Iphicles tugged the thin blue fabric that fell to his thighs. He felt like an Athenian hetaera in a tunic that barely covered his ass and sandals that laced up his legs. And it got worse. Seems only barbarians had bare arms, especially arms burned copper at sea. King Eumenes' unsubtle cure frolicked on Iphicles' bed: two silver dolphins tasting their tails on a green ocean of quilt. A matching set of armbands.
In protest, he'd nearly tossed the package left on his pillow by a slave. But Nicander, one of his councillors, old, grey and dickless, insisted. ‘This is how things are done, your Highness. Jason did it, and his father before him. You play by King Eumenes's rules, and he'll sign the trade accord.'
Eumenes. That pretentious snot rag, with blond hair carved onto his scalp, unlike Iphicles' own tangled mess. Everything in Pergamum was smooth, polished and bright: the palace itself, high on a jagged cliff above the Silenus river, with its tiers of colonnaded marble buildings, like a god's wedding cake. Sterile, despite the decadence: a place designed by Dionysus, but inhabited by Apollo.
The court reflected its setting: disdain became an art, a contest. And the Corinthians were losing, had been since they'd first dismounted in the palace courtyard and stepped onto a chess board of large black and white tiles. Apparently, a sea journey across the Aegean didn't excuse ripeness and wrinkles, and the Pergamum court had wheezed like asthmatics in a field of goldenrod, or used yawns like shields, covering wrinkled noses and pursed lips with jewel-bright fingers.
During the banquet that night, in a forest of delicate columns, the sniffs turned to snickers, as the Corinthians struggled with complex rituals of politeness. You couldn't simply eat your chicken; you had to date it, seduce it, and invite it home to meet your parents. The cutlery alone was a nightmare: Hephaestus himself had fewer tools hanging in his workshop. No all-purpose knife for these perfumed Dionysus-wannabes.
Other than old Nicander, a holdover from his stepfather's day, Iphicles' retainers were blunt, practical men who drank hard and fought harder, new as Iphicles to their position. Warriors, who followed Ares and didn't understand intimidation, until they saw a library big as the Corinthian palace, lined with scrolls from every corner of the world. The head librarian, a scribe from Alexandria, greeted them with a joke in Egyptian, and confidence clanked lower than their (unfashionable) leather boots.
Lots of cash in Pergamum, though, and the perfect market for Corinthian bronze. Fortune had a twisted sense of humor.
So here he was, dressing like a hooker to please this butterfly court and its flaming king. On the bed, the dolphins smirked, enjoying his emasculation. He grabbed one and yanked apart mouth and tail, closing them over his right arm. With a happy click and a flash of silver teeth, the dolphin returned to his feast. Was it masturbating? He picked up the second, meeting its wicked sapphire eye.
A crisp rap at the door, and the armband fell and chittered against the tiles, then swam under the bed. "Yeah?" Another rap. Why didn't Eumenes' slaves yell through the door like regular ones? With an impatient sigh, he flung it open. "I said, yeah?"
The man bowed so low Iphicles expected a second one to appear behind him, dick in hand. Too bad Aristophanes wasn't scripting his life. "Your Highness, King Eumenes is ready for you. Your men are assembled outside the reception hall."
"I'll be right down." He kicked the door shut. Where'd that armband go? Not bothering to kneel, he bent at the waist and reached for the slippery body. When his fingers closed around the metal, the air hissed behind him, then a huge, hot oiled cock slid into his ass. As the dolphin dove down again, he swore the blue eye winked. "Ares! You can't--"
"I already have," Ares said, gripping Iphicles' hips.
The familiar, brutal rhythm started, and Iphicles' cock stiffened, rubbed hard against silk. "No, dammit! I have to be downstairs. They're all waiting for me." His fist tasted salty where he bit down to muffle the moan. Was that why the dolphin bit his tail? Sounded like a kid's joke, or a dirty one. He shoved his hand in deeper, stifling the laugh. Get mad, for Zeus' sake. Take a stand against this arrogant prick and his incredible cock. Months of this. Just fucking and nothing else. "They're all waiting for me."
"So let them wait."
Iphicles tried to move, but ended up face-down on the mattress, that big cock slamming into him. Don't come for once. Don't. Fight it. "You don't understand." He half-turned his head. "This is important."
"So's this. Like the tunic, by the way. And the armband."
"You can't do this to me!"
"You love it."
"Fuck you." The loser's argument. At least like this, breathing in the crisp, dry smell of river- washed silk, Ares couldn't see his hard-on. But the bastard knew it was there. It was always there, when Ares furrowed his ass like some overenthusiastic farmer. Nothing extra needed to bring him off, just that big god-cock in his ass. Even now, annoyed as hell, Iphicles saw not only stars, but suns, moons and a giant ram against a black leather sky. But Ares didn't know that. "Fuck you," he said again.
"I am fucking you, Iphicles. I'm not stopping til your ass is dripping with my come."
"Then come! That's all you're here for, anyway."
"I haven't heard you complaining."
"Then you're not listening very hard, Ares." His moaning spoiled the effect. And the orgasm ruined everything, including his blue tunic. A triumphant laugh, then a rush of hot semen flowed into him. He tried to twist away but couldn't break Ares' iron grasp. Finally, Ares released him, and Iphicles flipped around. "I'm late for this damn dinner, and everyone'll know I've been fucked. I'll lose this deal, and--"
"You don't look fucked, Iphicles," Ares said, still standing, the last drops of semen raining from his cock. "But I can change that."
"Would you listen for once? I have a meet--"
Ares shut him up with bruising kisses, while that relentless cock forced another orgasm from him. Sometime in the middle, Iphicles heard that precise knock. "Tell King Eumenes I'm sick! Can't come down. Just leave me alone!" Lame, but it explained the moans. Not the slap of flesh against flesh, the groaning frame, or the crash of the headboard into the wall. Hard to think with Ares' cock about to meet his tongue somewhere deep inside him.
Afterward, lying in a pool of sweat, tunic up around his waist, ass raw, Iphicles rubbed his swollen lips. "How in Tartarus do I explain this?"
"Tell them you tripped."
"Tripped and fell on you. Do you have to be so damn violent? Look at the wall." He waved his hand at the cracked marble. "I'm having enough problems with Eumenes. How do I explain this?"
"Don't. You hate this guy, but you let him call the shots. You've got something he wants, so make him beg for it."
