By Sarah Saint Ives
It happened in San Francisco, where the vortex that separated time and space suddenly burst and men from another age appeared within the late twentieth century. They were dressed very differently, carried themselves oddly, their mannerisms were unusual to the modern world. But their English was flawless, so conversation was no problem for them as they ambled along the sidewalks, lost forever to anything familiar.
They had been transported in the blinking of an eye a space of nearly three millenniums. In their lifetimes, they had never witnessed motor cars, had never seen electricity, had never seen any of the modern technology they were now gaping at in disbelief. But they knew of magic, believed it was real, believed in higher powers that made even greater things possible than the things they were seeing in San Francisco, so they were not stupefied. They were rather like children, innocently believing what was told them.
As they approached a decorative bar called LaViv's, they glanced at each other uncertainly. "What sort of currency do you suppose they take here?" asked the small blonde man.
Immortal Ares had found he was powerless to do the god-like magic of which he had been so outstandingly capable in his own time. He had reigned supreme as the god of war for scores, but in the blinking of an eye, the power was gone. He was pouting at the injustice of their plight. "It makes no difference. We'll go in and drink free."
"No, we won't," Hercules disagreed. His great strength had also been taken away during their transport. He felt weak and vulnerable but, as he had always been, was ever the hero. "We will not wrong these people. You aren't considering the consequences. We could get thrown in prison, Ares. We could be hanged. We have to be careful."
They became aware of two tall men eyeing them from several feet away. Hercules took a deep breath and spoke to them. "What sort of work is there here?"
One of the men came closer, gazed at him with interest. "Work? You're a working boy?"
Hercules gave him his signature modest smile. "I'm a little older than a boy, but yes, I am willing to work for money."
The man smiled at him, laid a hand on his muscular back. "Let's go in and get something to drink. We'll discuss this matter."
"We have no money."
"We'll buy your drinks. Come on." The man beckoned to the other, and he joined them. As they walked inside and seated themselves round a table, he introduced them. "My name is Charles. This is Bill."
"Hercules." Hercules stretched forth a hand, grasped his forearm and shook it. "This is my friend and partner, Iolaus, and this is Ares."
"Glad to meet you." said Charles. He was grinning with an almost wicked glint in his eyes. "I can't wait to take you home. You're just too delicious."
Bill was moving in on Ares. "So, what do you do?" he asked.
Ares gave him an uninterested glance and then yawned as he looked away. "I used to be the god of war. Now, I do nothing," he said. "And I'm very good at it."
"You're really cute, you know that?"
Ares smiled mockingly at him. "I always sort of considered myself ‘devastatingly handsome'."
"Well, yeah, that, too."
Ares yawned again and glanced suggestively across the table to Hercules.
"What do you think about me?" Bill persisted.
Ares did not look at him. "I think you're a pig. An annoying pig."
"An annoying pig?" Bill seemed to think there was a punchline coming. "That's not very nice. You're supposed to be nice to me."
The eyes finally met. "That's the rule? I'm supposed to be *nice* to you?"
"That's right, Darlin'. You're supposed to tell me I'm good looking and sexy."
Ares studied his face for five seconds, then shook his head in mock regret. "I'll pass on that."
"I get it. You're playing hard to get." Bill deduced.
Ares looked suddenly very dangerous. "I'm not playing anything, Sweetness. You keep it up and you're going to wish you'd never met me."
Bill backed away, turned to Iolaus.
Iolaus shook his head, got up and stalked out of the bar, followed closely by Hercules. Ares, after a long sigh, joined them on the sidewalk again.
"Those guys like men instead of women." Iolaus said in a low voice. "Ares shot Bill down, but that other one was getting real fresh with you, Hercules."
Hercules nodded. "Yes, he was."
"And you weren't beating the shit out of him."
"I couldn't hit him until he got out of line."
Iolaus looked disturbed. "Let's go."
Ares, even with all his worldly collection of sins, was unsettled by the strangers' blatancy. He was tired, as were they all. "we have to find a place to sleep. We can survive without food or drink for a day or so. Let's find shelter."
They walked. The city was large and unaccommodating, the temperature was dropping, getting colder and the skies promised precipitation. They felt hopelessness setting in as they reached the shore of the great ocean. They stowed away on a ferry at dusk, hoping to acquire work as crewmen, but found themselves being let off shortly on an island. Again, they walked.
They stepped inside the gate of a large estate, hoping to sneak into a stable as it began to rain. Their scant clothing was doing nothing to keep them warm. Their skin was rippled with chillbumps. Little did they know about the silent alarm they had tripped as they entered the yard of the huge ivied castle.
Moments later, they found themselves confronted by two men. The shorter of the two carried a metal object they assumed, by the way he kept it pointed directly at them, was a weapon. They were interested to know what the weapon would do, but they dared not put it to the test.
"Who are you and why are you here?" asked the taller man.
"I'M Hercules." Hercules said. "we were simply looking for a place to get in out of the rain. We're sorry if we have trespassed."
"You have." said the man holding the weapon.
"I'M Derek Rayne. This is Nick Boyle." said the tall man. "Identify yourselves."
"I'M Hercules. This is Iolaus and this is Ares."
Derek studied them a moment, their clothing, their faces. He was extremely psychic, had been a member of the Legacy all his life, but none of the three newcomers knew about the Legacy or its involvement with the paranormal. Derek stepped close and laid a hand on Hercules' shoulder to get a bigger picture of their story.
Nick was made nervous by his nearness to them. "Derek, be careful," he warned, his eyes on the others.
Ares watched him suspiciously, ready, for once, to defend his despised half-brother. "What's he doing?" he asked.
"He's reading his mind." Nick answered simply. There was much more to it, but he did not take the time to explain.
Ares frowned. "He reads minds?"
Derek moved back from Hercules and stared at him. After a moment of stunned quiet, he proceeded to lay his hands on Iolaus' bare arms. Iolaus held still, waited with anticipation to see what the man was capable of.
When Derek withdrew and turned to Ares, his hands raised to his face. Ares rolled his eyes, but allowed the touch. He waited, wishing he had his powers so he could give this nosy psychic a good, healthy godly jolt.
Derek shivered as he returned to Nick. His face was pale. "They are from another time," he said softly.
Nick stared at him. "What?"
"They traveled from another time to this one.
Nick lowered the gun. He glanced at the three waiting men. "Bitchin', he swore softly. "Well, let's go inside. We're all getting wet here. Come on, guys. Welcome to the Legacy House."
They were led up the stairs to the second storey, into a large bathroom where robes and sweats hung from a long rod to the side. Derek handed them each a thick towel. "Here, get out of those wet clothes and dry yourselves." he said. He found three outfits and hung them on the towel rack. there. I'll go find you some shoes."
Nick, who had stood silently waiting, doing nothing, followed him out. Moments later, the two returned with comfortable houseshoes for them.
Hercules asked as he took the shoes, "Are you royalty?"
"Royalty?" Derek echoed. "No, of course not."
"Then why do you live in a castle?" Ares asked.
"It's a Legacy House." Derek explained. "It doesn't belong to us. We just work here."
"Where's the master of the castle?" asked Ares.
"There is no one master. There are lots of members of the Legacy."
The three visitors were clearly confused, but asked no more questions about it.
Iolaus, now fully dressed, spread his hands and looked in the mirror. "There. How do I look?"
Hercules' eyes scaled him up and down. "You look strange."
"There's a hairbrush and comb in front of you." Derek said, pointing.
Iolaus picked up the brush and looked in the mirror at his wet, blond curls. As he began to brush his curly hair, he asked, "Where is the heat coming from? I feel the warm air."
"There's a boiler room below." Derek answered.
Iolaus nodded as if he understood.
Derek stepped forward and flipped down the collar of Ares' sweat-shirt to show him the tag. "You put this on backward," he said.
Ares frowned. "This goes in back?"
"Yes, tags go in back, but these," He turned the waistband over to expose the drawstring on the pants. "you got this right. They go in front."
Ares nodded, peeled off the shirt and turned it around. The others checked to see if they had theirs right.
"Are you hungry?" Derek asked.
"Yes, we are." Iolaus answered for the three of them.
"Come with me."
