The Price

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?

"Pull the arrow out," Hercules gasped through clenched teeth, his eyes locked commandingly on Iolausí.

Iolaus grasped the arrow reluctantly, his touch sending a bolt of pain through the demigod. Hercules was sweating profusely, the veins of his neck distended with the effort not to scream. Iolaus would have given anything to take his place. Instead, he locked his hands around the shaft of the Archerís arrow and pulled.

Hercules roared with agony and collapsed, and Iolaus took deep breaths to quell his nausea, finally allowing the terror he felt to show on his face. "Rest well, my friend," he whispered, his hands skimming the beloved form gently, fingers tightening convulsively on Herculesí powerful shoulder.

"Heíll be resting in peace in about 20 minutes," a voice observed from above him. Iolaus bent over Herculesí unconscious body in an automatic gesture of protection, then turned his head to find the voiceís owner. He leaned against the boulder that sheltered them, silhouetted by the setting sun; Iolaus squinted against the light, his eyes travelling up the indolently posed figure.

Powerful thighs encased in black leather. Ornate belt supporting a heavily-embossed sword. Black leather jerkin seated snugly on broad shoulders; maliciously glowing black eyes below a swirl of midnight curls.

Ares.

"For once in your life you should have gone with your instincts, instead of opting for slavish obedience," the God of War continued. "If youíd left the arrow where it was until the bleeding stopped and then cut it out he might have had a chance. But you made more of a mess tearing it loose than my motherís Archer did shooting it into him. Nice going, sidekick; you just killed the love of your life." He leaned interestedly over Iolausí shoulder, watching the colour draining from Herculesí face as his breathing became more ragged.

Iolausí face was whiter than the demigodís as he leaped to his feet and slammed Ares against the boulder in one swift movement. "Do something," he hissed through his teeth, gripping the collar of Aresí jerkin in trembling hands.

Ares laughed incredulously. "Do something? I am doing something. Iím watching my bastard brother bleed to death, courtesy of the man he thought was his best friend." He shook Iolausí hands off easily. Hercules had begun to shake; his breathing was faint and rapid, his lips bluish. Ares settled on his haunches, turning Herculesí head to face him. "My original estimate may have been off," he said. "I give him ten more minutes at most."

The blood was pumping from Herculesí side more slowly now; Iolaus dropped to his knees beside Ares and snatched Herculesí still hand to his mouth, stifling a cry at its iciness. Raising an anguished face to Ares, he whispered, "Please."

Ares stared into the imploring blue eyes for a long moment, his own slowly lighting with spiteful pleasure. "Please what, little man?" he drawled.

Iolaus scarcely registered the hated epithet. "Please, Ares, save him. Youíre a god; I know you can do it. Save him, and Iíll do anything you want. Tell Hades to take me instead of him. Please!"

"Gods donít barter over mortals. Besides, Hades isnít interested in you." His assessing gaze swept Iolaus. "But I might be."

Iolaus looked at him uncomprehendingly. "Anything. If you want my service, itís yours."

"Donít be a fool. Youíre a warrior; youíre already in my service, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. No, I can think of far more interesting uses than battle for my brotherís shadow." He brushed a lazy thumb over Iolausí lower lip, who jerked back his head as if stung. Ares shrugged and made as if to depart, and Iolaus caught his arm.

"No! All right, save him now and Iíll go with you," he spat, and Ares relished the hatred in his eyes.

"I donít think so," he said. "Come with me now, and if you please me Iíll save Hercules afterward. Take it or leave it."

"And let him die while you fuck me? I donít think so," Iolaus mocked him, his eyes never leaving Aresí, his still face almost concealing his desperation. Ares felt a second of admiration; perhaps this one would prove a worthy adversary, after all. Good; he hated winning too easily. But win he would, in the end.

He always had.

"Let go of him," he said, and when Iolaus backed off slightly, warily, he made a negligent gesture over Herculesí body, halting all movement; even his hair ceased to be ruffled by the soft wind. "Heís stopped. Itís up to you whether he lives or dies when he starts again. Shall we go?"