"You don't understand. It's not that simple. This is a complex deal, and skipping public affairs to get laid won't get me what I want."
"At least when you bend over for me, you like it."
"Like you'd notice. You're too busy riding me like a war horse. You and Eumenes are exactly the same. You take what you want because you can. Screw the rest of us."
"You let us," Ares snapped back. "You've spent your life thinking you're second-best, and--"
"You're one to talk. I can't believe I'm getting a lecture on human relations from you. You're the fucking god of war, and you understand two things: killing and fucking. You know dick about anything else."
Suddenly, Ares stood, immaculate, at the bed's foot, one hand on his
sword hilt. "You've gone too far," he said, and disappeared.
The next morning, Iphicles played whore to the Pergamum court. A public performance, it took place in the great hall at breakfast. Iphicles was skulking behind a plate piled with oranges, a boyhood habit (‘Iphicles, sit up and smile. Look how happy your brother is'), when Eumenes came for him.
"When I heard you were sick, I sent my physician to see you," he said, artfully peeling a pomegranate with an ivory-handled blade. "He heard some rather unusual sounds coming from your room."
Unusual for you, you limp-pricked little--
Nicander, seated beside him, leaned forward over a bowl of yogurt topped with almond slices. "You have to excuse him, your Majesty. He resents being ill and tosses furniture around the room to attract Apollo's attention, a habit he shares with his brother, the great Hercules. Even Jason, their famous stepfather, and leader of the Argonauts, couldn't stand being sick."
"Actually, that's a crock of--"
"And those marks on his neck?" Eumenes flicked an eyebrow like a horse twitching its tail. "Those bruises?"
"My fault, I'm afraid," Nicander said, stirring his yogurt. "I sent in one of the palace cats to cheer him up, and the creature latched onto King Iphicles' throat during the night. Poor man."
"You should see what else that animal did to me." Iphicles remembered his dolphins and practiced their smile.
"Now, there's no need for that, your Highness." Nicander patted his arm, and nudged him with his toe. "I'm sure King Eumenes understands your plight, being the sensitive ruler that he is. Why, just the other day I heard a few of his subjects praising him for just that quality."
They'd actually said, ‘King Eumenes cares as much for the people as he does for a sack of shit tied with a bow,' but Iphicles stayed quiet. Hadn't Jason warned him that being king meant sacrifice? Tact? Diplomacy? All the reasons Hercules had been first choice, and Iphicles a far second. So he had to grin and bear it, no matter what Ares said. What did the god of war know about diplomacy, anyway? Look how many people he'd pissed off. Even his own father hated him.
That night, Iphicles lay alone under an ocean of silk, glad not to play Ares' whore. Okay, theoretically glad. Physically, it wasn't so easy, not when his empty ass ached for Ares. Flipping back and forth, mashing his pillow into shape, then flinging it at the wall, he finally jerked off with a teenaged frenzy. As a kid, lying on a straw mat, his brother snoring across the room, he'd do it like that: quickly, quietly. Couldn't wake the brat, and if his mother heard, he'd get a lecture on how this'd somehow impact Herc in a negative way. Everything he did somehow impacted Herc in a negative way. It still felt good, but afterward, it was just guilt and a sticky hand.
Emotionally... Being alone sucked. But only idiots fell in love with gods. Just ask Tithonus, who ended up rotting for eternity because he got a hard-on for Eos. Or Adonis, whose love for Aphrodite won him a boar-tusk in the groin. Ouch. Besides, Ares would come back. He always did. Even when Hercules and Iolaus stopped in Corinth on their way to Nemea, Ares came for him.
"They'll hear us," Iphicles said, snatched from a feast, hugging a wall in an anteroom, Ares' cock shoved far inside him.
"Like I care?"
"You want him to know?"
Ares laughed. "I'd love to see the look on his face."
"Is that why you're doing it? To get a reaction from him?"
"Iphicles, if I wanted a reaction from my brother, I'd fuck you in front of him. You wouldn't stop me." When Iphicles came, crying out like he always did with that big god-cock deep inside him, Ares put a hand over his mouth.
At the time, Iphicles figured he did it to protect his own divine ass. Hercules always called Ares a self-serving coward. Tonight, months later, he wondered if Ares had done it for him, to spare Iphicles the inevitable lectures. Hard to believe, after the slams by poets, philosophers and legendary heroes, but Ares had a few decent bones in his body. Soldiers liked him. Not the brass--they followed Athena. But the men at the front respected Ares, those who saw him fighting with them, not safe miles back in a tent with a few whores and a barrel of Galatian wine. That's where he saw Ares the first time, six months ago, right in the fray, during a skirmish against Megara.
Against Nicander's wishes, Iphicles was on the battlefield, so damn glad to be free. Just him and his men, the best ones, handpicked and loyal, against the larger Megaran troop. Ares appeared midway through, a dark giant who fought the best Megarans himself. Iphicles watched him until his own shoulder caught an iron-tipped spear, opening an old wound. After that, he concentrated on the battle, ignoring the pain.
When they'd rounded up the wounded men and burned the dead, Iphicles looked for him, but saw only smoky pyres and tired soldiers. As the last body danced on the flames above a prayer to Hades, he returned to his tent, tossing his armor on the floor, then dropped onto a chaise, his eyes closing. His shoulder throbbed, and every pulse sent a warm trickle down his chest. Lots of blood, he thought. Too much.
"You should clean that. The cut's to the bone."
He knew who it was, and almost kept his eyes shut. "I'm okay. So, do I bow or what?"
"Most people do it instinctively. They're scared."
"You're here to kill me, then." Iphicles leaned back to see those black eyes, keeping a hand on his bleeding shoulder.
"No. I'm here to make you an offer."
"Look, you probably know that Hercules and I aren't best friends. But I won't kill him for you. He's still my brother."
"This has nothing to do with him."
"Then what? I don't get it." The air stank of blood and flowed now through his fingers. Maybe Hades was on vacation, and Ares was here instead. "What do I have that you want?
"Your loyalty. You're a good fighter and you might be a good king some day, once you stop worrying about what others think. I won't make any unreasonable demands, no matter what you've heard. I'll occasionally ask you to fight for me, but you'll always benefit."
Iphicles' shoulder spewed more blood, black and thick, and the room seemed too dark, even with the oil lamp burning on the table. "I don't trust you. How can I?" Hard to talk.
