is the reason he was acting so strange."
Ares ignored him, his eyes on Hercules'. "They can do nothing." he assured him. "It will be all right, I promise you."
Hercules kissed him again, passionately, and when it ended, Ares kissed him ten times on the cheeks, on the nose, on the throat, then, taking a step back, he squeezed his hand. "I'll see you soon." He vanished.
Hercules turned to Iolaus with tears in his eyes. "Please don't question me. Don't tell me how wrong I am. Don't tell me how contemptible I am. Just...just give me time to think." He went to his blanket and laid down, rolled up in the material and laid weeping.
Iolaus watched him with a heavy heart.
Hercules was gone when he woke, and Iolaus was not certain he would return. He wanted to yell for him, to demand his presence, his loyalty, but he was afraid he had lost his friend to the dark side forever.
He made a fresh fire and rolled up his bedding, went to inspect Hercules bed, which was still in disarray.
"I just went to use the tree." Hercules said as he returned from the trees. He moved to the fire and warmed his hands. "It's cold this morning."
Iolaus agreed. "Are you hungry?"
"No, are you?"
"A little. I'll go find something."
"Shouldn't we be moving on? We have a long way to go if we want to get to Scarabtown by next week. A lot of walking."
Iolaus could not help but notice the lack of happiness in his friend's voice and on his face. "Hercules, I think we should talk. Can we talk?"
"What do you want to talk about? About Ares? You want to talk about him?"
"Well, yeah, among other things."
"What do you want me to say?"
Iolaus took him by the elbows. "Hercules, I care about you. I care if you get hurt. We're talking about Ares, here, the same Ares who tried to kill you a zillion times."
"He doesn't want to kill me any more. If he did, he had ample opportunity while we were lying together sleeping."
"You slept with him?"
"Iolaus, I can't describe how he has made me feel. I always knew there was something missing from my life, but until the day he came to me with this love, I never understood what it was. He needed me, too."
"He's *Ares*! He doesn't need anybody! He's the *god of war*! It's his job to cause trouble in the world!"
Hercules looked away. "And I'm Hercules, the strongest man in the world. But I need love, Iolaus."
Iolaus gazed at him.
"*You* need love, don't you, Iolaus? Don't you feel the need to be touched, to be held, to be kissed? To be special to somebody?"
"Yes, but not to Ares."
"You prefer women, I understand."
"I thought you did, too."
"I thought so, too, until Ares. The truth is, Iolaus, he came when I was most vulnerable. He gave me what I needed when I needed it. He touched me. Do you understand?"
Iolaus was puzzled. "Touched you? All you needed was to be touched?" He reached up to lay a hand on Hercules bare upper arm. "Is that all there was to it? If I touch you, would you fall in love with me like that?"
Hercules shivered and closed his eyes. "Please don't. You love women, Iolaus."
"Yes, Iolaus." It was the great Ares, walking toward them with his usual arrogant smile. "Do not forget that you love women, and I strongly recommend that you do not forget that Hercules is mine now." He interfered into their closeness, took Hercules into his arms and hugged him.
Hercules' arms went so willingly around him that Iolaus felt disgusted.
"I heard all that dialogue and, frankly, Iolaus, I do not believe he has explained it to you in full. Let me embellish." Ares turned so that Iolaus had a good view of them and placed a long, passionate kiss on Hercules' lips. When it was over, they came away with ardent looks on their faces.
"Now. Got it?" Ares asked Iolaus.
"I got it." Iolaus was seething. "You have stolen his heart, maybe not by ethical measures. I don't buy this, Ares, not for a minute."
"Iolaus," Hercules said. "He has stolen my heart, but only...because I let it happen."
"And, my dear," Ares said softly, nose to nose with Hercules. The eyes that glanced from Hercules' eyes to his lips were tender to extreme. "You have stolen my heart as well. My sweet love." He kissed him again.
Now, Iolaus was speechless. He watched in fascination, shook his head and walked away from them, stood by himself a while to contemplate.
For a few minutes, the lovers did not miss him, wrapped up in one another, with no other thought but the immense love they shared. But finally, Ares glanced around to see him standing aside waiting patiently.
He cleared his throat and walked to the fireside with an arm around Hercules. "I would appreciate your blessing since you are his best friend." Ares presented his right hand.
Hesitatingly, Iolaus shook the hand. "I can only hope you're not here to hurt him." he said. "You, being Ares, should know that's my concern."
