Pairing: Hercules/Iolaus, Iolaus/Nebula
Warning: 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.
Summary: Hercules and Iolaus do some "processing" after Hercules' return from Olympus in "Reunions."
Notes: The lines between the rows of asterisks are quoted directly from the end of the episode. This story was written during repeated listening to Garbage's Version 2.0. Thanks to Ruth Gifford for the title.
Twisting in the
Copyright (c) 1998
Part 1 of 2
Bend me break
me anyway you need me
All I want is you
Bend me break me breaking down is easy
All I want is you
Steal me deal
me anyway you heal me
Make me take me you can never change me
Love me like me come ahead and fight me
Please me tease me go ahead and leave me
Bend me break
me anyway you need me
As long as I want you baby it's alright
--Garbage, "I Think I'm Paranoid," Version 2.0 (Almo Sounds, 1998)
Hercules: Well, I'm back.
Iolaus: Back. You mean like back back? Really back? No more Olympus? No more Hercules the god?
Hercules: No--just a half-god.
Iolaus: Oh, that's terrific! So, what happened?
Hercules: I realized how much my family means to me--and you're it. Iolaus wait! Is something wrong?
Iolaus: No, no, I'm just glad you're back. So, how was Olympus?
Hercules: Olympus? Not very friendly.
Iolaus: And Hera?
Hercules: You could say--she's history.
Iolaus kept walking a few steps ahead of Hercules. He asked, "Really? History?"
"Yeah," said Hercules. "She had plans to send me to join Chronos in eternal captivity, but I . . . uh . . . convinced her to go there herself instead." He shrugged.
"That's great news! You must have been very persuasive," noted the hunter, still keeping up his rapid pace.
He was brought up short by a hand plucking the back of his vest and hauling him backward. "Will you please stop running away from me?" demanded Hercules in an exasperated tone. He grasped Iolaus' arms and turned him around to face him. "Iolaus! You are crying," he said, as he reached up to brush a tear from Iolaus' eye with his thumb. Without thinking, he popped his thumb in his mouth, tasting the salty tear.
"It's nothing, really," said the hunter, trying to turn away, but Hercules held him firm.
"Iolaus . . . please . . . will you listen to me and stop turning away?" Iolaus nodded, blinking, and Hercules gestured to a nearby log, where they sat down. The demigod continued. "On Olympus they have a . . . place that records all of history and the present as well. You can look at whatever you want in your past or present. I saw Mother, walking in the Elysian Fields. She looked happy. Zeus told me he's looked in on her every day--her whole life I guess. I got kind of mad and asked if what they did all day was spy on people. It just felt so . . . cold and remote," he gestured with his hands, trying to describe the feeling. "Zeus really did love Mother--I could see that. But he always kept his distance. He didn't know any other way to be. I hated it . . . " Then the demigod put his head in his hands, "But I realized I've been doing the exact same thing. Acting like them. Keeping you at arm's length. And taking you for granted, assuming you'd always be there."
Iolaus looked down at his hands; the words rang all too true. Hercules got down on one knee on the ground, facing Iolaus, and the words spilled out faster. "You can't imagine how much I missed you. I missed everything about you. Not just the companionship, the laughs, the understanding. I missed your smile. I missed the way the sun shines off your hair. I missed . . . well . . . just looking at you. I realized I wanted to share all of my life with you. I . . . want to make love to you. I want to sleep next to you every night. I want to wake up next to you in the morning. I want to argue with you over whether we should catch trout or perch for lunch or over who stole the covers. Gods . . . what was up there was so cold; even Hera trying to depose Zeus was like a game that had been playing out for years. Nothing real. You're what's real, Iolaus. And I think you feel the same way about me. W-will you have me?"
Iolaus looked at the figure of the son of Zeus kneeling before him. Part of him wanted just to say "Yes!" and lose himself in the love of Hercules, which he knew could easily engulf him just the way he'd always wanted. Hercules would love him with all the fervor of his big heart, would cherish him, protect him, take possession of him, and devote himself to Iolaus' pleasure. But Iolaus felt a wall of resistance rising within himself. He knew he'd say yes eventually, but the pain of Hercules' recent departure on top of the pain of other betrayals was too raw, the edges of the wounds too jagged, to allow instant healing.