"Because I'm going to save your life." Ares crouched down, easing a rough hand under Iphicles' shirt and over the hole in his shoulder.
The burning heat hurt more than the wound, but Ares held him when he struggled, his face inches away. Iphicles stared back, focusing as the pain receded. It happened too fast, and his body surged ahead of his brain, rewriting the scene. Ares' fault, for being beautiful as death. "I guess I'm supposed to thank you now." He pushed back the lust, showed only the family anger.
Ares shrugged. "That doesn't matter to me. I want your loyalty."
A mental chorus intoned a forceful no, then switched to dire-warning mode: Hercules, Iolaus, Jason, Alcmene, all babbling at once. Ares, watching him, stepped back, and with the hot hand gone, Iphicles tested the skin, found a ridged scar, like a toothy grin. Seems even gods had limitations.
"Nothing will happen if you say no, except you won't have my protection."
It was fair, he told the voices. Ares had fought with him and saved his life, when he could've killed him. Anyone who did that, even the god of war, deserved loyalty. A soldier's rule. If they couldn't understand that, fuck them. "You've got it. So how do we seal this contract?"
"You have a choice. Either you get my mark, or I fuck you."
"You fuck me." It started as a question crammed with sarcastic disbelief and turned into a request.
"Are you sure? I don't want you telling people this was rape. It has to be mutual."
"It's mutual." His cock was hard already. "So when does this happen? Now?"
"Yes. But not here."
"I'm ready." Iphicles blinked and found himself lying naked and clean on a canopied bed in a stone chamber. Ares stood at the foot, bare skin gleaming. A wave of his hand, and Iphicles felt oil dripping from his ass, saw it drench Ares' huge cock. His own swollen cock lay against his belly, and he spread his legs. "Do it." Just act for once. Don't think.
The bed groaned as Ares climbed on it and moved between Iphicles' thighs. "Put your legs around my waist." The position brought the oiled head against him. "This is your last chance. Do it because you want it."
As Iphicles grabbed Ares' ass, impaling himself on that thick cock, he wondered if Ares was always this cautious. Then it didn't matter anymore, as Ares pounded into him. Unprepared for the power that radiated from the big hot body on top of him, Iphicles came at once, biting, shouting, semen shooting like handfuls of pearls. Ares didn't stop, just kept ramming it in, eyes half-closed and grunting with lust. Iphicles' cock stayed soft but he came a second time, shuddering and calling Ares' name. The third time it happened, he figured Ares must be doing it, only Ares denied it later.
When Ares returned him to his tent, sore and full of come, he expected it to end. A three-off deal, contract signed in semen. A fantasy fulfilled.
Only it didn't end. The next night, Ares showed up in his bedroom and they fucked til dawn. It continued like that for months: harsh, intense, incredible. Iphicles told no one, but everyone knew. He heard the whispers around the palace. No complaints, though. Even the undercooks thought it didn't hurt to have their king tight with the god of war. It did hurt, though, a delicious, never-ending ache, as Ares marked him with his cock. Addicted, he slept naked with his legs apart, always ready. And Ares stopped asking, just pushed inside and fucked him.
Then Iphicles got the talk. Nicander, with his grinding voice and musty ideas, of course, channeling Hercules (or was it Alcmene?), full of ‘public eye' this, and ‘remember your mother' that. The stupid thing was, like a puppet, Iphicles heard himself repeat Nicander's lines to Ares. Not all at once. Between fucks and laughs (it was funny, after all, Hercules' brothers fucking every chance they got). Some questions you can't ask a god outright. The whys (‘Why are you here again?' and ‘why do you keep coming back?') had to come on their own. So he drank back his questions like the medicine his mother fed him as a boy and waited.
Now, in Pergamum, it didn't matter.
Ten days later, Iphicles' swallowed words jumbled in his belly, and his back hurt from Eumenes' pillowy chairs. Everything was soft at the Pergamum court, stuffed with lambs' wool, trimmed with peacock feathers, lined with silk. A burp in fashion, and even Eumenes' blond hair now fell in short, soft waves, matching his pale lemon robes and the palace itself, all muted green, yellow and orange, framed in gold. It was like living in a candied fruit bowl.
Even worship became fashion: they chose gods as accessories, so only the summer Olympians, like Apollo and Athena, stared blankly from their niches at Eumenes' bright, silent world. (He did see a third one that might've been Dionysus, only he had clothes on and looked like a banker). In Pergamum, everyone had a perfect childhood, loved their family, never cheated, lied, stole or crapped. Iphicles hated them all.
Today wasn't helping. He stood on the dais behind the Pergamum council, teeth gritted, and watched King Eumenes sign the trade deal. His skin itched from the inside, and he couldn't stop moving: tapping his fingers against his belt buckle, his toes against the tiled floor. Only one cure: sex. Not a hard, fast, furious fuck. No, a long, slow one that lasted all night, to wash away the taste of Pergamum.
And to forget about Ares. Ten long days, ten longer nights without him. Every time a breeze whispered, Iphicles would look around. The palace had too many windows, square-cut ones open to the river. Even the Aegean, fifteen miles west, breathed dolphin-fragrant puffs through the saffron rooms.
"Now all we need is your signature, King Iphicles." Eumenes turned to him, offering the ostrich quill. He'd made his mark at the scroll's bottom, after a series of crossed-off percentages.
The negotiations were a joke. The meetings took place in the library, which meant an endless series of intimidating distractions. On the first day, after the witty quipping from the librarian, visitors from Judea, Gaul and Gedrosia, expressing multi-lingual awe, walked along the mosaic floor in the main atrium where the councillors sat.
On the second, two Roman architects pulled scrolls directly behind Iphicles' chair, waxing lyrical. ‘Gloriosus.' ‘Maximus.' They probably said the same thing at the gladiator fights. The Pergamum councillors chatted with them in Latin, while Iphicles imagined what a well-placed match would do to so much papyrus.
On the third, King Eumenes himself dropped by. He watched briefly, then joined a trio of doctors from Halicarnassus for some spiced wine and a stroll through the Sumerian collection. Iphicles could hear them debating Hippocrates' oath.
By the tenth day, the Corinthian asking-price had sunk lower than Poseidon's palace, and Iphicles decided to take a stand. But Nicander whispered in his ear. "Yes, the profit's marginal, but look to the future. This deal will open the door for others, and Corinth will benefit overall. Your stepfather would be proud of you for setting this deal."
