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?

They had been walking in silence for almost an hour. Iolaus had answered all of Herculesí attempts at conversation with monosyllabic grunts; Hercules had finally given up, grumbling that he wasnít used to being the one doing all the talking. When that didnít provoke a response he stopped on the path, regarding his friend with concern.

Iolaus, left hand cradling his knitting right arm and eyes trained unseeingly on the path before them, kept walking; Hercules called his name twice before he looked up, faintly surprised at finding himself alone.

"Whatís wrong?" he asked, looking around them, and back at Hercules.

"You tell me," Hercules said. "Iolaus, I can take the Sword of Veracity back to the Thallian Caves by myself and meet you somewhere, if youíd rather not go back there."

"Why wouldnít I want to go back there?"

"I thought maybe the reason you were so quiet is because you thought there might be another minotaur waiting for us. You donít need more reminders of what my brother did to you. So why donít we set up camp at that waterfall, and you can wait for me."

Iolaus looked at him, squinting against the glare of the late afternoon sun. The angled light caught in his eyes, turning their blue depths to iridescent green. Iolaus had never been able to lie to Hercules for long; his remarkable eyes always telegraphed his feelings, their colour changing with his moods. And besides, Iolaus was a really bad liar, Hercules thought. Particularly for someone who could deliver a tall tale so convincingly.

When the minotaur had first appeared in the cave, Herculesí impulse had been to pull Iolaus behind him, to somehow shield him from the memories of his horrific assault at the hands of that other Minotaur. As if it sensed where Hercules was most vulnerable, the monster had immediately heaved an enormous boulder at Iolaus. Hercules was too far away to intercept it; he breathed again when the rock fell short of its mark, and sent Iolaus ahead with Lia to retrieve the Sword of Veracity. It was one of those rare occasions when Iolaus actually did something Hercules told him to do.

When two more of the creatures challenged them at Hestiaís altar Hercules ran deeper into the cave, hoping to draw them away from Iolaus. Of course, Iolaus wasnít having any of it, taking his accustomed position at Herculesí back to face the second beast. Hercules kept his eyes on the monster before him, instinctively reaching behind him to reassure himself of Iolausí presence.

As always, the two fought as one, and the creatures were dispatched with relative ease. Iolaus had treated the incident lightly, but Hercules had not been fooled. He hadnít been able to let Iolaus out of his sight since.

"Not even Hera would try to stop us from returning the sword, Herc," Iolaus pointed out. "Besides," he added slowly, as if it was something he was just realizing, "fighting them with you, back to back Ė it freed something in me, somehow. It didnít take the other time away, it just Ė it was how itís meant to be."

Hercules clasped his friendís shoulder strongly.

"I know," he told Iolaus, and his fingers tightened for a moment. He found himself strangely reluctant to lose contact with the broad shoulder that lay under the disreputable vest. Iolaus laid his hand over Herculesí and smiled brilliantly up at his friend, and Hercules was horrified to find himself blushing.

"So sorry to interrupt," a coarse voice sneered from behind him, "but weíd like all your money. Now."

Hercules looked over his shoulder at the small band of ragtag men who had surrounded them, and back down at Iolaus, who rolled his eyes and sighed.

He dropped the sheathed Sword to the ground and turned, feeling Iolaus at his back with an awareness that was almost physical. He fought his attackers with automatic precision, his mind turning over other possibilities for Iolausí preoccupation. Was he thinking of Lia? Surely not; Iolaus was never one to dwell on a lost opportunity. Still, he had told her that he thought he was falling in love with her. Regardless of his many affairs, that wasnít something Iolaus said every day.

He stretched an arm to block a sword thrust, then pivoted to meet simultaneous kicks aimed by two of the ruffians. As he turned, still considering Iolaus, he tangled with the sword and lost his footing, recovering his balance in time to see, but not deflect, the studded club that was coming at his head. Suddenly an arm was thrust in front of his face and Iolaus took the force of the savage blow full on his broken wrist, shouting in pain as the sharp spikes bit through the splinting.

"Enough!" Hercules roared, and tore the club from the manís hand, launching it into the air and following it with the man himself. Iolaus had dispatched three of their attackers already; Hercules made short work of the last five and turned to Iolaus, who clutched an arm that spouted crimson from half-a-dozen wounds.

He turned a white face to Hercules. "Ouch," he said with a wobbly smile, and fainted.

He awoke quickly to find himself being carried in Herculesí arms.

"I can walk, Herc," he protested, struggling. "I hurt my arm, not my legs."