Iolaus patted the log next to him. Hercules' kneeling position was too unsettling. He hesitated, clearing his throat, and brushing away the tears that, against all his will, insisted on leaking from his eyes. "It's not that easy, Herc," he said slowly.
"Am I wrong about your feelings?" asked Hercules awkwardly.
"No, no, you're not," said the hunter.
"Then, what's the . . . "
"Herc! Don't interrupt me," he snapped. "You're not letting me finish; you're not letting me think." Hercules gazed at the ground, his lips clamped, and his hands locked together. He nodded at Iolaus, indicating that he should continue. Iolaus said, "Like I said, it's not that easy. You've . . . oh, Tartarus, Herc! . . . you've hurt me a lot over the years." As he talked, he grew more sure of what he was saying, and the words rushed out. "And don't you see? You're still being just like the gods. Now that you've made up your mind that I'm what you want, you expect me to just put up a white flag and surrender completely. I know you--you'll want all of me, and I wish I could give you that. But what happens when you find something else you want? You're awfully careless with your heart, Herc. And you came back from Olympus--but what if something else comes along? What if you felt you had to leave me again to serve a greater good? How could I stop you?"
Iolaus glanced at the demigod, whose face was as white as the shirt he had worn during his brief career as a god. "I don't want to hurt you, Herc," Iolaus pressed on. "But I'm not ready to answer your question, and I don't think you're ready to ask it. I need time, Herc. I'll never say never--not to you. I want more than anything to give you everything I have, all of me--my heart, my soul, my body. But . . . I can't trust you with them yet . . . " he trailed off miserably.
"I . . . I th-think I understand," stammered the demigod, a catch in his throat. "I-I'm s-sorry, Iolaus f-for taking y-you for granted a-gain." Iolaus felt horrible, loathsome, like something that belonged under a rock. Hercules had been so glad to see him and to be back and had poured out his heart to him. Iolaus wanted nothing better than to offer himself up to Hercules forever--as he had silently done years ago without Hercules ever realizing it. But he knew he was doing the right thing. Hercules was too much the offspring of a god, and Iolaus feared if he gave himself too easily he might be taken too lightly. And he couldn't bear the thought of giving all of himself only to be abandoned again. He could live with the pain Hercules had unintentionally inflicted on him over the years, but the pain of gaining Hercules only to lose him again would be unbearable beyond all measure. He couldn't risk it. Not until Hercules could understand the kind of promises Iolaus needed him to make and could make them with total commitment. And Iolaus felt sure that Hercules could neither understand nor undertake those promises until he could see things from Iolaus' perspective, understand his feelings, instead of assuming he could, like gods, simply take whatever it occurred to him that he wanted.
"I'm really sorry, Herc," said Iolaus gently. "I want more than anything for this to work out, and you can't begin to imagine how glad I am you came back. But we need time."
Hercules nodded, and asked, his voice stronger, "Now what?"
"Well," said the hunter, "I didn't exactly know when you'd be back--or even if you'd be back. I . . . uh . . . made some plans. I'll be gone a few days."
"What sort . . ." began Hercules, then corrected himself, "sorry, I don't have the right to ask that."
"No, you don't," agreed Iolaus abruptly, then added quickly, "I think Jason could probably use the company, if you want to go see him. Oh, I didn't tell you, I went to see my mom and her new husband."
"How did it go?" asked Hercules with forced interest, hoping the cracking of his heart wasn't audible.
"Rocky at first. I was such a selfish shit--not going back to see her. But it turned out really well." Iolaus' attention was seemingly transfixed by a grouping of scattered leaves on the ground. He avoiding looking at Hercules' obviously stricken face. "Look . . . um . . . I . . . uh, gotta get going. I'll see you in a few days."
Hercules stood up when Iolaus did, and they clasped each other's wrists in a firm shake. "Yeah, see you," said the demigod numbly.
Iolaus walked away at a brisk pace, riddled with guilt, but sure it had been the only thing he could do. He heard a loud crash, which sounded suspiciously like the fist of a demigod smashing through a rock or log, paused for a moment, shaking his head, then continued on his way.
