A Failed Attempt at Love

For yuletide 2010. The recipient asked for Aphrodite, which turned out to be harder than I'd assumed.

Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.

It was obvious that there was something wrong in the town from the moment Hercules and Iolaos arrived. The fields were untended, the shops closed and empty, children begging for food and attention in the streets ... while adults walked by apparently oblivious.

Hercules’ first impulse was to suspect Ares, but the children assured him that everybody in town was perfectly peaceful, nor was there any other crisis.

“They just stopped caring,” one little boy explained around a mouthful of the bread Iolaos had bought in the last village they’d passed through. “At first it was just Dad, and then Mum, too and then two days ago my big sister. I don’t know what I did that was so bad. I don’t remember anything worse than usual, but I promise I’ll never do it again!”

How did you convince a child that whatever was going on wasn’t his fault if you had no idea what might have caused it? Feeling terribly inadequate, Hercules gave him some more bread and promised to fix everything – or at least cook enough soup for everybody as soon as he and Iolaos could organise the necessary supplies. Arranging baths and washing everybody’s clothes might be a good idea as well if they couldn’t fix the problem before nightfall.

Speaking of Iolaos, where was his friend anyway?

Hercules looked around and called out, but there was no answer. Luckily the town wasn’t all that big, and the children were very willing to help search it in return for food and attention. They found Iolaos not far from where Hercules had last seen him, staring entranced into the eyes of a young woman across a garden fence.

“Stop flirting, old friend,” Hercules called out jokingly. “We have work to do.”

Iolaos didn’t react.

“Iolaos? Hey Iolaos!”

Nothing. There was no reaction until Hercules reached out and shook him – and then all he got was a passing glance before Iolaos went right back to staring.

What was that? Was the woman some kind of witch? Could she be the cause of the town’s troubles? But she had the same far away expression as Iolaos.

Hercules took his friend by both shoulders and turned him around so they were facing each other. “Iolaos!”

“Hm? Oh, it’s you.” Iolaos turned his head to look over his shoulder at the woman.

“No, no, look at me,” Hercules demanded.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Iolaos sighed.

Hercules glanced at the woman. In his opinion she was rather plain, not ugly, but certainly not the breathtaking beauty Iolaos seemed to consider her.

But of course love was blind ... love? That was a thought worth looking into. It certainly looked like Iolaos was under a love spell, and if he was, surely the Goddess of Love would be able to lift it. Or at least she should be able to detect it and maybe trace its origin. That might take him closer to solving the town’s problem as well.

“Aphrodite!” His sister, too, didn’t answer.

“She has a temple nearby,” a little girl in a torn dress volunteered. “But we’re not allowed to go in there.”

“He’s an adult, though,” stated a slightly older boy. “He can go in.”

The girl nodded and took Hercules’ hand. “Come on, we’ll show you.”

Hercules hesitated for a moment. He didn’t want to leave Iolaos alone in the state he was in. Contacting Aphrodite would be a lot easier in her temple, though. Besides, Iolaos seemed to be perfectly content to just stand still and stare at the woman. That should be safe enough.

The temple, as it turned out, was very small and very busy. The moment Hercules entered, he understood why the children were forbidden to come here. Aphrodite was, possibly for the first time in her immortal life, the most dressed person at the party.

Hercules squeezed through between the teenagers making out behind the column on the left side of the door and the threesome on the right, managed to step safely over a couple that was rolling around unpredictably on the marble floor and called out, hoping to get his sister’s attention before any wandering hands succeeded in pulling off his clothes. “Aphrodite!”

“Hercules! How nice of you to visit!” squealed the goddess of love and threw herself into his arms.

Hercules reflexively caught her and held her close. Her breath smelled of wine.

“Aphrodite,” He said sternly once he’d recovered from his surprise. “What is going on here?”

“Nothing,” she answered with a slight pout. “I’m working. And having a party.”

Of course! From most other gods the statement wouldn’t have made sense, but this was the Goddess of Love in the middle of a sex orgy, so it explained everything, including what was going on in the town.