"You passed out, Iolaus," Hercules replied.

"Címon, Herc," Iolaus pleaded. "You know I hate being carried like a kid. Besides, you left the Sword behind."

"Damn the Sword," Hercules grumbled, but he released Iolaus reluctantly and retrieved it.

"Maybe you should let me take that thing," Iolaus said.

"You?" Hercules responded. "When was the last time you held on to a sword for more than thirty seconds once a fight broke out?"

"Exactly my point!" Iolaus answered triumphantly. "I put them places where nobody trips over them!"

"Ha, ha," Hercules said dryly, relieved that Iolaus seemed to be recovering quickly. The arm had stopped bleeding, but Hercules would not feel comfortable until heíd gotten a look at it.

They made camp under a tree near the waterfall just as the sun was about to sink behind the trees. Iolausí pace had slowed considerably and he made no protest when Hercules urged him down onto the soft grasses he had piled by the fire. He started to unwind the bandage that held the splints to his arm, wincing when the dried blood held it fast.

"I think Iíll go soak this off," he told Hercules, muttering a curse as he fumbled at his belts with stiff, swollen fingers. Hercules pushed his hands away and unfastened the buckles for him; they slid off Iolausí slim hips, and he bent to remove Iolausí boots. He felt the heat of Iolausí touch through his shirt as the smaller man steadied himself.

Hercules found himself strangely breathless as he straightened again. He avoided Iolausí eyes as his fingers moved to the thongs that fastened Iolausí codpiece. Iolaus was his best friend, had been for thirty years. They had married and buried wives together, loved and lost children. They had fought, laughed and cried as one for all that time. Theyíd even slept with the same women, for Hadesí sake. Why was he dredging up ancient history? There must be a full moon.

Or maybe heíd unsheathed that damned Sword once too often.

He forced his breathing under control and turned away from Iolaus.

"You all right now?" he tossed over his shoulder, busying himself at the fire.

There was a heartbeat of silence; then Iolaus answered lightly, and the moment was past.

He kept his back turned until he heard Iolaus ease himself into the water, then he reached for Iolausí knife, intending to catch a couple of fish for their dinner. His attention was drawn to Iolausí clothes lying in a heap on the sweet grasses and he bent almost involuntarily to pick them up, pressing his face against the ragged vest, finding Iolausí warmth and scent inhabiting it still. He folded the vest and trousers neatly and straightened the boots, resolutely ignoring the stirring in his groin, and went to the river a hundred yards upstream of Iolaus to see about dinner.

Iolaus was searching the waterís edge for soaproot, his thoughts on Hercules. Usually Iolaus could read his friend with an ease born of long experience. He had no idea what was going on in his mind now.

It had been years since Iolaus had allowed himself to consider Hercules seriously as a lover. Somewhere along the way, their relationship had settled into its current predictable, comfortable Iolaus-flirts-with-Hercules, Hercules-notices-but- refuses-to-take-it-seriously pattern. Given added piquancy with a little Iolaus-screws-his-brains-out when the mood came over him, since there was never any dearth of willing partners. Sometimes Hercules bridled a little, sometimes he didnít seem to notice at all. At least until Lia came down that hill, and Iolaus fell instantly in love.

In stark contrast to Hercules, who had been uncharacteristically cold to her from the beginning.

At some point during their journey to the Thallian Caves, it had burst upon Iolaus with blinding clarity that Hercules was behaving as though he was actually, gloriously jealous. But that was too good to be true.

Wasnít it?

He had been wrestling with it for hours, replaying these days in his mind; there was too much at stake not to be sure.

Iolaus fell in love all the time. He couldnít help it; he was a romantic, and the drama and grand gestures of falling in love were as essential to him as the lover. Probably more, he admitted to himself, since he fell out of love as quickly and painlessly as he fell into it. When heíd told Lia that she was the most beautiful woman heíd ever seen, and he thought he was falling in love with her, heíd meant it wholeheartedly.

At the moment heíd said it.

The sound of his own voice was far more effective a cure than the icy river that Hercules had recommended.

When had Hercules needed to resort to cold baths, anyway?

He dragged his mind from the possibilities and pondered Herculesí reaction to Lia as he beat the soaproot briskly against a flat rock, working it into a fragrant foam.

There had to be more to Herculesí surliness than mere suspicion. After all, they would have found the cave with or without a Hestial Virgin just by following the path of the noonday sun. He hadnít gotten any friendlier after sheíd ostensibly proven her credentials by pointing out the right cave.

