• Perchance to Dream

    By Nephele

    The author does not own the characters from the series. They belong to MCA/Universal. We all know that. We're not making any money from this. We're just having fun. Okay?

    ~ OLYMPUS ~

    "Morpheus," the voice was rich, throaty. Female but it's unlikely anyone would ever describe it or its owner as feminine. "What do you have for me?"

    "Greetings, my queen." This one was male. He spoke softly, sounding sly and perhaps just a bit nervous. "I'm not sure... I think I've discovered something you can use, but..."

    "So tell me then. What does Zeus' bastard dream of?"

    "Ah, well... *He* dreams of his dead family. The dreams themselves are pleasant but he wakes to sorrow for their loss."

    "Sorrow? Is that all?"

    "I have already taken the liberty of nudging those dreams into nightmares. Now he revisits the moment of their deaths each night. I hope this pleases you?"

    "It's a start but I don't see anything I can use in it."

    "No, I agree. It wasn't *his* dreams I was thinking of."

    "Whose then?"

    "Do you remember his friend, that little blond whose always getting in the way?"


    "Yes... His dreams were more interesting. It seems that he is in love with Hercules. He dreams of telling him. From there the dreams take an erotic turn."

    "Well, I suppose that explains his loyalty. But what *use* is it?"

    "You know how *moral* Hercules is. How do you think he'd react to finding out that his best friend wants to fuck him?"

    Hera smiled. It was a terrifying sight.


    "Wow," Iolaus gasped still struggling to catch his breath. "That has got to be the most intense dream I've ever had!"

    Now that he was awake, the hunter felt a little embarrassed by it all. It had been quite a while since he'd come in him sleep.

    "It's a good thing Herc's not here. I'd hate to have to try to explain this to him. I never could lie to him."

    He sat up grimacing in distaste at the sticky dampness inside his codpiece. Getting cleaned up was now his first priority. The lake's proximity made this an easy task. He simply waded in as is. After splashing around for a few minutes, he skinned out of his clothes and gave them a more thorough wash. Once he was satisfied that everything was clean, he spread them out on the grassy bank to dry. While he waited, he swam for a bit then decided to switch to fishing when his stomach started growling.

    With all the splashing he'd been doing he had to move to the far side of the lake if he really wanted to catch anything. He packed all his things with him. Leaving his clothes behind, he knew would practically guarantee that someone would come along and take them. He spent the rest of the day fishing quietly from the lakeshore.

    ~ ARGISSA ~

    Hercules stopped just inside the tavern, giving his eyes a moment to adjust to the lower light. The pause was more than adequate for the innkeeper to identify the new arrival and scurry forward to greet him.

    "Hercules, welcome back to Argissa!" The man's voice was raised to carry throughout the room. He wanted everyone to know that the Great Hercules Himself chose *this* tavern to dine in. Thereby completely ignoring the fact that he owned the *only* tavern in the village.

    The demigod smiled indulgently. He had long ago gotten used to this sort of behavior in others. He wished people would just treat him like anyone else but he accepted it as part of his fate. Accordingly he allowed his host to steer him to a prominently placed table.

    He had just started in on his meal when he was suddenly joined by three women. 'Suddenly' as in they materialized out of thin air. Hercules was startled but quickly regained his composure.

    "Ladies," he nodded a greeting to the trio. "What brings you here?"

    The women were beautiful in a remote, untouchable way. They were clearly sisters, almost identical in appearance. The differences between them were born more of attitude than any actual physical variance. The woman to Hercules' right was the sternest looking. Her dark hair was pulled tight in a severe, no nonsense style. Her clothing matched that attitude. It served its function, nothing more. Her black eyes measured Hercules and clearly found him wanting.

    The second, to Hercules' left, couldn't have been more different while still having the same features and coloring. Her hair hung loose, dancing about her shoulders when she moved. Her calm eyes gazed with serenity at the world before her. The clothing she wore was simple but beautiful in its simplicity and made her appear younger than her sisters.

