Title: Caught in Game of Love
Fandom:Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Word count: (for fics)5,206
Accompany fan work by artist: ceares to added (artist is the area affected by Hurricane Harvey (will link to art at a later date, if that's all right?
[Unknown site tag]
Summary: A royal invitation bring Hercules and Iaolus to Cornith. A reunion between old friends and free companions of the road turns to reminiscing about old time. If this was not enough on their plates Hercules find himself in a very compromising position when he wakes up in bed with the God of War? What did he have to drink last night, and can his friends Jason and Iaolus help him out before its too late or he decides that maybe this might be an ongoing thing?
Disclaimer: Hercules: the Legendary Journeys belongs to MGM, its producers and creators. It is not mine. The same goes for the characters who appear here or are mentioned. Written for the 2017 Harlequin Big Bang complete 5,206
“Caught in the Game of Love” by Karrenia_Rune
Ares considered what his fellows gods and goddesses might be getting up to you even as he lounged in the big high-backed chair in the midst of revelry of his chosen warriors. They had just returned from a successful siege of some local barony the name of which currently escaped him.
Perhaps he was becoming lax in such matters, perhaps he had given the current warlord in his favor too much leeway.
If that was the case then he'd best hasten to rectify that oversight by taking a more active hand.
“It would never do to let the mortal sheep get delusions of grandeur, or allow them to run willy-nilly over the world. It gives them ideas, dangerous ideas which have to be nipped in the bud.”
Ares mulled this over and considered how she address this problem.
Perhaps that very laxity had allowed his usual hot-pumping, hot-blooded temper to cool like water poured over metal pounded on his brother's Hepahtus forge anvil.
The idea got him thinking. It was a curse and blessing, this being smarter than everyone else in the room, in any room.
He was bored. The problem thus identified, Ares, thought, how to relive this ennui? Normally, as tedious and often obnoxious as he found Strife's company to be; he did find the vicious little scamp diverting company.
Ares shook out his mane of soot-colored black locks and poured himself more than his usual amount of red wine into the lion-footed cup at this elbow, then drank it down,, no, Strife was not he wanted; not at all. Perhaps, Discord? No, not Discord.
Although she was good for a little fun mayhem and carnage, and perhaps a romp of different sort afterwards; she was also smarter, more ambitious and harder to control then the other kid.
Ares wanted something else, but what? He almost had his finger on it; almost. When he thought he'd gotten a hold of whatever it was that nagging at him he scoffed, and said aloud. "Nah, that can't be it. I hate him I hate him, hate, hate, him. hate his taste in clothes, his absurd do-gooder, holier-than thou attitude. Most of all, I hate the fact that a half-god, half-mortal is Father's favorite."
Ares stopped his rant long enough to consider, trapping the now almost empty wine cup between the strong fingers of his sword-hand, nearly crimping the pewter surface. "But, what if..."
Meanwhile, his sister Aphrodite, lounging on her settee, in her palace decorated in white-washed limestone and gauzy drapes that mimiced the sea-shore just outside the door, jumped upright, like she had just heard startling news.
As it was there was no on else in her inner sanctum. The handmaidens and other attendants were either scattered elsewhere around the spacious edifice or sent out about other errands.
So, there was no soul around to her their mistress talking to herself. "Could it be? I could be mistaken, after all, an eternity is such a very long time to carry a grudge. And if I know my brother, stubborn as a mule does not even begin to describe his charming personality."
"Oh, no, One might ask, the God of War, charming. Well, he might choose that particular word, but he does possess those sultry deep-set eyes and a voice that any mortal girl or boy for that matter would without a doubt swoon for."
As she pondered whether she was about to make too much out of the tiniest signs or perhaps make a fool out of herself for pursuing something that may have been just an idle whim, she tapped her manicured nails against the side of her white dressing-gown.
Aphrodite shook out her curls. "No, no, this time I believe I'm right. After all, who else would know when the time is right to pursue than the 'awesome Goddess of Love!"
As for my half-brother, well, I think I've got just the thing." She smirked.
Then stretched as languidly and as steadily casual as a female lynx and smiled, as if whatever she had heard mightily pleased her. "It's about time. The trick is to find the right way to give them both a push in the right direction."
