Author: The Rose
Story Title: The Pleasure, The Pain
Characters: Ares/Iolaus, Hercules/Iolaus
Rating: NC-17
Summary: In an effort to make Hercules suffer, Ares kidnaps, rapes, and tortures Iolaus. Hurt-comfort
This rating is for explicit m/m sex, rape and sexual violence.

This is just fan-fiction. These characters do not belong to me and no money is being made.

This is a dark tale of rape, torture, bondage, and non-consensual m/m sex. Please skip the story if these subjects offend you.

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_____ *** _____

The Pleasure, The Pain
by The Rose

Iolaus reached the small village of Vincia, near the shore of the Aegean Sea, ahead of Hercules. They had decided to meet here, hopefully in time for the summer solstice festival. As was sometimes known to happen, they had been called on to be in two places at the same time, Hercules running off to stop a warlord that was threatening to overtake a defenseless village, and Iolaus tracking down an escaped prisoner who had kidnapped a young girl.

The blonde hunter strolled through the nearly deserted streets, his stomach full from the hardy meal he had just consumed, his mind slowly unwinding. He smiled to himself. He was looking forward to seeing Hercules again. These days, since they had become lovers as well as best friends, it seemed he couldn't go a day without hearing the demigod's voice, seeing his smile, feeling his touch. It was late evening and well past dark, but Iolaus wasn't sleepy and hadn't even bothered to check in at the inn yet. Maybe some fresh air and exercise would put him in a frame of mind for sleep . . .

They came out of nowhere, eight of them. If he'd had a second's more warning, or if all eight hadn't piled on him at the same time, he would have stood a chance. As it was, he was soon pummeled nearly into unconsciousness. His last thought as they tied him and carried him away, finally dumping him into the bed of a wagon, was to wonder if Hercules would ever know what happened to him.

Sometime later, never knowing quite when he had lost the battle to stay awake, he opened his eyes with a groan. The first thing he became aware of what that he was inside a torch-lit room, lying on a soft, huge bed, and that he was chained. The next thing, was that his clothes were gone. He tested his bonds, feeling a lump of terror rise up in his throat. His hands were manacled straight out from his sides, his arms stretched so tight that the muscles screamed in protest. His legs were bent at the knees, so that his feet were flat on the black satin sheets. More chains were wound around his knees, these disappearing off the sides of the bed, holding his thighs spread and threatening to dislocate his hips. It was not a pleasant position, especially when he knew there was only one thing it could mean.

"Finally awake, huh, little man?" an all too familiar voice said from somewhere nearby.

Iolaus shut his eyes, forcing his breathing under control. "Ares! I should have known this was your doing!" he said angrily into the air. "You can come out now. You want to tell me what this is all about?"

With a sparkle of light, the God of War materialized at the side of the bed. He ran his gaze lewdly over his helpless prisoner. "Now, just what do you think this is about?" he asked sarcastically. "I mean, your present, umm, shall we say 'condition?', should be self-explanatory." He reached to stroke Iolaus's inner thigh suggestively.

"Just tell me what you want, Ares!"

"You. Isn't that obvious? But also to spoil my bastard half-brother's fun."

"What do you mean?" Iolaus demanded, struggling to repress a shudder as the God's hand ran up his thigh again.

"He seems to enjoy his little play-sessions with you. I intend to put a stop to them. Permanently."

"If you're going to kill me, then get on with it!" Iolaus shouted at him, holding onto his courage as Ares slid his hand up the hunter's chest and tweaked a nipple.

"Oh, I'm not going to kill you, Blondie, although you will wish I had before I'm finished." He tightened his fingers on the nipple, wrenching it cruelly. Iolaus refused to react to the pain. "No, I plan to send you back to Hercules in one piece. But when I'm finished with you, he won't be able to touch you without you screaming in pain." His hand callously stroked the hunter's genitals, smiling slightly as the limp penis began to fill. "Oh, I suppose he would still be able to enjoy your body, the way I intend to do for the next few days, but any sort of sexual pleasure will have you writhing in agony and begging him to stop." He entwined his fingers in Iolaus's hair, forcing his head back and looking deeply into his eyes. His dark eyes narrowed. "Somehow I don't think that gentle-hearted half god will want you like that, do you?"

Iolaus thrashed against the chains as Ares reached to fondle him again. "Damn you, Ares!"

The God of War smiled down at him. "You're the only one here who is damned, Blondie." His grin widened as Iolaus's body betrayed him with its humiliating and completely involuntary reaction to his touch. "Now, let's have some fun, shall we?"

With that, he clinched a strong hand around the rapidly filling shaft, making it twitch in his hold, and with a negligent gesture of his other hand he snapped the bone in Iolaus's right forearm. The sudden, unexpected pain tore a cry from the hunter and left him cringing and panting on the bed. "Oh, yes," Ares grinned. "This is going to be very satisfying."

"You said," Iolaus gasped through the agony, "you'd send me back in one piece!"

"And I intend to." Ares tugged on the now fully erect cock, once, twice, a third time, bringing it nearly to completion, then with a thought snapped his captive's other forearm. "I'm a god, remember? I can heal any damage I do." He grinned wickedly. "And I intend to do quite a lot."

He used his power to send a wave of pleasure into the body under his hands, pleasure strong enough to override, or nearly so, the pain from the broken bones. He kept the hunter from coming, letting the pleasure and the need built to a nearly unbearable peak, and then with a final movement of his hand, he allowed the release to happen. And as soon as it did, and Iolaus cried out and spurted helplessly into his hand, he turned the pleasure to pain.

Iolaus arched off the bed, writhing, as fire ripped through his back. He somehow choked back the scream that clawed at his throat as he felt his flesh being shredded and torn from the bones. Blackness closed down his vision, but Ares wouldn't let him lose consciousness.

"Enjoying yourself, little man?" Ares chuckled.

"Go to Tartarus!" Iolaus managed to gasp out between clinched teeth.

Ares laughed. "You do have spunk, I'll give you that."

Iolaus felt hands under his buttocks, lifting them, and he tried to prepare himself for what he knew was coming. But the pain was so great that he couldn't relax, couldn't let his muscles surrender to the assault as Ares rammed into him hard and dry. As if that pain wasn't enough, the God of War sent a wave of power into the hunter's right hand, snapping all his fingers like kindling. He purposely twisted them out of shape, so that when he was done the mangled appendage bore no resemblance to a human hand.

Iolaus, fully impaled, gasped in agony as Ares repeated the action on his left hand. The pain in his ass was bad enough, feeling as if it were tearing him in two. Ares began to pull in and out a moment later, lifting Iolaus's hips higher and higher with each violent thrust. The strain on the hunter's hip joints added to the torture, and the God smiled sadistically as they finally dislocated.

"There," he said with a certain satisfaction. "That should make it easier." He lifted the hips higher still, thrusting in with his full length. "For me, at least."

Iolaus choked back another scream as he felt muscles tearing, ripping free of their attachments. The chains pulled his knees further and further out to the sides as Ares continued to lift his hips, easing his entry into the helpless body he was ravaging. Then he gasped as a strong hand closed around his limp cock again.

"Come on, Blondie," Ares said as he continued his deep thrusts. "Get it up for me."

Iolaus whimpered in dread as his body betrayed him and his cock started to fill again.

"Yes, that's it," the God of War soothed mockingly. He began to tug on the cock in time with his thrusts. When it was fully engorged and rigid in his hand, he brought forth a dagger out of thin air and pressed it to the skin on the golden chest beneath him. "Ready for another game, are we?" he asked, and he slid the knife under the skin, skimming it along the front of the ribcage.

He grinned as his victim thrashed, still silent, at the fresh pain. "Come for me, little man," he murmured as he continued to tug on the cock. He sent another powerful wave of pleasure into the man's mind, making him momentarily forget the pain. "Come for me."

When Iolaus came for the second time, Ares jerked the knife free viciously, slicing away a large strip of living flesh. The hunter bit his lower lip in two and bucked under him, and the sheer thrill of it made Ares come, shooting his hot load into the tight confines of the blonde man's ass.

"Oh, yes," he said, patting the man's face as he pulled himself free. "So good. No wonder my brother likes you so much." He eyed the pool of blood that was rapidly forming under the ravaged body and swiped a hand almost carelessly to stop its flow. "Can't have you bleeding to death on me, can I?"

He got to his feet, letting the hips drop back into the mattress, watching yet another wave of pain wash across the man's face. He caught the hair again and turned the eyes to meet his. "Enough for now. But I'll be back in the morning." He let his eyes rake the trembling form. "Enjoy your pain. I'll heal you when I return, and then we'll start again." He grinned, and vanished, extinguishing the torches as he left.

Iolaus wouldn't have believed it was possible for a man to endure this much pain and still live. Perhaps Ares had done something to him so that he couldn't die, couldn't even black out to spare himself from any of this. His shredded back and slashed chest felt drenched in flames, his broken arms and fingers and his dislocated hips warred with each other for his attention, and the pain was only a little less in his ass from the violence of Ares' rape. He tried to use his Eastern techniques to quiet the pain, but this went so far above anything he had ever experienced that control eluded him.

Herc, I need you! he pleaded silently into the darkness of the room, knowing his lover probably didn't even know he was missing yet. And he certainly wouldn't know where to look for him. In fact, since neither of them had known how long their missions would take, Hercules would doubtless wait for him in Vincia for days before he even became concerned. Looks like you're on your own here, pal, he told himself grimly. But you can get through this. You have to. You have to get back to Herc. He needs you.

His body a living nightmare of anguish, Iolaus closed his eyes and tried to rest, knowing even as he tried that it would be impossible. But he also knew that this was just the beginning.

_____ *** _____
When Hercules arrived in Vincia the next morning, he went straight to the inn where he and Iolaus usually stayed.

"Hercules!" the innkeeper exclaimed, running to shake his hand.

"Hello, Oridian. It's been a long time," Hercules said cordially.

"So, what brings you to our fair town?"

"I'm meeting Iolaus here, actually," the demigod said, looking around at the few patrons who were seated in the dining room. "Has he checked in yet?"

"No, haven't seen him. But we've got a couple of rooms left, if you want one."

"Thank you. Something with a big, soft bed, please. I've been traveling hard and I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight."