    Between them, directly across from Hercules, the third sister struck a balance between the other two. Her hair was neither loose nor rigidly contained. Her clothing was practical but attractive. She had about her an air of patience as though she was waiting for something but there was no sense of anticipation to her vigil. It was she who spoke first.

    "We're here to help you, Hercules."

    The demigod couldn't contain a derisive snort. "Right. Hera's handmaidens are here to help me. Sorry, Dike. I'm not biting."

    "That's not fair, Hercules!" Said the woman to his left. "Hera raised us. We owe her loyalty but we do have minds of our own."

    "Eirene, I'm sure *you* mean well." The emphasis Hercules put on the word 'you' made it clear that he held no such opinion of the other two goddesses. "No offense, but every time the gods try to 'help' me I end up worse off than before."

    "Fine," the third member of the trio said. "I told you this was a bad idea. Let's get out of here."

    "Patience, Eunomia." Dike place a restraining hand on her sister's arm then turned back to her half-brother. "Hercules, we came to give you some information, nothing more. What you do with it is your affair. Do nothing if you think it's best. We won't interfere."

    The demigod sighed heavily. He wanted nothing more than to send them on their way right now but he couldn't risk it. He'd have to hear them out first. If he didn't, he'd probably regret it. Of course, he'd probably regret listening to them as well but at least he wouldn't be left wondering.

    "All right," he said. "I'm listening."

    "Hera's got a new plan to cause you pain."

    "Wait," Hercules couldn't help interrupting. "You expect me to believe you'd betray Hera! Why?"

    The question was directed to all of them. Dike answered first. "It isn't right what she's doing to you. She seeks to punish you for a crime committed by our father. That's not justice."

    Hercules nodded. "It never has been, but you've never tried to help me before."

    "We weren't in a position to do so before. Make no mistake, Hercules. We will never openly oppose Hera. If it ever comes to battle between you the best you can hope for from us is that we will try to stay out of it. We are simply offering you information now and we only do this because Hera did not explicitly forbid it."

    "Okay," Hercules said then turned to Eirene. "What about you?"

    The goddess shrugged. "I just want things to be peaceful. I don't like these constant battles. I don't expect you to be friends with Hera but it would be nice if you could just ignore each other. That will never happen if her schemes to torment you work."

    The demigod turned to the last member of the Horae. "Eunomia?"

    "I was out voted," she replied with an impatient snort.

    Hercules was silent for a moment trying to decide if he could afford to walk away from their information. He wanted to, he didn't trust them, but he knew he couldn't.

    "What's she planning?" He asked finally.

    "We don't know exactly," Eirene began. "All we really know is who the target is."

    "Target?" They had his full attention now.

    "Yes, it's your friend Iolaus."

    "When? Do you know?"

    "She's already started," Dike supplied.

    "Iolaus... I've got to go!" He was halfway to the door before he remembered to thank them. Dike nodded and the Horae disappeared.

    ~ THE LAKE ~

    It was the smell of burning fat that finally woke him. Tired eyes opened to discover his meal turning black. Iolaus pulled the rabbit from the fire hoping to salvage something. He only managed to make it worse by dropping the hot meat in the dirt.

    "Damn, I was really looking forward to that."

    He retrieved his meal and cleaned it up as well as he could. The outside was completely black and inedible. A quick check showed that the interior wasn't much better. He gave up and disposed of the carcass. Returning to camp, he pulled some stale bread from his sack and tore into it grumpily.

    He'd been doing that a lot lately, dozing off. The problem was that he wasn't sleeping well at night. He kept having these all too vivid dreams. Every dream featured Hercules in a prominent and passionate fashion. He couldn't understand it. He'd had dreams about the demigod before but never this intense. Something had to give soon. He just hoped it wouldn't be him. This was driving him nuts.

    It didn't take long to finish his unsatisfying breakfast. That left him wondering what to do with himself. It was late morning, not the best time for fishing. Iolaus really didn't feel like it anyway. Fishing gave him too much time to think and he'd had enough of that lately. He'd spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on with his dreams. He'd yet to come up with a single useful idea.