Hercules was in Cornith, at the spring harvest festival at the invitation of their old friend, Jason, who was now the rightfully crowned king of Cornith.
We've been rambling all the night and sometimes of this day; now returning back again, we bring you garlands gay. The dancers were lissome and graceful and their white-clad forms whirled around in a circles and in rows, with red and yellow, green and blue ribbons twinned through their wheat-colored hair.
The musicians in the background accompanied the dancers with an almost wistful melody that often seemed to hover just on the edge of dissonance without going over.
Over all the other sounds, he though he could make out the sound of a fiddle.
As Hercules glanced around at the crowd in Jason's Great Hall, he realize that many of the lords and ladies, and courtiers were tapping their slippered feet, booted feet for the men, on the marbled floor.
Marble that Cornith was justly famous for throughout the kingdom and its neighbors, many of whom were trading partners.
Hercules leaned closer and closed his eyes to half-lidded mast the better able to appreciate the music. Even as he did so he wondered if it would be considered rude to slight to his host, who, at the moment was deep in discussion with Ialous.
"Oh, well," Hercules muttered under his breath. "I guess it can wait."
Jason leaned over and asked: "Do you remember when we used to dare each other to be the first to ascend to the summit?" Jason asked.
"Ah, I think so," replied Ialous. "If memory serves, I think the first time was way back when we still attended Chrion's Academy."
"Now, that was a long time ago. Have I mentioned lately that you are incorgible, Ioalus?"
"No, not in the last week or so. Besides, aside from the fact that those summits were off-limits to cadets,” chimed in Hercules.
"There was a rookery of rocs up there, if I recall," remarked Jason. "In fact, I distinctly recall that one of them carried you off bodily."
“Funny,” Ialous replied. “That is not how I remember it.”
“Then let’s change the subject. As long as you seem to be in a reminiscing frame of mind, do you remember the time Herc and I had to rescue you from that crofter’s bear pit? You were damn incorrigble not to mention muddy from head to foot."
"Now, just who are you calling incorrigble?" Ialous replied with his usual good charm and fond comradely smack on the shoulder. "You, aren't by any chance, wanting to duck out of here and go climbing those cliffs, for old time's sake?"
Jason considered this and shook his head. "No, no, but the thought of avoiding all of this' he waved his hand around the Great Hall, "pomp and circumstance is a tempting one."
Even as the words passed his lips his attention was drawn by the not-too subtle throat-clearing of the Major Domo Kleitius, who amongst his many other duties included overseeing ceremonies, greeting and seeing to the welfare of visiting dignitaries and sundry; however Kleitius also had taken it upon himself to see that the king also comported himself as a proper and dignified king should.
Jason had tried his best over the years,and goodness his best was pretty good even if his royal parents, the royal staff in both palace and stable grounds and surrounding area often wonder if their king that would ever grow out of his wandering, adventurous ways, and settle down.
That last was still problematic, mainly on having a Queen of Cornith.
“Sire, I am certain that you and your comrades are very good close friends and you all have a great deal of catching up, but might I have a moment of your time. I assure you, it is quite urgent."
Jason shrugged, “My apologizes, my friends, Kleitius here has been kept waiting for too long.”
“Out with it, man,” Jason said.
“We should discuss this matter in private,” began Kleitius as he glanced around the crowded and clamorous Great Hall. “Then again, it’s not like it’s any great secret and even were there the need for secrecy no one could overhear what we say even were he or she to be hiding beneath your throne.”
Jason smiled at that. Kleitius was ever so particular but every now and again he did display a flash of wry humor. “Okay, what’s up?”
The older man sighed, and “What is up as you so colorfully put, Your Majesty, is the fact that I want to you to select a royal consort, or baring that agree to meet with the Princess of Camarisa.”
“If I recall, didn’t I already meet a whole gaggle of princesses not too long ago?”
“Yes, and you keep finding objections to each and every one of them, this one is too tall, that one is too short, this one wears her up; and so on so forth.”
“Kleitius, it’s not that I want to be overly particular in my chose of royal consorts; or that I wish to remain a bachelor for the rest of mortal span...” Jason trailed off.
“Then what is it?” the older man asked.