They followed him, noting Nick was still plodding along in silence. Ares had endured it long enough. "So, Nick, that's your name?"
"Yeah." Nick answered.
Ares gave him a rare smile. "Is Derek your father?"
"No, he's my friend. My boss."
"Oh. Do you like that arrangement?"
"Yeah, I do." Nick gave him a hint of a shrug.
Ares was momentarily dizzy, something he had seldom in his life experienced. He stumbled. Nick grabbed him and steadied him. "Are you okay?"
Ares leaned on him heavily for a minute before he regained his composure. "Yes, I'M fine." he answered finally.
Hercules had turned and had caught hold of Ares' other arm. "What's wrong?" he asked apprehensively, making direct eye contact with him.
"Nothing," Ares insisted. "I'm fine."
They went on to the dining room and were seated around the table. Derek went into the kitchen and returned moments later with a pushcart laden with cooked foods. He handed them each a plate, silverware and a glass, then began to pass around the bowls.
Once they had eaten, Nick nudged Ares. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"I'm fine. Don't worry about me." Ares said in annoyance.
"Derek, come check him out." Nick said. "See what you think."
Derek approached and looked into the dark god's face. Lightly, he touched his throat, then lifted his arm by the wrist and held it in place while he counted seconds on his watch.
Ares was stumped. "What are you doing?"
"I'm giving you a quick examination." Derek answered. "I'm a doctor. However, I don't have my stethoscope with me right now, so I'll do this the old-fashioned way. He bent and pressed his ear to Ares' chest. "Take a deep breath."
Ares inhaled deeply.
"Good, another one."
Ares obeyed grimly.
After a few more seconds of listening, Derek stood straight. "His heartbeat is strong and respiration is okay."
"Why did he get dizzy?" Nick asked.
"Possibly hypoglycemia. More likely dehydration."
"Then it's probably nothing serious." Nick patted Ares on the back.
Ares yawned. His eyelids were heavy.
"Come on." Nick said. "I'll show you where you can sleep."
They did not want to be separated, so, to appease them, Nick gave them the only room in the house furnished with two double beds.
Hercules thanked him, and as soon as their host was gone, he turned to look at Ares, who was putting himself to bed. "What happened down there?" he demanded.
"Nothing. What are you talking about?" Ares asked.
Hercules sat on the bed beside him and pulled the covers up around him. "You were feeling sick. You've never been sick. You're a god."
"Not any more, brother. I'M mortal now, and mortals get sick. And sleepy. So go to bed and get some sleep, both of you. Leave me alone."
Hercules touched his forehead. "You're warm. I hope you don't have a fever."
"Why would you care? You and I hate each other, remember? What difference would it make to you if I got sick and died?"
Hercules looked very angry. "Yes, you're right." he agreed darkly. "I'm going to bed now."
Ares turned on his side, closed his eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.
Hercules went to the other bed and laid down with Iolaus, disturbed by Ares' behavior. He was not normal. Nothing about him was normal, but for good reasons. Existing in a different set of centuries, a different culture, being exposed to the twentieth century's technology, all these things added up to one confused, defensive god of war. The fact that Ares had lost his powers and Hercules had lost his strength, these contributed to the understanding.
"Go to sleep, Hercules." Iolaus said, patting his chest. "Don't worry about it. You'll be sick, too, if you keep brewing."
Hercules closed his eyes.
It was dark outside. Hercules opened his eyes and looked around him at the black room. He could hear Iolaus' even breathing to his side, Ares' fitful movements from the other bed. He felt a heaviness inside him that was troubling.
He slipped from the bed and carefully sat on the edge of Ares' bed to touch his face again, testing for fever. He was toasty warm, but not feverish.
Ares yawned. "Hercules, what are you doing?"
"Checking on you. That's all." Hercules answered, dejectedly.
"I'm fine." Ares caught hold of his wrist as he started to leave. "Wait."
Hercules settled beside him again.
"Sleep here a while. Keep me company." Ares said.
Without a word, Hercules crawled in beside him and pulled the covers over himself. He felt the closeness to Ares and the troubling heaviness seemed to disappear. He snuggled closer to get comfortable.
"You're strangely cuddly." Ares said softly.
Hercules rested his cheek against his shoulder. "I don't hate you, Ares."
Ares ran his fingers through his shoulder-length hair. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." Hercules said.
"How do you feel about me, then?"
"I care about you."
Ares swallowed hard, an very uncharacteristic emotional response. Those were words he was not accustomed to hearing every day.
Hercules hesitated. "Good night."
"Good morning." The whispered greeting was accompanied by a smile and a hug.
Hercules looked into Ares' dark eyes and returned the smile. "Good morning."
Ares pulled him closer, lightly touched his cheek. "I feel so different this morning. I don't know what it is, but I just feel.....so free."
"Maybe because you didn't spend the whole night boiling with hatred."
Hercules touched his face. "You've never been as mean and horrible as you tried to be. You have always put on this great 'war god' act to keep anyone from knowing how much you really needed friendship."
Ares chuckled lowly. "You're quite sure of that?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Then it's all right if I kiss you now?"
Hercules looked surprised. "you were bothered by those men yesterday."
"I didn't like those men. You're a different matter. I only want a kiss. Just one."
Awkwardly, Hercules slid an arm round his neck and accepted his kiss.
Ares parted his lips and kissed him thoroughly, a gentle, caressing kiss that lasted several quiet seconds. It created a stirring their souls and their loins, flames of lust shot through every nerve to lick every extremity. They were left breathless by it.
Hercules shivered as it ended. "You have powers I never knew about."
"Powers?" Ares' voice was the growl of a horny bear. "What is it you have? Your kiss is the most powerful force I ever felt in my life, Hercules."
At that moment, there was a sudden rap at the door that brought them to sit up straight. Nick entered the room without invitation and advanced to their bed.
Iolaus had also been rudely awakened and was getting up, his blue eyes on Hercules. "When did you get up and get in bed with Ares?" he asked with an accusing tone.
"A few minutes ago. He was....having a bad dream." Hercules explained mildly.
"Ares, you're the one I came to check on." Nick said. He showed him a small glass cylinder. "This is a thermometer. You hold it under your tongue without biting it and I can tell what your temperature is. Can you do that for me?"
Ares nodded in bewilderment, so Nick put the thermometer in his mouth. "Just lie back and relax while it's working." he said. He glanced up at Iolaus. "The bathroom is right over there. You know what a bathroom is?"
Iolaus looked confused, but ventured to the bathroom door and peered in. "This is where..."
"""Yep. That's where you do it. Take care of all your needs and flush it away." Nick confirmed.
Iolaus gave him a blank gaze and went inside. After a few minutes, the toilet flushed.
"Hercules, you go ahead, now." Nick said. "Ares can go last, after I've got his temp."
The thermometer read one hundred degrees. He had a slight fever, not terribly high, but high enough to cause possible dizziness. Nick allowed him up once he was done. "you can go now. Derek's coming to test your sugar in a minute. In the meanwhile, I have some clothes for the three of you."
He went out of the room and returned momentarily with clothing on hangers. "Here we are. Everybody can get dressed and come downstairs to breakfast."
Hercules and Iolaus were dressed by the time Ares came from the bathroom.
Derek entered the room with a small machine in hand. "Let me see your finger." he said to Ares.
Ares held out his middle finger to him and Derek punctured it with a needle, which provoked a subtle curse. Then, he squeezed a drop of blood onto a small pad and inserted it into the machine. Fifteen seconds later, two numbers appeared, an eight and a two.
"Eighty two! This is low." he said. "Get dressed and come downstairs. You need to eat something."
Ares began putting on his clothes. Hercules, very worried, moved to help him.
"Derek, you're a doctor." Hercules began, his eyes troubled.
"Yes." Derek waited.
"Is Ares going to die?"
Derek smiled. "no! He will be fine. We're going to keep a close eye on him and take care of him. Don't worry."
"Is there a cure for his illness?"
"It's not an illness." Derek said. "If he has hypoglycemia, he must eat the right amount of the right foods. He has to have carbohydrates, potatoes, pastas, breads, proteins and vegetables."
His words seemed lost on the primitive man. Hercules was blank.