"I know. I know." Ares sighed, but offered no promises. He turned to Hercules again, gently kissed him three times, then disappeared.
Hercules posture collapsed when he was gone. He sank to the ground, his hands over his face. Iolaus stooped beside him and began carefully rubbing his shoulders.
"I love you, too, Hercules." he said.
"I know." Hercules answered, turning to put his arms around him. "And I love you, Iolaus."
Iolaus' hand was gently smoothing his sandy brown hair. "If you wanted that kind of a relationship, why didn't you just tell me? I was always here."
"Iolaus, I could not corrupt you with a love you would be ashamed of, a love that would completely change our lives. Anyway, Hera has always destroyed everyone I have ever loved. She cannot destroy Ares."
"You're right about that. But she has never destroyed me, and I have been close to you since the beginning."
"She's not jealous of you."
"Yes, you're right." Iolaus was smiling. "Is Ares?"
"Is he jealous of me?"
"No, of course not."
"He sure came forward fast when it looked like I was getting sweet with you there."
Hercules' blue eyes met Iolaus'. "Does he have reason to be jealous?"
"Are you asking me..."
"I'm not coming onto you, Iolaus. I'm asking you if *you're* coming onto me."
"Do you want me to?"
"Since when do you wait to see what *I* want?"
Iolaus hugged him. "Let's just stay friends, then, if that's the way you feel. I always ask what you want, don't I?"
"No, but it doesn't matter." Hercules hugged him very close and held on tight.
"What can I say to make you turn away from this love with Ares?"
"Please don't ask me to give him up. I love him, Iolaus."
"I know. I can see that."
"Then why would you want to take him away from me?"
"I want you safe."
"Life is dangerous, Iolaus."
"I know. Very, very dangerous. Especially for you and me."
"I'll always love you, Iolaus. You'll always, always be my best friend."
"And you'll always be mine, Hercules. Always." Iolaus kissed him on the forehead and hugged him again. "No matter what happens."
They were walking along the road the following day when a horse-drawn buggy caught up with them. The driver wore a hood, but when he pulled the vehicle alongside them, the hood fell back to reveal Ares wickedly handsome face.
Hercules laughed and stepped up on the carriage to embrace him, merging in a long, loving kiss. Finally, he managed to ask, "Whose carriage is this?"
"Yours." Ares answered, handing him the reins. He kissed him again. "I'll meet you in Scarabtown for a day together, my love. You can get there faster with this."
Hercules was amazed. "Thank you, Ares."
Ares rubbed his shoulder a minute while he kissed him again. "I have many more gifts for you, my love."
Iolaus was skeptical. "Where'd you get them?"
"Honorably acquired, dear mortal, I assure you." Ares answered. Then, after one more long kiss goodbye, he was gone.
Hercules was delighted with the gift. He sat on the seat with the reins in hand, looking it over. "Come on, Iolaus, get up here! We won't have to walk."
Iolaus climbed onto the seat. "It's a nice buggy, good looking horse." he said grudgingly.
"Yes, it is." Hercules said, shaking the reins. The horse trotted along the road leading to Scarabtown.
"This is a big town." Iolaus observed, looking over a town new to them. "Why are all the soldiers standing around? Are they expecting a war?"
"I don't know." Hercules paused beside a young soldier and asked, "Is there a war expected in Scarabtown?"
"There is always war expected in Scarabtown, sir." the soldier answered. "Our king is paranoid. He thinks the soldiers from Rome will come for him, so he sends us out to watch for them. We are his peace of mind."
Hercules smiled. "I see."
"Where can we get something to eat around here?" asked Iolaus.
The young man pointed to the third building on the main street, which was painted green. "The tavern there."
"Is there a place we can leave the buggy?"
"Just across the street from the tavern, the stables."
"We thank you, kind sir." Hercules said, coaxing the horse into walking.
Leaving the horse to the stable boy for caretaking, they went to the tavern and ordered food.
Iolaus could not help but notice the way Hercules anxiously looked around, studying each person who entered the tavern. When they had eaten, he asked, "Do you think he'll come in the form of Ras again?"
Hercules glanced at him distractedly. "What?"
"Ras. I know that was Ares."
Then, Hercules smiled. "You're very intelligent, Iolaus."
"Yes, actually, I am. And I know you simply can't wait to see him again."