Iolaus stumbled after him, coming up short when he saw that Ares had led him to Alcmeneís house. "Not here," he said involuntarily, and Ares grinned.

"I thought youíd appreciate the privacy. We can do it beside Herculesí body, if youíd rather. Heíll never notice."

Iolausí hands clenched by his sides, and Ares drank in the force of his hate like an aphrodisiac. Delicious; hate was so much more exhilarating than fear. His brother was luckier than he deserved, to have this fiery mortal love him silently all these years. And now he, Ares, would have what Hercules hadnít noticed was his for the taking. Delicious, indeed.

"Why?"

The word almost startled Ares; had the mortal read his mind? "Because I can," he said. "Because youíre his, even if he doesnít know it. Donít waste your breath," he advised as Iolaus began a heated denial. "Everyone on Olympus knows Herculesí lapdog is panting with unrequited love. Oh, he wonít find out from me; why would I risk making him happy?"

"Are you going to tell him about this?" Iolaus asked; the words stuck in his throat.

"You assume heíll be alive for me to tell. You obviously have great confidence in your powers of persuasion. Youíd better start persuading me, donít you think?"

Another wave of loathing. Aresí cock swelled. Today was turning out very well.

He sauntered to the bed and sat back against the headboard. "Take off your clothes," he ordered. "Slowly."

He watched as Iolaus removed his garments with hands that shook with rage. Good; stay angry. That will make the victory all the sweeter. He studied the vulnerable flesh that was revealed to him. Small he was, but there was strength there. His hands had looked like a childís lying against Herculesí broad chest; Ares pictured them clutching his buttocks, pulling his face down into a bruising kiss, fury-darkened eyes burning brilliant in the crucible of passion. This would have been satisfying had Iolaus been no more interesting than the usual run of dullards; his beauty was irrelevant, but gratifying nonetheless. Ares could hardly wait to have those sleek thighs locked around his hips. Perhaps heíd even keep the blood-letting to a minimum this time.

He crooked a finger and Iolaus approached the bed, disdaining to conceal himself from Aresí sardonic regard. He lay stiffly on the coverings, barely flinching when Ares swung over his body to straddle his hips just below his flaccid penis. "Take off my belt," Ares told him, and he complied silently, his eyes on Aresí. The god leaned forward until his hands rested against the bed on either side of Iolausí head, and the mortal could feel the hardness of his cock behind its leather prison. His nostrils flared slightly as Ares rocked gently against him; the god noted the tiny intake of breath, and smiled again. So responsive. Donít make this too easy, pretty boy; youíll spoil my fun.

Again at his command, Iolaus unfastened his jerkin and slid it off his shoulders; this time when Ares leaned forward, he felt Iolausí stomach tighten under the slow caress of his body. "Get it over with!" Iolaus burst out, and Ares savoured his first victory.

"Thatís not how this is going to go, Iolaus," he said mildly, beginning a subtle rhythm against Iolausí loins. "The deal was that Iíd save Herculesí life if you pleased me. Rushing this wonít please me at all. You telling me what to do doesnít please me, either. Neither does your lying there like a frightened virgin on her wedding night. You know, I find it quite exciting to think about fucking someone who hates me as much as you do. Hate is such a clean, uncomplicated emotion Ė no coy disguises or selfish hidden agendas, just refreshing, exhilarating rancour. You always know where you stand with someone who hates you. How long do you think you can hold out, Iolaus? Not against me fucking you Ė we both know thatís going to happen exactly when I choose. Against you wanting me to fuck you. Against you needing me to fuck you more than you need air, against you being so desperate for me to let you come that for that one second youíd even sacrifice Hercules."

A little over the top, maybe? He watched Iolausí pupils dilate.

Victory number two.