"He needs to eat foods that have lots of sugars and starches in them. It's no big thing. I'll give you a list of things he should have if that is what is wrong with him."
"Where will we go?" Hercules looked sad. "how will we live? Can we get work and make money in this time?"
"I don't know. This is an tremendous transition for you. I can't promise you that your lives will be easy. There are many people who do not have jobs, people who were born in this time."
"What do you think we should do?"
"I think that for the time being, you should stay here with us. Maybe forever. You certainly don't need to be out in the world, especially not Ares."
"He's going to be sick this way for the rest of his life?"
"Not necessarily," Derek said. "It may not be that serious, not really."
Hercules' bright blue eyes were relieved. Ares gave him a short glance and muttered, "i do not understand your compassion for me, not after all that's happened between us."
"Ares, we have no choice but to stick together. We've lost everything but each other." Iolaus said.
"I lost my strength." Hercules said.
"You did?" Iolaus' blue eyes were wide.
Ares, too, was gazing at him.
Hercules stood looking at the floor.
Derek laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Come on. It's time for breakfast."
The three of them each had a thorough examination, and all were pronounced to be in excellent physical condition. Derek and Nick sat looking over the results as the three visitors sat watching TV in the living room. They were fascinated by the television.
"They appear normal in every way. Derek said.
"It's a miracle, but they've all still got all their teeth and they don't have any cavities," Nick was in awe. "They must have eaten a completely sugar-free diet."
"They lived in the days when there was no sugar to be found except the fruits that grew on the trees there. I don't think they even had access to most of the fruits we know of. Maybe dates and apples."
"And those were probably seasonal," Nick added. He was seated on the desk facing Derek, who was in the chair. He leaned forward to pat him on the shoulder. "They're cool guys, don't you think?"
Derek smiled. "Yes, they are."
"So We're gonna keep them here?"
"As long as we can. I don't want to inform the Legacy about them, though. They're our personal guests as far as I'M concerned, not studies for the organization. I don't want them exposed that way."
"Me, either," Nick agreed. "so if anybody comes to visit from the Legacy, We'll have to get them a place in San Francisco or lock them in their room."
Derek's golden eyes raised to meet Nick's hazel ones. "Which one do you like best?" he asked.
"I like them all. But I guess Ares is the one I am most interested to watch. He *was* a god."
"Yes, and Hercules was a demi-god. They lost their powers when they were transported, and I do not understand that."
"I don't understand how they possessed those powers in the first place."
"They were special in their time. Here, they are ordinary."
"They will never get used to being ordinary, not after being gods." Nick glanced into the living room, smiling as the three guests laughed at a silly commercial. "They're enjoying the television. At least they're temporarily occupied. I'll try to come up with something for them to do later."
"If you're planning to train them in auto mechanics, or some other modern vocation, you may find you have your hands full. It will be hard to teach them new things at their ages. They're all over thirty."
"Speak for yourself, old man." Nick poked at him teasingly. "Of them all, I think Iolaus will probably pick up on training more quickly than the others. He's the most open-minded."
"Yes, he is. Because he was a normal mortal in his time. He never learned to be haughty."
"Haughty." Nick repeated the word with a grin. "Haughty like a god?" No one was looking, so he leaned forward and stole a kiss. "I think Ares is a pretty smart guy."
"They're all smart. That has nothing to do with their willingness to learn. What is it you propose to teach them?"
"Skills so they can survive in the world." Nick answered. "Cars, trucks, boats, helicopters, spaceships. Mechanics. Or carpentry. Or computers."
"Start with carpentry. I'm sure they've had some experience with that before. That's something that's been around since the building of houses was invented." Derek hugged him, gave him another secret kiss. "Maybe you could teach them to cook, and to clean."
"Yeah, maybe. And do dishes, and scrub toilets...." Nick laughed. "Maybe we could hire them as cleaning ladies."
"Funny, Nick." Derek nipped his lower lip. "Reason suggests we treat them according to their past stature."
Nick gave him a long, thorough kiss and gently pinched his nipple through his shirt. "You're right." he said. "I'm not going to rush them into anything. They're still totally amazed with everything. Information may not stick in their minds just yet."
"No, it may not for some time to come."
"I'll start with yard work." Nick decided. "Tomorrow."
"Good." Derek pushed him away. "Now, go do your work. You can't make a living sitting around playing with me all day."
"No, but I like doing it." Nick said, leaning past his resisting arms to kiss him again. "One of these days, you and I are going to get time for this."
"Yes, we will. We will spend time together, I promise, Nick. But not now."
Nick gave him a sexy wink. "See you later, boss." he said, and went into the living room to join their visitors.
Iolaus was busy with the push mower while Hercules struggled with the weedeater around the trees. Ares, on his knees by the flower garden, was clipping weeds with shears. What made their work worthwhile, Iolaus had whispered to Hercules, was seeing Ares in this humbling position. They exchanged appreciative smiles at the ex-god's expense.
Nick had been doing repairs to the fence, checking the security system, completing small odd jobs they did not understand. Finally, he joined them on the riding lawn mower.
Iolaus' blue eyes were wide with fascination at the machine. He stopped to watch as Nick passed him on the tractor mower, wanting, more than anything, to sit in that seat, his hands on the steering wheel, to be in control of that magnificent piece of modern machinery. Hercules nudged him and shook his head, so he went back to his chore, grumbling.
When they looked toward Ares again, he was lying on the ground face down. Dropping their tools, the two men ran to him and rolled him over to check him. He was unconscious, but he was breathing and his heartbeat was strong. "I'll get Nick." Iolaus said and hurried after the riding mower.
Hercules remained, worriedly cradling Ares' limp body in his arms.
Derek had examined him, found all his vitals to be normal, so a visit to the hospital for tests was deemed necessary. Ares had opened his eyes and looked up into anxious faces as the precept was taking his pulse. "What happened?" he asked, straining to sit up. Most men would have been rattled by confusion, but even lying on the ground, Ares mastered arrogance.
"Just lie still a few minutes." Nick moved in and held him down. "You don't need to get up yet. You passed out and we still don't know why."
Ares' dark eyes sought out Hercules. The look of helplessness, although subtle, was easily readable.
"I'm taking you to the hospital." said Derek. "I want to know what's going on with you. I want to get some bloodwork, an EKG, maybe even a CT scan."
Ares grimaced. "That all sounds very interesting, Doctor, but I assure you, I'M fine. I'M a god, you know."
"No, you're not." Derek reminded him. "Not any more."
"Maybe that's what's wrong with him, then." Nick said. "What made him a god before, and what took it away? Did he have a special spirit that left him when he changed times? He not only traveled thousands of years, he relocated, too. Wasn't he a *Greek* god? How did he end up on Angel Island? Maybe ancient Greece was rich in ambrosia and he, as a god figure, was addicted to it and now he's going through withdrawal."
"You could have something there." Derek answered thoughtfully. "Still, I'd like to have those tests done.....just in case there's a more....mortal cause."
Ares listened impatiently as they discussed him. Lying on his back on the grass, he heaved a deep sigh, crossed his knees and put his hands behind his head.
"Will these tests be dangerous?" Hercules asked.
"I promise you he'll be fine." Derek answered, patting the hero on the shoulder. "I'll take good care of him."
"We can't go, too?" Iolaus asked quickly.
"They're paranoid of being separated." Nick explained. "I can't say as I blame them. In their situation, I would probably feel the same way about you, Derek."
Derek nodded in understanding, bit his lip in indecision. "You must realize that you would attract undue attention to yourselves. They would never let you stay with him at the hospital, anyway. Stay here with Nick and I will keep you posted on what's going on."
"Ares won't lie still for tests if I am not there." Hercules blurted out in desperation. "Please, take us, too."
"Hercules, he will do fine, believe me. I will bring him back, safe and sound," Derek said gently. He leaned down to take Ares by the arm.
"Oh, I can get up, now?" Ares said comically. "I was just getting comfortable."
"Ares...." Hercules helped him to his feet. "Please come back to us."
The god raised a hand to lightly touch his half-brother's cheek. "I'll be back." His smile was charming. The hand moved to quickly stroke through Iolaus' blonde curls as well, an almost imperceptible caress, before Derek led him to the Range Rover in the drive.
