Boar Hunt With Deity 1-6
Part 1: Boar Hunt With Deity
Hercules had been lying peacefully in his bed in the king’s palace at Corinth. He and Iolaus had come for the king’s birthday and found him in the midst of a major Greek trade summit. Apparently, months of negotiation had finally produced the right political climate to bring the major city-states to the table and the politicians weren’t going pass on the ceremonial possibilities of a royal birthday. So instead of a few quiet moments with Iphicles to give gifts and offer congratulations, they had stood around being ornamental and supportive.
He could have given Iphicles his presents at one of the public ceremonies but the gifts that Alcmene had sent were personal and would be sweeter presented in private. So far it hadn’t been possible to snatch more than a moment and Hercules was getting tired of the pomp and of the attention (Oh look, that’s Hercules! You know—the hero and the king’s brother!).
It hadn’t all been bad, in fact Iolaus was still out partying with the delegation from Athens although Hercules had gone to bed early with a scroll from the library. It was a newly published novel by a young writer named Homer. He had heard that it was a roman-a-clef loosely based on the adventures of the king of Ithaca and despite a thin plot, the author had nailed his characters to the life. Everyone who had read it was wondering if the more intimate details could be true—particularly the personal endowments of the hero. Well if Homer had gotten that right, it was obvious why Penelope had been holding out for her hero.
He had read up to the part where Odysseus had rescued his men from the Isle of Aeaea. (That Circe wasn’t someone you wanted to piss off.) He had put the scroll down, blown out the flame in the small lamp beside the bed and was just drifting off to sleep when he heard the door open. Expecting Iolaus, he wasn’t surprised when someone slipped quietly across the room and got in to bed on the other side of him. But some one stole the blanket and put his feet on Herkules’ legs and he knew it wasn’t Iolaus. Iolaus valued his life.
“Iphicles!” he yelped, “Get your damned feet off of me, they’re like ice,” and something cold and hard, probably a belt buckle, was gouging his buttock. He could hear his brother trying to muffle breathless giggles. Then somebody else tapped on the door and a narrow beam of light intruded into the chamber. The two men froze.
“King Iphicles?” A mellifluous voice called. “Are you in here?”
“Don’t rat on me, Herc,” the king of Corinth ordered in a strangled voice and tried to dive under Hercules’ marginally bigger body.
The door opened wider and a woman came into the room carrying a lamp. Herkules sat up, effectively shielding Iphicles from view, and saw a curvaceous female with blonde hair and hot dark eyes. At the sight of him
“Ooh, Prince Hercules,” she tittered as she recognized him. “I thought I heard your brother’s voice. I didn’t realize this was your room.” She didn’t sound that disappointed and he could feel himself blushing. The Spartan ambassador’s wife—he had noticed her at dinner admiring his brother the way a cat admires a bird.
Behind him it felt like Iphicles was trying to dig a hole in the mattress.
“Just Hercules,” he said. Her gaze almost scorched him as it roamed across his chest and then headed south straight down between his pectorals. He grabbed hold of the sheet at his waist and just stopped himself from pulling it up. “Is there something you wanted?” he asked. He knew that was an idiot question as soon as the words left his mouth. Iphicles poked him in the back.
“I was looking for king Iphicles, I thought I saw him come in here.” Her voice had taken on an airy quality completely at odds with the hard stare in her eyes. “I have an interest in international markets and he has some very interesting ideas about ‘protective’ tariffs that I wanted to talk to him about.” Her gaze had descended to the spot the sheet covered just below his hands. “Do you,” she asked, “have any interest in the balance of trade?”
“Ah. No,” he said, “that would be my brother’s department. He got the brains in the family, I’m more the brawn.”
“Yes, I see that,” she licked her parted lips, raised her eyes slightly and took another step closer. He shivered; the air was cold.
“Iphicles is probably in the library,” he prompted, “it’s a couple of doors down. He likes to be ‘private’ there.” He gave the word ‘private’ a suggestive inflection but this woman definitely took the ‘bird in hand’ approach to stalking.
“It’s ‘private’ in here,” she pointed out.
“Yes,” he agreed desperately, “but it won’t be for long, Iolaus could be
back at any time.”
“Iolaus?” she said blankly.
“My partner,” he said. “Short. Blond. He’s got a hot temper and he’s very jealous. He could walk in here, any moment now, and just seeing you he’d jump to all the wrong conclusions. There’d be a scene.” He knew his voice sounded convincingly shrill, Iphicles had slipped his hands between his thighs and the king’s fingers were just as cold as the king’s feet. He tried to appeal to her finer nature. “Think of the scandal,” he said.
“Oh,” she said breathlessly, then curiously, “Does King Iphicles know?”
“No,” he gritted his teeth, “and I could just…I mean it would just shatter him.” Zeus, he wondered, was the woman actually excited by the idea? The expression on her face was a mixture of lust, frustration and greedy calculation. Behind him it felt as though the king had found something else to slip between his thighs, what ever it was, was warmer than his fingers had been.
“Perhaps you just need to meet…” she started to make the usual compassionate suggestion and took another step closer. He would have admired her persistence if her head hadn’t been swaying on her neck like a cobra’s and if the warm hardness that Iphicles was pushing so insistently against him hadn’t been so distracting.
‘Oh, Zeus’s balls are brass and Ares’ balls are…’ everybody froze. Out in the hall loud voices were caroling a popular tavern ditty, ‘and when he comes, blue lightning shoots out of his…’
The voices faded, but thankfully, from look on her face, the ambassador’s wife had suddenly remembered what the punishment for adultery was in Sparta. Hercules couldn’t remember it himself—divorce or being sealed alive in a tomb—one of those. Spartan men took their masculine prerogatives seriously and none of them had a sense of humor.
“I’ve gotta run, Prince Hercules. Don’t worry,” she whispered, “it will be our little secret.” She smiled sweetly, hungrily, twiddled two fingers at him and as carefully as she had slipped in slipped out taking the light with her.
“Iphicles…” he started, but his brother sat up, put a firm hand over his mouth and curled the other around his right breast, catching the nipple between thumb and forefinger and giving it a warning tweak.
“Gods, let her get away before you start roaring at me or you’ll ruin my reputation too,” he said. They sat still for a moment and then they both started snickering. Hercules buried his face in the soft linen of the shirt Iphicles was wearing trying to stifle the noise and he could feel moist puffs of suffused air against his skin as his brother snorted into his shoulder. “No wonder people worry about you. Does Iolaus know about this?”
“So help me, Iphicles,” Hercules tried again when he had gotten his breath back, “if you weren’t the king....” He sat up, intending to go and check to see that the hall was clear, but Iphicles wrapped strong arms around his back and pulled him down. His brother slid a smooth leather clad leg between his knees. And the body, warm and solid against him and the soft hair that tickled the side of his face mitigated any reluctance he felt. A hungry mouth was blindly searching for his, so he wrapped a hand around the back of Iphicles’ head and guided it to its goal. When a tongue, hot and slick, invaded his mouth and plundered it, Hercules groaned and fell back against the pillows pulling the king of Corinth down on top of him.
“I hope you weren’t about to threaten me, little brother, ‘cause that’s treason,” Iphicles said when he broke the deep kiss. “But under the circumstances, I forgive you.” Hercules felt his mouth limned with a velvety tongue and teeth nibbled along the sensitive nerves around the edge of his jaw until they found the strong pulse high in his throat. There, lips, teeth, tongue battened and sucked until he cried out with the sensation. Lightening arched down the center of him and his penis throbbed hard against the kings’ belly. He protested at the loss when the weight of his brother’s body moved off of him.
“Hush, Babe, I’m not going anywhere. Just…” the voice was momentarily muffled as Iphicles pulled the shirt off, “let me get out of this monkey suit…”
“Iolaus…?” He interjected, suddenly remembering some of the substance of the tissue he had handed the Spartan woman.
“…Is spending the night elsewhere. I’m sorry you guys had to share a room, but with all these delegations to house…” There was the thump of metal and leather hitting the floor. “Anyway, it worked out for the best. I was coming to see you when that harpy almost caught up with me.” There was laughter and hot thighs straddling him. “If she gets the idea of bribing my guards…” large hands gathered his penis and pressed it against another one, its equal in length and hardness, and began to stroke the entire length of them together; “…you know it could work out for all of them,” Iphicles said softly.
“What‘s her problem?” Hercules pushed his head back into the pillow and covered Iphicles hands with his own, thrusting his hips up in time with the rhythm that Iphicles had set.
“Husband’s probably a little too ‘Spartan’, if you know what I mean. Although, when he bumped into me while I was bending over to sign the treaty this afternoon, I swear he copped a feel.”
“And ‘diplomatically’ you had to ignore it.” Hercules knew Iphicles must have been leaning over him. He reached one hand up and pulled his brother’s head down, rubbed the strong neck in comfort and buried a kiss in the damp hair. “One of those duties they didn’t mention when they offered the job, I take it?” Iphicles’ answer was indecipherable. “It’s your birthday, want me to thump him for you?”
“Gods, I am so tired, don’t tempt me” Iphicles said. The hands on Hercules’ cock were still. His brother pushed against the hand Hercules still had in his hair and rubbed along, until he found Hercules’ mouth and kissed the corner of it. He was quiet for a moment. “Baby Brother,” Iphicles’ voice was low and desperate, “I want you to fuck the king of Corinth into next year.”
Hercules kissed the top of his brother’s head again, wrapped both arms around him and rolled them both over reversing their positions. He held Iphicles head and kissed his mouth lapping soft velvet tongues together. When they broke the kiss, he kneeled up a bit so that Iphicles could keep turning until he was face down under him. As his brother turned, he shoved the pillows off of the bed, making irritated sounds about them as he did so. Hercules managed to snag the last one before it flew off into the dark.
“Hey, we’ll need that,” he said laughing. He hooked an arm under his Iphicles’ waist and lifted. He pushed the pillow under his brother’s hips, reaching lower as he did so to pet the shaft and cuddle the testicles in their soft sack. Iphicles rolled his hips increasing the pressure of Hercules’ hand and when he growled his pleasure, something deep inside of Hercules thrilled to the sound.
He moved between Iphicles’ legs, pushing them apart, his cock stood up proud, pointing straight toward its goal. He stoked a hand over Iphicles butt, dipped into the crack with his finger until he found the puckered bud of muscle at its base and massaging it gently, smiling at the soft hungry sounds his touch evoked from his brother.
He was going to spit into his hand and use that unsatisfactory lubricant when he remembered the lamp by the bed. Touching it, he found the oil in it had thickened but it still held some warmth. He scooped some up and slid greasy fingers into his brother’s ass, spreading the muscle, lubricating the tight channel. Iphicles’ hips flexed beneath his hand. He found the particular spot inside that made Iphicles throw his head back and howl for him not to take all day about it.
So he removed his fingers and anointed the head of his cock, slicking the entire length of it. With it in one hand he gripped his brother around the waist again and pushed in slowly, feeling the body in his arms struggle to accept even so welcome an invasion. A light film of sweat broke out on his skin, cooling him though the body pressing up against him felt fiery hot. When he was fully sheathed, he stayed still in spite of an inexorable need to move; only rubbing the side of his face against his brother’s back. He let Iphicles show him when it was time for more with a slight relaxing of muscles and a roll of his hips.
When that signal came, he almost pulled entirely out and then slammed back in again, over and over, as deeply as he could. Iphicles pushed up on his hands and knees, spread wide open to every gesture that was being offered to him. Hercules reached around his brother’s waist found the hot hard shaft and taking it in his hand stroked the length of it encouraged by Iphicles’ laughter. In the dark, lost in the heat, surrounded by the smell of musk and sweat, until he answered his brother’s need and he could feel the orgasm gathering in the body beneath him. Then the heat clamped tight around him and a gentle pulsing ran the entire length of his cock, his fist was slippery with hot seed and he came, crying into his brother’s body.
He collapsed on top of Iphicles in a satiated heap, cuddling his brother until Iphicles started to wriggle.
“What are you doing?” he protested sleepily.
“Move over, will you, I’m in the wet spot,” Iphicles said.
“Then stop dribbling,” he suggested unsympathetically. It felt so good just being there with his brother in his arms; Iphicles was being selfish. “And stop shoving, you’re going to push me off the bed.”
“I’m the king.”
“It’s my bed.”
“It’s my palace.”
“I’ll tell Mother you’re not sharing.”
Somehow, despite Iphicles shoving an elbow in his ribs, they found a dry and comfortable arrangement. Hercules fell asleep with his head tucked under his brother’s chin and their legs braided together.
Cold. Still bound although his skin was charred and the fire had burned out. Someone, yet outside the circle of smoking ash, had watched him burn and laughed.
“Wake up, Babe, you’re dreaming.”
“What…?” He opened his eyes, starting in panic and fighting the hands that were trying to comfort him. His heart was pounding and he was soaked with sweat.
“You were dreaming again.” Iphicles’ voice soothed. Hercules fell back against his brother’s chest, shivering and blinking in the near dark as Iphicles rubbed his shoulder. “Same one?”
“Yes, I still couldn’t move but somebody else was in there trying to reach me through the smoke this time.” He shivered against Iphicles’ chest, trying to take stock.
He could tell from the thick inky silence around them that dawn was not far off. They were still curled together but Iphicles had lit a flame in the lamp and there were sheets of parchment and scrolls spread about. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Getting some work done,” Iphicles said. “Between the damned birthday hoo-haa and the constant meetings with the delegations I’m falling behind on the day to day. He picked up a waxed tablet and made a note. Now I now why Jason wanted out of the job…cause if it weren’t for the honor of the thing…” Iphicles trailed off, losing the thought as he scribbled.
“What is so important about that?” Hercules growled. Iphicles sighed and rubbed his face against the top of Hercules’ head.
“There’s a town called Tacomas, near the Calydonian border. They want to dam their river.” Iphicles sounded distracted. “The village of Censas, upstream, is going to get flooded. The region needs the dam, so I’m trying to figure out if the revenues from the dam will cover the cost of relocating the village. As well as payback the loan in a reasonable amount of time. As well as the fact that the oldest temple to Ares in the province is located near the village and we’re going to have to do something to placate him (Hercules winced) or the damned rapacious priest who presides there—it amounts to the same thing.”
“Oh,” Hercules said, he wanted Iphicles’ attention. But in the last two years he had seen Iphicles come into his own as king of Corinth. His brother now wielded his broad powers with intelligence and a compassionate courage that Hercules could recognize as complementary to his own. Iphicles had even begun to occasionally ask for the help that he had so resented Hercules thrusting upon him in the past. So he stifled his frustration for a while and let the king work.
But, so when the pen was still for a moment and the tablet sagged, he took the stylus from Iphicles’ hand and leaned on him when he tried to take it back.
“Let it go for a while,” he begged. “Don’t you want your birthday presents from Mother and Jason?”
“Presents? Where?” He heard the hope in Iphicles’ voice. “Mother sent some honey cakes? If you’ve been holding out on me Herc…”
“Relax, I didn’t eat them all.” Hercules sat up, laughing at the expression on his brother’s face. He got out of bed and began to pick up the pillows that littered the floor and toss them at Iphicles who shagged them back at him. Relenting eventually, he went to the storage chest by the window and got out the package that Alcmene had prepared and the one he had wrapped himself.
When he flopped back on the bed, Iphicles, with a sure instinct, grabbed Alcmene’s out of his hand. When it was torn open the sweet smell of honey cake flooded the room. The king grabbed up one of the diamond shaped cakes and stuffed it into his mouth, his offer to share was indicated by the motion of a hand and some noises that would have been ‘help your self’ if his mouth hadn’t been full.
A short time later, satiated—no, make that stuffed—with their mother’s honey cake and when Iphicles had checked out the embroidered shirt that she had also sent and the enameled belt buckle that was Jason’s gift. Hercules handed his own gift to his brother.
“It’s not as impressive as that set of boar spears the Spartans gave you yesterday,” Hercules said, referring to one of Iphicles’ more ostentatious presentation gifts. “But I thought we could go out and try it.” Iphicles stroked the edge of the new hunting knife along his forearm, testing the blade.
“Did you make it?” Iphicles asked and Hercules nodded. For a moment Iphicles’ eyes glowed then he threw his head back and Hercules could see the tension in the tendons that defined the column of his brother’s neck.
Gently he took the knife and put it at the foot of the bed with the other gifts.
“Seriously, if you won’t take a vacation let me do something for you.” he said in rush of affection. Iphicles slitted his eyes open and looked as though he were considering something wicked to do with the offer. Outside the door they could hear the early morning sounds of the day guards taking their posts and the servants beginning to collect night slops. “Nah,” Iphicles finally muttered, mostly to himself, “that might cause a tribal incident and King Leonidas is okay for a Spartan. However…” He leaned forward and pulled Hercules into his arms, the demigod shivered as soft lips brushed his collarbone, “Thanks for not arguing with me last night,” he felt, more than heard, Iphicles whisper. Then his brother’s lips were pressing hard against his neck and drawing heat. He moaned at the pleasurable pain of it. Iphicles’ hands moved into his hair and he had to stop making noise and kiss the precisely sculpted hollow of the temple beneath his mouth.
“The sun’s going to be up soon. I wish we had enough time to…” he managed to say before Iphicles’ mouth closed on his and they were rocking back and forth. Pressing as tightly together as they could possibly get, until almost frantic, Iphicles rose up and slipped a hand between them and mated their cocks to each other. Hercules held on and let his brother set a hard driving pace until, in a sudden still moment of shared breath and rhythmic pulsing he came into his hand.
Iphicles body jerked against his in its own release. Hot fluid overflowed to splatter on his stomach, then Iphicles’ fingers, slippery with hot semen were thrust into his mouth and he tasted their mingled seed, strong and salty on his tongue. He paid Iphicles back by sticking his tongue deep into his mouth and licking his face until the king was giggling and choking with laughter.
Laid down together and drowsy again, he was nuzzling at Iphicles’ ear just as the earliest cool light of morning was creeping into the room. Hercules looked full at his brother’s face and shuddered—the shadow of a morning beard accentuated its fine sharp planes and the copper curls were sweat blackened and curling in tendrils on his forehead. “What’s the matter?” Iphicles asked apparently startled by his expression. “You look like you’re seeing a…”
“It’s nothing,” Hercules closed his eyes so his brother wouldn’t see more. He rubbed his thumb gently under Iphicles’ lower lip, seeing it in his mind still swollen and dark from sex. He shook his head. “I just wish…”
“Yeah, I know. Ouch!” Iphicles said. One of the loose scrolls had slipped underneath them. “Damn, there it is,” Iphicles said as he retrieved it. “Herc, there is something you could do for me—or rather for Corinth.” The King was back.
“What’s that?” Hercules asked.
“That town I told you about, Tacomas, well they’ve begged for help on another matter entirely. They’re being plagued by one of those damned wild boars down from Calydonia.” Iphicles was unrolling and reading the scroll as he spoke. “It looks like the usual—countryside ravaged, crops ruined, virgins despoiled…” Iphicles raised his eyebrows at that one and then he turned pale. “It’s killed a child,” he finished soberly. “I’ll send them my Chief Hunter and the hounds to track it, but it’s on you’re way home. If you went along and made sure it was killed, you’d be doing me a great favor.”
“Of course I’ll do it,” Hercules promised.
“And you can take those fancy spears the Spartans gave me and try them out.”
“Don’t you want to save them for a special occasion,” Hercules asked as Iphicles rolled his eyes.
“No, at least this way I can tell Leonidas…” Iphicles was interrupted by the sound of Iolaus’ voice.
“Herc, you decent? I’m coming in.” The deed followed the word as, with too much energy for that time of the morning, the hunter bounded into the room. “I’m starved. Can’t you smell the bacon in the dining hall from up here.”