“And you’re drunk,” Hercules informed his sister. “And overdoing it. You need to cut back on the work part a bit.”

“Why?” whined Aphrodite. “I’m enjoying it. The people are enjoying it. Look, everybody is happy and in love. Why do you want to ruin it?”

She didn’t look like she was enjoying herself, though. She looked like she was near tears.

“It’s because of Iolaos, isn’t it?” Aphrodite accused suddenly pulling away from him. “I gave him a woman to make him happy, but you didn’t get one and you’re jealous. You can’t just be happy for him, because he’s your best friend and now you’re lonely and ...” she sniffed, her anger melting away as suddenly as it’d come. “I’m sorry, Hercules. I’ll find someone for you, I promise. It’s just that around here everybody’s already taken and I want you to have somebody really special. You’re my little brother after all.”

“No Aphrodite,” Hercules said very clearly and patiently. “I’m not jealous of Iolaos.” Was he, though? He didn’t like the idea of Iolaos staying here to settle down with some woman while he had to travel on alone, but he didn’t have time to explore his feelings right now. He had a town to save. “I’m a little worried about him and very worried about this town.”

“But they’re all happy!” Aphrodite argued gesturing at the orgy around them.

“They’re not doing their work. They’re neglecting their children,” Hercules pointed out. “They’ll run out of food and money and their children will get sick. How happy will they be then? Please dearest sister, for the sake of the people and their darling little children, please reduce your power just enough so people will be free to take care of the necessities of life.” Aphrodite had always been a warm hearted person and luckily Hercules knew exactly how to appeal to her heart.

He led her outside to see the condition of the children and the town and she burst into tears at the sight.

“Hera’s right isn’t she?” she sobbed. “I cause nothing but trouble.”

Hera had said that Aphrodite was troublesome? What was this about?

“No, she isn’t,” Hercules assured Aphrodite. “You’re my favourite goddess in all Olympus. You know that, don’t you? You just overdid it a little in this town. Maybe because you had a little too much wine?”

“She said I was sowing discord among the gods,” Aphrodite complained. “Discord! Me! I’m a goddess of love. I bring people together. I have nothing to do with that, that ...”

Hercules put his arm around her and patted her reassuringly. “Hera can be very nasty sometimes. Especially when she’s jealous. You weren’t ... um ... doing anything with Zeus, were you?“

“No, she just caught me with Hermes, and she somehow knew I’d spent the night with Poseidon, but what’s a love goddess to do when both her husband and her lover are ignoring her?”

“Hephaestus was ignoring you?” Hercules asked surprised. “That doesn’t sound like him.”

“He and Ares are working on some kind of project together. I’m not sure what it is. It’s all over my head and well, I wasn’t paying attention. I’m not interested in all this boy stuff with weapons and war. They only distract men from their women. Do you know how hard it is to get a young couple together, if he’s suddenly dragged away from you to serve in a war? And then sometimes they get killed and you have to start over and find the poor girl a new boy ...”

“Hephaestus is making weapons for Ares? At a scale that leaves him no time for you?” This was worrying, but clearly he’d get no further details out of Aphrodite today.

“Yes, they didn’t even look up when I suggested a threesome.” Aphrodite sobbed a few times then went on: “So I decided to amuse myself with somebody else, and Poseidon and Hermes were very obliging, but then Hera found out and she was so nasty that I went and hid in Dionysos’ temple. We had some fun there, but I missed my Hephy. So I went back to him and,” another sob, “Ares told me they were doing important work and to stop getting underfoot. So I decided to go do some important work of my own and now I’ve failed at that, too.” A moment’s pause and then she suddenly brightened. “But I’ll put things back to rights now,” she promised. “And then I’ll find you that special girl I promised you. Oh, you’ll be so happy together!” She chucked him under the chin, kissed the tip of his nose and disappeared.

“No, Aphrodite, wait!” But she was already gone and he had promised the children to cook soup, though hopefully the baths and laundry would be taken care of by their parents after all.

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