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Curses and Brown Suede Shirts

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original caps from Mary Crawford


I died in Sumeria. Hercules took it as badly as you’d expect. Worse. He traveled to the Sumerian underworld to bring me back. He fought the god there, Dumuzi, when told I was truly gone. He mourned uncontrollably, blaming himself for my death.

Nebula told me most of what happened during those dark days. He ended up shipwrecked in Ireland. He almost killed himself mourning for me.

Then again, I died the very first time we set out on his - our - journeys. He nearly went crazy then, too. I was killed by one of the Amazon women, and Hercules captured and taken to Hippolyta. But Hercules persuaded his father, Zeus, to reset time, giving me back my life. He didn’t tell me of it for years. He was the only one who remembered.

We’d been best friends since we were children. We were very close. Then the next time we traveled together one of Hera's cohorts bespelled Hercules with a word ... and suddenly close couldn't begin to describe what we were.

A single word bespelled him, but I was the one on my knees, naked and desperately calling out his name. Never mind the fact that my wife had recently died. Hercules had been best man at my wedding.

I should have felt shame, but I didn’t. I never did.

I remember him striding through the trees in that brown suede shirt he wore in the early days, leather that crisscrossed over his chest and hugged the muscles of his brown arms, highlighting his strength. He was Hercules, man and god, and he could pick me up over his head without thought or effort. And did, more than once.

He'd gone into the forest to gather kindling for a fire. Dried wood was easiest, of course, and with so many trees about it wouldn't take long to find enough that had already fallen. I was unpacking our bags for the night, setting utensils and bowls beside the place where we'd build a fire. I'd caught two rabbits earlier in the day, and had finished skinning and cleaning them moments before.

I heard a noise. At first I thought it was the wind. I froze. I dropped the pan I'd pulled from our bags and ran, looking for Hercules as music whispered on the air, barely discernible from the wind. Pan pipes. They have a distinctive sound, often grave. And yet, when the notes trip fast, it’s music made for dancing.

I followed Herc’s trail through the woods. He seemed suddenly to appear from nowhere, rushing on trampled grasses back toward the camp. He was sweating, with only an armful of wood clutched to his chest. The other arm swung free, as if he'd dropped what he carried from that hand.

"Who’s out there?" I whispered, listening. It sounded like little more than the wind rustling through the branches above.

Hercules looked confused. He leaned closer to me. "Who’s out where?"

I looked down the path at the beaten down vegetation. No one there. "I heard something."

He had the nerve to sigh, pale blue eyes skeptical. "There’s nothing there. C'mon, I'm hungry. Let’s get the fire started and roast those rabbits."

Something flashed across the path behind him. Hooves. Horns curving over a head that looked my way. A sly look, nearly smirking. A huge, half-aroused cock swayed freely from between furred thighs.

I blinked, hand jumping to my knife at my belt.

The figure vanished in the trees. A single note, drawn out, trilled and teased and then faded to lie down mournfully upon the wind. One of the Pans. It must be. Why was he here?

Herc's hand wrapped around my upper arm. "If you're done imagining monsters in the forest, let's get the fire built, okay?"

"Why are you lying?” I asked him.

He shook his head.

I pointed. “He was just there!”

“Iolaus,” he started and then sighed. “Hera sent him. He whispered nonsense in my ear. It's nothing." He started walking toward the camp, and I had to follow or get left behind.

“What did he say?” And again I heard a sound on the wind. Not a note this time, but a word, drawn out and sibilant, yet full of dark humor. The Pan was amused.

“I’m hungry.” Herc said. He sounded impatient.

“He said I’m hungry?”

Hercules swung around, glaring at me.

We built the fire. The rabbits roasted over it, fat crackling and hissing over the flames. The smell was incredible. Hercules actually reached out and tried to pinch meat off one of the scorching carcasses. Then exclaimed quietly, as if he knew he was being foolish. But he sucked every last bit of grease off his burned fingers afterward. He caught me looking and laughed. I don't know why, but I ducked my head instead of making fun of him.

The rabbits weren't nearly enough for him. I ate half of mine and gave him the rest, amused at his appetite. Afterward he took a pot, added water and pinches of spices from our bags and gathered greens and roots. He boiled them over the fire, slurping them down in record time. Then he picked berries. It was getting dark by then, but he still managed to find some.

I shook my head, watching him lick the dark juice from his lips with amazement.

In the back of my head I heard a hissing sound: the word the Pan had whispered. I couldn’t quite make it out.

“You realize you’re eating everything in sight, Herc.”

He just shrugged and grabbed a water skin, offering it to me. After I had a drink he tipped it up, drank and drank and drank. Water rolled down his chin and dripped onto his chest. He started to get up to refill the water skin from the stream again, then settled back on his haunches instead, squinting at me in the firelight. "Would you stop staring at me?"

"Your jaw bone is bound to seize up soon,” I observed. I scratched at a bug bite on my arm. “I wonder ... you suppose any of the other gods are as large as you're going to be?”

He raised a brow at me, then tipped the skin up until the last drop of water rolled down his throat. I watched the play of muscles in his chest and neck, still unable to stop looking.

“Because, you know, you're eating an awful lot," I babbled on.

"I'm a big man, Iolaus. I eat a lot. You should be used to it by now."

"Yeah, but I've never seen you eat like this."

"What’s wrong with you? Why do you care how much I'm eating?” He frowned at me. In the firelight his skin and hair looked tawny.

"Sure, something’s wrong with me,” I muttered. I sat up and stripped off my shirt. For some reason the night was uncomfortably warm.

He stared at me, head cocked, then rose to his knees and crawled beside me.

I couldn’t move. “What in Hades are you doing?” I blurted.