And when Lia had confessed that she was engaged to Amphion, Hercules had looked at Iolaus with sympathy; but when he looked away, Iolaus could have sworn there was relief in the smile he tried to hide. Hercules had warmed up to Lia considerably after that.

Although he had been in a hurry to leave after the wedding. Mind you, Iolaus had been too; he felt like ten different kinds of a fool every time he looked at either Lia or Amphion.

Iolaus gently unravelled the soaked bandage from his wrist. It loosened fairly easily now, and he was able to remove it with minimal pain. He flexed his wrist gratefully (and prematurely, he thought, grimacing). The puncture wounds oozed for a second when the bandage came off, then stopped. He could hardly wait to get clean from head to foot; he gathered the foaming soaproot gingerly in both hands and waded to the waterfall. Hercules could re-splint his arm after dinner.

He had a sudden image of Hercules washing his hair for him soon after his wrist had been broken.

"You donít have to do this, you know. I can wash my hair with one hand," heíd said, trying to submerge in the large tub they shared without getting his splint wet.

"Look, Iolaus, I feel responsible for your broken wrist to begin with," Hercules had told him. "Let me do this for you, okay? Just till your wrist doesnít hurt so much, anyway."

Iolaus had opened his mouth to renew his protestations, then seen the look in Herculesí eyes. Heíd handed Hercules the soap and leaned back, enjoying the feel of those long, sensitive fingers moving through his hair.

"Itís not every day that a legend wants to wash myÖ" heíd started to say, then his eyes had flown open as heíd realized why those words had sounded familiar even as heíd said them. Heíd ducked quickly under the water before Hercules could see the bright red stain in his cheeks.

He soaped his hair and body, then stood just under the waterfall, allowing the water to pound on his neck and shoulders, closing his eyes and sighing in ecstasy as the tension eased from his muscles. The torrent set up a rhythm against his body that swept his mind clear, leaving a single image burning at its centre.


Magnificent, impossibly perfect body: wide shoulders tapering to narrow hips, broad chest lightly, tantalizingly furred; long, slim legs capped by taut, muscular buttocks.

Laughing blue eyes. Full, expressive mouth that could light up a room just by quirking at one corner. Could light up a certain warriorís heart.

Iolaus felt himself grow hard as the waterfall drummed against his heated body.

He caressed himself with a slippery hand, imagining as he had countless times before that it was Herculesí hand that cupped him. His hair would tickle Iolausí stomach as he leaned over him; he would run his tongue teasingly, hotly, up the length of Iolausí swollen shaft before he finally, finally closed that mobile mouth over it, nibbling at the tender head, his beautiful, big hands pulling Iolaus toward him.

Iolaus cried out as his orgasm exploded and the waterfall drove conscious thought from his mind.

Hercules had had the good fortune to come across some unwary quail; heíd spitted them over the fire by the time Iolaus returned from the river. It was full dark, and with the sun had gone much of the dayís warmth. Iolaus was shivering, the water from his slicked-back hair running down his back to trace the cleft of his rounded buttocks. Hercules followed the waterís path down Iolausí body with hungry eyes.

Iolaus knelt by the fire; the red-gold flames gave his ivory skin a coppery blush. He shook his head, the motion sending sprays of droplets to sizzle in the fire. Hercules studied the strong arch of Iolausí throat, and his own tightened at his friendís pale beauty.

Gorgeous. When was the last time he noticed that Iolaus was gorgeous?

He knew others thought so, of course. No-one could spend much time with Iolaus and not notice the effect he had on people. Male or female, young or old, it didnít matter.

Hercules was used to drawing a crowd. It came with being the son of Zeus. Heíd long ago learned to take the adulation with a very large grain of salt; his looks were a result of his parentage, not his virtue, and he took no particular pride in them, nor in his semi-divine strength.

Iolaus drew a crowd of his own, but he did it one at a time. No-one could be the centre of Iolausí attention for long and not fall completely under his spell.

As young children Hercules and Iolaus had shared a typical, mutual fascination with their tiny erections, and pleasuring each other had been part of their giggling, tickling play. As they grew their attention turned to war, and their play changed with it. Iolaus had learned very young that being the smallest wasnít always a disadvantage, especially with women. He could beat any boy in a battle of wits, and found out that even losing a fight meant he won it, because there wasnít a girl in the village who didnít hate any bully who would beat up someone as sweet as Iolaus.

