Playing for Keeps

By Valentin

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?

"Iolaus, are you sure I have to do this?"

Iolaus bit his lip firmly and busied himself with stropping his razor. "Up to you, Herc. They'd probably get over the insult in a decade or two, seeing as how you're the son of Zeus and all."

Hercules heaved a despairing sigh. "You're really loving this, aren't you? Go ahead, laugh. I deserve it. If you've told me once, you've told me a thousand times not to volunteer for something until I know what I'm volunteering for."

"Don't be so hard on yourself. Somebody invites you to be the guest of honour at their annual games, why would you say no? They ambushed you once you got here. Not your fault. And it's for charity, right?" His voice was barely shaking at all, Iolaus thought with pride. "Anyway, nobody's going to notice. It'll grow back in no time. Really." He risked a glance over his shoulder; Hercules had wrapped his tunic tightly around his body and crossed his arms over it. Iolaus began to feel a little sorry for him, although in truth he didn't really understand why Hercules was acting like this was such a tragedy. He himself had hardly any, and he'd managed to overcome it and lead a full and rewarding life, for gods' sakes.

"Maybe you just need a little positive reinforcement," he said cheerfully, pouring a bucket of hot water into a deep basin. "I bet every woman in the city would be more than happy to help you-"

"No! You said you'd do it!" Even Hercules looked a little surprised at his own vehemence. "I mean, I'm going to need some time to adjust to it, and I'd just as soon not have a crowd of people in here watching it happen, all right?"

"Okay." Really. Oo-kay, Herc. Okay in a big way, trust me. You won't hear me complaining about being offered the chance to fulfil a significant chunk of what's probably the world's longest-standing sexual fantasy.

He was really going to have to find out who the city's patron god was and make a suitable offering of thanks. He'd never fully appreciated the value of ritual before, but any god who decreed that the men who wrestled in his festivals be naked, shaved and oiled was definitely Iolaus' kind of deity. Especially when Hercules agreed to a wrestling exhibition before he found out about the naked, shaved and oiled part.

So not only was Iolaus going to watch Hercules wrestle naked, shaved and oiled, he was actually going to be doing the shaving. The oiling, too, if he had anything to say about it.

Life was good.

Iolaus adjusted himself surreptitiously inside his codpiece before turning back to Hercules. "So, Herc, how many men do you think you can take at once?" Have mercy.

"At 500 dinars a head for charity, as many as possible, I guess." Hercules stared at his reflection with a mix of gloom and resignation and sighed again. "All right, let's get this over with." He shrugged out of his tunic and undershirt and looked around. "Where do you want me?"

With an effort of will Iolaus kept his eyes from the enormous bed at the other end of their chamber and gestured to a stool by the fire. "Might as well go ahead and take off your trousers, too," he said casually. "No point in getting them wet when they have to come off eventually anyway. And speaking of getting wet..." He shrugged out of his vest and dropped it on top of the pile of Hercules' clothing, then pulled a table over for the necessaries. "Stretch out your arm-no, rest your hand on my shoulder." He lathered and shaved the arm quickly and efficiently, patting it dry with the towel he'd draped over his other shoulder. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it? How does it feel?"

Hercules touched his denuded forearm gingerly, then stroked it. "Weird. I don't know what's stranger, the feel of my arm under my fingers or the feel of my fingers against my arm. Either way, it feels incredibly naked. What do you think?"

I think I should be more careful what I wish for, Iolaus thought, making a noncommittal noise as he ran his hand along the damp skin. Incredibly naked was right. The hair that adorned his own body was sparse and fine, but it was still a presence on his skin; touching this utterly exposed flesh felt almost like an invasion of Hercules' privacy.

He shaved and dried the other arm with care, longing to test its texture against his cheek.

"Legs next," he said in a businesslike voice, and Hercules stood and spread his legs. His incredibly long, tanned, strong, godly legs. Spread. Oh gods give me strength, Iolaus prayed, and knelt at Hercules' feet.

He smoothed the lather carefully up Hercules' shin and calf to his knee, and felt the weight of the other man's eyes on him. "What?" he asked, looking up.

Hercules was smiling. "You know, most people would see this as being beyond the call of duty, even for a best friend. Is there anything you wouldn't help me with?"