    So, no fishing. He'd already reset his snares but there was no point in checking them yet. The rabbits weren't likely to come out of their burrows again until dusk. He could make a spear and try a bit of hunting. After a moment's thought, he decided that sounded too ambitious to suit his mood.

    "I could just sit here and sulk," he told himself disgustedly.

    He fell back with a frustrated cry and stared up at the sky.

    "If this is some kind of joke, Aphrodite, I have to tell you it's not funny!"

    Iolaus sighed deeply. He was hungry, tired, frustrated and even a little worried. Finally, since he couldn't think of anything else to do, he decided to take a nap. He settled in the shade of a nearby tree and was asleep in moments. He never saw the strange peacock eyes watching him from the clouds.


    He wanted to run, but it would be too easy to miss something if he did. He settled for walking as fast as he could. That was at least pretty fast and he was making good time. For once all the local bandits were cooperating by staying out of his way. Actually, he was a little worried about that. Normally Hera would have thrown obstacles in his path to keep him from arriving in time to rescue his friend. The lack of opposition suggested that he was already too late. He couldn't take it anymore; he started running.

    Hercules was heading toward a small lake that was supposed to be their rendezvous. They hadn't planned to meet up for another day or so but it seemed like the best place to start. If there were no sign of Iolaus at the lake, he'd just start working his way back to the hunter's last known whereabouts. Whatever it took, Hercules would find his friend. He had to. He *needed* to.

    It should have taken two days to reach the lake. Hercules got there in one.

    He found the remnants of a campsite. From the condition of the ashes, Hercules could tell that it had been at least a couple of days since there had been a fire. There were no signs of a fight or struggle. It just looked like the person camping here had packed up and gone on his way.

    "If Iolaus was here two days ago, where is he now?"

    There wasn't anyone around to answer that question for him. He'd just have to keep looking. He set off around the lake intending to continue northward. He kept to the cover of the trees. If anyone was lurking nearby there was no sense in advertising his presence. Surprise was too useful a weapon to throw it away carelessly.

    He was all the way around the lake when he heard it. It was a moan, a low throaty sound. Despite the strange tone, Hercules recognized the voice. He'd found Iolaus. He'd never heard such a desperate note in his friend's voice before. All he could think was that they must be torturing him - whoever 'they' were. The demigod moved forward carefully, scanning for signs of traps or lookouts. Nothing so far. He was too big to be good at sneaking but he was motivated today.

    "Not much further," he told himself, trying to be patient.

    A moment later he crested a small rise and in so doing spotted Iolaus. The hunter lay in the shade of a tree, alone. Hercules was puzzled by that. He stopped where he was searching the area carefully. Nothing. He started forward again cautiously. Iolaus moaned and appeared to be writhing about a bit. Hercules could see that the blond's hands were touching his own body. It looked like he was...

    Hercules froze in place. He'd just gotten close enough to see what Iolaus was doing. The demigod was afraid to move. As close as he was, Iolaus might hear him. That would be too embarrassing. He was a bit frantic, searching for a graceful way out of his dilemma. He looked at Iolaus trying to decide if he should chance moving. His friend chose that same instant to intensify his actions. He began bucking up into his hand and a moment later he cried out his climax.

    That cry turned Hercules' whole world on its ear. When he'd gotten close enough to see that, far from being tortured, Iolaus was in fact pleasuring himself, Hercules had been embarrassed and, to be honest, a bit aroused. That had been disturbing enough but when Iolaus brought himself to completion calling out Hercules' name...

    The demigod stood rooted in place while Iolaus panted for breath on the other side of the clearing. Finally the hunter calmed down enough to deal with the mess. He started stripping off his clothes. The vest went first. He shrugged it off as he sat up. Then he reached for his boots. Once they'd been dealt with, he stood up to finish disrobing. As he did so, he glanced up and saw his watcher for the first time.

    "Hercules? How... how long have you been here?" He asked the question but the stunned expression on the big man's face had already answered it.