"This isn't a deal," he hissed. "It's premature ejaculation."
Nicander frowned. "Think of Corinth, your Highness. Think of your duty."
"With my eyes closed and legs spread."
Now, in the Pergamum throne room, the ghost of Jason standing watch, Iphicles took the quill and scratched his name onto the parchment. "Done."
"To celebrate," King Eumenes said, "I've arranged for a performance of The Bacchae tonight at our famous theater. The troupe's just arrived from Gryneum, where they've been performing for King Philetus."
King on a stick. How appropriate. "Great. I like a bloody play."
Eumenes' arched brows curved higher.
Well, fuck him. The deal was done, and soon Iphicles would be home to
lick his wounds in private. And he'd find a sweet new lover to lick
away his itch.
The amphitheater was built into the hillside behind the palace, high above the red-roofed city, churning blue river, and green fields purpled with hyacinth. Massive, it dominated the view, rows of seats gleaming like teeth under the late afternoon sun, even dwarfing the nearby temple.
"Whose is it?" he asked Eumenes, resenting the hope.
"Dionysus. They say he lay with one of my ancestors, a queen, and that's how our line started. She had the temple built to honor him, and he gave her this land."
"Half my family's slept with gods, only it didn't work out so well. I'll try that temple-building thing, and see if it helps."
Eumenes sniffed. "It must be hard to be the one with a mortal father."
Prick. "At least I'm not--"
"King Iphicles, I'm sorry to interrupt," Nicander said, insinuating himself between them. "But before we left, your dear step-father, Jason, asked me to offer a prayer for him in the temple of Dionysus. He's still thanking the god for helping him win the Golden Fleece."
"When we get back to Corinth, Nicander, you and I need to have a long talk. Why don't you go ahead with Eumenes, and I'll offer up that prayer myself?" Skipping the answer, Iphicles turned right and walked up the temple steps.
Inside, he paused, hand on a cool column, letting his eyes adjust, aware only of the enormous painted statue rising from a shallow reflecting pool. Then he saw the smooth marble thighs, the short fawnskin robe, the blond curls, the thyrsus gripped in one massive hand. Dionysus. Pretty tame version. Most statues of the god showed a juicy cock poking under the robes, and he always had one hip thrust forward in an appealingly slutty pose. The sculptor had wrung the juice from this one.
The polished floor shone like opal, and he took a hesitant step on the slippery surface. A flash of red caught his eye, and Iphicles scanned the right row of pale blue columns. Beyond them stood life-size statues at measured intervals along the frescoed wall. The other Olympians. Where was...? There, back near the door, crowded in the corner. No room in the temple of Dionysus for the god of war. Too messy.
He went to it, touched the statue's muscular arm. "Ares."
At a sound behind him, Iphicles swung around. Not Ares. Someone young, clean-shaven, narrower through the hips and shoulders, but with thick black curls. Handsome, in a sly, vulpine sort of way, like the son of Ares and Dionysus. He even carried a thyrsus tipped with green ivy.
"Is he your favorite god?"
"He used to be," Iphicles said. "I'm looking for something different now."
"You're King Iphicles, right? Can't be the other one. I heard he's got his head stuck so far up his ass he thinks the sky's brown. And they were right about you. Nice. Very nice." A long, lingering look followed.
"I'm one of the actors from the play you'll be seeing. Dionysus. Just came here to borrow this--" he waved the thyrsus "--from one of the priests. I broke the last one in Gryneum. I'm Catreus, by the way, but people call me ‘Cat.' Because I like to lick." And he gave Iphicles a slow smile, his full lips half-parted.
This is what he needed: pure pleasure. Iphicles smiled back. "Maybe you could show me. Right here." A quick blowjob while no one was looking.
"Tempting, but I don't have time." He stepped closer. "Look, I know you're a king and everything, but they say you're not a stuck-up prick like Eumenes. After the play, we're all going to The Cretan Bull. Meet me there. Change clothes, and no one'll know who you are."
"I can't do that. Sorry." And he was. But hanging around in a bar with a bunch of actors... Those days had long passed.
"King," Cat said, "if you come to the inn, I'll take you upstairs and
lick you all night long. Now I've got to go. See you tonight."
He ran off, clutching his thyrsus.
"Pentheus didn't deserve to die," Eumenes announced, as they walked back to the palace in the twilight.
"Of course he did. He didn't believe his god. Besides, I thought you liked Dionysus because he knocked up your ancestor."
"The Dionysus we saw tonight was nothing like the god. He was a figment of Euripides' imagination. The real Dionysus isn't cruel or brutal; he stands for beauty and refinement. This god was more like Ares."
"Pentheus was an idiot. He hadn't lived til he met Dionysus. Dionysus gave him the chance to experience pure, unrestrained pleasure, and Pentheus choked. It scared him, and he lost control. Which is exactly what he thought would happen if he gave in to Dionysus in the first place."
"I found it all pretty disgusting. Not my kind of play. And the boy playing Dionysus was whorish. He looked ready to crawl into your lap at one point."
"I wish he--"
When Nicander hurried over, Iphicles made up his mind. Screw them
all. He'd meet Cat, get his cock sucked, and forget about Ares, Eumenes,
Nicander and everyone else for one night.
The tavern sounds pulled him from the dark: shrieks of laughter, a flute's high rhythm, the clatter of glasses, the sizzle of piss striking cobblestones, and the inevitable drinking song promising Dionysus a blowjob for a barrel of wine. No place for a king.
"Quit yer gawkin' and move, man. My bladder's near bursting." A burly figure shoved past him, hands pressed just under his rounded belly. "Stick with the wine. The beer's all water," he called over his shoulder.
Skirting the grappling couple in the doorway, he stepped inside, where a trio of dancers whirled him deeper into the room's smoky heart. He snagged a full glass of wine from the barmaid and cut off her complaint with a handful of coins. Nutmeg warred with the fire's ashy smell, the lamp's oily smoke, and the crowd's sweaty perfume. Energy filled his cock, and he sucked in lungfuls of air. Freedom.
"Say, sweetheart, how ‘bout a kiss? I've been looking all night for a stiff prick, and yours'll do." The woman smiled through tumbled black hair and backed him into a rough oak wall, fumbling between his legs.
"Sorry, Creusa. He's taken." Cat grabbed his hand and pulled him toward a corner table. "We're playing dice. I'm losing."