"You bet! Now, how about something to eat? The eggs are good. So are the venison steaks."

"Venison sounds great, thank you."

"In town for the festival?" the man asked as he placed a plate in front of the demigod. "It'll be in full swing by this time tomorrow."

"Yeah. And I hope Iolaus makes it by then. He loves festivals, as long as they've got plenty of food, wine, and dancing girls."

"Well, this one will have lots of all of those." He set a huge mug of water on the table and sat down in the other chair, leaning forward expectantly. "So, how's the hero business these days?" he asked.

Hercules chuckled. "Busy as always, my friend. Busy as always." He settled back for a quiet conversation, silently wishing Iolaus were here. He always made the stories of their exploits seem so much more, well, colorful. He only hoped that wherever his partner was, that he hadn't managed to get himself into too much trouble.

_____ *** _____
Iolaus couldn't ever remember enduring a longer night. Somewhere in the first few hours after Ares had left, his arms and legs had gone blessedly numb. But his flayed skin was still on fire, so much so that even breathing hurt. He had tried to meditate, tried to disassociate the agony and send his mind somewhere else, somewhere safe where the pain didn't exist.

But he couldn't concentrate. And shortly after the underground bedroom had begun to lighten from the thin shafts of sunlight that peeked through the single, small window, Ares was back.

"And how's my little playmate doing this morning, hmmm?" the God asked as he stepped up to the bed and ran his eyes over his captive.

Iolaus didn't answer.

"That good, huh?" Ares chuckled. "So, are we ready for more fun?" He settled his hand over Iolaus's and squeezed, feeling the broken bones shift and grate under his touch. The hunter screamed despite his determination to remain silent. "Oh, I forgot. I had told you I would heal you, didn't I? How silly of me to have forgotten." With a negligent wave of his hand, he started the healing process.

It seemed to Iolaus, if it were possible, to be nearly as painful as the torture had been. First, he could feel the flesh on his back and chest drawing back together. A fiery wave of heat fused the torn edges together. He writhed, thrashing, and awakened the agony of the broken bones and dislocated joints in his numb limbs. Then, the heat moved to the torn tissue in his ass. A red-hot poker would have been less painful, and he heard himself howling at the pain. He howled again as bones shifted and ground against each other, slowly reattaching. Finally, it was done, and he collapsed into the bed drenched in sweat and panting for breath.

"There. Better now?" Ares said mockingly. He knelt on the bed between the spread legs "Now, we can start again, can't we?" He reached to fondle the genitals roughly. "Do you want me, little man?" he asked with a leering smile.

"Keep your filthy hands to yourself, Ares!" Iolaus yelled, pulling at the chains that held him on the off chance that maybe they had weakened overnight.

Ares grabbed the limp penis and twisted it cruelly. "Now why, pray tell, would I want to do that?"

"Because Hercules will kill you if you don't!" the hunter shouted over the pain.

"Hercules?!" Ares chuckled. He spread his hands and looked around the bedroom. "I don't see Hercules anywhere, do you? And you won't either. Because as of this very moment, your big demigod friend is snoring away in a big, comfortable bed not even missing you." He grinned again. "Well, not much, anyway." He released the hunter's cock and slid his hand lower, only to shove two fingers up into his captive. "Do you like it when your lover does this?" he asked.

"Go to Tartarus!"

The evil grin widened. "You first," he said, and he sent a wave of pain into the blonde man's head, wringing a scream of agony from him. He continued to finger fuck him as long as the pain lasted, then let him rest for a moment, letting the worst of the pain subside. "Yes, I can see you do like that." He lifted the hips slightly against the tightness of the chains, relishing the sharp intake of breath as the hips nearly dislocated again. "But I'll bet you like it even better when he does this." And he rammed his massive cock in, as hard as he could, at the same time driving dozens of tiny, invisible spikes into the sensitive soles of the hunter's feet, enjoying the sensations as the body bucked beneath him.

Ares was a little disappointed when his captive didn't cry out this time. The man was tough, you had to give him that. Ares wanted him to scream. He wanted to hear the man scream and beg for mercy and finally to beg for death. But the mortal would get neither. He continued to thrust in and out of the tight opening, feeling fresh blood slicking the passageway. He wrapped one hand around the golden shaft and willed it to fill. It did, almost immediately, and he watched in satisfaction as a single tear escaped the tightly squinted blue eyes.

"Oh, yes," he murmured. "You want to come again, don't you, Blondie?" He sent a wave of passion into the slender, sturdy body writhing beneath him, grinning as the blonde's head began to lash from side to side. "I know you want this. Come on. Maybe this time I'll let you enjoy it." Hot seed fountained up, covering his hand, and he tightened his grip, crushing, bruising, using his power to increase the pain to unbearable limits. "Or perhaps not," he said, smiling as Iolaus screamed again.

The torture continued, off and on, for the rest of the day. At the beginning of each session, he would heal the damage from the previous one, finding the reaction to that nearly as satisfying as the torture itself. But the stubborn little mortal refused to beg, refused to surrender his smart mouth and fighting spirit. But that was okay. Ares loved a challenge, and he had all the time in the world . . .

_____ *** _____

"Still no sign of Iolaus, Hercules," Oridian said as the demigod entered the dining room early the next morning. He noticed the slight frown that crossed the big man's face. "Are you worried about him?"

"Well, I shouldn't be," Hercules told him as he took a seat. "I mean, there was no particular time set for us to meet here, just whenever we both got finished . . ."

"But you're worried about him anyway," the innkeeper surmised.

Hercules nodded. "Yes, I am a little." He glanced longingly at the heaping plate of eggs and cured meat that Oridian had placed in front of him. He got to his feet, glancing at the door. "You know, maybe I should ask around town, see if anyone has seen him."

"You could do that," Oridian said. "Or, you could eat the breakfast that's sitting in front of you getting cold and then go and ask around town."

Hercules grinned. "Or, I could do that." He sat back down and dug into his breakfast like he hadn't eaten in two days.

_____ *** _____
Iolaus hadn't eaten in two days, and his stomach growled hungrily. "Just my luck," he mumbled, finding it hard to talk with his swollen face, cut lip, and possibly broken jaw. "I have to get kidnapped by a God who doesn't believe in feeding his prisoners.

"Oh," Ares said as he appeared out of thin air. "Hungry, are you?"

Iolaus tried to frown at him. "I hate it when you do that!"

"Well, then, how about when I do this?" Ares said, and he waved his hand over Iolaus. The blonde man paled as the healing energy washed over him again, bringing more pain. He tried to hang onto his nerve and choked back the scream of agony that ripped at his throat.

"Oh, yeah," he said when the healing was at last complete, with something near the old Iolaus sarcasm. "That's much better."

Ares laughed. "You know, I could get to like you, if you weren't tainted by the influence of that bastard you bed every night." He reveled in the look of defiance that blazed in the blue eyes. "If you think he's going to come save you, little man, you can forget it. He still hasn't got a clue that you're even missing, let alone any idea that you're with me." He stroked along the ribcage, smiling when the blonde squirmed away from his touch. "But," he said as he sat down on the edge of the bed, "we still have a lot to do, you and I. Let's get on with it, shall we?"

"It won't matter what you do to me, Ares!" Iolaus spat out. "What Herc and I have is too strong for you to ruin!"

The God's eyes narrowed. "Well, we'll just see about that, won't we." He entwined his fingers in the curly hair and held the head immobilized as he leaned in for a kiss. The mouth was tightly set against his lips, and he sent a wave of pain through the jaw, satisfied when it caused the teeth to part enough for him to thrust his tongue inside.

Iolaus bit down with all his strength, knowing even as he did it that his action would come with a high price. It was worth it, though, as he heard the muffled cry of pain from the God and tasted blood in his mouth. Then, a lightening bolt of pain ripped through his chest, freezing his lungs. A hand, too strong to fight, caught his chin and pulled it down to his chest while the other hand continued to lock in his hair. His tongue free, Ares ignored the pain and the blood in favor of tormenting his prisoner. Viscously, he bit down on the man's lower lip, tearing it with his teeth, tasting the mortal's blood as it mixed with his own.

Then he thrust his tongue back in the other's mouth and halfway down his throat. He eased his grip on the man's chest, letting him suck in a noisy breath, then tightened it again, this time taking Iolaus to the edge of asphyxiation before releasing him again for another quick breath. Over and over he halted the other's breathing, filling the chest with tearing agony, as he continued to plunder the mouth.

Light-headed, Iolaus really thought he was going to die this time. Ares never let him completely refill his lungs, and stars were dancing before his eyes as he listened to the sound of his own heart beat pounding in his ears. His jaw felt on the verge of breaking again from the too-tight grip, and his scalp felt as if it were being torn away from his skull. Just as he felt the darkness finally closing in on him, the God of War released him.

Iolaus gasped and sank into the bed, his chest heaving. But Ares gave him no time to fully recover, his teeth finding purchase on one nipple and tearing into it like a terrier on a bone. The sudden pain overrode his determination to remain silent, not to give the God the satisfaction of hearing him scream. But scream he did. Then the cruel mouth moved to the other nipple, and Iolaus braced for another wave of searing pain. But this time Ares was gentle, nuzzling and sucking like a baby, drawing the nipple up to a hard peak. And as he did it he sent a wave of intense pleasure into the small mortal.

The hunter knew the pleasure could not last. He squeezed his eyes shut, fighting his body's desire to moan and twist at the sensations. He felt a hand, also gentle this time, fondling his cock, which despite his wishes was rising to the occasion. Soon, he was hard, and having to force himself not to thrust his hips up into that tantalizing grip. You can't make me do this, Ares! his mind screamed. You cannot make me want you!

But Ares had read his mind, and he chuckled against the man's chest. "Can't I?" he asked softly, just before sending another wave of pleasure, this one overpowering, into the mind that fought him.

Iolaus's traitorous body betrayed him again, and soon he was writhing and panting, begging silently for more, although he managed to stop the words from escaping his lips. Ares was doing something to his mind, he knew, something to override his will and leave his body in control. And he was also doing something to keep Iolaus from coming. As the pressure built, it brought with it its own kind of pain and desperation. Ares held him in that condition for long minutes, savoring the sensations of the body that asked for more, harder, faster, even if the mouth didn't. Finally, he released his tight control, and the mortal spasmed under him as he came harder than he ever had before. And at just that moment, Ares washed the body with the illusion of flames.

