Warning: Angst. Moderate BDSM.
Disclaimers: The principal characters are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended, and no financial profit is anticipated.
This story is part of the "Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink" series, which
is an alternate timeline for both series. The first Xena/Gabrielle
story branches off after the events in "The Debt." In this timeline,
Hope has conveniently vanished and Solan is still living with the Centaurs.
The stories in the series take place in the following order:
"Never Let me Down Again."
" . . . But We're Not the Same."
"How Long Till my Soul Gets It Right?"
"This Must Be the Place."
"The Dark Side of my Soul."
"Idylls of the Conqueror."
Summary: Iolaus reflects on the aftermath of Hercules' marriage to Serena.
Never Let Me Down
Copyright (c) 1998
I'm taking a ride
With my best friend
I hope he never lets me down again
Promises me I'm as safe as houses
As long as I remember who's wearing the trousers
I hope he never lets me down again
--Depeche Mode, _Music For the Masses_ (Sire Records, 1987)
He's sleeping now. I love to watch him sleep. I still have so much anger inside me directed at him, but when he sleeps, my anger melts away. I can travel his body with my eyes, following the contours of muscle and flesh, and he sleeps soundly enough that I can sometimes follow my eyes with my fingers, and he won't wake. His face in repose is so beautiful. Hard to believe I still feel this way after so many years and after so much hurt. But it's my lot to love him no matter what. He fell asleep, as usual, with an arm wrapped around me. I don't know if it's possessiveness, or he just feels safer with something to hold. Probably both. But I don't fall asleep as easily as he does, and sometimes I wriggle out of his grasp and sit and watch him, like now. It feels a bit foolish to sit here in bed and write, but Gabrielle suggested it might help me deal with my feelings. She should know. I'm guessing Xena isn't any easier to love than he is, although for different reasons.
Most people wouldn't think the great Hercules would be hard to love. They would say that I should be grateful to be friends with the son of Zeus, and they'd consider it a privilege to be close to him at all. Yes, it's a privilege, but it's not an easy one. Most people know all about the good deeds and the heroic adventures; they know about his battles against all forms of tyranny, including the gods; they even know what a good son he is to his mother--who in Corinth hasn't seen him working on his mother's house? They see his easy smile and modest shrug and the way he looks embarrassed when people thank him. They see the way he tries to give credit to those he helps and not to wallow in praise himself.
All that is true. Herc in so many ways is as unselfish and sincere as his reputation suggests. But that's not all of him, and most people don't see what I see. They don't see how his good heart can blind him to his own selfishness, how doing a good deed can be a cover for him going after whatever he wants, whatever the cost. He's never willfully malicious or cruel, but he has a thoughtless streak several leagues wide. It's been almost a year since he came back to me, his tail between his legs, weeping and apologizing, but the thought of Serena still makes me almost shake with rage and guilt and who knows what else.
I've known since we were young that it was my destiny to be at his side and to support him on his journey. It was so hard for him then to deal with being different and to manage his strength. I saw a vulnerable and open soul, always a bit lost and confused at why he had been singled out. Never really understanding why he always had to be a target or why his father did so little to teach or protect him. I knew a long time ago he needed me and always would, and I made a vow to dedicate my life to him. To protect him from hurt when I could and help him deal with the pain he couldn't avoid. But he sure doesn't always make it easy for me . . .
Reading this, someone might think I'm just envious. The usual sidekick envy of the great hero. Sure there was some of that, but he goes out of his way to give me credit. And I wouldn't want to be him. Sure, there's an occasional twinge of resentment of living in his shadow, but most of the time I know that that's where I want to be. At his side always. And when he wraps his fingers into my hair and pulls me close and tells me I belong to him, I still melt. I still melt when I catch a glimpse of him fighting, those muscles flexing and his teeth bared in a growl and his hair whipping around his head. I still melt when I watch him in action, with his easy smile and casual defiance. And after all these years I still melt when his tongue thrusts into my mouth and his hands mold my arms and my legs and my back and my chest and when his cock fills my ass. For better or worse, I'm his, even when he makes it almost impossible for me.
Xena tried to convince me that he's totally selfish, doing good only to benefit himself. He'd hurt me before, and I was ready to listen to her, although I knew she wasn't right. Yes, he's selfish, but not in the ways she said. Still, I can't hold his love for Xena against him. After all, she made a total idiot out of me--or I let her. I wasn't surprised he couldn't resist her. Who could? And the fact that he helped her turn her life around just gave the whole thing added lustre, I'm sure. We all have more than one kindred soul out there. Xena and Herc just have this bond that runs so deep it's a part of them; but they both knew from the beginning they weren't meant to be together. And when I met Xena's Gabrielle, I felt the same thing. If my heart was free, I could have loved her as more than a kindred spirit and friend, but it's just as well I couldn't. Anyone who sees her with Xena knows that that's where she belongs, just as I belong with Herc. Sure, I was hurt when I knew about him and Xena, but then I had to deal with what happened afterward, with Ares, and it finally brought me and Herc together.