Cornered, the boar charged and men had scattered in every direction. Only Iolaus had had the presence of mind to stand his ground and try for a cast but his spear had fallen short and now he stood disarmed and alone facing a ton of rampaging pork. Hercules couldn’t wait any longer, he threw and by some miracle, the spear struck the animal in its hindquarter. Squealing with rage, the pig’s leg buckled beneath it. The attack was aborted and Iolaus, sensibly, took refuge behind a clump of young trees.
Hercules grabbed up another of the great boar spears that the King’s Chief Hunter had thrown down during the melee and advanced on the wounded animal. It lurched to its feet; the barbed head of the spear he had thrown was still embedded in its flesh and dragging on the ground. The heavy head swayed from side to side and it watched him approach out of furious little red eyes.
“Get him, Herc, we’ll have spare ribs tonight.” Iolaus up popped out of the brush that he had taken cover behind.
The boar grunted, as much as to say, ‘When I get wings, Blondie.’
“Stay back Iolaus, he’s wounded.” Hercules dropped to one knee and braced the spear against his thigh. When the boar charged it would run up on the shaft. But the animal must have been wickedly clever because against all the rules governing boars at bay it ignored him went for Iolaus again.
“Oh fuckin’ Zeus,” the hunter yelped and tried to skin up one of the little trees. Too weak to bear his weight, the tree bent over double, dumping him back on the ground just as the pig hit it. Trees, bushes and Iolaus went tumbling as the boar dug its tusks into the ground uprooting everything it could reach. Hercules screamed Iolaus’ name and ran. The boar’s squealing and snorting sounded like manic laughter as it ran off into the woods.
“Iolaus.” Hercules dropped to his knees next to his friend who had tucked himself into a protective ball. “Gods, tell me you’re not hurt.” Iolaus took his hands way from his face, looked at them front and back as though he couldn’t believe they where still attached to his arms.
“Ok, I’m not hurt,” he said, “but you are.”
“You’re bleeding, Herc.” Iolaus pointed at the narrow stream of dark blood that was running down the demigod’s wrist. Hercules turned his hand over and stared in surprise at a neat puncture in the fleshy part of his thumb. He didn’t remember when that had happened—but it only stung a little.
“It’s just a scratch,” he dismissed it, giving Iolaus a hand up. “Come on, if you’re up to it. We’ve got to track that thing and kill it. It’s already carried off a child and now that it’s wounded it’ll be far more dangerous.”
“Then let’s do it,” Iolaus clambered to his feet. “I’m not letting any overgrown sack of sausage make a monkey out of me.”
“It looked like you took care of that part all by yourself,” Hercules observed.
“Ha, ha, very funny. Tell me how clever you are with Certain Death coming at you. You didn’t see the look in its eyes, that pig had it in for me personally...” Iolaus continued grumbling as they went and collected their weapons.
“It’s just a boar, Iolaus, but they do seem to get a particularly vicious breed up here on the Calydonian border,” Hercules said, watching Iolaus carefully. His guts were still twisting from the fear that had gripped him as the boar attacked and he had to be sure his friend wasn’t seriously hurt.
The rest of the hunting party had regrouped a short way off around the body of the King’s Chief Hunter and the two men joined them. The dead man’s guts had been elaborately festooned around the brush like bloody decorations; vivid evidence of the wanton nature of the animal they were pursuing. Hercules had to suppress a surge of nausea and look away. That could have been Iolaus all too easily.
He gave orders for the rest of the party to gather up the body to convey back to Corinth and let the king know that he and Iolaus were going to continue the hunt. Some of the local hunters wanted to argue with him, and he could understand their desire to be in on the kill, but the animal was too dangerous and he didn’t want to be distracted with concerns for their safety as well. Eventually they left and he and Iolaus were able to gather their packs and set out. The trail was obvious from the amount of damage the animal was causing in its pain.
“That was odd, did you notice how blue the man’s lips were?” Iolaus said as they lopped along, “Maybe he had a heart attack or died of fright before the boar gutted him.”
“Now, there’s a comforting thought,” Hercules said. He was panting slightly and there was a sudden sharp pain in his gut. He had to stop running. Iolaus was looking at him with concern but a sound off to the right demanded his attention. He held up a hand, “Listen!”
There was a soft angry grunting in a peculiar rhythm. Moving cautiously, they found their quarry in a small copse where the boar was trying to dislodge Hercules’ spear by brushing up against a windfall. The pig glared as they approached and Hercules realized as the hot little red eyes the bored into his that *Iolaus was right, this is personal.*
Without thinking, he put his hands up in front of his face. There was a blinding flash of red light and when he put his hands down the God of War was standing in front of them with the boar spear still embedded in the back of one powerful, naked thigh. With his lips curled back from his teeth in rage, Ares didn’t look like he was having a good day.
Before either Hercules or Iolaus could react, the god reached back, jerked the spear from his body and threw it at them. The friction must have burned Iolaus as it blew by him on its way to taking a neat core out of the trunk of an old oak. Irrepressible, the blond cocked a snook at the god and chanted. “Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me.”
Hercules didn’t know which one of them he wanted to hit harder but his divine half-brother definitely had the edge on which one he wanted to hit first.
“Ares, coming out of your natural shape,” he said, confronting the God of War. “I should have known you were behind this.”
Close to him, it was obvious the god was still subject to the hunt. He was sucking on the palm of his hand and glaring at them over it with eyes that were still shining red. Blood ran down the back of his leg from the wound that he hadn’t bothered to heal yet and he was fully aroused. His cock, ruby tipped against a dense black pelt, jutted arrogantly from his body. Hercules could feel the heat radiating from his body and smell the rank odor that pour off of him.
Ares took his hand out of his mouth and looked at it curiously with before he deigned to answer. “What? I was minding my own business and here come your pack of yahoos trying to stick me.” His lower incisors were still long enough to show above his upper lip.
“What did you expect?” Hercules demanded, even though he knew the question was rhetorical. “You’ve ravaged the countryside around, despoiling crops and grazing land and killing young animals. (Well the list of the god’s recent sins was certainly rhetorical.) You’ve terrorized a shepherd, frightened two women into premature labor, and raped the magistrate’s prize-winning sow (Iolaus snickered), carried off a child and…” The expression on the god’s face grew dark.
“No child. I didn’t do any child,” he said emphatically.
“The people of Tacomas say you did.” Hercules overrode him. “And now you’ve killed the King’s Chief Hunter.”
“Yadda. Yadda. Occupational hazard,” Ares countered, “and that shepherd wasn ’t terrorized until his father asked him why the sheep were so jumpy—if you know what I mean.” The god put his index finger to his cheek and tipped his head as he said it.
“Why am I not surprised?” Hercules sighed. Why did every confrontation he had with his brother become so—frustrating? He wished Ares would put some clothes on, the scent of musk was overpowering and making him feel light-headed. Ares was ignoring him, anyway, looking at the palm of his hand again. “But you did carry off a child and left its broken body…” he tried to bring Ares’ attention back to the important charge.
“I told you, Jerkules, I didn’t do any child,” Ares sounded exasperated, “the priest in Censas asked me to harry those people. It’s sacrilegious to…” The god’s voice seemed to be fading away although Ares was still standing in front of him. And the trees…
Hercules wanted to ask what was wrong with the trees, there were voices were caroling to him from way up above them. Why didn’t Ares shut up and listen? He looked around for the singers; felt Iolaus’ hand on his arm. His friend looked frightened and so far away. Hercules started to reassure him when Ares’ voice intruded rudely into the celestial choir…“Hey, Jerkules, going some where? I’m not done…” His head was pounding and his hand was on fire. He was vaguely aware of it when the ground rose up and hit him.
This isn’t happening, Iolaus thought as Hercules fell. It was just seconds between realizing that something wasn’t just strange but terribly wrong. Hercules wouldn’t be that pale just from being pissed at Ares. Iolaus was too late to catch him and the demigod crumpled at his feet.
Dropping to his knees, he rolled Hercules over. The demigod’s lips were milky white and his breathing ragged. Iolaus took his hand to felt a thready pulse and saw that the puncture wound Hercules had earlier dismissed as a scratch swollen and inflamed. Iolaus remembered the dead hunter; he looked up at the god.
“He’s been poisoned,” he said, “do something.”
“Why,” Ares asked, “should I do anything except thank the person who did it?” The god, still naked and bleeding, had glared in offended surprise as Hercules had fallen. Now, he squatted down beside them and stuck his hand back in his mouth. H sucked on it and looked at the demigod curiously.
“He’s your brother,” Iolaus said, “doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“No,” Ares said around his hand, “have I somehow failed to make that clear?”
Iolaus cradled Hercules’ head protectively in his lap and stroked his neck with a desperate hand. The skin beneath his fingers was damp and cold to his touch. “Zeus won’t let you kill him,” he said.
“What is it with you people?” Ares had to take his hand out of his mouth to snarl and show some teeth. “I didn’t do anything!”
“Who’s going to believe you?” Iolaus pointed out. “Besides, that looks like a smoking spear to me.” He turned to point to where Ares had flung the weapon, both mortal and god stopped and stared—the shaft in question was burning up in little licks of blue fire. Silently they watched it turn to gray ash.
“There goes your evidence,” Ares said in a voice that suddenly sounded dreamy. Iolaus whiled around and gaped at the god in horror. Ares smiled at him. Then he giggled. That damned hand was heading for his mouth again and, disregarding possible consequences, Iolaus grabbed it and turned it over to find a puncture wound that was the twin to the one on Hercules’ hand. He jerked the god down to compare the two wounds.
“You’ve been poisoned too. Help him or we’ll never find out who did it.”
“No,” Ares said and started rocking on his heels, looking insufferable pleased with himself; Iolaus wanted to punch him. Then the selfish bastard pointed to a lurid oval splotch on Hercules’ throat, the shape of a lover’s kiss. “Did you give him that?”
“What?” Iolaus couldn’t grasp what Ares was talking about until the god poked at Hercules’ neck again. “No!” Iolaus was outraged.
“Then who’s he been snogging, if not you?” Ares was giggling again with an hysterical edge to his laughter.
“You swine!” Iolaus was outraged. “Don’t you care about anything?”
“Yes, I care about who to send my condolences to. Oh!” Ares sat back and pressed his hands to his forehead as Iolaus took a breath, “don’t yell, my head hurts.”
“More than your head is going to hurt before I’m done with you, if you don’t help him.” Iolaus was practically screaming. “I’ll tell Zeus you did it!” Big mistake. Ares face turned black and hairy, his eyes got redder. He looked like he really was in pain but he was gathering the energy in his hand to blast Iolaus to dust and leaning back for enough room to throw it.
With nothing to lose, Iolaus let Hercules’ head fall and grabbed the god by the shoulders. “Ares! Somebody has just succeeded in poisoning Zeus’s most powerful sons! Look at yourself, you’re the God of War and you can’t even help yourself. Stop being a pig!” As though from a distance, he realized he was shaking the god. He took his hands away, but he couldn’t stop shouting. “If Hercules dies someone else will get the credit and you’re going to get the blame. Somebody is making a fool out of you Ares. Are you going to let them get away with it?”
Ares had wrapped both arms around his head and doubled over, nearly touching the ground, until the end of Iolaus’ diatribe. When Ares looked up Iolaus could see the god’s face was beaded with sweat and he thought I’m a dead man. But something had apparently gotten through Ares’ pain and incredible ego, for the first time since assuming his human shape the god’s eyes were dark and held something close to their usual malicious humor.
“All right. All right, Blondie, just don’t shout.” Ares was panting. “I’ll help him, but you have to answer a question for me.”
“Anything,” Iolaus promised helplessly, his best friend could be dying on the ground in front of him. “My word on it. If I don’t know, I’ll find out.”
“I save Jerkules’ life,” Ares lurched to his feet, wobbling a bit, “my word on it. And you find out who gave him that hickey.” Iolaus watched as Ares knelt down and took Hercules by an arm. Hoisting his brother to a sitting position Ares pulled him over his shoulder and stood up. Stumbling a bit at first, but then steadier, he began to walk.
“What are you doing? ” Iolaus scrambled up.
“Hercules is only half a god, I can’t transport him any other way,” Ares sounded disgusted.
“But where are you taking him?” Iolaus could see the blood from the spear wound dappling the back of the god’s legs, fresh with every step he took.
“To Corinth, unless you’ve got a better idea? Let’s move it, short stuff, it ’s a long walk
“Oh…boy.” Iolaus digested that. “Ares?”
“What?” The god turned around to glare at him.
“Don’t you want to put some clothes on?” he finally managed. The curl of Ares’ lip showed an amazing number of teeth; Iolaus decided not to press the issue. He started after them.
As they walked, he tried to figure out what he had just done. Yes, he had put the life of his best friend into the hands of that friend’s worst enemy, an enemy with an uncanny instinct for malevolence. But, not just Hercules’ life, the king of Corinth’s honor was on the line now too.
Iolaus didn’t know for a fact that Iphicles had left that love bite, he hadn’t actually seen the king press that tender mouth of his to the smooth skin of Hercules’ neck, batten there and suck like an infant vampire. But that mark hadn’t been on Hercules' neck at dinner last night and he had seen them both grab for the sheets when he had burst in on them this morning. Do you suppose that sort of thing runs on both sides…? *Damn it, Herc, why couldn’t you have a normal family life.
Part 2: Ares Does Iphicles
The hike back to Corinth was the worst afternoon of Iolaus’ life. He dismissed quickly any doubts that Ares was faking the affects of the poison. It wasn’t in Ares to appear weak; it was the last thing the god would tolerate. Yet here he was sweating and stumbling under Hercules’ weight. Several times they had to stop, Ares dropped to one knee with his eyes closed and the demigod’s body still draped over his shoulder. The third time Iolaus had insisted on taking Hercules’ legs so that they could manage the burden between them. He found it indicative that Ares hadn’t argued.
It was late by the time they got to the palace. Not knowing whether the god’ s invisibility still covered Ares, much less Hercules, Iolaus left them in the shadows beside the portcullis while he discussed business with a guard who was always open to a little friendly negotiation. After supplementing the man’s salary to the tune of ten denars, they were able to make their way to the stairs leading to the secret corridor behind the royal suite. Iolaus silently thanked the Kindly Ones when they met none of Iphicles’ trusted servants on the way. He had had plenty of time to think during the walk; whoever was behind the poisoning had access to something powerful enough to harm an Olympian and was dangerous, very dangerous.
He knew the guard wasn’t going to risk a lucrative post by talking, but their little procession would be hard to explain inside the palace. The foreign delegations would still be in residence and as far as Iolaus could tell ‘diplomat’ was just a euphemism for ‘gossip’. He breathed a relieved sigh when they slipped under the tapestry into the main office of the royal suite. The room was empty but bright with candles against the king’s return; the court must still be at dinner.
“Just a few more steps,” he urged as Ares staggered on the uneven stones. “The queen’s rooms are just through that doorway. (Watch the hanging!) We can drop him on the bed.”
Iolaus knew that Ares would have been just as happy to drop Hercules on the floor but was too tired and sick to say so. The most annoying attribute that the God of War possessed, his bloody single-minded stubbornness, was all that was keeping him going.
When they did have Hercules on the bed, Ares stood looking down at the Demigod as though he weren’t quite sure who was lying there. Iolaus could see Ares was swaying with exhaustion; he took up one of the god’s hands, the wounded one, it was grubby and he was shocked at how cold it was.
“Thank you,” Iolaus said, trying to convey something of the gratitude he felt. “Why don’t I see if I can find some wine, you look like you could use it.” Ares jerked his hand back, curled a lip at him and stalked out of the room without saying a word.
Iolaus found his legs had suddenly gone to rubber; he sat down on the bed next to Hercules. “I must be suicidal today,” he told the unconscious man. “When you’re better, we’re going to the temple of Asclepius and get my head examined.”
He knew he should be the one to go and look for the wine, he owed Ares that much, but he needed the time to collect himself, it felt as though his brain had shut down, and he couldn’t bring himself to leave Hercules. There had been too many moments that afternoon when he had feared his friend dead—no living person should be that pale and still breathing.
Overwhelmed, his hands shaking, he turned and could only try to brush some of the demigod’s tawny hair out of his face. Hercules’ eyes opened—just a blue flicker. His lips moved—a bare motion, but they were most beautiful gestures Iolaus thought he had ever seen.
“It’s going to be all right, Herc,” he promised, “but you shouldn’t scare me like this.”
“‘olaus…” Hercules’ voice was barely a croak. “…’m sick.”
“No. No, you’ve been poisoned,” he told him. Hercules started to struggle up and Iolaus held him down, frightened at how easy it was to do, “but it’s going to be all right.”
“No, ‘m goin’ be sick’,” Hercules told him. Iolaus barely had time to turn him over and hold his head before he was sick—violently and repeatedly.
“That—was inevitable,” Iolaus whispered when it was over, more to comfort himself than Hercules, despite the demigod’s ear next to his mouth. He held his friend, as he had until the paroxysms passed, but now Hercules’ eyes were closed again. It looked like normal sleep and his breathing seemed easy but Iolaus was afraid to let go. “It’s okay, buddy,” he rubbed his face against the back of Hercules’ head, coarse strands of hair brushed his lips as he spoke. “We’ll get you cleaned up.” On the edge of hysteria, he said, “Good thing it didn’t happen sooner, I don’t think Ares could deal.”
But he couldn’t move, just stayed there against his friend’s back, trying desperately to impart warmth to the cold body.
“And here I thought some Parthian pig farmer was going to get lucky,” a hoarse voice said.
Iolaus looked up. For a few confused moments he thought Ares had come back into the room, then he realized it was, “Iphicles…”
The king was standing very still in the doorway, his right hand was out of sight; Iolaus didn’t doubt there was a knife in it.
“I didn’t think the Parthians would be stupid enough to send assassins who stink as bad as you guys do,” Iphicles said as he came closer, “but you never know.” The king’s eyes, wide and amber in the candlelight, never left his brother’s face. “They told me the two of you had gone on with the hunt.”
“The spears were poisoned,” Iolaus said baldly, answering the unspoken question in Iphicles eyes. He could see the knife, the one Hercules had forged for Iphicles’ birthday, and how white Iphicles’ hand was on the sharkskin hilt. “I think he’s going to live,” he said, “but we’ve got to get him cleaned up.” The hand relaxed slightly.
“What do you need?” Iphicles asked.
“Water. Towels. Some hot wine, tea made of willow bark, if you can get them without letting anyone know what they’re for.”
“I’ll get them.” Iphicles was gone.
Now that he wasn’t alone, Iolaus found he could act. He stood up and began to undress Hercules. He had gotten the leather pants undone and was tugging the sodden shirt off the demigod’s shoulders when he heard Iphicles’ voice gain—furious—emphatic—and not too loud.
“Iolaus—get in here.”
Ares, passed out like his brother on what had to be Iphicles’ bed in an alcove off the main room, was sprawled snoring on the red wool cover fouled now with dirt, blood and wine from a goblet that had tumbled from his slack fingers.
“Is that what I think it is?” Iphicles was hovering over the bed, an amalgam of panic and awe in his face and Iolaus couldn’t blame him. During the long hike, the last signs of the god’s animal incarnation had faded away, leaving him dirty, bloody, smelly, but still very naked and splendidly male.
“Oh, thank Zeus.” Iolaus couldn’t help laughing at the look on Iphicles’ face. “Considering what he’s been doing for pregnant women in the provinces lately, it’s just as well he isn’t wandering the palace in that condition.” Iphicles looked at him as though he had run mad and, all things taken into account, it might be true.