And this time Iolaus screamed, his skin on fire, feeling the force of the cry tear at his throat even as his flesh sizzled. It was as if he were engulfed in a fireball. He could feel his blood begin to boil, his skin blacken and shrivel. And above him, Ares laughed. Begging for unconsciousness to claim him, and knowing it wouldn't, he could do nothing but fight the chains and continue to scream.

_____ *** _____

Hercules strolled through the village enjoying the sights and sounds of the summer solstice festival. Everywhere he went people greeted like a long lost friend, despite the fact that he could never remember meeting most of them before. But there was no sign of Iolaus. Not that he really expected to see him, mind you. No, the first thing Iolaus would have done upon entering town would be to seek out Hercules. The demigod's eye was caught by a stageful of scantily clad dancing girls. Well, maybe not the first thing . . .

"Hercules!" a man's voice said from the crowd behind him. Turning, he saw a gray-haired man approaching with a pleased smile. "You probably don't remember me, but I'm ---"

"Sandius, isn't it?" Hercules asked, returning the smile. "Of course I remember you. How's the family?"

"Oh, fine. Just fine, thank you." He looked around. "So, where's that partner of yours? Off enjoying the festivities on his own, is he?"

"No, actually Iolaus isn't here yet."

"Well, of course he's here! He had dinner with the family and me night before last. You mean you haven't seen him?" he asked as Hercules began to frown.

"No, I haven't." Iolaus, now what have you gotten yourself into?

"Well, he's quite the ladies' man, as I recall," Sandius continued. "Perhaps he's found a little female companionship, if you know what I mean." And the old man winked conspiratorially.

Hercules tried to laugh, but it came out strained. "Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I'm going to ask around, see if anyone else has seen him." He reached to pat the man's shoulder. "If you see him or hear anything, could you leave word at Oridian's Inn?"

"You bet. Good seeing you again, Hercules!" the old man said as he disappeared back into the crowd.

"You, too." Hercules wasn't really sure where to start looking for Iolaus, but one thing he knew for sure. "Iolaus, my friend," he said almost under his breath, "if you've shacked up with some girl somewhere and are leaving me to worry about you, so help me I'll kick your butt to Olympus and back when I find you." With that, he began to wander again through the crowd, vowing to question every pretty young thing in skirts that didn't have a man attached to her arm. Judging from the number of pretty young ladies around, he knew it was going to be a long process.

_____ *** _____
Ares healed him again, the pain this time being every bit as bad as it had been the other times. Iolaus was past the point of trying to keep silent. The pain was just too much, and it all seemed so pointless. Despair was beating him down, and the constant agony, relieved for only a few minutes after each healing before more torture was inflicted, was more than any mortal should have been able to bear.

Ares was loving it. The depths of his victim's pain thrilled him. But even better was the wearing down of his spirit. He could only imagine his half-brother's rage when he found out what had been done to his little pet mortal. "Oh, yeah," he said quietly. "This is going even better that I imagined."

The blonde was lying as still as death on the bed, only the rise and fall of his ribcage and the tears that trickled down his cheeks revealing that he still lived. Ares allowed him a few precious, pain-free moments, and then without preamble he thrust his massive cock into the man's deliciously tight ass.

There was a gasp of pain, and the mortal's back arched off the bed at the violence of the assault. Ares stilled his movements, letting Iolaus feel the pain of his entrance. When finally he did begin to move, it was with long, slow, deep thrusts, going all the way in and nearly all the way out each time. And as he did so, he used his mind to slowly tighten the chains on the blonde man's arms.

First, the wrists snapped, first one and then the other. Iolaus, he was thrilled to see, didn't even try to suppress his screams of pain this time. He screamed again, loud and hoarsely, as his shoulders dislocated. As the chains continued their inexorable pull, muscle and flesh began to stretch to the point of tearing. Only then did Ares stop them from drawing any tighter.

Instead, he started in on the chains holding the knees. And as they slowly tightened, and the knees were tugged further and further apart, the moment the God had been waiting for finally came. Iolaus began to beg.

"Stop it, Ares! I can't take anymore!" The voice was so full of anguish as to be almost unrecognizable, the throat ripped raw by the screams of the past hours.

"Ask me nicely and maybe I'll consider it."

"Please! Oh, Gods, it hurts so much . . ."

"Does it?" Ares asked. He rammed in harder, sending waves of passion into his victim that brought the golden cock to instant attention and left it throbbing in need of release, even as the chains continued to tighten.

"Please, stop! Please! You're killing me!"

Ares ran his thumb over the weeping head of the engorged penis that bobbed in front of him with a life of its own, still thrusting into that tight, hot hole. "Oh, I thought I'd explained that. Killing you is definitely not what I want to do."

Ares knew by the throat-tearing scream the exact instant that the hip joints finally gave way. Even then he did not stop the chains from continuing to tighten. He leaned forward and set his teeth on the juncture of neck and shoulder. "Does your bastard lover ever bite you here, little man?" he asked. "I'll bet he does. But not this hard, I imagine." And he bit down, hard, drawing blood as his teeth ripped through flesh and muscle. With a jerk of his head he tore loose a chunk of the golden skin and spat it out. The blonde was writhing deliciously beneath him, his begging now no more than a continuous hoarse mantra of "ohplease . . . ohplease . . . ohplease. . ."

Ares was still thrusting in and out, holding back his own climax and the mortal's, watching in satisfaction as the knees were pulled slowly, oh so slowly, downward. Finally, the body was completely flat on the bed, the glistening thighs grotesquely out at right angles from the heaving, shuddering body. He halted the chains' progress there and began to pump into the man's ass in earnest.

He crushed the ribs, one at a time. Iolaus now was muttering "nomore . . . nomore . . . nomore" and gasping for air against the agony. Ares decided he liked to see him gasp, so he made sure the next rib he crushed punctured one of the straining lungs. The blonde man began to cough painfully, bringing up bright red, foamy blood. But Ares carefully controlled the bleeding, wanting it to be just enough to half choke his captive and not enough to drown him.

Finally, he let himself come, allowing the mortal to do so as well.

"Ah, that was nice," he said as he swung to his feet. He patted Iolaus on the cheek. "I'm sure Hercules is really going to miss this hot, tight ass of yours. But don't worry. Even if he can't bear to touch you after this, what with you screaming with pain and all, I'll still be around whenever you need a good fucking. After all, I love to hear you scream." He laughed, long and hard. Then with a wave of his hand he extinguished the torches and left his broken, bleeding prisoner alone with his pain.

Iolaus was lost. Lost in the dark in a maelstrom of pain so unfathomably deep, so unthinkably intense, that no mortal soul could endure it. Yet, Ares wouldn't allow him to succumb. And so, Iolaus of Thebes, the legendary hunter and hero and partner to the great Hercules, did something he rarely did. He began to pray.

He prayed to Zeus for mercy, and to Aphrodite. He begged Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, for healing, for release. He called out to Hephaestus, who could have easily taken his life on those occasions when he had seemed too enamored of the God's lovely wife, for death, to at least end this inescapable suffering. He even prayed to Hermes, who he knew had a secret (or perhaps not so secret) thing for him, offering himself in exchange for the Messenger's assistance.

And he prayed to Herc, knowing that the man was only half god, and couldn't possibly hear him. But he prayed to him anyway, pleading for him, needing him now as he never had before. And, despite the fact that the Gods of Greece usually did not give much attention to the prayers of their people, things began to stir on Mt. Olympus.

_____ *** _____

Hercules had spent all day questioning everyone he met about Iolaus, but no one else remembered seeing him. The demigod was worried. It was as if the hunter had disappeared into thin air. That thought sent a wave of anger overlaid with terror through the demigod's heart.

"Ares," he said out loud, "I swear, if you've done something to him, you won't live to regret it." He seemed to remember a temple to the God of War not too far from here. But it was dark now, and he would need daylight to find it, so reluctantly he turned in for the night.

He did not sleep well. Concern for Iolaus caused him to lay awake for long hours. When finally he did drop off to sleep, he was plagued by nightmares of his best friend and lover, his body broken and bleeding, helpless under Ares' assault. He was up with the first rays of sunlight, and dressed quickly. Just as he was about to leave his room, a shower of sparkling lights behind him announced the arrival of a God. He turned, and felt his breath catch in his throat. For there stood not a God, but a God and two Goddesses.

"Aphrodite! Artemis! Hermes! What are you doing here?"

"It's about Curly, bro," Aphrodite said, stepping closer to lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Ares has him."

Hercules cursed under his breath. "Where?"

"At his temple, not far from here," his half-sister said. "There's more, I'm afraid." She broke off, looking to Artemis for help.

"Ares is torturing him, Hercules," the hunter-goddess said gently. "And raping him."

Fury clinched the demigod's fists and pounded in his temples. "I have to get to him. Can one of you . . .?"

Aphrodite nodded her understanding. "That's why we're here, bro. We're going to help you get Curly back." She could see the question rising to his lips before he spoke it. "Because he prayed for help, from all of us. And because none of us can stand what Ares is doing a moment longer."

"Just how long has Ares . . .?" Hercules swallowed the rest of the question, not knowing if he could stand to hear the answer.

"Too long," Artemis said.

"Are we going, or what?" Hermes asked impatiently. "Iolaus needs us!"

Aphrodite linked her arm through her half-brother's. "Hold onto your skivvies, bro!" she said, and the four of them winked out of sight.

_____ *** _____
Ares returned with the daylight. The healing was no less painful this time, but somewhere during the long, torturous night the hunter's mind had finally escaped. The pain was still there, feeling as if it had been there his whole life, feeling as if it would never end. Ares recognized the distant look on his captive's face, read the defeat in his mind. There was only one way to bring him back to the present. When the pain was finally gone, he made love to the mortal, slowly, passionately. He sent wave after wave of exquisite pleasure through the agony-flogged mind, restoring it so it could feel again. His plaything would not escape him that easily.