As the vehicle rolled through the gate and down the road, Nick put an arm around each of his guests and led them back into the house to wait.
"How long do you think it will take at the hospital?" asked Iolaus.
Nick looked to the clock on the kitchen wall. "A while." he answered. "Hospitals take a lot of time." He shuffled the cards in his hands and began to deal. "Is anybody getting the hang of this game?"
Hercules picked up his first two cards. "I have a heart and a clover."
"A heart and a *club*." Nick corrected him. "Those are clubs, not clovers."
"I have a club, too." Iolaus said. "Which is better?"
"We're playing rummy. They're all equal."
"These cards are worth more than the numbered cards, aren't they?" Hercules turned the queen of hearts around for him to see.
"Yes, those are called face cards and they're worth ten points if you play them in a set or run. If you get the king and jack of hearts, you'll have a run. If you get two more queens, you'll have a set. Got it?"
"Yes. And I lay that down on the table and I get points."
"That's right. You're getting it." Nick laid the deck in the center of the table.
"There's one thing I don't get." Iolaus said.
"The round thing up there on the wall with the numbers....what's that do?"
Hercules, also, waited quietly for Nick to explain.
"The clock? They didn't have clocks...." Nick realized just how far they had traveled. "No, I guess they didn't." Taking a deep breath, he began to tell them about modern man's measures of time and space.
Derek had filled out the paperwork, had invented a social security number and surname that changed the god of war into a maintenance worker named Ares K. Smith, and had listed himself as his benefactor. The testing procedure started with bloodwork. Other lab tests were scheduled, including upper and lower GIs.
Hours later, when the god of war had been subjected to nearly every invasion of privacy known to man, his arrogance began to wane. His brown eyes pleaded as Derek stood by watching while nurses pumped his colon full of barium. But he did not beg. He would never be reduced to begging.
Derek squeezed his hand and smiled for him. "It'll be over soon. Very soon."
Ares closed his eyes. "Is there a good reason for all these ‘tests'?"
"Of course there is a good reason. I wouldn't ask you to suffer through them if it weren't necessary."
The nurse finished her job and left them alone in the room. As soon as the door closed behind her, Derek bent over the dejected patient and spoke gently into his ear as he massaged his shoulder. "We have to determine why you passed out."
Ares looked up at him. "Why are you being so nice to me?"
"I try to be nice to everybody."
"Nick said you were psychic, that you can read minds. Is that true?"
"Yes, to an extent."
"Then you already know what a villain I am. You know that I was the god of war, the most evil of all the gods."
"It was your job. You are a passionate person with a strong spirit. I feel no evil in you."
Ares held his hand and his gaze for a long moment until another woman entered the room and pushed his table beneath the machine for X-Rays.
At the technician's request, Derek left the room.
Hercules had complained of a headache, so Nick had given him pain-relieving pills and sent him off to bed to rest. After a few minutes of acute silence, Iolaus, left sitting alone with Nick, asked, "Would you show me how to drive the riding mower?"
Nick grinned at him. "Sure. Come on. It's easy." He led the way outside.
As Iolaus straddled the mower, Nick asked in a lowered voice, "Does he normally have headaches or is that something new for him?"
"He doesn't normally have headaches." Iolaus answered, pondering on it. "Should I be worried about him?"
"I hope not. Everybody gets headaches now and then. We'll just have to keep an eye on him." Nick laid a hand on the blonde's shoulder. "How do *you* feel?"
"I'm fine." Iolaus answered with a shrug. His lips curved in a flirty smile. "I'm grateful to you and Derek for taking care of us. Anything I can do to pay you back, just let me know. Anything."
Nick nodded, speculating on how personal the offer appeared. "Don't worry. I'll think of something."
There was a slight pause, then the visitor cleared his throat. "Derek's your lover, isn't he?"
Nick stared at him, dumbfounded. There was now no doubt about the familiarity between them. "What gave you that idea?"
"I saw you kiss him. Either you're lovers or you're extremely affectionate people."
"Well, we're not exactly full-time lovers." Nick said candidly. "We've been so busy lately that we haven't had time to be together. I'm starting to get a little pessimistic. It seems like he's putting me off sometimes."
"He adores you, Nick. He looks at you and that soft-eyed dreamy look just takes over his entire face. He's crazy about you."
"Really?" Nick hoped he was right. "What about you and Hercules?"
"He's my best friend, my brother. We're very close, but we're not lovers. To tell you the truth, I think he's fallen in love with Ares."
"I got that impression, too. That sorta leaves you out in the cold, right?"
Iolaus looked down.
Nick touched his cheek. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it that way."
"It's okay. It's true." Iolaus shrugged and closed his eyes as his host skimmed his face with the backs of his fingers.
Nick felt an intense pang that shot from his loins, blossomed out into his body and limbs. He understood what it meant, that he was physically attracted to Hercules' sidekick. It came as a surprise. He gaped into the trusting blue eyes, feeling ashamed of his own reaction. "Uh...you know...maybe it's not the way it looks with them. It's obvious how close you and Hercules are."
"Yes, we're close. Very close." Iolaus instinctively touched his hand. "I'd like to be close to you, too, Nick."
Nick was an intelligent man, a strong-willed man, but his common sense was driven out by a force stronger than anything he had ever experienced. He leaned forward, captivated by the not-so-innocent offer, by the unassuming glimmer that appeared in the blue eyes, by the unconditional yearning. He stopped short, an inch between their faces and cupped the back of the other man's head, looked benevolently at his eyes, then his lips.
Iolaus shivered and closed the distance between them. His lips parted as their mouths met. Tongues clashed and danced as they joined in a fierce embrace. The kiss deepened, became more violent. Nick's hands rubbed circles of fire on Iolaus' back.
When they parted, the desire on their faces was compounded by uneven breathing and overheated libidos. Nick licked his lips and spoke in a groan. "What the hell are we doing? I'm sorry, Iolaus."
Iolaus caught him by the front of his shirt before he could back away. "Nick...please don't stop."
Nick halted, changed direction, took his head in his hands and kissed him again. "Push me away, Iolaus." A second kiss was met with enthusiasm. "I can't do this to Derek...." he muttered, but kept kissing him over and over.
"Take me to your room." Iolaus said, out of breath.
Nick dragged him off the lawn mower and led him into the house. They took the stairs two at a time, reached the top and entered Nick's bedroom. Iolaus was undressing before the door closed behind them.
As they tumbled into bed together, clothing left on the floor, Nick kissed his lips, then trailed wet kisses over his jaw to his earlobe, took the small golden hoop earring in his teeth and gently tugged. Iolaus' body arched up toward him as he was taken over by a power greater than that of the immortals. Nick abandoned the earring and moved to his chest, attacked his nipples, one, then the other. He kissed them, licked them, sucked them, pinched them, and the blonde's reaction was increasingly erotic. He was out of his mind with pleasure, muttering incoherent reverences that encouraged Nick to proceed.
Nick rolled on top of him, slid down his body until he was on his hands and knees between his legs. As hot as he was, Iolaus should have a raging erection, but his cock was soft, lying inert in the patch of blonde curls. Nick was hard as a rock. It made him think, even through the haze of passion. The visitor was in need of a friend, but was he desperate enough to mistake loneliness for horniness? As Nick's hand closed around the organ, and began to stroke it, he murmured, "Is this what you want? You're sure you want me to do this?"
Iolaus looked down at him, his blue eyes brimming with tears.
Nick sat up to talk to him, hoped to learn the truth. "Have you ever done this with a man before?"
"Not many times, but yes, I've been with men."
"What's that supposed to mean..... 'well, no'?"
"I haven't been with either of them."
"Iphicles. He came to my camp one night when I was alone, and I...comforted him."
"Hercules' older brother. I once thought I was madly in love with him. I'm still not sure I'm not."
"In love with Hercules' brother?" Nick was gently massaging his inner thighs, waiting to see if the tears would continue. "Does Hercules know?"
"No, I never talked to him about it." Iolaus wiped his eyes and reached for his hand. "I'm sorry. I want this with you, Nick. You're the first person I've felt this way about since....since Iphicles."