Iolaus feared his frantically pounding heart would fling itself out of his chest and drop at Hercules' feet. "No," he said simply and snatched up the razor, adding with a quick grin, "What kind of a friend would I be if I only stuck around for the fun stuff, right?"

"Right." Hercules' fingers brushed lightly across his hair, and Iolaus released the breath he hadn't realised he was holding. The word was soft, the gesture fleeting, and at that second a battalion of warriors couldn't have forced Iolaus to meet Hercules' eyes. He cursed his cowardice and slid the razor against Hercules' skin.

He needed a diversion from his aching cock and his even more painful thoughts. His mind wandered back to the coming contest and idle speculation of just how many men it would take to immobilise the demigod for the requisite period of time. "Herc," he asked after a moment, guiding the blade over long thigh muscles, "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be dominated by somebody stronger than you?"

Dominated? Why don't you just bend over and shake it at him, Iolaus? "Herc, I didn't mean-"

"It's okay, Iolaus. If I can ask you to shave my legs, I don't see why you shouldn't ask me-whatever it is you're asking me." There was laughter in his voice, but there was something else there as well. Intrigue? A hint of curiosity?

Maybe there was a god who looked after men whose mouths were connected to their dicks instead of their brains.

Iolaus tapped the inside of Hercules' thigh and he shifted his stance a little. Six more inches, and Iolaus' mouth could be connected to the delicious bulge under Herc's clout. He dragged his eyes away from it and concentrated on the delicate work he was doing, wondering a little hysterically what Hercules would say if he licked the rest of the lather off.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what I'm asking you," he confessed. Liar. "I guess... you know, how would you feel if the day ever came when you were up against a man who was stronger than you? Would you be scared, do you think, or what?"

"I guess it would depend on why we were there," Hercules said.

Iolaus was stunned. What in Tartarus was that supposed to mean? Something was happening here! Wasn't it? Come on. A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man but one, more or less. Say something. Now.

"I know why I'd be there."

A second of silence from over his head, then: "You have domination fantasies?" The bulge under the clout swelled just a little, and Iolaus was warmed by a treasured memory: three youths-a demigod, a princeling and an ex-thief-sharing their fantasies, and on rare, giddy occasions their caresses, under the cloak of the night sky.

"Not-well, yeah, I guess so. Just from the other side, you know?" He rinsed the razor carefully and laid it aside to run a hand down the inside of Hercules' leg. "Nice job, if I do say so myself. Maybe I've got a future as a body servant, you think?" Help me out here, Herc. Tell me what you want; I'd give you anything you asked me for, anything.

Hercules cleared his throat. "Other side?"

Iolaus put a fresh edge on the blade and motioned for Hercules to raise his arms so he could shave beneath them. He found this necessitated his standing far closer than before; close enough, in fact, that he was sure Hercules could feel his breath ghosting across newly bare skin. Close enough to feel Hercules' thickening beneath the clout.

"Well, let's face it, otherwise it wouldn't be much of a novelty for me. Nope. In my fantasy, I'm a wealthy landowner who's just acquired a new slave who hasn't been settling in too well, and needs to be taught who's in charge." Iolaus lathered Hercules' chest. "Your arms are in the way. Put your hands behind your back."

Hercules complied without question, his eyes never leaving Iolaus' face. His chest was rising and falling more quickly under Iolaus' hands, and he started a little when the razor swept down the swell of one breast. Iolaus' hand was beginning to shake and he forced his breathing to slow, wondering desperately if he was risking more than he could afford to lose. But somehow the stakes had doubled and redoubled when he wasn't looking.

He drew in a deep breath. Winner take all. He lifted the razor carefully and slid his other hand down the path it had taken, stopping when he reached the peaked crest of Hercules' breast. He touched the nipple gently, and Hercules shuddered. Pressed into his hand.

"I tell them to clean him up and bring him to me-"

"But they can't." Hercules' voice was a little hoarse. "He won't let anyone near him and he's too strong for them, so they tell you that he can't be tamed and you should send him to the mines. But you say no, and you come to the slave quarters to see him for yourself."

Hercules' nipple was iron under Iolaus' fingertips. Closing his eyes, he pressed his palm against the blood-hot flesh. He wanted to drop to his knees and tear off Hercules' clout, but even more than that he wanted to play this out, moment by agonising, exultant moment. He opened his eyes and carefully began to shave the other breast.