Soon, Iolaus was thrusting up against him, writhing with the rush of pleasure his touch brought. His body drove him on toward a climax that his mind didn't want. His mind remembered, even if his treacherous body didn't. But Ares kept him from coming again, increasing his desperation as he strained against his bonds. The God's mouth and tongue laved him, until his nipples stood up like tiny twin mountains against his sweating chest and his rock-hard cock trembled with a life of its own.

"Do you want me to let you come?" Ares asked, stroking that glorious cock as his own stroked deep with the other's anus.

Iolaus shook his head frantically, even as his hips arched upward into the God's hands. "No!" he cried. "Please, no!"

Ares chuckled, tweaking a nipple, trailing fingertips down a heaving side. "Why? Are you afraid of the pain?"

"Yes, you bastard!"

The God's eyes narrowed as he continued his slow rhythm. "Hercules is the bastard, Blondie, not me. I'll bet you can hardly wait for him to touch you like this. To shove his cock up your ass."

"Damn you . . .!"

"In case you're wondering, I'm thinking of returning you to him soon. All healed, of course. Not even a scar to show what I've done to you." He chuckled again, reading the desperation on the other's face. "No physical scars, at any rate."

"Why are you doing this?" Iolaus gasped, surprised that he could find the air for it as his body strained and struggled on the brink of coming.

The dark eyes narrowed dangerously. "I told you, I want to spoil Hercules' fun. I want him to never again have the satisfaction of fucking you, or having you fuck him. I could have just gelded you, but this is so much more enjoyable. Don't you think?" He increased the speed of his strokes, both with his hand and his cock. The mortal was close now, so close, and tears of frustration were pouring from his eyes. "Come for me, little man," he said, pulling harder on the cock.

"NO!" Iolaus screamed as he felt himself explode helplessly into the strong hand. Immediately, he screamed in pain, as Ares' power stripped flesh from his legs, ravaged the skin on the inside of his thighs, and shattered his cheekbones. His cock was crushed in the grip that had just brought such pleasure, the heavy sac beneath it twisted and contorted. He thrashed on the bed, feeling his hips and shoulders dislocate again, his broken and healed fingers broken once more. He screamed and screamed and screamed, until the rawness of his throat finally turned his screams into silence.

_____ *** _____
Hercules materialized outside a stone temple with his three Godly escorts. To his amazement, Hephaestus was there waiting for them, leaning against the stone wall of the temple, his hands behind his back. But Hercules couldn't take time to wonder about his presence. Iolaus was inside, and in pain. He started immediately for the door, but a firm hand on his arm stopped him.

"No, Hercules," Artemis said. "You're going to stay out here. The three of us will go in and bring Iolaus out."

"NO!" he shouted. "I've got to go to him! He needs me!"

"Yes, he does. But he wouldn't want you to see him the way he is now. Wait here. We will heal him and bring him to you."

Hercules yanked free of her hold. "No," he said, glaring down into her eyes. "I'm going in!" He started forward, only to have Hephaestus step in front of him. The God of the Forge brought his hands to the front, and snapped the manacles he had been hiding onto the demigod's wrists.

"What . . .?!"

"Sorry, Hercules," Hephaestus said as more chains bound his arms to his sides and wrapped around his legs, holding him immobile. "But you have to stay out here. Artemis is right. Iolaus doesn't want you to see him this way."

"But, I have to!" Hercules shouted, struggling uselessly against the chains. "Please!"

"I'm sorry, bro," Aphrodite said, reaching to stroke his face.

"While we're standing here arguing," Artemis pointed out, "Iolaus is suffering."

Hercules swallowed his protests. "Go. Help him."

Without another word, Aphrodite, Artemis, and Hermes disappeared in a shower of sparks.

Ares looked up in annoyed surprise as the three materialized in his bedroom. He frowned at them, his frown deepening as Aphrodite brushed past him and went to kneel on the edge of the bed. "And, what, exactly, do you three want?" he asked.

"We're taking Iolaus out of here," Artemis announced in a tone that warned him not to argue with her.

"Come on, Sweet Cheeks," he heard Aphrodite say from behind him. He turned angrily to see her removing the chains and gathering the blonde man into her arms like he was an injured child.

"You have no right to do this!" Ares told them. "Besides, I was going to return him to Hercules later today."

"After you tortured and raped him some more?" Hermes demanded, his face having gone pale as he gazed at the damage Ares had done to the defenseless but darn cute mortal.

"He's only a mortal," the God of War pointed out. "I have a right to do anything I want to him. And you have no right to interfere!"

"He prayed for our help," Aphrodite said. "That gives us the right." She was holding her hand now over Iolaus's forehead, washing him with her own gentle healing. "And we're taking him back to Hercules."

Ares spread his hands. "Fine. Whatever. I was through with him anyway." He turned to glare at Artemis. "But you can tell Hercules that his little friend there will never be the same, not after what I've done to him. And his sick little sordid love fest has come to an end. He'll never be able to touch Blondie here without causing him to remember what I did to him." He glanced at the bed, surprised to see the mortal, healed now although still weak from his ordeal, glaring at him with hatred in those intensely blue eyes.

"I wouldn't count on that, Ares!" Iolaus told him, fire in his voice. "Hercules and I will work through this. We always do. We won't let you win!"

Ares laughed. "I've already won," he said. And then he vanished.

Hermes stepped up to sit on the bed, his hand moving of its own accord to Iolaus's knee. "Are you okay?" he asked worriedly.

"Much better now, thanks," Iolaus said. He looked up to catch each of his rescuer's eyes in turn. "Thank you so much for coming after me."

"It wasn't only us," Artemis said.


"Uh uh," Aphrodite said. She waved a hand and the hunter was immediately clothed in his usual leather pants and purple vest. "Hephie's outside. With Hercules."

"Hercules is here?!" Iolaus pushed his way to his feet urgently, a glow shining from his eyes. "He must be worried sick! Please, take me to him?"

"Don't get your shorts in a twist, Curly," Aphrodite said with a smile. "We're taking you to him right now." She and Hermes linked arms with the mortal and all four of them disappeared, to reappear a moment later outside the temple. A very anxious, very frustrated demigod stood there, and Iolaus snickered at the chains wrapped around him.

"Iolaus! Are you all right?"

"Fine, pal, thanks to them." He made a point to look Hercules up and down, letting his amusement show on his face. "You've looked better, though."

Hercules shot a frown at the God of the Forge. "Hephaestus!" he shouted.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry." With a wave of his hand, the chains disappeared, and Hercules lunged forward to sweep Iolaus up into a bear hug. Then, just as suddenly, he set him back down, still holding him by the arms, and stepped back to look at him urgently.

"Sorry, Iolaus. Did I hurt you? Are you all right? Where are you hurt? What did Ares do to you? Are you sure you should be standing up? Maybe you should sit . . ."

"Whoa, whoa there, big guy. You're babbling!" Iolaus said, holding up his hands to silence his friend. "I'm okay. Aphrodite and Artemis healed me."

"That's great," a relieved Hercules said, still holding onto the smaller man. "But what did he ---"

Iolaus's face paled just a shade. "Later, Herc," he said softly. He glanced at the look of sadness on Aphrodite's face, then back up at Hercules. "Later, okay?"


"Well," Artemis said. "We've done what we came to do. And we'd better be getting back. You two have a lot to talk about and to work out."

Hercules shot Iolaus a concerned look with raised eyebrows at the 'work out' part, but a slight shake of the blonde head told him now was not the time to go into that. Reluctantly, the demigod shelved his concerns for later as Iolaus pulled free of his hold and turned to the four Gods.

"I don't know how to thank you," he began, then stopped as he saw Hermes face light up hopefully.

"I can think of one way," Hermes said in a slightly seductive tone, but Aphrodite elbowed him in the ribs. "But I guess this isn't the time."

"Uh, right," Iolaus said nervously, trying to remember just what he had said in that prayer to Hermes. "Anyway, thanks."

Aphrodite leaned in to kiss him softly on the cheek. "You're so welcome, Sweet Cheeks."

Both Iolaus and Hercules shot a quick glance at Hephaestus, and Iolaus grinned apologetically at the dangerously narrowed glare the God was aiming at him. "Sorry," Iolaus said, catching Aphrodite by the elbow and easing her away from him.

"Yeah, well, I'll let it pass this time," Hephaestus said. Aphrodite moved closer to slip her arm through his.

"Ooooohhh, Hephie," she squealed, "You're so cute when you're jealous!" She turned to Hercules and Iolaus and waggled her fingers. "Bye, bro! Bye, Curly! Later!" And in a flash, they were all gone, leaving the demigod and the mortal alone.

Hercules turned to survey his friend more closely. "Iolaus, are you sure you're okay?"

Iolaus frowned. "I told you. They healed me."

"Yes, but ---"

"Herc, there's a lot we need to talk about," Iolaus told him. "But, later, okay? Right now, I need to rest. I haven't slept in three days, or eaten. And I'm starving!"

Hercules laughed and clapped his lover on the back. "Well, at least now I know you're all right! If you're hungry there can't be too much wrong with you!"

As Hercules threw an arm around his shoulders and guided him back toward the village, Iolaus suppressed a sigh. I only hope you're right, Herc. Guess we'll find out tonight if Ares really did what he intended to do. He walked quietly, listening to Hercules prattle on about something, a bit amused that this time it was the demigod doing the babbling, and vowed to himself not to say too much about what Ares had done until tomorrow. Tonight, maybe he and Herc could prove the God wrong. He sure hoped so, anyway.

They spent the day enjoying the festival, and although Iolaus's heart wasn't really in it, he tried to put up a good front. He joked and made passes at all the pretty girls and tried to be his usual cheery self. But all the while Hercules kept throwing those solicitous, mother-hen glances in his direction. And if he asked once he must have asked a few hundred times if Iolaus was really sure he was okay, if he needed to sit down, if he needed something else to eat or to drink, and just generally driving the hunter to distraction. Iolaus was actually quite relieved when they returned to the inn for the night. But then, he was scared, as well. What if what Ares said is true? That if we try to make love I'll remember the pain and won't be able to do it? He gritted his teeth, watching as Herc went through the motions of getting ready for bed. Nah. This is Herc, after all. I know his touch won't hurt me.

