That Perfect Edge
"Why do I love most
among my heroes those
who sail to that perfect edge..."
There's a warmth to Iolaus, a light, that makes Iphicles want to stand close. Sounds wrong to use words like that, but Iphicles is no poet, and can only describe how he feels. It's not just the hair, either, the yellowness of it. No one can smile like Iolaus, like he's swallowed the sun, and it's shining through his skin. Iphicles' fingers itch to touch him, and he holds them rigid against his thighs, rubbing lightly. Soon. When this pompous windbag of an ambassador ends his monumentally insignificant lecture on grain tariffs. Then Iphicles will find Iolaus and--
"Yes," Iphicles says, when the man pauses for breath. "Yes, you're right. Have the documents drawn up." He's being a very bad king, but a very good lover, and surely the gods will take that into account when his soul is weighed in the Underworld. "Thanks for that fascinating talk. I've never been so moved." Piling it on too thick, but he needs to get out of here, now, needs to feel Iolaus under him, to be inside him. It's more inevitable than the ambassador's taxes.
When the ambassador looks startled, his grey eyebrows knotting, Iphicles tenses, waiting for the objection. Ruling isn't easy; there's always some hidden agenda, some missed clause that trips him up. Then the man smiles. It's a strange smile for the circumstance, edged with understanding, and Iphicles thinks, "Oh, shit. He knows." Maybe everyone knows.
If Iolaus were here in the throne room, he'd lean over and whisper, "Relax, Iph. Don't take it so seriously. He's just a guy, and you're just a guy, and life will go on." Iolaus, philosopher-hero. It might be smug on someone else, but Iolaus means it, wants to share his own belief in the up side, the half-full glass side, the grass is greener side. Which is easier said than done. Iphicles is a pessimist, but he's learning, he really is. He wants what Iolaus has.
Standing, Iphicles holds one hand in front of his cock, hiding his readiness, and wonders if they can smell his need. He sniffs cautiously, but smells only the sea and those fat red flowers outside the window, with the faces like old drunken men. The room is very quiet as he leaves, except for their thoughts, which tumble after him. He'll get a lecture for this from Acanthius, the familiar "Jason would never..." line that sometimes runs through Iphicles' head very late at night, as he sleeps in Jason's abandoned bed, in Jason's abandoned palace, in Jason's abandoned city.
Only Iphicles never hears it when Iolaus is with him. Iolaus makes all voices go quiet; it's his special talent, and why Iphicles is so in love with him it *doesn't* hurt. Because 'hurt' and 'Iolaus' don't go together. He can't hurt around Iolaus, except between his thighs, when he can't have him, and even when he can. Those are good hurts, and Iphicles wants to feel that last one right now.
It's been months, with Iolaus off saving people and being generally heroic. Iolaus is so fast that death will never catch him. Okay, it happened before, but it's like being struck by lightning: it happens only once, then you're protected forever, a natural lucky charm. Iolaus has told him this, and Iolaus never lies. Slowly, Iphicles is learning. He's not there yet, but it's coming.
Iphicles' thirst has him running, but when he bounds into the royal bedchamber, Iolaus isn't there, naked and ready. He never is, so Iphicles isn't really surprised. Iolaus can never stay still for long, and never waits. Looking for him is like being a kid again, playing hide and seek, and Iphicles wants to shout out, "I'm going to find you," except that he's king, and the servants he hurries past already think he's undignified. Which he is, for Iolaus, and Iolaus is never here for long. He's like summer that way, or childhood.
"Iolaus," Iphicles calls in a low voice, and it bounces back, so happy that for a second Iphicles actually does hurt. No answer, although an undercook jumps back, nearly spilling a tureen of soup. A little sloshes onto the kid's white tunic, yellows it with saffron. "You seen Iolaus? I need to talk to him."
"He was in the kitchen before, but that was around midday." His black bird's eyes are wide and a little scared, like Iphicles is a ghost. In this palace, sometimes he is.
"Thanks." And he's off again. Iolaus will be outside. The kitchen's the only inside place he can stand, and then only to grab fistfuls of almonds or dates.
Iphicles pauses in the doorway at the back of the palace. Between white columns like pale nymphs' thighs, he studies the landscape, his brain whirring, his cock so hard he has to rub it just once. The orchard is out here, a mass of trees bursting with apples under a grainy blue sky. When Iphicles begins to walk between their knobby brown trunks, dead apples squelch under his feet. If they don't, he kicks them, wanting to shout when the fruit smacks into a tree.
"Having fun?" Iolaus is sitting in a tree, his legs dangling, while he eats an apple. Inevitability, he's grinning.
"You," Iphicles says, and reaches for him.
Iolaus tosses his half-eaten apple, and it arcs across the clear sky before landing in a tree a few rows down. He clambers to the ground, maybe a little slowly, and when he's on his feet, reaches out and hugs Iphicles hard. "You," he says back.