He leaned toward Iolausí mouth, and the man beneath him turned his head abruptly. A welcome surge of anger swept Ares; he caught Iolausí chin in a punishing grip, forcing it up. "Donít turn away from me again," he said levelly. Iolaus waited tensely but Ares was still, watching his eyes until a hint of uncertainty crept into them Ė did Iolaus know how they betrayed him, those absurdly luminous eyes? -- and only then touching his tongue to the spot where his fingers had bruised Iolausí jaw, licking the corners of his mouth, the curves of his cheekbones, the hollows of his lids in long, unhurried swipes, until Iolaus was shaking under the shocking intimacy of it. He greeted Aresí mouth on his own with something like relief, hesitating only briefly before opening to him, but Ares concentrated on his parted lips, licking and biting softly until he felt the involuntary movement of Iolausí hips against his. His tongue slipped inside, teasing the ridged vault, the edges of teeth, drawing Iolausí tongue into his own mouth to suck softly on it. Iolausí cock was hard against him now, and he rocked against it one more time, then moved away.

Iolausí eyes fluttered open as Aresí weight left his body; he lowered his lashes quickly, but not quickly enough to prevent Ares from seeing his uneasiness.

Youíre not allowed to get comfortable, mortal. This is my game.

"Pull off my boots."

A fresh surge of defiance lit Iolausí eyes at the calm words. "Do it yourself. I agreed to sex, not slavery."

Ares lay back, clasping his hands behind his head. "Suit yourself. If you donít stop to put on your pants, you might catch Hercules in time to say goodbye before he dies." He laughed as Iolaus dove off the bed to his clothes, turning quickly with his knife clutched tightly in one hand. Ares rose off the bed to meet him, looking down at his flushed, murderous face with amusement.

"Take your best shot, Iolaus. And then take off my boots, like a good little slave."

Iolaus launched himself at Ares with a howl. The god disarmed him effortlessly, tossing the knife on the bedside table in a gesture of unconcern that he saw was not lost on Iolaus, then pulled the smaller man hard against his chest, locking one hand in blond curls, forcing Iolausí head back to expose the straining column of his throat.

"Is it out of your system?" he inquired silkily, and let his mouth hover above the pulse that beat in Iolausí throat for a long moment before releasing him suddenly to stretch out on the bed.

"Now, take. Off. My boots." His voice was soft, and dangerous.

Iolaus closed his eyes and visibly forced himself under control before approaching the bed and pulling Aresí boots off. The god laced his fingers behind his head again. "Now the trousers," he added. Iolaus bit his lip, but slid the leather over his hips without protest.

Very good, Iolaus. Submission gets easier with practice, doesnít it?

He patted the bed, turning on to his side and propping his head on his hand as Iolaus came to lie beside him. A pointed look at the space between them was all it took for Iolaus to shift reluctantly until he lay against Aresí body. Ares slid his hand easily up the inside of Iolausí thigh and pulled it toward him, imprisoning it between his own. His cock hadnít been this hard in a long time; he rocked it against Iolausí hip and ran his hand across his belly, dipping down to cup his balls and softened penis until he felt it stir anew against his palm.

Iolaus. Iíll barely have to push you at all.

"I hate you, you son of a bitch." Iolaus said it unemotionally, almost conversationally, but his hands were fists at his sides.

"Iím counting on it," Ares said with satisfaction, and traced the pulse that hammered in Iolausí throat. He pushed delicately at the mortalís mind. Not enough to influence his feelings; that would taint the victory. No, just enough to sharpen what was already there. Call it a minor erosion of self-control. Nothing that wouldnít have happened eventually, had Ares the time to properly train him. Yes.

His hand drifted upward to capture Iolausí jaw again, and he stared at the curve of his upper lip for a long moment. "One of the things that annoys me most about my brother," he said, his breath warm in Iolausí ear, hand moving almost absently down Iolausí arm to unfurl the clenched fist and stroke the tender skin of palm and wrist delicately, rhythmically; "is his inability to recognise the value of passion. It drives gods and mortals both. Of course, mortals arenít the best judges of how to exploit it; thatís why you need us. To show you how to turn passion to your advantage." Iolausí cock was hard again; his nostrils flared with the effort of taking slow, steady breaths. Aresí hand moved to the swell of a smooth pectoral, fingers scraping lightly up and down, brushing the peak of a nipple again and again.

