I know the tapestry well. Even with the way things are between me and Iph, we've had a few late night drinking sessions in his chambers. It's the only place in the castle where you can be free of the servants. Perhaps those evenings have been a bit laboured as we try to pretend that we're close, but at least we've had them, although my intimate knowledge of the tapestries make me realise that I spent a lot of our time together inspecting the furnishings in order to avoid having to look at my brother.
This time, though, I'm looking at the other side of the tapestry, and it's strange and distorted. I know that it shows Jason seizing the Golden Fleece, but from this side the dragon guarding it looks like a dog with strangely-shaped ears and Jason looks as though he has three arms and one leg. Enough of the pattern is visible to see what it should be but it's ugly with knots that interrupt the clean and graceful lines, and there are frayed ends where the threads are coming unravelled. Perhaps I'm being a bit pretentious but standing here looking at it makes me think of my life. The other side is what the world sees, but this is the truth. And this is the truth between me and Iph. As far as I can remember, Iphicles and I have always been this mess of threads, knots, and loose ends.
I don't know when it happened. Surely there must have been a time when we were happy, just playing together like children do. Surely. But my only childhood memories of Iph are either of his absence ('playing with friends again', Mother would tell me from between tight lips whenever I asked, until I learned not to ask), or of him sulking. He always thought Mother loved me more. That's not true, but then, Iph didn't make it easy for Mother to show her love for him. Not with the way he was always getting into trouble and answering her back. I'm ashamed to remember that, by the time he left, I was relieved to see him go.
The thread that binds us now is so thin, so frayed, that if anything else happens to put pressure on it, it'll snap. And then I'll be left with no real family at all. Except Iolaus, of course. But Iph... Somehow, as long as I have him, I have something of Mother left. Something real to remind me that I'm human and not like the rest of my so-called family.
I don't want it to be like it is between us. Which is why I'm standing on the reverse side of one of the Royal Corinthian tapestries that hang in the king's bedchamber, watching my brother through the tiny hole I've cut in the middle of the dragon's tail, and wishing the tapestry was thick enough to drown out the sounds he's making as he writhes beneath Ares.
Aphrodite was the one who let me know. She told me that Ares was obsessed with Corinth. He was sweating over it night and day, she said, with that little giggle of hers, before she disappeared. I hate it when she does that. So of course Iolaus and I made it to the city as fast as we could, needing to find out what was going on. I knew it was because of me; I knew that Ares was taking notice of Corinth because my brother was on the throne, and I knew that by going there we were doing precisely what Ares wanted. But I couldn't stay away while he plunged it into war just because of me.
Once here, it didn't take long to find out that he had a different plan from usual. Iph looked really surprised at my questions and said he didn't know what we were talking about. The priests at Ares' temple said the same or at least, they did when I loosened my grip on their throats enough for them to talk. It wasn't till Iolaus picked up some gossip in the palace kitchens that the truth of it became clear. It wasn't war that Ares was planning this time.
I still didn't believe it, even that first night when I hid in Iph's chamber. I told myself that if he discovered me there, I'd tell him there'd been rumours of an assassination. No way would I tell him the truth, that I believed he was stupid enough to let Ares fuck him. It wasn't until he was lying on his bed naked that I began to believe that something was going on. He was just lying there on his back, his legs casually open, his hand moving gently over his body, but never going near his cock. No way was this a quick jerk-off before going to sleep. No, he was waiting for something. And judging from the way his chest was rising and falling quickly beneath his idly wandering hand and his cock was slowly hardening, he was pretty damned excited by whatever he was waiting for.
I think that's the only thing that stopped me from storming out of my hiding place when Ares showed up. That, and the way Iph's lips parted and his breath came faster. This was no unexpected visit from an unknown god, and Iph obviously didn't think he was in any danger. If he had, he wouldn't have rolled over to crawl across the bed and nuzzle into Ares' crotch. And if Ares was going to kill him, there's no way he would have arched against his face, his eyes closing for an instant as Iph mouthed him through the leather of his pants while Iph's hands slid under Ares' vest. There's no way that Iph would have let himself be bent over the rail at the end of the bed, nor sworn at Ares when he wasn't taken hard and fast but just teased by Ares sliding his cock up and down the cleft of his ass.
It seemed a lifetime before Ares left again. He'd been hard again within instants of coming, each and every time, and he kept fucking Iph, over and over, until my brother was a boneless sweating heap who looked as though he'd never walk again. It didn't stop him demanding Ares' cock again, though. And when Ares punished him for daring to demand, they both seemed to like the punishment. That was all that stopped me from stepping in. That, and the fact that I'd have to explain why I hadn't interfered sooner, and I just knew the field day Ares would have with that. He'd make Iph believe that it was because I'd wanted to watch them, not because I knew that Iph would never listen to me until I found out what Ares' plan truly was. So I stood there, watching the wet bodies of my brothers sliding against one another, watching their parted lips and their swollen cocks, waiting for it to be over.
Finally Ares left, and within moments Iph was deeply asleep. I sneaked out, and went to Iolaus, my mouth still dry and my heart pounding from fear of what Ares' plan would mean for Iph. I needed Iolaus to reassure me. I didn't tell him in detail what I'd seen; I didn't want to remember. All I wanted to do was lose myself deep in his body, and know that he loved me. Together we'd find a way to stop Ares.