* * *
Toward evening he reached the port in Corinth, and the ship he was expecting to see was at the dock. It was peaceful here, unlike his past visit, and he was grateful, although he was also saddened at the thought that Iphicles hadn't been able to see his mother before she died.
He stealthily boarded the ship, hoping his boots wouldn't creak on the deck. As he moved toward the steps that led into the interior of the ship, he was suddenly grabbed from behind. His right arm was yanked up behind his back, and he felt a sharp point against the back of his neck.
"Nebula. Is that a knife in your hand, or are you just happy to see me?"
"Yes. Now march, Goldilocks!" answered the pirate. Iolaus found himself being propelled forward. After he had negotiated the steps, before he knew what was happening, Nebula had pulled his wrists behind his back and bound them with a rope.
"Nebula . . . " he said warningly.
"Don't give me that, Iolaus," she said, laughing. "Last time I saw you, when I was talking about bondage, your face lit up like a Solstice tree. And if I recall correctly, you were the one that brought it up. And I didn't think you made a date with me just to play rock, parchment, dagger for two days."
Iolaus smiled to himself, tossing a stray lock of hair out of his eye, and letting Nebula steer him to her cabin, all the while keeping a firm grip on his elbow. Her cabin was lushly decorated in burgundy and gold. The bed was covered with large burgundy cushions with gold tassles, which matched the canopy sweeping down from the low ceiling. A pair of plush chairs in the same color schemes rested aginst one wall, with a small table between them. Iolaus whistled appreciatively, and Nebula nodded, saying, "Did you think I wasn't good at what I do?" After she closed the door, she pushed Iolaus up against it and grinned, remarking, "I don't see you fighting real hard to get away."
"Well," he said, "like you said last time, I owe you."
"That you do," she said, "and I intend to put you to work." She leaned in, pressing her mouth to his, and they kissed, their tongues weaving in a slow, deliberate, languorous dance. Iolaus thought for a moment about Hercules, then dismissed the thought. Had Hercules thought about him on all those occasions when he had left the hunter behind? He doubted it. And if he was going to give himself to Hercules the way the demigod wanted, then he might as well have his fun while he could.
Nebula broke the kiss and stepped back, slowly removing her clothes, what little there was of them. There was nothing vulnerable about her nude. She was still exuding a cheerful, breezy, matter-of-fact confidence, and she was obviously enjoying his reactions to the sight. He had seen her naked before, when he had come upon her showering, and she had laughed at his flustered embarrassment, asking him for a towel only to wrap it around her head instead of her body. This time, he wasn't embarrassed, merely appreciative. His erection strained against his pants, but he had a feeling it wouldn't be getting immediate relief. After all, he was the one who owed a debt.
She draped herself over one of the chairs and beckoned Iolaus with one finger. He crossed the cabin to her and knelt before the chair. "Show me how well you pay your debts, Iolaus," she said. He dearly wished for the use of his hands, but he knew he could accomplish his goals without them. He knelt up and leaned forward to deposit a respectful kiss on each of Nebula's nipples. "Oh yes, that's nice," she said. Iolaus began circling one nipple with his tongue, drawing tight circles. Nebula laced her fingers into his hair, and observed, "I had a feeling that mouth might be good for something besides those pretty smiles of yours."
After a while, Iolaus turned his attention to the other nipple, tonguing it in the same manner, listening to the changes in Nebula's breathing that suggested he was having an effect. When he returned to the first breast, sucking just the nipple into his mouth, toying with it with his tongue, he felt her grip tighten in his hair. She must like this, he thought to himself; never let it be said I don't pay my debts. She moaned as he grazed the captive nipple with his teeth, then tugged on it lightly before releasing it. Nebula sank further into her chair with a sigh of frustration, but Iolaus moved to the other breast, sucking just the nipple and nipping it with his teeth, drawing out her pleasure.
He leaned back slightly, and she reluctantly released her grip on his hair. He glanced down between her parted legs, and asked, "May I?"
"You certainly may, baby." Iolaus grinned, then awkwardly lowered himself. She spread her legs wider, her hands clutching the arms of the chair. Iolaus inhaled deeply, then carefully licked a path between her lips, tasting the wetness that had already accumulated there. He couldn't resist a small grunt of pleasure, as his tongue explored folds and crevices. He flicked her clitoris lightly, and she moaned again. He began circling it the way he had her nipple, lightly, using only the tip of his tongue. He increased the pressure and drew tighter circles until she yelled and her hips rocked in climax.