“What is going on?” Iphicles practically hissed.
“He carried Hercules,” Iolaus explained, “but he was poisoned too. Do you have something we can cover him with?” Iphicles didn’t drop his suspicious look, but he did get a blanket from a chest against the wall.
“You’re going to explain,” he said as they tucked it around the sleeping god, “aren’t you, Iolaus?”
“Oh yeah, I think I better, but later, okay?” Iolaus begged. Yes, definitely close to hysterics, any minute now he was going to start screaming…or laughing. He leaned over and pushed one of the tousled black curls away from the god’s face just as he had brushed Hercules hair from his. He looked up at Iphicles knowing that his mouth had to be stretched in a very peculiar smile. “He did a good thing today and he’s going to hate himself in the morning.”
Iphicles took another drink of mulled wine and pushed on a blue glass gaming piece with his index finger; it rolled out of its position on the board and clicked softly against one of the white pieces. Clumsily he set the goblet down next to the board and sighed. He was somewhat the worse for wear but not nearly polluted enough to forget that his brother had just survived a murder attempt—or that the God of War was asleep in his bed.
There were times when he really loved being king—this wasn’t one of them.
The bad thing about it Iphicles reflected, is that when you ask for hot spiced wine and willow-bark tea they offer to send for all the court physicians and the local soothsayer. The good thing is that when you threaten to throw all them in the dungeon if they don’t stop bothering you—they stop bothering you.
But the servant’s grapevine would be buzzing and by tomorrow it would be all over the palace that the king had had a headache. At breakfast everyone would be silently trying to calculate his temperature and looking sideways at each other; the food taster would be giving notice. There was a stick of red sealing wax in his desk and he considered using it to stain some blotches onto his skin and pretending to come down with the plague; that might settle things down and clear the place out a bit. He sighed again, admitting he wasn’t going to do that.
After appropriating the water pitcher and towels from his commode they had gone back to take care of Hercules. Between them, he and Iolaus had considerable experience dressing wounds and battlefield surgery, but his brother had required a different kind of nursing tonight.
Hercules was a large man and for several hours it had taken both of them to keep him clean, dry and warm. The demigod had woken to repeated bouts of retching sickness and Iphicles’ truly felt for his brother but trying to get him drink some of the willow-bark tea had gotten him a bruised cheek.
Eventually the worst of it passed, Hercules slept and the two of them had been able to stop and rest. But Iolaus was clearly exhausted so Iphicles, stripped down to a damp shirt and breeches, sat at his desk and drank alone.
From where he sat, he could see the blond lying on a pallet next to the bed Hercules slept on. Both of their faces softly illuminated by candlelight. Iolaus reached up and stroked the demigod’s cheek. Iphicles sighed again, got up and went to the doorway. As he pulled the tapestry cover down from its hook. Iolaus blinked up at him.
“Get some sleep if you can,” Iphicles said.
“Don’t you want to stay here?” Iolaus asked starting to get up.
You’ll never how much, Iphicles thought, but I know how you feel and you and…his brain shied away from naming the god…saved his life today.
“No, I think it’ll be better if I stay out here. Call me if you need anything,” he said, hating the understanding in the look Iolaus gave him. Sometimes he felt as though he were transparent and the whole world could read his heart. He dropped the tapestry, went back to his desk, picked up the goblet and glared at it. Hot wine is supposed to hit you faster and harder, he could tell that really getting shellacked tonight just wasn’t going to be a happening thing.
Fuck it. If Hercules had stayed in Rena’s room from the beginning…but for two years now no one had slept in that room. That bit of loyalty to his dead wife’s memory had nearly cost his brother his life. He put the cup down and started gnawing on a knuckle. Hercules wouldn’t have stayed in Corinth as long as he had; the whole thing need not have happened. *Well that’s your first response to anything isn’t it, Iphicles—guilt.*The truth is, if Hercules hadn’t stayed as long, some assassin would probably be collecting the reward for your head by now and Corinth would be without a damned good king.
That thought made him smile. He slouched back in the Great Chair, put his feet up on the desk and indulged in a fantasy about the funeral—the sackcloth, the ashes, the keening mourners, the look on Hercules’ face when he woke up and discovered that he was going to have to be king. It would serve you right, baby brother, for making me clean up after you again. I thought you’d out grown ‘that’ at least. He laughed out loud at the thought. Then the hair on the back of his neck stood up.
“Care to share the joke,” someone said.
Lost in his fantasy, he hadn’t noticed that the air had become charged the way it does just before a thunderstorm. Now it seemed to be moving about him; chilling currents that flowed from someplace just behind his left shoulder. Slowly he put his feet on the floor, stood up and turned to face the God of War.
“I just realized that I don’t appreciate my mother nearly enough,” he said.
“Your mother?” The god, who had been sitting head down scraping his hands through his hair, lifted his head and stared at Iphicles. Stared at him hard from red rimmed eyes. “Your mother?” he repeated. “Who are you?” “Iphicles,” he said. That got no response; he elucidated, “I’m the King of Corinth.” Then there was recognition in the God’s eyes.
“My mongrel brother’s…?”
“Maybe,” Iphicles snapped, “and you are?”
“I’m the God of War,” the god said, his lips deliberate over every syllable, parodying Iphicles.
“My mongrel brother’s other…?”
If the pit of Tartarus had opened at his feet, Iphicles couldn’t have resisted saying it and, for a moment, he was sure that it had been a fatal indulgence. But the god didn’t flash fry him immediately despite the smoking look he threw at Iphicles. “Do you want something to drink?” he risked asking.
“What do you think?” was the surly reply.
Iphicles poured a cup, and took it over to the bed. The god took the cup. And drank. And spat on the floor.
“You are not that keen to live little King,” he snarled. “Are you trying to poison me too?”
“Iolaus said that you had a headache. That might help.”
“I’ll put that on the list of things I owe Blondie for. Get me some wine,” the god ordered. Throwing off the cover and putting his feet on the floor, he shoved the cup at Iphicles, oblivious to where the tea that was in it slopped.
Iphicles stepped back as the god rose, but couldn’t keep from staring. As impressive as the god had appeared laying flat on his back, standing he was at least Hercules’ equal. Broad shoulders tapered down an extremely well defined torso to narrow hips and powerful thighs. That expanse of flesh was broken up by a neat pattern of dark hair that at his loins made a dark and richly textured background to display an impressive sex. It was the god’s
face that fascinated Iphicles though. For years he had heard rumors and assumed they had their origin in human stupidity complicated by the fact that both of them were Hercules’ brothers. Now he understood entirely to well.
The war god’s head was wreathed in thick black curls that had the effect of softening the harsh angles of his skull. His eyes, despite the swollen rims, were large, dark and heavily lidded. His nose was short and sharply angled and the precisely clipped beard underlined his high cheekbones and full pouting mouth. The hair color is different, but those are my features. Do I really look like that? It was the most sensual face Iphicles had ever seen.
“Yeah, but don’t let it go to your head,” the god sneered.
Iphicles felt his face and neck flush with blood and he scowled in embarrassment “No danger.”
The god laughed at him, walked over to his desk, pulled the chair around and sat down. “Where’s my wine?” he said. Iphicles poured a cup and handed it over. They regarded each other in a hostile and gravid silence. The god was scowling at him as though he didn’t especially like the edition of their face that Iphicles wore, and there was something else going on behind his eyes. Curiosity? Calculation? Iphicles couldn’t tell; he hoped it wouldn’t kill them all.
For his part, he desperately wanted to thank the god for saving his brother’s life. But he couldn’t speak the words without exposing Hercules to his worst enemy. And that enemy has ‘my’ face he thought and was filled with a sudden furious resentment that made him sick with its ancient familiarity. Hercules should have told me. He knew he must look sullen and ungrateful. His feelings confounded him. He couldn’t speak without exposing himself and for the sake of Corinth, he couldn’t afford to provoke so powerful an entity out of childish pique. It was too late; the god’s expression had grown thunderous. Iphicles took a deep breath, trying to will himself to calm speaking, but the god was smiling darkly and had already made a gesture over the cup that he held.
“No danger little king,” the god repeated Iphicles’ words and, looking at him, tipped the cup back and began to drink. A thin trickle of red leaked from the corner of his mouth and ran down the side of his chin. Iphicles found it impossible not to watch the wine stream across the powerful throat and collect in the hollow of a clavicle. The god drank and Iphicles swallowed, realizing that he was imagining himself sipping the liquid where it pooled.
As the cup emptied that pool overflowed and wine cascaded between the broad flat pectorals, staining the muscular stomach to recollect in the shallow navel. Red drops made bright jewels pendant from dark curls. Horrified, Iphicles felt his cock throbbing and swelling to extend itself just as the god’s cock filled and extended itself—like the god’s hand, imperiously demanding more when the cup was empty. Dazed by the heat and sexual lust that was enveloping him Iphicles filled it again.
And when the second cup was gone the same way as the first, the god sprawled in the chair and flung one leg over an arm of it. He thrust his hips out, showing off the erection that towered over the wine soaked pubic hair. The huge phallus was flushed a deep red and a creamy pearl beaded the tip until the god wiped it away with a slow stroke of his hand. He grinned mockingly at Iphicles. ‘No danger’ Iphicles had said and the god had taken his denial for a challenge.
The air was prickling over Iphicles’ skin again and his mouth flooded with saliva. Something urged him to drop to his knees, take the thick shaft in his mouth and worship it, knowing it would taste like the sweet wine that drenched it. He wanted to close his eyes and abandon himself to suck…damn if I’ll be intimidated by such simple arrogance. I’m the king and the stakes are too high. “Lord, do you want a robe?” he husked.
The question got him a flicker of surprise that contained respect. “If you’d be more comfortable little king,” the god said agreeably…lazily…half closing his eyes. “The black one.”
Iphicles didn’t own a black robe. But somehow, when he got the press open after fumbling with the door, the robe was there. The wool it was made from was as dark as midnight and soft to his fingers. Carrying it back he noticed that it exuded a subtle and fugitive musk that was almost bitter to his senses.
As he stood and allowed Iphicles to drape it over his shoulders, the god took a deep breath, nostrils flaring slightly, it looked as though he relished the scent that was on it also. The robe, bound with a tape of red silk and gold thread, opened entirely down the front and where it gaped Iphicles could see the blunt wet tip of the god’s cock protruding. Again something pushed at Iphicles’ mind, urging him down on his knees.
But standing so close he realized, that although the god was taller, it was a very slight difference. In that cold fact he regained some of his self-possession. Avoiding looking toward the room were Iolaus and Hercules slept he opened his mouth to yell for the guards standing just outside his doors.
If he called out…if he could just get away…he could unlace his breeches, free his painfully trapped cock and jerk…he felt dizzy. The need to touch himself was urgent…to jerk off…spill himself on the floor.
“No one can hear you.” The god shook his head and took a step closer, he caught up both of Iphicles’ hands. Entwining the fingers of each in one of his, he stroked the backs of them across the soft wool where it covered his breast.
Iphicles could see the dark nubs that were the god’s nipples, and feel them, as hard as wheat kernels, under the fabric. His own were tingling. Then the god dragged one pair of their entangled hands down Iphicles’ breeches to snuggle at his crotch and explore the leather-covered bulge they discovered there. Lightening arced between them and Iphicles felt as though his body were melting.
Eyes wide open and with a filthy chuckle the god said, “Not such a little king.”
“Is this narcissism or some weird form of masturbation?” The question was hard to ask because his were chattering.
“It doesn’t matter, little king, you want it—” The god’s voice rumbled and Iphicles felt the sound deep in his gut as thunder to the lightning. He agreed, not sure by what sense he was affirming it—the freezing fire on his skin or the bittersweet scent that filled his head—but unconsciously he lifted his head to breathe in more of the perfume. He opened his mouth to try and taste it. “—and it seems that I want you.”
The god caught the back of his head, pulled him close and kissed him, filling his mouth with a churning tongue that tasted of brass and his ears with the sound of harsh breathing. Hands that found their way under his shirt, clawed him, leaving stinging scratches were they raked his back. He had no weapons to combat the power that held him but he tried to pay back touch for touch, scrape for scratch. The nipples he had felt were twisted angrily between his fingers. He gouged and was bitten hard; found blood and coarse hair in his own mouth, and was perversely excited when the god growled his approval.
Their grappling, unequal as it was, continued until a hand insinuating between them unlaced his breeches and pushed inside to measure the length of his cock by inches, then poked and probed at the opening of his body. The nerves there began to sing and the muscles pulsed gently. He surrendered entirely to sensation. The god caught him as he stumbled, lifted him and ground their erections together. The soft wool kissed his thighs and Iphicles thrust franticly, confused as to whether he wanted to fuck or be fucked.
Maybe there was going to be mercy for him because the god lifted him still higher, turned and dropped him on the desk. Candles, cups and ewers spilled on the floor, the round game pieces bounced and rolled, he could hear some of them smashing against the stones. A large hand began to pump his cock. He closed his eyes and tried to push up in to it for more contact but the god held him, stripped him and climbed on top, pinning him. Naked, unable to move, he was entirely dependent on the god for the stimulation his body craved and the bastard tortured him with a slow hand.
Furious, he called down curses on the god’s head, damning him to the blackest pits of Tartarus. The god laughed, stuck a wet tongue in his ear, gnawed on the lobe—and the hand kept moving to the same selfish rhythm. Iphicles threw his head back and screamed in his face, calling him the god of syphilitic goat-buggering assholes and got more laughter and deep wet kisses for his trouble. Teeth pestered his throat and chewed on his breasts. Not enough. He managed to free an arm and tried to push the god’s head down to where that ravaging mouth could do him some real good but the stubborn head refused to budge.
“Tell me what you want, little king.” Thunder and laughter rolled across his brain and he realized that the god’s thumb was circling the sensitive place just under the slit of his prick and there was a slick, intruding finger that was making promises…wet hardness slipping in and out—touching my heart. The god’s prick ramming deep into…
“Fuck me,” he howled almost undone by the thought of that huge cock filling him up.
“Now that is a prayer,” the god purred, “that mortals should make more often.” Another finger slid in, greased by who knew what, and turned about inside stretching him. Joined by yet another, they found a spot that made his hips buck. The fingers were almost enough…just a little more, he pushed down bucking harder and then he was empty. The god let go of his cock and—for a moment—Iphicles thought he was going to be abandoned to his voracious need. Outraged, he reached for his prick and his hand got a stinging slap.
The god pushed Iphicles’ legs apart and rolled over to kneel between them. Hands hooked under Iphicles' knees lifted and spread him to expose his weeping cock, as though it were an offering on an altar. Below it Iphicles could feel the blunt tip of the god’s sex first nuzzle his scrotum and then begin to push between the cheeks of his ass. His sphincter pulsed hungrily.
“Look at me little king,” the god ordered. Iphicles opened his eyes; shocked to find that candles still burned somewhere in the room. The robe had fallen off of one of the god’s shoulder and above him...Oh gods, is that what Hercules sees when we? …Sweaty dark curls plastered to a damp forehead, pupils so large the eyes were black, teeth flashing with laughter; the god was as given over to the lust he had invoked as the mortal. Iphicles reached up and ran his thumb across the swollen rosy lower lip, pushing in a little at the corner.
Eyelashes fanned across the god’s cheek as he closed his eyes and sucked it in with a sideways flip of his head. Iphicles watched, fascinated, as the god nursed it, the hot mouth working, tongue tip lapping, twining around it and probing at the nail.
You would suck my cock just as sweetly, Iphicles, thought finding another of those moments of chilling clarity, but that’s not what this is about for either of us, is it?
The god’s eyes flicked open and he spit Iphicles’ thumb from his mouth. He lifted Iphicles’ knees higher, opening him wider and rammed his cock into Iphicles’ butt. Iphicles tossed his head back and forth as the overstressed muscles of his ass contracted around the plundering shaft and he came, screaming as he ejaculated, until a black velvet wave crashed over him and he couldn’t see the god’s laughing face any more. Sensation returned. First, sound—the buzzing a hive of angry bees might make, fading in his ears. Second, warmth—although the hand that explored his face, brushed away tears that left icy streaks behind them. Then pleasure—his muscles still pulsating, releasing tension.
The noise subsided. Iphicles opened his eyes to see the god above him. The black robe had fallen off entirely and god’s chest was liberally decorated with milky ribbons of come.
“Ares,” Iphicles managed to say. His throat was raw; he remembered shrieking the god’s name as he came.
“I’m glad you know who’s fucking who, little king,” the god said, hips flexing, pulling out the still hard cock then pushing it deeper inside of Iphicles’ ass. Whatever charm the god had laid on him had passed because the smells enveloping them were of spiced wine and the pungent musk of male sex. He didn’t miss it; the thing that fucked him was too potent.
“Finish it,” he groaned, needing to see that face in orgasm.
Ares rose up and lifting him began to thrust slowly. Iphicles grabbed hold of the edges of the desk to stop himself from being jerked back and forth. The world became the cock that relentlessly plumbed him, he could feel every inch sliding slowly in and out. Ares was looking down where their bodies were joined. Iphicles could imagine what he saw—the great ruddy phallus, glossy with oil and his juices disappearing into the hole that welcomed it, disappearing into burning heat. His own cock, not entirely a spent soldier, responded to the image and swelled again although the muscles of his ass were throbbing.
Over him Ares kept thrusting until sweat slicked both of their bodies and his hand were slipping on Iphicles’ thighs. Iphicles could see him toss his head and arch his back. The strokes came short, quick and hard. Ares, laughing, came in a rush of heat that filled Iphicles’ belly pushing him over the edge into another powerful climax. He didn’t black out this time; he was laughing too as his cock erupted, spattering his face with his own hot seed and Ares collapsed with his head buried in Iphicles’ stomach. He stayed there gurgling like a drain until his cock slipped from Iphicles’ body.
Iphicles would have mourned the loss but he was wrapped in such a deep sweet lassitude that it was all he wanted to do was stroke the soft curls that tickled his stomach. The god looked up at his touch.
“Do you always come like a thunderstorm, little king, and rain on everything?” Giggling again, the god started dabbling his fingers in drops of semen and sticking them in Iphicles’ mouth. He kept it up until Iphicles got tired of evading them and bit one of the acrid tasting fingers.
“Now I know how Leda felt with that damned bird pecking at her,” he said and yawned.
“What do you mean?” Ares asked. He yawned too, his jaw cracking, “I don’t do birds, I’m allergic to feathers…”
The god sat up, pulling Iphicles with him and perched on the edge of the desk. He yawned again, swallowing whatever he’d been saying, but Iphicles had no trouble interpreting ‘leggzzeteb’ as ‘let’s go to bed.’ It was the best idea he had heard from anybody all day. Ares grabbed him under the ass and stood up and Iphicles wrapped his arms around the god’s neck, hung on and let himself carried to the bed and put into it. Ares climbed in, too, curled up against his back and tucked an arm around his waist.
“…can do golden showers, if you’re kinky and I have a nice line in limpid pools.” Yeah, Iphicles thought, a bath is definitely going to be required. “You have such a sweet tight ass,” the god was saying as he cuddled the aforementioned piece of anatomy, “wish I’d known…”
With the god’s warm body wrapped around him it was almost as cozy as sleeping with his brother. The deep voice still narbling in his ear was a sweet sound to fall asleep to. Iphicles just barely heard it say, “…urn you into a woman. You’ll be beautiful pregnant…beautiful babies you an’ me…”
Iphicles’ eyes flew open. His brain screamed So much for the afterglow! *Damn it, Herc, why couldn’t you have a normal family life for a change?*
He didn’t move until the sleepy burble had devolved into steady breathing and soft snoring. Then, very carefully, he turned around and looked at his bedmate. A couple of candles guttering at the ends of their wicks were still burning, by their faint light he could see the fan of eyelashes that spread across Ares’ cheek and that the god’s lips were slightly parted. Iphicles put a finger between them and felt it softly and obliviously sucked on. You know he told the unconscious deity, our brother does the same thing. He lay back down, and slipped an arm under Ares’ neck and pulled him over to settle his head exactly as Hercules had the night before. The god’s warm breath tickled his chest. And from sex his brain goes straight to babies too…it must be a ‘god’ thing…although usually Hercules suggests that I get married again first.