Hercules acted with awkwardness, his eyes darted to the door to fall upon a handsome god just walking in. On his feet, Hercules was all smiles for him. "Ares," He remembered they were in public, so he did not run into his arms, merely took his hands. "Sit down with us. Would you like something to eat?"
"No, thank you." Ares sat, giving Iolaus a quick look. "Can you do without him for the day?" he asked, more civil than the blonde had ever known him.
Iolaus sighed. "Sure. I can use a day's rest from a day's traveling, anyway. You two go have fun."
Ares reached for Iolaus' hand and pressed coins into it. Iolaus stared at the money, then at Ares in surprise.
"Get yourself a room." Ares said, patting him on the back. "We'll see you tomorrow."
"Yes, meet you at about suppertime." Ares led Hercules out the door and away.
The next day, as promised, Ares returned Hercules to the tavern where Iolaus was waiting. They talked for a time over ales, and Ares detailed the story to them about the local paranoid king, then before he left, he asked how long they planned to stay.
Hercules and Iolaus exchanged a shrug.
Ares took Hercules' hand under the table. "I would like to come for you Saturday. We need a Saturday together."
Hercules' bright blue eyes were delighted at the prospect.
"Will you still be in Scarabtown?"
Iolaus was smiling. "We could stick around for a week. It could be fun."
"Good." Ares smiled back at him, then stretched a hand across to shake with him again, leaving more gold pieces in his hand.
Iolaus shook his head. "This is not necessary." he said.
Holding up a hand, Ares said, "Take it or I will be offended."
Iolaus sighed. "Well, I wouldn't want to offend you."
"Good, then. I'll come Saturday."
Hercules wanted to kiss him goodbye. "I'll see you Saturday."
Ares took a scarf from his pocket and gently brushed it across Hercules' lips. "I love you." he said very quietly. Then, leaving the scarf in the demi-god's lap, he walked swiftly out the door.
Iolaus had watched everything with soft eyes. When Ares was gone, he said, "You know, Hercules, he's starting to act like a really nice guy. I've never seen anything so scary in all my life."
Hercules smiled at him.
During the week, the king was assassinated and his young son was coronated. It was general suspicion that the new king was responsible for having had the old one killed, but there was no person brave enough to step forward and make the accusation. The assassin had escaped into the night and was a free man.
Hercules and Iolaus were anxious to leave Scarabtown, but they had made the promise to meet Ares, so they stayed.
Saturday morning, Ares arrived and took Hercules, via magic, to his home, where they spent the weekend playing and having fun.
Iolaus took the horse and buggy and headed toward Angora, where he was to meet them on Monday. Ares had given him more gold. It was beginning to feel as if he were selling off his friend as a prize, as a harlot, and Iolaus did not like the feeling. He chose to believe the gold was a gift of friendship and hoped he was right about Ares.
A weekend was a long time to be in the house of Ares but Iolaus knew that Hercules could persevere and would return to him.
Monday, they were reunited, and Ares had made them an astounding offer. In the woods, twenty miles from Angora, just far enough to be secluded and private, there stood a cottage already furnished with the best of furniture, the cupboards already heavy with packaged and tinned foods. The cottage was to be theirs if they would take it.
Hercules was happy about the offer. To him, it was wonderful, not far from Corinth, which was his brother, Ipicles' kingdom, and not far from Ares.
To Iolaus, it was unbelievable, but after a time, he relented and agreed to reside there because Hercules wanted it and he wanted to be with Hercules.
So, they set up housekeeping in their new cottage.
Ares visited often, and his visits were always welcome. He seemed like a different god, nothing like the terrorizing, ruthless bastard he had once been. But it was only a month after they moved into the cottage that Hercules began to feel ill, and Iolaus had his doubts about Ares' deeds.
Hercules was sick. His stomach rolled, his head swam. He could keep nothing down, not even water, and his body was stricken with fever.
Iolaus washed him with cool, wet cloths and waited anxiously for Ares to come and explain what was wrong.
The illness had seemingly gone away before Ares' arrival on the weekend. Hercules was up and about, had eaten and had drunk. He was not at his best, but at least he was over the fever.
As soon as he learned of the sickness, Ares began to examine Hercules, listening to his heart, touching his skin to determine temperature, gently pressing on his stomach to hear what sound it made. Hercules seemed fine.
He knew, though, just as Iolaus knew, that something was very wrong. He acted different. He felt different.
A week later, when they were spending time together, Ares touched his chest and asked, "What happened to all the hair that used to be here?"
Hercules looked puzzled. "It's gone. It disappeared. I never even noticed."