But Serena . . . I should have known she'd be trouble. I mean, first thing she does is shoot me, and, yes, she healed me too. But trouble. A beautiful face and in need of protection. The last of her kind. And he knew that making her his would piss off Ares just royally. Cupid couldn't do more damage with his arrows. It's so easy for Herc to convince himself that someone needs him . . . and then he's lost. He's got an excuse to do whatever he pleases, and nothing will stand in his way. And then to ask me to be his best man? If he'd only had the courage to look in my eyes when he told me, he'd have seen me screaming inside. But he managed to convince himself that my occasional flings meant I didn't need him or that it wasn't serious or something or that we didn't mean the same thing by "I love you" that I thought we did. Maybe he thought fucking your best friend was something you did until you found the right woman. More likely he just didn't think. It wouldn't be the first time.
But this time he wasn't thinking at all. Or thinking with the wrong organ. Agreeing to give up his strength? I knew it was a mistake; I told him so, but he thought I was just being selfish. And maybe I was. But I knew he was just asking for trouble. Ares doesn't give up that easily. When Serena was murdered, I think I nearly lost my mind from a combination of relief, feeling guilty because I felt relieved, still being angry at Herc for marrying her in the first place, and feeling guilty about being angry. It wasn't pretty. Thank the gods Xena and Gabrielle happened along--I wasn't in any shape to handle this on my own.
And then that idiot Autolycus stole the Chronos Stone and he and Herc went back in time. He saved Serena again and this time for good--when he got back to the present she was alive, but married to someone else, even had kids. His marriage to her never happened. But it did really, and we both knew it. But something clicked for him--finally. He went off by himself for a few days after his trip to the past, and I guess he finally figured out just how badly he messed up. When he first met her and after she died, she was perfect in his mind. Seeing her leading an ordinary life, I guess, brought him back to earth.
I'd been doing pretty well keeping my feelings to myself, acting like we were just old pals. I kept my distance, but stayed close enough to help him when I could. Maybe I'm a fool, but it's Herc I'm a fool for, and that's something. How did I go so long without touching him? Even when he's sleeping like this, I can't keep my hands off of him. I have to brush some stray hair out of his eyes or lay my hand on his chest and feel his heart thudding against it.
So I'd been doing OK, but when he came back to me, I just lost it. He was crying and apologizing and saying he didn't deserve me--true enough, I think sometimes--and I was angrier than I'd ever been. Even angrier than when Xena managed to turn me against him. He actually got on his knees and asked me to forgive him. I would, but I wasn't ready. There's only so much a guy can take. Tears were welling out of those blue eyes, and it was finally because he realized he needed me not because he convinced himself someone else needed him. I didn't care. I wanted him to hurt as much as I'd been hurting. I cracked him across the face with all my strength. He just took it quietly, and he didn't make a move to stop me, and I backhanded his face. I was crying too, and yelling incoherently. Telling him how selfish he was and thoughtless and stupid. Going on about how he's no better than the gods and was as ruthlessly self-serving as they were.
I kicked him in the gut hard enough to make him double over, and I couldn't stop hitting him. I think for a moment I realized how crazy I was and what I was doing, and then I got even madder at him for making me feel this way. He's not easy to damage, but between my fists and my feet, I left bruises. For a long time he just let me take out all my anger on him. Maybe he thought he deserved it. I don't know--even after all that we don't talk much about how we feel about things like that.
After I don't know how long, I think I finally started to feel a little less angry, but at that point he'd had enough. He growled--I can't help it, I love it when he gets so mad he's inarticulate--and rolled off the floor and just pulled my arms behind my back and snapped, "E-nough!" He was out of breath and panting in my ear. He shifted so he held both my wrists in one hand and grasped the back of my neck with the other. Dirty trick. He knows it always turns my knees to water. I struggled some, pretending I was trying to get out of his grasp. I wasn't so much angry any more, but I like it when I can make him use his strength to hold me. Yeah, I'm a fool for him all right.
He leaned in and spoke softly in my ear, another dirty trick that sends all the blood flowing to my cock: "Iolaus, everything you said was right. I'm selfish and thoughtless. Stupid too. I don't deserve you. But I've apologized every way I know how. And you know you're stuck with me. You're mine, and that hasn't changed."