Uh oh, Herc is staring at me again! Wonder what it is this time? Iolaus glanced down at himself questioningly. Well, moron, could have something to do with the fact that he's ready for bed and you're still fully clothed! Iolaus shot Hercules a grin and slipped out of his vest. But instead of tossing it aside as he normally would have done, he proceeded to fold it very carefully and lay it across the back of the chair, smoothing out the wrinkles as he did so. He knew it was a delaying tactic. He could feel Herc's eyes on him, almost able to hear the question in that gaze, even though he was turned partly away from the demigod. He unbuckled his belts, first one and then the other, aware that his hands were trembling and his fingers were having trouble on the catches. Slowly, he pulled them off, and then began to fumble with the lacings on his pants.

Mistaking Iolaus's difficulty as a side effect of Ares torture, Hercules stepped past him and reached to help undo the pants. To his horror, Iolaus stumbled back away from him, eyes wide with --- was that fear? Hercules froze.

"Iolaus?" he asked softly.

The hunter was rapidly trying to compose himself, but Hercules could see that his hands were shaking even worse now and his face was covered with a fine sheen of perspiration. "Sorry, Herc," he said with a little half grin that looked very forced. "Guess I'm still a little stressed from, well, you know."

Hercules nodded silent agreement. Then he nodded toward the lacings that Iolaus was still struggling with. "You want some help with that?"

"Uh, no, it's okay. I'll get it. Why don't you go on to bed? I'll be there in a minute."

But Hercules didn't move. That look was on his face again. "When are you going to talk to me, Iolaus?"

"Talk? We're talking."

Hercules frowned at him. "You know what I mean. I want to know what Ares did to you."

Iolaus turned away, trying to make the movement look casual as he leaned over to drape his belts over his vest. But Hercules caught his arm and gently turned him back, his head bent low as he tried to meet the hunter's eyes.

"Talk to me, buddy, please?" Hercules said, and Iolaus's heart almost broke at the tone.

He drew a shuddery sigh, keeping his gaze down. "I can't, Herc. Not yet. Can you accept that?"

Hercules caught his chin and lifted it, and their eyes finally met. Iolaus's were glistening with unshed tears, and the demigod drew him into a gentle embrace, enfolding him completely in his arms. Iolaus buried his face in his lover's chest and finally let the tears fall. "Please, Iolaus," Hercules said softly, his warm breath stirring the hair on top of Iolaus's head. "I need to know. And I think you need to talk about it."

"I c-c-can't, Herc. Not yet. Please? Can it wait until tomorrow?"

He felt a sigh ripple through the strong chest. "Okay," Hercules conceded. "Tomorrow. If you're sure you're alright with waiting."

Iolaus nodded. "I'm sure." And he stepped backward in his friend's grip to shoot a grateful smile up at the demigod. Then he disengaged completely and dragged an arm across his eyes to dry them. "Now, if I could only get these damn laces undone . . ."

Hercules chuckled and brushed his fingers aside to assume the task himself. Within moments, Iolaus was stepping out of his leather pants and boots, and Hercules was leading him by the hand to the bed. As soon as they were both under the covers, the demigod ran a hand gently down the curve of Iolaus's cheek.

"I was so scared today, when I found out that Ares had you," he admitted in a hushed voice that sounded as if it would crack if he pushed it. "I was afraid he'd ---" He broke off, smiling gently, and then leaned over to press his lips against his lover's.

With a barely suppressed cry of panic and pain, Iolaus flung himself away as pain tore through his chest. He found himself standing beside the bed, clutching the blanket in front of him. Hercules, wide-eyed and clearly horrified, had sat straight up in bed and was staring at him.


"I'm --- okay," Iolaus managed to say, although he was shaking like a leaf and his voice was none too steady.

Hercules was rising now, moving slowly toward him. "No, you're not." He stopped when Iolaus backed away another step. "You've got to tell me what's going on. You're scaring me here, buddy."

Iolaus nodded, drawing in huge gulps of air to try to calm himself. The pain, although bad, had faded quickly, and he was trying to decide if it had been real or only imagined. "I know I am, Herc." He tried to grin away his lover's concern. "Sorry."

"Iolaus, will you quit apologizing for things that aren't your fault!"

The hunter winced at the raw despair in the demigod's voice.

"Iolaus, please!"

Reluctantly, Iolaus nodded. Filling a sudden chill, he wrapped himself in the blanket he still clutched and sat down on the bed, cross-legged, scooting back until he was leaning against the headboard. Hercules sat down opposite him, eyes locked on the blonde man's face, but had the presence of mind not to touch him.

"Ares said that he wanted to ruin what you and I had," Iolaus said finally in a barely audible voice, looking down at his hands instead of into his friend's eyes. "He said he wanted to make sure that you could never touch me again --- as a lover --- and that every time you did it would cause pain and . . ." He trailed off, not sure if he could talk about the rest. "He tied me down and r-raped me, Herc. And each time he did, he'd t-torture me. I've never hurt so bad . . ." He drew a quivering breath, and Hercules finally reached to take both his shaking hands in his, holding them like he'd never let go.

"What else?" the demigod said when it seemed Iolaus wouldn't continue.

Iolaus set his mouth. He could do this. "He also --- made me come for him." He did look up now, aware of how much this last might hurt his lover. "I didn't want to, Herc! I hated it when he touched me like that! But he was doing something to me, manipulating me ---!"

"Iolaus! Iolaus, it's okay! I know it was Ares, not you!"

Iolaus sighed, blowing out his relief. He nodded, and dropped his gaze again. "Every time he made me come, he'd hurt me again. He did terrible things, Herc. He dislocated my hips and shoulders, he broke bones, crushed my hands and my ribs, tore the skin off ---" He broke off with a start when he caught a glimpse of Herc's horrified face. He pulled a hand free to caress the demigod's face. "I'm sorry! This is hurting you!"

"I have to hear this, Iolaus." Hercules slid up beside Iolaus and encircled him carefully in his arms. "Come on. You're doing fine. Tell me the rest."

"After each time --- when he was finished with me --- he'd leave. I'd lie there like he left me, sometimes for hours." Iolaus felt tears streaming down his cheeks again, but didn't try to pull an arm free to wipe them away. It felt so good to be enfolded in Herc's arms like this. So comforting and safe. "There was no escape from the pain. Then each time he came back he'd heal the damage he'd done before." He shuddered, remembering, and felt Hercules draw him in even closer. "The healing hurt as bad as the torture. And then he'd start in on me again."

Hercules pressed his cheek to the top of the hunter's head. "It's okay. You're safe now. Everything's all right."

Iolaus pulled slightly away and looked up at the demigod. "No, it's not! Don't you see? When you kissed me, it hurt, Herc! I mean, maybe it didn't really hurt. Maybe I just thought it would, or maybe I was just remembering the pain that Ares ---" He broke off, bringing his voice back under control with an effort. "I'm so sorry, Herc. I know you want --- Could we just, you know, sleep tonight? Maybe tomorrow . . ."

"Sure. Of course." Hercules scooted over onto his own side of the bed, his hands guiding Iolaus back under the covers. "We can get past this, Iolaus," he assured his lover. "We'll just take it slow and easy. Everything will be okay. You'll see."

"I hope so," Iolaus said with a bleary smile.

Hercules was looking at him like he was a piece of fragile china that might break in his hands. "Will it hurt you if I hold you?" he asked hesitantly, and Iolaus felt another piece of his heart shatter.

"I don't think so," he said, not altogether too sure. But he steeled himself not to react if it did as he snuggled back against the demigod's warmth. He reached around and pulled one muscled arm across him, wrapping it around his own chest and holding it there with both hands. Fear tugged at his mind but he pushed it aside. He had to do this. Herc needed it. And so did he.

"Is this --- all right?" Herc asked softly, his breath tickling the back of Iolaus's neck. "Are you still okay?"

"Fine, buddy. Let's try to get some sleep, huh? I really am exhausted."

"Sure. Goodnight, Iolaus."

"'Night, Herc."

Despite his exhaustion, Iolaus lay awake just listening to Herc breathing behind him. He knew when the demigod finally drifted off, but even then he could not surrender himself to sleep. Fear still tingled through his nerve endings, and every time Hercules stirred in his sleep, every time the arm around Iolaus twitched or the hand against his chest moved, a flash of pain would follow. But it was never severe enough to make the hunter pull away or wake his lover up. He lay there and endured it. Damn you, Ares! I won't let you win! Herc and I will get through this!

Sometime past midnight Iolaus finally fell asleep. He awoke rather late in the morning to the sound of soft footsteps and the smell of breakfast. He rolled over and opened his eyes.

"Good morning," Hercules said, smiling down at him. He sat down on the edge of the bed with a tray full of steaming eggs and bacon. "Hungry?"

"Starving," Iolaus told him.

Hercules grinned. "Thought you would be."

Iolaus sat up and accepted the tray with gratitude. He looked at the tray, which held enough food for five or six people, and turned innocent eyes up at the demigod. "This looks great. But what are you going to eat?"

Hercules laughed. "Well, I thought we could share, unless you don't think there's enough here."

Iolaus pretended to consider that. "No, I guess there's enough." He popped a piece of bacon in his mouth. "Breakfast in bed, huh?" he said as he chewed. "I could get used to this pampering."

"Well, don't expect it to be an everyday thing," Hercules said. "And don't talk with your mouth full."

They ate in companionable silence until the plate was clean and both had drained the mugs of fresh milk Hercules had also provided. As Hercules set the tray aside, Iolaus took the plunge. "Um, Herc, about last night . . ."

"It was okay, Iolaus," the demigod said as he turned back. "I understood. You know I'll never touch you unless you want me to."

"That's just it, though. I do want you to. But after what Ares did ---"

"We'll just take it slow, okay?" Hercules said. "I thought we'd spend a few more days here, to let you catch up on your sleep, and then ---"

"No," Iolaus said, making a sudden decision. "I want to leave."

Hercules fell silent, his face losing all expression. "Leave?" he asked, and his voice broke on the word.

Realizing his lover had misunderstood, Iolaus reached out quickly to capture his hand. "That's not what I meant. I want us to leave. Let's go fishing or something. Somewhere that we can be alone."

"But, you're so tired, Iolaus," Hercules said when he had started breathing again. "And the festival's still going on. I thought you wanted . . ."

"There'll be other festivals, Herc. Come on. What'd'ya say? Can we go?"