Fully understanding the principles of the antatomy, Ares slid a hand between his legs and felt for his testes. He could not find them. They were mysteriously absent.
"What are you doing?" Hercules asked.
"Just feeling around." Ares would not tell him his suspicions yet.
"They were sore for a while, then they just disappeared." Hercules said.
Ares nodded. He had a good idea who was responsible for this act, the spiteful god of the underworld, who was supposed to be a god of beauty, of peace. But then, Ares was the god of war. The roles could have reversed somehow.
He kissed Hercules, whispered encouragement into his ear, and kissed him again. "You're not concerned?"
"No, I don't need them. I'm happy without them."
Ares' fingers covered everything in the region, slowly moving up to the lower abdomen. Within his bowels, there was a quivering that was not quite normal.
Hercules smiled at him, gently caressing his face. "I love you." he whispered. "I love when you touch me."
Ares kissed him again and spread his hands to touch him everywhere. "Do you like this?"
"Yes, I love that." Hercules was enraptured.
They spent the rest of the weekend engaged in cuddling.
Iolaus brought in a bucket of water, set in on the shelf, his dark blue eyes on his companion. He was seated at the table, a knife in one hand, a potato in the other, but his vivid blue eyes were trained on the fire in the fireplace across the room.
There was no response. Iolaus went to him and touched his arm.
Hercules looked up, still not focused.
"Come back to me, Hercules. I want to talk to you."
Hercules took a deep breath and shook off the deep thoughts that held him. "What is it, Iolaus?"
"Why are you doing that again? You're gazing."
"I'm sorry." Hercules began to peel the potato. "What do you want?"
"You're gaining weight."
"You're getting fat."
Hercules looked down at himself to see the little potbelly he had acquired. "I'll do some situps." he said. "I haven't done anything forever."
Iolaus tentatively touched his belly. "It feels weird." he said.
"What do you mean weird?" Hercules touched beside Iolaus's hand. The bulge trembled, but it felt solid, felt strange. "Oh, yeah. I see what you mean."
"Maybe we should take you to a doctor."
"I'll ask Ares what he thinks about it."
When Ares showed up again, Iolaus took him directly to Hercules and showed him the bulging belly, which was growing more every day.
"What do you think it is?" he asked. "I know he's not eating too much. He doesn't eat *enough*. He picks and stares into the fire all the time."
Ares stooped behind him, both hands on his belly. "It's definitely strange." he agreed. His face was dark with suspicion. "Hercules, lie on the bed and let me see."
Hercules went to the bed and laid flat while his lover examined him. Iolaus stood by, waiting for a diagnosis. Ares hands touched him everywhere again, and for the first time since the very beginning, when his finger entered into him, it caused pain.
Hercules shivered with discomfort. "Why does it hurt?" he asked. "It never hurts!"
Ares withdrew his finger quickly and looked into his worried eyes. "Oh, Hercules," he said, miserably. "I love you so much."
"What's wrong with me, Ares?"
"I think you are with child, Hercules."
Hercules stared at him. Iolaus spoke. "What? What did you say, Ares?"
"The gods have been cruel to him. To us. They have done this, probably Hades. He has this power. We have made love many times, and there is now a child, conceived from one of those times. My child lies inside his belly."
A poof to the center of the room proved to be the god of the underworld. He approached them with anger. "I did not *do* this, Ares. It was of your *own* doing! Of your own doing! Have you forgotten, in all your shamelessness, how much power you hold? Did you expect to keep being with him with no consequences?"
"How could it have been my doing?" Ares demanded.
"You made love to him, an unnatural act, and his body began to conform to be natural with you. He has begun to be female."
"But he is not. He is still male."
"And with child."
"It's your doing, Ares."
"Yes. Take the blame for your own sins. You did this to him."
"What can I do?"
"He belongs to you now. The child inside him is yours. They need you. Does this frighten you, Ares?"
Ares stood thinking a moment, then smiled proudly. "Why would it frighten me? I love him and I always wanted to be a father."
Hades shook his head at him and poofed away.
Iolaus was in awe. "Hercules is really going to have a baby?"
With the same happy smile, Ares nodded. "Yeah. He is. We're going to have a baby."
Hercules sat up, not as happy. "The baby won't be safe, Ares. Hera destroys everyone I love with the exception so far, of Iolaus and you. The baby won't be safe from her."
"Yes, he will, because he is my son and if she dares do anything, I will wage war upon her for eternity."