“It’s that I want the woman I pick to be the One.”
“Jason, you must already know that as royalty you are seldom given the freedom to marry for love. Your parents...”
“Don’t bring up my parents, Please,” Jason replied as civilly as a he could but there was an undercurrent of annoyance there as well. “ My parents married for love and not just to seal some mutually advantageous political alliance, and it all worked out okay.”
“Yes, well was all Kleitius managed to get out when the bronze-bells at the gate resounded throughout the palace and the herald announced the arrival of Princess Ignacia of Chamris and her entourage who were just now making their royal progress into the Great Hall.
Ignacia was nervous but she’d learned a long time ago not to let it show. Her own island was a small but a wealthy one and this promised to be a most advantageous marriage. Her island was not so isolated not to have heard of the adventures of Jason, and she was looking forward to meeting him.
She been told that Jason had always had owned something of an daring spirit and she admired that about him, she also thought that they would be well-suited to one another because of but not in spite of this fact.
Chamris’ island had wooded hills and coastal inlets; and not too long ago her own family and attendants had despaired of ever finding suitable suitors for their auburn-haired wayward princess. Instead of spinning or weaving Ignacia could be find out riding her horse on the beach, or climbing trees, or jumping fences.
But that was when she was much younger and now that she had offically come of age and assumed full royal duties she could put on the full pomp and circumstances demanded by her station.
Even as she led the procession offering the proper observances and bows Ignacia hoped that Jason would be the One and that she was not making too much of a fool of herself in the process.
Ignacia walked up to throne where King Jason was waiting, but as she did so Ignacia felt a surge of energy sweep over her and before she realized it she was observing everything that went on, everything that was said and done as if at a remove. In the back of her mind, she thought, “This is not what I wanted at all. Whoever or whatever is doing this, would you kindly vacate the premises!”
All she got in the way of a response was a gust of highly amused laughter, and then “Sooner or later, dear. I just need to borrow your body for a while. But don’t fret, pet, you’ll get it back once I’m finished.”
Aphrodite could have used an intermediary, but where was the fun in that? After all this scheme was all her and she intended to see it through to the end; besides if all went accordingly she wanted to see the look on both of her targets faces when it worked out.
Elsewhere in the Royal Palace, several hours later
There comes a time when one just stops thinking and gives into emotional need, this was one of those times. Ares burst into the chambers occupied by his half-brother, infused with an inner fire, and fire that demanded release, demanded to be sated and for some inexplicable reason that could not explain he had fixated that need on Hercules.
If he had been thinking that fire would have demanded that he find some way of offing Hercules, although due to a mandate from their father, Zeus, he could not kill Hercules himself. He had sought for years to find a loophole, but right now killing Hercules was the last thing on his mind.
Instead he burst in and found the object of his desire sitting on the edge of the be in the process of removing those battered leather boots.
“What in Hades?”
“No, don’t get up. In fact, don’t speak.” And no sooner were the words out of this mouth than Ares had tumbled into him bodily and holding him down by those wide sun-browned shoulders and kneading them like a baker would knead bread dough.
Soon Hercules seemed to catch on, and gave in to it; responding in kind, he too stopped thinking that this might be a prelude to an attack; or a trap, albeit a very strange and subtle kind, and just went with it.
Why he should feel that way was obliterated in kisses and grinding, and a seemingly irresistible need to meld flesh and bone together.
“Again,” he murmured.
“Like this?” Ares replied equally softly, even as he tore Hercules leather vest to reveal the wheat-gold hairs on the other man’s muscular torso. Those insane leather slacks soon followed the vest to the stone floor of the chamber.
For his part Hercules took his time in removing Ares leather garments, undoing the laces one by one. He realized with a flash of contrast, that his travels and adventures, and missions that had taken up and down the islands of Greece and beyond had weathered his fair skin.
Ares skin was still as white as a fish’ belly but no less appealing for all of that. Where Ares skin was pallid his face was swarthy.
Hercules wanted to run his fingers through that soot black hair, and then did so. It was strange how someone who prided himself on being strong, indomtubable, and intimidating could be so rough everywhere else, and still have such soft, beautiful hair.