"Come here," she ordered, pulling him forward into a long kiss, which she followed by licking her juices off his chin and cheeks. Suddenly the knife was in her hand, and she reached around him to cut the bonds around his wrists. "Time for you to get naked, Iolaus," she said, and he obligingly removed his clothes. "Oh, very nice," she said as his erect cock was released from its restraints. She nimbly leapt from her chair, grabbed something from the table next to her, and stepped behind him, tying a blindfold quickly around his head. He started, and she laughed. "Don't you trust me, Iolaus?"
"Not particularly," he answered with a disarming grin. "Would you?"
"You've got a point there," she agreed. She guided him toward the bed, then pushed him so he fell and landed on his back amid a pile of cushions. While he recovered from the slight sense of disorientation he felt, Nebula pulled his arms above his head and tied them to a metal ring in the wall.
"You're the perfect hostess," muttered Iolaus. "You think of everything."
"It's important in my line of work to be prepared for everything. And, at least one part of you doesn't seem to be objecting," she returned, briefly grasping his erect member. Iolaus groaned, but Nebula only laughed and turned to play with his nipples. Being blindfolded heightened his sensations, as she pinched the sensitive nubs between sharp fingernails. He groaned more and squirmed, and she lightly raked her nails down his chest and abdomen, leaving tingling trails down his body, then returned to play with his nipples again. He writhed as a burning sensation raced from his nipples to his cock, the pain somehow transmuting into pleasure along the way.
She got up and said lightly, "I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere." Iolaus merely snorted in response.
When she came back, she rubbed his nipples roughly between her thumbs and forefingers so they burned and throbbed. Then Iolaus jerked and yelped from the sensation of a chunk of ice sluicing across his nipple. "Oh gods!" he gasped hoarsely, as the ice moved to the other side. "Nebula . . . it's too much . . . I don't think I can stand it!"
"Do you want me to stop?" she inquired, drawing the ice in a line down from the hollow of his neck to his navel.
"Stop? No, that's not what I meant!" cried the hunter desperately.
"Good," said Nebula with satisfaction. "Then what are you complaining about?" He answered only with a groan, as the ice swept around his chest and across his abdomen, then down the underside of one arm from elbow to armpit and up the other arm the same route. He heard a squeaking sound as the chunk of ice was snapped in half, and howled with a piece was pressed hard to each nipple. "You're cute when you're frustrated," noted Nebula. Iolaus heard a clink of ice in some sort of container, and then Nebula's fingers latched onto his nipples again. "I thought you might need those warmed up a little," she explained.
The cushions and the bed shifted under him as Nebula moved. She was sitting between his legs, drawing her fingernails down his inner thighs. She followed the burning streaks with strokes of the ice, and Iolaus flinched, pulling his legs away, spreading them wider apart in the process. Nebula chuckled, then put the ice aside. She cupped Iolaus' balls in one hand, while with the other she pinched tiny folds of the sensitive flesh between her fingernails. Iolaus was whimpering pretty continuously, then yelped as a fingernail made its way up the underside of his throbbing cock and two fingernails pinched the head between them. Iolaus' hips began to rock, and he felt a sudden pressure between his anus and scrotum, preventing him from coming.
"Not yet, pretty boy," she taunted. "I'm not finished with that." She played with his cock and balls for a while with her nails, bent down and licked the same trail her fingernail had made earlier. She teased Iolaus relentlessly with her tongue, swirling it around the head of his cock and dipping into the slit without ever providing enough stimulation to give him release. Then he felt the bed shifting again and could feel the warmth of Nebula's body as she straddled him. He took in his breath sharply, when she slid down over his eager organ, enclosing it in moist heat. She began rocking against him, and he thrust upward into her depths, as they found a rapid rhythm that suited them both. Nebula came first with a gleeful whoop, and Iolaus almost immediately thereafter, his entire body jolted from the explosive release.