Iolausí initiation had preceded Herculesí. The only surprise was that heíd waited till he was fourteen; lust-filled glances had been following him since puberty. If Hercules had still harboured any fantasies about resuming their sexual games he had buried them the day he had entered Iolausí motherís barn unawares to find Iolaus thrusting busily into the young school master, who had been looking at Iolaus with glowing eyes since the day heíd taken over their classes.

Hercules had known that his feeling of betrayal was irrational, since he had never told Iolaus he wanted more than friendship. He had even known that if heíd really wanted Iolaus, all heíd had to do was say so. But he was stubborn, and every lover that Iolaus took made it harder to say the words. Eventually it became impossible, and finally he didnít even want to any more; the bond between them was more intense, and far more lasting, than any sexual relationship either of them entered into over the years.

Still, there had always been a comfortable hum of awareness between them that Hercules took for granted; he thought it might even be the source of their remarkable attunement. At least, it had been a hum; suddenly, it was turned up to a pitch that Hercules could no longer ignore.

The Sword. It had to be that damned Sword.

Iolaus reached for his clothing, stealing a quick look at Hercules as he noted their neatness. Hercules started, and quickly stripped off his chamois tunic, offering Iolaus the soft cotton shirt that lay underneath.

"If you put your clothes on now, theyíll be damp all night," he explained weakly, holding the shirt out. Iolaus reached for it, and the casual contact of their hands sent a shock through Hercules that terrified him.

Iolaus pulled on the shirt, shivering anew at the feel of the fabric that had lain against Herculesí skin. Hercules bit his lip in frustration at the sight of all that delicious skin disappearing beneath his shirt. It ended just below Iolausí enticing rear end, offering glimpses of that sweet flesh each time Iolaus stretched. Hercules growled deep in his throat, and stood.

"Iíll be back before the quail are done," he said, and made for the river.

Iolaus chuckled softly to himself and moved his clothing to a less conspicuous location, hoping that Hercules wouldnít think to ask him why he wasnít wearing them once he was dry.

When Hercules returned Iolaus was seated on the bed of grasses Hercules had built for him. He was moving his wrist gently, pressing his lips together at the pain. "Let me look at it, Iolaus," he commanded, taking Iolausí arm gently into his strong hands.

The arm was swollen, but not hot, he noticed with relief. Although the puncture marks were angry-looking they looked clean. Iolaus had washed his bandage (with some difficulty) and spread it by the fire earlier; Hercules decided it was dry enough, and retrieved the sticks he had saved from the fire for this purpose.

"Aw, Herc," Iolaus complained, "canít we wait till after dinner for this? I havenít eaten with two hands in weeks!"

Hercules held Iolausí hand lightly in his. "Make a fist," he told him.

Iolaus tried to close his hand and bit back a yelp. He grumbled, but submitted to Herculesí ministrations. He was a little whiter when Hercules was finished.

"The spikes went through a few muscles," Hercules told him. "Youíre going to have to give that hand a rest for a few days."

"Terrific," Iolaus said. "How am I supposed to eat dinner? Itís not like weíve got plates and spoons out here."

"Iíll help you," Hercules said automatically, unthinkingly, and grew pale. What had he said? He couldnít possibly sit that close to Iolaus, watch him sink his strong white teeth into the flesh Hercules offered him, the juices gleaming on his lips, pink tongue flicking out to lick them awayÖ

"Gods give me strength," Hercules muttered, pulling one of the birds off the spit. Iolaus wriggled a little closer to the fire, crossing his legs and allowing the shirt to pool in his lap. Hercules concentrated on not noticing how Iolausí muscles moved under his skin like a catís, or how fine that skin was at the inner recesses of his hard thighs. He sat in the place Iolaus had made for him on the grass pallet and tore the bird apart, handing Iolaus a leg without looking at him.

Iolaus chewed thoughtfully. It was obvious Hercules wasnít going to make the first move. Time to turn up the heat a little.

Hercules watched Iolaus surreptitiously as he ate. "Is it Lia?" he asked finally, prepared to hate the answer.

"Where?" Iolaus asked, looking around. "Oh, you mean was I thinking about Lia? You know me, Herc. Out of sight, out of mind. Besides," he added cryptically, "lifeís too short, and weíve already wasted enough time."

He tossed the tiny leg bone into the bushes and licked his fingers before holding his hand out for another portion of meat.

Hercules was poised to take a bite of the tender breast he held; instead, he passed it to Iolaus, ruthlessly quelling his desire to feel Iolausí mouth on his own fingers. For starters.

"Damn! I nearly forgot," Iolaus said suddenly, and stuffed the meat into his mouth, crawling to the pile of his clothing. As he knelt, rummaging through the sack heíd brought from Amphion and Liaís wedding, the shirt rode up his thighs to reveal the tight perfection of his ass.