Part 3: A Little Nookie and a Lot of Plotzing
“Strangle the cock…”
“I’m trying,” a drowsy voice said.
“No, kill that dammed rooster.” Iphicles removed the hand from his prick, folded it in one of his and tucked them both under his chin. “It’s not even daylight.”
He closed his eyes against the dawn and desperately wished that he were one of those people you hear about who wake up and can’t remember what they’ve done the night before. He always remembered. And today—just in case—there was the hangover, the lingering musk of sex and the twinges associated with various bodily orifices to remind him. There was also a god nibbling on the back of his neck.“I have to piss,” he said.
“Can I watch?” the deity whispered.
“Why don’t we work up to that level of intimacy?” Iphicles suggested while he squirmed out from under the hot tongue that was trying to trace the whorls of his ear and evaded the groping hands. “If we go too fast there’ll be nothing for later.” Laughter following him, he headed for the garderobe tucked into a corner of his office. When he came out, he stopped to make sure that Iolaus and Hercules still slept undisturbed, watching his brother’s blanketed chest rise and fall steadily in the cold blue light before he dropped the curtain. Then he turned and grimaced at the shambles he and Ares had made of his office. All of the clutter from his desktop littered the floor—scrolls, tablets, ewers, candlesticks. State papers were soaked with wine, and Zeus knew it smelled like the whorehouse that he used to visit in Piraeus.
He didn’t remember the heavy chair falling over, but it was on its side with the cushion leaking feathers from a small tear. He went through the mess and retrieved Ares’ black robe, tossing it over his shoulder and found one of the ewers wasn’t broken and still had liquid in it. He picked that up also and went back to sit on the bed.
“Is that wine?” Ares asked indicating the bottle.
Iphicles pulled the stopper out and sniffed. “No,” he said and took a drink anyway, “but it’s good for headaches.” The god laughed at the face he made.
“Give it to me,” he said, and Iphicles handed it to him. Ares made a quick gesture over it and gave it back. “Now it’s better.”
Iphicles could smell the heady aroma of the best Flavian wine; he took another drink, offered it to the god who declined, and set the ewer on the floor. “That’s a good trick.” He scrubbed his hands through his hair, trying to wake himself up.
“Yeah, it’s the first one in the book,” the god said and slid over beside him. Wrapping his arms around Iphicles’ waist he nibbled the edge of his jaw. “Come back to bed,” he said and bit Iphicles’ shoulder. Iphicles arched his neck against the pleasure/pain, closed his eyes and rubbed the side of his face against Ares’ temple. His morning beard rasped softly in his ears. Down boy, he said to the prick raising its inquisitive head in his lap, you might think it’s a good idea but trust me…. “I wish I could, Lord, but I’ve got the king thing to do.”
“No, you need to learn theophagy,” Ares said, knocking him on his back and pouncing.
“What is that when its at ho…” Iphicles started to struggle, then lost both the thought and the will.
“This—if you were doing it to me,” Ares said. His words sounded little muffled, Iphicles looked down. Ares was kneeling between his legs and the god’s tongue was mapping the rim of his cock head. It poked into the eye and vibrated there just at the tip and he felt his balls tighten up against his body as his muscles tensed. Beautiful. He studied the dark head and reached thoughtlessly to touch it. The god swallowed him whole and a hot tongue lashed his cock. His eyes rolled back in his head and he was flying. Orgasm overwhelmed him so completely that there was no way short of death he could have stopped what was happening. Hips pumping, he grabbed hold of the back of Ares’ head, held it close and fucked the god’s mouth, it seemed forever, until he came in a hot wet rush. Forever. Until he realized what he was doing. He had been running his hands through the god’s hair, curls were tangled around his fingers, and his cock had spent its last drops. He could feel teeth gently abrading him and let go in sudden fear.
Fortunately, when Ares lifted his head, he was grinning. “Admit it, gods are good.” Yeah, Iphicles thought as an antidote to his panic, they have all the time in the world to practice. The god sighed; laying his cheek on Iphicles’ thigh he started to lick him clean with an occasional tiny nip. Iphicles remembered thinking the night before how sweet this could be. His cock wasn’ t finding the attention unwelcome and started to swell again. “Forget the king thing,” Ares said, “I’ll take you to Thrace, we’ll fuck and make babies.”
Iphicles felt the world wobble on its axis and resettle itself as he watched Ares indulge himself, his closed eyes in contentment. All right you’re not the only one with a good memory; it’s probably a great attribute for a god of war.
“Lord—“ he started to say.
Iolaus interrupted just as Iphicles had opened his mouth—and saved him from having to frame the most diplomatic refusal of his sexual career. The god lifted his head and glared in the direction of the blond’s voice. He made a pass in the air with a broad hand and threw himself flat on the bed sulking. Iphicles was left half on and half off the bed with his cock still wet and half engorged.
“Iphicles are you all right?” Iolaus’ voice sound very worried now. “It’s a combat zone out here,” The blond’s head peered around the corner just as Iphicles pulled the robe over himself, “what happened?”
“I got a little, ah—cockeyed last night…” Iphicles sat up.
*“That’s one way of putting it,”* the god said into his pillow, refusing to look at Iphicles.
“I was upset about, Herc…” Iphicles managed to get himself into the black robe and stand up without exposing himself.
“Yeah, I know, but…” Iolaus was still hung up on the condition of the office.
“How is my brother this morning?” Iphicles turned around to face him.
*“Yeah, how is daddy’s darling this morning?”* Ares lifted his head and snarled.
“I think he’s going to be fine,” Iolaus said and shared a relieved smile with Iphicles. “There’s no fever. He didn’t get sick again last night but he’s still asleep.”
“Good, that’s good for him,” Iphicles said nodding*…because when he gets up—I’m going to kill him myself.*
“I saw the mess out here and thought maybe Ares had…” the blond was looking around, still worried, “…he is gone isn’t he?”
“You don’t see him,” Iphicles said. “Do you?”
“No. But he was…loopy yesterday. I mean more so than usual, and he’s always got a real hard-on about Hercules.” Ares rolled over and showed Iphicles that the hunter was telling the truth. Ares Ichthalmos, Iphicles thought, trying not to laugh, you are a brat.
“Don’t go there, Iolaus,” Iphicles’ avoided the hunter’s eyes but he couldn’t stop smiling despite a sinking feeling. “He saved Herc’s life and I didn’t get a chance to tell him how Truly Honestly and Profoundly grateful I am…and Always will be.”
“Maybe you could make a sacrifice at that old temple in Censas,” Iolaus suggested, “—just before you raze it.”
“Iolaus,” Iphicles said, taking the blond hunter by the shoulder and turning him around, “help me find my appointment calendar. It’s got to be out here somewhere.” Behind him it sounded like a wild animal was shredding his pillows.
He and Iolaus picked up the trash and sopping papers, although he was a little stiff bending and retrieving. They were trying to straighten things out enough to call for servants when Iolaus came across the shirt Iphicles had been wearing the night before. The blond picked it up and held it considering the rips and tiny blood spatters. “You really did tie one on last night?” he asked.
“Bosky as an owl,” Iphicles asserted. He heard Ares snort.
“Iphicles, what are we going to do?” The hunter crushed the shirt in his hands.
Iolaus looked at him; “whatever was on those spears made a god sick and a demigod sicker. It would have killed you.”
“Iphicles, you’ve got to do something.” Iolaus’ voice was starting to rise. “You’re the king. You know it wasn’t meant for Hercules, somebody was trying to kill you!”
“I know that!” Iphicles yelled back and then held up his hands as the hunter opened his mouth again. “Iolaus, please, it’s going to be a bitch of a day and if we start roaring at each other now, I’ll never last.” He started to reach for the game board and then gave in to the fear in Iolaus’ eyes. He noticed Ares had moved to the foot of the bed, and although the god was idly stroking his erection, he too was listening.
“There were two other attempts on my life since the summit started. Hercules knew about them.” Iolaus opened his mouth; Iphicles cut him off. “You know he wouldn’t have left if he’d thought I wasn’t safe.”
“Is that why you switched beds the night before last?” The hunter made the connection.
“Yes. Go get yourself a chair and I’ll tell you about it. I need you help.” Iphicles turned around himself, hauled the Great Chair upright and sat down at the desk. He had forgotten about the tear in the cushion. Tiny white feathers flew up and settled on his hair, his cheeks and the shoulders of the black robe. Irritated he brushed them away and behind him somebody sneezed more closely than he would have expected and spattered the back of his neck. Iolaus was pulling over a chair for himself and took the face he made, as Iphicles’ response to the feathers.
“Alright, somebody is trying to kill the king of Corinth,” Iolaus said as he sat down, “and we have to keep you alive. The obvious culprits are the Spartans; they gave you the spears and Hercules said that it was the Spartan Ambassador’s wife who walked in on you the other night.”
“Yeah, by my guess it would have been fifty-fifty whether she was going to sing ‘Under My Tunic Its Tight’ before she stabbed me,” Iphicles smiled.
“I don’t see what Sparta has to gain,” Iolaus protested.
“Pericles is her brother-in-law.”
“Yeah, Athens,” Iphicles said.
*“You have my undivided attention.”* The air pulsed blue and Iphicles smelled rain. Without turning his head, he could see a length of thigh encased in black leather; Ares Enyalios was standing beside his chair.
“Iolaus…” Iphicles paused, hoping the god would understand that he was speaking to both of them, “an alliance of Greek states won the Trojan War, but some of us may loose the peace.” He realized he was starting to chew a knuckle and made a fist in his lap. “Without competition from Troy, Athens has become too aggressive. Through their colony to the northwest, Heraclea, they’ve encouraged extensive settlement and are encroaching on the borders of Parthia. The Parthian’s can’t hold them and when Parthia falls they’ll turn either north to Sparta or south to…”
“Corinth,” Iolaus said.
*“That’s what I would do,”* Ares said.
“Most likely Corinth,” Iphicles agreed. “My gala and the trade summit were a cover. King Leonidas and I have worked out the terms of a mutual defense pact that was signed two days ago. If Athens attacks either city, she’ll have to fight a two front war. It will be ratified by my word when I announce it at the closing ceremonies tonight.” Iphicles smiled wryly at Iolaus expression and indicated some wet parchment. “Don’t worry, it’s a done deal—if I can find it in this mess—and if I can stay alive to make the announcement.”
The blond hunter pondered Iphicles’ words. Unconsciously, he stuck a finger in his mouth and started to bite the cuticle, Iphicles had to stifle the urge to snicker.
“The murder attempts mean that Athens knows,” Iolaus said. Iphicles nodded. “They were trying to assassinate you before the agreement could be signed.”
*“No shit, Socrates.”* Iphicles could hear the exasperation in the God’s voice.
“Color me stupid,” Iolaus went on, “but why the poison spears? You wouldn’t have gone hunting in the middle of something this important, and I don’t see what they have to gain by killing you afterwards. I mean, who knew when you might have gone boar hunting…” the hunter tossed his head “…or that Ares would be out in the woods acting like his usual self?”
The leather-clad leg beside him jerked; Iphicles clamped on to the back of it below the knee where Iolaus couldn’t see his hand.
“Oh, I think somebody knew Ares would be there. It was a set up, a fail-safe in case the document was signed and ratified. Somebody prayed a favor of Ares. Somebody sent me an appeal for help—reporting a boar had killed a child and knowing I’d respond as quickly as I could.” Iphicles stroked the leather-covered calf as soothingly as possibly.
“If everything else failed, the King of Corinth would have been guilty of bodily attacking a god and Sparta is dedicated to Ares, as Athens is dedicated to Athena. The Spartans would have repudiated the agreement immediately and probably aligned themselves with Athens.” The leather under his hand was warm where he had continued stroking it; he could feel the tense muscles beneath. “The poison was to make sure that I died, assuming Ares didn’t incinerate me on the spot. The fact that we are both Hercules’ brothers would have been the almond on the honey-cake for someone. It was a neat call.” The two men exchanged looks.
“Someone is very sick,” Iolaus said, giving up on the cuticle and jamming two knuckles into his mouth.
“Yes, someone is,” Iphicles said.
“What do you need me to do?” the hunter asked, sitting up, “What’s the plan?”
“First go down to the market and get us something for breakfast, I’m starving.” Iphicles grinned at Iolaus’ crestfallen look and added, “Please, it may not be safe for me to share a meal anywhere in the palace today.”
Iolaus understood and flinched. “Use the back and, by the way, thanks for being so discreet last night.”
“You knew we were here!” Iolaus realized.
“You bribed my guard, Iolaus. After breakfast I have finance committee meetings and a public court where I’ll be surrounded by my guards and councilors and fairly safe. I want you to go around telling people that you and Hercules killed the boar and Herc decided to go on home. Pay attention to anybody who particularly asks about Hercules and keep your sword handy. For the rest of the day,” he exchanged another look with the hunter, “I don’t plan to get killed.”
“You don’t plan to get killed.” Iolaus said, rubbing the back of his neck. “That’s a plan?”
Ares walked around Iphicles’ desk and stood behind Iolaus’ chair, crossing his arms on the back of it. He raised an eyebrow at Iphicles. *“We are not dealing with Odysseus here, Blondie, he’s gong to get himself killed.”*
Iphicles snapped. “It’s the best one I can think of. If I sneeze today, Corinth gets a nosebleed and if Corinth gets a nosebleed, this part of the peninsula will hemorrhage.” He stopped shouting confused by what to respond to—the shock on Iolaus’ face or the amusement on Ares’. He braced himself against his chair in frustration and the robe fell off of his shoulder, exposing the marks Ares’ teeth had left earlier. The god leered. Iolaus’ mouth dropped open. Embarrassed he flipped the sleeve back up and for a moment no one spoke. Then Iolaus opened his mouth. “Majesty…?”
“Oh knock it off, Iolaus,” he growled, “you’ve known me since we were…”
“Sorry, Iphicles, don’t get mad, but—there’s something I forgot to tell you about yesterday.”
*“Blondie, you remembered!”* Ares looked delighted, as if someone had just told him that the Pelopenisian war was about to break out again. Someone just had, Iphicles reflected.
“For helping Hercules…Ares…” Iolaus voice trailed off.
“Ares what?” Iphicles said with that sinking feeling again. Iolaus had a way of squinching up his face that just sent signal fires to Iphicles that he wasn’t going to like what was coming. It all came in a rush.
“I gave Ares my word that I’d find out who gaveHercthehickeyhe’sgotonhisneck.” Iphicles didn’t understand at first. Iolaus got hung up on the syllables of the words Herc and hickey and started repeating them—hick, Herc, Herc, hick and pointing to the equivalent spot on his own neck to indicate the where the mark was. Iphicles got it; he could feel the blood rising.
Iolaus was rather pink already, but that didn’t stop him from barreling ahead. “You know I couldn’t help but notice when I walked in on you guys that morning.” Iphicles could see the full glory of the intelligence bursting over Ares’ face. “I mean—you looked like you’d just gotten laid, and Herc—he looked like that time your mother caught us in the barn. You remember—she blistered him so badly he couldn’t sit for a week.”
*I’m going to kill Iolaus, too,* Iphicles decided. Ares was bent over double roaring with laughter. “Iolaus,” he said, “thanks for sharing.”
*“Ask him what you look like when you’ve just gotten laid,”* the god said, trying to straighten up, tears were streaming down his face.
“I don’t think we need to…”
*“Your lips are swollen and your eyes are sooo sleepy...”* Ares started whooping again. I am going to kill them all, Iphicles realized, I don’t know how or when or with what, but I’m going to kill all three of them.
“Iphicles!” Iolaus suddenly had an idea. “You guys aren’t going to get anyone mad at you—like the Eumenides or Zeus or…are you?” Baffled by the hairpin turn in Iolaus’ train of thought, Iphicles waited and the blond answered himself. “Yeah, I guess it’s not like he’s going to kill you…or you ’re Hercules’ mother…or Zeus was ever a great roll model…” Ares had been mopping tears with his hands but that got his attention.
*“Zeus?”* the god said, rolling his eyes. *“That incestuous patricide?”* He sounded calm but then his voice started to rise. *“That bull-bollocked, cow-fucking pederast who owns the second biggest collection of pornographic pots on Olympus?”* He bent down and screamed in Iolaus’ ear so loudly that Iphicles was sure they could hear him on Olympus, *“I don’t THINK so!”*
“I don’t think so,” Iphicles said a little vaguely because his head was ringing. It didn’t make any difference; Iolaus was still rolling…
“You know, it’s weird to realize—“ he was saying, “but you never hear of Ares being late with the child support and…”
“Please, don’t go there, Iolaus,” Iphicles begged, but he was thinking, my sword is hanging by the door, there’s a knife under the bed and a crossbow on top of the linen press. I can stuff the bodies down the…
*“I think you’ve said enough, short stuff.”* The god blew a puff of air in Iolaus’ ear. “Now take a hike.”
“Okay,” Iolaus said, sticking a finger in his ear and wiggling it, “I’ll go get us some breakfast.” Iphicles watched him get up and head to the back while Ares appropriated his seat. As Iolaus picked up the tapestry, Iphicles called to him.
“Iolaus, just tell me you and Herc never do each other a favor.”
“Iphicles, he’s my best friend!” Iolaus protested too quickly turning bright red.
*“Yeah, that’s what I call my right hand too,”* the god called after him as the hunter fled. and started laughing again. “He is really annoying, isn’t he?” Ares must have seen the rage in Iphicles’ eyes. “Relax, we all have embarrassing connections. ”
“He was responsible for Hercules getting that whipping when we were kids; he always wanted to play doctor and show everybody his sacred snake.”
“Aw, you wuvved your baby brother.” Ares had a nasty smile.
“No. I hated him, I was glad he got beaten and I teased him unmercifully afterwards.” Iphicles got up and went to the door. He spoke to the guard outside and set it in train to have hot water and fresh towels brought up.
“Apparently you changed your mind, if Blondie can be believed.”
“Yes. I finally grew up and got over it. I started to understand the kind of strictures that he has had to live under his entire life.” He hated the knowing look on Ares’ face. “When I became King, my wife, Rena, was alive. She was my best friend and my lover. When she died, I blamed everyone, indulged my grief…” Iphicles still felt the shame of facing his responsibility in Ajax’s death, “and people got hurt.”
“I hated learning that from him…it was just another way he was better than I was. But he knew what I was going through.” l had pain to share and he stayed with me, no matter how I lashed out at him. I said every ugly thing I had ever thought about him to his face. I tried to drive him away or make him hit me. I think I was hoping that he’d kill me. But he stayed with me until I put my arms around him and fell asleep listening to his heartbeat. “There is no other person trying to get near me who isn’t looking for some political or financial advantage. But there isn’t one thing he needs from me except my love.”
