Lost for Words
"You're the king of beneficence, your highness. The monarch of mercy. I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you're doing for me. I knew if I could just see you and explain the situation you would let true justice find its course. You're the greatest. Iphicles, I want to you to be the father of my child, that's how much I love you right now."
Studying the prisoner kneeling in front of him and babbling his head off, Iphicles mused that his guards probably hadn't believed the sob story the guy had told. They'd just brought him to Iphicles to shut him up. Either that or they figured anyone who didn't need to breathe wasn't human. They were a superstitious bunch. Normally, he would throw the man back in prison. But this one was a friend of Hercules.
Hercules. Why did all of his kooky charity cases end up in Iphicles' court? First that Salmonius guy, who got mobbed for selling some kind of fake hydra-head oil that was supposed to cure baldness. Then it was the warrior chick who destroyed half his city, running around hollering and throwing things. Now, this one. A thief, apparently, and one who wouldn't stop talking. He had pardoned him though, because if he really were a friend of Hercules', he'd never hear the end of it if he let the man die.
"You ever do anything useful with that mouth, or do you just spout self-important bullshit?"
That shut him up. The man's mouth snapped closed with an audible click. Iphicles waved his guards out of the room, and they went happily, closing the door firmly behind them.
"Autolycus, isn't it?"
Obviously not one to be thrown off balance for long, Autolycus drew himself up proudly. "Why, yes, your kinglyness. Autolycus it is. I'm surprised you haven't heard of me. My reputation usually proceeds me."
"I'll just bet." Iphicles lounged back and threw one leg over an arm of his throne. "Let's get something straight. I didn't pardon you because I believed your story."
Tilting his head to one side, Autolycus stroked a finger over one side of his moustache. "So, it was my magnificent good looks? My sparkling personality? My usefulness in the arena of courtly intrigue?"
"More like your claim of being friends with my brother."
Autolycus deflated visibly. "Ha. Familial loyalty. Well, at least it saved my neck. It did save my neck didn't it?"
Swinging his leg back down, Iphicles stood and stalked forward until he was standing directly in front of Autolycus, towering over him where he knelt on the floor. His voice was low and menacing. "Guilt."
"What?" Autolycus asked. Confusion dominated his expression and he rocked back on his heels to gain few inches of space. Iphicles smiled at him. He knew it wasn't a nice smile when the other man's eyes widened.
"Guilt, not loyalty. No stay down there," Iphicles said when Autolycus made an abortive attempt to rise. "I couldn't let my courts execute you, no matter how deserving you might be, because I knew Hercules would never shut up about it. He can yammer more than you do when he gets wound up."
More gaping, and that was something Iphicles got the impression Autolycus didn't do often. Probably something he was more inclined to make other people do. Then his face closed down, and Iphicles could suddenly see why he might be good at his job. "So what are you going to do with me, then? Something tells me you have a plan."
"If you want to call it that. I've sent for Hercules. He's supposed to be a few days out of Corinth, heading this direction. If he backs your claim, you're free to go. If not..." Iphicles slashed one finger across his throat in an unmistakable gesture.
"Really?" It came out rather high pitched, and Iphicles hid a smile as Autolycus cleared his throat and tried again. "Really. You know, your highandmighty, if you really want proof that I know Hercules, you could just ask me. I'm sure the stories I can tell will convince you. Only Hercules would do such manly and self-sacrificing things, I assure you."
With a chuckle, Iphicles backed off and went to sit again. He gestured for Autolycus to join him on the dais, the pointed at a spot near his feet. When Autolycus looked like he might balk, Iphicles made the throat cutting motion again. Autolycus moved like his pants were on fire.
"I'm sure you could come up with a convincing yarn. But anyone who talks as much as you do is bound to tell a lie sooner or later. Probably sooner. The one thing I can always count on with Hercules is that he won't lie to me. Even if I want him to."
"Yeah. What a prince."
They shared a commiserating look. Iphicles laughed a little, then studied Autolycus intently. "So what am I going to do with you for two days? I can't just throw you back in jail. My guards would starve you, just so they didn't have to hear to you when you brought food. And I certainly can't stand to listen to you for that long, either."
The man certainly had a mobile face. This expression was purely affronted. "Hey! I'll have you know that I'm excellent company. Charming, informative, useful. People love me. You obviously have no taste in companions."
"Useful, huh? I think I mentioned that earlier. Well, I like the look of you well enough. How well do you suck?"
The casual inquiry took a minute to sink in. When it did, Autolycus scrambled backwards, away from him. "Now, wait just a minute, oh kingly one. I'd rather go back to the dungeon if you don't mind. What am I saying? See, I just don't think you'd like me that way. Really. Can't we do something else, maybe? Chess? Tiddlywinks?"
Iphicles hadn't enjoyed himself so much in months. Maybe years. Gods above the look on the guy's face was priceless. "No. I'm thinking you putting that mouth on me and getting me off is the only game in town." Iphicles spread his legs and ran a lewd hand over his crotch, smothering a grin at the way Autolycus' eyes followed the movement and his Adam's apple bobbed up and down. Lowering his voice to a seductive purr, Iphicles leaned back and rolled his hips. "Come on, let's see what a charming "companion" you really are."
This was probably a first. The man was positively at a loss for words, and his eyes were dark with disbelief. It was a good look on him. Iphicles really did like him well enough, and he was bored. He patted his lap. Autolycus shook his head. Iphicles made a growling noise. Autolycus cocked his head to one side. "Say," he said. "Suddenly you look awfully familiar."
"Yeah, I get that a lot," Iphicles replied with a shrug. "Let's get on with it, shall we?"
"I'm really not good at this."
"Oh, I bet you have a talented enough tongue."
"No, really, all I'm good at is talking. I could tell you a story, or sing. Yeah I could sing. Or I could read to you. I could. Urk."
The abrupt ending probably owed itself to the fact that Iphicles had leaned forward and run a finger along the other man's neck. Autolycus closed his eyes for a minute, and when he opened them his expression was pure martyr. He leaned forward slowly, so slowly that Iphicles figured he'd get there sometime after he died. Iphicles could just barely feel Autolycus' breath on the inside of his thigh when the door to the throne room burst open and Hercules bounded in.
"Hey, Iphicles. You called? I was just eating lunch." Indeed, Hercules still had a handful of olives and nuts in one hand, and was munching loudly.
"Yes I did." Iphicles gestured at Autolycus. "This guy says he's a friend of yours. That true?"
Laughing, Hercules nodded. "Autolycus. Yeah, you could say he's a friend. But I'd watch the crown jewels with him around if I were you. Is that all you wanted?"
"Yeah, that's it."
Hercules shrugged. "Whatever. We still on for wrestling this afternoon?"
"Yep." Iphicles grinned. "You are going down, brother."
With a hoot, Hercules turned to leave. "Sure, you just keep believing that. Hey, stay for dinner Autolycus. We'll catch up then." And he was gone.
When Iphicles looked back at Autolycus, he laughed aloud. Autolycus stood and poked a finger at him. "You knew. You knew all along he was here and that he'd vouch for me, and you still... You played me. You. You are low, low, low, your highness."
Getting up himself, Iphicles sauntered towards the door. He grinned back over his shoulder at Autolycus. "Yep. That's me. I think I'll go join Hercules for lunch. Oh, and Autolycus, if you ever *do* want to put that talented mouth to good use, you know where to find me."
My sentence: Iphicles, I want you to be the father of my child.