"Let's just take it a little slower, okay?" Nick squeezed his hand. "We don't have to do it now. We can talk first."
"Talk? We're not women!" Iolaus laughed at his attempted joke and sat up to put his arms around Nick's neck. "Hold me?"
Nick hugged him tightly, kissed his cheek, his chin, his nose, his lips. "You're so damned sweet." he breathed into his ear.
Iolaus straddled his lap and kissed him again. "So are you." he returned. The next few kisses were lingering, very deep, and when they parted, he faced Nick with warmth. "Make love to me?"
"You promise not to cry?"
"If I cry, don't stop. They're tears of happiness."
Nick was skeptical. "Don't cry. Not while I'm making love to you."
Iolaus kissed him again. "Okay. I won't."
"Do you want to talk about what's bothering you?"
"No. I want you to make love to me. Now."
He sighed. "Okay. Lie down and I'll go get the jelly."
Iolaus flopped back onto the pillow in anticipation as Nick got up and went into the bathroom. "Nick," he called when he heard the other man rummaging in the cupboard. "What do we do with jelly?"
Nick coated his erection with petroleum jelly, then slid a slick finger into Iolaus' opening. "Are you sure about this?" he asked again.
"I'm sure," Iolaus answered with his eyes closed. "That feels good."
Nick played with him for a few minutes until the tight muscles stretched, then moved to enter him. When the blonde let out a loud gasp of pain, Nick stopped where he was. "You okay?" he asked.
Iolaus took several long, deep breaths before he nodded for him to continue. "I'm okay now. I had a cramp."
With caution, Nick thrust in deeper, watching his face for signs of pain. "I don't want to hurt you." he murmured.
Iolaus opened his eyes and smiled at him. "It's better now." He reached up to run gentle fingers through Nick's dark hair, brushed it back to see his smiling, hazel eyes. "You are so handsome," he said.
Nick kissed him with gentle vehemence, suddenly out of control of his own body. He felt the hands move from his head to his back where they traced manic patterns. As he stroked in and out of him, faster and faster, he found Iolaus completely responsive and willing. His orgasm mounted. It didn't take long.
He shouted as his bountiful seed shot into the bowels of his new lover, and as he collapsed on top of him, he groaned, "Oh, my God, Iolaus. I never felt anything like that in my life! Did you get off?"
Iolaus hugged him and held him tightly against him. Nick was happy to lie there, content and warm until he felt the jerky movements of the body below him. He looked up to see a flood of tears.
Angry shouts from the examining room brought Derek to his feet. He raced to the doorway, arrived just in time to witness a body flying past him, a middle-aged, green clad man who crashed into the far wall and crumpled to the floor. Ares, in a hospital gown, had thrown the doctor across the room and was now standing ready for battle.
"Ares! Calm down!" Derek took a tentative step toward him, hand outstretched. "What's wrong?"
"I'm tired of this place!" Ares shouted. "I'm tired of all the poking and prodding! That man had no right messing with my balls!"
Derek approached him, caught hold of his arms and spoke calmly. "He was examining you, Ares. It was part of the examination. You must try to understand. Sit down on the table now, while I check him to see if he's hurt. You cannot throw people around like that...not in this century."
Ares sat, a sneer of disgust on his face as Derek went to help the thrown doctor to his feet. "He deserved it," he muttered in contempt.
The doctor was unhurt, but was very shaken by the experience. When he mentioned calling the police, Derek pleaded with him until he relented. "Let me finish his examination and I'll take him home," he promised.
"Okay, you do that." The doctor left the room.
Derek went to the examining table to face the god of war. "There are no more tests today," he said. "Are you ready to go home, now?"
Ares frowned at him. "What are police?" he asked.
"Men in uniform who come to put you in jail when you've done something against the law," Derek answered wearily.
"In a sense. I'll explain it to you on the way home. Let's get you dressed now." Derek retrieved his clothing from the chair and helped him into the pants, shirt and shoes. "I think it's probably best that we make ourselves scarce as quickly as possible."
Nick held him, murmured soothing words into his ear, kissed away his anguished tears until the weeping was reduced to broken snubs. Finally, Iolaus was able to speak. "i know you love Derek, and he loves you. I don't want to come between you. I was just....very....attracted to you. Don't let my desperation make you feel obligated to me."
"Shhh." Nick kissed him again. "Let's just take one thing at a time, okay?"
Iolaus clung to him. "You are so sweet, Nick. I'm not worthy of someone as kind as you."
"You've been treated bad." Nick's intuition was keen. "Who, Iolaus? Who was unkind to you? Was it Iphicles?"
"No! No, he was *very* kind to me."
"Hercules? Ares?" Nick wanted to know.
"No, not the ones you've met."
Nick was puzzled.
"Not them." Iolaus took a deep, shaky breath. "There's another world with people on it who look exactly like us. I've been there. The Iolaus there is a coward they call the Jester. Hercules is a Sovereign there, and he's a cruel-hearted person who takes whatever he wants. The Ares there is the god of love, and he's a real sweetheart, but in bed, he's a warrior."
"So you were with both the guys in this other world." Nick sounded dubious.
"Yeah, I was. The Sovereign would have raped me if I hadn't given in to him. I went to Ares for comfort and he turned it into a seduction. I left that place with a whole new respect for my best friend and the god of war. They never did me that way.
"Iolaus, why did you want me that way? You didn't even get off. Did you think you had to do that for me before I would care about you?"
"No, Nick, I wanted it from you. I did!"
"Because you needed to feel loved?"
"No, because..." Iolaus was trapped by the truth. "Well, maybe."
Nick kissed him lightly. "i understand, believe me. Derek makes me feel the same way sometimes. He's always so worried somebody's gonna see or hear us. Or he's too busy doing his job. Never time for a little intimacy." With a long, forsaken sigh, he concluded, "The same way Hercules has done you."
Iolaus was silent, his moist cobalt eyes seized in a distant gaze.
"Did you think I wouldn't know?"
After inhaling a tremble, Iolaus answered quietly, "*I* didn't know, Nick."
"But you see it now?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I see it."
"What are you gonna do about it?"
Iolaus gave him a long kiss before his answer. "The same thing I'VE been doing for the last twenty years. I'M going to keep being his friend."
The sun had gone down and a crescent moon decorated the black sky. When Derek parked the Range Rover in front of the Legacy House, he glimpsed at the man sitting in the other seat. Ares looked very tired. "Are you all right?" Derek unbuckled his passenger's seatbelt.
Ares shrugged listlessly. "I don't know. For all I know, I could be dying. It doesn't matter, of course. If I fall dead, you may dispose of my body any way you see fit."
Derek took his hand. "I have a question about ambrosia," he said. "Nick thought maybe you were suffering from withdrawal, and that could be exactly your problem."
"So, what's your question?"
"Where did you find ambrosia?"
"Different places." Ares looked bored.
"You won't tell me where you found it?"
"It grew in the forest."
"In the forest? Do you think it still exists?"
"I don't know. Is it important?"
"Yes, I think it is. I think you need it to restore your health."
"And if it has become extinct?"
Derek paused. "i hope it hasn't. Can you tell me what it looks like? It's a plant?"
"Not exactly. There are trees all over this island. Perhaps if we searched, we could find some."
"Are you up to it?"
"I would rather be looking than lying in bed."
Derek smiled. "Good for you. We'll get Nick and the others to help us look in the morning. For now, you need to get some rest."
Ares got out of the car, holding his aching back, and walked slowly toward the house.
Hercules was sleeping soundly. Ares shook him roughly and mumbled, "Scoot over." He crawled into bed beside him, snuggled up and closed his eyes. "Where's Iolaus?"
"He's not in the other bed?" Hercules asked with a yawn.
"No. I didn't see him anywhere. I didn't see Nick, either."
"Then they're together. You know Iolaus. Nick's showing him around." Hercules turned his back to him and got comfortable.
"No goodnight kiss?" Ares asked.
After a long hesitation, Hercules turned onto his back again. "How did it go at the hospital?" he asked.
"Horrible. Those people are atrocious. I will die before I go back there again. Derek thinks we should search for ambrosia tomorrow."
"Ambrosia? Why? To make you a god again?"