    "What? Oh, uh... not long," Hercules lied badly. "I... um, Iolaus, I..."

    "Hold that thought, Herc. I'm going for a quick swim. Be right back."

    The hunter bolted for the lake. Dropping his pants at the last moment, he dove in. He surfaced again near the middle of the lake. Iolaus turned around and searched the shore for Hercules. He was still there. It didn't look like he'd moved at all.

    "Not good, Iolaus," he told himself.

    He decided to stay in the water for a while. This would give Hercules a chance to leave if he wanted without the need for explanations or awkward good-byes. He could only hope that this wouldn't be the last time he ever saw his beloved friend. He dashed the tears from his eyes with an impatient gesture and started swimming.

    Hercules stood staring at the untidy camp. He was still trying to decide how he felt about this unexpected turn of events. He wasn't getting very far though. He shook himself out of his stupor and began gathering up Iolaus' scattered possessions. He moved slowly, lost in thought. Once the camp was in order, he headed for the lakeshore to retrieve the rest of his friend's clothes.

    Iolaus was still swimming. He was too tired for this really but nervous energy kept him going. He was afraid to stop. He couldn't face Hercules yet, couldn't face the rejection he was sure was coming. So he kept on swimming. He was in the middle of the lake when he felt the first warning twinge. He barely managed two more strokes before the cramp hit full force.

    Hercules was just stooping over to pick up Iolaus' discarded pants when he heard a startled yelp. He straightened up and scanned the water. There was a disturbance in the middle of the lake and Iolaus' blond head was right in the center of it. The demigod dove in without hesitation to rescue his friend. As he approached, Hercules submerged again. He'd planned to go after whatever was attacking Iolaus but he couldn't find anything. He surfaced next to the still struggling man.

    "Cramp," Iolaus managed to gasp out between breaths.

    Hercules put an arm around the hunter and started hauling him to shore. Iolaus was still trying to dig his fingers into the muscles of his leg. The effort was making it difficult for Hercules to keep hold of him.

    "Iolaus, quit wiggling!"

    Fortunately the lake was small. They reached the shore quickly. Iolaus immediately went to work two-handed trying to massage out his cramp. A moment later, Hercules batted his hands away and took over. He seemed determined to wrestle the cramp into submission.

    "Ow! Easy, Herc. I'd kind of like to keep the leg you know."

    Hercules looked like he was struggling not to say something. It was a struggle he lost.

    "Iolaus, that was a damn stupid thing to do!" He said, still roughly massaging the cramped leg. "What if I hadn't been here? You could have drowned!"

    With the pain distracting him, Iolaus didn't think before answering. "If I was alone, I wouldn't have needed to..." At that point his brain kicked in and told him to shut up.

    "You were hiding from me?"

    "Maybe," Iolaus answered defiantly.

    They fell into an awkward silence. Hercules was still rubbing absently at the hunter's leg. Iolaus' body noticed the gentler touch before the rest of him. When it finally registered, he jerked his leg away and draped his arms across his lap in an effort to hide his reaction. He could tell by the look on the demigod's face that he hadn't moved fast enough. So, he did what he always did in tense situations; he joked about it.

    "Guess the lake wasn't cold enough."

    Hercules wasn't buying. "Iolaus, we need to talk."

    "Can't we just forget about this, Herc?"

    "I don't think I can and... I'm not sure I want to." Hercules sounded like he'd surprised himself with that last comment.

    "What do you mean?"

    Instead of answering, the demigod asked a question of his own. "How long have you felt this way?"

    "A while," was the evasive reply.

    "Iolaus, please? I'm not angry. Surprised maybe, but not angry."

    "I've felt this way, more or less, for a long time. Happy?"

    Once again Hercules ignored his friend's question. "Longer that just the last few weeks or so?"

    "Oh yeah," the hunter said with a bitter laugh that suggested it had been a *lot* more than a few weeks.

    "That's a relief."

    "It is?" Iolaus looked and sounded thoroughly perplexed and perhaps just a little angry.

    "I'm sorry. I know that doesn't make sense to you but I can explain."