It was true, but I wasn't through with him yet, and I tried to wrench myself out of his hands. This, of course, made him hold on to me more firmly than ever, but I couldn't help exploding, "Damn it, Herc! Do you have any idea how much you hurt me?!"
He turned me around, like I was a small child between his hands, so I was facing him, and he held my arms pinned against my sides. He looked into my eyes, and I saw the pain clouding his. He doesn't *mean* to be thoughtless and susceptible; he just is. But when he realizes what he's done, he feels it almost as much as I do. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing he's suffering too, feeling bad for what he's done. "Iolaus," he said softly. "Why do you think I let you beat up on me? I'm not the one around here who likes to be manhandled." This last was said with just the slightest hint of a smile.
"So you're back and ready to reclaim me as your property," I muttered bitterly.
He nodded, with again the slightest twitch of a smile on his lips. Swiftly, he had my arms behind my back again, firmly gripped in one big hand. With the other, he pushed aside my vest and pinched my nipple between his thumb and index finger. Very quietly and deliberately, he said, "I'll stop what I'm doing if you tell me to. I know the way to the door if you want me to leave." He was steadily increasing the pressure on my nipple; it's amazing how much control he has over his strength. He glanced briefly at my erection straining against the fabric of my pants, but we both knew he had won . . . again.
I looked down for a moment, ashamed to meet his eyes. "Please don't leave. Please stay," I whispered.
His hand moved from my nipple to my chin, as he tipped my face up. "Louder, Iolaus. I couldn't hear you," he said, his smile now growing, though still shadowed by the pain in his eyes.
I hate it when he does that, when he forces me to acknowledge how much I need him. But I love it too. My cheeks flamed, but I repeated, in a firm voice, "Please don't leave. Please stay."
"Why?" he asked.
He was really pushing me this time--probably to reassure himself. Part of me was so mad he was lucky I didn't decide to stamp on his foot with the only free weapon I had. But I swallowed my anger and said, "I love you, Herc, and I need you. Is that what you wanted?"
"Yes!" he exclaimed, his face lighting up with a broad smile that melted the last of my rage. He grabbed a handful of my hair, pulled my face up to his, and claimed possession of my mouth, his lips crushing mine, and his tongue halfway down my throat. I sucked at it greedily, having missed its fullness and taste in my mouth, and leaned away from him slightly so he would tighten his grip in my hair. Yeah, the big guy was back home, and at that point, nothing else mattered.
He prolonged the kiss, releasing my arms and my hair so he could squeeze two handfuls of my ass, pulling me closer to him. I reached up and grabbed at his hair like it was a lifeline, and our tongues wrestled strenuously together. He was hard too as he pressed against me. When we finally broke for air, he said, very deliberately, between breaths, "Iolaus . . . tell . . . me . . . you . . . belong . . . to . . . me."
I looked him in the eye and obeyed, "I belong to you, Hercules."
"Then," he said calmly, his mouth half-smiling, "I'm going to take what's mine. Lose the clothes." His eyes raked me as I tossed my vest across the room, then sat down to deal with my boots. I may not be big like him, but I know he likes my body. I'm lean and hard, and I can feel his appreciation as he watches me with a growing smile on his face.
With a glance of his eyes and a slight nod, he indicated the bed. I raised my eyebrows questioningly, and he answered, "On your back for now. Hands above your head." While I complied, he removed his gauntlets, his shirt, and his boots, but left his pants on. I didn't mind. My eyes roamed over his arms and his chest. A bruise was starting to come up on his upper arm--I must have gotten him there with my boot.
"Herc, please," I begged, "Let me do one thing. Please. You owe me." He nodded, his eyes slightly narrowed, as he sat down on the bed. I reached out and gave the bruised flesh a wrench with my fingers. He took in his breath sharply, and I was pleased to see his hips involuntarily thrust forward.
"Whoa" was all he said.
I grinned my goofiest, most lopsided smile, and shrugged innocently. "Just an irresistable impulse, Herc."
"Uh-huh," he said. "Whatever you say, Iolaus. Now get your arms back where they belong."
I couldn't stop smiling at my small triumph, and he noticed, and latched on to both my nipples with his fingers, pulling at them hard. I gasped and lost the smile right away. As he twisted my nipples relentlessly, my hips rocked, futilely pumping the air. "Don't even think about coming, any time soon," he murmured seductively and bent over to claim my mouth with his, his fingers still pressing on my nipples. His mouth moved to my throat, and he began to suck at it vigorously, his teeth sinking into my flesh, as his hands moved to pin mine against the bed. I relaxed into his grasp happily. If he was going to leave visible marks, then he undoubtedly planned to stay for a while. I could usually gauge the state of his feelings about our relationship by how much evidence of it he was willing to display.