"He thinks it's what kept me alive, I think."
He thought about it. "Maybe it was."
Ares sat up on one elbow, leaned over him and kissed him on the mouth. "We *have* been tossed into the twentieth century. No one in this time has seen a god. We're known as Myths. Evidently, we no longer exist, so it stands to reason that there is no more ambrosia."
"Ares, tell me you're going to be okay."
"I'm going to be fine unless I die, which is highly likely."
Hercules hugged him. "What did they find wrong with you at the hospital?"
"Nothing, as far as I know."
"They found nothing wrong?"
"Nothing at all. Everything was fine."
"Then you're not dying." Hercules turned his back to him again. "Good night, Ares."
Ares gave an annoyed harumph and shoved at him. "If I'm not dying, why do all my bones ache? Why does my back hurt and why do I feel so dizzy?"
"It's called ‘Aging', Ares...being mortal. It happens to the best of us. Now go to sleep. Old mortal men need their rest."
For a time, Ares' chocolate eyes were on the light fixture above him. Finally, after long moments of contemplation, he spoke in a soft voice. "Will you love me as an old mortal man, Hercules?"
Hercules didn't answer immediately, so Ares smacked him on the arm to get his attention.
"Ow!" he complained. "Stop it!"
"Answer my question, damn you!"
Hercules turned to face him again, rubbing his arm. "I never even heard you say that word before except with sarcasm! You're not the Ares I know. He was not interested in being loved, didn't ask for good night kisses! All you wanted was to create chaos! You are *not* Ares, the god of war!"
"Then you're not Hercules, the world's strongest man," Ares countered smugly. "Because if you were, you would never have snuggled up in bed with the god of war."
"You never even tried to get to know me, Ares! Why would you ask me such a question?"
"Because I want to know, that's why. Through all your righteous indignation, dear brother, you forget that I'm new to this life, that I'm a novice at all this gentleness. If I forget myself and slap you around once in a while, I hope you will remember that it's out of habit. Because, as you just made so painfully clear, I'm not Ares, god of war anymore. So humor me and tell me you'll love me forever or I'll break off this arm and beat you over the head with the bloody end of it!"
Hercules laughed. "You're so convincing." he said as he went into his arms. "And so romantic. I do believe I love you, Ares."
The words were enough. Ares kissed him several times and gazed gently into the blue eyes. "Then take off these ridiculous clothes before I tear them off." he said. "Because I want you now."
Derek tapped on Nick's bedroom door and tiptoed to the bed. "Nick..." he murmured as he sat on the bedside. "Are you asleep?"
Nick woke with a start, sat bolt upright in bed. "Derek! You're home!"
"Yes, I'm home, love." Derek reached for the lamp switch, but Nick caught him, pulled him close and prevented him from lighting the room. He kissed him passionately, deliberately deflecting him from the back side of the bed. Behind him, he punched Iolaus, who was already awake and stealing away like a thief in the night.
Derek sensed the truth and pulled away from him, his eyes wide with trepidation. "Nick, please..." He reached for the light and flipped it on, catching Iolaus in mid-crawl. "Iolaus, stop where you are."
The blonde flopped down on the floor, sat cross-legged, and waited for judgment.
"Nick, don't try to lie to me. You know I know what happened. Just tell me why."
"It was my fault." Iolaus confessed. "I seduced him! Don't blame him. He was lonely and depressed...."
Nick halted him with a raised hand. "I'll tell him, Iolaus. Why don't you go on back to your room?"
Iolaus stood, studied Derek's dark expression for a minute, then left the room. His path along the hallway was slow. His mind and heart were heavy. He opened the door to his own bedroom and the shame and grief that overwhelmed him were surpassed by astonishment. Ares and Hercules were in the act of making love.
"You had sex with him?" Derek asked, jealous in spite of his attempt at stoicism.
"Yeah." Nick knew better than to lie. "Derek, you haven't been here for me in a long time! I know that's no excuse, but you have understand that I have needs. He was so vulnerable and cute, and it just....happened. I'm sorry. You know how much I love you. I hope you'll keep that in mind."
"I know you love me, Nick. I love you, too. And you're right. I have been neglecting you lately. That was a mistake. I'll make it up to you, I promise."
Nick peered at him from beneath lowered lashes. "You mean you'll forgive me? You're not going to break it off with me even though...."
"Of course I'll forgive you. Because I'm as guilty as you are."
"No, you're not."
"I had a fantasy about Ares...."
"A fantasy? Fantasies don't count, Derek."
"I wanted him, Nick. He's so hot. I could just....lose myself in him. Do you understand?"
It was Nick's turn to glare in jealousy. "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean."
"But you don't want to share me, do you?"
"No, I don't. You're mine."
"And Ares is smitten by his own half-brother, Hercules."
The jealousy disappeared in a flash, replaced by lust. "Derek, you would never consider a group thing, would you?"
Derek gave him a fast frown. "A circle jerk?" he asked sharply. "Never."
"Why not? It could be fun. Tell me it doesn't sound tempting. Tell me you wouldn't like four other guys playing with you, getting you hard, giving you kisses, pinching your nipples...." Nick rubbed a nipple suggestively. "Ares, Iolaus, Hercules, me, and you. All of us. Just imagine Ares' mouth on you, your mouth on me, touching, caressing...." He kissed him lingeringly. "What do you think?"
Derek closed his eyes and allowed the fantasy to creep in. "It could be interesting."
"Yeah, very interesting. You think we can talk them into it?"
"You had no trouble getting Iolaus in bed. I'll just leave the others to you as well. If you can talk them into it, I may be interested."
Nick grimaced. "I think I need to go talk to Iolaus. He's probably pretty upset right now."
"Can't that wait until tomorrow? I was hoping to spend some time alone with you." Derek pulled him into another full kiss.
Nick was moved by the passion. "Wow..." he breathed. "You haven't kissed me like that in a long time. Can you keep the fire burning a few more minutes while I go tell Iolaus you're not mad?"
Derek sighed. "Go tell him, then." he said. "I'll take a shower while you're gone."
"A hot shower." Nick said. "You're not gonna turn cold on me, are you?"
"No, Nick. Tonight, I'm all yours."
Nick kissed him again anxiously. "Good." he said, all smiles. "It's about damn time."
As Nick softly rapped on the door, it was yanked open by Ares, wearing only sweat pants. His dark hair was tousled. Standing there in the dim light, his chest and stomach covered with black curls, his brown eyes turned by shadows to charcoal, he looked very sexy. Nick gave an involuntarily little gulp and looked him up and down, realizing how tall and overpowering the ex-god was. "I came to talk to Iolaus."
"He ran away," Ares said with a reckless shrug. His eyes showed worry. "He walked in on....well....it's none of your business what he walked in on. Hercules is getting dressed. He's going to go look for him."
"I'll be looking, too," Nick said. "Will you go tell Derek, please? He's in the shower in my bedroom."
"Sure." Ares looked him straight in the eye with a slight sneer. "I'll be your messenger."
"Thanks." Nick gave him a second glance before he went to look for Iolaus. "What the hell was that all about?" he muttered.
Derek stood beneath the spray of water, let it soak him. His slender body swayed slightly to the beat of his heart, an erotic fantasy already taking place in his mind; a fantasy he meant to act out later in bed with Nick. He hummed to himself, missed the quiet footsteps of the intruder who entered the bathroom and peered through the curtain at him.
The curtain was thrown back behind him, strong arms circled him, crushed him backward against a hairy, muscular chest. Whirling around to face him, Derek gasped in surprise at the dark-eyed, glowering man who had invaded his privacy. "Ares! What are you doing?" His eyes scaled the fully naked male body, tarried lustingly at the engorged cock. "Oh, my gott...."
Ares lowered his mouth onto Derek's and savagely kissed him without explanation.
Derek grunted in objection, pushed against him, found him immovable. His strength was frightening and sensuous. He felt himself drowning in the kiss. He opened his mouth wider, gasping for breath and Ares claimed it in another kiss, uncaring of whether he breathed or not.