"As soon as I see him I know I have to have him," he said, so softly Hercules had to bend a little to hear him. "He's ragged and filthy, and he's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. My men are holding him down. They release him at my command. I stand over him and offer him my hand, and he takes it and stands up. His eyes-I've never seen eyes like that. I feel like they're laying me open and seeing things no-one was ever supposed to know. But I don't mind him knowing. I want him to."

Iolaus allowed himself to press his mouth against Hercules' nipple, just for a second. Hercules' shoulders shifted forward, then he settled, his hands still clasped behind his back. The razor slid across his stomach in smooth strokes.

"He could kill you with one punch, but you're not afraid of him. He knows nothing he could say or do would ever make you afraid of him, and it's as if something pulls loose inside him, and it's so painful and so wonderful he thinks he might die. He asks you what you want from him and you smile at him, and you say, 'Everything.' And he says 'Yes', and he goes with you."

Hercules' skin was gleaming. Iolaus set down the razor and ran his hands carefully over Hercules' chest. "Perfect," he said, and looked up into blazing eyes, and didn't mind them seeing everything he'd kept hidden for so many years.

He reached up and pushed Hercules' hair back off his face so he wouldn't miss anything, and he pulled Hercules' head down to his until their mouths touched, tilting his face until they fit just so; staying like that, until Hercules made a helpless sound and reached for him, and he pressed the big arms back into place and pulled reluctantly away.

"I take him to my rooms," he said calmly, just as though the world hadn't fractured and re-formed during a kiss, and Hercules followed him to the big bed, waiting while he settled at its edge then standing in front of him. He leaned forward and inhaled Hercules' dizzying aroma through the clout, pressing his lips against the dampness there then unwinding the cloth and letting it drop away. Oh gods, he was going to come in his cod like a schoolboy. "I lead him to the bath and wash him carefully, although he's humiliated by it at first. I do it because no-one has done anything for him in a long time, maybe in his whole life."

"And because you want him to know that embarrassment doesn't belong between the two of you, that he's yours to touch anywhere, any time you choose. And when he knows that he's not embarrassed any more, and he wants you to touch him everywhere, and to touch you if you'll let him. You lay him on your bed and you touch him so gently it breaks his heart and makes him lighter than air, and then your cock is inside him, and until that moment he'd believed perfect didn't exist."

Iolaus stared blankly at Hercules until the demigod reached for him, worry creasing his forehead. The motion broke whatever spell he'd been under, and he sprang from the bed. "You son of a bitch," he breathed.


"You son of a bitch!" This time it was a shout, accompanied by a shove that drove Hercules back in shock. "How long have you had that inside you? When the fuck were you planning on letting me in on your little secret? After you got married again? On your deathbed? Visiting day in Tartarus?

"You would have just kept your mouth shut forever if I hadn't made the first move, wouldn't you? You son of a BITCH!"

Gods, he wanted to kill him. All this time. They could have been together all this time if Hercules had only said something. He snatched up his vest and ran for the door. Naturally, Hercules beat him there.

"Wait a damn minute! Since when have I been in charge of this relationship? Why was it up to me to go first?"

"You left first!"

"You got married first!"

"Don't talk to me about getting married, you son of a bitch! And don't pretend you didn't know how I felt! You knew!" Iolaus was suddenly exhausted. "You knew," he repeated flatly, and turned away. He felt sick to his stomach. He'd gambled everything, and lost everything. It was one thing to love Hercules and live with the thought that he didn't feel the same way. It was more than Iolaus could do, though, to look at Hercules every day and know that whatever they could have been had simply never been enough for him.

"You're right," came a voice in his ear, and he started wildly, so sunk in his misery that he hadn't heard Hercules' approach. He turned his head, but his traitorous body insisted on leaning against the hot, shockingly bare flesh that pressed him. Hercules' cock was rigid against the small of his back, its tip burning his skin above the waist of his pants.

"I did know how you felt about me. I spent a few years being flattered, and a few more years swearing I wasn't about to enter a competition with every woman in Greece, and a few years after that being just plain scared. So scared I got married again. It was easy for Ares to make me believe I'd killed Serena when I was already feeling so guilty about having married her. When I told you, when I saw how terribly I'd hurt you, I nearly called it off. But then I'd have had to do something about the way I felt, and I was too afraid." His arms came around Iolaus, tentatively at first, then more strongly when the stiff figure didn't pull away from him.