As if Ares could read his thoughts:
“You really are too pretty to live, dear half-brother,” Ares muttered under his breath. “I’d be infuriated if it weren’t so into doing whatever it is we’re doing right now.”
“I, concur,” Hercules lamely tried to express his own sentiments and cringed when he realized just how inadequate it sounded.
Ares held him so that he could look into the other’s face. “You know something...” he trailed off a faint far away look in his eyes.
“What is it?”
Ares shoved back and away to the edge of the bed, that faraway look in his smoldering dark eyes. “It couldn’t be, could it?”
“Stop talking in riddles, you know I hate it when you get all cryptic on me.” Then as if they were hearing something that only the two of them could hear, Hercules also heaved a sigh.
He shook all over and he pushed himself up and away from the bed and ended up backed up against the wall. “What just happened?”
Feeling recovered enough to consider things Hercules took a long lingering look at Ares and realized that he’d been feeling a taut connection between them for a very long time, but nothing like this.
“You feel it, too?” Ares asked, again reading his mind with that uncanny and often ease that he could do so well.
Ares gritted his teeth as he came to his own realization. “I believe the term that you are looking for is, is we’ve been set up. So, help me, when I find that scheming little tart."
He clenched his fists and held them tightly to his toned and at the moment quite bare muscular thighs. With a thought Ares began to casually pick up his discarded clothing and began to dress again with that same confident swagger that was ingrained into his very being.
Hercules realized with a start that he had been staring and began to dress as well. It took a while for the implications of what Ares had said to sink in. “Set up? By whom?”
“Who else? This was way too subtle to be the work of mere mortals, or even a hedge-wizard cobbled together love potion. I will give you three guesses."
Hercules rocked back on forth on the balls of his now booted feet and was engaged in lacing up the last of the ties that held his leather vest together, when it hit. “Aphrodite.”
“The very same.”
“So, what are we going to do about her?”
“We, what is this “we” you speak of?” Ares demanded. “I will go no to confront the ‘tart’ in question." and with that Ares vanished into the ether with a snap of his fingers.
Hercules felt a great many emotions swirling around inside of him like a massive whirlpool at that precise moment: confusion, anger, headiness but it was a toss-up on whether or not that anger was at himself for enjoying the aftermath of one of Aphrodite’s love spells, or anger at himself.
The confusion he could handle because given enough time he could sort things out.
Hercules was also slightly ambivalent about what he had done, said, and felt during their let’s face love-making, because he had enjoyed it. Let’s face it, the truth was he had enjoyed it; perhaps a little too much.
And while his libido was in check, as was his ego, Hercules was as certain as he could be that the other participant had enjoyed it as well.
He took a deep breath and decided that now was not the time to try and sort these things out.
“I better get a move-on, then,” he muttered aloud and while he had never been one for pretension and show he happened to catch a glimpse of himself in the polished surface of a shield hanging on the wall of the chamber, “Damn, I do look pretty good, but If I’m going out there I better at least try to look decent.”
“When I find you, Sis, we are going to have to have a nice long chat. But Seriously what were you thinking? Me and Ares?”
He shook all over like a dog that had just emerged from swimming in a river squared his shoulders. “Okay, time to sort that out later, the most important thing right now is to find Aphrodite.”
He stepped out of the chamber, down the hallways and through the connecting ante way past the posted sentries not caring in the least if they would unduly discommoded by his haste.
The two on the left caught his eye and nodded, the one on the right of the stone pillars of the arch that would take him to the Great Hall kept his gaze averted.
Hercules stormed into the Great Hall at a fast run, wondering that maybe he should check to see if either of his best friends Ialous and Jason had heard or seen of anything untoward happening in the time he’d been figuring out where to start looking for Ares and Aphrodite. But where to start looking?
“Hercules,” Jason greeted as he half-stood up from his seat on the heard of the banquet table. Have a seat beside me, I’m afraid the seat of honor is held for our royal guest here, the Princess Ignacia of Camria.”
“I would be happy to make room for your best friend, My Lord, Jason, The stories of his feats and heroic deeds have even reached the far environs of my homeland,” Princess Ignacia replied graciously.
“Very generous of you, my dear,” Jason replied to her and took her hand in his. “We will continue our discussions for a full and formal betrothal when I get back.”