Hercules lifted Iolaus's hand to his face and was just about to kiss it, but he caught himself in time. He just stroked it along his chin instead. "Whatever you want, buddy. Whatever you want."

They left the inn shortly after that, heading for one of Iolaus's favorite fishing holes. They walked for the better part of the day and finally arrived at their campsite about an hour before dusk. For awhile, they fell into the familiar routine of setting up camp and catching a couple of fish for dinner. That behind them, they sat staring near the campfire, watching the stars come out. Hercules talked about the warlord he had caught and turned in to the authorities. He told Iolaus about the day he had spent at the festival and the old acquaintances he had run in to. He mentioned that he'd like to head back to Thebes soon, and to his mother's, to spend some quality time with her and Jason, and how he hoped that Greece could manage without them for awhile because he was officially 'off-duty' and on vacation until further notice. He talked about everything except the one thing that he knew they needed to talk about. Finally, Iolaus interrupted him.


"Yes, Iolaus?"

"I want us to make love."

Hercules looked at him like a nervous bride, and if the situation hadn't been so serious Iolaus would have laughed and teased him about his expression. "We tried that, Iolaus."

"I want to try again. Maybe if I take the lead this time, and if we go really slow . . ."

Hercules was nodding fervently. "Sure. We can go as slow as you want. But, Iolaus . . .?"

The hunter raised his eyebrows. "What?"

The demigod drew a long breath. "Are you doing this for yourself, or for me? Because if it's for me, I can wait until you're ready. I don't want to rush you."

"I'm doing it for us, Herc. I want this."

Hercules nodded again, relieved, but Iolaus could still see some serious doubts hovering around him. "So," he said, "how do you want to . . .?"

Iolaus scooted over beside him. "Just let me, Herc," he said. He reached over to tug the demigod's shirttails out, sliding the garments slowly off his shoulders and tossing them to the ground nearby. A hand in the center of his lover's chest urged Hercules onto his back, and Iolaus stretched out next to him, up on one elbow. With his free hand he traced around the muscles in the big man's chest, then brushed his fingers lightly across a nipple. Once, twice, three times, until it tightened into a hard peak. He moved his hand up into the golden brown hair, combing his fingers through it, and leaned in closer to nuzzle an ear.

"I love you, big guy," he whispered, feeling Hercules shiver with delight as he let his breath puff into that ear.

"Love you, too, Iolaus," came the response. Hercules lifted a hand, tried to slide it around Iolaus's neck to draw him closer, but the hunter caught it and pushed it back down.

"Huh uh," he said softly. "We're letting me lead, remember? And going slow."

"Slow. Right," Hercules said, drawing in a quick breath as his earlobe was gently sucked then nibbled. Slow, he told himself. Iolaus needs it slow. I can do this.

I can do this, Iolaus said silently as he nibbled his way along Herc's jaw line and headed for his lips. Slow and light, now. It'll be okay. Finally, he set aside his fear and went in for the kiss. Hercules' lips were warm and welcoming, and for the first two seconds or so everything was fine. And then the pain hit.

It was like a fist to the gut, and it doubled Iolaus over in agony, fighting for breath. Hercules sat up immediately, gathering Iolaus, who had fallen forward into his lap, up in his arms.


"I'm okay," the hunter gasped as the pain finally began to subside. "Damn it, Herc! I'm sorry!"

"Iolaus, it's okay! Please stop apologizing!" He pushed Iolaus out at arm's length so he could see him. "This is going to take more time, Iolaus. I don't think we should be pushing this yet."

"But I need to. Please? Maybe if I just touch you, you know, with my hands, and not try a kiss yet."

"I don't want you to be in pain, Iolaus!" Hercules insisted.

"I know, I know. But I really need this. Please?"

Hercules had never been able to deny the hunter anything, so against his better judgement he nodded and lay back down, careful to put his hands flat on the ground and keep them there. Iolaus crouched over him again, going back to nibble on that ear, then working his way down the corded neck to the pulse point in his throat. Soon, his lips were trailing fire along the demigod's chest, and one hand was kneading deeply into the tight muscles over his ribcage.

"Mmmm," Hercules heard himself moan. He felt Iolaus smile against his skin.

"Like that, big guy?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Well, let's see how you feel about this," Iolaus said, wrapping his lips around one firm nipple. The hunter suppressed a shudder as his mind balked at the action. But he breathed a sigh of relief when it caused no pain. Encouraged, he began to suck it deep into his mouth, feeling Hercules arching beneath him. With his free hand he began to unfasten the demigod's belt, drawing it slowly out of his waistband. Finally, he abandoned the nipple and let his questing mouth move lower, stopping finally to thrust his tongue into his lover's navel.

"Ahhh!" Hercules gasped, his breathing quickening. Iolaus grinned and let his hand trail down onto the leather pants, to the firm mound straining against them. "Iolaus . . ." his lover moaned.

So far so good, Iolaus told himself as he unfastened the pants. He sat up and began to work them down over the hips, feeling Hercules lift up to make it easier. That magnificent cock sprang free a moment later, and Iolaus felt his breath catch in his throat. No, worse than that. He felt it catch in his lungs. Breathe, Iolaus! Just breathe and it'll be all right! He made himself reach out to touch that work of art, seeing his hand shake as he did so. But it halted in midair of its own accord. Don't give up yet! Come on! You've got to do this or Ares wins!

Fighting his fear, he closed his hand around that fiery shaft. But he had to release it just as quickly, hearing Hercules gasp in pain as Iolaus's hand went into a spasm of pain and clinched tight. He jerked the hand up against his chest, setting his teeth against the agony, and turned quickly to look down into his lover's face. "Herc? You okay? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to ---"

"I'm okay, Iolaus," Hercules assured him. "But this isn't working, is it? It hurt you to touch me, didn't it?"

Iolaus gave him a slight nod. "Yes," he said softly. "But it hurt you, too."

Hercules tried to laugh it away. "What? That little love squeeze? Nah, that didn't hurt. Just startled me, that's all." He sat up and looked deeply into his lover's eyes. "Are you willing to let me try something? I promise, no kissing. Just a back rub, maybe?"

Iolaus let his disappointment show on his face, but he nodded and tried to smile. "A back rub sounds pretty non-threatening. Yeah, that sounds okay."

"Good." Hercules watched Iolaus remove his vest, purposely not helping him do it, then waited until the hunter was face down on the blanket, his hands under his cheek, his head turned to one side. "Comfortable?" he asked, and the hunter nodded. "Good." He kept his touch firm at first, making sure it felt like a massage and not a caress. He worked over the back from shoulders to waist, kneading deeply into tight muscles and soothing away tension. Soon, Iolaus was almost purring under his touch. Then Hercules reached out to touch him on the shoulder. "Roll over," he suggested softly, and watched as his lover complied.

He began to work on the front now, spending a long time on the shoulders and upper arms, watching Iolaus's face relax and soften. A little of the tension returned when he moved down onto the chest, so he spent a long time there, too, pushing on long past the point where his fingers began to tire. He carefully avoided touching the nipples, knowing how sensitive Iolaus was there and that it would probably trigger an attack of pain. Instead, he worked down over the ribcage, although he was unable to resist a playful tickle.

Iolaus squirmed and giggled sleepily. "No fair," he muttered, not opening his eyes.

"Sorry," Hercules grinned. "Couldn't help it."

"Uh huh. Well, try harder."

Hercules' hands were at his lover's waist now, and he longed to unfasten the belts and go lower still, but instead he reached up to massage the temples with his thumbs, letting his fingers slide into the silken curls. "Feel good?" he whispered.

"Um hmmm."

"Brave enough to try a little more?" Hercules asked hesitantly.

There was a pause, then the barest nod of the blonde head. Moving slowly, Hercules leaned down and kissed one golden bicep, watching closely for a reaction. Encouraged when there was none, he moved his kisses up the shoulder, to the sensitive area where shoulder met neck. Iolaus flinched when he touched that spot, but only slightly, and the blue eyes stayed closed.

"Still okay?" Hercules asked him.

"I think so," came the answer. "Keep going."

Hercules kissed that same spot again, then touched it with the tip of his tongue, feeling Iolaus go suddenly tense under him. He returned to kissing until his lover relaxed somewhat, then he used his tongue again. This time, he heard the gasp of pain. He raised his head. The blue eyes were no longer just closed, they were tightly squinted closed. "Iolaus?" he asked.

Iolaus opened his eyes and looked up at Hercules in despair. "Gods, Herc, I'm ---"

"Iolaus, if you say you're sorry one more time, I'm gonna --- well, I don't know what I'll do, but you won't like it." He raised up higher onto his elbow. "Ares succeeded, didn't he? It hurts for me to touch you."

Tears filled the cerulean eyes, and Iolaus nodded. "What are we going to do, Herc?"

Hercules reached to brush a blonde curl off the face of the man he loved. "We're going to wait, Iolaus. There's no hurry. We spent years being just best friends, not lovers, and we can spend a while longer waiting for you to feel better. Maybe whatever he did will wear off with time."

"Maybe," Iolaus said, but he was clearly unhappy with the answer. "But what if ---"

Hercules stopped the words with an uplifted hand. "We'll worry about that later. Right now, let's just get some sleep. You're not hiding the fact that you're still exhausted, you know."

Iolaus grinned at that, but without much humor. "I know," he admitted. "But I'm okay."

"Not as okay as you'll be after a good night's sleep." Hercules hesitated. "Do you want me to hold you, or not?" he asked, not wanting to push.

Iolaus easily read the dread in the demigod's eyes, but he knew he wouldn't sleep well if he had to keep worrying about his lover's touch causing more pain. He gave an apologetic little smile. "Maybe not tonight," he said softly, watching his words wound his partner and watching Hercules try to hide the hurt. Gods, Herc, I'm sorry. But he wisely kept the sentiment to himself this time. "But soon, okay?"

Hercules nodded. "Of course it's okay." He tried to smile away his dismay. "Sleep well, Iolaus," and he turned over so that his back was to Iolaus, settling his head on one forearm. The hunter watched him for a long moment, then turned over himself and willed himself to sleep.