"Quit stallin', Cat, and give ‘em a shake. It's your go." A tall dark man with eyelashes like crow's wings tapped the table impatiently. Pentheus. "Sit your ass down," he said to Iphicles.
"There's only the one chair--" Iphicles began, when Cat pushed him into it, sitting on his lap.
"Lycus, I'll clean you out now that I've got my good luck charm."
The boy to his left gave him a gap-toothed grin. "If he doesn't work for you, I'll take him."
"Too bad you didn't have him with you earlier. Then maybe that high and mighty king Eumenes wouldn't have canned our asses. Lycus had to beg for our money, too. All of these fancy-assed visitors cramming the city's coffers, and he couldn't give us another night. May his pecker fail for a thousand nights!"
"Here, here!" the others shouted, and clanked their pewter mugs.
"You're working for me now, aren't you?" Cat asked, riding Iphicles' cock like a seesaw. "I can feel it. I'll win this game yet."
Suddenly Iphicles was fifteen again, hot and panicky with lust. Gotta have it gotta have it gotta have it. And no one to stop him. His body's refrain shut down his mind, which kept lobbing ‘but what abouts' at him. It helped that Cat hadn't told anyone who he was. Relaxing in the rickety wooden chair, he reached down between Cat's smooth thighs and stroked them.
"I'm looking forward to later." Cat, with one arm snug around Iphicles' shoulder, half-turned and licked his neck. "Just let me win this game. How ‘bout a kiss to put Fortune in the mood?"
Ares never kissed. During sex, his tongue mated with Iphicles' for the rush. Was that all Ares knew? Who gave slow kisses to the god of war? Unless Ares did it hard and fast because he thought Iphicles expected it. Surprise opened his mouth in time for the wet tip of Cat's tongue. This was no kiss, either: a lick, a taste, a trace of that wine-sweet tongue over his bottom lip. Hands behind his head now, thumbs in the hollow of his skull. More tasting.
A crack of thunder as a fist struck the table. "Eh, Cat! There's a game going on!"
"Cat's having supper, Lycus. Let him eat. He looks pretty hungry."
"I'd like a taste myself. Pass him over when you're done."
Cat stopped, but didn't turn back to the others. "No, he's mine. And I won't be done for hours. I like to play with my food." To Iphicles: "To hell with the game. Let's go to my room. Your clothes are in my way."
"I'll buy him out," Iphicles said, and greedy hands swallowed his coins.
"Handsome and rich. You have a brother, gorgeous?"
"Yeah, Hercules. I'll tell him to drop by when he's finished saving the world."
As they laughed, someone shouted out, "Ever hear the song about him and his little pal?"
"I know it!" A woman began to sing, "Hercules, he fought some birds, and wrestled a hairy boar..."
"He shoveled shit, and groped some tit..."
"Then he went back for more!"
"But when he'd finished working, and lay back on the grass..."
"His favorite fantasy of all...
"...was to have Iolaus spank his ass!"
While they launched into the next verse, Iphicles, smirking, followed Cat to a door by the bar. Once past it, the noise dropped to a steady throb.
"Sorry about that," Cat said, pausing on the stairs. "And don't get mad, but I taught it to them. At least they didn't sing the one about you."
"There's a song about me?"
"Sure. I'm from Sicyon, just north of Corinth, and ‘The Horny King' was popular in the bars right before I joined up with these guys. My parents live near the town center, at the end of a long street lined with taverns, and every night through my bedroom window I could hear the song."
Iphicles groaned. "I can just imagine."
"Actually, it's kinda hot. About you and Ares doing it all over the palace because you can't get enough of each other. Every time Ares puts it in, everyone has to chug their beer. You get drunk in no time." He ran up to the landing, then glanced back when Iphicles didn't follow. "Hey, you okay? You don't like Ares or something?"
"Like him? Nothing's ever that simple with Ares."
"Don't worry. I'll make you forget all about him. Now get up here, or I'll do you on the stairs where anyone could see."
The room was small and moonlit, with a tiny window overlooking the river. The bed lay under it, wide, with white rumpled sheets and scattered pillows. Cat kicked his sandals into a corner. "Take off your clothes," he said, pulling the tunic over his head and throwing it on the floor. His cock stuck out, long and hard, and he stroked it idly, watching Iphicles undress. "I'm going to enjoy this. On your back, king."
The pallet crackled under him, wafting breaths of sweet straw, and Iphicles lay on sheets soft with age. While Cat lit fat beeswax candles in clay holders, he studied him. Without clothes, his body was lean and narrow, stiff nipples pierced with gold rings, and fine dark hair on long legs that thickened around his cock. When Cat pouted to blow out the thin taper, the smell of fir mixed with straw and candlewax, and Iphicles breathed deeply, caressing the tender head of his own cock.
"Don't touch yourself," Cat said, sitting beside him. "Let me do everything. Your body..." He ran a hand across Iphicles' chest. "Perfect. I'd love to tie you up, but that won't happen, right?"
Iphicles shook his head. "Sorry."
"Didn't think so. I understand. You don't know me. But can you keep your hands above your head the whole time? Don't try to control it. Let me do what I want."
"And what exactly do you want?"
"I told you: I want to lick you all over until you come."
His cock jerked. "What about you?" he asked, grabbing the underside of the headboard.
"Don't worry about me." Cat rolled onto his stomach and crawled up to Iphicles' outstretched arms. "I want to make you feel good."
The first few licks tickled the hollow over the vein in his wrist. Light bites followed, then soothing kisses. His skin heated under Cat's mouth, cooled when he blew on it, and tiny flickers whispered down his body. Higher up the arm now, the mouth sailed along the vein's blue current. He slowed at the crease of Iphicles' arm, tasting again, then lapped up, close to the shoulder now, one hand on Iphicles' hip for balance as he moved to his side.
"Does this hurt?" Cat kissed the scar.
"A little," Iphicles lied. "The rest feels great."
"How'd you get it?"
"A Megaran spear. Nothing serious." Another lie. Six months ago, he'd chosen sex, not a mark, but got one anyway. Impossible to see or touch it and not think of Ares, who loved to bite the scarred shoulder.