It didn't matter where he touched me--all the sensation raced straight to my cock. I didn't know what I wanted more--immediate relief or to have this agony prolonged forever. Either way, it wasn't my choice. He growled slightly as his teeth and lips worried at my throat, and I wriggled in pleasure. "You're an animal, big guy," I murmured through clenched teeth, as sharp waves of pain pulsed from my throat down to my cock.
He growled again and moved to my chest, closing his teeth on one tender nipple, while he pinched the other. Oh, yeah, I thought to myself.
He looked up and said, "You, Iolaus, are beautiful. I want to touch you everywhere. And I want to admire what's mine." He fetched a jar of oil, and poured some on his hands. Soon he was stroking me everywhere, rubbing the oil into my skin until I glistened, his hands gliding over my flesh. Every so often he would make a comment to himself, like "Oh yes, that's nice." His fingers worked oil into my upper arms and shoulders, pressing deeply into my muscles as he carefully explored all of his property. He rubbed oil into my chest and belly, his thumbs sweeping outward along each rib as he went along. He anointed each leg, lifting them up, so his big hands could encircle my thighs and calfs. With every touch, he molded me more and more into a desired object--his possession and plaything for all time. Then he returned to my chest, toying with my nipples with oil-slick fingers. So far only one part of the front of my body had escaped his ministrations. He didn't want me to come just yet. It's a miracle I didn't. As he tugged on and twisted my nipples, and they popped out of his slippery fingers, I began to groan loudly. This only made him laugh and tease me all the more.
Finally, he simply and carelessly flipped me over onto my stomach, without even bothering to tell me what to do. This, of course, had the effect of making me feel even more like an object to be used, and he knew it. He probably wouldn't speak again until he took me. He likes just to move me into whatever position he wants, and lovestruck fool that I am, I crave this impersonal handling. Of course, I was getting a good massage out of it too, so I had it pretty good. I'd been tense ever since Serena first shot me, and it felt wonderful to have his powerful fingers pulverize my stiff muscles, as he massaged oil into my shoulders, arms, and back. There are advantages to having the world's strongest man as one's lover, and since he likes to show off his strength in the bedroom, and I like to surrender to his strength, we're both happy.
He had reduced his comments to an occasional satisfied grunt, as his hands travelled my back, then moved down to anoint my ass. He squeezed hard, letting the slippery flesh slide out of his grasp, only so he could grab another handful. Again, he gave me a thorough massage, his fingers working deeply into my buttocks. I was still hard as ever, my cock pressed between my stomach and the sheets. Finally, finally, I felt a finger slide down my crack. No longer rough, his touch was now teasingly gentle and tantalizing, as he slid his finger along, just barely grazing my anus.
I think I whimpered, and he laughed, and grabbed my hips, pulling me up on my knees, then reaching between my knees to push them wide apart. I think I was groaning pretty continuously, and I had a mouthful of sheet clenched in my teeth. I was anticipating it so eagerly, that I yelped when he finally pushed a finger inside me. As he oiled me thoroughly, with first one, then two, then three fingers sliding in and out of me and stretching me carefully, he still maintained his impersonal and businesslike demeanor. I knew that would change soon, but all I really wanted was to allow him maximum access. I arched my back further and spread my legs a little wider, and he patted my ass with his free hand in acknowledgment.
His hands left my body momentarily, and I knew he was coating his cock with oil. I glanced back at him, and he was on his knees. When he caught me looking at him, he grinned, and began stroking himself very slowly and deliberately. I growled in frustration, biting down harder on the sheets, my own cock jutting forward into nothing. He grinned more broadly and winked at me, and I was momentarily infuriated, but he slapped me sharply on the ass, indicating that I was supposed to turn around. I don't know why I always know what he means by his non-verbal signals but I do. It's a skill that's as useful in a fight as it is in bed, but we're so in tune that we never misread each other. It's words that get us into trouble.
"Hmm," he said to himself, apparently having enjoyed what he just did because he smacked me a few more times on the ass just for good measure. Then, at long last, he began to push his erect member inside me. No matter how rough or how possessive he was being, he was always slow and careful when entering me, letting me get used to his size gradually. In that way, he's always considerate. I groaned louder, and tears sprang into my eyes. It hurt a little being stretched by that demigodly organ, but I had missed and craved and wanted this for so long, I didn't want him to be slow and careful. I started to push back impatiently against him, but he gripped my hips and immobilized them. He was going to avoid damaging me, no matter how impatient I was.