“Of course, My Lord,” she replied. For her part, Ignaica, throughout the course of the evening no longer felt as she were merely a participant in a stately pagaent, but actively taking part.
She also felt that the foregin presence that used to her move, speak and act during the ceremonial gathering during the Royal Progress that had taken her over on the approach to Cornith had left her body as suddenly as it had come in.
She mulled this over for a moment; and considered if it the stories of possession by foregin entities were true and if so if she should indignant about the intrusion; and also what purpose those entities had for using her so.
“Hercules waited and then said: “Jason, Ialous, might I have a word with the two of you, in private.”
“Of course, Jason replied, rising and making murmmurs to the guests. Jason and Ialous gathered in an ante-chamber where the palace servants used as a storage and prep area.
“What’s going on?” Ialous asked.
Hercules sighed. “Look there’s no easy way to put this, but ah we need to find Aphrodite and soon, because she’s meddled not too well but too often, and now the person she’s meddled with is going after her like a Minoan bull in a China shop.”
“Huh?” Ialous replied.
Hercules blushed. “It seems that my half-sister has taken it upon herself to ah, get Ares and I, ah, to “”
“Spit it out, man!” Jason demanded.
“Well, resolve our feelings for one another.”
“How?” Ialous wanted to know.
“The romantic kind.”
Ialous and Jason both started in consternation and Iaolus broke into a fit of chuckles so much that he begun to cough and had be pounded on the back before the fit passed.
“This is no laughing matter. You see Ares isn’t taking this very well. And I’m afraid of what he might be doing right now about it.”
“Since they’re both gods and can’t actually physically harm each other he wasn’t too worried about her,” Ialous remarked.
“Ares could do much more damage to her or to mortals if he decided to take his rage out on someone, like good on rampage; or something else ‘cute’ like that,” Jason said.
Just then the Princess Ignacia came into the room with the hem of her skirts gathered up into a clenched fist. “I think I know where she’s been, and I might even be able to hazard a guess of where’s she going.”
“What are you talking about?” Jason asked.
“You’re looking for the Goddess of Love, aren’t you.”
“How do you know? Oh, never mind,” Jason replied.
“She’s at the sea-side resort about a mile a half away as the crow flies. I am coming with you,” Ignacia stated.
“It’s too dangerous,” Jason murmmured.
“Don’t even take that tone with me, Jason, we’re betrothed now and I’m not about to sit here and wait to see how this plays out. After all, what I’m trying to say is that I too have a score to settle with her.”
“Why?” Hercules asked her.
“Because it was my body that Aphrodite used to infiltrate your palace, Jason. For what her end-game might be, I haven’t the foggiest, but it’s my resolution that we will all confront her together. If that suits you, My Lord."
Jason shrugged. “I guess it does. Then it’s decided.”
“Let’s go!” Hercules added.
They left the palace and head down to Cornith’s coast.
Aphrodite was indeed reclining on a settee in a temple on the coast, exactly where Princess Ignacia had said she would be.
“I knew you’d come here eventually,” said Aphrodite by way of greeting.
“Just one question, Sis,” Hercules began.
“Just one, big Bro?” she replied. “I would have thought you would have an entire plethora of them. But what-ever? Fire away.”
“Why did you do it,” Hercules asked. It was a statement not a question.
Ignaica spoke up as well, “I for one, would like a straight answer to that question as well, Your ah, Goddess-ship.
“Oh, honey, don’t sweat it, it’s not like I was going to take that nubile tom-body of yours for a permanent ride. I only neede to get a front-row seat to those two.”
“Why?” Because I could, because it was about time that the two of you resolve your unspoken feelings for one another. I mean, seriously, up until now your relationship, interactions with one another has been what I generously refer to as a love-hate one.” She shrugged agan, “Somebody had to give it a push in the right direction."
“Has Ares been here?” Jason asked.
“Been and gone.” She replied tersely.
“What happened?” Hercules asked.
“I would rather not talk about. Besides I only did what I did for the two of you. The least you could do is say thank you. Talk about a couple of ungrateful stiffs.”
“You’re expecting us to, thank you!” Hercules spluttered.