Hercules had a sudden vision of himself parting Iolausí lean thighs without ceremony and plunging into him. He gave a strangled moan and wrenched his gaze from that luscious flesh just as Iolaus turned triumphantly, holding aloft a wineskin. He tossed it to Hercules, following it in quick succession with a loaf of bread and two apples.

"A feast!" he said happily, settling by Herculesí side with another wineskin.

"What, no cups or napkins?" Hercules asked.

"Well, you were rushing me when we left," Iolaus protested, taking a long swallow of wine. He shifted, stretching a leg toward the fire, and smiled secretly when Hercules hastily averted his gaze.

Youíre wasting your energy, Hercules, Iolaus thought. You lost this fight before you started.

Dinner was reduced to bones and crusts, the wineskins depleted, and Hercules had begun to think he might make it through this surreal night after all. Thanks to copious draughts from the wineskin, he was even able to view Iolausí considerable attractions with equanimity. In fact, he was actually feeling quite relaxed; he hadnít drunk this much wine in a very long time, and right now he was having a little trouble remembering why not.

"Hercules, do you remember the game we used to play when we were kids?" Iolaus asked him, looking up at him rather owlishly. Iolaus had drunk his fair share as well, Hercules realized. He frowned.

"We played a lot of games when we were kids, Iolaus. Try and be a little more specific."

"Truth or Challenge," Iolaus said distinctly. "That specific enough for you?"

"What, you mean one of us asks the other a question, and if the questioner can prove the answer is a lie, the other one has to accept a challenge? Yeah, I remember. What about it?"

"Letís play it," Iolaus said, smiling dangerously.

Hercules was instantly on guard, but he allowed Iolaus to talk him into it, knowing full well he would never have agreed if he was sober.

They played Rock Dagger Parchment for right of first questioner. Iolaus won, and they argued over the rules for a while before agreeing that the Sword of Veracity would be the final arbiter in any dispute. Hercules hoped that Hestia was busy somewhere else.

"Okay, first question. When did you lose your virginity?"

"You already know the answer to that," said Hercules, surprised.

"Call it a warm-up question. When?"

"When I was sixteen and Zeus took me to Olympus for the first time. I sort of ended up with Nemesis in self-defense, because my sisters wouldnít leave me alone, and gods or no gods, I didnít see incest as a lifestyle option."

"You have no spirit of adventure," Iolaus sighed, imagining being pursued by Artemis, Aphrodite and Athena at the same time. He looked up at Hercules and asked, "Have you ever been in love with a woman? Besides Deianeira, I mean."

"I havenít got your facility for falling in love at all hours of the day and night," Hercules answered, smiling. This wasnít so bad, after all.

"So would that be a no? Youíve never been in love with a woman other than Deianeira?"

"A few crushes and a little puppy love, but no, I havenít. Ask me another."

"Have you ever had sex with a man?"

Hercules froze. Shit. He should have known Iolaus wouldnít go easy on him.

"ÖYes." Donít ask me who, Iolaus.

"Who was it?"

The wine was singing in his veins, loosening his tongue.

He finally mumbled a name, avoiding Iolausí eyes.

"Who? I didnít hear you, Herc."

"Jason!" he repeated loudly, glaring at Iolaus.

Iolausí eyes went wide.

"Our Jason? Golden Fleece Jason? Argonaut Jason? You slept with Jason?"

"It was a long time ago, I was barely twenty, and he was so much bigger than life Ė whatís so funny?"

Iolaus was giggling so hard he was gasping. Tears began to trickle down his cheeks, and he wrapped his arms around his stomach and fell over sideways, laughing in whoops.

"Iolaus, if you donít stop laughing, Iím going to Ė"

Rip that shirt off, throw you on your back and fuck you cross-eyed.

"Iolaus, Iím warning youÖ"

Iolaus waved a weak hand at him and sat up, wiping his eyes.

"Herc, have you ever thought that maybe you and I have too much in common?"

He started laughing helplessly again. Hercules looked confused, then started to grin.

"Youíre telling me that you and JasonÖ?"

"I really think that calling him Ďbiggerí than life is giving him a little too much credit," Iolaus gasped, and Hercules was done for. The two collapsed, Iolaus finally complaining that his stomach hurt worse than his arm.

Iolaus sat up, sighed, and reached for the second wineskin, nodding in satisfaction when a shaking produced a substantial gurgle. He upended it over his mouth and passed it to Hercules, watching the play of firelight on his hair as he drank. Iolausí groin tightened in anticipation. No mercy, Herc.