He went and pulled open the curtain across the door of Rena’s room. The sun had come around and the chamber was bright and warm. Iphicles looked at his brother sleeping and was almost overwhelmed by the volatile mix of love and resentment his brother inspired in him. *Eventually I’ll have to face a political marriage, but right now he’s mine. And I want him.* Hercules had thrown off the blanket and the light was glinting gold off his brown hair and the tight curls that covered his chest. Iphicles could see the nut-brown aureole of a nipple. *What fool would say he isn’t beautiful?*
The demigod looked young, lying with his hair tumbled across his face and the constant furrows that worry had creased between his brows relaxed. His lips were slightly parted; they had cracked and bled a little but during his sickness, other than that, his brother looked well enough if pale. *Smart baby, stay asleep,* he thought, *because I’ve got to smoke your brother out of here and it’s going to get deep—not that it isn’t already.* Iphicles dropped the curtain.
“I feel your pain.” Ares said.
I feel sure you do. The god was still sitting in Iolaus’ chair, ostentatiously grooming his nails and ignoring Iphicles. *Do you really think you fool anyone?* Iphicles wondered.
“Did you know that our mother abandoned him?” he asked.
“What?” Ares looked at him from under lowered brows
“When he was born,” Iphicles said, “within the hour she had him taken out and exposed. I was almost four; I was just glad he was gone. People in town, kids especially, had called her a lying whore and a slut to my face, if not to hers, and I thought that if the baby were gone they wouldn’t say it anymore. There was no way I could understand how alone and frightened she was.
“Then somebody brought him back and the midwife said it was Zeus and who was going to argue, when it was so much fun to snicker? But my mother was so happy she cried and said ‘come see your beautiful baby brother, Iphicles, the All-Father loves him.’
Ares had stopped making any pretense of ignoring him, but Iphicles wouldn’t have described his expression as sympathetic. There was something too reminiscent of a coiled snake about him.
“Well I hated him—all I could think was, that because of him, I had no father to bring me home when she decided to throw me away.”
There was a discreet tap at the door. Iphicles opened it to the servants who had come with the hot water ready to bathe and dress him. He rarely encouraged that kind of attention but he could tell from the chamberlain’s attempts to look around the door that some of them, or the guards, had heard him talking and were curious as to whom. He would have bet the grapevine was still buzzing from last night. No doubt a few people were ready to burst from curiosity; they could suffer.
He waved the servitors away from the door and took the water and towels to the commode himself. Between the god and the demigod, he had been feeling sticky and used for too long; it was time to clean himself up and be the king. He poured water into the basin, plunged his head into it and came up dripping. He dropped the black robe on the floor and began to wash.
“That’s a sad story.” Ares said. “Too bad about Saint Alcmene, does Hercules know?”
“I don’t know.” Do you know about yourself? “Oh, yeah,” he had one last thing to say to the god, “when he grew up to be Hercules, he really got up my nose.”
While he was soaping himself, Ares got up and wandered around the room poking into things. As he shaved, Iphicles could see the god, reflected in the polished bronze mirror, as he opened the linen press. Iphicles turned to look when the door closed. In one hand Ares held Iphicles’ best clothes—the shirt his mother had made, breeches of doeskin dyed black and a belt of woven gold with tassels finished in small gold acorns. What are you doing with my things and why are you still here? Haven’t I been rude enough? There was no way that he could ask those questions out loud, so he rinsed himself off.
Ares dropped the clothing on the bed. While Iphicles dried himself, the god took his place at the mirror and preened, smoothing dark curls behind his ears. Iphicles couldn’t see their reflections side by side, but he could imagine them—slightly distorted—but very similar, Ares dark beside his pale figure.
Ares turned and put a hand on his shoulder to turn them face to face. “You know, this could be your lucky day, little king, because I really wouldn’t mind giving Athena’s tail a good twist.”
“What do you mean?” Iphicles asked, he could feel the heat rising between them and, looking straight into the god’s black eyes, saw fire.”
“I am Enyalios, God of War,” the god’s hands compelled him closer, “you’re the king. Kill Hercules; I promise Corinth stays safe as long as you reign.”
“No.” Iphicles disparate fears crystallized as cold panic. Leather slid against his body, the silver decorations and jewels were cold. The god’s hand was on the back of his skull; their mouths were so close they were sharing the same breath. They kissed brutally, the god’s teeth broke the skin of his lips and he tasted the flavor of brass again.
“Kill him,” the god whispered, breaking the kiss. Wet lips touched his ear; the voice was hot and seductive. Iphicles was hard. Ares let go of him and he stepped back. The god held out a gold circle; a crown of acorns and oak leaves entwined. “Bend your neck, I’ll make you King of the Hellenes.”
“No, Lord.” He managed to take a few steps more, terrified now because the scent of bittersweet was in the air again.
Ares put the crown down and sighed. “You know, you really have a great ass, little king, but say ‘no’ to me again today and you’ll be doing some serious time as a…”
“Suck my scepter,” Iphicles snarled.
“Okay, that’s it,” Ares said.
There was an explosion of soft blue light, Iphicles flew back and hit the wall behind him. Then things got strange. He was sitting on the floor trying to get up but that little push in his mind the night before, the one that had taken him, truthfully, where he had wanted to go, was like a mild tremor to the brain quake that struck him now. Something essential in him shrieked and he had to close his eyes because if he kept them open he made sure he was going mad. Ares’ laughter was the pealing of bells to his skin. He could smell all the shades of red and his eyes were describing the taste of sex to him. His fingers scrambled on the wooden flooring and he heard the splinters as they dug into his skin.
He couldn’t tell how long his senses were scrambled. Five days or five minuets it would have been the same eternity in Tartarus until he heard the soothing noises that the god was making to him and identified them as sound and not the taste of salt on his skin. Until he felt comfort in the arms that had picked him up and were holding him.
Searching for an anchor as his chaotic senses reorganized themselves, he opened his eyes to too much light and looked up into the god’s smiling face, framed by copper curls; looked at his amber eyes and his mouth, unadorned by any beard. What am I doing…up there? he thought, putting his hands on the god’s arms and trying to straighten up. He discovered that he was standing upright, but his center of gravity had shifted.
Part 4: The Trojan Whores
“If I said you have a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” Ares said laughing and Iphicles recognized the line. It was the one he had used as a come-on the day he had met his wife. Why, the fuck, did I think that was so clever? I deserved to get slapped.
Ares was brushing a hand through his hair and pulling long apricot colored strands of it over the front of his shoulders. They fell on his breasts crushed against the god’s chest. Breasts? The first time they had met, Rena had accidentally been shoved against him in a market crowd. He had looked down and thought that her breasts were just about perfect. He looked up into the god’s face and wondered do I have that many teeth?
“I don’t have breasts!” The shout finally made it’s way from the frozen center of his brain to his mouth and he flinched at the unfamiliar high sound of it. The god chuckled and brushed his studded leather vest across Iphicles’ nipples—slowly.
“You do now—nice ones,” Ares was still sniggering at his own wit.
“What…” his voice broke in a wet hiccup. “What have you done?” he finally managed.
“I turned you into a woman. Look.” Ares turned him around to face the mirror and Iphicles saw himself—grinning like an idiot—with a woman in his arms. His jaw dropped and so did the jaw of the woman in the mirror. “Come on, you ’ve got to admit I do good work,” Ares said.
There were black specks dancing at the edge of Iphicles’ vision; the god’s strong arms clamped around him and held him up. “Stay with me, little king,” the god said.
When his sight had cleared he lifted his head and stared at the apparition in the mirror—he could see himself standing within the circle his own arms. His face—only slightly changed: his jaw was little smaller, his eyes a little bigger with the eyebrows a little more arched and his skin soft and clear without even the faintest shadow of a beard—a woman’s face. “Beautiful,” Ares said and kissed his shoulder. Iphicles could feel the heat of the god’s hands on his chest. ‘Iphicles’ in the mirror nuzzled the woman’ s neck, cupped her full breasts in his hands and tweaked her nipples. He could see the teats standing to the god’s attention like traitorous soldiers.
He reached up (so did the woman in the mirror) and caught strands of the copper colored hair of ‘Iphicles’ in the mirror and blended it with his own apricot tresses. Mistaking his shocked curiosity for encouragement, Ares growled and bit him on the shoulder again. Inside Iphicles something started melting. He moaned in panic and Ares mistook his fear for lust. Large hands began to wander down the front of his body. The god flexed his hips and hard leather bumped urgently against his back, smooth and hot.
The skin of his thighs began to tingle and he lifted his butt higher. Ares’ right hand was feeling between his legs and he had to spread them. A finger found a new entrance to his body (A cunt, I have a cunt!) and dipped inside it a few times, then found and slicked over a spot in front and that melting liquid sensation intensified. His thighs were quivering. He watched ‘Iphicles’ bring the middle finger of his right hand to his mouth, swallow it and draw it out slowly, deep inside him a circle of muscles throbbed.
“Want to go for a test ride?” Ares asked.
He groaned, “I’ll dedicate it to Artemis first.”
“It doesn’t have the essential qualification,” Ares’ voice was a husky rumble in his ear, “besides, you are much too hot.”
A knee intruded between his thighs; Ares wrapped an arm around his waist and hitched him up on it. The god started probing that new hole again and the hot palm of his hand pressed that interesting place in front of it. Iphicles couldn’t help pushing down and rocking against it, craving more pressure. Every part of this body was betraying him.
His head fell back on the god’s shoulder and a moist tongue probed his ear. He pressed down harder on the hand working between his legs and Ares buried his face in his neck. He could feel heat on his skin and hear a strange voice crying “no” and “no” over and over as, in the mirror, the apricot woman tossed her head back and forth against ‘Iphicles’’ shoulder. He watched it happening. ‘Iphicles’ bit the woman’s neck. He cried ‘please’ and waves of sensation broke over him. The muscles of his cunt throbbed hungrily around the god’s finger and he began to come in a series of soft wet explosions.
He raged against it but Ares would press into him and another wave would surge and crest sweeping him out into strange oceans with only the god’s finger inside of him as an anchor. Again and again it happened until, in the mirror, he saw the apricot woman, panting and flushed, resting against ‘Iphicles’’ broad chest. The king had his arms around her and his face was still buried in her neck. Either his body had given out or the god had relented.
In the mirror, ‘Iphicles’ opened smoky eyes and met the gaze of the apricot woman. “Much too hot,” Ares said. The king in the mirror smiled like a cat.
Iphicles yawned, scooped up in the god’s arms he was carried to the bed and set down. “Sleep it off, little king, I’ll do you right later,” Ares promised and Iphicles could feel the god’s hand on his forehead like a benediction.
“Bastard,” he said and closed his eyes; sleep was beckoning like an honest lover and he wanted to go with her. But desperately as he needed it, gross reality refused to cooperate with the urge to sleep. His sweat soaked body was cold and a fold of the bedcover was digging into his ass. Every time his eyes flicked open he could see ‘himself’ getting dressed. It isn’t happening, if I keep my eyes closed this wont be happening. But he saw himself tuck his shirt in; the one his mother had made for him—dark blue with wild flowers embroidered on the collar and down the front. ‘He’ pulled on the black breeches, and smoothed the tassels of ‘his’ belt over sleek thighs and he had to be going mad because ‘that’ was his body not this one that he lay sprawled in—that the god had used so expertly.
His will seemed to float forever up the longest river in the world until he saw ‘himself’ straighten ‘his’ collar. Then he got annoyed. Because—if a god knocks up your mother and your pain-in-the-butt little brother turns out to be a demigod—if you go from being a mostly out of work merc to being a queen ’s consort to being a king in your own right—if there is any advantage, whatsoever, in living your particular life—it has to be that it completely clarifies the concept of ‘improbable’ as opposed to ‘impossible’. Besides, that was his shirt, not Ares’.
Iphicles sat up. “That’s mine!” he said clambering to his feet intending to beat the shit out of a jealous god. “It’s my body and my kingdom…”
But women’s bodies’ work differently than men’s, he discovered as he took a step and one thigh knocked against the other. He stumbled and fell with the sharp crack of bone hitting stone.
Ares was smiling and shaking his head. “That should have put you sleep for a week,” the god said. Tears stung his eyes but he got up, glaring, daring the god to laugh at him, “and it’s my brother you son of a….” In two steps Ares was on him and had him hauled to his feet with a hand over his mouth. The god started dragging him to the door. “Now I’m going to have to do something else with you. I can’t have you waking up baby brother and telling—he’d probably believe you—even in that body…” They stopped and Ares looked Iphicles up and down. “Especially that body.” Ares shook his head regretfully; “You’ve just got to be difficult, don’t you?”
Ares made a pass in the air and, just as the door blew open, Iphicles found himself clothed in something green and tight. The two guards outside couldn’t jump back fast enough to hide the fact that they’d been eavesdropping. I’m going to see you two digging latrines on the Parthian border for the next twenty years. Iphicles opened his mouth to howl but the ‘king of Corinth’ was already bellowing—“Get me Sgt. Kazon!”
Light stabbed his eyes when Hercules tried to open them. He felt weak and exhausted but somewhere there was a woman in trouble; he could hear her crying. When he lifted his head the room spun wildly and he had to lie back down. But he had to help her. He had to find her. No, he opened his eyes again—Zeus it hurt—he had to find Iphicles. “Iolaus…” he tried to call his friend. They had to go and find his brother…Ares was going to… but Ares was…his brother…Iphicles was kissing…
The crying changed and took on a steady familiar rhythm and he stopped struggling to wake up thinking Iolaus would laugh at him for mistaking the sound of a woman making love for a woman in trouble. Then the hunter would say that since there wasn’t a lot of difference anyway, maybe they should go and check. He smiled, it sounded like she was having great sex, and sank back into the dark where there was no pain and…
Iphicles was lapping the clear pre-cum from the tip of his cock, penetrating the eye of it with a pointed tongue to get every drop. Hercules watched as Iphicles took the whole long shaft in his mouth; he could feel the head of it hitting the back of his brother’s throat. He cupped Iphicles’ head in his hands and tilted it up so that he could watch as, glossy with saliva, the thick cock slid in and out of that succulent mouth. His hands were tangled in hair as dark as a raven’s wing and just as soft. Iphicles looked at him with midnight eyes. He tried to say how much he loved his brother but he couldn’t speak the words, only cry out as he came and…he opened his eyes. The image of his brother began to dissolve in painful sunlight and, when Hercules reached to hold on to it, his hands passed through the air where the incubus had been.
“Iphicles!” he tried to say his brother’s name but his throat was so dry that it came out a faint rasp. His lip split, he could feel a hot trickle of blood running down his chin. He could barely move. He was abandoned—and ashamed—his cock still throbbed, softly spurting the last of his orgasm. There was no time in his life when he could remember feeling so weak. He cried helplessly and fell asleep with the tears running down the side of his face.
The next time he tried to open his eyes, his lashes were gummed shut. But he found when he did get them open, that he could tolerate the light although he was still as weak as a newborn kitten. He looked around trying to figure out where he was. He remembered being sick—Iolaus and Iphicles taking care of him. He was in a bed—Corinth? —Naked and empty inside except for an urgent need to piss. There were voices outside. He recognized the one especially angry and commanding.
“Iphicles,” he called. But nobody heard the croak that came out of his mouth. He sat up, still dizzy, the blanket came away sticky from his belly. He tried to stand up, lost his balance and knocked over the bed table. It’s freight of pitcher, basin and lamp all went crashing to the floor and he wound up splattering himself and the bed with oily, sooty cold water as he fell with it. Bleeding from the sharp edge of the broken pitcher and too weak to get up, he didn’t realize for a few moments that his over stressed body had given out and he had pissed the floor. He almost gave up at that point but a heavy door slammed outside. He took a breath, tried to stand up again and Iphicles walked into the room.
“What do you think you’re doing?” his brother demanded.
He hadn’t even given a name to his fear, so the sight of his brother coming through the door was the most beautiful thing Hercules thought he had ever seen—despite the scowl on Iphicles’ face. He collapsed panting; the sudden relief was like a dam breaking inside of him. Chest heaving he looked up at Iphicles and tried to say, “You’re alive,” but it was impossible to catch his breath. Under the circumstances he could hardly blame his brother for looking at him like that.
“Watering pot,” Iphicles said, Hercules could only manage a soggy nod. “Everyone’s got to be difficult today.”
Iphicles sounded aggrieved but he effortlessly hoisted Hercules out of the mess on the floor, set him down on the dry end of the bed and started to wipe him off. The dry splashes of semen on his belly caught his brother’s attention and Hercules felt the faint echo of his shame from the dream. But Iphicles, very matter of fact, put a hand on the back of his neck and looked him over carefully; “So that’s what happened,” he muttered obscurely.
“You’re a mess. What did you think you were trying to do?”
“Save you…” Hercules managed to get out and saw Iphicles’ face darken.
“My brother—the hero,” the king of Corinth growled. Hercules couldn’t stand anymore; he buried his head in Iphicles’ neck and—hesitantly—as though afraid he would break—Iphicles embraced him in return. Hercules could feel Iphicles’ arms around him shaking as badly as his own were. He thought he was going to dissolve in the renewed flood. After a while, when he had stopped shivering and crying so hard and his brother’s hand was stroking his hair, he sighed and said, “Ares…” The arms tightened around him.
Iphicles was going to have Kazon busted so low the man would spend the rest of his career working for Hades. The slimy son of a hydra hadn’t paid attention to a word he had said, just hauled him along like a sack of flour—literally—to the kitchen. Now the sergeant was trying to hand him over to the head cook. Who, Iphicles was glad to hear (the view upside down over Kazon’s shoulder was limited), was giving Kazon grief about it.
“…this look like one of Aphrodite’s temples to you Sergeant? Did you see a sign posted outside saying ‘dump your used whores here’?” Iphicles could hear a mixed chorus of giggles and snickers in the background. “We’re in it up to our tails down here, cooking for that mob of freeloaders upstairs. I haven’t got time for…”
“Then she can turn a spit or clean out the middens or haul ashes for all I care but Iphy wants her kept out of his way for the rest the day,” Kazon interrupted her. “And Cookie—the operative word was ‘kept’.”
“Then stick her in a cell, if you’re afraid of mislaying her,” the cook said, the chortling chorus didn’t bother waiting for the punch line, “…so to speak.”
“The cells are already full of whores, Parthian, Spartan and Athenian spies—we got no room for local talent.” Kazon whacked Iphicles on the butt and dumped him on the greasy floor. “She’s your problem, Cookie—Iphy’s orders.” Iphicles’ last glimpse of the sergeant was his boot heels walking away. Tartaus is too good for him.
Iphicles rolled over, scrambled to his feet and found himself surrounded by a veritable army of undercooks and scullions well armed with rolling pins, long wooden spoons and sharp knives. Their general was a small mountain range of a woman in a dusty apron. Almost as broad as she was tall, ‘Cookie’ had white hair, tiny black eyes and breasts like boulders. Strong arms planted firmly on her hips, she was examining Iphicles with the expression he suspected she also used for weevils in the flour bin.
“Looks like Iphy’s going in for strawberry blonde amazons now,” she observed acidly, “…not intending to blight your hopes, Richel.” The last was a shot at a small dark woman to her left who just rolled her eyes. “Or yours either I’m sure, Patrocolus.” That produced a chorus of hoots directed at a skinny teenager with red hair who blushed furiously.
Not one of them stopped staring at Iphicles though as he tried to reorganize the skimpy top Ares put him in. It was too tight for decency, things kept popping out. Embarrassed, he stopped and stared back at the mob wondering what would happen next. His sinuses had started to drain while he had been hanging down Kazon’s back and he sniffled. At that first sign of weakness, the gang of food service workers was on top of him.
“You poor baby!” Cookie cried, “You must be so tired!” She spread her arms wide and pulled him to her floury bosom. It was like being buried in a basket of soft buns. “Don’t pay any attention to what I said, Honey. You can’t let those fuckin’ guardsmen get too big for their breaches or they’ll be in here all day mooching and grab-assing with the help.”