His surrender was Ares' triumph. The kiss melted into something less forceful, into a peaceful, slow dance beneath the torrent. The ex-god's large palm smoothly glided up and down Derek's back, gradually approached his bare bottom and cupped the cheek. Another drowning kiss took away any remnants of inhibitions the precept harbored as the hand pressed his hips forward, ground their groins together.
Derek's head fell back, his eyes closed in ardency, his jaw hung slack. His breath ragged, he whispered, "What are you doing to me?"
"I'm ravishing you."
He looked up into soft brown eyes. "Why?"
"Because you're the only one left available." Ares gave him another imperious kiss.
"That's the only reason you chose *me*?" It didn't matter. Whatever the circumstances, there could be no hurt feelings. As long as he was pleasing and being pleased by Ares, god of war, all was well. Derek dropped to his knees before him, worshiping him, his hands around the god's hips. As water swirled madly around him, he opened his mouth on the extensive cock and began to suck it.
Ares rocked in and out of his mouth, a hand on the back of his head to steady him. "Oh, yeah." he muttered. His curls straightened beneath the shower, his lashes and lips dripped, and as Derek's idolatrous eyes rose to view him, he thought the bigger man looked incredibly sexy. With a moan, he applied himself to the blow job.
The water began to run cooler, reminding them that there was a time limit to their pleasure. Ares came with a shouting explosion into Derek's mouth, let it linger until the waves subsided. When he pulled him to his feet again, he wiped the excess of his juices from the precept's chin and turned him to the water to wash away the stickiness before he kissed him again.
"Nick will be back any minute." Derek said, out of breath.
"No, he and Hercules are looking for Iolaus. I suspect it'll be a few more minutes." Ares gave him another long, mind-stealing kiss. "But let's get out of this water closet before we freeze our asses off. Let's go to *your* bedroom."
Derek swallowed hard and followed him out of the shower.
Nick switched on the computer and scanned the premises. After a brief inspection of the house on the Legacy House's high-tech security screen, he located Iolaus in the kitchen. With a sigh, he sauntered to the kitchen.
Iolaus was sitting at the table, his golden face buried in his hands. Nick dropped into the chair beside him and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Nick." the blonde sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Nick drew him into a gentle embrace. "You have nothing to be sorry for."
"What did Derek say after I left?" His voice was muffled in Nick's collar.
"He understands." Nick kissed his temple. "Shhh. It's okay. Everything's going to be okay, I promise."
"Nick, I saw..."
"I know what you saw. Ares and Hercules. The two of them together. Hercules is looking for you."
Nick's peripheral vision caught a movement in the shadows to his right and he knew that Hercules had found them. When the big man did not approach, he realized that his intentions were to listen, unseen by Iolaus. Nick figured it was a good time to let the truth be known.
"That story you told me about the other world...the other Hercules......and Ares as the god of love....why haven't you ever told him about that?" he asked. "That really happened? That was a real place?"
"Of course it was real." Iolaus answered. "I know it's hard to believe, but it was real."
"Then you should tell Hercules. Getting raped is a serious thing. It can leave you with emotional scars that last forever. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who loves you."
"I thought he'd feel guilty because it was his double who did it." Iolaus answered, pulling back to dry his eyes. "If Ares hadn't healed me, I wouldn't have been able to keep it from him. I was pretty torn up."
"Tell him. He loves you."
"I know." Iolaus sniffed and ran a hand through Nick's dark hair. "I wish I could be this close to him and tell him things as freely as I've told you."
"You can." Hercules stepped forth from the darkness and held out his hands to him. "Iolaus, you can tell me anything. Why didn't you tell me?"
Iolaus' lower lip trembled with pent-up sorrow. "Why didn't you tell me what was going on between you and Ares?"
"Because it just sort of....happened." Hercules answered, taking him from Nick's arms into his own. He hugged him hard, pressed his lips to the blonde curls. "Iolaus, you know you're first in my heart, don't you? I love you more than anyone who ever lived."
Iolaus reached up with both hands, took his head in his hands and kissed him straight on the lips. The bigger man was shocked into temporary numbness, and when he recovered, the kiss was progressing even without his cooperation. He wrapped his arms tighter around Iolaus and began to return it.
Nick smiled at them. "I think I'm gonna back upstairs now. Good night, guys."
"G'night." Hercules said absently as he backed away to study the blonde earnestly.
Iolaus contained a serious gaze for a full five seconds before he giggled like a teen-ager. "I love you, too, Hercules." he said softly.
"Derek?" The shower stall was still dripping and wet footprints--two pair of them-- led to the door. Nick frowned in confusion and proceeded to Derek's bedroom. The door was locked. He knocked, calling, "Derek? What's going on?"
A rustle inside the room was immediately put to silence. Derek spoke sharply. "Be right there, Nick."
Another movement was detected as he waited, then Derek opened the door. He was tying his robe. "Oh! Hello, Nick."
Nick smiled at him knowingly. "Where's Ares?" he asked.
The precept hung his head. "In the shower."
"So, how was he?"
Derek coughed at his blatancy. "What?"
"You're planning to share, right?" Nick stepped inside the room and hugged him. "Hercules and Iolaus are spending some time together right now, but there's no reason why we can't share Ares tonight. What do you think?"
Having heard, Ares came from the bathroom and approached them. "Both of you?" His mahogany eyes twinkled. "Now this is an interesting turn of events." He dragged Nick into a hard embrace and lifted his face. "You're sure about this, Nick?"
Nick felt the big man's hard cock pressing against him and it gave him pause. "What do you have in mind?"
"I don't plan these things out. I like to think I'm spontaneous." Ares kissed him, and Nick felt the overwhelming, omnipotent charm that had the power to melt artic waters. Then, pulling away, the dark god smiled at him. "Do you want this or not?"
"Yes." Nick answered, his throat parched from the fever.
"Do you need it?"
"I need it."
Ares kissed him again, then shoved him into Derek's arms. "Get undressed, both of you, and get in bed. I'll go get Hercules and Iolaus. They should share this, too."
Anxiously, Nick began to strip. "If he's this hot feeling bad, how was he when he was well?" he asked.
Hercules and Iolaus returned with him. "What's going on?" asked Iolaus when his eyes met Nick's.
"Would you like to join us tonight?" Nick asked politely. "Ares wants us to all be together."
Ares grabbed the blonde by the shoulders, wrenched him from Hercules' arms and kissed him indelicately. When he handed him back to Hercules, he issued a blunt command to his two shocked comrades. "Get undressed, both of you, and get into bed."
"Ares, this...isn't exactly the kind of relationship I wanted." Hercules objected.
Ares yanked him forth and gave him a bruising kiss. "Shut up, you noble moron, and get naked, or I will tear the clothes from both your bodies myself."
Humbly and a little excited, the two ex-heroes undressed. When all five men were nude on the bed, the god of war initiated sex, beginning with Hercules. His lips caressed lips, chin, throat, chest, nipples and belly. Raising his head, he gave Derek a pointed look. "Well, don't just sit there, get to it! Why don't you and Nick do something for Iolaus?"
Iolaus' blue eyes widened as the two Legacy members pulled him down between them in bed. He kissed Nick, then, hesitantly, he accepted a kiss from Derek. "What are you going to do to me?" he asked in a small voice.
Nick kissed him again, lovingly. "I would like to make you come so hard you lose your mind." he answered. "When we were together earlier, I came but you didn't. It's your turn."
"I've never been able to come with a male partner." Iolaus explained. "I don't know why."
Ares ascended from Hercules lips and stared at him a moment. "Then the first time should be with Hercules, because he's the one you love."
Nick and Derek backed away and allowed Hercules to replace them at Iolaus' side. Ares put an arm around each of them and watched as the demi-god bent to kiss his golden-haired friend. "I suppose they need to be together."
"Maybe we should leave them alone." Derek suggested. "The three of us can go to Nick's room."
Nick gave him a glowing grin. "That's a good idea. Come on." Off the bed, he took Derek's hand, then Ares' hand and urged them both toward the door. They followed, pausing only a moment to view the two men kissing on the bed.
"They're in love." Derek observed, smiling.
"Yeah." Nick's eyes were gentle. "Ain't love grand?"
Ares smiled, too, and proceeded to Nick's bedroom, pushing them both down onto the bed. "Where do we begin?" he asked, looking them over like prizes. "Who shall I fuck first?"