"Have you ever been in love with a man?"

Hercules took another swallow of wine.

"No," he said at last, and slanted a look at Iolaus, waiting for his challenge. Astonishingly, Iolaus let it pass.

"Have you ever been attracted to a man other than Jason?"

"Havenít you used up all your questions yet?"

"I have four more. Well?"


"Have you ever done anything about it?"

"No." Two questions left.

"Have you ever wanted to?"

"Not for a long time. It would have been way too complicated. Besides, you get enough for both of us." One more question.

"Was it me?"

Hercules sighed. He was a dead man.

"No," he said, and held his breath.

"Liar," Iolaus answered instantly. He leaned toward Hercules, and the shirt fell open. Every drop of blood in Herculesí body seemed to head for his groin. He was dizzy with lust.

"Challenge me, then," he said hoarsely.

Iolausí eyes were enormous in the firelight.

"If you really donít want me, prove it," he said. "Kiss me."

He rested his injured hand carefully on Herculesí knee and turned his face up expectantly.

"Come on, Herc. I wonít bite. Unless you want me to," he said provocatively, grinning.

Hercules looked at him. "You know," he said at last, "Iím supposed to be the strongest man in the world. Iíve been up against armies, monsters and angry gods and lived to talk about it. So how come the thought of kissing you scares the hell out of me?"

"Because," Iolaus said, rising to his knees and putting his arms around Herculesí neck, "You know youíve finally met your match. There ainít no cure for love, Herc. Itís a lifetime affliction. You might as well meet your doom bravely. Kiss me, and get it over with."

"Youíre babbling again," Hercules said, cupping Iolausí face in his hands.

"You better shut me up quick," Iolaus agreed, arms tightening around Herculesí neck.

"What if Iím just out to slake my bestial lust on your eager body?" Hercules asked. His hands were shaking.

""Not a chance," Iolaus answered with conviction. "Youíre crazy about me, and we both know it. And now youíre the one whoís babbling."

"Say it, Iolaus." It was not quite a plea.

"I love you, Herc," Iolaus said immediately. "Always have, always will. Youíre the best part of who I am."

"You love everybody, Iolaus."

"Hercules." Iolausí voice was reproachful. "You never fall in love. I fall in love all the time. Itís the same thing, in the end, isnít it? Are you going to kiss me? Because I think Iím kneeling on a stone."

Hercules bent to Iolausí mouth. His hair fell forward and brushed Iolausí cheek, and the smaller man shivered, trying to pull Hercules closer to his straining body. Hercules smiled wickedly, holding himself just out of contact with Iolaus, hovering over his mouth until Iolaus gasped, "Herc! I never knew you had such a cruel streak!"

"Youíve been deliberately torturing me all night," Hercules told him. "Itís payback time."

He slid the shirt off Iolausí shoulders and laid him back against the grasses, rising to shrug out of his tunic and boots, but leaving his trousers on. Iolaus watched his movements eagerly, holding his arms out when Hercules rejoined him on their fragrant bed. He took both of Iolausí small hands in his large one, and with a swift movement pinned them to the ground over Iolausí head. Iolausí breath caught and Hercules relaxed his grip instantly.

"Did I hurt your arm?" he asked.

"My arm?" Iolaus repeated dazedly. Hercules smiled and put his other hand lightly over Iolausí eyes.

"Close them," he commanded.

"Herc," Iolaus groaned, but did as he was bid. Hercules started at Iolausí broad forehead, lightly tracing the lines that lay across it. His fingers moved down the straight nose, caressing the hollows below his cheekbones and the line of his jaw. He feathered a touch across Iolausí thin, sensual lips and they parted to close warm and wet on his fingers. Iolausí tongue glided across his fingertips and he withdrew them quickly, fighting to control his incipient orgasm. He had never been so aroused by just a touch.

"Herc," Iolaus whispered, his hips lifting involuntarily as his breath came faster. Hercules threaded his fingers in Iolausí wild gold hair and Iolaus moaned once, then quieted as Hercules drew his hand down to rest on Iolausí throat. Iolausí skin was like silk under his hand.

He drew a finger along his collarbone and dipped it into the hollow at the base of Iolausí throat, promising himself a taste of that sweet skin. First his hand would learn the places only his eyes had known before this.