    Hera was furious. This was all wrong. Hercules was supposed to be horrified by Iolaus' lust. He didn't seem to mind at all. He should be demanding explanations; instead he was offering them!

    She'd seen enough. Subtle didn't work. It was time to be direct.


    There was no warning, no way to stop it. Hercules had just started his explanation his attention all on his friend, when there was a sudden flash of light in the sky. He began turning to look for the cause. In the same instant a fiery bolt arced down and struck Iolaus squarely in his chest. The force of impact knocking the blond several feet away.


    Hercules knelt beside the too still body. He laid a hand on the hunter's throat, checking for signs of life. Nothing. He wouldn't accept it. He tried again, searching carefully for even the faintest pulse. The demigod's concentration was broken by the sound of laughter, female laughter. Hercules looked up and saw the peacock eyes gazing back at him.

    "Damn you, Hera!"

    The demigod's anger only increased the goddess' laughter. Satisfied at last with the results of her scheming, Hera turned her attention elsewhere. Hercules was left alone with his grief.

    He carefully gathered up his friend's body. Never a tall man, Iolaus seemed even smaller now, delicate. The demigod settled his burden carefully, mindful of the dreadful wound on the hunter's chest. He was somewhat irrationally afraid of causing the dead man further harm. Obeying a sudden impulse, Hercules leaned down and gently kissed Iolaus.

    "I wish I'd done that a long time ago. I wish I'd known you wanted me to Iolaus." Once started, Hercules found he had a lot he needed to say. "I guess you were afraid I'd be repulsed or something and that's why you never told me how you felt. I'm not. We've been friends for so long. I'm closer to you than I have ever been to anyone else. You know things about me... you've seen the darker side I hide from the rest of the world. You're my best friend, my partner. I could never be repulsed by you. I love you too much. Oh gods, I *do* love you Iolaus!"

    Hercules hugged the blond close and rocked gently. His tears fell unheeded as he lost himself in grief. So lost was he that it took some time before he realized someone else was there. He scrubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand and looked up warily.


    "Hercules, I'm so sorry about all this. It isn't justice and it isn't fair." As she spoke, the goddess knelt across from her grieving brother. She reached out a hand to smooth back the hunter's hair.

    "No!" Hercules pulled back carrying Iolaus with him. "Don't touch him! Don't *you* dare touch him!"

    "I'm not your enemy, Hercules. I'm here to..."

    "I know why you're here," he interrupted. "You're Hera's handmaiden after all. Well, when you tell her how much this hurt me, tell her something else. Tell that bitch that she's destroyed the only person that kept me sane through all her persecution. There's no one holding me back now and I *will* destroy her. That is justice Dike. Hera destroyed me first!"

    "Hercules, Hera doesn't know I'm here. Truly. I'm not here to spy or even to commiserate. I'm here to help."

    The demigod gave the goddess a hard look. "Be careful, Dike. Hera's at the top of my list but there's plenty of room for more."

    "Brother," the goddess sighed. "I do understand really I do. Will you allow me to speak, to explain why I came?"

    Hercules nodded his assent but his expression remained wary.

    "I know Zeus has told you before that even gods have rules. Knowing him, that's probably all he told you. Well one of the chief rules, and the one that applies here is never interfere with another god's schemes. It's a rule that gets broken all the time actually, but as king of the gods, Zeus has to be more careful. If he broke the rules as often as Hera, Ares and some of the others do, there'd probably be a revolt. In this case it gives us a loophole to work with."

    "What do you mean, 'loophole'?"

    "Killing Iolaus was never part of the plan. She expected you to be horrified when you found out how he felt about you. You upset everything by being understanding."

    "So she killed him?"

    "So she killed him," Dike nodded. "And that's where she made a mistake. You already know that Iolaus felt this way for sometime but had been hiding it from you. Morpheus has been invading his dreams, bringing all his feelings out into the open where he couldn't ignore them any more. He did all this with Hera's approval but it was his idea in the first place. So when Hera killed Iolaus, technically she disrupted Morpheus' plan. Since she broke the rules already, anyone can get involved now."