"Passion is what dragged you out of caves. Itís what brought you civilisation and enlightenment. Passion is whatís going to save Herculesí life, Iolaus. But if my complacent brother had his way, Greece would be peopled by smiling zombies whose blood has curdled in their veins."

"Hercules isnít like that." Iolaus said it slowly, as if the thought came from a distance.

"Isnít he? When have you ever seen him wade into a fight just for the sheer unholy joy of it? When has he ever slapped you on the back and congratulated you on a conquest, instead of making you feel like an errant child? When did he ever show you a fraction of whatís in your face every time you look at him?"

"I donít need Hercules to throw me on my back to prove he loves me." Iolaus had lost the battle to control his breathing and his words ended on a swift intake of breath as Aresí hand slid down to nudge his thighs further apart. This time when Ares moved over him, he made room for the dark god between them without thought. Ares was careful to keep his smile from his face.

"You really are a lovely little package," he said idly, watching the red flush mount to Iolausí throat as Ares pressed their loins together. It seemed heíd been hard forever. The soft scratch of the mortalís gold curls against his cock made him shiver deliciously, and he rocked into the heat and growing slickness. Iolausí head went back; his hands buried themselves in the bedclothes for an instant, then with a groan he tangled them in Aresí hair and pulled him into a rage-filled kiss. Ares felt his lush bottom lip split against his teeth and let the blood spill from it as though he were human; its taste intoxicated him and he shared it with Iolaus, laughing triumphantly into his panting mouth, sliding his hands down over rib and hip to urge those strong thighs around his waist, just as heíd wanted from the beginning.

The third victory.

Heíd a mind to sample this mortalís blood; he pulled a hand from his hair and sank suddenly sharp teeth into the tracery of blue veins below his wrist. Iolaus hissed and tried to pull his arm away, but Ares held him firmly; saltsweet and thick, it was underlaid with the rich taste of Iolausí fury and arousal. Sex and blood; they made an immortalís life worth living. Especially when there were games to be played with mortals like this one. He allowed the blood to trickle down his arm, scooping it from the hollow of his elbow and smearing it across his chest. He closed his eyes and breathed in its heady scent, some impulse bringing his own wrist to his mouth to tear at it and hold it, dripping, above Iolausí face, there to limn a primitive, savage mask.

Not so far from the caves, after all.

Iolausí eyes blazed above the jagged streaks of crimson; his tongue darted out, shockingly pink and delicate, to lick at the gore on Aresí cheek. He tightened his legs around Aresí waist and the god crushed their mouths together. Heíd tapped a wellspring of violence that exceeded his most optimistic expectations, and it was breathtaking.

"You serve me, Iolaus. Thereís a place inside you that knows complacency is the only real death. Acknowledge it or not. Like it or not. In the end, you belong to the God of War, and all your love of Hercules canít change that." His voice was ragged, effortful; Iolaus stared at him, chest heaving.

"I serve you or have sex with you for the same reason: because the alternative is unacceptable. I kill one man because sometimes itís the only way to make sure a hundred live. You watch a hundred die because it pleases you. Just like it pleases you to think Hercules is incapable of passion. Youíre right; it is passion thatís going to save Herculesí life. Not ours, making hate on his motherís bed. His. His passion for life, for lives, even for the ones who donít deserve it, like you.

"Did you think you were going to seduce me into changing my mind?" His chuckle was unexpected, and mirthless. "I confess. You seduced me, all right. You overturned some rock inside me somewhere, and something I donít particularly want to look at came crawling out to meet you. So yeah, I want you. But when this is over, I will walk away and not look back. I will never belong to you.

"Now shut up and fuck me, you bastard."