Then they go at it, and clothes fly like birds or half-eaten apples through the air, landing in branches, the high yellow-edged grass, a wooden crate. In his smartest move ever, Iphicles remembers to pull the bottle of oil from his pocket and place it on the crate's edge, within easy reach. Now, down to business. Iphicles can't decide whether he wants Iolaus' mouth, his neck, or his nipples, and so bites, licks and strokes all he can get. Everything he does is done to him, and his flesh smarts and bruises. It's so good, too good, almost unreal and maybe even kind of mystical, just the two of them here under the trees, tasting each other. Around them, summer fades.
"Slow down, Iph," Iolaus says. "We've got time."
So Iphicles bends him back and begins to suck his nipples, one hand under Iolaus' spine, the other in his hair. He's aware of Iolaus' cock, red-tipped and nudging his belly, the hair around it light and soft, wooly, but he won't touch it. He gets too lost around Iolaus' cock, is too overwhelmed by the pleasure he can give, how good he knows Iolaus feels. So he saves it for last, like kids do with dessert, even though all of Iolaus is sweet. Like his little pink nipples, hard and wet now, that love Iphicles' teeth and tongue as much as he loves worshiping them. He'd suck them all day if Iolaus would let him. Even now, when Iolaus tries to get to Iphicles for some payback, Iphicles grabs his wrists and keeps up the pressure, not stopping until Iolaus is moaning and his nipples turn dark red.
"Iph, I want to--"
And Iphicles does stop, but that's because he sees Iolaus' tongue in his open mouth and has to feel it against his own. The kiss takes them down into the grass, and they lie there side by side, necking like teenagers.
Then Iolaus shifts. "Don't move. Let me just--" And he pushes Iphicles onto his back, straddling him, then starts to lick, starting with the line of Iphicles' jaw. The tip of his nose is cool against Iphicles' cheek, and Iphicles hugs him with his arms and legs. The head of his cock is nicely sandwiched under Iolaus' firm ass, and he rocks into it. Over his head, the apples glow like stars, then Iolaus' hair blocks everything as he kisses higher, Iphicles' cheeks, then his eyelids.
His breathing sounds confused, all gasps and whimpers, because Iolaus has moved down, and is happily attached, limpet-like, to Iphicles' right nipple, while he pinches the left. His blood rushes, like there's too much of it, straining against his skin. "Iolaus," he says, because something has to give.
Iolaus pauses, watching him. "I thought about this," he says. "You, lying in the grass, naked."
It's some kind of confession, not about lust, which is a fact, but something else. What? That's when Iphicles sees the barely-healed scar that wiggles like a snake just below Iolaus' rib cage. He stops breathing.
"It's okay, Iph. Just a monster that forgot to clip its toenails."
The hurt slams Iphicles back into the ground like there's a huge foot weighing him, not Iolaus, who's small and light. "Fuck. Fuck, Iolaus. You could've. I never."
"We all will."
"Don't be so goddamn practical." Iphicles shoves him off and scrambles to his feet, grabbing his clothes.
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know." He holds up his tunic, not sure how to get it on. Not sure, not know, after Iolaus has betrayed him. "Are you going to come back?"
"I don't know."
There's a twist in Iolaus' voice he's never heard before, and he can't look at him. Iphicles understands death, knows it's no joke. Just ask his dead wife, dead mother, dead son. He has refused to acknowledge life's slippery hold on Iolaus, because Iolaus told him to. Iolaus lied. Iolaus can die. Will die.
Iphicles runs. As he's sprinting across the apple-strewn orchard floor, he trips and hurtles down. Stays there, dazed, sore. Trying not to be so shit-scared, like he's five and his father's gone off to war.
"Hey." Iolaus knees beside him, still naked. He doesn't hide the scar, and it smiles down like death.
"I..." Iphicles doesn't know what to say, but reaches for Iolaus' hand and just makes it. "I'm...Does it hurt?"
"Of course it does. Oh, you mean this." On his knees, he touches the scar. "Not now. Look, are you okay?"
"I'm not good with the bad stuff."
"You make it go away."
Iolaus squeezes Iphicles' shoulder. "You, too."
This surprises him. He's never really thought about why Iolaus always comes back to him. Maybe he's been scared to. Maybe this isn't a near fear, but an old one, that's been hidden somewhere deep. A clause that he hasn't wanted to face. "Did I fuck this up?"
"Only if you're planning to leave if I let go."
Using Iolaus' hips for leverage, Iphicles leans forward and kisses the scar. The skin is hot and rough against his mouth. "I hope you made some monster-skin boots." When Iolaus laughs, his belly rumbles against Iphicles' cheek.
"You know what the doc who stitched me up said?"
Iphicles, who is now licking the curve of Iolaus' hip, shakes his head.
"That the best medicine's hot sex with a red-haired king."