She quickly untied him and pulled off the blindfold, and he put his arms around her, stroking her back as they kissed. Then she got up and brought over some wine and two mugs, which they drank lying in bed, half-propped on pillows. "Your debt is more than repaid," said Nebula, smiling at her bed partner. They dozed for a while, then woke up and sleepily made love again, before falling into a sated and exhausted slumber.
The next day they wandered through the marketplace, buying food to bring back with them to Nebula's cabin. A few people recognized Iolaus and, as always, asked about Hercules, and Iolaus provided terse answers.
When they got back, after feeding each other a meal of cheese and fruit in bed, Nebula said, "All right, Iolaus, spit it out. What's going on with you and Hercules?"
"Is it so obvious?" asked Iolaus wryly, his fingers trailing down Nebula's flat stomach to play abstractedly with the tight curls just beneath.
She wriggled and parted her legs slightly to give him more access, but said, "Yes, it's that obvious. And I'm not going to let you off the hook. What's going on?"
Iolaus sighed, then related the death of Alcmene and Hercules' decision to join Zeus on Olympus. Nebula whistled softly and remarked, "And I take it you weren't thrilled with this decision."
"That's putting it mildly," agreed Iolaus, lightly twisting individual curls around his finger. "I knew he'd go, y' know? Zeus played the one card that would work--telling him he'd be able to do better for people from up there. As if . . . Herc's not one of them, and he figured it out pretty quick. I thought he probably would, but there was still a part of me that worried he might not come back."
"And?" prompted Nebula.
"Well," said Iolaus, with a tight half-smile, "he said he came back because of me, said he realized he'd been taking me for granted just like they do--like it was this great revelation." He paused and added, "and for him it was--and he was ready to devote his life to me. I don't know. I just got mad, though I tried not to let him see it. I just felt like he was taking me for granted all over again. Expecting me to jump up and down wagging my tail because he finally got around to realizing that maybe he should throw me a bone." He sighed, "Men . . . "
"Yeah, you can't live with 'em . . . " agreed Nebula. "I like it that way--no attachments, no complications."
"There's a lot to be said for that," said Iolaus with a grin, "but, you know, I've wanted Herc as long as I can remember. I've wanted to give everything I have to him, everything I am."
"I know," said Nebula with a gentle smile. "It's written all over you. I could see it the first time I met you two."
"Well, he didn't see it," said Iolaus with a snort of disgust. "Or he chose not to see it because it was inconvenient for him."
"So what did you tell him?"
"I told him I wasn't ready to make the kind of commitment he was asking for. Not because I didn't want it--I made pretty clear that I did--but because I didn't think he was ready to know what he meant by it--and I wasn't ready to trust him. And then . . . I told him I had plans and I'd see him in a couple days."
"So you left him twisting in the wind, huh?" asked Nebula.
"Yeah, I did," said Iolaus firmly. "It's not as though he's never done it to me again and again. It's that half-god thing; he thinks he can just take what he wants without ever considering that what he wants might have feelings too. It'll do him good to suffer a little."
He bent his head down, casually taking one of Nebula's nipples into his mouth, sucking on it and the surrounding areola, filling his mouth with the soft flesh. She moaned lightly, then returned to the conversation, "So what's next?"
Iolaus looked up, "You mean with Herc? I'm still just so angry at him for a whole series of things. Going to Olympus was hardly the worst of it, but it just hit me really hard. And when he came back, ready to claim me--I don't know--it was like the closing piece of a pattern falling into place. His attitude that he could just make it right by apologizing and taking what he wanted was just so damned familiar--it seemed like nothing had changed. And he didn't even really understand what he'd done wrong. Ah, fuck, let him twist." He returned his mouth to Nebula's breast.
"If you're that mad, Iolaus, you should probably tell him how you really feel. See if he can understand it."
"Mmm-hmm," agreed Iolaus through a mouthful of breast, then looked up again. "Yeah, I probably will. But right now, what I'm really interested in is this breast here."
Nebula laughed. "Be my guest." Iolaus sucked harder on Nebula's breast, while his fingers slid between her legs, parting her lips and dipping inside her and successfully diverting her from the conversation. She reached for his hardening cock, stroking it in a businesslike fashion before pulling him on top of her and inviting him inside, while their mouths locked in a kiss.