The rest of the kitchen staff had surrounded them and the ones that weren’t patting him were cooing. He could hear them saying things like ‘bit gawky’, and ‘she’s so pretty, it’s not fair’ and ‘really nice ones’. With his nose in Cookie’s yeasty décolletage, he found that he had teared up after all. When she said, “Come on, Sweetie, let’s get you something to eat. If I know men, you won’t have had a mouthful of food all night.” He lifted his head, still sniffling—she was right.
Surrounded by what had turned into a twittering flock of mother hens, he was led to a trestle table and served fresh hot bread, cheese and apple butter. Someone put a tankard of beer down in front of him and he made a promise to himself that he would look the man up later and have him made a duke or something. Under a multitude of suddenly approving eyes, he applied himself to the food and didn’t stop until he was full. When he was stuffed he looked around at his audience, it looked like most of the men and women of the kitchen staff, except for the few with tasks that couldn’t be neglected (and they kept coming by at regular intervals it seemed) had found watching him eat fascinating. He put his tankard down and some one gave him a refill. A redheaded woman spoke up.
“Okay, Sugar, talk,” she said and they were all looking at him; he was attending a convention of owls. A blonde licked her parted lips. A brunette nodded. The men were all staring at his chest.
“About what?” he said. They couldn’t know…Ares wouldn’t…
“How big is it?” the brunette said, holding her hands about nine inches apart, “and how many times did he do it?” The blonde licked her lips again. Everyone else just nodded.
Iolaus felt like a worm, he was all too aware of what had motivated the last few comments he had made to Iphicles. Jealousy is an ugly emotion and he didn’t blame the king for sniping back. He paid for the two roast chickens and headed for the pomegranate juice vendor brooding. It wasn’t the sex—oh, all right—some of it was the sex! Did they have to be so obvious about it? It was just that he was used to being jealous of Hercules not of his relationship with Hercules. He hadn’t had to take Iphicles into account for years.
Something had happened to Iphicles from the moment that he had married Rena. It was like the man had finally found a coat that fit him. And if Iphicles hadn’t been Jason’s first choice as successor, well, he wasn’t third or twentieth choice either. Jason had to have known that Hercules wouldn’t have accepted the crown under any circumstances. If the demigod couldn’t do it with his hands and do it right now, Hercules didn’t want any part of it. He had almost a phobia about institutionalized responsibility; Iolaus wasn’t even sure that Herc was registered to vote. He bought half a jar of olives and stomped off toward the bakery.
When they were kids, the future king of Corinth had been a spotty, sulky and viciously spiteful teenager. When they were teenagers, Iolaus couldn’t remember him being around at all. When they had run into him in Phlagra—oh yeah, there was a piece of work you would be proud to call your brother. (Not!) But the man in the palace now could admit it when he was wrong and could trusted to do the best thing for his people. He also had courage and he was tall and broad shouldered and had a face like…oh yeah, to add insult to injury…a face like a… Iolaus snarled when the baker told him they were out of poppy seed rolls…okay, but did it have to be that god? Was everybody blind?
He started back to the palace but the inn called The Wriggling Dryad was right in front of him. He went in and ordered a beer. The shopping was done; he needed a drink and a moment to calm down. A moment in the dark to negotiate a truce with himself anyway, because he really did understand Hercules’ need for his older brother and how complicated it was. It certainly wasn’t Iphicles fault that he looked like…that. But just add Ares to the equation and things got—well ‘bizarre’ wasn’t the word for it but it would do. Damn all gods, but especially Ares. Then he remembered the god naked on the trail back to Corinth and he had to smile.
“Thank Zeus fasting. I was starting to think your face was going to freeze like that, Iolaus,” his favorite brown-eyed barmaid set a tankard down in front of him. She made a quick snap with her fingers just missing his nose.
“Thanks, Nemie,” he said, grateful for her cheerful freckled human face. He caught her hand and kissed the palm of it, “my day is better for seeing you.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said, “but, here’s a hint Blondie, flattery will get you fuck-all, but tonight flattery and dinner could get you fucked.”
He grinned and shook his head with real regret. “No promises Nemie, but I’ll see you before I leave.” He followed her with his eyes, admiring the figure eight that her hips described as she walked away, and saw the Sergeant of Iphicles’ guard drinking in a booth in the darkest part in the room…with the Spartan Ambassador’s wife. Kazon was looking at the women with the trapped dumb animal expression that men who are hard as rocks get when they fall in love. Iolaus saw him reach a hand to touch her. The woman said something and the hand snapped back to the sergeant’s lap as though as though it had been slapped. To Iolaus, Kazon looked like a whipped puppy.
He called the barmaid back. “Nemie, how long has Sgt. Kazon been here with that blonde?”
“Brass Ass blew in here just before you did; she was already here waiting for him,” the brunette said. Then she added, “they’ve had kind of a thing going for the last couple of weeks, but they never take a room.”
“Thanks.” Iolaus gulped his beer and stood up. “Wish me luck and I may be able to see you tonight, after all,” he said, patting her ass. Nemetona gave him a disbelieving look. He grabbed up his basket and headed back to the palace sorry about leaving Nemie up in the air like that. She was a bouncy little thing; he enjoyed their occasional romps together. Lately it seemed as though everyone was getting some but him.
The entire kitchen staff, a representative from the laundry, two chambermaids and his gardener were all waiting to find out how big his cock was.
And how many times he had put it to himself last night.
And what positions he had done it in.
And they were all annoyed at his obtuseness.
It had taken him minuets to figure out what they were asking, but eventually he had gotten it. Every one else had gotten it a long time before him. (What the Hell. Take that Odysseus!) He held his hands out about eleven inches apart and everyone started smiling, drooling or whooping. He could see people high-fiving each other on the edge of the circle. One of the cooks paid off a bet to the gardener and the laundress wanted to know if he was circumcised or not. (Not, thank Zeus!)
“Honey, you’re the first sign of life in two years, we were starting to get worried,” Cookie slapped him on the back and hugged him. “As far as anyone could tell the only two things he’s put it to the entire time were his palm and his brother.” *It’s true,* Iphicles realized *you couldn’t keep secrets from servants. Vultures…*
“But his wife died and he loved her and…” Iphicles defended himself, “ and how do you know about Her…I mean his brother.” The two chambermaids started giggling and he decided not to pursue that line of inquiry.
“Ignore the horny broads,” the cook who had brought him the ale said. “We all felt really bad about Rena, but a king’s got responsibilities.” Everyone in the room was nodding. “Jason left off naming his successor until it was almost too late and you don’t get heirs from dead wives or brothers. (Unless the brother has a wife—right, Richel?” someone said. The woman that Cookie had teased earlier took a swing at a man behind her but he ducked and everyone laughed.) “Don’t mind Richel, she thinks Hercules is cuter than Iphy. But it puts no buns in the oven with neither one of them looking at anything but each other until you came along. Maybe the assassination attempts made Iphy aware of his mortality. So how did he meet you, Sweets-cheeks?”
“Assassination attempts?” He squeaked. Damn it, did the whole world know about those and did that mean they knew about the treaty?
“Don’t worry, Honey,” Cookie comforted him and someone brought him more ale. “We’ll take good care of you. We’re not going to let you out of our sight. You could be carrying a future king or queen of Corinth right now!”
“Swell,” Iphicles said.
When Iolaus ducked back into Iphicles’ office, the king was coming out of Rena’s bedroom with Hercules in his arms. The demigod’s head was resting on the king’s shoulder and his eyes were closed.
“What happened?” Iolaus asked and Iphicles started at the sound of his voice, the king hadn’t even noticed that he was in the room.
“He decided to go for a walk and didn’t get very far,” Iphicles said, then noticed the expression on Iolaus’ face and snapped, “He’s asleep! Now help me put him in my bed. The other one needs changing.” Iolaus dropped his basket on a bench. It scared him to observe how easily the king carried his brother across the room and stood holding him while Iolaus pulled the huge bed into some kind of order. Iphicles wasn’t a small man but Iolaus also knew how heavy the demigod could be as dead weight.
“Are you sure he’s all right?” he asked as they tucked the demigod in. “I could stay with him, but I saw something while I was out that I want to investigate.”
“What was that?” The king disappeared back into Rena’s room.
“Brass Ass Kazon having an early morning tete-a-tete with Ambassador Phineus ’ wife,” Iolaus said.
“You’re right, follow him,” Iphicles returned carrying Hercules’ clothing, “I have to attend court, but we can meet back here afterward” the king handing him the clothes. “Dump these things on your way out. That may prevent any more unauthorized excursions.
“Are you sure? Maybe we shouldn’t leave Herc alone.” Iolaus suddenly felt conflicted.
“Trust me Blondie, he’s only sleeping and while I’m not here nothing mortal will be able to get in or out.”
Iphicles discovered that when Cookie said they were going to take care of him, she meant it. But she was going get some work out of him too.
Wrapped in a big white apron, that he didn’t mind because it covered up a lot of flesh he wasn’t used to exposing, they sat him in front of a foothill of tiny eggplants. All of them needing to be cleaned, seeded, salted and dredged in flour. A few of the scullions had shown a tendency to take a superior attitude with him, but the army had kept its promise the day he had joined—shown him most of the Known World and given him skills. He easily demonstrated that he knew one end of an eggplant from another and how to use a paring knife. Then they seemed to accept him as one of their own.
He tested the limits of their acceptance about a third of the way through the pile of eggplants. He slipped the knife into his apron pocket, stood up, stretched and sauntered toward the door. One of the cooks, a man in a bloody apron he had watched manhandling a whole wild pig into the fire pit, intercepted him before he got half way there.
“You don’t want to do that, Honey,” he said, putting a paw on Iphicles’ shoulder, “Iphy wants you to stay here.” Iphicles was getting really tired of being called ‘Honey’ and he was tempted to ask the big ox what made him an expert on what ‘Iphy’ wanted. He controlled himself.
“But I have to use the jakes,” he said, “—badly.” Well, it would be easier to escape if he weren’t desperate to pee, even if that meant investigating some personal territory that Ares was more familiar with now than he was.
“Oh, that’s okay, Honey,” the cook patted him on the shoulder and turned him around, “kitchen’s got it’s own out back in the yard.” It didn’t need to be said that a ten-foot wall with a locked gate enclosed the kitchen yard.
Iphicles thanked him and went out back. He found a homely little mud-walled building tucked tight up against the outermost corner of the kitchen yard and as far from the kitchen entrance as possible. You could identify its use by its smell from ten feet away.
He sighed and went in remembering the occasional discussion that he used to have with Rena over who had it worse—men or women. Women, definitely, he decided eyeing the noisome hole in the rough board. I’ll take nocturnal emissions, crotch rot and having to shave over this any day. He hoisted his skirt, sat down and waited—nothing happened. It wasn’t working. He was too tense. *Well who wouldn’t be?*
It’s just a question of voluntary muscle control, he told himself. What did Rena say she used to do—think about waterfalls? He thought about waterfalls—nothing happened. He gritted his teeth and tried to relax.
More waterfalls—*the cataracts of the Nile separate Upper and Lower Egypt*. Nothing. He tried major rivers *The Tigris and Euphrates converge in…* He started whistling and looked up to where light was coming in through a little window near the roof. The outer wall made up one side of the shit shack and the window was punched right through it. *…Abyssinia.* Suddenly flowing water wasn’t a problem and when he was finished, he climbed up on the board, hoisted himself up to the window ledge and squirmed through. It was a tight fit but he made it.
Part 5: The Trojan Whores
Iolaus had spotted Kazon leaving the Jiggling Dryad and been following him ever since. He had observed the sergeant giving instructions to the day shift in front of the palace, talking to a couple of his officers and spending time at the guard’s station. It looked like a normal, if rather boring routine, until Kazon had gone around to the back of the palace, unlocked the kitchen gate and gone in. The scowl on the sergeant’s face had been as dark as the sky was now. Iolaus glanced up, sudden rainsqualls weren’t unusual for this time of year and the curtain of black clouds sweeping in from the east was erasing the bright morning sun. He hoped this one would hold off a while. It would have been too obvious to follow Kazon into the kitchen so Iolaus decided to go around to the front and catch up with him inside.
“Heads up, Blondie!” Somebody yelled. It sounded like Iphicles’ voice and he was looking around for the king when a woman fell on top of him and knocked him flat. She weighed a ton and something jabbed his shoulder as they struggled to sort themselves out. “Sorry ‘bout that,” she said “but, gods, I ’m glad you’re here.
“You cow!” he spat dirt out of his mouth. “Gerroff!”
“I said I was sorry,” she snapped. “Have you gone deaf?”
They rolled apart and Iolaus managed to get up on his hands and knees. So did the woman. Face to face, he was staring at two of the most attractive breasts he had ever seen and his temper abated. While he didn’t exactly feel like apologizing, (she had knocked the wind out of him after all) he could almost taste honeydew on his tongue. He raised his eyes, looked at her face, saw masses of apricot colored hair, a generous mouth and amber eyes. She looked very familiar, although Iolaus could have sworn he’d never seen her before, except, maybe, in his dreams, he would have remembered. Maybe she worked in the palace. Maybe he could find out her name and ask her out when this whole thing was over. He stood up, rubbing his shoulder, trying to convey the Nobility of Pain Endured and offered her a hand, saying, “I’m sorry too, Honey, but I wasn’t expecting to get bombed by a blonde.”
“I told you to watch out,” she said, ignoring his hand and getting awkwardly to her feet. Gods, she was tall—almost a goddess. And her figure! Long, firm belly and thighs. Iolaus couldn’t help staring as the wind whipped her green skirt around and she tried to tug her clothing into place. He was really sorry when she retied the apron around her neck.
“I didn’t hear you, Honey,” he said. “What were you doing cli…” Before he knew what had happened, Iolaus found himself pinned against the wall with a knife at his throat. It was only a paring knife but she looked like she meant to use it on him, and he could tell by the hold that the kitchen wench had combat training.
“Smile when you call me that,” she said, pressing on his windpipe and making her point.
“Sure, Hon…” he caught himself, “I was saying, that I thought I heard the king….”
“Damn you all to Tartarus, I am the king!” she screamed.
“And I’m the Colossus of Rhodes.” He almost laughed in her face. Great, he thought, a beautiful nut case! “Honey, you…” don’t look anything like Iphicles, he started to say and realized, looking right up into her face, that that was exactly who she looked like. *Uh oh,* Iolaus thought, suddenly feeling very weird as big, hard, soaking drops of rain started to fall on them. “Iphicles?” he squeaked. She nodded. Once. “You can’t be a woman!”
“What do you call these?” she screamed. Her breasts were right against him and they felt as tender as ripe peaches in a basket.
“Nice ones,” he submitted carefully, “—really, really nice ones.”
“That’s what Ares said!” (Ares?) “What is it with you guys?” She was still screaming and the knife was cutting into his throat. He put up his hands up in surrender and she relaxed her grip. “Sorry, Iolaus, I don’t know what’s come over me.”
“It’s okay,” he took a deep breath, trying to stay calm “but you can’t be Iph…” She got that insane look again and he quickly asked, “What happened?” Even if his brain didn’t believe her and, with her body pressed right up against him, his cock didn’t want to, he knew she was telling the truth.
“Ares…” she started to say and then looked up. There were loud, excited voices coming from over the wall.
“We can’t stay here.” As she spoke the kitchen, gate opened and Kazon, looking really pissed, ran into the alley with a lot of people in white aprons tumbling after him. There was a small fat woman waving a spoon, a man who bore a close resemblance to Typhon in size both glaring at the sergeant, and a lot of other people gesturing and shouting questions. Kazon was the focus of their attention until he caught sight of Iolaus and Iphicles and pointed at them; then everyone started yelling and pointing at them too.
“Let’s talk about this somewhere else,” Iolaus suggested.
“Good idea,” Iphicles said.
They took off down the alley with Kazon and the whole pack of cooks belling behind them and burst into the main square with its farmers market at its busiest time of the day. It looked like an extra busy market day because of the visiting dignitaries and their retinues. Iphicles jogged left, Iolaus caught her arm, for fear of loosing her in the crowd, and jagged right. (Her? Him! Oh Zeus, this can’t be happening!) Actually, as tall as Iphicles was there was no chance of Iolaus loosing him. And that was the problem, neither could anyone else. The rain started coming down heavily as Kazon with the kitchen mob hot on his heels ran into the square behind them. The sergeant stopped, pointed and shouted ‘Halt’ and Iolaus saw the small round cook start whacking him with her spoon. The merchants and farmers standing nearby who had been hurrying to cover their stock thought he was shouting at a thief or the cook. They started yelling and pointing too, confusing people further away with the impression that a gang of thieves was marauding through the market. Some thought the kitchen staff were the culprits as they fanned out among the stalls. Some shoppers took Iolaus and Iphicles for part of the gang, and started shouting and grabbing at them. A cheese maker got hold of Iphicles skirt and the king had to slug him to make him let go. Dogs started barking, children screamed. The biggest cook slipped and bumped into the pomegranate juice seller, spilling his stock and Iolaus and Iphicles crawled under the rush merchant’s table.
They watched the pomegranate man punch the cook and the cook lay him flat in the mud. The pomegranate seller’s neighbor sold stoneware crocks; he picked up one and went to the aid of his friend. Two scullions jumped him as he was cracking his jar over the cook’s head. Somebody threw a rotten rutabaga and scored a direct hit on the back of Kazon’s head. (Blame for that was later assigned to the green grocer, who was a friend of the crock seller’s, although that was considered circumstantial because the sergeant had just knocked the little cook into the grocer’s fig tower sending the fruit rolling under everyone’s feet and confirming Kazon’s reputation as an asshole.) One of the under secretaries from Ithaca spotted his opposite number from Mycenae and couldn’t resist throwing the ripe melon he had just paid for at him. In any event, produce took wing and the battle was joined as diplomats began to practice informal diplomacy; cooks, sick of being cheated, and farmers, whose produce had been libeled for years, took the opportunity to get even. ‘Call my kohlrabi puny, will you?’ Iolaus heard the question punctuated by the sound of something squishy impacting on someone’s head. ‘Sic semper tyrannis, Mycenaean pig!’ was followed by even harder impacts. Kibitzers appeared like worms on meat and began to lay odds.
“I left ‘you’ upstairs only an hour ago,” Iolaus shouted over the noise, “you looked fine.” They were crouching behind some sisal matting and a pile of baskets and able to watch the melee in relative safety.
“That was Ares.” Iphicles shouted back. Somebody landed on top of the table, knocked over the baskets and rolled off into the mud. Iphicles recognized the ambassador from Samos—unconscious. “You know, this could cause an
international incident,” he said to Iolaus.
“Really?” the blond said shooting him a look, “and just think what it could do to the succession.” They retreated to the other end of the table where it was quieter. “I should have known it wasn’t you; you never call me ‘Blondie,” Iolaus was saying as they crawled. “And you were carrying Hercules around like he was a baby. Besides, you told me he was gone!” he accused.
“I lied,” Iphicles said.
The rain was coming down in sheets and they started to get spattered with mud and rotten pulp Iolaus saw a dog run by with a raw goat’s leg in its mouth, followed by a litter of squealing brown piglets and a naked two-year-old crying at the top of his lungs. ‘Solipsist pervert!’ somebody was shouting and a voice nearby was saying ‘I heard your sister’s in a knocking shop in Syracuse’ snidely to the wine merchant’s wife. ‘She owns it, you…’ followed by the sound of a wet slap and ‘Alchibiedes, where are you?’ Iphicles was shaking his arm, and looking frantic, “What did you say I was doing to Hercules?” That was the last thing Iolaus heard as a peal of thunder loud as the crack of doom heralding the end of the world drowned them out. He wondered if Zeus, at least, knew what in Tartarus was going on.