"Convenient." Iolaus' cock is starting to swell again, and Iphicles decides to treat him, taking it in his mouth, letting it grow against his tongue. Somehow it's a relief to taste the salt that's leaking from the head, and Iphicles lightly squeezes Iolaus' balls, hoping for more. Maybe if he drinks enough, Iolaus will stay with him forever, not outside, where bad things happen, but inside, where he'll be safe. Part of Iphicles. He's not used to saving people, but decides it's not so bad, if it happens only once every century or so. Maybe two, for Iolaus.
"Iph, you better slow down. It's been a long time."
He ignores him, sliding a finger into his mouth beside Iolaus' cock, then sliding it into Iolaus' ass. More warmth there, in the smoothest, softest part of Iolaus, and he strokes, sucks hard. With his finger in Iolaus, Iolaus' cock in him, there's no such thing as alone, or death. Iolaus is right, after all, and Iphicles gets frenzied, swallowing Iolaus' cock so that his throat is jammed full, and adding two more fingers so that Iolaus is jammed full, too. Maybe he'll never let go, so Iolaus will stay with him always, safe and whole on this perfect edge.
When Iolaus shudders and arches, the scar is stretched white. Iphicles wants to hate it, but it's part of Iolaus, so he pulls off Iolaus' wet cock to kiss it again. Maybe the monster just wanted some of what Iolaus has, wanted to scoop out the warmth and fill himself with it. To avoid scarring Iolaus, Iphicles decides to let him go. Later, though. Not now, not with Iolaus about to come in his mouth, fingers wrapped in Iphicles' hair, low cry of, "Too long," and then it's there, and he drinks, filling himself with Iolaus. He shakes as much as Iolaus does, and almost comes too, his cock so heavy with blood it can't stand straight up but points out, like an arrow toward a sign.
After sex, Iolaus is like a cat in the sun, and he sinks back onto the grass, yawning, his arms open, his thighs spread. "Come," he says. "Now."
The sun has warmed the oil, and it feels like a tongue on Iphicles' cock. He's panting, can hear it over the crows' squawks, and tries not to linger, either on himself or on Iolaus' ass, which glistens, ready for him. The first penetration is always sharp, even with the oil, after the fingers. His cock is very big, too big for Iolaus, although he swears it's better than anyone's, ever. "Always a first time, with us," he sometimes tells Iphicles.
Iolaus doesn't even flinch, and not just because Iphicles has to go very, very slowly. He knows it's because Iolaus doesn't want to hurt him, which is backward and perfect. After all, he and Iolaus shouldn't be here, naked in the grass. Kings fucked queens, not death-prone heroes, made babies with an eye to the future, not love in an orchard behind a palace with too many eyes.
But, well, fuck it. He is a good king, mostly, and, yeah, Jason was better, Golden Fleece and all, except that Jason started drinking all the time and had to run or die. Iphicles, in that one way, is better. Iolaus is best, and Iphicles wants to show him with his cock, if he can ever get it in all the way.
When Iphicles starts with his, "Are you sure it's okay? Tell me you're okay," Iolaus just shakes his head once, says a sleepy, "I need it," then pulls Iphicles down for a kiss. Iolaus even encourages Iphicles with his hips, thrusting up, but Iphicles refuses to hurry, even with that hot tongue teasing him.
The head is in now, the hardest part, and they both relax a little, the kisses longer now, deeper, as Iphicles pushes himself farther into Iolaus. He lets himself feel it all now, the close pressure on his cock that shoots arrows of pleasure everywhere under his skin. Iolaus' cock is stiffening against his belly, and Iphicles opens his eyes and draws back to watch Iolaus as he fucks him.
Iolaus is already watching him, so intent that Iphicles nearly stops his languid thrusts. "Keep going."
"You're scared," Iphicles says.
"Of course I am. You scared the crap out of me, Iph."
Which confuses him, until he realizes that Iolaus is scared of losing him, not of dying. He can make Iolaus scared. There's panic again, a rush that soars over the sweet feeling of Iolaus tight around his cock, and maybe if he wasn't locked into Iolaus' body, he'd run a second time. Instead, he kisses Iolaus, on the neck, on the shoulder, on his cheek, his mouth, and the tip of his nose, which makes them both grin.
The crisis is over, and Iphicles digs his fingers into earth sticky with apple juice, and does what Iolaus has been trying to teach him all along.
Iphicles lets go.
His thrusts are wild, and maybe he bites too hard, but Iolaus tastes so good, and is writhing under him, rubbing his hard cock against Iphicles' belly, his ass against Iphicles' cock. It's got to hurt, how hard he's slamming into Iolaus, and if Iolaus would just stop him, but he won't. Look at him, arching and moaning, so beautiful now, so loud because he loves it, so needy--
God, yes, Iolaus needs him, and Iphicles is going to come, because he's done it, finally, touched the heat inside Iolaus, taken some for himself. They'll be together, he knows it now, not only until Iolaus dies, but always. So there was a clause, even here, because life is complicated that way.
And he doesn't care.
Iphicles is so goddamn happy that he starts to shout, just noise, like a kid again, and he comes, under the sun, in the orchard, inside Iolaus.