For the next several days, the pair contented themselves with fishing and setting snares for rabbits and stalking a wily buck that always seemed to evade them. But Hercules never touched Iolaus, and the sexual tension between them was tearing at both their hearts. Finally, Iolaus could take it no more. He waited until just after they had finished their dinner before he looked up to meet the demigod's blue eyes.

"I need you, Herc," he said without preamble. "I need things to be like they were before."

Hercules eyes grew very bright. "So do I, but how?"

"There's something I need you to do for me. Promise me you will."

"What is it?" the demigod asked, his expression a little worried.

"No. Promise me first."

"I won't promise until I know what it is you want me to do."

But Iolaus was shaking his head. "No. I can't."


"Because, if I tell you, you won't do it."

Hercules reached over and took Iolaus's hands in his larger ones, holding them tenderly and staring into the depths of the hunter's blue eyes. "Are you so sure?"

"Yes," Iolaus assured him. He was afraid, so terribly afraid, but he knew it had to be this way. And it had to be tonight. He couldn't bear this terrible void any longer. "But this is the only way to help me."

"Iolaus, just tell me."

The hunter took a deep breath, holding onto his courage. "Herc, I need you to take me."

Hercules was clearly startled. "Iolaus, we've tried that! The pain . . ."

"No, Hercules, you don't understand." Iolaus took a deep breath and forged ahead. "I need you to tie me down and take me. Please."

"What??!!" Hercules exclaimed, horrified. He dropped the hunter's hands and sat back. "Are you crazy?! You're talking about rape!"

"No! It's not rape if I want it. And I do. I just can't make myself do it. So I need you to. Make me, I mean." He reached forward to grasp one of the hero's big hands. "Please, Herc."

"I can't!"

"Yes, you can. Look, I even brought rope. Please, just tie me down and do it. Gag me if you don't want to hear me scream. Once you do it, maybe it'll break whatever Ares did to me."


A shower of pink sparks and rose petals appeared nearby. "I think Curly's right, bro," Aphrodite said as she materialized, looking sad.

"Aphrodite!" Iolaus gasped, a little embarrassed about what the Goddess might have overheard. "How long have you been listening?"

"I've been keeping track of you ever since we freed you, Sweet Cheeks." She smiled gently at him, then looked at her half-brother. "This is a powerful thing that Ares has done, bro, and I think it's going to take something equally powerful to stop it."

"But, if my touching him causes him such pain . . .!"

"No, Herc. It's only remembered pain, it's not real." I don't think. "Please. You've got to do this or we're both going to suffer for the rest of our lives."

But Hercules was still not ready to give up. "Maybe it'll wear off, Iolaus! Given time, if I'm gentle with you . . ."

"We've tried that!" Iolaus reminded him desperately.

"I don't think time and gentleness have anything to do with this," Aphrodite told him. "I think you'd better listen to Curly."

Finally, reluctantly, Herc agreed, though the cold terror in his heart made him wonder if he'd be able to go through with it. If this is truly what Iolaus wants, if this is really the only way . . . He swallowed hard, avoiding Iolaus's eyes.

"Good luck, guys," the Goddess of Love said, looking from one to the other. Then she vanished as quickly as she had appeared. Iolaus took a deep breath and looked up to capture Hercules' gaze. The demigod was clearly as terrified about proceeding as the hunter was. But Iolaus made himself undress, unconsciously doing it slowly to give himself just a little more time. Then he stretched himself out on the blanket, spread-eagling his arms toward two nearby trees.

"Come on, Herc," he urged softly. "Tie my arms."

Silently, the demigod bent to the task, loosely looping the soft ropes around the blonde's wrists.

"Tighter, Herc. Please?" Iolaus said after a moment. "I don't want to have to do this again just because I pull free and run away."

"I don't want to hurt you, Iolaus."

"You won't."

His face a study in horror, Hercules tightened the ropes, hating himself for what he was doing.

"Good. Now my legs," Iolaus said, pulling his knees up. "Just like Ares did." Just like Ares did! Oh, Gods! Hold on, Iolaus, he told himself firmly. This is Herc. He won't hurt you. You'll only hurt him more by letting him see your fear. But he was aware that he was trembling, his breath coming in short gasps as he held onto his courage with all his strength. The hands that tied the knots were shaking as well. Finally, he was secure. He took a deep breath to try to steady his voice. "Now, gag me."


"Herc! If you don't, I'll end up begging you to stop, and you will!"


"Then all this will be for nothing! Come on, Herc. Gag me!"

Without another word, Hercules complied, and Iolaus bit down hard on the fabric, trying to still his shaking. He closed his eyes, determined to keep Herc from seeing the horror and pain he knew they would reveal. He felt Herc's hands on him again, this time gently caressing his face.

"I love you, Iolaus," Hercules said from above him. "You know I would never do anything to hurt you, don't you?"

Iolaus nodded silently, eyes still closed.

"Would it help if I kept talking to you, so that you would remember it was me and not Ares?"

Iolaus opened his eyes briefly, meeting the gaze that burned down into his own, and he nodded again.

Slowly, each move tentative, Hercules began to caress him. He started first with his arms, then moved his gentle hands up onto the shoulders and into the soft crown of hair. "Relax, my love," he soothed, feeling the trembling under his touch. He leaned down to kiss the side of the tense neck, aware that Iolaus had squeezed his eyes shut again.

Pain washed through Iolaus's body like a sudden flash of fire. He fought back the groan, struggled to hold still, not to flinch away as his lover's lips moved lower. More pain gripped him, and he could damn near feel his ribs crushing under the touch of that soft, caressing hand. He knew he was too tense, too stiff, and that Hercules knew he was in pain. But to his credit the demigod honored his wishes by not stopping.

"It's still me here, Iolaus," Hercules said against his chest. "Relax. Let me love you."

Hercules closed his lips around a dusky nipple, and the worst pain of all hit. Iolaus thrashed against the ropes, no longer able to contain himself, and the hands and mouth disappeared. No, don't stop now, Herc! he pleaded silently. Courage, big guy! A few minutes later the hands were back, stroking tenderly down his chest, rubbing his nipples this time instead of taking them into his mouth. But it made no difference. Iolaus felt his hands spasm as he felt his fingers being broken, one by one. He managed to still the scream that tore at his throat, but not by much.

"I love you, Iolaus." Hercules' voice was tight and tense with his own battle. "Please remember how much I love you."

And to the hunter's amazement, his cock was beginning to react despite the overshadowing fear, coming to life and bringing with it a pain of its own, ripping through his back. This is Herc! Not Ares, Herc! he reminded himself desperately. His touch won't hurt me! Damn you, Ares! But the touch did hurt. Despite what he had told Hercules, the pain was real, although no physical damage was being done. He was soon drenched with sweat as he writhed under those hands.

"Easy, buddy," Hercules soothed, his voice so full of his own pain that the words would hardly come out. "I'm going to kiss you again. Just hold on. Remember, it's just me."

Iolaus felt the kiss in the center of his chest. His flesh burned, and he dug his nails into his palms in an effort to maintain control. Then, the tip of a warm tongue dipped briefly into his navel. It was too much. He screamed against the gag, feeling Hercules' hands grip his upper arms and hold him steady as he fought the ropes like a wild animal.

"It's okay, Iolaus!" Herc was shouting, trying to make himself heard. "It's okay!"

No! It's not okay!/i> Iolaus wanted to scream. Hercules held him until the pain eased a little and his struggles slowed. Then Iolaus felt a gentle, tentative touch on his cock, and it felt as if his left leg was being crushed. He screamed into the gag again.

Why did I insist he gag me?! Iolaus thought as he thrashed against the ropes even harder than before, and against the hand that pressed down gently in the center of his chest, trying to steady him. If I wasn't gagged I could tell him to stop! That I was wrong and that this hurts too much! Oh, Gods, Herc! Please stop! It hurts too much!

He could feel Herc's hand trembling as it finally circled his engorged shaft. Iolaus's other leg flared with unspeakable agony. The strokes became more insistent, and as Iolaus felt his own passion rising the worst pain of all hit. It arched his back up off the blanket, caused the ropes to cut deeply into his wrists and knees as he fought them.

Dimly, through the pain, he could hear Hercules talking to him. "Oh, Gods, Iolaus, please be all right. Please don't really be in this much pain. I'm so sorry. But try to remember that this is me, and that I'd never hurt you. Everything I'm doing should be bringing pleasure, not pain. Hold on, buddy. Please hold on. We're going to get through this."

Then, Iolaus felt hands cupping his ass, and a finger teasing at his tight opening. He opened his eyes briefly, and immediately wished he hadn't. Hercules' face was a mask of horror, knowing, or fearing at least, that he was torturing his best friend. Tears streamed freely down the rugged face, but even so he tried to smile.

"I love you, Iolaus," he whispered. "Our love will see us through this."

He slid a finger in past the tight ring of muscle. Iolaus screamed against the gag as the motion set his skin on fire. The second finger, a moment later, was even worse, feeling as if it crushed his ribcage and restricted his lungs. The hunter gasped for breath, trying to concentrate on what Herc is still murmuring above him. No more, Herc! he wanted to scream.i> Please. I was wrong! I can't take anymore!

"Forgive me, my love. Please, Gods, don't let this really be hurting him!"

And then there was no more time for thought, as Hercules positioned himself and pushed up inside him. Iolaus bucked frantically, unable to breathe, his heart constricting in his chest as a cannon went off inside his skull. Hercules, tears still streaming, began to thrust slowly in and out, in and out, holding the hunter's hips down so he wouldn't dislocate his own hips with the violence of his struggles. At the same time, one strong hand reached to engulf the straining golden shaft, stroking it towards completion.

Hercules thrusting cock hit the hunter's prostate, and a lightening bolt of agony shuddered through the smaller man, followed quickly by a wave of pleasure that felt as if it burned away nerve endings throughout his body. Again and again the sensation repeated itself as Hercules continued his long, deep strokes. The pleasure was almost too intense, almost a pain in itself, but slowly, under his lover's tender ministrations, the worst of the agony began to dull.

Iolaus felt Hercules come inside him, a red-hot flower blooming in the midst of the cacophony of pain that was the hunter's whole world. Iolaus came a second later, screaming out his pleasure, and his agony, as his seed splattered both men. And then the demigod was withdrawing and lowering himself to the ground beside his lover. He removed the gag.