The next morning her crew would be returning from shore leave, and Iolaus couldn't put off dealing with the son of Zeus any longer. He and Nebula parted affectionately, and she offered, "Any time you want to get away from Hercules, and I'm in the neighborhood . . . " before giving him a quick squeeze on the ass.
He leaned in and kissed her hard, then said, "Well, if I ever have to sell myself into bondage again, it'll be you I'll sell myself to."
"You've got yourself a deal," she said.
* * *
After Iolaus walked away from him, Hercules smashed his fist down into the log immediately next to where he was sitting. Then he buried his head in his hands and sat, unmoving, for hours, hurt and frustrated, but clinging to the hope Iolaus had held out, the acknowledgment that he reciprocated Hercules' feelings. I don't understand . . . thought the demigod to himself, alternating with I have to understand. And the only course immediately ahead of him was inaction. He half-wished Ares was around to taunt him, if only so he could vent some of frustrations on him. Ares was useful that way, and Hercules didn't need to feel guilty about causing any serious damage. His fight with Ares in the tavern where Zeus had been getting drunk had been the only thing that had felt remotely real during his short career as a god, the only thing that had made him feel at all alive. Yeah, a good knock-down-drag-out with Ares would be the only thing that could make him feel better right now, but Ares was nowhere to be seen.
Hercules shrugged self-deprecatingly, disgusted with himself. There was someone he needed to talk to, but she was gone forever. Still . . . maybe talking would still help. Long after it was dark, he made his way back to his mother's grave. He felt a little guilty about avoiding Jason, but he knew he could spend some time with him the next day. Hercules fell to his knees in front of his mother's grave and began to speak.
"Mother. I hope you know I tried to work it out with Zeus. I did help him against the others. But I couldn't stay there. Do you understand that? It wasn't me; it wasn't right for me. I didn't realize how much a part of me Iolaus is. The best part. I had to come back to him. And it all blew up in my face. It was like everything had become so clear, and I knew what was truly important, but then I was still all wrong. My whole life has been a lesson in learning I can't count on anything--not my father, not the lives of those I love. I've grown used to never knowing what will happen next. But for some reason, I can't stand not knowing if I'll ever have him. I want him so badly--I gave up godhood for him--and I want him now. That sounds so childish. And how long has he been wanting me? How come he could handle wanting and not having and I can't?
"I used to get so mad at Zeus for how he treated you--showing up when he felt like it, neglecting you the rest of the time. But I haven't been any different, have I? Iolaus is right, but why am I so mad at him for walking away? Like I said before, you accepted Zeus for what he is--warts and all. You didn't expect more from him than he could give. Why can't Iolaus put the past behind us and accept me? I can change, more than Zeus ever could. But I can't prove it unless he gives me a chance . . . But with my track record, why should he?"
Hercules buried his head in his hands again, and when he looked up, his eyes were bright with tears. "Mother, I don't know what to do. I want to make him believe me that things will be different. But, damn it, I felt so humiliated when he got up and left. And I don't know where he is now, or more to the point, who he's with. And I know he's with someone. I came back from Olympus, I offered myself to him, and he's off having some meaningless fuck with someone instead of being with me. Gods . . . I'm so tired of being adrift. I was so stupid to believe that maybe Olympus would be some kind of home--and why did I think that when my home was right in front of me? Iolaus is my heart's home, and yet I'm so mad at him--I could just slap him, make him listen to me.
"No, that's all wrong too, isn't it, Mother? I've just messed up so badly this time--and I was so sure I was doing the right thing. It just hurts so much--not knowing what he's going to do, knowing he's with someone else. I need him, Mother. I wish you could tell me what to do to get him back."
Hercules wept, his face in his hands, and the tears spilling out from between his fingers. He remained kneeling on the hard, cold ground, punishing himself, until his eyes were glazed and weighted with fatigue. He curled up in a ball right where he had been kneeling and forced himself to sleep there.
Waking up numb, he managed to spend the day with Jason, talking little, but silently sharing in his friend and stepfather's grief. Before he had given up his powers, he had made sure Alcmene was restored to the Elysian Fields, and he was able to report to Jason that she seemed happy. The next morning, he took his leave early, hiking to a favorite isolated fishing spot of Iolaus', leaving word with Jason that Iolaus could find him there.
* * *
to Part 2
to XWP and HTLJ