"Looks pretty serious," Cat said. "I'll leave it alone. There's so much skin to cover." With the tips of his fingers, he tilted back Iphicles' head to nuzzle his neck. As Cat began to suck, his hand stroking Iphicles from hip to thigh, nails scratching, so close to his balls that Iphicles arched. "Yeah, you like that. Wait'll you feel my tongue there."
With a sudden leap, Cat straddled him, cock hard and leaking, balls soft against Iphicles' stomach. "Got to kiss you first." He leaned down, hands on either side of Iphicles' face, and kissed him. When Iphicles tried to meet his tongue, Cat pulled back. "No. I'm doing it to you."
After that, it was all wet teasing, as Cat licked and sucked Iphicles' lips. Soon the skin swelled and he was rocking up, trying to rub his cock against Cat's smooth ass.
He got another kiss, then: "Oh, you're so ripe. Last lover didn't take care of you?"
"Not like this."
"Not his style. He doesn't...didn't believe in foreplay."
"Hard to believe anyone could turn you down."
"I never asked..." But Cat was kissing him again, slipping his tongue into Iphicles' mouth, running a hand down his cheek. It stayed light, testing, teasing, like kids doing it for the first time, trying everything, measuring it all in pleasure. Whatever earned a gasp or an upward thrust, Cat repeated, until each touch of his tongue drew a moan.
"You're driving me crazy," Iphicles whispered.
Cat sucked an earlobe. "I'm so hard my cock's ready to burst."
"So's mine." Iphicles thrust up for contact, and the head of his cock slid between peach-smooth cheeks.
"Nice try." Cat let him rub, then moved back, and Iphicles' cock brushed up against his. For a brief moment, he pressed their cocks together, and Iphicles' blood surged. "I felt that," Cat said, releasing him. "You're already close. But I'm only getting started."
Hands on Iphicles' extended arms, where he'd worn the silver dolphins, Cat licked him from collar bone to jaw, wet laps that sparked along his spine. When a lavender breeze crept into the room, chilling his humid flesh, Iphicles shivered.
"Love how stiff your nipples are now," Cat said, and latched onto one, sucking noisily. He licked a finger, rubbing the tip over the other.
Iphicles watched Cat's tongue against the tight skin, while the tumble of animal-soft waves nudged his chin. He nudged back, and the dark fur brushed his lips. It tasted sweet, honey- soaked, when he sucked a curl into his mouth, hungry for contact.
Even with the light pressure, his nipples began to sting, and he thought of Ares, who used his teeth. His eyes closed, and the warm mouth became a god's. It seemed unfair (and unbelievable, without the rougher scratch of Ares' beard), so he opened them, just as Cat left his nipples to lick his chest, painting a downward silver line with his tongue. Iphicles spread his legs, moaning, as Cat's receding body trailed over his cock.
Crouching between Iphicles' thighs, Cat pushed them wider. "Look how much your cock wants me." He took the glistening head between two fingers and squeezed, then dragged his thumb through the drops. Crawling back up Iphicles' body, Cat rested his cheek against Iphicles', holding his wet thumb between their mouths. "Taste it with me." Their tongues met on the tip, and they licked each other over Iphicles' salty juice. The thumb clean, Cat squeezed out more. "You're like a peach," he said. "So much juice. I'd love to make you come now and share that with you."
The headboard creaked as Iphicles arched again, sweat trickling down his stomach. His cock felt huge, solid; even the whispering breeze made his hips jerk. "I'm ready."
"Soon." Cat went down again, latching onto a hip, and polished the thin skin over the bone with his tongue. Iphicles' cock twitched, trying to find the mouth, and Cat laughed, licking the slick skin around it, never touching. He went after the inside of Iphicles' thighs next, one to the other, then slid even lower to lick behind each knee. "Legs around my neck, Iphicles. I want to get close." With one hand, he lifted Iphicles' balls to his mouth. "Big and hot, just the way I like them."
One went into a mouth so hot it almost burned. Cat sucked each in turn, rolling them on his tongue, and Iphicles saw the cosmos: not only stars, but suns, moons and a giant ram against a black leather sky. Damn. Ares, he decided, crashing a little, had infected him. No place for a selfish bastard god in his world, not with Cat between his legs. Not with his cock on fire.
Cat seemed to know. "The front's clean. Time for the back, king. And keep your hands over your head." Iphicles rolled over and grabbed a pillow, hugging it, then Cat was on him, cock resting between the cheeks of his ass, nipples rings grazing his back. This time Cat moaned, rubbing against him. "It'd be so easy," he said, almost to himself. "So easy to fuck you."
"That's not the deal."
"You're right. It's just... Your ass was made for my cock."
Iphicles heard something in the voice, and half-turned, saw Cat's black eyes so full of moonlight they looked silver. Then the tongue danced between his shoulder blades, and he melted like the beeswax candles turning the room sticky with smoke. In the heat, sweat fell like rain down his back, lines of water Cat drank with an eagerness that clouded his thoughts. Even Ares faded to a dark outline.
When Cat caught the damp hair at his neck and kissed him there, open-mouthed, Iphicles gasped, "That's good." And it was. That long cock pushed more firmly against his ass, grinding him down to the twist of sheet, the pallet's solid density, and he loved it.
"I know you do. That's why it's so intense." The low voice rumbled through him, down to his balls, and Iphicles almost pushed up instead of down, taking Cat's cock to the hilt. Almost. But Cat would be such a sweet fuck, that tight, curved ass eating him alive, deeper and deeper until Ares finally said (no, he's Cat)...
Stay in control. Cat's tongue inside him, impossibly hot. Too good. Something bad always happened when it got this good. Only right now, he didn't care. Cat could be a thief, a killer, and maybe tonight would end in blood. As long as that hot tongue kept fucking him, he'd die happy. A fit finale for ‘The Horny King.' ‘Iphicles, he died in bed, having reached his greatest goal./Not bliss with Ares, god of war, but a cat's tongue up his hole.'
He started to laugh, and Cat sat up. "You know, Iphicles, I fucked a guy like you once, who couldn't take pleasure. He had this stupid idea he didn't deserve it, so he ruined every chance that came along."
"That's crap. You don't know what you're talking about."
"Then let me make you feel good. Stop fighting it." He put his hand against Iphicles' hip and rolled him onto his back.
"Is this over?" Iphicles asked, as Cat jumped off the bed.
He returned with a bottle of oil and a smooth ebony phallus. "It's over when we come. Knees up." Cat oiled the wooden cock, which glowed amber in the flickering light. "Like it? The guy who sold it to me told me he'd modeled it after a god. Don't know which one, though."