When the thunder had rolled by a new, more frantic note began to rise through the general din and above all was the shrill sound of whistles; Kazon had called out the rest of the guard. Bare feet, booted feet, sandal shod feet pelted by, slipping in the mud, as everyone, who could still move, fled to escape arrest.
“Time to go,” Iolaus nudged Iphicles and pointed, the front of The Jiggling Dryad, just a few yards away. Any port in a storm. They ducked under the end of the table, stayed low and ran.
Inside The Dryad, it was suddenly dark and peaceful. Most of the taverns ancient regulars had stayed put at their tables and, at the sight of Iolaus and Iphicles, those stalwarts started applauding with the cheerful sadism of men who are clean and dry and not wanted by the law. Behind the counter, Nemetona looked like an irritated nymph. She took one look at his face. “Hey, Iolaus,” she said, “did you cause that riot?”
“There was a slight misunderstanding,” he said, staggering to the bar with Iphicles on his heels.
“I’ll bet.” She didn’t sound convinced, but she slapped a tankard down in front of him and shot a look over his shoulder.
“I’ll give you thirty dinars if you drop your top, Babe,” someone hollered, recalling for Iolaus the other reason the patrons might have had for applauding. He glanced around and saw that Iphicles’ apron had come undone again. The top of the dress the king was wearing was soaked, almost transparent, and the dark aureoles of his breasts with their erect nipples were showing through it. Even wet and muddy, with his hair in rat-tails around his face, Iphicles could have caused a riot all by himself. Desperate, he turned back to Nemie.
“We need a room.” *Oops, mistake* he realized looking at Nemetona’s face.
“You bastard!” she howled, grabbing a carving knife and starting around the counter. “This isn’t that kind of place.”
*Yes, it is!* He was going to argue but his sense of self-preservation kicked in. “Please, Nemie, it’s not what you think,” he said, surrendering to an armed woman for the second time that day. This is Iph-, uh, Iphigenia, Hercules’ sister.” He improvised. “One of the palace guards was getting fresh and wouldn’t take no for an answer.” That worked. From the look on a few of the patron’s faces it would be a short Roman Moment before somebody here got up, offered to buy Iphicles a drink and wound up with a knife in his ear. “We just need a place for her to hide, until I can find Hercules and get this whole mess straightened out.”
“I didn’t know Hercules had a sister.” Nemetona said suspiciously, but she took a closer look at Iphicles and visibly relaxed. “She does look a lot like the king, doesn’t she?” she said to Iolaus.
“Yes,” Iphicles snapped, “and I’m not nearly as hard of hearing.”
“Sorry, Hon,” Nemetona apologized and Iolaus could almost hear the enamel crack as Iphicles gritted his teeth. “But you don’t know how Blondie, here, is.” She reached under the counter and produced a key. “Take the last room on the left.”
“I remember how Blondie, here, was,” Iphicles said, stepping into dangerous water. “Did he offer to show you his sac…” Iolaus took the king by the arm and hauled him toward the stairs before they decided to start sharing personal experiences in that disturbingly open way women had. As they climbed the stairs someone yelled, “Fifty dinars, Honey, if you drop your top.”
The sun had come back hot as the thunderstorm passed and the guards had lined up the slowest and unluckiest rioters in the middle of the now steaming market. A merchant was shouting about damages as he was wrestled into the lineup.
“We’ll get this taken care of right away,” Sergeant Kazon was saying as he strutted behind the line. “The king is sitting court right now; you clowns can be tried, convicted and fined this afternoon.”
“You can’t do this, I’ve got diplomatic immunity!” somebody complained.
“What embassy?” Kazon asked.
“Sparta,” the aggrieved diplomat said and Kazon slugged him with the butt of his sword.
“What about the little blond guy and the tall broad?” somebody else complained. “You let them get away.” There was another hard ‘thunk’—no one else said a word.
Iolaus opened the door and realized, as they went in, that Nemetona had compromised between her awe of royal relations and her distrust of him by giving them one of the Dryad’s smallest rooms. One hard chair, a tiny table and a narrow sagging cot were the crib’s only furnishings. Iphicles didn’t give the cot’s questionable durability any consideration before throwing himself on it, face down, while Iolaus was locking the door. It looked like the king had come to the end of his tether and Iolaus couldn’t blame him, the pronouns were still making his brain ache. He sat on the chair and waited but, after a while, when Iphicles showed no sign of coming back, he crouched beside the bed and put his hand gently on the king’s shoulder. “Iphicles?” No response. “Please, Iphicles, don’t fold on me now.”
The king raised his head and looked at him. Now that Iolaus knew there was no mistaking the man in the woman. The short sharp planes of his face had only been a little softened for this incarnation; the full mouth and peculiar amber eyes were exactly the same. The desperate humiliation in those eyes, as Iphicles tried and failed to meet Iolaus’ gaze, was also familiar.
“I feel like a dirty joke,” Iphicles said. He probably expected something other than compassion from the hunter.
“I know,” Iolaus said. “I know how you feel. He once made me a big footed monster.” That caught Iphicles attention, as he had hoped it would. “Yeah. A naked, hairy, dirty one with teeth so big all I could do was gargle and I wound up in a freak show. Ares has the sense of humor of a four year old.” It was obvious from the way that Iphicles mouth was threatening to crumple that the king didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Iolaus continued, This is why Hercules does what he does, Iphicles. Too often, the gods treat us like toys and no one has the power to fight them alone.”
He had half reached to brush his thumb across the corner of Iphicles’ mouth, where it was trembling when king’s eyes flicked to his hand; he recollected himself and drew back. Still needing to make some gesture, he felt in his pocket and found a slightly grubby handkerchief and he offered that. “The only good thing about what he did to me is that he did it to Autolycus too.”
“Thanks,” Iphicles took the handkerchief, mopped his cheeks and solemnly informed him, “women cry more easily than men.”
“That’s what my wife used to say.” Iolaus affirmed. “Did Ares happen to mention what in Tartarus he thinks he’s doing?”
“Yes, he thinks we’d make beautiful babies together,” Iphicles sat up and blew his nose. Iolaus didn’t know what to say, he knew he was gaping like a bass but nothing was coming out. Iphicles looked at him and said, “He’s planning to muck up the treaty announcement tonight! Now, what did you say he was doing to Herc?” That made better sense and Iolaus shook the first idea out of his head.
“He was just moving him to your bed, the other one was messed up.” Iolaus reassured. He thought about the scene in the royal suite. “He didn’t seem to be harming him and if he tries to kill him, Zeus will swat him like a fly.”
“He can do a lot short of that,” Iphicles said darkly. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you he was there, but he was standing right behind you,” Iphicles closed his eyes, “I thought I could get him to leave. Now we’ve got to get back into the palace and see if Herc can stop him.”
“We’ll do that. But,” Iolaus studied the bedraggled king, “we’re going have to find a way of making you less conspicuous,” he said.
“You think?” Iphicles said, opened one eye and glanced down, “How ‘bout starting with a change of body?”
“Yeah, I’m not sure Corinth is ready for ‘Queen’ Iphicles, even though you’d make an impressive one.” He was startled, but pleased, when Iphicles answered his grin. Iolaus couldn’t help himself, “I think I’m jealous,” he said and Iphicles looked at him as though he had run mad. “I mean, he made me a monster; he’s made you a beautiful woman. Seriously, didn’t you ever try to imagine what it would be like to be a woman…and have breasts?”
“No,” Iphicles said emphatically.
“Well I used to,” Iolaus admitted, “and I figured that I’d never get anything done, because I’d spend all day playing with them.”
“Then I wish he had done it to you too.” Iphicles told him sincerely. “Because I couldn’t even figure out how to piss.”
This was going to be a fast in and out Kazon figured as he directed his captives to the front of the hall. Court was in session. And, while, on most days the king insisted on a painfully correct protocol during judgement, this morning he looked bored, slouching on the throne and helping himself from a basket of stuffed dates that had been one of the birthday gifts from the Athenian attaché. Two farmers quarreling over a goat had already been both sentenced to a night in jail for irritating him with trivialities and a lot of litigants had bailed out when they heard that. The goat had been sentenced to the kitchen; the king had said he wanted it stuffed with saffron rice and raisins for dinner.
The rioters stood in a ragged line in front of the king, the man who had reminded Kazon about the two escapees was holding the back of his head and glowering. The assaulted diplomat was sulking. Kazon read the charges— disturbing the peace, inciting to riot, public nuisance, public intoxication, destruction of private property…
“Thank you, Sergeant!” the king interrupted. “Now will someone tell me what happened?”
‘Euclid is a square.’ There was a crude painting over the door of a man taking a woman from the rear, but other than the one foray into classicism, the graffiti here wasn’t any more interesting than anything on an army barrack wall. ‘Theseus couldn’t find his bollocks with both hands’ ‘Niobe sucks big blue donkey dongs.’ Most of the room’s former occupants had just scratched their names in the plaster, but one benighted soul had written ‘me and Bauccus did it four times with a whore on the eve of Hestia’s festival.’ And I hope you’re burning in Tartarus with your skin flayed off for that Iphicles thought.
Nemie had come up, saying that she was going to have to bail her brother out of jail, thank you both very much. Then Iolaus had decided to borrow a cloak and go out with her to see what he could find out. Iphicles was sitting with his chin on his knees wrapped in a blanket, reading the walls and waiting for Iolaus to come back. It felt like the hunter had been gong for hours.
Iphicles, you’re really pathetic if all you can do is bitch about sacrilege scratched on a whore house wall. Despite Iolaus attempt to cheer him up he still felt half insane, he had started raking his hands through his hair grabbing handfuls of it and twisting hard, grateful he was alone and no one could see him.
Ares had taken his crown and his face, displaced him. *Ares, you stupid god, if you grow up around Hercules, that’s not news, I can do that one standing on my head. But you made me a woman and…you raped me!*
He could still feel the god’s hands forcing pleasure on him. With the sensation came powerful images of the god bending over him and in spite of everything that had happened his cunt got hot and hungry. He ground his face against his knees. *Oh, mother, I am so sorry, there is no way I can say how sorry. I truly didn’t understand before.* Iphicles acknowledged that, deep in his heart, he had still believed his mother had made a choice to sleep with Zeus.
And, somehow worst of all, in the struggle between the god and the king, Ares had taken possession of the one unvoiced prize that had really mattered. ‘My brother.’ Iphicles should have said something the moment he had realized who was behind the assassination attempt but he had looked at the god with the face that was so much like his own and hadn’t been able to say a word. It was driving him mad, because of all of them, Hercules should have been the one most able to defend himself and he taken the poison. Unconsciously his hands clenched into fists and he yanked. The pain felt good. *Stubborn god.* *Stubborn king.*
He swabbed his face on his knees and wished this damn body weren’t so soppy; his nose was running again. He sniffed and took a breath, then took a deeper one, on realizing for the first time, that he had been living in the body for half of a day and that he smelled like a woman. Suddenly, it was real in a way it hadn’t been before this moment. He inhaled again and closed his eyes, discovering something in the sweaty tidal scent incredibly like the calm eye in the center of a whirlpool. He took a few more breaths and discovered that he knew he was on the verge of something. He wasn’t sure what it was, maybe he was going mad, but it was as though Rena and his mother were both with him offering comfort and support and reminding him that *you can’t rescue your brother if you go mad.*
He sat breathing quietly.
And raised his head, realizing that he had gotten cramped sitting there. He stretched his legs and looked at them. His bare feet were still muddy, and bruises from his several falls were showing on his knees and thighs. He touched the tender places and rubbed them a little, feeling the familiar hard muscles under skin that was covered with a lighter down than his own. Looking at his legs he couldn’t avoid the breasts that Iolaus and the other men kept staring at. Full and high, from the beginning they had been almost completely exposed by Ares’ flimsy excuse for clothing. He thought about what the hunter had said about having breasts. Iolaus, you have more imagination than I do. But, I admit, if I saw these on a woman dressed this way, I’d check them out too.
His hands were cold as he ran them over the tops and cupped them to feel their weight. Rosy tips peeked between his thumbs and first fingers as he rubbed the pebbled nipples, feeling them tingle and harden and stand up as, at the same time, little thrills of sensation shot to his groin. He felt a ghost of the shame that Ares had invoked in him, but the threefold feeling was incredibly arousing, in spite of it. He could feel the muscles of his groin throb softly, the same way they had under Ares’ fingers, but the god wasn’t doing it to him now.
His breasts felt swollen; he pushed them up and squeezed until he saw a milky drop of fluid on one pink nipple. He bent his head, touched his tongue to it and tasted salty milk. He felt the ghost of peace and comfort. He ran one hand down his belly to the soft mound of tightly curled public hair. He fingered the slit and probed the warm velvety folds, spreading his thighs as he did. There was a hard nub that felt like a smooth bead of pearl hidden in the flesh on an oyster. He rubbed there but it was almost too sensitive so he pushed his finger further down between the smaller lips where it was hotter and slicker. Rubbing back and forth he felt the flesh swell as though his cunt was a wet mouth reaching to kiss his fingers and suck them inside it. He chuckled as he realized that he was breathing slowly through his mouth and smiling.
Within the warm cocoon of his blanket, he probed deeper pushing his finger in past the ring of muscle, sliding in and out, clamping down. His other hand playing with a nipple, twisting and plucking at it, rolling it between thumb and finger. He stoked his wet cunt, thighs spread, aware that he’d thrown his head back against the wall, until with the swelling violence of the tide, he was coming, muscles contracting around his fingers, working, pushing him out of himself, his mouth crying for himself as he had cried under Ares, “No!” Until he was so far out and that he had to come back, still throbbing, to himself, crying and laughing, wanting his brother’s strong arms around him and Ares’ lips on his forehead and…
He heard the key in the lock just in time.
“Don’t you ever do anything slowly?” he demanded as Iolaus burst into the room.
The blond looked at him blankly for a moment his nostrils flaring, and then he grinned. Iphicles remembered Ares describing the way his face looked after sex and he could feel himself getting very hot. Iolaus stuck his tongue in his cheek and said, “Yes, but you won’t be able to ask Nemie about that today. Kazon gave her brother a concussion and she’s taken him home.”
Brought back to the present, Iphicles hopped up with the blanket around him. “Were you able to get into the palace? Is Hercules all right? Did you find out anything.”
“No, and I don’t know, and the palace is shut down tighter than Pandora’s box until tonight. Even my favorite guard wouldn’t let me bribe him. The Guard’s been doubled so it didn’t seem like a good idea to hang around. You, by the way, are wanted for causing the riot and on suspicion of being a Spartan agent.”
“Ares was impersonating you in court when Kazon brought all the rioters up on charges. Nemie’s brother described you. He said from the way you ran you had to be a Spartan, but he blamed your escape on Kazon. So now, Ares knows you’re missing and Kazon’s in the soup. Officially, you’re the only one that ’s wanted, but I heard that unofficially, that Kazon wants us both. Oh, and the Spartan embassy has filed a formal complaint.”
“Oh, great, what are we going to do?”
“I stole some clothes for you,” Iolaus took a bundle over to the table. “So I figure, we are going to wait until tonight and go in with the rest of the crowd before the formal announcements. Then we sneak into the living quarters, hit the guards over the head real hard, and hope like Tartarus that Hercules is well enough to help us. Unless you’ve got a better plan?” Iolaus was looking at him hopefully.
“The only one I had doesn’t seem to be working out.” Iphicles shook his head. “But I’ll work on it.” Iolaus was opening his bundle. “You don’t happen to have a deck of cards in there, do you?”
‘No, but how about lunch?” Iolaus was pulling out bread, cold sausages and apples. “I helped a couple of farmers pick up some of their stuff and this just happened to fall into my bag.
“Iolaus you...” Iphicles remembered more of Iolaus’ childhood reputation, “are practical.” So he leaned against the wall and watched the hunter put crude sandwiches together.
Iolaus worked efficiently, the corded muscles of the forearms playing under tan skin, as his strong hands cut up bread, meat and apples. Iphicles remembered those hands patiently washing Hercules over and over the night before.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why his brother valued the hunter; for most of Hercules’ life Iolaus had been a better friend to Hercules than the demigod’s own brother had been. Iolaus was honest and not afraid to put his life on the line for his friends. Impossible not to value that kind of courage. And Iolaus had so such vitality and warmth of spirit that it was impossible to resist him; Iphicles had tried.
There had been a time that he had told himself that, because no one else would ever expect a man as small as Iolaus to perform the feats of a half-god, that Iolaus wouldn’t either and he was only along to bask in Hercules’ reflected glory. He had learned that wasn’t true in the pit with the sand sharks. Iolaus had put his life on the line for him too.
Iolaus looked up from under his crown of wild gold curls and caught Iphicles’ brooding, abstracted stare. “Hey, are you okay?” he asked. Iphicles nodded. The hunter held a bite of apple out to him on the point of the knife he was using. Iphicles only hesitated a moment and caught the hunter’s hand, surprised at how hot it felt. He leaned over and took the apple in his mouth. When he looked up again, Iolaus was glancing away, confusion in his face.
“I’m sorry,” the hunter said, “I keep getting mixed up between who you are and the way you look.”
Iphicles said, “Even when I’m not…ah?” he gave up.
“Yes,” Iolaus said. Then, “Don’t…”
“Don’t be tempted to feel like a joke, dirty or otherwise. Yes, you look too much like Ares but that could be an accident or it could be a godsend that we can’t recognize. God’s agendas have nothing to do with what we want. Most of all don’t assume anything about Ares’ reasons for doing that to you,” Iolaus waved his knife at Iphicles body, “You know he’s nuts. It could be his idea a big treat and it is an effective disguise under the circumstances.” Iphicles rolled his eyes. “All I’m saying is don’t make assumptions—he may be the biggest pain in Hercules’ butt, but he’s also the fucking god of war!” Iolaus started cutting again. “Unfortunately.”
“Ha! He tried to bribe me to kill Hercules!” Iphicles said. But he was struck, he could hear the god saying, ‘Bend your neck little king’ as he held out…
“Well he wouldn’t pass up an opportunity like that,” Iolaus was saying. “I mean, I think he’s crazy as a bed bug, but do you ever wonder why he’s the god of war and Athena isn’t? Hey!” The hunter had pushed too hard on the knife; it had gone through the apple, nicking his finger and jammed in the tabletop.
Iphicles took a step forward and stared at Iolaus who was nursing his wounded finger in his mouth. Insight had come so vividly that it was almost as unsettling as the change in his sex had been. He knew he should wait and think about it but Iphicles didn’t feel like being reasonable, because if what Iolaus was implying was right and if he was right, the whole situation was beyond reason. Of course it was war!
“Iolaus,” he said to the hunter, “if I were a woman, would you want me?” Of course, it was war!
From the look on Iolaus face, if nothing else came out of this, he could always say that he had rendered the hunter speechless twice…if not for long either time.
“Iphicles, for Zeus’s sake…!”
“Well?” Iphicles let the blanket drop from his shoulder and took a step closer to the hunter. Iolaus stopped trying to staunch the blood and backed towards the door. “Well? Answer me.”
“Iphicles, please, whether you’re a woman or not, you’re the king, but…” the hunter was making desperate motions for him to cover up, “…exactly the kind of woman that makes me want to drop one wing and run in circles. Couldn’t you tell that when you where leaning on me in the alley?”
“Tell what?” Iphicles took another step.
“That my cock was standing up and trying to sing the national anthem.” Iolaus had backed himself against the door. Iphicles stepped close enough to see the tiny beads of sweat glistening on the hunter’s forehead and feel the heat from his body. For the first time in twenty-four hours, he knew what he was doing.