Ares had stayed for hours, his hands on Hercules' belly, talking about what kind of offspring the joining of their bloods would produce.
Hercules asked, "How is the child to be born? I am not a woman. I have no place for the child to come forth from. Will my belly split open?"
"I hope not. I hope you will grow that woman's place for the child to come forth and the baby will be born naturally."
"I hope so, too, Ares, but I cannot help but be a little worried. This is frightening."
Ares held him for throughout the night.
The baby was farther along than it should have been for the time, developing much faster than a human baby. After only two months, it felt full-term.
Ares had kept a close vigilance on him, had visited every day, sometimes twice a day, and on the day that the labor began, he had just arrived.
Iolaus was scared silly, but Ares calmed him. "Come with me, Iolaus. We'll go to my house and the child will be born there."
Iolaus went and watched as Ares laid Hercules on a table, helped to remove his clothing. When his legs were spread, it was obvious that he still had no place for the baby to come through. They had hoped a birth canal would form when needed, but there was nothing, not even a sign that one could ever exist. Ares sighed in distress. "Stay with him, Iolaus. I'll be right back."
Iolaus could do nothing but hold his hand while Hercules' pain worsened and his cries became louder.
It was several minutes before Ares returned, arm-in-arm with Hypocrates, a man they hoped could remedy their dilimma.
The medical man was just as perplexed as they were. "The only thing we can do is operate. To open him and remove the baby."
It was at that moment when Hercules let loose a loud scream. Iolaus, who had, at that moment, peeked between his friend's legs, had seen the miracle. "The baby's trying to come out down here! I saw a bulge here between his legs!"
As they came round, he touched the place with his index finger and felt pressure. Then, he moved out of the way so Hypocrates could feel it.
"The child will more than likely be born dead." Hypocrates said as his fingers investigated. "He can be getting no air in there."
Ares face was stricken. "He cannot die. He is too wanted. Help us, Hypocrates. Save our child, and save Hercules."
Hypocrates had felt out the birth canal that had developed inside, but had no outlet and, pushing the child's head back, he touched the tip of a razor sharp blade to the skin and made the incision. He barely had time to lay down the knife before the child burst into the world. As it came forth, Hercules screamed again and Iolaus took his hands to comfort him.
Ares laid a hand on his stomach, but smiled with fatherly pride at the tiny bundle that came from him. There he was, a tiny boy baby with wide blue eyes and good lungs, as he proved with cries that had matched Hercules'.
Iolaus wrapped the child in the blanket they had laid aside for him, and laid him on Hercules' chest. "He's beautiful." he said. "He's absolutely beautiful."
Hercules was laughing weakly as he held his small son. "Look what we have done, Ares." he said. "Look at our son."
Ares kissed him, hugged him, then, with an arm around him, played with the baby's hand. "He's going to be really special."
"You're going to have to hold still a few minutes." Hypocrates said. "I'm going to repair this mess we've made of you here."
"Could you use any help?" asked Iolaus.
"Yes, I could. Come down here and hand me things. You'll be of great help to me."
Iolaus, when he saw the gaping hole between Hercules' legs, nearly fainted. The doctor caught his hand and shook it and gave him a warning with his eyes, so Iolaus got hold of himself and assisted him.
Once the afterbirth came out, which caused him more pain, Hypocrates sutured the incision, leaving an opening large enough to classify as a feminine birth canal. Wearing gloves, he had rubbed a topical anesthetic on the skin and, when he was numbed, he began a new surgery that Ares had requested. He used pieces of the now discarded umbilical cord and made the vagina complete. Then, with more of it, opened a channel to the bladder. Last, the penis was removed and a clitoris was formed from it and sewn into place, leaving him a complete female.
As he finished, he and Iolaus washed all his instruments and put them away. Iolaus looked very pale and distraught, but he had managed through all the surgery.
When Hercules had begun to feel the horrible pain of it, Ares had kissed him and gave him a bolt that sent him into unconsciousness. Then, faithfully, he stood beside him, holding the baby until it was over.
"He's a work of art." Hypocrates declared proudly. "He will need regular doses of a drug called Estrogen that's extracted from female animals. I will give you some when you take me home." Hypocrates said. "Do you want me to make breasts for him?"
"Not yet. You can come back and do that later." Ares could bear no more. "How soon does he need to start taking Estrogen?"
"In the morning."
"Then I'll take you back in the morning."