Iolausí body was singing like a plucked lyre string. He had waited for this for so long, all heíd wanted to do was throw himself on Hercules. Giving up control like this was sheer torture at first, but it had quickly become the most erotic experience of his life. His focus was completely centred on what Herculesí hand was doing to him, and the lightest touch hummed across his senses like a whirlwind. Were it not for the techniques heíd learned, heíd have been lost when heíd felt Herculesí fingers on his mouth.

Herculesí hand rested hot on his chest, and he brushed Iolausí nipples with his fingertips. Iolaus was crazed with lust. There was nothing else in the world but his nerve endings and Herculesí fingers. They inched toward his aching penis, and his hips bucked; he heard Herculesí soft chuckle. "I hope youíre Ė enjoying this," he gasped.

"Immensely," came the answer as the trail of fire continued across his hard stomach to the hollow that lay between his hipbones.

Iolaus made an incoherent sound as Hercules stroked the tender skin that joined hip to thigh. It was as delicate as he had imagined it to be; he could no longer stand the friction of his trousers, and pushed them down his hips. Iolaus heard the sound and parted his legs, wild for Herculesí touch to continue. He gave a groan that was half delight, half despair when Hercules avoided his throbbing erection to scrape his nails gently across his inner thigh.

Hercules tortured Iolaus endlessly, one leg at a time, gentling him with soft, soothing caresses along his thighs and behind his knees, pushing his knuckles into Iolausí hard calves and the arches of his feet. Finally he released Iolausí hands and pushed Iolausí thighs farther apart, settling on his knees between them. His hands drifted up Iolausís hips to his chest and down again. Iolaus lay quiescent, hands outflung, eyes still closed, his heaving chest his only movement.

"There are faster ways of killing me, you know," he observed.

"Oh, you havenít begun to suffer yet," Hercules told him, and his hand closed over Iolausí erection.

He was still for a moment, pulling Iolaus back from the brink again; then his thumb swirled gently across its tip, bathing in the moisture that glistened there. Iolausí hardness was steel sheathed in velvet. He tested the thick mat of gold hair that disappeared between Iolausí thighs, and cupped the tight scrotum, imagining how it would feel on his tongue when he finally drew it into his mouth. Later.

He wet his fingers and teased the tight opening behind Iolausí balls, his own tightening as he thought about Iolaus surrounding him. Tears had started to leak from Iolausí closed eyes.

"Hercules, please," he panted, and Hercules slid up Iolausí trembling body, one hand between his legs, the other reaching to pull Iolausí head toward him in a long-withheld kiss.

His erection slid against Iolausí as he pushed his tongue into Iolausí mouth and his fingers into Iolausí body, and the collision of their hips and mouths rocketed them both to completion.

A small eternity later, Hercules raised his head from the hollow of Iolausí throat. "You know, you can open your eyes now," he said.

"Iím afraid to," Iolaus told him, eyelids still clamped shut. "What if I do and find out youíre not here, and that was only the greatest wet dream in the history of sex?"

Herculesí hand moved to Iolausí groin. "Does this feel like a fantasy to you?"

Iolaus nodded happily, but opened his eyes anyway. He stared at Hercules until the demigod blushed and looked away, unnerved by the intensity of the love in Iolausí brilliant blue eyes.

"Thatís the second time youíve blushed today," Iolaus pointed out. "If you keep that up, people will talk."

"I imagine weíll give ourselves away the first time we look at each other in public, anyway," Hercules answered, his hand moving gently on Iolausí already stiffening penis.

"Thatís assuming thereís anyone in Greece who doesnít already think weíve been sleeping together for years. Besides your mother, I mean," Iolaus added, stroking Herculesí shining hair and pushing into his exploring hand.

Herculesí hand stilled. "My mother. What do you think sheís going to say?"

Iolaus had always been able to do an uncanny imitation of Alcmene. "Sheíll probably say, ĎThatís just lovely, Hercules. Iím so glad you found someone nice. And so close to home, too!í"

Hercules shouted with laughter and wrapped Iolaus in a fierce embrace, burying his face in the fragrant blond hair. "I love you, Iolaus," he said, his voice muffled.

Iolaus tugged Herculesí hair gently until he looked into Iolausí eyes.

"Forever, back to back, just like we said when we were kids," Iolaus told him softly, then grinned wickedly.

"Of course, thereís also face to face, head to tail, front to Ė"

Hercules ended the litany with their second kiss. It was filled with passion, and love, and promise, and said everything they had not already said to each other. Their erections bumped against each other, sliding in the semen and sweat of their first lovemaking. Hercules wondered how long it would take before each event was too familiar to count. Then he stopped thinking as Iolaus rose to his knees, pulling Hercules up with him, and wrapped his fingers around Herculesí hard length.