It's been going on for the past five days. Or nights, to be accurate. Well, possibly days as well because I can't shadow Iph's movements all day long. Somehow I've got used to believing the unbelievable, to watching as one of my brothers mounts the other who's begging for it, backing onto him like a bitch in heat. I've grown used to watching and to the fact that my cock gets hard when I do. It doesn't mean anything. It's just a normal physical reaction to the sights and the sounds I have to watch each and every night. And I do have to watch, because what happens if one night I don't, and Ares reveals his true colours and hurts Iph? I nearly bit Iolaus' head off earlier today when he suggested that if Ares was going to do that, he'd have done it by now. Doesn't he realise that Ares is just lulling us all into a false sense of security?
He's even got Iph smiling again. I'd be pleased to see that smile for any other reason in the world, but not for this one. I've seen my brother's eyes as he watches Ares, heard his breathless whimpers as he pleads wordlessly for Ares to slide inside him, and I know this isn't simply lust. It's loneliness and need, and he thinks it's love. It's only a matter of time before Ares tears Iph apart, makes him realise that it's not about him, that he doesn't love him, doesn't even notice him, but that it's to get at me.
If I try to tell Iph, however reasonably, that this is what Ares does manipulates, deceives, and all to get at me he won't believe me. He'll accuse me of thinking the whole world is centred on me, like he has before. But I know Ares. I can see the pleasure on his face as he fucks Iphicles, and I know that it's all to do with me.
I know that, because he knows I'm there watching. Last night he teased Iph for what felt like a lifetime, teased him with lips and tongue and warm callused hands that moved over every part of his body until Iph's demands turned to begging, and then incoherent animal noises of pleasure and need. I watched as he slowly pulled the string of wooden beads out of Iph's ass and Iph's whole body shuddered in helpless pleasure and his hoarse cries filled the chamber. I saw Ares plunging into him, his thick cock looking like it was going to split Iph open as he thrust, and then his head fell back and he cried out in a voice that must have shaken Olympus as he came inside my brother. I watched, uncomfortable from the stickiness inside my pants, as he held Iph afterwards and kissed him gently, caressing his body as he did so, slowly bringing him down from his frenzied pleasure. And I know that Ares would never have done that if I wasn't watching. He wants Iph to love him, but he'd never pretend to care for him in return. No, that was all done for my benefit, and I stood there, waiting for him to meet my gaze through the hole in the tapestry.
He didn't, though, and I'm still waiting for him to make a move, wondering how he's going to do this. And tonight is no different. In fact it's worse. He's manoeuvred Iph to face me, so that I'm watching as my brother's up on his knees, his body wide open to me, with Ares thrusting into him from behind. I see the way his strong thighs are spread over Ares' legs, see the dark cock rearing up against his stomach, and see the tangle of dark and light sweat-soaked hair as Ares' mouth is buried in Iph's neck. I'm watching as Ares' hands move over my brother's body, watching Iph's head roll back onto Ares' shoulder as long fingers pinch and twist his nipples. I hear Ares' voice, rough with something different from its usual fury, telling Iph that he's a slut, that he exists only for Ares' cock. And the very worst thing of all is that I watch my brother helplessly agree before begging him for more. I can see the ecstasy in his face, and the way his lips are open and swollen as Ares holds him still, moving his hips in a long rolling thrust against him and bringing a groan from Iph that tugs at my balls. And all the time, Ares knows that Iph's facing me, that he's making me watch as he makes my brother submit to him.
And then it's as though he gives voice to my thoughts.
"What d'you think Hercules would do if he could see us now?" he asks, his voice so contemptuous on my name that there can be no doubt. He knows I'm there.
Iph groans. I don't know if it's in response to the question or to the fact that Ares' right hand has closed around his cock and his thumb is sliding across the head, spreading the wetness he's found there.
Iph's panting by now. "Kill us," he manages.
"You, maybe. I'm a god. Remember?" His hips roll again as he asks, and Iph almost sobs in response. His face is as dark as his cock and he's making these desperate noises as he tries to grind down on Ares. He doesn't reckon on Ares' strength and is left helpless and frantic as Ares holds his hips still.
"Well?" he asks again.
And then he obviously gives up on getting any sense out of Iph as Iph seems only capable of begging and pleading or swearing and threatening. All he knows is Ares' cock up his ass, Ares' hands moving over his body, and his desperate need. And all I can think of is thrusting the tapestry to one side and rushing out to save my brother. Except that somehow when I think of doing that, I also think of opening my pants to free my cock and feeding the swollen purple head between his open lips while I watch Ares fuck his ass. And then I know that that's what Ares wants. He wants me to want him, to beg for his cock just like Iphicles does.
So I stand here, and say nothing and do nothing. I won't let him win. Even if it kills me, I'll come back here every night and stay silent as I watch over Iph and protect him. He's my brother and I won't forsake him, no matter what Ares does. I know Iph lied to me about Ares, but he doesn't understand. It's not his fault that Ares is using him, and it's not his fault that Ares is fucking him when it's me he really wants.
So I'll watch over Iph, and try to remember that it isn't his fault. I'll try to remember how I don't want to break that last thread that connects us. I don't know what I'll tell Iolaus about the fact we're staying in Corinth, but I know it'll come to me. After all, he has to understand the importance of family.