Nick's eyes dropped to the ex-god's enormous cock and he gulped down a doubt. "I think I'd need to be about half drunk to take that." he said. "You're really big, Ares. Why don't you just lie down here and we'll play around a while?"
"Maybe I'll fuck Derek if you can't take it." Ares said, crawling between them in bed.
Nick sat up and gave him a solemn gaze. "Maybe we'll fuck *you*." he countered. "I mean...since you're on your hands and knees like this and all..." He cupped the dark god's bronzed butt, probing into the crack with a bold finger. "What do you say about that?"
Ares grimaced as the finger invaded him. "I'm supposed to be the fuck*er* not the fuck*ee*."
"Is that a rule?" Nick leaned down to kiss his full lips. He felt Derek's fingers joining his in Ares' ass and rose to kiss him, too. "Just enjoy it, Ares."
Ares arched into the touch as both men's fingers slid in and out of him. "This has never happened to me." he hissed. "No man has ever touched me in that way."
"We'll be careful." Derek said softly, applying petroleum jelly to Nick's fingers. "Nick's lubricating you, now, so there will be no unnecessary friction."
Nick felt the god's tight muscles loosen and nodded in satisfaction. "Just relax." he advised. "That's right." He withdrew the fingers and situated himself behind Ares, very slowly pressing his cock in until the head was immersed. He felt the involuntary clench and shudder and began to massage the small of his back and the globes of his ass. "Relax. Just let go and go with it." he murmured.
Derek watched on, admiring the scene before him. When Nick was fully sheathed inside their new lover, he reclined beside Ares, positioned himself partially beneath him and kissed him. His hand found Ares' tremendous cock and began to stroke it, which soon had the flaccid member active again. "You can do it, Ares." he whispered.
Ares kissed him again. "Nothing ever felt so good." he moaned. He reached down to stop the motion of Derek's hand. "If you continue with this, you'll have me finished before I'm ready for it to be over. Why don't you occupy yourself behind Nick?"
Derek nodded in agreement and kissed him again. He moved slowly behind Nick, who was thrusting freely now, and scooped out some more petroleum jelly. His fingers caught his lover's ass and began to lubricate and stretch him.
Nick paused, giving his muscles enough time to open, then whispered, "I'm ready, Derek. Do it."
Derek slid inside in one long, smooth movement. Nick held still only a few more seconds before he began to thrust again, into Ares, then back onto Derek. He felt his senses were overwhelmed, but when Derek's hands came round, located his nipples and pinched them, he learned there was a supreme level of overwhelming that surpassed anything he had felt before.
He thought of Ares and bent farther to twist his nipples between his fingers as well, his other hand taking hold of that huge cock and yanking roughly on it.
Ares bucked beneath them, nearly upsetting the scene, but Nick held on, pinched the nipple even harder, and stroked even more roughly on his cock. Slamming into him wildly, he felt close to the climax, and wanted to bring Ares with him.
It worked, not only for them, but for Derek. The fast movements had also prompted his orgasm, and all three men came at once. The air was filled with their howls of pleasure. When it was over, they collapsed into a heap and laid still, the rampant erotic violence ebbing.
"That was the most magnificent thing I have ever felt in my life." Ares swore. "We must do this again."
"Oh, yeah." Nick assured him. "We will, babe. Believe me."
"I love you so much, Hercules." Iolaus confessed, his blue eyes soft as they kissed again.
"I love you, too, Iolaus." Hercules kissed his way down that golden body, sucking gently as he went. His chest received attention, then his stomach, then his thighs.
Iolaus squirmed beneath him. "I don't think I've ever been this turned on before." he said, grinning foolishly. "Look! I've got a raging hard-on. I've never been aroused by a man's touch before."
"We'll take care of that in a minute, my love." Hercules indulgently continued along his way, kissing and sucking on the skin of his legs and hips. When he gently bit the ankle bones, then the back of the calf, Iolaus whimpered with longing. Hercules smiled in understanding. He nudged the blonde's knees far apart and knelt between them, leaned over to kiss his navel, plunging his tongue into it. His fingers moved from the knees to the inner thighs, tracing their way upward until they reached his balls. Gently, he squeezed them together, then squeezed them separately. "You like that?" he asked.
"Yes, I like that." Iolaus answered breathlessly, spreading his legs wider for him.
Hercules face disappeared between his legs and his mouth opened over the balls, kissing them. "How about this?"
"Oh, yes. I really like that."
The kiss became suction that increased until Iolaus grunted in discomfort. Hercules stopped with an apology and rose higher to engulf his new lover's penis.
Iolaus groaned. Both hands went to the back of Hercules' sandy head, pressing him farther down on himself. "Yes." he whispered, "I *love* that!"
Sucking and licking, bobbing his head to give him more pleasure, Hercules soon felt the hunter's body begin to thrash, and tasted the briney seed as it was shot into his mouth. He pulled away, wiping his lips, and kissed his friend.
Iolaus gave him a sweaty grin. "You're so beautiful." he murmured.
"*You're* beautiful." Hercules argued and kissed him again.
"Give me a minute to get my bearings and I'll return the favor." said Iolaus.
"No hurry. We've got plenty of time." said Hercules.
"So," Ares was walking a bit strangely, but no one seemed to pay attention. "What are these woods called?" He was bent at the foot of a tall tree, investigating something suspicious.
"Angel Island woods, I guess." Nick answered. "What did you find there?"
"Ambrosia." Ares answered calmly. He picked up the substance, dusted it off and took a bite.
"Ares! What did you just eat!" Derek demanded, checking the matter in his hands. He stared in stupefaction.
"Ambrosia." Ares said, offering him a piece. "Try it. It's the food of the gods."
"But..." Derek gazed at it, then up into the god's dark eyes, a witness to strength being restored. "But it's mushrooms."
Nick took a piece and tasted it, then spit it out. "Not like any mushrooms I ever saw." he said. "More of a jell-like state. Kinda like they're going bad, like the stuff in back of the fridge. It's weird."
"Ambrosia." Hercules said, bending to get his own handful.
"Are you going to eat that, Herc?" Iolaus asked fearfully.
"No, I'm not. I doubt it would give me back my strength, and I'm happier today than I've ever been in my life. I don't want to change a thing."
"Well, I do." Ares said, his commanding voice rising a decibal above the others. "I'm tired of feeling weak and tired! I don't *want* to grow old." He ate another bite of the ambrosia. His posture improved, the tiny gray flecks that had begun to appear in his hair suddenly vanished, the small wrinkles surrounding his eyes smoothed away. Turning to test his own powers, he tossed out his hand, a move that, in his previous existence, would have thrown a lightning bolt and destroyed anything in its path. The bolt was benign.
"Try it again, Ares." Hercules urged. "Eat some more ambrosia."
"He's eating *mushrooms* that could poison him!" Derek insisted, worriedly.
The next bite was bigger, and when it was swallowed, Ares attempted the lightning bolt again, aiming at a tree. Still, there was no bolt, only a dim flicker that could have been a play of light from the glistening dew. He sighed. "Oh, well. At least I'm feeling better. And there's plenty of ambrosia here. I'll gather up all I can find and keep trying."
"If you don't regain your powers, you will just have to settle for being mortal and surviving the way we all do." Derek lectured. "If you do regain them, I hope you'll use them for the good of man, and not to create war in our time. The world has had enough wars."
Ares smiled and kissed him, the most powerful kiss the precept had ever endured. "I will use my powers to heal you and Nick after I fuck you within an inch of your lives." he said.
Derek couldn't keep the smile off his face. "I'll hold you to that promise." he said.
"Do you plan to use your powers to get us back home?" Iolaus asked.
"No, I'll refuse to do that." Ares answered. "Where we were in time, your future was gone, Iolaus. You had only a few days left, and you would have died again. Hercules was destined to die, too, soon afterward. Here, you have years and years ahead of you. We have been given a second chance, all of us. What deity is responsible, I don't know, but I'm grateful."
"Yeah." Iolaus agreed. "Me, too."
They shared a group hug, then the ex-war god pulled away, opening the plastic bag he had brought along for gathering ambrosia.