"I want you so much, I donít know what to do first," Iolaus told him, and his words heated Hercules as much as his touch. Then he turned around and pulled Herculesí arms around him from behind, reaching up to curl his fingers in Herculesí hair as he ran his tongue up Iolausí damp, salty neck. Herculesí erection throbbed against the cleft of Iolausí beautiful buttocks, and he remembered his earlier vision, and groaned. Iolaus parted his legs and whispered his name eagerly, and Hercules pushed Iolaus gently on to his hands. He dipped his fingers in the semen that coated his belly and slid one into Iolaus, sucking in his breath as Iolaus clamped around his finger with a groan. Hercules found the tiny, sensitive spot and scraped his fingernail across it, inserting another finger as Iolaus cried out beneath him.

Herculesí legs were shaking as he withdrew his fingers and positioned himself to take their place. "Hurry, Hercules," Iolaus panted, spreading his legs farther apart. He felt a brief, sharp pain as Hercules stretched him, then he was inside, and Hercules was filling him; the pleasure was intoxicating, dizzying.

Hercules leaned forward and cupped him in one large hand, steadying himself with the other on his back, and pushed until he was buried in Iolaus. Gods, he was so tight! Hercules stroked Iolaus, thrusting into him first gently, then with increasing force as Iolausí moans fired him. He watched the play of muscles across the broad back, feeling Iolaus push back against him with passion equal to his own. This was what he could have had years ago if he hadnít been so stubborn. Iolaus was his, had always been his; all heíd ever had to do was hold out his hand.

He felt Iolausí muscles contract around him as he came, shouting, into Herculesí hand.

"I love you, Hercules," he gasped, and Hercules pulled him back against his thrust and poured himself into Iolausí depths. They collapsed together, Hercules still inside Iolaus, his hand still cupped around him.

Hercules finally slipped out of Iolaus and rolled off him on to his side, pulling Iolaus back against him. Iolaus tugged Herculesí arm under his head and laced their fingers together, admiring the effect of his small, pale hand against Herculesí large brown one.

"You smell like a cathouse at 3 a.m.," he informed his lover fondly.

"Youíre no magnolia yourself; Iím just too polite to mention it," Hercules retorted, yawning.

Iolaus wriggled against him, and he jumped.

"Youíre not going to sleep, are you?" he asked indignantly. "Youíre going to have your way with me and drop off? We never talk anymore," he mourned.

"Weíve been doing nothing but talking for decades," Hercules answered unsympathetically. "Weíve still got to take the sword back in the morning."

Iolaus turned to face Hercules. "Itís a long time till morning," he pointed out, and began setting small, delicate bites into Herculesí chest, sneezing as Herculesí mat of hair tickled his nose.

"I always wondered whether that would happen," he told Hercules, reaching down to brush his hand lightly across Herculesí still-flaccid penis. His own was already growing hard again.

Hercules groaned. "Donít you ever get tired? I thought you were older than I am. You should have less endurance, not more," he grumbled, pleased at the effect he was having on Iolaus.

"Itís all that carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Itís made you old before your time," Iolaus said.

"Youíre confusing me with Atlas," Hercules said, standing up and stretching. "Come on."

"Where are we going?" Iolaus asked, sitting up.

Hercules reached for Iolausí hand, and with a smooth swing, tossed him to his shoulder. "To solve both our problems at once," he said, giving Iolausí behind a swift smack as he struggled.

"Herc! I hate being carried like a kid," Iolaus complained.

"Iíve never carried a kid like this in my life," Hercules said, and strode down to the river with Iolaus over his shoulder.

They found another cache of soaproot and washed each other, standing under the waterfall in each otherís arms as the cold water pounded against them. Iolaus told Hercules about his fantasy, and Hercules turned it into glorious, steamy reality. When they finally emerged from the water, the sky was beginning to lighten and even Iolausí eyelids were drooping. Hercules gathered a fresh mound of grasses while Iolaus fed the fire, and at last the two dropped onto their bed.

"Youíre not going to change your mind when the sun comes up, are you?" Iolaus mumbled into Herculesí chest.

"If I do, all you have to do is point the Sword of Veracity at me and Iíll confess all," Hercules reminded him, tightening his arms around him.

Iolaus hooked his leg over Hercules and sighed with contentment. "Maybe we shouldnít be in such a hurry to take that thing back after all," he said.

"We have all the truth weíll ever need right here," Hercules told him, and they slept.

The End

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