"Iolaus?" A gentle hand brushed the hunter's tears away, tenderly swept back the sweat-dampened curls. "Hey, buddy? You still with me?"

The hunter nodded weakly, opening his eyes. Hercules face was a mask of anguish. "Hey, Herc," Iolaus managed to get out through his fiercely aching jaws.

Hercules stroked his forehead. "You okay, my love?"

Iolaus swallowed against the rawness of his throat. "I think so." He shifted on the blanket, feeling the rawness around his wrists and knees where the ropes had abraded the flesh. His muscles ached a little, especially in his hips, from the violence of his struggles. But other than that, there was no lingering pain. "That was --- pretty intense."

Hercules nodded, studying his lover's face tenderly. "Gods, Iolaus, I can't believe I did that to you." He sat up, untying the knots around Iolaus's knees. His eyes narrowed at the raw skin. "You fought those ropes pretty hard, buddy," he pointed out.

"I know."

As Hercules freed his arms, he asked the question he didn't know if he wanted answered. "Iolaus, was the pain real?"

Iolaus thought about the answer for a long time. It had certainly felt real. But could it be, when there were no physical injuries to speak of? He let out his breath in a long sigh. There was also the question of whether he wanted Herc to know the truth yet or not. What if, Gods help them, they had to do this again? Would Hercules ever agree to it if he thought the pain was more than a remembered response?

Would he ever agree to do it again regardless?

"Iolaus?" Hercules prompted, concerned by his silence.

The hunter sat up, and blue eyes met blue eyes. Finally, Iolaus shrugged. "I honestly don't know," he told his lover. "I can't deny that it hurt, but nothing happened to me, you know? No broken bones, no cuts, no ---" He broke off, seeing his lover's face. He reached to touch him on the arm. "The important thing is that I'm okay."

"Are you?"

"Uh huh." He insinuated himself into the demigod's arms. "Could you just hold me for awhile, Herc?"

The arms wrapped around him like a security blanket, and Iolaus leaned his head back onto the strong chest, happy to just relax. But Hercules was still worried.

"Do you think it worked?" he asked softly after a few minutes of silence.

Iolaus shrugged in his hold. "I don't know. But there's only one way to find out." He pulled away slightly and turned, his face only inches from the demigod's. "Kiss me, Herc," he said.

Hercules looked shocked. "Iolaus, what if ---!"

The hunter shook his head, cutting his lover off in mid-sentence. "Just kiss me. Please?"

Hercules moistened his lips nervously, and nodded. Iolaus tensed in anticipation of the pain as their lips met. It was a brief kiss, and caused a tinge of pain behind his eyes, but it didn't hurt as much as it had before. It was definitely encouraging.

"Herc?" Iolaus said softly as the demigod broke away. "Do that again."

Hercules smiled hopefully, and obeyed. The kiss this time was longer and deeper. There was pain again, but it was not as severe, although Hercules broke off the kiss and held Iolaus at arm's length when his felt his lover flinch.

"What?" he asked, looking deeply into the cerulean eyes.

"Just a twinge," Iolaus said, although he was afraid his face would give away the lie.

It did. Hercules frowned. "That was more than a twinge, buddy," he admonished. "Tell me."

Iolaus sighed. "Okay," he admitted. "It did hurt some, but no where near as bad, Herc! I think we've licked this thing!"

Hercules wasn't as convinced. "But if it still hurts . . ."

"Make love to me," Iolaus said huskily.

The demigod's frown deepened. "Are you sure we should try this, after what we just ---" He broke off, unable to finish. Iolaus raised one hand against Hercules' comforting grip and stroked the handsome face in front of him.

"I'm sure." And he leaned in for another kiss. He felt his shoulder starting to cramp, threatening real pain, a threat that became more worrisome as the kiss deepened. He shifted it uncomfortably. Hercules felt the movement and slid one strong hand up to gently massage away the pain.

"Better?" he asked against Iolaus's lips.

"Um hmmm."

"Want to keep going?"

In answer, Iolaus slid his arms around the demigod's waist and recaptured his mouth. Hercules continued to massage that shoulder, unaware that the pain had now moved to Iolaus's ribcage and was boring a little hole there. He squirmed, but held Hercules tightly as he felt his lover trying to withdraw. Holding onto his courage, he pulled one of the big man's hands free and placed it on his abdomen, nudging it lower.

Hercules took the hint, and let his hand slide down to the limp penis. It sprang to life under his touch, and Iolaus whimpered slightly as pain shot through his right ankle. "Iolaus?" Hercules asked softly, lifting his lips from his lover's for a moment.

"It's --- not bad," Iolaus told him, fighting to put the pain aside. "Don't stop."

A bit more slowly, Hercules continued to stroke the rapidly filling shaft. Iolaus moaned, but this time it was a moan of pleasure, and he slid one hand up and entwined it in the silken brown hair, finally breaking off the kiss and taking the demigod's ear into his mouth instead.

"Still okay?" Hercules asked, though he had difficulty finding breath for it as Iolaus licked and sucked his ear hungrily.

"Mmmmm," was the hunter's only answer. He held his lover's head still while he devoured that ear and let his other hand trail down across the muscular chest until he found a nipple. He rubbed his thumb over it, then caught it between his thumb and forefinger and began to roll and squeeze it.

Now it was the demigod's turn to moan, as the sensations shot straight to his cock, which was quickly engorged again. He noticed that Iolaus's efforts on his ear had put the blonde man's throat right against Hercules' mouth, so he indulged himself with a little licking and biting of his own. He felt rather than heard Iolaus react as new pain shot through him, this time in his right hand, if its sudden clinching in his hair was any indication. Hercules reached up to cover the hand with his own, ignoring the pain of his hair being pulled as he tried to sooth his lover's. "Easy," he whispered, his breath hot against Iolaus's throat. "Breathe, my love."

Iolaus nodded silently, unclenching his throbbing hand by force of will. Hercules removed the hand that had covered it and let it slide down the hunter's back, stopping finally to cup his buttocks. Iolaus caught his breath at the wave of pain that flooded through his legs at that touch. But as Hercules drew him forward against his body and he felt their erections touch, all thought of that pain left his mind. He thrust his tongue into his lover's ear, feeling the squirm and hearing the delicious groan it caused, and he pressed his hips forward even harder.

Pain shot through his back, a burning, tearing kind of pain, but it was nowhere near as bad as the pain Ares had caused. He ignored it, although he suspected Hercules somehow knew because the demigod's hand moved upward to caress his back affectionately. Iolaus felt the tightening in his scrotum that signaled he was ready to come, and then suddenly Hercules was laying him down, supporting his burning back as he stretched him out on the blanket.

"I love you," Hercules told him, his mouth near Iolaus's ear.

The hunter smiled up into the blue eyes he so adored. "I know," he said. "But don't tell me. Show me."

Hercules moved between the legs that parted for him and reached to lift Iolaus's hips slightly, bracing himself with his other hand. The tip of his rock-hard cock touched the hunter's opening, still slick and relaxed from the last time, and he eased himself inside.

The pain this time was too sharp for Iolaus to hide. He threw his head back, choking back a cry, and clinched his fingers into the blanket as the sudden flash of agony shot through his shoulders.

"Iolaus?" Hercules asked, halting all movement.

"I'm --- okay," the hunter managed to gasp. The pain, though severe, was already receding, and after a moment he was able to push downward, encouraging Hercules to continue.

Soon, the demigod was fully within him, and he began to pull in and out slowly, eyes watching and gauging his lover's reactions. Iolaus was still in pain, but he seemed to be handling it. Hercules could see it in the tightly closed eyes, in the set of his sensitive mouth, and in the tendons that stood out that invitingly tempting neck. He lowered his mouth to it, nibbling gently over the juncture of neck and shoulder. Iolaus cried out, writhing, but he mouthed "more" as Hercules started to pull back. The demigod had no desire to cause Iolaus further pain, but it was obvious they were overcoming what Ares had done to him. He supposed that would be worth a little suffering.

He only hoped Iolaus would have the sense to protest if the pain became too severe.

The hunter was gasping his name now, and his own hand wrapped around his throbbing shaft as he sought to bring himself to completion. Hercules pulled it away and replaced it with his own firm grip. "That's my job," he murmured, and watched the blue eyes open as Iolaus grinned up at him.

"Well, get on with it then," he protested. "You're killing me here!"

Hercules stroked the heated shaft firmly, bringing Iolaus right to the brink of coming, before he stilled his hand. The hunter choked back a whimper of protest. "What, Iolaus?" Hercules teased, trying to keep the moment light despite the fact that he believed Iolaus was in pain again.


Hercules deepened his strokes, striking the blonde man's prostate over and over. Iolaus was moaning and writhing, although his eyes were once again tightly squinted closed. His cock twitched and bucked in the demigod's hand as he cried out his pleasure.

"Herc!" he shouted as he came, the pleasure so intense that it blocked out all the lingering pain.

The tightening of the muscles in his anus sent Hercules over the edge, too, and within moments the two collapsed, spent, to the ground. When he had recovered enough to speak, Hercules came up on one elbow and gazed at his lover in concern.

"How you doing, Iolaus?"

The hunter drew a deep sigh, and flashed one of his blazing smiles.

"We did it!" Iolaus said happily. "It's over!"

Hercules wrapped his arms tightly around the love of his life, burying his face in the silken skin of his neck. Tears fell from his blue eyes, but this time they were tears of joy. "I love you, Iolaus," he said when he had found his voice. "I'm sorry I hurt you."

"You didn't hurt me, Herc. Ares did."

"Yeah, but I'm still sorry."

"Don't be. I'm not. After all, we beat Ares, didn't we?

"Yeah, we did." And he squeezed Iolaus even tighter.

"Uh, Herc?"

"Yes, Iolaus?" the demigod said without raising his head.

"Want to loosen up there a bit, pal? I'd like to breathe."

Hercules eased his grip and laughed, all of the last few days' tensions pouring from his body, and after a moment Iolaus joined him.

_____ *** _____

The sound of their laughter reached all the way to Mt. Olympus.

Ares, the God of War, was watching. He was not pleased. "Next time, brother," he said in a dangerously soft voice. "Next time."

The End

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