    Hercules felt the first stirrings of hope. "Anyone?"

    "Anyone," Dike confirmed with a smile.


    "He certainly owes it to you."

    The demigod carefully set his burden down. Rising to his feet, he turned his face to the heavens.


    A moment later, the king of the gods appeared in a flash of light.

    "I was wondering when you'd call on me. I'm sorry son. You know I can't undo the work of another god."

    "That's not how I heard it, farther." Hercules made that last word an accusation.

    Dike stepped forward at that point. "I've already explained the situation to him, dad. I know you don't want to cross swords with Hera, but this," she gestured toward Iolaus. "Isn't just."

    "Daughter, you're not going to make this easy for me are you?"

    "Why should I? You've never made it easy for any of us."

    Zeus ignored her comment turning back to Hercules instead. "Son, you have no idea how much trouble this will cause."

    "I don't care! She murdered my wife and children and you did nothing! I gave up my strength in order to marry Serena and you stood by while Strife killed her. And all because of your damned rules! Well, father this time the rules are on *my* side."

    "Hercules, son... I know he's your friend, but..."

    "Don't," the demigod interrupted. "Don't you dare belittle him or my feelings. You don't have the right."

    There was a moment of silence then as both men tried to martial their thoughts. Dike wisely kept out of the argument. She contented herself with watching.

    "Father," Hercules began quietly. "If you don't give him back to me, Hera really has won. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't just follow him to the Otherside."

    "He means that much to you?"


    The king of the gods looked closely but could only see sincerity in his son's expression. He turned with a sigh and approached the hunter's still form. Catching sight of Dike, he smiled.

    "Daughter, I think I'll let you tell Hera about this. I'll be too busy explaining it to Hades after all."

    The goddess turned pale at the suggestion. "But, dad..."

    "Now, now, Dike. You chose to get involved," Zeus said shaking a finger at her.

    "Zeus," Hercules prompted impatiently.

    With another world-weary sigh, Zeus waved a hand in the air over Iolaus. Instantly the hole Hera's bolt had burned into the blond's chest disappeared. Nothing remained but a slight pinkness and a little soot. In the next instant, Iolaus took a deep shuddering breath and opened his eyes.

    Hercules rushed to his friend pushing Zeus aside in his haste. "Iolaus, Iolaus," he whispered pulling the somewhat confused hunter into his arms.

    Zeus stood next to Dike. Both were silent for a time watching with fond bemusement as Hercules checked to make sure Iolaus was really all right.

    "You know," Zeus began in conversational tones. "Hera's going to give me a lot of grief over this. I really ought to punish you for meddling."

    "But you won't, will you?"


    "Nope. And you can cut the act. You're not fooling me."

    The king of the gods raised his eyebrows in apparent surprise. "Whatever do you mean, daughter?"

    Dike smiled fondly at Zeus. "We both know I just gave you an excuse to do what you wanted to do all along."

    "You, young lady, have been spending entirely too much time with Aphrodite."

    Dike just laughed at that supposed rebuke. "Come on, dad. We've got some ruffled feathers to smooth and I think these two would like some privacy."

    Zeus nodded and both deities vanished in a characteristic flash of light.


    Hercules hadn't heard a word of Zeus and Dike's conversation. All his attention was focussed on Iolaus.

    "You're sure you feel okay?" He asked, brushing his hand across the fading pink mark on the hunter's chest.

    "Herc, I'm fine. Honest."

    The demigod's only reply was to pull his friend into another hug. He clutched the blond to him somewhat desperately. The anxiety and upsets of the last couple of days left him in need of reassurance.

    "Hercules," Iolaus' voice was soft. "Are you crying?"

    "Sorry, Iolaus. That was just too close. I almost lost you, my friend. I *did* lose you. You were dead."

    "Again?" The hunter grinned ruefully.

    Hercules laughed shakily. "Yeah, again. It was worse this time though."