Ten days since Ares had filled his ass. Ten long days. Leaving made more sense, but he was empty and desperate, and could do a lot worse than Cat, with his long cock and Olympian face. So Iphicles kept his mouth shut, nodded, and opened his legs wide.
"Don't even need the oil. Your ass is so wet from my tongue." He rested a hand on Iphicles' thigh and rubbed the curved end against him. "Yeah, you want it, don't you?" A little push, and the tip penetrated him.
It felt good, solid, harder than any cock but Ares' own. "More."
"I wish you could see it slide in, the way your ass opens for it."
He'd missed it: the pressure as a big cock stretched him wide, the fullness of it. The sense of completion. Through his lashes, he saw Cat bite his lip, his attention focused between Iphicles' legs. "You like watching it?"
"Oh, yeah, king. Feels like I own you. That you're mine, because you're letting me do this. Know what I mean?"
"I don't remember." Ares always fucked him. Sometimes the position changed, but never the basic equation: god-cock, mortal ass, orgasm had by all. Did Ares feel like Cat did? Probably. But it didn't mean anything, that pleasure in ownership. The cock glided deeper and slipped against something inside him: the tiny, sensitive part that fit against the head of Ares' cock. This one, too. "Right there," he said. "Rub it there."
"So, Iphicles, is the song true?"
"What do you mean?"
"Has Ares been here, where this cock is? Did he fuck you all over the palace?"
His moan sounded inhuman, bestial. "Yes, everywhere."
Cat kept up the slow pace, fucking him gently with the wooden cock. "Did you love it? Did you love fucking Ares?"
Hearing Ares' name, remembering, feeling it... He could barely talk. "Yes."
"Did it feel good when he came inside you?" Cat's fingers closed over Iphicles' cock, stroking, while the phallus slipped in and out.
"Yes. Every time. I love him." He didn't realize the mistake (love it, love it, not him, not him, only idiots love gods) until Cat laughed. About to fix it, make things right, he opened his mouth, but Cat deep-throated his cock. His ass filled, his cock sucked... So close to perfect that only an idiot would complain.
A gust of wind blew out the smoking candles, and in the sudden dark Iphicles pushed Cat off his body. "I have to fuck you," he said very clearly. "I know you want control, but I need to do it. I don't want you telling people this was rape, so it has to be mutual."
He was kneeling now, Cat somehow on his back with his legs spread. There was oil in Iphicles' hand, on his cock, and he wasn't sure about anything anymore except being inside him, fucking him. Then he was: flying, weightless, together with the hot body that writhed and moaned under him, and he plunged deeper, so in control and so lost in pleasure that he really, truly, believed he was dead. Soaring now, higher, higher, like an eagle or a god. No limits, no control, only...
"I love you, Ares." The words broke out, free forever, shooting
like stars, flaming, arcing, the same ones, over and over and over and
over until he saw the sun, hot and tight, oh god, oh Ares.
In the fragile rose dawn, the night's cosmic precision fractured against Cat's sleep-warm body, his peaceful, flushed face. Iphicles had been so sure, beyond any Archimedean law, that Cat was Ares. It just made sense, Ares' way of letting him crack the code of his own silence by becoming the fantasy that Iphicles always thought he wanted, then showing him the truth: that Iphicles was scared. Scared of failing. Scared of loving. Scared of feeling. Like one of those damn grinning dolphins, head buried up his own ass.
He'd even wondered if another god had joined the act, like Dionysus. Weren't there clues? His temple, the play about the god's triumph, Cat and his thyrsus. Gods did that sometimes, didn't they? Cured pathetic mortals? Gave them a break? Fucked them for kicks? Protected them? At least he'd kept his head.
The truth, then. Cat was just a young, goodlooking kid who wanted comfort. Instead, Iphicles had used him in a screwed-up recreation of his life. How do you apologize for being yourself? Too late to do anything but leave. If Ares had stayed away after that first time, maybe things wouldn't be so backwards. No. Couldn't blame him. Maybe Ares was just looking for comfort, too. Maybe that's why the dolphin sucked its tail. Someone had to. But that arrogant prick, Eumenes...Iphicles could fix that. No deus ex machina need apply.
He kissed Cat once, and thought how sweet it'd be to take him home and fuck him every night. To have someone there for him. It was stupid. He had to learn to be alone.
When he'd dressed, Iphicles nearly left a few gold coins on the table.
But Cat wasn't a whore, even if Iphicles used him like one, so he left
him only dreams.
Back at the palace, the sentries refused Iphicles entry.
"A king," the tall, lanky one scoffed, nudging the other with his spear. "Looks more like a whore to me. How ‘bout it? A quick blow-job in the stables?"
"He can do us both," the other said, with an exaggerated leer. "Looks like a good little cocksucker--"
A quick knee to the balls and the lanky one hit the ground face-first, armor clanging. His spear went flying, and Iphicles caught it just as his foot landed on the man's neck. "Go get Eumenes," he told the meatier one. "Or your friend here will have an extra asshole."
Soon Eumenes came hurrying across the atrium, his pale yellow robes flapping, with a flock of bronze-armored guards and a half-dozen advisors. The sentry jogged beside him, gesturing wildly. Nicander followed, his grey hair standing in tufts, his tunic unbelted.
"King Iphicles, what's going on?" Eumenes' nose tried to turn in on itself. "Have you been drinking?"
"No. I've been fucking. And these two idiots wouldn't let me back in. But now that you're here, I've got something to say."
"Your Highness," Nicander said hastily, turning to Eumenes, "please forgive him. Obviously, King Iphicles is having a relapse. He can't help his behavior. We have to get him to bed. Oh, his brother Hercules--"
"Nicander, shut the hell up. I'm not sick, and I've been in bed all night. Not sleeping for most of it, true, but I know what I'm doing. And if you ever mention my brother's name around me again, I'm going to cut off your dick and toss it in the Aegean. No more Hercules this, Jason that. Got it? I'm the fucking king."
The old man, stunned quiet, stood with his mouth flapping like Eumenes' robes.
"Now pass over the contract I know you've got stashed on you." Wordlessly, Nicander pulled it from his sleeve and handed it to Iphicles, who promptly tore it in two. "This contract is bullshit. You want our bronze, Eumenes, so pay us what it's worth. Decide now, because it's time I got the hell out of Pergamum and back to Corinth."