Once all the way inside me, he paused, lowering himself over my body to bite the back of my neck. His hair brushed my shoulder, and my whole body yielded into his touch. He pushed himself back up, grasped my hips again, and began to move inside me. One's body doesn't remember how it feels to be that full, and I felt almost delirious from pleasure and tingling pain. I felt stretched to the limit, and liquid lightning bolts were shooting from my ass down my legs and curling my toes. "Don't hold back, Herc, please!" I begged.
He took my plea under advisement, only gradually increasing his tempo. But before long, his cock was driving into me with furious strength, and he had wrapped an oil-slick hand around my aching member and was milking it at the same furious pace. I yelled and thrashed as my seed spurted out of me, and a moment later he was growling through his own thumping climax, filling me with liquid fire.
I was sobbing with relief and overwhelming love, and he slid out of me and came up to pull me in his arms. Our bodies were drenched with oil and sweat and semen and tears, our flesh making small sucking noises, where we moved against each other. It didn't matter. I rested in his strong arms, weeping onto his shoulder and looking up to see that his own face was wet. "I missed you too, you know," he said softly. "There wasn't any time I didn't miss you."
Inside my head, I raged, Then WHY? but I just as quickly decided to deal with that thought later. After a while, we both glanced to the door, communicating again without a word. We meandered out into the small fenced-in yard and washed each other off. When we got back inside, I said, "I think I'm ready for you to ask me to forgive you now, Herc."
I was sitting on the bed, and he immediately sank to his knees in front of me. "I'm sorry, Iolaus, my love," he said, looking in my eyes. "Forgive me. Please. Forgive me."
"Of course," I said, with only the slightest edge of bitterness in my voice. "I do, and I always will."
He stayed on his knees, and simply bowed his head, his long hair falling forward. "Let me pleasure you," he whispered.
I grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his face up to meet mine. "Be my guest," I said, grandly, "and make it worth my while."
His mouth crooked in a hint of a smile, and he bowed his head in acknowledgment, then lowered it to my cock, while I kept a loose hold on his hair like reins. Oh, he was good at that like everything else. Even his tongue is stronger than anyone else's, and he swept it around my balls, licked his way up my cock, twirled circles with it around the head, then moved back down to bathe my balls again. I'll admit, it's a thrill to have the son of Zeus on his knees in front of me, serving me with his mouth. It's hard for him to take that role, and it means all the more to me because of that.
His tongue was swirling roughly around the head of my cock and pausing to probe the opening. Good thing I was sitting down because my legs were dissolving. At this point, I was holding on to his hair for support. Then he encased my cock with his mouth, moving his head back and forth slowly, his tongue forming a perfect groove for my cock to slide along. Again, he's amazing. Having him suck your cock feels like every vein and artery in your body is pouring into your groin with suction enough to drain you completely. And then he slowed down, grazing my flesh with his teeth, while cupping and fingering my balls with one hand.
I wanted more though. I tightened my grip on his hair and said, "Now stop. I want to fuck you, and I want to use you." His blue eyes widened, and I knew it was hard for him. Good. I wanted it that way. It's not often that he's willing to give himself to me that way, and I had every intention of taking advantage of his guilt and remorse. I stood up. He held himself perfectly still, his mouth still encircling my cock. I didn't need to grip his hair so tightly, but I liked it, and he didn't stop me. I began thrusting into his mouth, and I could see him consciously relaxing the muscles in his throat, so as to let me all the way in. I staggered slightly--my legs were still more jelly-like than solid--and he raised his hands up to brace my hips. This allowed me to fuck him even harder, driving into the molten passage that was his mouth and throat, moist heat and friction building up along my burning shaft. With a final thrust, I came and howled, spilling a stream of seed into the receptacle he offered me. As he swallowed, I rested my hand on his throat, feeling the muscles working.
Then my legs really did collapse, but he caught me in his arms, stood up, and laid me on the bed and wrapped me in his arms. "I love you, Herc," I whispered. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," he answered. "I love you, Iolaus. But I'm done atoning now, and I think it's time to remind you that you're mine. I wouldn't want you to forget that I can do whatever I want with you."
And that's the truth of it--no matter what he puts me through, he'll always be able to do whatever he wants with me. And that's how it should be. Matching action to words, he pushed me over on my back, pulled my arms above my head, and plunged his tongue into my mouth. After all these years, I still melt when he does that.
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