    Iolaus pulled back so that he could see the big man's face. One look confirmed the true depth of Hercules' feelings but Iolaus was afraid to believe what he saw. It was so like his dreams. He was sure he was imagining it or reading too much into things.


    Hercules saw the uncertainty in Iolaus' eyes. Leaning forward, he settled the question with a kiss. It began gently but emotions were running too high for that to last. The demigod was amazed at how right this felt. He moved instinctively, flicking his tongue out to lightly caress Iolaus' lips. The hunter sighed, opening his mouth in invitation, an invitation that was gladly accepted. Hercules pressed closer and sent his tongue exploring.

    Iolaus melted into the strong arms of his beloved. If this was just another dream, he didn't care. He'd been telling the truth when he said he was all right. He felt fine, physically. Emotionally, though, he was still a bit of a mess. It was comforting just having Hercules hold him. The kisses were a nice bonus, very nice.

    As Iolaus relaxed he settled back pulling the demigod down with him. They ended up with the hunter flat on his back and Hercules lying half on top of him. It was a position that suited the big man's protective instincts. Those instincts were still on full alert after all that had happened and they signaled him at the first sign of trouble. It was just a little thing: Iolaus squirmed. Hercules' instincts told him that the smaller man was uncomfortable. He pulled back immediately, releasing Iolaus.

    "I'm sorry, Iolaus. I shouldn't... I just assumed and well... I'm sorry."

    "Shh. I'm fine and I, umm, liked what you were doing. Honest." He reached out trying to pull Hercules back into his arms but the demigod resisted. "Unless... do *you* want to stop?"

    "No!" The vehemence in Hercules voice surprised both of them. "It's just, a lot has been going on. Hera's been messing with you somehow or at least planning to. And she did kill you. You're back, okay... You are okay, right?"

    The hunter nodded, bemused by the flood of words coming from his normally taciturn friend. "I'm okay."

    "So, if you're okay and you want this, why were you squirming like you were trying to get away?"

    "Oh, that."

    "Yes, that."

    "Herc, I wasn't - no actually, I suppose I *was* trying to get away, but not from you. It was those darn rivets in your belt. They were digging into my hip. Probably left a bruise or two already."

    "Well we'd better stop then. Wouldn't want you getting all bruised." Hercules tried to play it serious but his relief was too great. He couldn't contain his smile.

    "Or," Iolaus countered. "We could just get rid of the belt."

    "But Iolaus, then my clothes might fall off." Hercules teased.

    The blond responded by pushing the bigger man over on to his back and attacking the offending belt with a passion. He moved on to the rest of the demigod's somewhat complicated clothing making short work of it. It occurred to Hercules to wonder how Iolaus had gotten so good at removing other peoples' clothes. Then he realized he probably didn't want to know after all. In no time, Iolaus had removed everything except Hercules' breechcloth. Here he hesitated, afraid of going too far too fast. Hercules settled the question by removing this last piece of clothing himself.

    Iolaus sat back on his heels openly admiring the view. He watched as Hercules blushed from the intensity of that frank stare. The hunter reached out and gently, reverentially placed his hand on the demigod's thigh. His eyes closed briefly in blissful appreciation. When he opened them again, his gaze locked with that of Hercules.

    "I love you, you know." The words were soft, serious.

    Hercules smiled. "I know." He reached up and pulled the hunter down for a slow, thorough kiss that left them both momentarily breathless. The demigod recovered first and hugged Iolaus close, nuzzling the bright curls. "I love you too, Iolaus. I only just realized that today but then I've always been slow."

    "Slow is good," Iolaus commented, illustrating the point by running his hand slowly down the demigod's side. He kept the touch light, teasing, and smiled when he felt Hercules shiver under his touch. He drew random patterns with his fingers, gradually working his way across the big man's torso. Turning his head, he pressed a kiss into the hollow at the base of Hercules' throat. Then he began nibbling his way along the collarbone out to one shoulder.

    Hercules lay still, enjoying everything Iolaus was doing but unsure how to reciprocate. If Iolaus were a woman, he'd know exactly what to do, but...