"What we've had all these years has meant everything to me. What if I'd told you and it changed everything? What if it went wrong, somehow, and you left me alone? I couldn't risk that. I know it was stupid. I'm sorry."

Son of a bitch. Iolaus turned in his arms. "What if you'd trusted me, Herc? How can you love me enough to make Hades give me back to you, but not enough to trust me not to leave you? That's beyond stupid, that's..." Words failed him. "Let go of me."

Hercules bowed his head for a moment, then released him and stepped back. "Tell me what to do," he said without looking up. His erection, like Iolaus', had waned, and his cock lay pale against the shock of red-brown curls.

How far are you willing to go for this? How scared are you now?

"Hercules. What would he do?"

The cards are on the table, Herc, and I'm calling.

Hercules looked puzzled for an instant. Then his eyes widened and something like apprehension flashed in them, followed by deep, quiet joy. Straightening his shoulders, he put his hands behind his back and whispered, "Yes." He smiled and his cock began to fill and he said, "Yes. Yes. Yes," until Iolaus flew at him and muffled the sound against his own laughing mouth.

They kissed until Hercules was panting and pressing against Iolaus and begging for permission to use his hands, and then Iolaus skimmed out of his boots and trousers and arranged Hercules on the bed, half-reclining against the pillows, hands gripping the headboard. He emptied the basin and refilled it with fresh water, and brought it, the razor and more towels to the side of the bed.

"Iolaus, there's nothing left to... oh. You can't- oh." Hercules dropped his head back against the pillows. His cock grew impossibly larger, and Iolaus regarded it with anticipation.

"Do you remember the last time I had your cock in my hands?" he asked, holding it gently as he lathered around and beneath it. "You aren't allowed to come 'til I say you can, by the way."

Hercules' knees bent reflexively at the casual words, spreading his thighs, and sweat beaded his forehead. "Seven years ago when I broke my elbow," he gasped. "The healer gave me so much pain medicine I couldn't feel my fingers and toes and you had to help me piss for two days."

"Hardest two days of my life," Iolaus said reminiscently. "So to speak."

The pale, tender skin above Hercules' cock shone. Iolaus paused to stroke it and consider how best to position him to complete the job. Standing up? Bent over the bed? On his hands and knees? Maybe just a few pillows under his hips. "Let go of the headboard and hold your legs against your chest." Oh, fuck, look at that. He wasn't going to last long enough to make it in there. "Hang on, Herc. We're almost finished. Gods, you take my breath away."

"Iolaus..." Hercules' groan was agonised, and Iolaus took pity on him. He cupped a soapy hand around Hercules' half-shaved balls and closed his mouth over the head of his cock, and that was all Hercules gave him time for. Iolaus licked him gently and happily until he could breathe again and pressed his rubbery legs back against his chest so he could finish his work, and if a slippery finger or two made themselves at home, no-one complained about it.

Hercules glowed honey-gold in the shifting afternoon light, heavy-lidded eyes tracking Iolaus as he left the bed to retrieve the fragrant oil that sat warming by the fire. "You haven't finished telling me your fantasy," he said, and stretched, hands resting over the low headboard as if by accident. Iolaus' half-forgotten erection rose to full attention. Leagues and leagues of him and all of it mine, he thought with covetous delight, and stared at the offering before him with hot, possessive eyes, and watched his slave's body coil and curve toward him in instinctual response.

"You belong to me," he said, and his slave's cock arched yearningly. "Say it."

"I want to belong to you," his slave said softly, and he frowned. "Don't be angry," his slave begged. "I want to belong to you. So much. I... need you to help me."

I'm going to make a really, really big offering, Iolaus promised the city's as-yet-unknown patron god, and unfastened the thick, soft cord that confined the window's heavy draperies. He tied it to the headboard and turned to look at his slave.

"Is this what you need?" he asked, and his slave bowed his head and extended his arms, wrists together. His master wrapped the cord several times around his wrists and tucked in its end.