Ares shifted slightly to press his aching cock against the tightness of Iolausí flesh. Not slick enough, he thought. "This is probably going to hurt you more than it does me," he remarked, pushing in without further preamble. Iolaus grunted as the head of Aresí cock pierced him.

"I donít give a fuck. Just do it," he gasped, and Ares tore into him, roaring. He couldnít remember the last time he wanted a mortal this badly.

Such a waste.

Their coupling was frenzied, animalistic; Iolausí nails laid open Aresí back, and he responded by pulling the mortalís legs over his shoulders to thrust into him more deeply. He remembered trying to flip Iolaus on to his stomach and being bitten to the bone, Iolaus panting that he wanted to watch Aresí face when he came. Somehow this excited Ares past bearing, as did the mortalís demands for more, harder, faster. He was vaguely aware of Iolausí hands on his cock between them, and of his hoarse shriek when he came, his seed joining the blood that decorated the God of Warís chest. He clamped on Aresí cock endlessly, painfully, heels drumming on Aresí bloody back as the god rode him, until finally he was limp and shuddering, jerking occasionally when Ares drove deeper into his unresisting body. His hand slipped off his cock, scrabbled among the tumbled bedclothes and returned to his side; then suddenly he was meeting Aresí thrusts again, grinding his ass brutally on Aresí cock, and through the red haze of his impending climax Ares saw Iolausí hand come off the bed, light flashing from the thing he held in it.

He had time for a wave of astonishment and admiration before his orgasm and the knife struck him simultaneously.

The pain was incredible; heíd never come so hard in all his centuries of existence.

When he could see again, some small eternities later, he rolled off Iolaus on to his back and stared at the hilt of the knife that was buried in his chest.

"I didnít think it was possible for a mortal to surprise me any more," he said, and began to laugh. He laughed harder when Iolaus nonchalantly leaned over him to pull out the blade and toss it back on the table.

He turned back to Ares, suddenly impatient. "No more games, Ares. Save Hercules, and fix it so Demetrius doesnít gain so much of a head start that we canít catch up in time, or all this will be for nothing."

Ares yawned. "Even saving Hercules doesnít seem an unreasonable price to pay for the entertainment youíve given me, Iolaus. Demetriusí wagon will break an axle and force him to make early camp. My brother should be ready to stagger after him by the time itís fixed."

Iolaus was halfway out the door when Ares spoke again. "If I were you, Iíd wash before I let Hercules see me. You might be able to convince him the blood is his, but youíre a little, well, ripe." He smiled again as Iolaus looked down at his gore-streaked body, at the toothmarks on his swollen nipples and the jagged wound that still oozed on his wrist.

"Ares..."

The God of War sighed and gestured. "Youíll have to handle dressing on your own." Iolaus turned too quickly and winced. "I wouldnít want you to forget me completely," Ares added, caressing his split lip. He decided it would amuse him to wear his own wounds a little longer. He brushed a hand across the place where Iolaus had stabbed him, and chuckled. Things had not gone exactly as planned. He was in an excellent mood.

We arenít finished with each other yet, Iolaus.

He vanished.


Hercules opened his eyes with an effort. "Iolaus," he said with relief, the familiar figure blurry, but unmistakable to him. There had been grass under him; now there was softness, a pillow instead of a rock. Heíd known Iolaus would come through. In a minute, heíd remember why his side hurt so much.

Hercules had remained unconscious during the time it had taken Iolaus to pull him into the house, hoist him onto the bed and stitch and dress his wound. Iolaus was grateful; it had given him time to compose himself, to prepare to act as though nothing had happened. Hopefully Hercules would attribute anything he gave away to the stress of the moment. He sighed heavily. Ares had removed the surface evidence of their encounter, except for the ache in his ass every time he moved. The rest of it wouldnít be erased so casually.

Hercules was alive. That was all that mattered. Heíd think about the rest of it some other time.

"Thank the gods. I didnít think anyone could survive one of Hephaestusí arrows," he heard himself say.

He could do this.

The End

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