“You are taking this way too seriously, Herc. Besides, admit it, for all your protests you and Ares have much more in common than you might realize. Just think about that for a while, and you might want to give him some breathing room to process, Ares isn’t as adaptable as you are.” With that she disappeared with a snap of her fingers.
“I guess that’s that,” Jason muttered.
“No, Jason, that is hardly ‘just that, especially when it comes to those two. I just wish I knew what to do now.”
“Come and stay with us for a little while longer, or just for the ceremony."
Ialous nudged Jason, “Yeah, Jason here is getting married to Ignacia.
“Ah, I, you and he? I mean, ah congratulations!”
“Thank you,” replied Princess Ignacia with a little dip of her head.
Later, after everyone else in the palace had retired for the night including the servants Hercules found an unused room and called out.
No response so he tried again. “Yo, Ares, you in there?”
Same response. After everything that had happened, almost entirely at the instigation of their half-sister’s meddling that Ares would have had some kind of reaction. Anger, Outrage, Dry Humor at the stunt that had played on them by the Goddess of Love; something, anything than this stone cold silence.
“We need to talk,” Hercules said. It was a statement not a question.
“About what?” Ares seemingly was far away in mind and body from this time and place but made no move to shift away from the private chambers allotted to Hercules in the royal palace of Cornith. He could have done so with ease allotted to the Gods of Mount Olympus
Knowing himself as well as he did and even more importantly knowing Ares as well as he did, Hercules know that even the strongest will and discipline eventually might crack; and when it did well, Mt. Ida over on Crete had nothing on the God of War when it came to eruptions.
Hercules tried again, this time cautiously reaching out and laying a hand one Ares muscled forearm; for although they might be almost evenly matched in terms of physical prowess, one did not heedlessly grab Ares who had a swift but cold temper.
He could have shaken off Hercules’ hand on his forearm with equal ease, but he did not do so.
Still, Ares was also often unpredictable, but keeping all of one’s emotions bottled up was never a good thing either. If he didn’t want to talk about it now; that was fine. But they would have to do so eventually.
“I would thank you to never speak of what happened ever again.” With that he disappeared.
“I think he really doesn’t meant that. I hope he doesn’t mean that. Damn, damn. What do I do now?”
The following day Hercules was sitting on a large boulder by a stream patiently waiting for the fish to bite, indulging in one of Ialous’ favorite past-times, fishing when the subject of The Goddess of Love’s meddling came up again.
"Hey, Herc, you doing okay?” Ialous asked. I mean, that was some smooch. And it's not like you were yourself. I mean, Aphrodite's spells pack a mighty wallop. I mean, if anyone should know it's me..." he trailed off.
"Ialous, I'm not sure"
"If I might ask. You've kissed now tell. What was it like?"
"What was what like?"
"You know what I mean,” Ialous prompted slyly.
Hercules did not respond at first, not because he did not care to, or that he was unable to answer the question, but that for some reason he could not find a ready answer to it.
He'd been with Denaira, loved her with all his heart and soul, and even now when he knew that one day that they would be together in the Elysian Fields, that love was like slow-burning ember embedded deep within him.
Somehow, Hercules expected that it always would be.
But, this, whatever it was that he'd said and done while under the influence of Aphrodite's love spell was, no, not different. Different was an overly simplistic way of putting it.
He'd woken up in bed with his sworn enemy and half-brother Ares. If that alone was not alarming enough what they'd done the previous night should have been sending off alarms bells in his head.
The thing of it was, those alarms were subsiding, drowned out by the hammering of his heart in his sweaty chest. His skin, where flesh to flesh had made contact still tingled.
The sweat had dried and felt the customary ache in his bones and muscles that he usually chalked it up to hard physical labor or after a battle.
Hercules ran his hands through his hair and considered it as calmly and rationally as he possibly could under the circumstances.
If, not when he was reunited with his lost love he would tell her everything, even as they had done when she’d been alive and they had been husband and wife, just as they had spoken in their marriage vows.
He didn’t know if his spell-enduced ‘fling’ with Ares would exactly be considered a betrayal of his love for his wife, but all he did know that the whatever the Fates or the future held for him and loved ones he would face them head-on.