"You and I both know that this cord won't hold you unless you let it. Are you strong enough to let it?" The slave raised glowing eyes to his master's face and reached above his head to grasp the headboard.

And the master touched his slave, ran knowing hands over his quivering, exposed flesh, finger and thumb testing a nipple between them, teeth and tongue seeking the wild pulse points that caused his slave to pant and whimper, his eyes to grow unfocused with need, his hands to clench and strain against their bindings. Finally, the master poured the fragrant oil into his hands and listened to the song of his slave's gladness as he spilled his seed over his belly and clasped the fingers that lit him from within.

And never had the master taken such pleasure in the pleasure of another, and he commanded his beloved slave to ask for anything his heart desired.

His slave licked bitten lips and whispered in a voice that trembled with exhaustion, "I want to belong to you. I want your cock, lord," and he pressed against the fingers that slid gently in him still. So the master helped his slave draw shaking legs against his chest, kissing the tender folds of skin at knee and thigh; and he poured the oil over his cock, fearing that his own touch would be too much.

The master looked at his slave, shining with sweat, drugged with passion and fatigue, heady with the rich scents of his own arousal. He watched his slave colour and wet his lips under the heat of his master's gaze, and he watched his slave's heavy shaft fill and strain, and he waited until he heard his slave's voice say, "Please..."

Oh, gods. This was... beyond anything. The possessive strobing clutch as he made his entry, the velvet grip within, the naked heat that pressed against his belly as he folded over his slave's body, willing back the urgency of his need. At last he began to ease forward again, watching his slave's face, and seeing only dazed rapture there moved less gently, until he was thrusting with ferocious joy.

He wanted everything, everything, heart and soul and last living breath, demanding surrender with each thrust, his own heart long since surrendered, soul and breath wrenched out of him as he emptied himself into the one who owned him. And he stayed with him, rocking easily, coaxing a last, almost silent climax from his shuddering, pliant, exhausted love.

Then Iolaus eased himself out with a reluctant sigh and fetched a towel on wobbly legs, clambering back into bed with just enough energy for a desultory swipe or two here and there. His eyes were already closing when he bethought himself of Hercules' bindings, but the weight that settled on his stomach told him Hercules had taken care of it himself.


He forced open an eye and peered at the back of the head cradled on his stomach. "Herc? You okay?"

"Oh, yeah." A pause, then: "That was... I don't... I belong to you."

"'Course you do, Herc." Smiling, he closed the eye. "Go to sleep."

He didn't stay awake long enough to hear the soft snore that answered him.

"You're not doing that exhibition."

They'd awoken to full dark and bickered amiably about who would get out of bed to light the lamps, finally deciding to make do with starlight until the summons to dinner. Unfortunately, that had served to remind Iolaus of the purpose of their visit.

"What? Don't be ridiculous. I can't back out now."

"Sure you can," Iolaus insisted. "We'll tell them you've developed a disgusting, contagious illness and you can't take a chance on spreading it."

Hercules turned his head to stare at his lover. "Iolaus, I'm not going to lie to them. Besides, it's for charity, remember? You'll just have to grin and bear it."

Iolaus' glance shifted away guiltily, but his voice remained obdurate. "Yeah, well. Charity begins at home, and I'm not the one who's going to be baring it. And neither are you. If you think I'm just going to stand around while a bunch of mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, grunting, unwashed apes jump all over you, putting their hairy hands Zeus knows where-"

Hercules was laughing helplessly. Iolaus trailed off into indignant silence and pushed Hercules' head off his lap, folding his arms across his chest and staring coldly at his chortling lover. Hercules ran down at last, heaved a mighty sigh, wiped his streaming eyes and sat up.

"Finished?" Iolaus gave him a last glare and slid toward the edge of the bed. Hercules caught him in his arms and settled him between his legs, and after a token struggle Iolaus leaned back against his chest. "Well. I better not catch you enjoying yourself," he muttered, and allowed Hercules to convince him that he had the demigod's undivided attention.

"And after the exhibition," Hercules murmured against his neck, "I thought we could excuse ourselves early and come back here so I can tell you about my fantasy."

Iolaus shivered deliciously when the tip of Hercules' tongue found its way into his ear. "'Kay, then. I'll just need to make one quick stop on the way back. Um, Herc, could you loan me a couple of dinars for a temple offering?"

The End

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