    The demigod's lack of response finally registered with Iolaus and he paused, pulling back to look. "Are you really all right with this, Herc? I mean, you want to do this?"

    "Yes," the big man smiled. "Oh, yes, Iolaus. I want to do this. I'm just not sure what, exactly, to do."

    "Anything you want, Hercules. Anything you want."

    "I want to touch you."

    Iolaus' smile was incandescent. "Then touch me."

    Hercules pulled the hunter up and over so that the smaller man lay sprawled across him. He was startled by heat of Iolaus' erection pressing into his belly but quickly decided that he liked the sensation. He especially liked knowing that he was the cause of Iolaus' arousal. He ran his left hand up his friend's smooth back and buried his fingers in the soft blond hair. He then used it to pull Iolaus down for more kisses. His other hand ran up and down the broad back in slow lazy stokes. He explored every inch, every bit he could reach. Once he was satisfied he'd completely mapped that area; his hand moved lower encountering the firm buttocks. He gave that flesh an experimental squeeze. Iolaus' moan encouraged him to continue. He dug his fingers in, kneading solid muscles.

    Iolaus had not been idle all this time. He'd been caught off guard when Hercules had pulled him over but it hadn't taken him long to adjust and begin taking advantage of the position he found himself in. He unconsciously copied Hercules' movements, combing the fingers of one hand through the demigod's thick hair while running the other up and down Hercules' side, caressing and massaging every bit he could reach. He began rubbing his feet along the big man's calves. The movement caused his weight to settle completely on Hercules. The pressure on his trapped cock wasn't something he could ignore any longer. He began moving, rocking his hips into Hercules. It was too one-sided. He straightened his legs trapping his lover's erection between his thighs. Now when he moved, they both benefited.

    It didn't take long for Hercules to catch on. He matched Iolaus' rhythm with movements of his own. He rocked his hips, sliding his cock along the tight space. He could feel the muscles in Iolaus' thighs flexing as he moved, tightening and relaxing around him. His actions grew, as did his arousal. The rocking motion became bucking.

    The big man's movements threatened to dislodge Iolaus, so the hunter shifted his grip. He locked his arms around the demigod's neck and stretched his legs out so that his toes were pressing down on Hercules' feet. Balanced between these two points, Iolaus rode with his lover. His own needs were temporarily ignored as he concentrated on Hercules. This new position took the demigod's mouth out of reach. Iolaus switched his attentions to the strong throat, nuzzling and sucking at the sensitive flesh.

    Hercules threw his head back, neck arching under Iolaus' mouth. 'It's too much,' he thought. 'Oh, gods! Too much.'

    "Iolaus!" The demigod shouted as he came. His back arched almost painfully as he thrust up hard against his lover. Moments later he collapsed blissfully sated. Hercules' arms encircled the blond's broad back, holding him close. When the hunter shifted, he tightened his grip thinking Iolaus meant to roll over and not wanting him too. He wanted to fall asleep just like this. It felt so good, so right.

    The hunter moved again. Hercules was about to complain when he realized what the problem was. Iolaus had yet to reach his climax. The demigod loosened his grip, giving the other man room to move. His hands slid down the length of Iolaus' back. Hercules gripped the blond's ass, digging fingers into soft skin and hard muscle. He flexed his arms, adding his strength to Iolaus' own movements.

    That last action pushed Iolaus over the edge. He'd been nibbling gently on Hercules' neck when his orgasm swept over him. The intensity of the feeling caused him to bite down a bit hard but he was too lost in sensation to notice. His muscles clenched almost painfully. As the last spasm faded he relaxed, sinking into the demigod's embrace.

    "Love you," Iolaus whispered.

    "I love you too," the big man replied.

    The hunter somehow managed to snuggle closer and Hercules sighed contentedly. One hand rose to play with the yellow curls nestled against his throat. He had no idea what tomorrow would bring, how the change in their relationship would affect things but for now, life was good. They were happy and that was the most important thing. Whatever challenges the new day brought, they would face them together.

    And that's how it should be.

    The End

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