"I really should be going right away. My wife will miss me." the doctor said.
Ares sighed. "Iolaus, would you hold the baby for me, please? And keep a close eye on him. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Iolaus took the baby and stood watching them as Ares took hold of the doctor's arm. The two of them disappeared.
Hercules' blue eyes opened just as they had gone and he looked vaguely up at Iolaus. "Hey!" he said, smiling. "I just had the craziest dream."
Iolaus smiled back at him. "I don't think it was a dream." he said. "Did you dream you had a baby?"
Hercules took the baby Iolaus held up for him. "So you're not a dream." he said to the child. "Not a dream. Iolaus, where's Ares?"
"He took the doctor home. He'll be right back."
"I feel so weird."
"You should. You had a weird day."
Hercules kissed the child's head.
"What do you want to name him?"
"I've been thinking about that. What about Leo? He's born under the sign of the sun and he's the son of Ares and me. He should have a powerful name."
"It's a great name, but Ares will need to confirm it. He is the father."
"And I'm the mother. Which is a very extraordinary thing. He was born under extremely strange circumstances."
"Yes, he was. But it happened, and it is no stranger than the way Zeus gave birth to Artemis. Or the way other gods have produced offspring. That ambrosia makes for some very unusual children."
"Have you ever eaten any ambrosia?"
"No." answered Hercules, laughing. "Have you?"
"No, of course not. If I had, I'd be a god, now wouldn't I?" Iolaus laughed, too.
Ares returned with a sackful of pills, put them on a high shelf and walked to Hercules. "What are you two laughing about?" he asked, smiling. He kissed his love.
"I think we're hysterical." Hercules answered. "We were thinking of ambrosia."
Ares took the baby, held him a minute, looking him over. "Is that what you want to name him? Ambrosia?"
"No. I want to name him Leo." Hercules answered.
Ares nodded in agreement. "The very best name we could choose for him." Then, as an afterthought, the light popped on in his head. "Ambrosia! That's it!"
"You really want to call him Ambrosia?" Hercules asked.
"No, it will heal you!"
Iolaus was decipering. "Ambrosia has the power to instantly heal!" he said. "He's right!"
Hercules waited. "So you're going to rub some ambrosia on me where I'm hurting right now?"
"No, silly." Ares said as he kissed him again. "You're going to eat some."
"Oh." Hercules looked doubtful.
Ares went to a small container on a table and brought it back to him. "It will heal you and I won't have to worry about your survival! The doctor told me you could die from this and you know I would do anything to keep you, my love." He took out a small piece of jelly-like substance and put it to Hercules' lips. "Eat this and live forever as our son and I will."
Hercules' blue eyes were saddened by the statement, but he took it and as he swallowed, everything between his legs was immediately healed. He smiled, a nearly-complete female. "What about Iolaus?"
Ares handed the container to Iolaus. "Here, have some. You're our brother. You will be Leo's uncle. He will need an uncle to teach him things as he grows."
Iolaus shook his head. "I don't need the ambrosia to teach him as he grows."
Hercules nodded. "I don't want to lose you, Iolaus."
"I'll be around a few more years. I won't live forever, but I'll be here a while."
"What have you got against becoming a god?"
"I don't know." Iolaus answered. "It just doesn't appeal to me. I sorta like being human."
Ares gave him a proud smile. "Then you're the best man to teach my son." he said.
Hercules and Ares stood side by side, watched their youngster run and jump into the trees of the forest. He was exceptionally agile but also had the power to bend down tall trees. He had learned everything Iolaus had to teach and was on his own now, developing his own nature. He was a beautiful youth, now eighteen years old and Iolaus was an aging man who sat inside most of the time.
Hercules was the same, except that now he was a beautiful woman, Ares wife, and the two of them grew more in love every day. Ares was still extremely good looking and was so proud of his family that he boasted of them often to others.
Leo came bounding over to them, followed closely by his pet lion, a full-grown male he lovingly called Harry. Leo hugged Hercules, then Ares, then rushed into the house to give his uncle Iolaus a hug. Ares had caught the lion by the mane and deterred him from following.
"He forgets that Harry's affections would probably be the death of poor old Iolaus." he said.
Hercules smiled sadly and took the lion to his cage. "I wish I could see into the future." he said. "I would like to know what Leo will be doing when the world we know now had grown old and died and others are in control."
"Leo will be in control." Ares answered, laughing. "Our son, my love, will rule the world."