When Eumenes stayed silent, Iphicles' doubts came rushing back, choking the adrenaline-rush of new knowledge. Wait. Give him a chance.
"Get a new contract," Eumenes snapped at one of his men. To Iphicles: "I'll give you forty percent of the asking price."
"No way. Ninety, or we're walking."
"Sixty. That's five more than I'd give to Rome."
Crickets chirped. Gulls squawked. The sentry under Iphicles' foot tittered nervously. Then:
"You've got a deal."
They sailed that day for Corinth.
During the voyage home, with silver-backed dolphins diving between the rowers' oars, Nicander avoided him, staying locked in his cabin. Sea-sickness, his servant said. Put-in-his-place-itus, more like. The other men, though, clapped him on the back and started calling him ‘your Highness,' instead of Iphicles. Seems he'd been promoted.
For his part, Iphicles stood at the ship's prow during the day, looking for the white-topped towers of home, watching the dolphins, remembering Cat's tongue. With every league, his guilt grew. During the night, he lay in his cabin and remembered Ares' cock, and the look on his face when he'd saved Iphicles' life.
Eventually, Nicander came out, a little subdued, and joined Iphicles on his watch. "Your Highness."
They stood with the sea spray raining, and Iphicles asked, "What's the deal with dolphins? Why do they hang around a boat? Hoping for scraps from the cook?"
"That's right. You're not really a sailor, are you? Not like Jas...
Not necessary, really, with your military background. As for the
dolphins: the gods send them to watch over their favorites. Someone
up there must like you."
The day came when the gulls squawked louder than the dolphins, and white-walled land broke the green blanket of sea. Home.
Off the boat, as they loaded up the horses for the trip's last stretch, Iphicles approached Nicander. "I want to make a detour on the way home," he said. "Let the others go on ahead. I have some business in Sicyon."
"Yes, your Majesty. We'll return to Corinth and let everyone know the mission was a success."
Sicyon seemed the best way to deal with his guilt, to make things right with Cat. He'd mentioned his parents, and their home near the town center. A gift to them wouldn't feel like a pay-off. As he rode north, Iphicles reached into the leather pouch at his side and fingered the tiny dolphin teeth. No idea why he'd kept the damn pieces. But melted down, they'd fetch a nice price. The gem-eyes alone were worth a small fortune. Funny thing: he realized only now that armbands didn't usually come in pairs. Even Eumenes wore only one. He thought about that on the short trip to Sicyon.
In the distance, houses appeared against a blue-gilled horizon, their facades stuccoed and painted like marble, with red and pink flowers budding in clay pots beside small stone herms. The main road led straight to the busy town market, where fishermen sold mackerel, dogfish and eel from wooden stalls pearled with scales. The bakeries scented the air with fresh bread and honey cake, and farmers' wives with baskets of strawberries, pears and lemons.
Iphicles guided his mount forward and saw the black-faced taverns hung with colorful wooden signs, where men sang about him and Ares: The Licking Cat, The Tragic Actor, The Rolling Dice, The God's Favorite. Something crashed inside his brain like a speeding chariot with a lost wheel. Hope. And that never worked out. His father's return, his mother's love, his own fame, Ares... All the cliches that weren't cliches to him, but real and vital. They'd all revolved around hope, and each time hope bit him on the ass. No mistake that Dahak named his daughter Hope. Talk about true evil.
He slowed his horse to avoid the men and women spilling from the taverns, arm and arm, grinning with ale-induced happiness. Maybe it was genuine. Who knew?
Before him, the street narrowed, veering sharply to the right, and taverns became trees. Cat's parents must live around this corner. They'd be easy enough to find. Old, grey and respectable, they'd live in another neat cottage, with a small, tidy courtyard, some flowers and a herm. His own fantasy of the perfect childhood home. No outcast mother, absent father, favored brother.
The last turn. He'd either find his childhood, or...
A stark, black marble building loomed ahead, blocking the sun with its high domed roof. Carved on the tympanum above the door: a shield and spear beside a strong-faced ram.
The temple of Ares.
Iphicles jumped from his horse and tethered it to a young oak. The leather soles of his boots clapped against the marble steps as he ran up. Don't think. The bronze doors opened easily, freeing a cloud of spicy incense. No one in the anteroom, waiting for the god, just a few empty benches. The carved inner doors showed scenes from Ares' life: his escape from the brass jar, his trial for murder, his fights on the field at Troy. He passed through them quickly and entered the main chamber
Unlike the temple of Dionysus in Pergamum, this one had no statue at its core, only a big, ebony throne. Every temple to the war god had one, maybe because, unlike the other Olympians, Ares met with the people. Today was one of those days.
"What in Tartarus took you so long?" Grinning, Ares swung his feet from the throne's arm and walked toward him.
"You...You bastard!" Iphicles lunged at him, fists clenched. Together, they crashed into a black marble wall. The fight didn't last long: somehow his arms slid around Ares' neck, and Ares was kissing him with a familiar, teasing thoroughness.
Hours later, Ares stopped, his eyes flat and silver like moons. The look of god-lust. "It's been too long since that night at the inn."
"You bastard," Iphicles repeated, but it came out softer now. "I felt guilty for leaving you there. I thought I was using you. Turns out you were using me."
"If you don't know why I did it, then it was a waste of time."
Iphicles rubbed his hand over Ares' hard, leather-covered cock. "Well, you did let me fuck you, which has to mean something."
"‘Has to mean something?' What the fuck do you think it means? I'm the god of war! I don't let just anyone--"
He silenced the roar with a kiss. "Okay, okay. I get it. It means that this relationship's... mutual."
"Yes, Iphicles. Mutual. Which means if you want something, you ask. Got it?"
"I'd like to fuck you again."
"Yeah, we will. Just let me get you naked and--"
They were naked, lying on Ares' massive, black-sheeted bed. "You want to fuck me? Then work for it."
Iphicles laughed and put his hand over Ares' heart. "Hold on. I have something else to ask."
Ares, who'd started to lick Iphicles' scarred shoulder, looked up. "What, king?"
"Remember those dolphin armbands? The ones that mysteriously appeared on my bed in Pergamum? I'd like to see you in them."
They haggled and fought, and worked out a deal. And when Ares pushed his cock inside Iphicles, his arms flashed silver, and the dolphins smiled.