“Then you won’t mind if I…” Iphicles bent and kissed the hunter. He was afraid Iolaus wasn’t going to respond until the blond’s mouth opened beneath his and he touched his tongue to the smooth inner edge of the lower lip. Another tongue met his and they tasted each other.
“Iphicles,” Iolaus’ voice was a whisper of breath on his cheek, “this isn’t fair.”
“No,” Iphicles answered. “ Forgive me. It isn’t.” And if I’m wrong, forget about that job opening in Delphi…but I’m not wrong!
Hercules rolled over, opened his eyes and blinked, the headache was gone. After a little testing, he decided that he could stand the light but he wasn’t going to volunteer to fight any hydras for a while.
Part 6:1/2 Sibling Ribaldry
Hercules rolled over, opened his eyes and blinked. The headache was gone and after a little testing, he decided that he could stand the light but he wasn’t going to volunteer to fight any hydras for a while. He looked around and vaguely recognized Iphicles’ chambers although he couldn’t remember how he had gotten here; the immediate past was pain, sickness and intrusive hands. Gritty, unshaven, he still felt cold although the double doors to the terrace were open and brilliant sunshine was pouring into the room; he envied the little lizards basking on the tiles outside.
“You’re awake.” A figure appeared in the doorway and made the announcement. As he lifted his head to see who it was, the sun glinted off of copper curls. *Iphicles.* He let go of the breath he had been unconsciously holding. “Do you want something to drink?” his brother asked.
“Yes.” His mouth was as dry as parchment.
Iphicles knelt beside the bed and supporting his head held a cup to his lips. “I was going to let you sleep through the millenium, but…” Hercules choked on the first sip. “Hey, take it easy.” Iphicles helped him up and perched behind him on the bed for support. He was able to swallow a few mouthfuls when the cup was offered again and objected when his brother took it away too soon saying, “Let’s wait and see how that settles, I’ve had to clean you up once already today.” He nodded and settled uneasily at against Iphicles’ chest.
The water made a cold puddle in his belly; he felt weak, disoriented and, at the same time, assaulted with too much sensation. The linen of Iphicles’ shirt was rough on his back although the doeskin breeches his brother wore snugged softly against his thighs. But his brother’s body was radiating like the sun and he relaxed as the heat started to penetrate. He shivered suddenly and Iphicles reached around to pull the blanket up. The feel of soft wool settling across his ribs caused a deeper tremor but the gesture provoked a shadowy tactile memory of someone, who must have been very strong, picking him up and carrying him here in their arms. For those few moments, when he had been carried so easily, he remembered he had felt safe. Strange experiences, that and this, someone holding him with their cheek resting lightly on the top of his head the way Iphicles’ was. Most of the time, he was the one offering his strength for comfort.
The next time the cup was offered his mouth wasn’t as dry and he realized how bitter the ‘water’ tasted. He twisted his head away, trying to refuse it, but Iphicles put an arm across his throat and kept the cup in his face, no matter how he squirmed, until he was forced to drink what didn’t run down his chin. As soon as Iphicles’ arm relaxed, he batted the cup to the floor. “That was a dirty trick,” he groused, “you know I hate that stuff.” He could feel Iphicles shaking with laughter.
“Come on Bro,” Iphicles said, dabbling at his face with the blanket hem, “it was better for you than the wine would have been.” Resenting being so needy, knowing that he was probably going to cry again and despising himself for it, he knocked his head hard against Iphicles’ sternum, childishly trying to get even. Iphicles’ arms tightened around his chest like bronze straps and this time he panicked.
Black fear overwhelmed all thought of where he was and who was holding him as he tried to tear himself free. And the bonds grew tighter. He thrashed wildly, like an animal, and what ever was holding him let go but got him by the forearms. No matter how he struggled, he was trapped and couldn’t get away. The sane part of his mind was shocked that anybody could hold him—he should be strong enough to escape from anything. A deep familiar voice was saying, “be careful, I’ll hurt you.” Powerful hands manhandled him around and shook him. By the time recognition penetrated, he was on his knees with a fist free of restraint, ready to strike at whatever had captured him. He saw his brother’s shocked face and it took every bit of will he had to stop. Panting harshly, his heart pounding, he folded over, doubled with the aborted reaction but he stopped it. He could hear that Iphicles was panting almost as hard as he was. He looked there was a red patch on one of Iphicles’ cheeks where he had apparently connected during the tussle but Iphicles’ expression was more amused than angry and he had a hand raised in a soothing gesture.
“I’m sorry,” Hercules cried, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it,” He threw himself into his brother’s lap knocking a soft ‘oof’ out of him as the weight of their bodies hit the headboard. The ragged sound in his ears was his own breath as he clung to the suede-covered thighs.
“Well, that was different,” Iphicles said. “Are you going to throw a another fit if I touch?” He shook his head, his teeth were chattering too hard for him to talk. Iphicles began to stroke his head, after a few moments Iphicles said, “I guess we can take it that bondage is out?” He looked up. “Or at least not likely,” Iphicles said and he was actually smiling. “Put your head down, you look like death.” He did, Iphicles’ hands were gentle.
Now that the panic attack was over Hercules realized how torn apart he did feel. The sweetish smell of tanned leather made him briefly afraid that he was going to start retching but the nausea passed as his breathing calmed.
“I can’t bear being held across the chest that way,” he managed. “You know that. I could have killed you.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Fuck,” the king said and eased him down on the bed; “I have to take care of that. Don’t go anywhere.”
As Iphicles walked away, he turned on his side and curled into the blanket. Alone, he felt abandoned. Unsure if he was more ashamed of his weakness or terrified of the loss of control. Whatever Iphicles thought, he could have killed him. It would have been insupportable.
People were being admitted to the office, he could hear Iphicles welcoming them. Someone threatened, someone argued, Iphicles soothed and the door banged shut. And he listened, in spite of himself, to Iphicles instruct someone regarding the mind numbing protocol surrounding the precedence of various dignitaries and their embassies. It was easier to concentrate on that than his sick body and churning emotions. The door shut again.
Then a clipped military voice making its report sounded familiar and caught his attention. Iphicles’ voice was furious as he asked, ‘How can you manage to loose a woman who looks like that?’ The martial voice got efensively louder. Hercules recognized Sgt. Kazon saying ‘she had help—some little…” before Iphicles cut him off with, ‘Find them Sergeant; I don’t care if you have to search every outhouse, hen house and whorehouse in a nine league radius. I won’t want to hear your excuses if anything interrupts the ceremonies tonight!’ The door slammed again, he could hear the king’s footsteps walking around the desk, and a drawer slide shut.
*He’s been running the kingdom, dodging an assassin and taking care of me. And I…*He was suddenly jolted with the realization that the entire time he had been sick his brother had been in mortal danger. He had both feet on the floor by the time Iphicles reappeared and saw what he was doing.
“What is it with you?” Iphicles rumbled on him like thunder. “I told you to stay put!”
“That woman, who came in my room the other night, is that who…?” The walls of the room were starting to fold up, but Hercules looked around for his clothes or anything he could put on.
“Ever considered not carrying the world on your shoulders?” Iphicles gave him a shove that knocked him flat. “Solid as your head is and broad as your shoulders are, you are not Atlas, so I’d like to know what you think you can do in that condition?”
“I heard you talking to Kazon.” He sat up again knowing that if he could stand he could probably use his height to intimidate Iphicles—force him to be reasonable for his own good. Iphicles simply knocked him down again and held him with one hand; he grabbed hold of it, shocked anew at being so weak. “Iolaus said I’d been poisoned…it was on the spears. They must still be trying to kill you, that’s why...”
“Play fair, little brother, did you think you were the only one?” Iphicles snarled.
“That isn’t fair,” Hercules said. He and his brother glared at each other in a stew of hurt and fury. Iphicles opened his mouth. “Let me help you,” Hercules begged. The king stopped, read his face and relented.
“Alright,” Iphicles said. Iphicles freed his hand and rubbed a knuckle over Hercules’ stubbled cheek. “Things are under control,” he said, “for the most part. It’s too hot to for hysterics and there’ve been enough already so give me a break—if you can eat something and keep it on the inside, I’ll let you get up.”
You and Zeus couldn’t stop me between you Hercules thought in frustration. Desperately, he wanted to trust that his brother knew what he was doing but his feelings wouldn’t stop roiling. Iphicles started to ruthlessly tuck him in again reminding him of how weak he was and the only protest he could manage, was, “Brass Ass is an idiot, don’t trust him.” He knew it sounded like he was sulking.
“I know, Bro,” Iphicles laughed, “but, there’s a lot to be said for a soldier who doesn’t think too much.” Iphicles walked away leaving Hercules to a renewed bout with the shakes.
Iphicles disappeared into the other room, when he returned he had changed his clothes against the afternoon heat and was wearing an open black robe. He brought a tray that he set beside the bed and picked up from it a damp cloth that he used to wipe Hercules’ face. The cotton was hot and scented with citrus; it felt wonderful on his skin. After Iphicles was done with his face, he carefully wiped each of Hercules’ fingers. Bemused, Hercules watched him silently.
“Stop starring, you look like a blue-eyed baby owl,” Iphicles said as he worked. “There’s no need to be so solemn.”
“I shouldn’t have left,” he said.
“Oh stop. We both thought it would be alright.” Iphicles finished with his hands, folded the cloth over and pressed it gently against his eyelids and temples. “Do you remember what happened out in the woods?” he asked.
With his eyes shut, he tried to remember but the images were confused; the boar hunt seemed years ago. Iphicles started gently rubbing a thumb over the tight knots between his brows and that helped. He could see the boar charging at Iolaus, and then changing into “Ares was there and I confronted him…he said he didn’t kill the baby and then everything’s just gone until I woke up here,” he shivered at the memory, “and I was sick.” He lifted his hand, triggering another memory; one of Iphicles’ hands, the one that wasn’t massaging his forehead, caught and held it.
“Yes, you were,” Iphicles snorted softly. “Didn’t you believe Ares?” Iphicles asked and he lost the thought.
“I believed him”; he said leaning into the pressure his brother’s thumb was exerting, “lying is beneath him and he wouldn’t commit a pointless murder.” He sighed. “I wanted an excuse to thump him though, he almost killed Iolaus just for sport.”
“Fair enough,” Iphicles said letting his hand go; the thumb traced the ridge of Hercules’ eyebrow, the line of his jaw and paused to tap the corner of his mouth. Hercules opened his eyes; Iphicles had uncovered a plate with bread, glossy dark olives and pieces of roasted chicken on it and was tearing the bread into small pieces. “Eat,” he said offering a piece.
Actually presented with food, his guts almost revolted. He shook his head ‘no.’ Iphicles shook his head ‘yes.’ He scowled. Iphicles’ mouth got that stubborn look. Suspecting that Iphicles didn’t fully appreciate what his loss of control could have meant and remembering that arm across his neck, he opened his mouth obediently. He felt unfairly put upon and the first few bites of bread tasted like sawdust although sips of wine helped him swallow.
He was going to refuse after that but Iphicles sopped up some of the olive juice on the next piece and fed that to him. The sharp taste surprised him and the brine stung his throat. But it settled his stomach and when Iphicles offered him the next piece, he bit into it with more enthusiasm.
“Watch the fingers!” Iphicles snapped.
“I want the olives,” he said. His body was slowly waking up to its needs and he suddenly had an appetite for the oil rich fruit. Iphicles popped one into his mouth but, when it was done, broke off a piece of chicken and fed that to him. The skin of the chicken was crisp and flavored with lemons and hot pepper but it wasn’t what he craved.
“More olives,” he said. Iphicles’ lips twitched but he went along with the request. First climbing on the bed and settling beside him with crossed legs then feeding him the olives slowly, one by one. That was better, Iphicles was warm and right were he could keep an eye on him.
“I don’t remember you being such a demanding little thing,” Iphicles said.
“Oh, yeah?” he said, distracted as he focused on the food after a day of gray fog and confusion. It felt as though pins and needles were prickling his skin. Every time Iphicles leaned toward to feed him the robe fell open and he could see the flat pectoral muscles softly gleaming with sweat. He smelled, under the sharp scent of the olives, the soft bittersweet musk his brother’s body was exuding. It was comforting and he wasn’t cold any more. “You acted like I was born just to make your life miserable.”
“You weren’t?” Iphicles sounded surprised and Hercules thought he was being teased but there was such a welter of emotions in his brother’s face that spoke to his fears, he had to respond.
“I feel like I’m four years old again,” he confessed, “afraid you’ll go off and leave me.”
Iphicles slipped a piece of chicken into his mouth. “I will if you don’t eat the chicken.” Hercules made a face at him. Iphicles made one back. “You were a brat,” Iphicles said, “you still are.”
“You’d only play with me when there was no one else around. Otherwise you’d pound on me or,” he looked accusingly at Iphicles’ fingers, “withhold olives.
“You used to provoke me on purpose,” Iphicles said. He offered Hercules an olive, when Hercules opened his mouth he palmed it and substituted a bite of chicken.
“At least you weren’t afraid of me,” Hercules said.
“Who would be?” Iphicles taunted.
“Mother was,” he said carelessly. The thought caught up with him and gave him a twinge.
“Alcmene…Mother was afraid of you?” Iphicles was looking at him strangely.
Hercules nodded. “Just a little bit—I could always tell.” He knew his mouth was twisted awry. “Even though I know she loved me, I suppose, when you strangle a couple of pythons and you’re only two days old it, has all kinds of implications for two-year old tantrums. She was always very careful around me. Always telling me to be careful not to loose control, no one would love me if I hurt them.” Shame was starting to do its twisted dance in his breast again. “She was right, look what almost happened.”
Iphicles made a move as though he were going to eat the last olive and then slipped it into Hercules’ mouth. The gesture was so teasing that Hercules was suddenly overwhelmed. It felt like something was breaking inside of him. He knew the colors must be flying in his face and he couldn’t meet Iphicles' eyes.
“You are too easy little brother,” Iphicles said, “Alcmene should have called you ‘Guilt’ instead of Hercules.” Iphicles set the plate on the floor, leaned over and kissed him. His brother’s lips were moist and soft and had the earthy taste of olives. Hercules felt as though he was something precious that had almost been lost and that Iphicles was reclaiming him.
“I liked to provoke you,” Hercules whispered when they parted. “You’re the only person who touched me like you meant to and honestly hated me except…” He had to close his eyes because Iphicles was kissing him again. This time his brother’s mouth was hard and demanding. When he opened to it, Iphicles’ tongue plunged in exploring every part as though it had never been there before; he shivered. There was a hand in his hair again.
“You keep petting me,” he wondered.
“Your hair is like a lion’s mane,” Iphicles said. “It feels like I’m stroking a cat that might go wild at any moment.” *You should talk,* Hercules thought. Iphicles’ amber eyes were dark and predatory and his brother’s wide mouth was only inches away from his.
“Baby brother,” Iphicles said very softly, “there’s no one around and I want to play with you.” Hercules hesitated. “ Put your arms around me,” Iphicles ordered, “there’s nothing you can do to hurt me.” And desperately, as he blessed his poison induced weakness, he pulled his brother against him, and hugged him as tightly as he had ever
wanted to in his life.
But Iphicles’ passion was the elemental force that dominated them as they kissed. Their mouths clung wetly together, tongues lapped and twined. His brother kissed his eyelids, breathed hot on his cheeks, worried and sucked on his ear lobes. He giggled with the exquisite sensation of it and Iphicles' rich chuckle made him feel as though he was coming apart. When his brother’s mouth was hot on his neck, he threw his head back exposing his entire throat to Iphicles’ strong teeth. Heat ran along his nerves, he could feel his sex begin to swell. His hips pushed up as his cock woke hungry and stood up looking for sustenance.
Iphicles moved in his arms. He let go, suddenly fearful that he might have been crushing, but Iphicles was only shoving the covers between them out of the way. The robe had fallen off and Iphicles’ own cock was dusky red and thrusting into the air proudly; he could see the tip glistening. His mouth started to water and he started to sit up wanting to taste it and feel that heavy shaft filling his mouth. Iphicles stopped him and tossing the robe aside, stretched out beside him, caught him under the arms and pulled him over on top. Iphicles spread his legs and asked, “alright?” He laughed as he felt his brother’s thighs enclose him, locking him within their warmth. He buried his head in the crook of Iphicles’ shoulder nipping and biting. Iphicles’ claws scraped his back leaving bright streaks of fire and he arched his back throwing his head up.
Hands urged him to explore the soft damp fur that covered his brother’s chest and the scent of Iphicles’ body was delicious. He searched in it, found a hard salty tasting nipple, and started to suck. He could feel Iphicles’ groan deep in his chest and began to tongue and bite the erect flesh into hard tips and then simply to suck on them responding to Iphicles hands telling him where to nurse. A current started to flow between them that fed every empty place in his soul. They pleasured each other like that and he wanted to stay there forever, but he could feel his balls tightening. He had to stop and take a breath; his body’s demands were too urgent. He collapsed into the river of sweat that was running down Iphicles’ breast. He licked it; it tasted briny and flat like the olives. Knowing he couldn’t hold out much longer, he whimpered and Iphicles stroked him, saying, “it’s alright.”
He squirmed blindly until the heads of their cocks were nuzzling each other and the soft sacs of their balls were glued together. He buried his face in the hollow of Iphicles’ neck again, biting into the hard shoulder and Iphicles growled, “let it go, baby,” and Hercules was pouring himself into the hot stream spreading out between them. How long he didn’t know, until realizing there was blood in his mouth he lifted his head, crying, still coming. Iphicles rolled them both on their sides, laughing as he seized Hercules’ jaw and held him still as he licked the blood off of his lips and kissed him deeply. Every time Iphicles’ tongue pushed into his mouth his cock would spurt again. He was still whimpering lost in a white glow of pleasure when Iphicles pushed him down and fed that huge cock to him. Hot and thick, its blunt velvety head slippery with Hercules’ own juice, the smell filling his head as the slick flesh filled his mouth. “Just a little more now,” Iphicles said.
One of Iphicles’ hands held the base of the shaft keeping him from choking on its length, much as he wanted all of, while it pumped into his mouth. The sounds his brother started making were rhythmic, hoarse and guttural, sounds the cat he had compared Hercules to might make. They drew him into some dark smoking heart as the rhythm consumed his body. *How long can you dance in a fire?* Iphicles was coming, bringing Hercules along with him for a second time, in powerful bursts of hot fluid that filled Hercules’ mouth. Elated, he willingly came out of the flames to swallow as much as he could. It met a need that was almost as physical as emotional, infusing him with a warm gold heat that spread through his body like honey and Iphicles held the back of his head like a chalice.
He swallowed what he could and, as Iphicles’ body endured its last convulsions, he licked the softening cock, poking into the eye and lapping the little helmet’s rim to get every drop. Iphicles encouraged him with soft gasps and called him tender names. When it was over, they lay in a glutted tangle, too spent to move. Hercules was tired but deep inside he felt whole and well. He snuggled his face into Iphicles’ pubic hair; fragrant and crisp with dried come. He sampled it with his tongue.
“You taste like olives,” he said.
“What?” Iphicles said. Iphicles gathered Hercules up and tucked him into the shell that his curled body made opening his mouth in a jaw-cracking yawn.
“Earthy, succulent….” Hercules drew out the “ess” sound.
“Oh, go to sleep.” Iphicles said.
“I’m being eloquent.”
“Be eloquently asleep, Bro. I have been putting out today like you would not believe. I need a nap and so” Iphicles said, “do you.” Stricken, Hercules opened his mouth to apologize. Iphicles rapped him on the back of the head. “Have the guilt trip later,” he said.
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