Herc’s cheeks were flushed, rosy. He raised his hands to my shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said, musingly, then ducked down and put his mouth to mine.

I should have pushed him away, but for a minute I was shocked. Too late, the minute passed and the shock with it - his heat pressed into my mouth, heavy and panting, too warm, long hair brushing against my face. Then his chest was against mine, pushing me to fall on my back, the air driven from my lungs. He pulled at the waist of my pants.

I grabbed his hands, kept him from pulling them down.

He frowned at me, gently. “It’s always been between us, Iolaus. Hasn't it?"

I stared up at him, remembering times when we’d wrestled, his sweaty body heavy and unbearably hot, sweat tricking off his face and dripping onto me. I remembered rubbing it into my skin. Once I’d licked it from my arm, not even thinking about it. He’d seen. His nostrils had flared. His eyes had grown wide, flicking to my mouth. Then he’d turned away.

“What did the Pan say to you?” I breathed.

Hercules smiled. “It doesn’t matter.” And it didn't.

I dropped my hands and Herc got to work, pulling my pants off in brisk seconds. I felt so damnably odd, naked, on my back by the fire, the fire in Hercules’ eyes as they traveled over my body. He pulled me to my knees and kissed me, mouth sweet with the taste of berries.

Was this what Hera wanted? Exposure? Havoc? Mischief? Then I remembered, too - he’d eaten the same way he was fucking: without inhibition or restraint. It wasn’t just sex that had been affected tonight.

He turned me and pushed, no more time for thinking. The ground rushed up to meet my hands. I was on my knees before him. He leaned over me, hair tickling my spine. He mouthed his way down, panting against my back, then flicked his tongue at the cleft of my ass. I held my breath.

His tongue eased down, a slippery, living thing seemingly of its own mind, gliding over my hole, lapping at it. I moaned, rolling my hips, cock rubbing against only air. He pointed his tongue and pushed it inside, slick and wet. It quivered inside me. His fingers pulled me apart, thumbs pressing in on either side of my hole. I twitched and burned, called his name out to the sky.

I never once thought of her name. My wife. Ania.

He withdrew and licked up my perineum, mouthing and nuzzling my balls. His hand followed behind to massage them, moved them gently aside so that he could lick the base of my cock. His face was in my ass, wet tongue stroking my cock. I groaned and thrust, and Herc lowered a hand to my asshole, pushing in a finger, a little more, more. I gasped, clamped around him but Herc ignored it, thrusting another finger in. I pushed back hard against him, and he fucked inside me in short, hard strokes, over and over, until I humped him mindlessly.

He rolled me over and lowered himself to me, his cock hard and leaking, pressing against my stomach. He kissed me, hard, then mouthed and licked his way to my chest. His hands shook and he grabbed my waist in both hands and rubbed, a nervous movement to distract himself.

“Spread your legs.”

I craned my neck to look down. “What?”

“Spread your legs, Iolaus.”

I stared at him, and Herc squeezed my waist again, hard. I winced.

“Now.” The stern, hard look on his face shattered, leaving only my best friend again. “Please?”

I moved my legs apart slowly. Herc grabbed my knees and pushed them wide, impatient. He rolled me up, hands on the backs of my upper thighs, so that I nearly lost my balance. He hunched his body and ducked his head, licking my puckered opening all around, then thrust his tongue up into me.

Then he straightened, aimed his cock at my hole and shoved inside.

I yelled to the sky, feeling blood suffuse my face, my eyes bulge. He started to pull out, and I grasped his hips. “Don’t you dare,” I panted. “Wait.”

Hercules waited, short, fast breaths puffing from him, near to hyperventilating. “I’m sorry,” he gritted out after a moment. “For going too fast.”

“Be quiet,” I told him, and concentrated in breathing, myself. I gripped his hips harder. “Now. Slow.”

Slow inching inside, burning as he widened me. I didn’t think I could do it. And then he hit something, pressed hard against ... the gods may know, but I didn’t. All I knew was that it was lightning. My ass nearly left the ground. My spine tingled, an explosion of pleasure. I chased it, rocked back into it, but it didn’t work. He had to do it.

“The same way, Herc. Hurry,” I said, and he gripped my waist and did it again. And again and again, until my cock was drooling over my stomach in short, hard spurts of sticky fluid. My eyes rolled in my head.

Herc pushed my legs until my knees bent tightly. He ran a tender hand down the back of one of my thighs.

“You don’t have to get romantic on me,” I snapped, and he laughed, driving his hips so that he was fully sheathed inside me. I yelled wordless things.

He leaned down to me, smile gone, bared teeth in its place. “No romance, then.” His hips punched against my ass until the sky sparkled with flashes of light and I heard the word the Pan had said, clearly as the next day’s dawn, voice of the goat hissing over the 's' with a particular, sibilant humor.


“Ahhh, God!” I let my knees fall to the ground, my cock pulsing in hard, wrenching beats. I came, and when I could see again, Hercules’ face was contorted over mine, blue eyes shining fiercely in the firelight. His mouth formed a perfect O. He threw his head back, pelvis jammed tightly to me, inside me as far as he could take it.

Afterward he kissed me. I let him. We were best friends, after all, and I loved him as much as my life. The same as he did me.

The purpose of the Pan's command to him in the woods must have been mischief or mayhem, intended to harass and cause trouble. In reality it did neither. Hercules responded to the word in a way that had meaning for him. He did nothing that wasn't true. He had nothing terrible in his heart.

It wore off gradually, with neither of us the worse for it. Unless you count my poor, abused ass, but that was neither the first or last time.

It was just ... Herc and me. That could never be a curse.

Though he was never again so dismissive of Hera's future gambits.